They Need Killing

There are many reasons I never served in the military. The most likely one is that I would never put up with a known enemy harassing my airplane or my ships. In the past month there have been three significant incidents of enemies harassing our navy and air force.

Yesterday, Sept 7, a Russian fighter jet flew within ten feet of a US Navy spy plane.  On September sixth, seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast in-shore attack craft came within a hundred yards of the USS Fireboat in the Persian Gulf. Two weeks ago,  the same thing happened with the USS Nitze.

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Remember the movie Top Gun? It was about Russian pilots harassing US Navy pilots. The Russians never made it home, our pilots did. If I were Commander in Chief the seven Islamic Guard Fast Boats would have mysteriously disappeared in the Persian Gulf. They would have been vapor, with no fragments floating to shore. The same would hold true for any Russian fighter jet buzzing one of our planes: send a heat seeker right up his after burner, and wish him well at the pearly gates.

Maybe it is because I have read too many cowboy books, and watched too many old time westerns that put me in this mind set. The wild west with its lawlessness is reminiscent of our world today. Sometimes it takes a strong individual to step in and take over with a shoot first, ask questions later, and a “he needed killing” attitude to make a difference.

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Cheap Date

One advantage of living in a retirement community is the amount of activities that are available. Yesterday evening, Peggy and I went to the movies at the Stardust Theater on the corner of Stardust Boulevard and R.H. Johnson Boulevard. The film being shown “The Court Martial Of Billy Mitchell” is from 1955. I was a Junior in High School when it came out. I never saw it then, but I am glad I got to see it now. There is a line-up of major stars in this film, most of which you young uns will not recognize like Gary Cooper, Ralph Belamy, Jack Lord, Elizabeth Montgomery, Gavin McLeod, Rod Steiger, Jack Clark, and directed by Otto Preminger. All of them were un-recognizably young, but today they are all dead.

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The story is about the life of William “Billy” Mitchell who served in the army before there was an air force. He had an amazing vision for how air power would be used to win wars.

I read a few articles about his life and have decided that this film could be classified as a documentary. It follows his career and life that closely. At the beginning of the film, I thought the acting a bit amateurish, but as it progressed the acting became more convincing. Having lived my life with a passion for airplanes I had trouble visualizing a time when the US Military did not recognize airplanes as an implement of war. More specifically, a pig headed navy would not believe a ship could be sunk by an airplane.

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Billy Mitchell wrote many letters to his superiors with recommendations for what he thought the military should do. After serving a stint in Hawaii he outlined how the island was vulnerable. They read his letter into the record at his court-martial as a way to humiliate him. The attack he described was exactly what happened at Pearl Harbor. Hi made this prediction nineteen years before WWII. When asked which country would use this plan he answered “Japan.” In retrospect, his description of the way Pearl Harbor could be taken was so accurate I believe the Japanese managed to steal it from our country.

The movie cost us two bucks apiece to see, and we are still talking about it today. This will be a regular Thursday night activity from now on.

Enchanting Racism

Cover of "The Rodgers & Hammerstein Colle...

Cover via Amazon

A week ago, I was cleaning my office and found a bare DVD disk of the movie ‘South Pacific.’ The backside was all scratched up. Should I find a jacket for it, or toss it? In order to make a good decision, I watched the movie.

WOW! What a fantastic story. I had forgotten the plot, but recalled of it from a reading of James Michener‘s book ‘Tales of the South Pacific.’ I love James Michener books. The first one I read was ‘Poland.’ A Polish friend loaned it to me. My wife Barbara was Polish and I wanted to learn all about her heritage. As are most of Michener’s books, this one was over a thousand pages. I was riveted to the narrative for three days, finishing five hundred pages before getting tired. I set the book down on the end table to keep it handy. The book lie there for a solid year before I picked it up again on a summer weekend that was too hot and humid to go outside.  I read the remaining five hundred pages.

I fell in love with Michener’s style and the historical perspective he gave to his writing. The jacket cover on Poland mentioned him as a Pulitzer Prize winning author. I searched for the book that got him the prize, it was ‘Tales of the South Pacific.’ This story was one of his earliest. Contrary to later works, his early books were only three hundred pages. When I finished ‘Tales of the South Pacific,’ I had a clear understanding of the conditions our service people lived through in the Pacific during WWII.

Not all sailors were involved on carriers and cruisers fighting the Japanese. A large number were stationed on remote islands that were thousands of miles from home. They served as maintenance, supply, and hospital stations for those who engaged in battle. Needless to say, when there was no ship to service, these men and women let their own creativity fend the boredom of remote island living. Michener’s narrative of their exploits are both hilarious, and sad, but always factual and entertaining.

The movie, ‘South Pacific,’ is Michener’s story. Rogers and Hammerstein adapted the characters and derived the plot directly from ‘Tales of the South Pacific.’ I was amazed at how closely they followed Michener’s work. He included a racial theme in the story, and it was probably one of the first times we got a dose of reality on the racism that existed in our country during the nineteen fifties, and how the distance from home allowed some service people to break barriers.

Roger’s and Hammerstein wrote it as a musical play, and staged it on Broadway where it stayed for many years, finally  making it into the movie.  It became one of the best-loved films of all time. If you watch this movie, and don’t leave it humming, or singing Some Enchanted Evening, you are not alive.

I found a jacket for the DVD and placed in the library with all of  my classics.

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