The New American Xenophobia


Xenophobe n. One who fears or hates strangers or foreigners or anything that is foreign. (Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary, 1988, p. 1332)

At the beginning of the 20th Century American immigration laws were few. An immigrant had to have on his person $50, a named sponsor to take him in, be free of disease or mental defect, and have no criminal record. Americans today view all immigrants of that time coming through Ellis Island New York. But in truth, the ports of Boston and Baltimore were also quite alive with immigrants.

Europe during the period 1900 to 1915 was fraught with civil wars, unrest, and an Ottoman Empire which was at war with Great Britain. As can be seen by the map below, the Ottoman Empire covered most of the Baltic countries and large portions of the middle east. It is also worthy of mention that this was a Moslem Empire which Christian Europe feared. In Eastern Europe, Russia was flexing its influence as it held onto much of the territory it controlled when it became the USSR. In particular, it controlled most of Poland as we know it today. In 1905 the Czar ordered that all Polish men of a certain age be drafted into the Russian Army. Those who refused realized harsh consequences.

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Ottoman Empire 1905

 

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Russian Czarist Empire

 

In the case of Italy, the country’s industrial north did not offer enough employment for Italy’s labor force. The Italian tendency towards large families made for an excess labor force. The excess labor force could find work neither on the farm nor in Italy’s factories, hence they looked towards America where, they heard, there existed a need for more labor. They also heard, falsely of course, that such labor, even though unskilled, was well-paid.

The social, economic and political unrest of much of Europe lead to its radicalization. Some were of the new socialism as outlined by Karl Marx and practiced by Trotsky and Lenin prior to the revolution. Conversely, Fascism arose out of Europe’s aristocracy against the growing socialist ideals. The common man found himself caught between the two groups in Europe with no place to run, except America.

The overwhelming majority of immigrants to America in the early 20th century were people coming from extreme poverty. They were indeed a cross-section of Europe embracing every type of religious, political and social belief. And as with any cross-section, among them were the anarchists and others who would prove troublesome to the established American public.

The epicenter of American radicalism in those days was in the small boarding house rooms of Greenwich Village. They were a small but vocal group who advocated the overthrow of the wealthy, the industrialists, and the powerful politicians by any means possible. Names like Emma Goldman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Sanger, and John Reed seemed to most Americans to be the ones originating most of America’s radical troubles, but as with many things, the truth was something quite different.

When Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley, William “Big Bill” Haywood, Emma Goldman was extremely vocal in her opposition to violence as a tool of the anarchists. Margaret Sanger attended many anarchists meetings in Greenwich Village, but her purpose was to gain support for her settlement house in the lower east side and in getting aid for single mothers. John Reed was a journalist who was more interested in reporting on the anarchists, though he did agree with their views, the partaking in their political actions. Big Bill Haywood was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, a socialist union whose prime member was the unskilled laborer. But in 1907 Haywood had been tried for murder in Idaho. Haywood was innocent of the charge, a charge that had been trumped up simply because local politicians hated him, and found innocent after his trial. But he could not shake being labeled as a murder and his presence always brought trepidation to any community he visited.

People like Haywood and Sanger took on the cause of the immigrant and were closely associated with the various new immigrant groups. When a strike broke out in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1912, Big Bill visited the city and both city and state leadership felt certain that riots and all sorts of violence were sure to follow. Again, the truth is far different. Haywood spent very little time in Lawrence and focused his energies on raising funds for the strikers in other parts of New England. He actually had no interest in being a part of the strike save the role of fund-raiser. But then dynamite was found at a house in North Lawrence and everyone was certain that the IWW and Big Bill were somehow behind it. A few days later it was discovered that William Wood, a mill owner, had planted the dynamite in an effort to discredit the efforts of the IWW to win the strike.

What in common between the events of the early 20th Century and those of this presidential campaign, is Donald Trump’s use of fear and xenophobia to activate an American public. Fear is common to all human beings and has been used to exploit people throughout the ages. Because we are in the middle of Trump’s plotting it can be hard to gain perspective, but it is perspective that will save us from foolish beliefs and even more foolish moves.

The immigrant is the life blood of America and their introduction into our country makes us stronger. And while it is true that there are elements in those immigrants who would do America harm, we are more than strong enough to survive their worst. Unlike much of the world, our country thrives upon its diversity. Our Constitution guarantees that diversity cannot be used against us.   And the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty bear remembering, Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Amen!

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B-26 Bomber, Hell’s Belle on Her 100th Mission; A World War 2 Story


B26_11What follows is an exact copy of a report written during World War 2 by a SSG Robert A. Wade commemorating the 100th mission of the B-26 bomber “Hell’s Belle.”  I have transcribed it exactly as it was written.

The picture above is of the aircraft named in this account.

By S/Sgt Robert A. Wade

AT A 12th AAF BASE IN SARDINIA – Eight months ago a proud crew chief talked “Hell’s Belle II” out of the salvage heap after it collided with a Messerschmitt on its 23rd mission.

With the same crew chief riding on his first raid as a stowaway, Hell’s Belle completed its 100th mission against the Calafuria, Italy, rail viaduct (May 1) to become possibly the fightingest B-26 Marauder in combat anywhere.

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(Hell’s Belle II after her 100th Mission)

Hell’s Belle was recommended for grounding after a German pursuit crashed into it during a 35-minute running battle of Salerno Aug. 22. Sixty Nazi fighters jumped the Marauder formation. One Me 109 was shot down and collided with the Belle’s tail, smashing the rudder almost flat and bending the whole tail section. But the B-26 made it home, though it burned out both engines doing it.

“Well, we fixed the tail up,” says the crew chief, Technical Sgt Kenneth L. Smith, 24, Bedford, Pa., “but we couldn’t get it quite back in line, and so it trimmed a little badly.”

Pilots, conscious of the beating the ship had taken, were hypersensitive to the difficult trim, and finally the regular pilot recommended that it be retired from active duty. Smith argued for another chance, and when he was given it, went to work on the plane, tightening, straightening, adjusting. When he finished, the Belle still had some peculiarities— but it went back into combat. “I guess I kinda talked them into it,” Smith admits. “But about that time we got some new pilots who didn’t know anything about the trim being off—and not one of them noticed it. I guess you might call it psychological.”

But even then Smith had no inkling of the record that his plane would roll up. His pleadings for its combat life were due solely to the fact that it was his first ship, and “Well, I like it pretty well,” he says.

Smith denies that he even considered that perhaps his was the B-26 that would be first in the Mediterranean’s oldest medium bomb group to cross the 100 mark, at least not until it had over 75 raids anyway. However, his mechanics have a different version of the story.

“Why, I remember when we hit 50 missions,” says Sgt. Clifford Parks, 25, Littcarr, Ky., assistant crew chief, “and I said, ‘Smitty, let’s see if we can make sixty.’ He went right up in the air and told me we were going to take it up to a hundred at least.”

Smith claims that he didn’t really start sweating the plane out—more than usual—until the score stood around 90. “I kept thinking of that B-26 in another group that went down on its ninety-fourth mission,” he says.

The ground crew and squadron engineering officers believe that Hell’s Belle has more combat missions than any other B-26 in the Mediterranean theater, and oldest combat Marauder in any theater.

Hell’s Belle has been in combat almost continuously since June 7, and has shot down fighters and dodged flak over Pantelleria, Lampedusa, Sicily, Sardinia, Italy and southern France.

Smith gives the bulk of the credit for the record to the plane itself—“You either have a good plane, or you don’t,” is the way he puts it—but squadron engineering officers and other crew chiefs claim that the maintenance on Hell’s Belle has been above average in every respect.

As proof, they point to the fact that Hell’s Belle has returned early only five times in all its hundred missions, and only twice for mechanical trouble. The two mechanical failures were a fault generator and a nose wheel that wouldn’t retract. The other three returns were due twice to gun failure and once to pilot error.

The last 46 missions were flown without an early return, which is an unusual record. And, before that, Hell’s Belle had gone 42 consecutive raids without coming home ahead of time.

The Belle has had only one complete engine change, and Smith believes that it might be flying on its original engines right now if it hadn’t collided with that Messerschmitt. With the exception of one generator, all the original accessories are still in use. This includes carburetors, magnetos, starters, and vacuum, hydraulic and fuel pumps. Also the B-26 has its original radio equipment, and 11 of the 12 machine guns are the ones it started out with.

The Marauder was named by the original pilot, after a previous Belle which had been lost over Tunisia. Bombers with a “II” or “III” after their names are notoriously unlucky, but this one proved the exception to the rule.

Aside from Salerno, Hell’s Belle has been in trouble only once in its career. That was during a January raid on German rail communications above Rome. Flak cut one fuel line and slightly wounded the pilot, but the Belle made it back to an emergency landing in Corsica. But it is no stranger to either flak or fighters. Its gunners have knocked down three Nazi pursuits, and the Marauder’s plexiglass nose and aluminum skin is splotched with patches.

Hell’s Belle has seen all the hot spots the Mediterranean has to offer. Zit has raided Olbia Harbor, Sardinia (where the B-26’s knocked down 10 Me 109’s, with six probables, June 18). Gerbini airdrome, Sicily (19 pursuits downed, July 4). Messina, Naples, Salerno (24 Me’s shot down, with 14 probables, Aug. 22). Anzio, Cassino, Florence, the Abbey di Monte Casino, and has been to Rome eight times, including the first Allied attack, July 19.

The Belle came to Smith on May 20, 1943, just 85 hours out of the Glenn L. Martin plant and the Rome, N.Y., modification center. It now has 724 flying hours, of which 450 to 500 have been combat.

The Armorer who loads the bombs and guns on the B-26, Cpl. Samuel Osgood, 31, 46 Osgood St., North Andover, Mass., figures that the Belle’s average bomb load has been around 2,500 pounds—which should make a rough total of 250,000 pounds or about 125 tons dropped on Axis bridges, railroad yards, airfields, docks, towns, gun positions and troop concentrations.

“It’s been a good ship from an armorer’s point of view,” Osgood says. “Only one gun burnt out in a hundred missions. Besides, I never seem to have to change the load—she usually drops her bombs.”

While Osgood admits that the latter is just luck, it bears out his feeling that the Belle is essentially a good airplane, better than the average.

The five men who have kept the B-26 flying through its hundred missions are tight-knit by their pride in their ship. Every one of them was with the Belle at the beginning of her combat career, and—with one exception—have been with her ever since.

“They’re a damn good crew, every one of them,” Smith declares. A small rather quiet man, Smith was a machine tool operator in a York, Pa., steel mill before entering the AAF in October, 1941. Smith learned his airplane know-how at Keesler Field, Miss., and the Martin plant in Baltimore. He had been overseas 19 months and his chief worry is whether he’ll recognize his three younger brothers when he gets home.

Assistant crew chief Parks was an automobile mechanic employed by the Citizens Motor Co., Vicco, Ky., before the war. Enlisting shortly after Pearl Harbor, he also studied at Keesler Field and the Martin plant, and has been overseas 19 months. A tall, lanky Southerner, Parks is the only crew member who hasn’t been with Hell’s Belle steadily. After about 25 missions, he shirted to another ship and then came back to the Belle when its mission score was 56.

Other mechanic on the crew is Cpl. William L. Howard, 24, 177 15th St., Wheeling, W. Va. A truck driver for the Warwood Armature Co., Warwood, W. Va., Howard entered the AAF in May 1942, and came overseas in January, 1943, where he joined the Marauder group. Small, rather quiet, he takes much good-natured kidding about learning about airplanes at the Rising Sun School of Aeronautics, Phila., Pa., because of the Japanese implications. The other crew members claim that he hasn’t been caught at any sabotage yet, but they’re keeping an eye on him just the same.

Radioman is Staff Sgt. Joseph S. Benak, 33, 1213 Wallgate St., Waterloo, Iowa. His parents live in Raymond, Iowa. Benak was a machine operator for the John Deere Tractor Co., Waterloo, before entering the AAF in March 1942. He was graduated from the Scott Field, Ill., radio school and has been overseas 19 months. Benak takes care of two or three other planes in addition to the Belle.

Osgood, the armorer, is—with Howard—the rookie of the crew, as they both have the least time with the group and overseas. Osgood joined the B-26’s in March, 1943, when they were based in North Africa. He was employed as a wool and textile designer by the M. T. Stevens Co., before entering the AAF in July, 1942. Osgood is a graduate of the Lowry Field, Colo., armament school.

New that Hell’s Belle has 100 missions, what is the next stop?

“Why, two hundred, of course,” Smith says, a little amazed at the question.   “Barring German flak or fighters, there shouldn’t be any reason we won’t make it!”

Some planes slow up noticeably after a great number of missions, as rough landings on bad fields throw the ship out of the best flying trim. Smith has noted no signs of old age or circles under the Belle’s eyes.

Smith flew on the Belle’s 100th mission strictly against regulations, but he has no intentions of making it a regular thing. “Too monotonous,” he claims, “You fly for a couple of hours. Then the Germans shoot at you for a few minutes, and you fly back for a couple of hours.” He plans, however, to go on the 200th mission.

The flak the Marauders met at the Calafuria bridge was heavy and accurate, and two pieces punctured the Belle’s tail section, but as usual did no harm. The viaduct was cut with direct hits.

Four combat crew members celebrated their 50 mission anniversaries with the B-26’s 100 mission cake. They were 1st Lt. Elliott Lysko, 1684 Central St., Stoughton, Mass., the pilot: Staff Sgt. Donald E. Miller, Robinson, Pa., engineer-turret gunner; Technical Sgt. Andrew L. Bergman, 4117 Montgomery St., Oakland, Calif., radio operator-waist gunner: and Staff Sgt. Charles E. F. Brinker, 528 N. Spring St., Blairsville, Pa., tail gunner.

Other crew members on the 100th mission were 1st Lt. Elmer L. Masters, 3639 Linden Ave., Seattle Wash., co-pilot on his 46th mission; and 1st Lt. Gustave G Pappetru, 1412 W. Juneau St., Milwaukee, Wis., bombardier on his 35th.


Hell’s Belle II went on to fly a total of 132 missions before the end of the war.

The picture below is of the Hell’s Belle armament section and shows several of the men named in the account.

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The picture below is of all the aircraft in the 319th Bomb Group, B-26.  A sortie is a mission.  Hell’s Belle II is in the 3rd row.

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Nature’s Wonderland Just Past Your Doorstop


A little over 15 years ago, after I had my heart attack, I decided it was time to get off my dead ass and exercise. The only thing I could think of was jogging. I found a pond in Wakefield MA, Lake Quannapowitt, that has a path entirely around it and has a length of roughly 2.5 miles. I started out run, walk, run, walk, each day. And each day I did a little better. When I was at the top of my game, so to speak, I was able to jog around that body of water 3 times non-stop. But then I moved and had to find a new location. I actually found two, both in Cambridge, Fresh Pond and the paths along the Charles River and so I began to jog them regularly.

My knees were hurting me so I consulted my doctor who advised me to act my age, that I was not 25 anymore. He was fine with the exercise but jogging had to go and so I join a gym which was good for about a year. But I find gyms boring, really boring. It then occurred to me how much as a child I had loved bicycling. More than once I literally rode a bicycle into the ground. One time the joint at the front fork and the cross bar broke. Anyway, I bought a cheap bike, about $300 and headed off for the Minuteman Railtrail. This pathway starts in Cambridge and travels through Arlington and Lexington and ends just short of Bedford center. The trail itself is roughly ten miles in length and for the most part travels through wooded areas.

While riding the trail I noticed lots of squirrels one of which was totally black and another which was totally white, both rarities. Our local squirrels are of the common gray squirrel variety. And the of course right next to them are the chipmunks.

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These guys love to play chicken with you as you ride along and sad to say one was not quite so quick as he thought when I could not avoid him and ran over the little guy. It made me terribly sad.

Another creature I see quite often on this trail is the red tipped hawk.

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This breed of hawk is common to our area and you see lots of them. But they own the woods along the trail and are fearless creatures. I had one alight on a pole just in front of me as I was moving along, similar to the one above, and stare me down. His obvious power and beauty are breathtaking. I could watch this bird for hours on end as he goes about his business. In flight he is a thing of beauty, barely flapping his wings as he adroitly glides on the air currents, the updrafts and the ambient winds.

One day as I was returning home on the trail I came across a rather large doe. Now I have seen lots of deer in my travel but this one was standing on a small rise a few feet away from the trail, her body parallel to the trail. I stared at her, as she was truly beautiful, and in return she snorted at me as if to say, “what are you looking at?” The picture below is a pretty good representation of just how she looked at me.

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The most surprising creature I ever came across was a wolverine.

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Now this guy I did not see along the rail trail but caught him crossing Route 2A in Lincoln MA but yes, I was on my bicycle. I honestly did not know what I had just seen but his fur was much more brownish than the one above and he moved very quickly across that busy highway. What I have found out since about wolverines, having watch a Nat Geo (I think) story on them, is that they are elusive to the extreme and they number only about 200 in the lower 48. Unfortunately, even had I had a camera at the ready it is unlikely I could have gotten a picture of this guy as he quickly disappeared into the brush next to the road. I also found out that a wolverine can claim upwards of 300 square miles of territory. The Nat Geo story said they were thought to be extinct east of the Mississippi until the camera crew found one in Michigan. That may be the only time I will ever see this guy but it was worth the price of admission.

blue heron

The bird above is known as a great blue heron. He has a wing span of roughly 80 inches which translates to about 6 feet 8 inches! There is a marshy area along the rail trail in Lexington and right next to the Lexington land fill when this bird frequents. He is simply gorgeous and I always hope that when I come upon him standing in the swamp that he will decide to take flight and give me a great show.

Other animals I regularly see are cardinals, house cats, beavers, crows and the occasional turtle. The point is, if you ride up and down this path enough you will eventual see many of nature’s creatures in their natural habitat, and that is wonderful, always.

There is a rail trail in every state of the lower 48 and I highly recommend that you find one which suits you and travel it as much as you can. You should be both surprised and amazed at the woodland creatures you will come across in your travels. And that is a trip worth all the time and effort you can give it.