Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - 2010

For too many years I’ve been just like everyone else…Memorial Day was simply an opportunity to add a few vacation days and extend my time off from work. In doing some recent reading about the Army Air Corps of WWII, I’ve encountered many poignant stories of young men who flew the bombers from England against Hitler’s fortress Europe. If you have ever heard a WWII veteran say that the real heroes are the ones who didn’t come home, these were some of the young men to whom those veterans were referring.

Charles was a high potential young man from Casper, Wyoming. Shortly after he graduated from high school his father passed away leaving Charles’ kid sister and mother alone. Charles had won an appointment to West Point and despite the trauma of losing his father, accepted his appointment. He went on to become a member of the USMA Class of 1939.

In keeping with tradition, his roommate wrote a short description of Charles for the West Point yearbook, noting that Charles had the patience of Job, a subtle sense of humor, and was a good dancer. After graduation and his commissioning as a second lieutenant, Charles volunteered for the Air Corps and undertook pilot training as the United States began its build up prior to WWII. Just after Pearl Harbor Charles served for several months in Australia and Java against the Japanese.

West Point graduates formed the professional core of many of the bomb groups based in England and pilots like Charles who had a few years of service before WWII were well on their way to achieving higher rank than most of the cadet airmen that followed them. By 1943 Charles was a 28-year old lieutenant colonel, the deputy group commander, and a B-17 command pilot.

In January 1944, the target was the machine and munitions works at Brunswick and Charles was scheduled to lead the group of 35-planes. However, his plane developed engine trouble and he returned to the base for a replacement. Unable to catch up with his own group he joined another group that was trailing behind his own.

Near Rehburg a Luftwaffe JU-88 flown by Bruno Rupp slipped in behind Charles’ B-17 and launched a rocket. Reports told of seeing his stricken plane dive 5000’ in flames before 4 parachutes were seen, then the plane exploded. However, only 2 men survived to become prisoners, and Charles was not one of them.

At the time his plane went down, Charles had been in training for his position nearly 9-years. That fateful January 1944 mission was his second and last in the ETO. For the past 66-years Charles has rested beside 5,328 others in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium. His mother died in 1948 and what became of his kid sister isn’t known. There was no one left to bring him home.

A recipient of 2 Silver Stars, a DFC, and a Purple Heart, Charles is but one of the young men we honor on Memorial Day.

Note: Within 1-week of my inquiry for assistance in getting an actual picture of Charles' grave in the Ardennes American Cemetery, a fine gentleman living near the cemetery sent this photograph to me. Thank you, André.

Treasure peace, fight tyranny, never forget those who fought.

a paix au trésor, de la tyrannie se battre, ne jamais oublier ceux qui ont combattu.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Part 4

To finish my little FBG (those born 1955-65) rant…I think these mutts were like our younger brothers and sisters…old enough to see and understand some of the things we were experiencing, but not old enough to participate in them. And when their time came, what was left for them? By my recollection, not much. Leisure suits…18% interest rates, jobs were scarce…if you recall, those were the beginning years of the great Southwest S&L debacle. By the way, we had to deal with that stuff ourselves.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we drew a good hand, just as there is little doubt that the FBG’s drew one that was not as good. However, any generation must deal with the hand they're dealt; the FBG group shouldn’t expect anything different. So, why do they continue to whine and blame their troubles on others, especially us? Who knows? One thing is true…it’s their’s now…business, government, education. How are they doing?
Of course, not all of them are reprobates…Santorum (b.1958); J.C. Watts (b.1958) are good guys. There are more, I’m sure. But then there is Osama (b.1957) and Emanuel (b.1959). What do you think of them?

What am I bitching about? When you identify a particularly vile bastard, take time to look up his or her birth year. Chances are it will fall within the range 1955 - 1965. Today they are 45 – 55 years old and they are taking leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. How are they doing? Both sectors are in shambles and this group of cry babies are either whining that they inherited their problems, or going to the basement to hang themselves, setting the autopilot south to the Gulf of Mexico, bailing out and trying to fake their demise. I didn’t say they aren’t creative.

The FBG’s have grown up in some kind of delusional world of their making that I really don’t understand. They have bastardized our language to form a code of their own: functionality; send a message; teachable moment; take a deep breath; enhance; online experience; solutions, solutions, solutions—pizza solution, toilet paper solution, global, scalable…a lot of it came from the Silicon Valley techies.

In the early 1990’s I noticed what seemed to be a gathering surge of something odd in the atmosphere around us. As it considered the obvious lack of professionalism in the adolescent Clinton administration, a 1993 WSJ editorial asked, “Are There Any Adults in Charge”? The decade wrapped up with America’s second Impeachment of a president and the rupture of the “dot com” bubble taking a lot of our retirement money with it. Nearly a decade of Executive Branch negligence almost certainly contributed to the successful 911 attack.

Wasn’t it bizzare when they lavishly celebrated themselves as returning Desert Storm warriors with that 1991 NYC ticker-tape parade? The so-called war was a 100-hour event that left more to be done—that, of course, wasn’t their doing. Losses: 493 KIA – 467 WIA, or about one week’s Vietnam losses in 1968.

In the ensuing 20-years I’ve noticed that everything these prima-donnas touch has to be promoted as some kind of superlative…the greatest, worst, biggest, best ever, etc. Yet, in their hands entire airlines shut down in clear weather, power grids fail their customers by the millions, gas mains explode entire neighborhoods, and Interstate Highway bridges collapse as a result of neglected upkeep.

Well, as some of us have been known to say, "F**k 'em, if they can't take a joke."