Monday, July 26, 2021

Katie Heath RIP (1953 - 2021)

 

Katie Heath RIP
1953 - 2021
From "Cooties" to Covid-19

My sister Katie was born in 1953 to Clinton Elliot and Nina Van Rensselaer.  Nina subsequently divorced and married my father Robert Kelly in Sacramento, California.  My dad adopted Katie (and my brother Clinton) at the time of his marriage to Nina which followed a whirlwind romance in Cuba and Mexico City.  Katie, born in New York, grew up as a California girl in sultry Sacramento where she loved to swim, ride horses and dance.


Katie had been born into the sunnier days of the Eisenhower administration.  Life was a bit easier and simpler back then.  They were more worried about catching "cooties" than deadly viruses.  Hula hoops were a bigger thing than Social Media.  Everybody liked Ike.  And Katie was very likable too.  Everybody liked Katie.


In 1960s California Katie grew to be a free spirit.  Perhaps even hippie.  She wore granny glasses and plastic mini skirts.  She love the Beattles and especially Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band.  She graduated from San Dominico school near San Francisco which is going strong to this day (https://www.sandomenico.org).  She thought that many of the nuns were cool -- one of the coolest wore a superman T-shirt underneath her habit!


She attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where she learned, among other things, how to make awesome Huevos Rancheros.  She served them with warm flour tortillas and ice cold Dos Equis beer.

Robert E. Kelly RIP
Adopted Katie Heath
1929 - 2008
From the Great Crash to the Financial Crisis

Our family loved to travel.  Our mother Nina had attended the Sorbonne and, during the Korean War, my father had served as a Private First Class in the US Army based in Verdun, France.  Our parents were serious about food and wine.  One summer in the 1960s my dad bought a VW bug and drove through Europe.  That was long before the European Union when borders meant something.  My parents were nervous about having their considerable stash of wine confiscated or taxed by the customs authorities who loomed at every border crossing.  There were five of us in a VW bug with 3 kids crammed in the back seat and several cases of wine in the diminutive trunk.  The bottles of burgundy and champagne clinked and rattled together as we bumped along the European countryside.  We made up a silly song: "Please Mr. Customs Man, Don't check our underwear too closely".  We thought that it was hysterically funny anyway...those were happy times!

Katie & the 
Soviet Navy!


In 1970 our family slipped behind the Iron Curtain, visiting Leningrad in the Soviet Union.  We saw the Tsar's grand Palace and fabulous gardens.  We went to a performance of Swan Lake (Katie loved ballet and modern dance).  We returned via train from Leningrad to Helsinki Finland.  On the train journey a Soviet submarine captain very nearly assaulted Katie -- a cute blonde American teenager at the time.  My father had to literally pull him off of her.  Katie's miniskirt was apparently too much of a temptation for the drunken sea captain.  Despite my father's ignorance of Russian, he had a conversation with the Soviet skipper and somehow managed to learn that his crew was dying of radiation poisoning.  Perhaps these and other events helped to solidify my sister's growing feminism.

Katie & Georgina & Nina loved birds
Sent her this image from the Everglades, FL in 2021
Heron or Ibis?  Katie would know!

Katie was the granddaughter of Georgina Van Rensselaer of Bedford New York.  She was the great granddaughter of Thomas Tileston Wells who wrote An Adventure in 1914 (www.anadventurein1914.com).  Georgina once told Katie that she combined "beauty, brains and breeding"!  Georgina and Katie and Nina shared a lifelong love of birds and nature.

Georgina Van Rensselaer
1902 - 1997
From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton


Katie met James Heath while both were working in Alaska at the Mount McKinley Park Hotel.  Jimmy was a lanky Montanan.  They fell in love and later married. Jimmy would instruct Katie in the joys of elk hunting and the beauty of Big Sky country.  They had three boys together...Schuyler, Sloane and Chance.  Katie was vociferously pro-choice; she was also a terrific loving mom to her three boys.

Katie was not entirely satisfied with her life as a homemaker in Montana.  She longed to build a business as our father Robert had done.  Katie got her chance creating a successful and pioneering Yoga business in Missoula Montana.  Her business acumen proved to be a blessing for her community where she was unfailingly generous.

Nina Van Rensselaer RIP
An Adventure from 1928 - 2020
www.anadventurein1914.com


When our aged mother Nina Van Rensselaer was ill (stroke, breast cancer, broken leg, dementia, etc.) it was Katie who took care of her.  Katie was a devoted daughter to the end.

Katy Trail
Runs 237 Miles through Missouri

Katie faced her final illness (brain cancer) with fortitude and courage.  In April 2021 I biked the 237 miles of the Katy Trail across the state of Missouri (https://bikekatytrail.com) in her honor -- I sent her many photos of birds and flowers.  Broke three ribs on the final day when I fell off my bike!  Katie Heath died at her much-loved home in Missoula Montana in July 2021.  She was a loving sister who (God Bless Her!) was a regular reader of this blog.  I shall miss her terribly.





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Saturday, July 3, 2021

US Navy Seal Museum


Commander K at US Navy Seal Museum
Fort Pierce, Florida


The US Navy Seal Museum is located in Fort Pierce on the Atlantic coast of Florida (https://www.navysealmuseum.org).  During WW2 it was here in Fort Pierce in 1943 that Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) began training for their incredibly dangerous mission of preparing the beaches at Normandy for the D-Day landings.  NCDUs were also employed in the Pacific theater where they became known as "MacArthur's frogmen".  Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs), often armed only with knives, swept onto the beaches of islands such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa on mobile flotation devices.  Their mission was to clear the beaches of obstacles and traps that had proved problematic in the landing on "Bloody Tarawa".  The astonishing bravery of these men provided an inspiration for the Navy Seals who followed in their footsteps.

Lt. John F. Kennedy
PT-109

President Kennedy stumbled badly in his first days in the White House with the Bay of Pigs disaster.  In April 1961 CIA-supported Cuban exiles attempted to invade the island, seeking to depose Castro.  They were slaughtered and forced to surrender.  But the ashes of this failure were, perhaps, the genesis of the legendary US Navy Seals.  JFK, a US Navy combat veteran himself (PT-109 in the Solomon Islands), sought an unconventional weapon with which to combat Communism, particularly in Southeast Asia.  The fledgling US Navy Seals were first deployed in the riverine warfare of Vietnam where they became known as the "men with green faces" due to their use of camouflage paint and stealth tactics.

The Seals would see action during the Cold War in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1989/90 invasion of Panama.  But it would really be after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War that the Seals would flourish in the covert Global War on Terror.  In the 21st century the US Navy Seals would see combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Pakistan.

In the Pakistan chapter of 2014's America Invades (www.americainvades.com) we wrote...

Operation Neptune Spear
US Navy Seal Museum
Fort Pierce, FL


"On May 1, 2011, four US helicopters flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, on a mission aimed at Osama bin Laden. In spite of the crash of one stealth Black Hawk into the compound, Operation Neptune Spear was a near total success. Two Black Hawk helicopters carried USN SEALs to Osama’s secret compound. Two CH-47s carried extra fuel and additional forces. The SEALs relayed the code signal “Geronimo” back to the White House confirming that Osama bin Laden had been positively identified. Osama bin Laden, three other males, and one female were killed; there were no SEAL casualties.

The intelligence-gathering phase of this mission had required about ten years with several “enhanced interrogation” sessions along the way. The action phase of this invasion of Pakistan and the subsequent withdrawal lasted about four hours. No Pakistani military or civilians were killed in the raid.

Osama bin Laden
1957 - 2011

Osama’s body was identified with DNA methods and transported to the USS Carl Vinson. The burial was at sea in the north Arabian Ocean. Soon after the death of Osama was announced a crowd thronged around the White House chanting “USA, USA ...”

One of the MC-130E Combat Talon I planes that had been used when President Jimmy Carter ordered the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw to free American hostages in Iran was used to ferry SEAL Team Six to Kentucky for a congratulatory visit with President Obama. Navy SEAL Team Six received a Presidential Unit Citation—the highest unit award in the US military. President Obama credited the “countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals” who had labored for over a decade in three US administrations to achieve this result.

The urgent need to bring justice to the author of the 9/11 attacks had outweighed considerations about the violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty and our links with that country."  (Source...www.americainvades.com)

\

Rob "O'Neill is featured in our forthcoming 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur.  Here is an excerpt...

JFK & Frogman
US Navy Seal Museum
Fort Pierce, FL

"In January 1962, John F. Kennedy, the most Irish-Celtic president in American history, established the US Navy SEALs. SEAL stands for Sea Air Land. The SEAL program was an evolution of the US Navy frogmen of World War II.

SEALs would be a magnet for many future warriors of Celtic descent. For example, Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy was a US Navy SEAL who won a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2005. Rob O’Neill qualifies as the most famous SEAL to date. 

O’Neill forms the latest chapter in a tradition of Celtic snipers that stretches back over centuries. Private Patrick Murphy of Morgan’s Rifleman shot and killed British Brigadier General Simon Frasier in the Saratoga Campaign in 1777.


Rob O'Neill
AKA "The Shooter"


Rob O’Neill was born in 1976 in Butte, Montana. He attended Butte Central Catholic High School, graduating in 1994. O’Neill, a redhead, had been a college basketball player and was determined to become a Navy SEAL. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1995. He went through the challenging BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) program, enduring “Hell Week,” in Coronado, California, graduating in December 1996... 

Over the course of more than sixteen years, O’Neil completed four hundred combat missions. He earned numerous decorations, including two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor, and three Presidential Unit Citations.

O’Neill participated in a rescue mission in Afghanistan that ultimately managed to bring Marcus Lutrell home—the lone survivor of a four-man SEAL unit. O’Neill was in numerous operations against IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) makers in Afghanistan and in Iraq. He went on many missions behind enemy lines in search of High Value Targets (HVTs).

In 2008, O’Neill was in pursuit of an HVT named Zabit Jalil, who was operating in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan. O’Neill was a team leader directing SEALs and soldiers from the Afghan Army, when they got into a major gunfight with hundreds of Jalils’ forces. Badly outnumbered, O’Neill called for air support, which allowed for his teams’ safe extraction and caused numerous enemy casualties. For this action, O’Neill received his first Silver Star.  

Captain Phillips
Held by Somali pirates in 2009


In April of 2009, O’Neill was part of the team that was sent to rescue Captain Phillips from Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. Phillips was the captain of the Maersk Alabama, which had been seized by AK-47-wielding pirates in skiffs. Members of SEAL Team 6 on the USS Bainbridge managed to kill three pirates and save Captain Phillips, who was on a lifeboat bobbing in the sea. In an April 17 press conference on his return to Vermont, Phillips thanked the SEALs, describing them as “titans, impossible men doing impossible jobs.” 

Two years later, in the spring of 2011, O’Neill took a principal role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The operation was guided by the CIA, which had spent years tracking Osama’s couriers to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. O’Neill and members of SEAL Team Six spent weeks practicing for the raid at a military facility in North Carolina that simulated the compound. President Obama, who has Irish roots on his mother’s side,  authorized a covert mission to capture or kill the man that the CIA had identified as “The Pacer” on the theory that he was Osama bin Laden.


The enormous danger of this mission cannot be overemphasized. In his book The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior, O’Neill reveals that he wrote letters to his wife and two daughters, expecting that he and his fellow SEALs would perish on this mission. It would be, without a doubt, a perilous mission.  They would be invading a major regional military power, and bin Laden’s compound was only about one mile away from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad.

On May 1, 2011, two modified Black Hawk helicopters and two CH-47s flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, targeting the Pacer’s compound. In spite of the crash of one stealth Black Hawk into the compound, Operation Neptune Spear was a near total success. Osama bin Laden and his son, Khalid bin Laden, and three others were killed in the attack with no SEAL casualties. 

According to his account, O’Neill proceeded upstairs to the third floor of the compound, where bin Laden twice in the head. Photographs were taken, and one of Osama’s daughters confirmed the identity of the corpse. (It was later reconfirmed by DNA.) Computers and hard drives were seized, and the Black Hawk chopper that had crashed into the compound was rigged to explode. The entire operation on the ground took about forty minutes.    

The SEALs relayed a coded message to Admiral McRaven: “For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo, EKIA” (Enemy Killed in Action), which was quickly communicated to the White House... 

In August 2012, O’Neill was honorably discharged from the US Navy. He was interviewed by Esquire magazine for an article about the raid, in which he was anonymously identified as “The Shooter.” O’Neill had no health care to provide for his family. 

In 2017, he published his book, The Operator (https://www.amazon.com/Operator-Firing-Shots-Killed-Warrior/dp/1501145045/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3CUVBTEMI43P3&keywords=the+operator+robert+o%27neill&qid=1625341151&sprefix=the+operator%2Caps%2C245&sr=8-1). That book remains controversial in the SEAL community, where concerns about operational security have created an ethos of secrecy in regard to disclosing any details regarding covert operations. O’Neill serves now as contributor for Fox News. He is a cofounder of Your Grateful Nation, an organization committed to helping Special Forces veterans transition to their next successful career."  Source: 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur.

US Navy Seal Trident
US Navy Seal Museum
Fort Pierce, FL

 

Commander Kelly says, "Remember our heroes and go check out the US Navy Seals Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida!" https://www.navysealmuseum.org


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Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Year Germany Lost The War

 


June of 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the largest land invasion in human history -- Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union.  Operation Barbarossa kicked off on June 22, 1941 employing nearly four million German and Axis troops.  Hitler was wildly optimistic about his invasion of Stalin's Russia, "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."  The Soviets armies were caught by surprise in the initial phase of the campaign.  They were shattered by the German Blitzkrieg tactics and millions surrendered while the rest reeled in retreat.  Airplanes of the Red air force were destroyed  on many runways.

Andrew Nagorski is the Polish author of 1941: The Year Germany Lost The War (https://www.amazon.com/1941-Year-Germany-Lost-War/dp/1501181130/ref=sr_1_1?)crid=2M4M8C1XANPL&keywords=1941+the+year+germany+lost+the+war&qid=1624847497&s=books&sprefix=1941+the+%2Caps%2C199&sr=1-1). His 2019 work documents the catastrophic decision making process of the Axis powers in 1941.  In early 1941, it very much seemed that the Axis would win World War II.  Britain and her Commonwealth allies were the last remaining opposition to the seemingly invincible German forces that had swept through Poland, the Low Countries and France.  But the Axis were a cabal of dictators who were incapable of cooperation and the coordination of strategy.  By the end of 1941, Hitler and other Axis leaders had made huge strategic miscalculations that could only result in their ultimate destruction and defeat.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps / Saul
Author's Collection

Nagorski opens his book with Hitler's visit to the tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides in Paris in June of 1940.  Hitler was appalled by the French treatment of their former Emperor, "They have put him down into a hole.  People must look down at a coffin far below them...They should look up at Napoleon."  The staging was all wrong.  It offended Hitler's sense of showmanship.  Hitler would, of course, go on to repeat Napoleon's greatest folly -- he would invade Russia.  "General Winter" would inflict a grievous toll on the Wehrmacht just as it had done to Napoleon's Grande Armée in 1812.

Stalin had grossly misjudged his fellow dictator.  After the Night of the long Knives which persecuted German Jews, Stalin declared, "Hitler, what a great man!"  The Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement allowed the Soviets and Germans to carve up Poland.  Despite multiple warnings from the British and his own spies (Richard Sorge, etc), Stalin refused to believe that Hitler would betray him.  His own brutal purges of the Soviet officer corps had weakened the fighting capability of the Soviet forces.  The Soviets were humiliated by the fierce resistance of the Finns in the Winter War of '39/'40 that produced Soviet losses of around 125,000 versus Finnish losses of about 48,000.

Hitler erred catastrophically by launching his invasion of the Soviet Union and repeating Napoleon's greatest folly.  Moreover, Hitler compounded the error further by imposing a brutal occupation that sought to transform civilians in occupied territories into Slavic slave labor.  Many Ukrainians and others initially welcomed Axis forces as a relief to the tyranny they had endured under Stalin.  Their hopes were quickly dashed by the remorseless tactics of the SS execution squads (Einsatzgruppen).

Commander K with Churchill & FDR
London, UK

Though Winston Churchill was a staunch lifelong anti-communist, he welcomed Stalin as an ally against Hitler.  Vital lend lease supplies were shipped via arctic convoys to Russia.  Churchill explained, "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."  Churchill also lobbied hard and successfully for FDR to dispatch even greater lend lease support for the Soviet Union as well.

FDR
Grosvenor Square, London

FDR was wrestling with the isolationists, known as America-Firsters and led by Charles Lindbergh, in his own country.  Shell-shocked by the cost of WWI, many Americans were reluctant to commit their treasury to foreign entanglements and their sons to foreign wars.

USS Arizona Memorial
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

It was, of course, a Japanese strategic miscalculation that changed all that -- the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Japanese planners calculated that they could not continue their long war in China (begun in 1937) without oil and other resources.  Naval aircraft launched from carriers attacked the US fleet berthed at Pearl Harbor killing nearly three thousand people and sending the USS Arizona to the bottom.  The attack on Pearl Harbor united the American people and also the Allies.  FDR told Churchill that day, "We are all in the same boat now."   For Churchill the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor could mean only one thing: "So we have won after all."

Hitler closed 1941 by foolishly declaring war on the United States.  He told the Reichstag that Roosevelt was in league with "the full diabolical meanness of Jewry."  That same month German forces were halted at the gates of Moscow and the Soviets began to counterattack.  Ultimately, about 4 out of 5 German soldiers would be killed on the Eastern front in WW2.

Many hard days would follow the attack on Pearl Harbor in WW2 and the year of 1941.  The Axis would win significant victories, notably the fall of Singapore, the surrender of the Philippines and the capture of Tobruk in Libya.  The war would not turn in the Allied favor until the 1942 victories at Midway, El Alamein and Stalingrad turned the tide.  But the die was surely cast making Allied victory inevitable by the Axis decisions made in 1941.

Over eighty years ago Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London, had scribbled in his diary on January 1, 1941 that "this will be be the decisive year of the war."  He did not realize how right he would prove to be...  


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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Rampage


James Scott's 2018 Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila (www.amzn.com/0393357562) is an important book for anyone with a serious interest in WW2 history.  World War II in the Pacific does not get as much attention as the war in the Pacific.  The atrocities committed by the Empire of Japan get far less attention than the Holocaust.  The brutal war that was waged in the Philippines gets very little attention.  The devastating Battle of Manila is very nearly forgotten.  So James Scott's work is a valuable contribution to our understanding of this dark chapter of world history.


Commander K & MacArthur 
West Point, NY

Douglas MacArthur, who will be featured in our upcoming work 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur, famously vowed that he would return to the Philippines.  He made this promise at the lowest moment in his life, as he was fleeing with his wife, young son and staff aboard a PT boat from the besieged and beleaguered fortress at Corregidor in 1942.  MacArthur had been forced to abandon his beloved penthouse home in the Manila hotel.  Defying the odds (the Japanese enjoyed clear naval and air supremacy in the Philippines), he and his family made their way to Australia.  

MacArthur believed in a simple credo of Duty, Honor and Country which was drilled into him at West Point.  But in 1942 he had abandoned General Wainright and thousands of American troops in the Philippines.  All were captured and became POWs subject to the harshest conditions.  Thousands of American civilians were herded into Internee camps by the conquering Japanese.  MacArthur had abandoned the Filipino people as well.  By 1944 many of these American POWs and Internees were living in appalling conditions.  Many were starving.  Others were ravaged by disease such as beriberi.  The Philippines was ruled by a brutal occupation.

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Manila had been a near paradise for American expats.  It was known as the Pearl of the Orient.  It offered a tropical climate, beautifully landscaped parks, an affordable cost of living and gorgeous sunsets.  MacArthur and his family lived in a sumptuous penthouse apartment atop the Manila Hotel.

1880 - 1964
"I Shall Return"

In July of 1944 an American strategy conference was held in Hawaii with FDR, MacArthur and the full military brass.  By then Japan's fleet was mainly at the bottom of the Pacific but it stubbornly defended its home islands and various possessions.  Many from the US Navy favored a strategy that would bypass the Philippine archipelago and proceed to an American invasion of Taiwan.  MacArthur was horrified at this prospect.  He had given his word to American POWs, Internees and the Filipino people.  MacArthur dug in his heels and threatened FDR telling him that "the American people would be so aroused that they would register most complete resentment against you at the polls this fall."  Scott informs us that "the shocked Roosevelt retreated to bed that night, summoning his physician and demanding an aspirin.  'In fact,' he said, 'give me another aspirin to take in the morning.'" 

FDR statue
Grosvenor Square, London
1882 - 1945

General MacArthur may have given FDR a headache but the benefit of hindsight suggests that MacArthur did make the correct strategic decision.  FDR would likely have preferred the formulation "We shall return" over the egotistical "I shall return".  But it would, nevertheless, have been unconscionable for the USA to have simply abandoned the Philippines.  Americans would be abandoning American POWs, internees and the Philippine people.  Allowing the Japanese occupation to endure would certainly have cost many lives.  Moreover, the word of an American official needed to be backed up by deeds.  Ultimately, MacArthur's return to the Philippines gave credibility to the USA in the Pacific for decades.

Tomoyuki Yamashita
1885 - 1946

Yamashita, MacArthur's opponent in the Philippines was a larger than life character.  Like MacArthur, he was a superb student of military history and discipline.  Yamashita proved his worth by leading the Japanese to a stunning victory over forces that outnumbered his own by about three to one in Malyasia.  Singapore, the Gibraltar of Asia, surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942 and many thousands of Chinese were killed in the Sook Ching massacre.  Yamashita was dubbed the Tiger of Malaya.  After his triumph at Singapore, Yamashita was subsequently sidelined to a post in Manchuria.  Until 1944 when he was summoned in to lead a desperate defense of the Philippines.  After the American landing on Lingayen Gulf on January 7, 1945 Yamashita withdrew with his staff and the bulk of his forces to the mountains entrusting Manila to a force composed mainly of Japanese marines led by Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi.

Plaza Cuartel / Palawan Plaque
Courtesy of Rocky Cueva

The return of MacArthur and the Americans to Leyte triggered brutal reprisals against captive Americans. On the beautiful island of Palawan, for example, around 150 American POWs were burned to death on December 14, 1944.  The news of this atrocity lent urgency to American efforts to liberate imprisoned Americans on Luzon and throughout the archipelago.

Rear Adrmiral Sanji Iwabuchi
1895 - 1945

The egotistical MacArthur dreamed of a triumphal march through downtown Manila.  Iwabcuhi, in command of around 15,000 Japanese troops, was determined to defend Manila to the death and spoil MacArthur's plans.  A 29 day house-to-house battle ensued that consumed the lives of around 2,000 American troops, nearly all of the Japanese defenders and over 100,000 Filipino civilians.  Scott relates in unrelenting detail the slaughter that nearly wiped Manila off the map.  Rampage is not a book for the faint of heart or stomach.  Babies were bayoneted.  Rape was commonplace.   Iwabuchi finally used a knife to commit suicide inside of the Agricultural building on February 26, 1945 bring the battle of Manila to its horrifying end.

While MacArthur made the right strategic decision to return to the Philippines, he blundered badly in its tactical execution.   In 1942 had had declared Manila an open city in order to spare its civilian population the ravages of war through its streets.  In 1944 he naively expected the Japanese would do as he had done in declaring Manila an open city.  They did nothing of the kind, fighting like caged animals in a doomed struggle.

On February 23, 1945 MacArthur returned to his Manila home in the penthouse of the Manila hotel.  he found the body of a dead Japanese colonel sprawled across his threshold.  His home had been looted and his precious book collection had been burned.  The wanton destruction of his Manila home makes MacArthur's magnanimous attitude as the proconsul in charge of the subsequent occupation of Japan all the more noteworthy.  This magnanimity did not, of course, extend to MacArthur's treatment of Yamashita who was summarily convicted of war crimes by an American tribunal and hanged on February 26, 1946.  Yamashita had lost control of the troops under his control and someone needed to pay the price. As Scott points out, the rampage which took place in Manila in 1945 had its precedents in the 1937 Rape of Nanking and brutal reprisals in China that followed the Doolittle Raid. 

A shattered Manila has never regained its lost status as the Pearl of the Orient. 

Battle of Manila Memorial




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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Musical Beds


The caveman who knocks two rocks together just makes noise.  But the caveman who knocks two rocks together in order to impress a cavegirl is the Ursprung of Music.  Longing begets melody.  Music is, per Schopenhauer, the crystallization of the human Will.  Music is, per Shakespeare, the food of love.  Music provides the background and inspiration for our coupling (Barry White), our decoupling (Burt Bacharach) and our re-coupling (Sinatra).  Music has, for centuries, played its role in getting people into bed and peopling our world.  Melody begets begetting.

I-Pod
The death of music

Until the music stops.  The iPod, an expression of onanistic solipsism, marks the death of music.  The iPod divorces music from its essentially social role.  Technology snuffs out the spark once inspired by music.  Technology spawns porn and kills romance.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

In 1969, long before HIV or iPods, the film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice purported to revolutionize human sexuality and...bedding.  Out with bourgeois morality, in with polymorphous perversity.  Four to a bed requires a double King plus...?  Orgies over romance.  But still the foursome's bed was a static place behind closed doors.  


Bivvy Bag


The 21st century equivalent of Bob and Carol etc's bed is represented by...the bivvy bag!  A mobile bed for one that can go into the world's most inhospitable places.  A divvy bag is the perfect sleeping vehicle for a lonely man exploring a lonely planet.  A bed for the post-musical age awash with internet porn.

What will be next?  Beds cannot be merely static and the world must, somehow, be peopled.  We will witness a fusion of technology, motion and sex.  Get ready for it...Meaningless sex in the back of Driverless cars all to the strains of Tuneless songs sung by Soul-less robots!



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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Invading the Dominican Republic

Commander K "Invades"
the Dominican Republic


What is it that Christopher Columbus, President Johnson (LBJ), the US Marine Corps and actress Kim Novak all had in common?  They all have a strong connection to the Dominican Republic.

Columbus, LBJ and the US Marines all invaded The Dominican Republic.  And as for Kim Novak's surprising connection to the Caribbean island -- read on...

www.italyinvades.com

In Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World we pointed out how Columbus and the Italians left their mark on the Dominican Republic...

"The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti in 1844, but Italians made their mark on the territory much earlier than that.


Palace of Diego Columbus
Santo Domingo, DR


One need not look far to find signs of Italian “invasions” in the Dominican Republic. A visitor to La Isabella will find the Casa Almirante, or Admiral’s House. This was the first American home of the famous Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus. The palace of Diego Columbus, the oldest son of Columbus, is in the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. Most impressively, the Columbus lighthouse, built in the shape of a cross and completed in 1992, casts incandescent beams from its 102-foot-high perch in Santo Domingo.

Christopher x 2!
Columbus & Kelly
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Christopher Columbus has become a highly controversial figure in world history. His detractors have denounced him as racist, greedy for gold, a religious fanatic, and too comfortable with slavery. His defenders have pointed to his undoubted courage, his extraordinary seamanship, and his stubborn determination. They have also noted the impossibility of imposing twenty-first-century values onto the  fifteenth century and the unfairness of blaming Columbus for all the evils of subsequent European colonialism.


Christopher Columbus & Queen Isabella
Sacramento, CA

What is indisputable about Columbus is that he changed the world forever. To biologists, he is known as the father of the Columbian Exchange, which may arguably rank as the most consequential Italian invasion in history. As a result of the Columbian Exchange, Europeans received tomatoes, potatoes, cocoa, tobacco, and boatloads of silver from the New World. Spaghetti Bolognese did not exist before Columbus. There was no Swiss chocolate before the introduction of cocoa to Europe. The Spanish, in fact, kept the existence of chocolate a secret for a century after Columbus.


Columbus Plaque / Santo Domingo

Those living in what became known as the Americas received horses, pigs, the lowly earthworm, and Christian missionaries. Lacking immunities, they also received new diseases, such as the smallpox that eventually ravaged the indigenous population of two continents. It has been estimated that, thirty years after the first arrival of Columbus, over 90 percent of the native population of the island of Hispaniola was killed by enslavement and disease.

Not all exchanges are fair.

Some scientists have gone so far as to claim that Columbus, in a sense, reversed continental drift and restored Pangaea to the world. It seems inarguable to say that, for better or worse, the Genoese sea captain transformed our world, making it a smaller, more connected planet.

Rafael Trujillo
1891 - 1961

Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic for thirty years, from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, was an admirer of Mussolini and received his first foreign decoration from Il Duce. The British foreign minister to the Dominican Republic went so far as to suggest that Trujillo “viewed himself as a prospective Dominican Mussolini.”

In spite of this, the two dictators clashed over tobacco interests in the 1930s, and Mussolini even threatened to dispatch elements of the Italian Navy to the Dominican Republic in 1935 over the Barletta incident.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Trujillo’s Dominican Republic joined the Allied side. Italian submarines prowled menacingly in the Caribbean waters surrounding the Dominican Republic until the Italian capitulation of 1943.

Dulcita Lieggi
Miss Dominican Republic 2012


The Italian diaspora has had a significant impact on the Dominican Republic. For example, Francisco Gregorio Billini, who was of Italian heritage, served briefly as the twenty-third president of the Dominican Republic in the 1880s. Much more recently, Miss Dominican Republic 2012 was the lovely Dulcita Lieggi, also of Italian stock."


In America Invades (www.americainvades.com) we discussed American invasions and their influence on this sun-washed Caribbean island...

"The Dominican Republic lies on the eastern side of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti on the western portion. It has long had strong and close ties with the United States, and today more than a million people of Dominican origin live in the United States. The Dominican Republic is famous for (among many other things) beaches, a temperate climate, and amazing baseball players—today there are more Major League Baseball players from the Dominican Republic than from any other nation except the United States.

The Dominican Republic has also at times had a tumultuous political history. We have taken an interest in the Dominican Republic pretty much from the beginning of our history, and we have sent in the Marines a few times. Well, quite a lot of times, actually.


Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration
Santiago De Los Caballeros, DR

The Dominican Republic was first colonized by the Spanish and then the French. And some of our first military engagements in the area were against them. During the Undeclared War against the French, for instance, in 1800, marines from the USS Constitution under Captain Daniel Carmick captured the French ship Sandwich before spiking guns at Puerto Plata.

African slaves were imported to work the sugar-cane plantations. Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Revolution in the first decade of the nineteenth century meant that Haiti ruled the Dominican Republic until it gained its independence in 1844.

During the US Civil War, the Dominican Republic reverted to Spanish rule. Our distraction with fighting the Civil War made it difficult to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

Teddy Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine held that “the US had the responsibility to protect foreign lives and pay foreign debts” while keeping European powers from encroaching on the Western hemisphere. President Woodrow Wilson would cite Roosevelt’s corollary to justify his intervention in the Dominican Republic.

USMC Plaque
Katy Trail, MO

In April 1903, marines from the USS Atlanta landed to guard US diplomats in Santo Domingo City during conflict there.

Things got even busier in 1904 as the USS Detroit was dispatched to try to bring peace between the different factions in the country and protect US interests. In January, the USS Detroit landed marines at Puerto Plata. A few days later, the ship landed marines at Sosua. After a few more days, the USS Detroit and this time the USS Hartford were landing more US marines and sailors in the country. In February, it was the turn of USS Newark and Columbia to land marines and sailors, this time at Santo Domingo. The Clyde Line steamer New York had been  red upon by revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries also had opened  re on our landing party. With the assistance of naval gun re, our men drove the revolutionaries out of the city.

Things were a little more peaceful in 1905–1906. We kept a floating battalion in Dominican waters on board the USS Yankee, but in the end, they were withdrawn. Something similar happened with the USS Prairie in 1912.

In 1914, US ships intervened with gunfire to prevent the bombardment of Puerto Plata.

And in 1916, our forces went in again. President Wilson intervened on behalf of Jimenez, who was the  fifth Dominican president since 1911. Jimenez was engaged in a civil war with the anti-American defense minister Arias.

Admiral Caperton of the USN landed a party of six hundred bluejackets and marines at Santo Domingo on May 12, 1916, and on May 13, he delivered an ultimatum to Arias to get himself and his forces out of the city.

US occupation of the country followed with assorted operations. For instance, the USN gunboat Sacramento landed 130 marines at Puerto Plata on June 1, 1916. That day, H. J. Hirshinger became the  first US marine to be killed in the Dominican Republic. Colonel “Uncle Joe” Pendleton led an assault that captured Santiago. He declared, “We are not in an enemy’s country though many of the inhabitants may be inimical to us.”

USMC Museum
Triangle, VA

The US Marines would occupy the country from 1916 to 1924. They brought a kind of peace to the country and helped bring baseball to the Dominican Republic.

During World War II, the Dominican Republic joined the Allied side, and accordingly, we sent lend-lease military aid, including aircraft to the Dominican Republic. To some extent, military links continued after World War II. For instance, in 1947, the USN helped the Trujillo government intercept craft carrying rebels who were supported by Cuba. And throughout the 1950s, the United States sent military aid to the Dominican Republic, along with a variety of training missions.

Gradually, however, the United States began to distance itself from the repressive Trujillo regime. Military assistance was cut off in 1960, and in 1961, Trujillo was assassinated. And following the re-emergence of two of Trujillo’s brothers in the Dominican Republic, the USN put on a show of force to demonstrate US disapproval.

LBJ Invaded the Dominican Republic

A few years later, we sent in the troops again. After another civil war broke out, LBJ intervened in the Dominican Republic in 1965. The US Marines and two brigades of the 82nd Airborne were deployed alongside the forces of other OAS nations. At least nine US soldiers were killed, mainly by snipers in Santo Domingo."  (Source: www.americainvades.com)


But what about Kim Novak?  What is her connection to the Dominican Republic?  In Hitchcock's 1958 Vertigo her cool blonde beauty reduced Jimmy Stewart to a Pygmalion puddle of nerves.  In 2016 Sight & Sound named Vertigo the greatest motion picture of all time.

Kim Novak: Could have "Invaded" the DR?!


Kim Novak briefly dated Ramfis Trujillo, the son of the Dominican dictator.  Ramfis Trujillo (1929 - 1969) was a playboy who later died in a high speed accident while driving a sports car in Spain.  He led a flamboyant life and also seems to have personally executed some of his father's assassins.  But Novak could, theoretically, have become the first lady of the Dominican Republic...!  Kim Novak is now 88 years old and lives quietly in California.

Santo Domingo


Travel Notes: Even during the Global COVID-19 Pandemic the Dominican Republic has remained open to tourists from the USA and many other countries.  Many go to Punta Cana on the eastern coast of the DR for sun and sand.

La Aurora Cigar Factory
Santiago De Los Caballeros

The DR has been an agricultural nation for many years growing sugar, fruit and, of course, tobacco.  Rum is the national spirit and the mojitos are delicious!  There are many cigar factories on the island.  I recently had the opportunity to visit the Aurora Cigar Factory in Santiago De Los Caballeros.  Here is their website...https://www.laaurora.com.do/?lang=en.

Check this out for information on the Factory Tour at La Aurora...https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635962-d4102284-Reviews-La_Aurora_Cigar_Factory-Santiago_de_los_Caballeros_Santiago_Province_Dominican_Re.html.

A fine hotel from which to explore the fascinating ancient historical section of Santo Domingo is Casas Del XVI...https://www.casasdelxvi.net.


Commander Kelly says, "Visit the Dominican Republic, watch Vertigo and drink a mojito!"  



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