I Finally Finished


In my old age I should know better than to struggle for twelve weeks to finish reading a book. My time on earth is rapidly diminishing and reading useless literature is not what I want to be known for. The book that almost broke my back is Alan Turing: The Enigma. I love the story of the Enigma. It is an important piece of WWII history. A machine invented by the Germans to scramble messages, it drove the British nuts. I saw the movie Imitation Game and loved the story. Following my rule that a book is usually  better than the movie I trusted my fellow reading club members that this was still true. Except, in this case the movie is infinitely better.

Who ever this author Andrew Hodges is, I will never read another of his works. This work is over six hundred pages of small print. The story could have been cut in half that amount of words and pages. True, trying to describe a mathematician’s work process and ideas is trying. None of Hodges’ descriptions of Turing’s early work while inventing the modern digital computer was understandable. The only way I was able to decipher what he was trying to say was by looking at Turing’s sketches of his early machine which contained a series of zeros and ones. It was then that I began to understand some of his gibberish. I learned to program an early digital computer using binary numbers which was the basis of the machine i learned to program.

This story convinced me that I abhor intellectual work and should refrain from reading it. I love good stories. I hate reading math books. Even a physics book is more exciting than a math book. Alan Turing was a pure mathematician and Hodges failed to tell his story in a simple understandable way. The last two hundred pages finally started to read well, but by then the story drifted away from math and toward the man and his life struggles.

I also like stories with short chapters. This work has boring with long chapters of a hundred pages or more. The chapters could be shorter. The author may have decided to cut some of them had he done so.

All in all, if you want to learn the story of the Enigma go see the movie “The Imitation Game.”

Five ughs.

Remember When?


Children of the greatest generation

Born in the 1930's to the early 1940's, we exist as a very special age group.

We are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900's.

We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren't available.

We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

We are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the War.

We saw the 'boys' home from the war, build their little houses - Jones Park?

We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood "playing outside”.
There was no city playground for kids. Soccer was unheard of.

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

On Saturday afternoons, the movies gave us newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons that were at least a week old.
Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party Lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).

Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon.

The 'INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist.

Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Paul Harvey.

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.

The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled with new installment payment plans opened many factories for work.

New highways would bring jobs and mobility. New cars averaged $2,000 full price.

The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands.

Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

We weren't neglected, but we weren't today's all-consuming family focus.

They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on or Mom called us for supper - by hollering!

They were busy discovering the post war world.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where we were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in our future.

Although depression poverty was deeply remembered.

Polio was still a crippler.

We came of age in the 50s and 60s.

The Korean War was a dark passage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking under desks for Air-Raid training.

Russia built the “Iron Curtain” and China became Red China.

Eisenhower sent the first 'Army Advisers' to Vietnam.

Castro took over in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power in Russia.

We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland. The war was over and the cold war, Muslim terrorism, “global warming”, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

Only our generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty, we lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better, not worse."

We are “The Last Ones”.

More than 99 % of us are either retired or deceased, and we feel privileged to have “lived in the best of times”!

B17’s, P51’s, and B29’s

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How does it feel to be the very last pilot to fight an air battle in a great war? The Last Fighter Pilot told me exactly what is was like since this book is about his experience as a pilot flying out of Iwo Jima during the war against Japan. Until this book all I knew about Iwo Jima was that it took several thousand Marine lives to chase the Japanese off the island and when they raised to American flag one photographer got lucky and took a picture that has memorialized the place. Other than that I was never aware that Iwo Jima the island became a vital stepping stone in the defeat of the Japanese in WWII.

I became aware of this book while watching an interview with Captain Jerry Yellin on TV. My God I thought the guy is ninety-three, he still fits in his Army Air Corp uniform and he is a sharp as a tack, I want to hear his story. I ordered his book through my library, and waited three months for it to arrive, there were twenty-four holds on it before me. I picked up the book on Saturday afternoon, and finished reading it on Monday evening. I love war stories, with airplanes, and this was a great one.

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Heroes Of the Past Vs Heroes of Today

A friend sent this story. I have read it many times before, and love it. Told by a man who was a son of one of the marines who planted the flag on Iwo Jima in WWII.

This is why I stand and hold my hand over my heart

Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC , with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history — that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II.

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, ‘Where are you guys from?’

I told him that we were from Wisconsin . ‘Hey, I’m a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.’ (It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington , DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington , DC , but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.)

When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night.)

‘My name is James Bradley and I’m from Antigo, Wisconsin My dad is on that statue, and I wrote a book called ‘Flags of Our Fathers’. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me.

‘Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team.. They were off to play another type of game. A game called ‘War.’ But it didn’t turn out to be a game Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don’t say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in
Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old – and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it.

(He pointed to the statue) ‘You see this next guy? That’s Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene’s helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph…a photograph of his girlfriend Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the battle of Iwo Jima . Boys. Not old men.

‘The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the ‘old man’ because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would
motivate his boys in training camp, he didn’t say, ‘Let’s go kill some Japanese’ or ‘Let’s die for our country’ He knew he was talking to little boys.. Instead he would say, ‘You do what I say, and I’ll get you home to your mothers.’

‘The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona . Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima . He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, ‘You’re a hero’ He told reporters, ‘How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?’

So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken.

‘The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky . A fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, ‘Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.’ Yes, he was a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother’s farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.


‘The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin , where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite’s producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say ‘No, I’m sorry, sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back.’ My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell ‘s soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn’t want to talk to the press.

‘You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn’t see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, ’cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on Iwo Jima , they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain.

‘When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, ‘I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.’

‘So that’s the story about six nice young boys.. Three died on Iwo Jima , and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.’

Suddenly, the monument wasn’t just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.
****************************
for heroes of today. . . see the next post

Re-reading a Classic

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A couple of weeks ago Peg and I watched the movie South Pacific. I have seen it four times since it was made, and I love it more each time. I love it so much I decided to re-read the book it is based on “The Tales Of the South Pacific” by James Michener. I often tell this story about how I learned about Michener. A Polish engineer from work told me he had just read a great book about the history of his country. Since my wife was of Polish descent I borrowed the book. Most James Michener books are a thousand pages and Poland was a long thick thousand page book. I began the read on a holiday weekend and was mesmerized. I could not put it down, it had my interest. At the five hundred page mark I set the book down on the end table next to my chair, and there it sat for the next twelve months. By that time I was concerned that I had the book for a year and I should return it, so I picked it up again. The same thing, I read non-stop to the end. I enjoyed the book that much. I learned of other Michener narratives and set a goal to read all of them. After the third one, I asked myself where did this guy begin, what was his first book? I found a list of his published books and learned that Tales of the South Pacific was his first and he won a Pulitzer prize for that work.

I borrowed the book from the library and was surprised to see that is was of normal length. It was obvious to me why he won the prize. Published in l947, it was fresh off WWII, and it is a story about his personal experience in the Pacific. After reading it I non-stop I was moved emotionally. Many years later when I watched the movie of the broadway musical South Pacific it seemed very familiar to me. The play is based on the book.

I haven’t finished re-reading yet, but I am already emotionally involved. Hearing the stories of the hardships these men endured while protecting our country has evoked some memories I would rather forget. I was nine years old when this story published, and I lived the war from FDR’s declaration until the boys came home. I still remember hearing stories my Mom told about the sons of friends who returned and were all screwed up. They left for war as teenagers but returned as hardened men who were quite different.

Michener did an outstanding job of telling a series of totally independent short stories that were filled with characters in a a way as to tell a much bigger story.  I still give this book four stars, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Apologize for Our Arrogance?

Our European arrogance
in alphabetical order

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1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne , France … A total of 2289

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes , Belgium … A total of 5329
3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France … A total of 4410
4. Brookwood , England – American Cemetery … A total of 468
5. Cambridge , England … A total of 3812
6. Epinal , France – American Cemetery … A total of 5525
7. Flanders Field , Belgium … A total of 368
8. Florence , Italy … A total of 4402
9. Henri-Chapelle , Belgium … A total of 7992
10. Lorraine , France … A total of 10,489
11. Luxembourg , Luxembourg … A total of 5076
12. Meuse-Argonne… A total of 14246
13. Netherlands , Netherlands … A total of 8301
14. Normandy , France … A total of 9387
15. Oise-Aisne , France … A total of 6012
16. Rhone , France … A total of 861
17. Sicily , Italy … A total of 7861
18. Somme , France … A total of 1844
19. St. Mihiel , France … A total of 4153
20. Suresnes , France … A total of 1541

Apologize to no one.
Remind those of our sacrifice and don’t
confuse arrogance with leadership.
The count is 104,366
dead, brave Americans.

And we have to watch an
American elected leader who
apologizes to Europe and the
Middle East that our country is “arrogant”!
HOW MANY FRENCH, DUTCH, ITALIANS,
BELGIANS AND BRITS ARE BURIED ON
OUR SOIL… AFTER DEFENDING US
AGAINST OUR ENEMIES?

WE DON’T ASK FOR PRAISE…
BUT WE HAVE ABSOULUTELY NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE!
Americans, forward it!
Non-patriotic, delete it!
Most of the protected don’t understand it.
DO THINK ABOUT THIS.
THANK YOU.

The Last Ones

This essay struck home because I was born in the time period it is about. I agree with everything the author claims, except for one thing, that is the ducking down under our desks for a bomb drills. Maybe the nuns that taught us did not read the news or or hear news reports. Perhaps they just trusted that God would protect us in the event, but I never heard of anyone in my school ever hiding under his desk to protect himself against an A-bomb. Now, that I think about it the nuns probably knew that the desk would provide little protection against any bomb, and let it be, it is called common sense.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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Children of the 1930s & 1940
“The Last Ones”
A Short Memoir

Born in the 1930s and early
1940s, we exist as a very special age cohort.
We are the “last ones.” We are the last,
climbing out of the depression, who can remember the
winds of war and the war itself with fathers and
uncles going off. We are the last to remember
ration books for everything from sugar to shoes to
stoves. We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin
cans. We saw cars up on blocks because tires
weren’t available. My mother delivered milk in
a horse drawn cart. We are the last to hear
Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to see gold stars
in the front windows of our grieving neighbors.
We can also remember the parades on
August 15, 1945; VJ Day.
We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war build their
Cape Cod style houses, pouring the cellar,
tar papering it over and living there until they
could afford the time and money to build it out.
We are the last who spent childhood without television;
instead imagining what we heard on the radio.
As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood
“playing outside until the street lights came on.”
We did play outside and we did play on our own.
There was no little league.
The lack of television in our early years meant,
for most of us, that we had little real understanding
of what the world was like. Our Saturday afternoons,
if at the movies, gave us newsreels of the war and the
holocaust sandwiched in between westerns and
cartoons. Newspapers and magazines were written for
adults. We are the last who had to find out for ourselves.
As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.
The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an
education and spurred colleges to grow. VA loans
fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled
with new installment payment plans put factories to
work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility.
The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in
politics. In the late 40s and early 50’s the country
seemed to lie in the embrace of brisk but quiet order
as it gave birth to its new middle class. Our parents
understandably became absorbed with their own new lives.
They were free from the confines of the depression and
the war. They threw themselves into exploring
opportunities they had never imagined.

We weren’t neglected but we weren’t today’s
all-consuming family focus. They were glad we played
by ourselves ‘until the street lights came on.’
They were busy discovering the post war world.
Most of us had no life plan, but with the unexpected
virtue of ignorance and an economic rising tide
we simply stepped into the world and went to find out.
We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity;
a world where we were welcomed. Based on our naïve belief
that there was more where this came from, we shaped
life as we went.
We enjoyed a luxury; we felt secure in our future.
Of course, just as today, not all Americans shared
in this experience. Depression poverty was deep
rooted. Polio was still a crippler. The Korean War
was a dark presage in the early 1950s and by
mid-decade school children were ducking under
desks. China became Red China. Eisenhower
sent the first “advisors” to Vietnam. Castro set-up
camp in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power.
We are the last to experience an interlude when
there were no existential threats to our homeland.
We came of age in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, climate
change, technological upheaval and perpetual
economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with
insistent unease. Only we can remember both a
time of apocalyptic war and a time when our world
was secure and full of bright promise and
plenty. We experienced both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time the world was getting
better not worse .

We did not have it easy. Our wages were low, we
did without, we lived within our means, we worked
hard to get a job, and harder still to keep
it. Things that today are considered
necessities, we considered unreachable
luxuries. We made things last. We fixed,
rather than replaced. We had values and did
not take for granted that “Somebody will take care
of us”. We cared for ourselves and we also
cared for
others.

We are the ‘last ones.’

Author
unknown

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