Memorial Day and the World War II Generation

Memorial Day is here and the melancholy reflection occurs to me that almost all the many World War II veterans I have known over the years are dead.  My father in law, who served in World War II as a very young Navy cook and spent almost all of the War at sea on combat tours, has been gone now for twenty-four years.  The passage of time is inevitable in this Vale of Tears, but we do not have to like it.  Of course in reference to Memorial Day we have been down this path before.  Started as Decoration Day after the Civil War by troops of that conflict so that their comrades who fell would never be forgotten, parades by veterans were a common feature throughout the country, and the nation thus witnessed as those stalwart young men year by year passed into middle age, old age and then merely passed beyond our ken into eternity.

When this country entered into World War II in 1941, it was eighty years since the beginning of the Civil War, and the veterans of that conflict were sparse on the ground, the few elderly survivors now being driven in parades, their marching days long behind them.  We are of course now eighty years beyond 1941.  At the time of World War II the men fighting that War would occasionally reference the men who had fought in prior wars to safeguard the freedom that they were now fighting and dying for.  By their sacrifice they honored the sacrifice of those who had gone before.  Not a bad reflection, and lesson, as we enjoy Memorial Day this year of grace 2021.

Published in: on May 31, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Memorial Day and the World War II Generation  
Tags: ,

Black Jack Logan and the First Memorial Day



Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

                                                         Pope Benedict, April 16, 2008

John A. Logan is the father of Memorial Day.  Today he is largely forgotten except to Civil War buffs and that is a shame.  He was a fascinating man and he is largely responsible for establishing the tradition of putting aside a day in the calendar to our nation’s war dead.

Logan began the Civil War as a Democrat congressman from southern Illinois.  He was ardently anti-War even after the firing on Fort Sumter, denouncing the Lincoln administration and calling for peace and compromise.  He was attacked as being disloyal to the Union and an almost advocate of the Confederacy.

This perception changed in the twinkling of an eye at the battle of Bull Run.  Like many another congressman he went out to view the Union army launch an attack on the Confederates.  Unlike the other congressmen, Logan picked up a musket and, attaching himself to a Michigan regiment, blazed away at the Confederates with that musket.  This experience transformed Logan into an ardent advocate of the War.

He returned to Southern Illinois and gave a fiery speech in Marion, Illinois for the Union that helped swing that section of the state in support of the War.  Resigning from Congress, he helped raise an infantry regiment from southern Illinois, and was made colonel of the regiment, the 31rst Illinois.

Logan quickly made a name for himself as a fighter.  At the battle of Belmont he led his regiment in a successful charge, and was noted for his exceptional courage.  He would eventually be promoted to major general and was one of the best corp commanders in the Union army, briefly commanding the Army of the Tennessee.  He was wounded three times in the war, one of the wounds being serious enough that he was erroneously reported as killed, a report that might have been proven to be accurate if he had not been nursed back  to health by his wife.

Logan was never beaten in any engagement that he fought in during the War.  He was popular with his men who affectionately called him “Black Jack”, and would often chant his name on the battlefield as he led them from the front.  On May 24th 1865, as a tribute to his brilliant war record, he commanded the Army of the Tennessee during the victory Grand Review of the Union armies in Washington.

After the War, Logan began his political career anew, serving as a congressman from Illinois and a senator.  He was now a radical Republican and fought ardently for civil rights for blacks.  He ran for Vice President in 1884 on the Republican ticket that was defeated by Grover Cleveland.  He was considered the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in 1888, and might well have been elected President that year, but for his untimely death in 1886 at the age of sixty.

From 1868 to 1871, Logan served three consecutive terms as commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veteran’s association.  He started the custom of remembering the Union war dead on May 30th when he issued General Order Eleven on May 5, 1868: (more…)

Published in: on May 30, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Black Jack Logan and the First Memorial Day  
Tags: ,

Stars and Stripes Forever

Something for the weekend.  For a Memorial Day weekend Stars and Stripes Forever seems called for.  Beyond a doubt the best known composition of John Philip Sousa, it is the National March of the United States.  Sousa wrote it on Christmas Day 1896 and it proved massively popular, especially when it was played during the Spanish-American War.  My Family and I, visited the Sousa Archives at the University of Illinois in June of 2019, go here to read about the Sousa Archives, which houses the papers of John Philip Sousa.  The grad student on duty gave us a first rate presentation on Sousa and his music, and he brought out for us original sheet music used by Sousa and his band, which sent shivers down my spine.  Writers do what they can, but a truly great composer effortlessly touches hearts and souls long after he is dust.

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

A “unique”, yes that is what we will call it, muppet rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, hosted by Sam the American Eagle, who is the answer to the question, “Don, if you were a muppet, which muppet would you be?”

Vladimir Horowitz was one of the greatest pianists of the last century.  He was also a refugee from the Soviet Union.  He became a naturalized American citizen in 1944, and, like many naturalized American citizens of that era, he was intensely patriotic, giving many concerts in support of the war effort.  Here is his immortal rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever from 1945.

Published in: on May 29, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Stars and Stripes Forever  
Tags: , , ,

Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

Pope Benedict XVI

My fellow Americans, Memorial Day is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Throughout America today, we honor the dead of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifices. We remember they gave their lives so that others might live.

We’re also gathered here for a special event—the national funeral for an unknown soldier who will today join the heroes of three other wars.

When he spoke at a ceremony at Gettysburg in 1863, President Lincoln reminded us that through their deeds, the dead had spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could, and that we living could only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave a last full measure of devotion.

Well, this is especially so today, for in our minds and hearts is the memory of Vietnam and all that that conflict meant for those who sacrificed on the field of battle and for their loved ones who suffered here at home.

Not long ago, when a memorial was dedicated here in Washington to our Vietnam veterans, the events surrounding that dedication were a stirring reminder of America’s resilience, of how our nation could learn and grow and transcend the tragedies of the past.

During the dedication ceremonies, the rolls of those who died and are still missing were read for three days in a candlelight ceremony at the National Cathedral. And the veterans of Vietnam who were never welcomed home with speeches and bands, but who were never defeated in battle and were heroes as surely as any who have ever fought in a noble cause, staged their own parade on Constitution Avenue. As America watched them—some in wheelchairs, all of them proud—there was a feeling that this nation—that as a nation we were coming together again and that we had, at long last, welcomed the boys home.

“A lot of healing went on,” said one combat veteran who helped organize support for the memorial. And then there was this newspaper account that appeared after the ceremonies. I’d like to read it to you. “Yesterday, crowds returned to the Memorial. Among them was Herbie Petit, a machinist and former marine from New Orleans. ‘Last night,’ he said, standing near the wall, ‘I went out to dinner with some other ex-marines. There was also a group of college students in the restaurant. We started talking to each other. And before we left, they stood up and cheered us. The whole week,’ Petit said, his eyes red, ‘it was worth it just for that.'”

It has been worth it. We Americans have learned to listen to each other and to trust each other again. We’ve learned that government owes the people an explanation and needs their support for its actions at home and abroad. And we have learned, and I pray this time for good, the most valuable lesson of all—the preciousness of human freedom. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day  
Tags: , ,

May 17, 1981: Reagan at Notre Dame

The Reagan Foundation has a great section in which you can access the personal diary of President Ronald Reagan.  Here is his diary entry from forty years ago:

Change signals on Prince Turki—he left for Saudi Arabia today by commercial plane. An easy morning with the Sunday papers—my exercises and then boarded the chopper & Air Force 1 for South Bend Ind. Had lunch on board with Walter & Lee Annenberg. Father Hesburgh met us at the airport and we drove to Notre Dame. It was commencement for 2000 graduates but there must have been 15,000 all told in the auditorium. Pat O’Brien was there also to get an honorary degree. It really was exciting. Every N.D. student sees the Rockne film and so the greeting for Pat & me was overwhelming. Speech went O.K. and I was made an honorary member of the Monogram Club. When I opened my certificate I thought they’d made 2 copies—they hadn’t, the 2nd was to “The Gipper.” He died before graduation so had never been made a member. Got back to the plane wringing wet—Cap & Gown plus an “iron” vest makes for heat. Discovered a service I hadn’t been aware of—a change of clothing is always carried when I go on a trip. Change in this case meant a welcome dry shirt. Dinner on T.V. in front of “60 Minutes”—oh yes—on the plane called Bob Dole re our tax plan. He’s having breakfst with Rep. Rostenkowski, Sen. Long & Rep. Barber Conable.

The best President of my lifetime.  May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.

Published in: on May 27, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 17, 1981: Reagan at Notre Dame  
Tags: ,

Halls of Montezuma

Been playing the game Halls of Montezuma over the weekend.  Coming out on May 20, I purchased an advance copy.  The first computer strategic level simulation of the Mexican War, it gives a good feel for the actual conflict, with the center piece being Scott’s march up county from Veracuz to the war winning seizure of Mexico City.  It struck me as I was playing the game how ill prepared this conflict left the West Pointers who participated in it for the Civil War.  This was the type of War that West Point had trained them for:  short and sharp with the Regular Army leading the way and volunteer regiments playing a distinctly secondary role.  The War ending with the seizure of the capital of  Mexico and the US dictating peace, had a Napoleonic feel to it, and the campaigns of Napoleon were what the West Pointers tended to study during the brief period in their four years when any attention, and it wasn’t much, was paid to how to conduct a military campaign.  The Mexican War would have seemed to West Pointers to confirm what they would have been taught at the Point.

Then thirteen years passed swiftly, as the years of a man’s life tend to pass, and the junior officers of the Mexican War found themselves to be senior officers in a vast new conflict.  They had to unlearn much that they had learned in the Mexican War.  The tiny Regular Army was dwarfed by the volunteer regiments of this conflict, all of which had to be trained in the basics before they would be of any use in the conflict.  The vast armies of this conflict presented logistical problems undreamed of compared to keeping the relatively small armies of the Mexican War supplied.  Mexican War casualties would seem insignificant compared to the casualties of the Civil War, where in the Battle of Shiloh more battle deaths occurred than in all the previous wars of the US combined.  The tactics learned in the Mexican War were all wrong, with rifled muskets making bayonet charges suicidal instead of the decisive instrument they were in the Mexican War, ditto the use of “flying” horse drawn light artillery batteries which had been so effective in the Mexican war and relegating cavalry charges largely to the history books.   Instead of a short and decisive conflict, the Civil War was a bloody war of attrition in which 640,000-750,000 men would perish and leave an indelible impact on the Republic.

The education received by the graduates of West Point left them ill-prepared for the Civil War, and the experiences of the Mexican War taught the wrong lessons to the officers who fought in it for the Civil War.  The combat experience benefited them to be used to a field of battle where men died, but that is about all that can be said for their experiences in a conflict often erroneously described as a crucible for the Civil War.  The great exception to this was Captain Lee, who carried out reconnoitering missions behind enemy lines for General Winfield Scott and who learned how valuable maneuver could be for an army confronting a numerically superior foe.

Published in: on May 26, 2021 at 3:52 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

The Siege of the Alcazar

(This was originally posted at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it of interest.

Luis: Dad!
Moscardó: What’s going on with you, my son?
Luis: Nothing, at all… they say they will shoot me if the Alcazar does not surrender. But don’t worry about me.
Moscardó: If it is true commend your soul to God, shout Long live Spain, and you will be a hero who died for her. Goodbye my son, a big kiss, with much love!
Luis: Goodbye Dad, a big kiss, with much love!
Moscardó: You can all spare yourself the waiting for end of the deadline and start shooting my son. The Alcazar will never surrender!

Colonel Jose Moscardo, July 3, 1936.  His response to the militia commander of the besieging Republican forces who told him by phone that his son Luis would be shot if he did not immediately surrender the Alcazar of Toledo. His son, shouting defiance at his murderers, was executed a month later.  By coincidence, another of Moscardo’s sons was executed by Republican forces in Barcelona on the same date as the phone call.

Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings looks at two books on the siege, both of which grace my library:

Given the general Anglo-American ignorance of things Hispanidad, it is not a surprise that the siege of the Alcazar in the Spanish Civil War is virtually unheard of in our circles today.

This is unfortunate, because as a matter of human drama alone it is worthy of study. 

On July 18-19, 1936, much of the Spanish army officer corps rose against the increasingly-anarchic Spanish Republic. One of the bastions that eventually threw itself in with the uprising was the Toledo Alcazar, an ancient fortress which at the time operated as an infantry academy. 

It was a military history museum when I visited it in 1989.  

Who knows what it will become of it if Spain’s misbegotten socialists enact their erase-the-past law. Seriously, read this. A sign of things to come world-wide, I am afraid.

Toledo is a little over 40 miles (73 km) from Madrid, and is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. 

Let me amend that: it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Like Venice, it leaves an indelible impression on the visitor.

The former capital of the Spains (until Philip II packed up and moved north to a then-insignificant market town called Madrid), it was the adopted home of El Greco and still contains some of the most marvelous architecture in the world. I will return there one day…if not soon.

El Greco’s View of Toledo, one of his two surviving landscapes.

The salient feature of the July 1936 officer alzamiento was that it succeeded in about 40 percent of the planned locations and generally failed in large cities. In Toledo itself, there was no attempt to take over the city. Those in charge of and manning the Alcazar were not part of the plotting and learned of it after the fact. However, they were in sympathy with the uprising and drifted into open rebellion.

The Alcazar’s semi-retired commander, Colonel Jose Moscardo Ituarte, was a soccer fanatic who had been looking forward to going to the Berlin Olympics to watch Spain’s national team in action. But once the uprising occurred, he became cagey in his dealings with Madrid. He refused (truly, if sometimes only technically) illegal orders to turn over weaponry and ammunition to the Republic’s partisan militias. He also stalled for time by asking for actual legal authorities in the defense ministry to follow the proper chain of command. In the meantime, he assembled as many reliable troops as possible–ranging from teenage cadets, police, Falangists and volunteers to a handful of regular soldiers–to man the defenses of the Alcazar. He also brought in at least 700,000 rounds (not a typo) of rifle ammunition from the city’s arms factory and as much spare food as could be found. In addition, the family and friends of the army and Guardia Civil who supported the rebellion were gathered in. 

Despite it being a conservative ciudad which had voted strongly for the right-wing coalition in the controversial February elections, there was no prospect of holding the entire city. There was some preliminary planning, but it was implausible, given the lack of troops. And it was recognized that since the Alcazar was the closest “success” to Madrid, that immediately made it a prime objective for the now-revolutionary regime there. Instead, a couple of blocking forces were placed at obvious choke points to hold off the enemy for a bit.

And it was not long after Moscardo had exhausted his passive-aggressive delays that the Republic rushed troops to take the fortress.

Moscardo expressed his belief that the siege would last 14 days, tops.

What followed next was a nearly eleven-week siege which reduced most of the fortress and outbuildings to rubble through accurate artillery bombardment and somewhat less accurate aerial bombing.

In the face of this overwhelming firepower, the 1,100 defenders had plenty of rifle ammunition, an artillery piece with a few rounds and a functional mortar–also with limited ammo. These latter two weapons were saved for breakthrough threats only. 

It was a nearly passive defense, with the defenders only firing when the militias launched infantry attacks on the grounds of the increasingly-destroyed fortress.

The civilians lived in the well-protected underground parts of the Alcazar, safe even from the massive and well-crewed 155 mm artillery pieces of the Republicans. No civilians died directly from the attacks themselves. 

As to rations, there was horse and mule meat (from the animals in the stables) sacks of wheat run through a jury-rigged grinder, occasional foraging raids which turned up other food and, later in the siege, two Nationalist airdrops. Water consisted of a liter of brackish cistern water per person per day.

With electricity cut, the defenders were unable to get a clear picture of the status of the uprising for two weeks. For all they knew, they might be alone. Finally, a working radio was cobbled together and the defenders learned that civil war was raging across Spain. While they were not alone, the nearest Nationalist troops were 300 miles away, and there was no guarantee the Alcazar would be considered worthy of relief, with the big prize of Madrid lying just to the north.

Fortunately for them, Francisco Franco, the bantam-sized commander of the Nationalists’ elite Army of Africa, thought the Alcazar was not only worthy of rescue, it was essential. While Franco’s tactical instincts were cautious, his political sense was usually correct, as it was here. The propaganda impact of the siege was already foremost in the minds of the warring sides–and the liberation of the Alcazar would be a huge boon to the Nationalist cause. So the African veterans were loaded into every conceivable motor vehicle which could be scrounged up (including a purple bus) and launched northward.

The siege ground on for almost eleven weeks, and despite the fortress being reduced to rubble, it was liberated by the Army of Africa on September 27, 1936–with Moroccan troops in the vanguard, barely beating a Spanish Legion spearhead racing for the prize. The Moroccans were greeting with overwhelming joy, and responded with gentleness to the emaciated and often traumatized defenders, reassuring them that after a couple of solid meals they’d be able to go off and kill Reds together.

The two best accounts of the siege in English are either out of print or available as reprints of possibly dubious quality.

The earliest is English historian Geoffrey McNeill-Moss’ The Siege of the Alcazar (the British version is entitled The Epic of the Alcazar). Moss was an English army officer and now-forgotten popular novelist and historian. He arrived in Spain shortly after the siege was lifted, had access to Moscardo’s daily log and interviewed numerous members of the garrison. He also acquired photographs of the fortress right after the siege, and had diagrams drawn up based on his interviews of the participants. Thus, his access to primary source material was unparalleled in English and remains essential. He tries to (and mostly succeeds) at being objective, not uncritically handing on all of the atrocity stories reported by the Nationalists, and he warns the reader when he cannot make judgments about disputed claims. But he clearly admires the defenders and ascribes their endurance to their Catholic faith. He notes that there was a stockpile of wheat that lay in the no-man’s land between the lines, but the garrison never emptied it out, instead taking what they needed to get by for a week or two at a time. He could only ascribe it to the decision to place themselves into the hands of Providence. He also notes (and backs it up with photographic evidence) that the garrison took care not to shoot at holy images when possible. The main failure of the book is also, weirdly, a strength, as it is a nearly-claustrophobic focus on the day-by-day events from the perspective of the Alcazar alone. But his skill as a writer keeps it from being monotonous. 

Nearly thirty years later, Cecil D. Eby, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, also recounted the siege in a book from Random House. Of the two, I would more quickly recommend Eby’s to the casual reader. Some reviews (wrongly) criticize Eby in comparison to McNeill-Moss, claiming his view of the siege pays less attention to the primary sources. A quick read of the bibliographical chapter essays at the end of the book disposes of that critique quickly. He was meticulous in his review of the sources, and handled all of them with a critical eye. Apart from that, what Eby does better is giving a fuller overview of the siege in the context of the wider war, and names more of the participants–when given permission. He recounts an odd moment where a surviving officer, who happily assisted with information, balked at being given an acknowledgment. The officer wasn’t worried about negative consequences, but could not see the point. So Eby respected that, albeit with bafflement. To use the modern parlance, it seems to be a Spanish thing which we Anglos can’t understand. Which is probably the best explanation of any.

So, my recommendation is the opposite of the way I did it–read Eby’s first, then get granular with McNeill-Moss if you want the Das Boot view of the conflict.

Go here to comment.

A few thoughts:

  1. The Spanish language writings on the siege are immense, with lots of primary accounts.  Little of it has been translated of it into English.
  2. Moss was a novelist and a career British Army officer who retired with the rank of Major after World War I.  His account of the siege has held up remarkably well over 84 years.  He made no bones about the fact that he was a partisan of the Nationalists and had no access to Republican sources, but he strove for factual accuracy and usually achieved it.  A prize in my personal library is a 1937 first American edition of his book on the siege.
  3. Cecil Eby is still with us at age 94.  He has authored numerous books and articles on a wide range of historical topics.  I heartily recommend his 1969 Between the Bullet and the Lie study of Americans who served in the International Brigades.
  4. The last defender of the Alcazar passed away in 2018.  This is all still very much recent Spanish history, with the Socialist Party in Spain practicing a nasty brand of grievance politics with one sided attacks on the Nationalists in a war which ended eight decades ago, but the  hatreds of which the Left in Spain wishes to keep ever green.  One wonders if we ever learn anything from History after all other than how to endlessly repeat old errors.
  5. The Alcazar was no fortress but rather a museum piece.  It is amazing that the defenders held it over a seventy day siege.  It might as well have had death trap painted all over it.
  6. The garrison was an eclectic mix:  800 men of the Guardia Civil, 6 cadets of the Military Academy, one hundred Army officers and 200 civilian volunteers.  They guarded 670 civilians, mostly women and children of the garrison.
  7. During the siege the garrison was under constant artillery bombardment and aerial attack.  Sniping was constant with the combatants often separated only by a few yards.  The garrison beat off eight full scale infantry assaults from the besieging forces that vastly outnumbered them.  The garrison sustained 92 dead and 540 wounded.
  8. The garrison was visited under a flag of truce by Major Vicente Rojo Lluch.  He urged them to surrender but made no secret that he hoped they would hold out.  Urged to stay with them, he said that the Republicans would murder his wife and kids before nightfall if he did.  His last words to the garrison was for them to keep digging to detect the Republican mines being planted under the Alcazar.  He would rise to be a Lieutenant General in the Republican Army and Chief of Staff.  He returned to Spain in 1957.  Franco so admired him that his pension as a retired Lieutenant General was paid to him, and he lived peacefully in Spain until his death in 1966.
  9. Rojo asked the garrison if there was anything he could do for them.  They told him they needed a priest to baptize the two kids born during the siege and to give all of them communion.  A left wing priest was sent in who had been in hiding.  Initially he attempted to persuade the garrison to surrender.  He was bluntly advised that all they required of him were the sacraments, which he did and which were reverently received.
  10. The commander of the garrison, Colonel Moscardo, is an interesting figure.  His world revolved around the trinity of God, Spain and his family.  Up until the Civil War his military career had been a failure in his eyes.  He often told young officers of his first duty as a newly commissioned officer in 1896:  the burial of a white haired elderly Lieutenant, a symbol to him of how badly awry a military career could go.  Although he had reached the rank of Colonel, his career now consisted of dead end assignments.  He was so little thought of, that he was not made a party to the plans for the military rising and had to find out about it over the radio.  Circumstances often bring to the fore unsuspected abilities, and so it was for Moscardo who became the heart and soul of the resistance of the Alcazar.  After he had sacrificed his beloved son in the cause of Spain, none of his officers ever suggested surrender, although the odds against them were staggering.  During the siege, when they could get their radios to operate, Moscardo would issue daily reports consisting of two words:  Sin Novedad, nothing to report.  A calculated insult to the besiegers, the phrase became a rallying cry in Nationalist Spain.  He would repeat the words to Franco when the garrison was relieved.  He was promoted to General, ultimately reaching the top rank of Captain General.  He received permission from Franco to wear a black mourning cape over his uniform for his murdered sons.  During World War II he was noted as being the most anti-Axis and pro-Allied of Franco’s generals.
Published in: on May 25, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Siege of the Alcazar  
Tags: , ,

The Memphis Belle

During World War II one of the most dangerous assignments for any US serviceman was to fly with the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater.  The Eighth sustained 47000 casualties, of which a stunning 26000 were KIAs.  As the War went on, and long range fighter air craft came into service, the missions became somewhat safer.  In 1942-1943, US bomber crews thought that the 25 mission rotation back to the States had been cynically set up because after twenty-five combat runs you were statistically almost certain  to be dead or in captivity.

The Memphis Belle was one of the first B-17 flying fortress bombers to beat the odds and make 25 missions, and the US Army Air Forces made much of it, sending the crew back to the States for a war bond drive.  Other crews began to hope they, too, would survive their tours, something that most of them had feared was not going to be their lot.

Published in: on May 24, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Memphis Belle  
Tags: , , ,

Notes on How Not to be a Saint


(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the CS Lewis mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it amusing.)



We at The American Catholic often receive unsolicited manuscripts.  What follows is from a lengthy collection of documents, smelling faintly of brimstone, that purport to be the notes of a Mr. Wormwood taken while he was attending a class colorfully entitled Damnation 201.  The documents are dated, but the dates given are gibberish:

Ah, Sleek Sylph looks especially delicious.  Oof, Professor Thornbit is saying this could be on the final.  Concentrate Wormwood!

Thornbit:  After what mortals call death patients who escape our clutches are designated Saints by the Enemy.  The penalty for a tempter allowing a patient to become a Saint is as final as it is terrible, albeit succulent for those of us who gain sustenance from those of you who prove incompetent.  Here are ten simple rules to prevent you from ending up on my table.

1. Encourage your patient to violate those laws the Enemy calls his Ten Commandments.  Emphasize to the patient that these are unmerciful rules that do not allow for the complexity of life.  You will find, at least those of you who are not a waste of Hellfire, that the term “complexity” is ever useful in causing a patient to ignore the clear commands of the Enemy.

2.  Most patients, ludicrously, are proud of their intellects.  Encourage the cretins in this, as one of the few true human sayings is that “pride goeth before a fall.”

3.  If you can, make your patient an atheist;   the shock of such patients when they arrive here is an amusement that is indescribable.  Take care however, some who claim atheism merely hate the Enemy and the Enemy has a way of turning strong hate into strong love in an instant if you are not careful.  Also, make certain that your patient embraces atheism as a substitute religion and not as a proposition that he may rethink given evidence to the contrary.  The Enemy and his agents are too cursed good at argument, and in providing evidence, against the useful absurdity of atheism.

4.  The patient should be taught to regard every mortal he encounters as a potential victim for him to exploit.  Although humans tend to be selfish animals, this isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Honest affection and even love can spring from the most unlikely of mortals if his tempter is not ever vigilant.

5.  Sexual excess, especially if channeled into what the Enemy considers perversions, can be a useful aid to propel a patient along our Downward Path.  However, lazy tempters view this as a foolproof temptation at their peril.  That abomination that the Enemy calls love can spring from the most wonderfully sordid sexual entanglements if the tempter of a patient does not take proper precautions. (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Notes on How Not to be a Saint  
Tags: ,

Halls of Montezuma

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced, to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth – and the amusing thing about it is that they are…You should see the group about me as I write- dirty, bearded, their clothing food-spattered and filthy- they look like the castoffs of creation. Yet they have a sense of loyalty, generosity, even piety greater than any men I have ever known. These rugged men have the simple piety of children. You can’t help loving them, in spite of their language and their loose sense of private property. Don’t ever feel sorry for a priest in the Marines. The last eight weeks have been the happiest and most contented in my life.

 Father Kevin Kearney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Korean War

Something for the weekend.  The Marines’ Hymn.  The music is from an 1867 French tune by Jacques Offenbach, with the lyrics written by that most prolific author Anonymous.  It is the most well-known of the service songs and captures well the spirit of the Marines.

Published in: on May 22, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Halls of Montezuma  
Tags: ,