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 (  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 (  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

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 ( 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.

You can find signed copies of our books at these web sites...


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 (  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

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 ( 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."  (


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 ( 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!"

You can find signed copies of our books at these web sites...


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 ( 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.

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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