Sunday, April 19, 2020

The British Are Coming



In this plague time when the world seems turned upside down, History provides us with a much needed tonic.  Through the light of History we can reflect on those who have gone before us facing enormous existential challenges of their own.  Surely the generation of Americans who experienced the American Revolution knew about death, sacrifice, and making difficult choices.  We Americans were blessed with leaders of probity and wisdom who became the Founding Fathers of our nation.  This quarantine that we are enduring provides us with the time to digest weighty and important books.

Rick Atkinson, a distinguished military historian and the author of the Liberation Trilogy about the American experience in WW2 in Europe, has now provided us with one of these.  Atkinson has taken up the challenge of writing about the American Revolution.  The first volume of his Revolution Trilogy is The British are Coming which was published in 2019 and has a paperback release in April 2020 (www.amzn.com/1250231329).  Much more on this exciting project can be found at...www.revolutiontrilogy.com.

Tom Paine's words in American Crisis No 1 echo down and resonate anew in our own 2020 ears in with full force...

"These are the times that try men's souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.  But he that stand now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman (all health care professionals worldwide).  Tyranny (or Coronavirus), like. hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have the consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

The American Revolution was a battle of the two Georges.   George III is widely portrayed in popular culture as being a distant, dim witted and more than half mad.   Queen Elizabeth II recently opened up a treasure trove of George II's personal correspondence and diaries for scholars.  Atkinson took full advantage of this spending more than a month in the UK examining George III's private papers.  Atkinson's portrait of George III shatters the cartoonish stereotype that many of us grew up with and is of a vibrant and engaged monarch who is deeply concerned and affected by the rebellion brewing in the colonies.  George III was a conscientious albeit flawed monarch who arrived at the conclusion that "blows must decide" who would rule in America.
George Washington
Boston Common, MA

The other George is, of course, George Washington.  The father of our country was by no means a perfect leader.  He was a slave owner and imperfect General who lost more battles than he won. He could be aloof and sometimes arrogant.  But he was, nevertheless, the indispensable man of the American Revolution.  His probity and unique stature among all Founding Fathers were the key to the creation of the American Republic.  He provided inspiring leadership, he learned from his mistakes, and he spotted talent in individuals as Henry Knox, Nathaniel Greene and Alexander Hamilton.  He grew as a commander and exploited British vulnerabilities to win critical engagements such as the First Battle of Trenton fought on Christmas 1776.  George Washington, the planter from Virginia would ultimately triumph over the Hanoverian monarch.

Two Patriots
Commander K and Marco K
Boston, MA
The American Revolution, too often viewed through rose-tinted glasses, was in reality a bloody brutal civil war.  Around 25,000 Americans were killed as a result of the war (many in the appalling conditions found in British POW prison hulks) from a population of around 2 1/2 million.  The war, therefore, killed one percent of the population or about two percent of the male population.  It was a civil war that divided families.  Benjamin Franklin, a critically important Founding Father, had a son, William, who became the loyalist governor of New Jersey; the breach between father and son was never mended.  The British are Coming fully represents the grimmer aspects of this seminal conflict.

COVID-19 would, therefore, need to claim the lives of over 3.3 million Americans to be as proportionately lethal as the American Revolution was in its day.

We are ever reminded that we live in contentious partisan times and that Americans are often an ornery people.  Atkinson reminds us that we were, in fact, an ornery contentious people during the Revolution as well.  Political division is nothing new.

Abigail Adams said that "Affliction is the good man's shining time."  The American Revolution created the environment and conditions from which many outstanding leaders would rise to meet the perilous crisis of their day.  So we can take comfort that new heroes are emerging today such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Andrew Cuomo to deal with our current afflictions.

Atkinson's The British Are Coming is ultimately a reminder of the fact that Americans will not merely cope with adversity -- they will shine and triumph.


Tourist Notes: There are so many great places to discover the story of our nation's violent birth.  Here are a select few.

1) MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, Philadelphia, PA, https://www.amrevmuseum.org/.  Wrote an earlier blog on this amazing new museum...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/09/museum-of-american-revolution.html.

2) BRANDYWINE BATTLEFIELD PARK, Philadelphia, PA http://brandywinebattlefield.org/.  Also wrote about this fascinating battle...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/09/battle-of-brandywine.html.

3) FRAUNCES TAVERN, NY, NY, https://frauncestavern.com/.  George Washington bade farewell to his officers at this Lower Manhattan watering hole at the close of the Revolution.  Wrote this earlier blog...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2014/02/fraunces-tavern-nyc.html.

4) SCHUYLER MANSION, Albany, NY, https://www.nps.gov/sara/planyourvisit/schuyler-house.htm.  And another earlier blog...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2016/09/general-schuyler-his-mansion.html.

Stan Justice
1955 - 2020
This Blog is dedicated to the memory of my patriotic friend Stan Justice.  RIP. 1955 - 2020.





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Monday, April 6, 2020

10 Great Watering Holes / Remembrance of Drinks Past


Commander K. "Invading" Antoines
Oysters Rockefeller & French '75
New Orleans, LA

We read, without much surprise, that in these grim plague times, alcohol sales have risen sharply (https://www.eater.com/2020/3/27/21196290/liquour-grocery-store-alcohol-sales-increase-coronavirus-impact-covid-19).  So not all of the effects of COVID-19 have been negative and there may eventually be more good news coming from this pandemic (see my earlier on Beignets, Whiskey and Coronavirus...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2020/03/beignets-whiskey-and-coronavirus.html). But restaurants, bars and pubs across the world have shut their doors causing spikes in unemployment and general discontent among the thirsty. It seems appropriate now more than ever to remember some of my personal favorite watering holes around the world...

All of these fine, life-enhancing and affirming institutions are sadly closed.  I have personally visited all of them and can testify to their genuine and pleasing nature.  Someday, we all hope soon, these watering holes will reopen and we will gather to celebrate the end of this wretched plague. I offer my personal drink recommendation for each of them in ten of my favorite establishments around the globe.  Cheers to that blessed day!

If we cannot now visit our old haunts and enjoy fellowship and good cheer we may, at least, use our memory to recall the fond experiences we have enjoyed therein.  We may indulge ourselves in a Proustian Remembrance of Drinks Past to console us and get us through these dark times...

Oyster Time!
Walrus & the Carpenter
Seattle, WA

1) WALRUS AND THE THE CARPENTER, Seattle, WA (https://www.thewalrusbar.com/)
Oysters thrive on fresh clean water and there is an abundance of this in the Northwest.  The Walrus and the Carpenter is a fabulous to slurp down tasty raw bivalves from Washington and British Columbia.  What is the optimum beverage to accompany your oysters?    Draught beer?  White wine? Champagne?   See my answer below...

Drink: A French '75 pairs perfectly with oysters.



Cigar & Vesper Martini
American Bar
Stafford Hotel
London, UK
2) AMERICAN BAR STAFFORD HOTEL, London, UK (https://thestaffordlondon.com/american-bar/)

The American Bar of the Stafford Hotel near Green Park is an ideal place to enjoy a drink and a cigar outside on one of Londons' rare pleasant days.  The inside of this establishment is festooned with American sports memorabilia.  Ian Fleming wrote about the Vesper Martini in the very first James Bond novel Casino Royale, published in 1953.  The Vesper is a delicious high octane cocktail that features gin, vodka and the French apertif wine Lillet.  Highly addictive like Eva Green / Vesper Lynd!

Drink: James Bond would order a Vesper and you should too!



The Churchill Arms
London, UK
3) THE CHURCHILL ARMS, London, UK (https://www.churchillarmskensington.co.uk/)

This traditional pub in Kensington is chock full of Winston Churchill memorabilia.  They also have a fine Thai restaurant attached.  Beer and spicy Thai food is a happy marriage.  A great place to reflect upon the life of history's greatest Briton while enjoying a pint and some Pad Thai.  This is a Fuller's pub.

Drink:  Fuller's Honey Dew Beer pairs beautifully with Thai food.

Tiroler Hut
A little bit of Austria in London! 
4) TIROLER HUT, London, UK (http://www.tirolerhut.co.uk/home.html)

This subterranean establishment is a warm slice Austria in the heart of London.  Come here for a cheese fondue and steamed sausages with sauerkraut.  Washed it all down with Steins of cold pilsner.  Save room for some apple strudel!  But the real attraction here is the free musical entertainment led for years by the indefatigable owner Josef Friedman.  Sadly, the Hut had a devastating fire in August of 2019 (https://londonist.com/london/food-and-drink/tiroler-hut-austrian-restaurant-fire-gofundme). One prays for the resurrection of this Austrian phoenix and the restoration of gem├╝tlichkeit to London!  Please consider making a gift to the Hut!

Drink: Split A Boot of Bavarian Beer with at least 4 friends!


5) COMMANDER'S PALACE, New Orleans, LA (https://www.commanderspalace.com/)
Commander's Palace
New Orleans

When the Commander is in New Orleans he must, ipso facto, make a pilgrimage to Commander's Palace.  This historic restaurant in the Garden District of New Orleans has been satisfying diners since 1880.  Their signature turtle soup is incredible and still available for delivery!  This is the perfect place for a special occasion meal with a special person.

Drink: A Mint Julep to restore the tissues and prepare for an amazing meal!  An Irish Coffee with dessert!

Whiskey Sour
Century Bar
Dayton, OH

6) CENTURY BAR, Dayton, OH (www.centurybourbon.com)

Dayton has an amazing Air Force Museum but it also boasts one of the finest bourbon bars in the USA.  (See my earlier post on Bourbon history...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/10/bourbon-andburgoyne.html).  The bartenders at the Century Bar in downtown Dayton are artists in the medium of bourbon cocktails.  Just trust me on this...

Drink: Try the Whiskey Sour.  Anywhere else an abomination; here ambrosia!

Rum Daquiri
Pedro Mandinga
Panama City, Panama
7) PEDRO MANDINGA, Panama City, Panama (http://pedromandinga.com/en/rum-bar/)

Pedro Mandinga is a distillery that also owns a few rum cocktail bars.  After a stroll through the charming old section of Panama City enter the wood paneled comfort of a Pedro Manding rum bar.  Snacks such as the empanadas and ceviche are delicious.  The staff is friendly and attentive.  The bartenders are masterful.  (See my earlier blog on Rum, Piracy and Panama...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2020/02/rum-piracy-and-panama.html)

Drink: A Rum Daquiri

Commander K.  Invades
Cantinetta Antinori

8) CANTINETTA ANTINORI, Florence, Italy (https://cantinetta-antinori.com/en/)tinor

Antinori is a vast and fabled Italian wine producer.  In this Florence restaurant and bar you will find Tuscan dishes paired with the full range of Antinori selections.  All of the Antinori offerings -- from Prosecco to Super Tuscans -- are conveniently available by the glass.

Drink:  Try a glass of Tignanello with your tagliatta!




Rabbit Hole Distillery
Louisville, KY

9) RABBIT HOLE DISTILLERY AND BAR, Louisville, KY (https://www.rabbitholedistillery.com/)

Scurry down the Rabbit Hole in Louisville to find one of the finest new distilleries in Kentucky.  Their sherry cask aged bourbon is to die for.  In 2019 the huge conglomerate Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in this boutique producer.  This is the same Pernod Ricard that scored a PR coup by generously converted much of its output to the production of hand sanitizer (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/from-vodka-and-gin-to-hand-sanitizer-global-distilleries-rush-to-help-fill-a-dire-shortage-of-the-product-amid-the-coronavirus-crisis-2020-03-24).   Tour the distillery but be sure to visit the uber-cool cocktail lounge after your visit.

Drink:  Anything with bourbon is excellent.  Try the Manhattan!

Irish Coffee
Buena Vista Cafe
San Francisco, CA
10) BUENA VISTA CAFE, San Francisco, CA (http://thebuenavista.com/home/home.html)

The iconic Buena Vista Cafe is a San Francisco institution.  You will find it at Fisherman's Wharf across from the picturesque Cable Car stop.  The Buena Vista has been serving up perfect Irish Coffees since 1952.  In normal times they make around 2,000 per day.  Warning: Too many of these may transform you into a Fighting Celt!

Drink: An Irish Coffee, of course!


Commander Kelly cordially invites you to share a few of your favorite bars, pubs and restaurants in the Comment section!



101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming Soon! 


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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Rick Rescorla: Fighting Celt

Rick Rescorla
1939 - 2001

In these incredibly dark times when health care workers around the world are risking their lives in service to their fellow man in the struggle against this grim disease it makes sense to consider the lives of others who have made the supreme self sacrifice (See also my earlier blog on the Coronavirus...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2020/03/beignets-whiskey-and-coronavirus.html).  One of these was a Celtic Fighter with strong connections to Cornwall and New York City...Rcik Rescorla.  Here is his chapter in our forthcoming book 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur...


Two nations' armies
served, thousands saved on the day
of the two towers.

Stuart Laycock

Coming Soon...

"Rick Rescorla was a soldier of the old school, a Celtic Fighter, who fought in two nations’ armies and was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, while heroically saving the lives of around 2,700 people.

Rescorla was born was born in 1939 in England. He grew up in the seaside town of Hayle, a working-class village in Cornwall. The Cornish are proud of their Celtic heritage, which they celebrate with music and sport. As a young boy, Rescorla saw American soldiers training for the D-Day invasion. He was an avid wrestler and rugby player.

His family could not afford to send him to university, so at seventeen, Rescorla left Cornwall, heading to London to join the British Army. Scoring high on military aptitude tests, he was assigned to an army intelligence unit and deployed to Cyprus—the first of many overseas duties. After completing his tour in the army, Rescorla joined the Rhodesian Police force, serving in Kitwe. In Rhodesia, he met Dan Hill, an American who would become a lifelong friend. Also while in Rhodesia, he shot and killed a 350-pound lion, keeping the lion’s tooth on a necklace as a souvenir.
In 1963, Rescorla emigrated to New York and enlisted in the US Army. He received basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey prior to being posted to Fort Benning in Georgia, where he attended Officer Candidate School. Rescorla was the platoon commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. Following in the footsteps of Custer, who also served in the 7th Cavalry, Rescorla would soon be deployed to Vietnam, though his “mount” was helicopters, not horses.
Rick Rescorla Statue
Fort Benning, GA
In 1965, Rescorla’s platoon was helicoptered in to fight the Battle of la Drang. His commanding officer, Lieutenant General Hal Moore, later described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” By all accounts, Rescorla was a tough, selfless soldier during his tour in Vietnam. He won multiple decorations for his service, including the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars. He would sometimes sing to his troops to keep them calmer in battle.

He returned to the States in July of 1966 and continued to serve in the US Army Reserves until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1990. Rescorla attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, at first hoping to become a writer. He earned a law degree instead and went on to teach Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.

In 1972, he married Betsy Nathan, with whom he had two children. (They divorced after the kids had grown.) In order to support his growing family, Rescorla took more lucrative corporate-security jobs in the financial industry. He worked for Continental Illinois Bank and Trust, headquartered in Chicago.

In 1984, Dean Witter hired Rescorla to be their director of security. He moved to New York to work from Witter’s base in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.



In 1992, Hal Moore published We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. The cover of Moore’s book featured a photograph of Rick Rescorla. At a later reunion, Rescorla teased his old commander that the title should have been We Were Soldiers Once … and Thin!

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef, a veteran of al-Qaeda training camps, detonated a bomb in the southern corner of the garage below the World Trade Center. Yousef hoped to bring both towers down, with one structure crashing into the other, killing thousands of people. The explosion ripped through six stories of structural steel and sent smoke clouds billowing through the South Tower where Rescorla was working. Six people were killed and over a thousand were injured, but the Towers did not fall.

Following the 1993 attack, Rescorla was deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the Twin Towers to terrorist attack. He advocated that Dean Witter relocate their office and staff to New Jersey but was turned down. He instituted regular emergency drills among the Dean Witter staff, in spite of considerable grumbling.

In 1997, Dean Witter announced their merger with Morgan Stanley. Rescorla became a vice president in charge of security for Morgan Stanley. A year later he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, for which he was undergoing treatments at the time of his death. In 1999, Rescorla married Susan Greer. In April of 2001, Rescorla was inducted into the OCS (Officer Candidate School) Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Georgia.
September 11, 2001
NY, NY
On September 11, 2001, Rescorla showed up early for work, as was his routine. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The explosion was heard and felt in the nearby South Tower, in which Morgan Stanley had its offices. The PA system blared warnings, urging office workers to remain at their desks, but Rescorla had a different idea. He used a bullhorn and calmly began herding his Morgan Stanley colleagues and others toward the stairs. He was heard to say, “Today is a proud day to be an American.”  Around 9:03 a.m., a United-Airlines-operated Boeing 7676-200 crashed into the South Tower.



Rescorla sang to steady his nerves and that of those around him, giving a Cornish twist to an old Welsh tune, “Men of Harlech.”

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warrior’s pennants streaming
To this battlefield.

Men of Cornwall stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield

A friend told Rescorla that it was time to leave. Rescorla responded, “I will as soon as I’ve got everybody else out.”  He never made it, and his body was never recovered.

Out of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees in the Twin Towers that day, only nine (including Rescorla and three independent contractors working for the firm) were killed. Rescorla has been credited with saving around 2,700 lives on 9/11.
Rick Rescorla Monument
Hayle, UK
The extraordinary life of this Fghting Celt, who touched and saved so many, has been memorialized in many ways. A statue of Rescorla was dedicated outside the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in 2009. In 2011, the San Francisco Opera presented Heart of a Soldier, an opera based on Rescorla’s life. A memorial can also be found in his hometown of Hayle in Cornwall."





101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming Soon! 


You can find signed copies of our books at 
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!



Thursday, April 2, 2020

Hugh O'Flaherty: Fighting Celt


Coming Soon...


In these incredibly dark times, with health care workers struggling to save the lives of those afflicted with the Coronavirus plague, it is useful to reflect on to the lives of those who, at great risk to themselves, have worked heroically to save human life (See my blog on the Coronavirus...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2020/03/beignets-whiskey-and-coronavirus.html).

One of these was a Fighting Celt from the Emerald Isle named Hugh O'Flaherty.  This is a chapter from our forthcoming work, 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur...


Hugh O'Flaherty
1898 - 1963
Killarney, Republic of Ireland


To win in a war,
sometimes you need not guns, hate
but a heart and love.
Stuart Laycock

Fighting Celts sometimes fight off the battlefield and sometimes without weapons.
One of the most remarkable heroes of World War II was neither a soldier nor a politician. He was an Irish priest who became the Celtic Oskar Schindler.

Hugh O'Flaherty
The Celtic Schindler
Hugh O’Flaherty was born in County Cork in 1898. His father was steward on a golf course. Young O’Flaherty grew up in Killarney with the game, becoming a scratch golfer. At age twenty, he enrolled in a Jesuit college, charting a path to the priesthood. He was ordained in 1925 and went on to serve around in the world as a Vatican diplomat in countries such as Haiti, Egypt, and Czechoslovakia.
O’Flaherty was a Monsignor in Rome when World War II broke out. As one of the Vatican’s best golfers, one of his duties was to chaperone golf-playing visitors to the Holy See.

In June of 1940, Mussolini entered the war on the Axis side by attacking across the border with France and from Libya into Egypt. In July of 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery and US General Patton had their famous “race to Messina.” Shortly after the fall of Sicily, the Italian government essentially switched sides in the war, and Mussolini was arrested by King Victor Emmanuel III’s government.
Nazi Occupation of Rome
1943-1944
Hitler did not take this lying down. Thousands of German troops under the able leadership of “smiling” Albert Kesserling were sent to occupy large parts of the Italian peninsula. Hitler also dispatched paratroopers in a bold raid that succeeded in rescuing Il Duce from his mountain prison at the Hotel Campo Imperatore, returning him to behind Axis lines. Rome was occupied by Nazi troops from the summer of 1943 until its liberation by Allied troops on 4 June 1944—just two days before D-Day.

During this critical period, O’Flaherty played a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Nazi overlords who controlled Rome up to the Vatican gates. He made use of space in monasteries and convents to conceal Allied soldiers and Jews. His actions are estimated to have saved around 6,500 lives. Many of the men he saved were downed Allied airmen who had flown missions over Nazi-occupied Italy.
Herbert Kappler
1907 - 1978
Herbert Kappler, the head of the SS in Rome, learned of O’Flaherty’s actions. He had a white line painted on the streets by the Vatican, marking the boundary between the Holy See and Nazi authority, and declared that the priest would be killed if he left Vatican territory.  Kappler also put a bounty on O’Flaherty’s head and attempted to lure O’Flaherty across the line with double agents. O’Flaherty was not fooled and earned a reputation as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.

After the war, O’Flaherty was honored by many nations for his wartime services. He received a Medal of Honor from the US government and a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from the United Kingdom.

Kappler, on the other hand, went to prison after the war. But he requested that Monsignor O’Flaherty visit him in prison. Kappler made his confession to his old nemesis and even converted to Roman Catholicism.
Scarlet & the Black
1983

O’Flaherty returned to Ireland, where he died in 1963 following a stroke. His life was featured in a made-for-television movie (The Scarlet and the Black) starring Gregory Peck as the priest. A statue of this Celtic hero stands today in Killarney behind the motto: God has no country.





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