July 4, 1776, a Very Scary Day


Today is Independence Day in the United States. We declared that to be true for the first time on July 4, 1776. But it really was not true in fact back then, it was simply a piece of paper, read in Philadelphia, and then secreted away just as quickly for to hold such a document was a treasonable act under English law. In truth, we were in the midst of a civil war no different from our own internal civil war of 1861 to 1865.
To be a truly independent country we needed to be recognized as such by another sovereign nation. The Confederacy tried, and failed, to get England to recognized them. The leaders of the revolutionary war also failed initially to gain recognition. Our best hope was France who despised the English and with whom, through Benjamin Franklin, we had warm relations with their government. But the French were reticent to acknowledge our sovereign existence. The French feared that England would turn on them and they would be, yet again, at war, a war they simply could not afford.
The first country to recognize us was Holland in 1776 and then Morocco in 1777. As great a statesman as Franklin was, he simply was unable to get the French to do more than to supply us with some money and an invaluable man whom Gen. George Washington used to help lead he ragtag group of revolutionaries, Lafayette. Finally, John Adams join Franklin in Paris and on a trip to Versailles, seat of the government, the French were convinced that we would likely win the war. Then, finally, on February 8, 1778, the French signed an agreement of “Amity and Commerce.” This gave America a trading partner in Europe of great importance.
But back in 1776, on that day of July 4, thirteen copies of the Declaration of Independence, all signed, we sent to the capitols of each of the new states. But the danger in holding this document was great and each was secreted away for the remainder of hostilities.
We had been at war for over a year when the Declaration of Independence was signed and distributed but had a poll of the world’s leaders been taken at that date asking the chances of our succeeding, it is likely we would have garnered only a few favorable votes. The fact was, we were losing the war and no one knew how many Tories, those still loyal to the English crown, still existed. Boston and the state of Massachusetts are virtually eradicated all its Tories on March 17, 1776 when the loyalists were given safe passage out of Boston Harbor and up to Nova Scotia.
But at that same time, New Jersey had for its governor Benjamin Franklin’s son who had declared himself loyal to the crown. Throughout the other 12 colonies similar conditions existed and people were extremely caution in whom they trusted.
European Wars, and now this war, were always fought in the warmer months of the year. Troops retired to their various sides during the winter months as had Washington and his troops in 1777. But Washington was not a traditionalist and his mind was ruminating over the many loses he had suffered thus far at the hands to the British. The worst being his having to watch he troops slaughtered on one side of the Hudson River while he sat on the other.

Washington moved southward and encamped at Valley Forge. From the beginning Washington had pressed the Continental Congress for the necessary implements of war to fight and win, mostly unsuccessfully. In 1777, Frederic von Steuben, a Prussian Lieutenant General, joined Washington and immediately set about training Washington’s troops at Valley Forge.

That winter, on Christmas Day, while the Hessian troops feasted, Washington rallied his troops to attack Trenton and in doing so gained his first major win of the Revolution. From there they continue their march up the middle of New Jersey winning battle after battle. But von Steuben’s effect was immediately obvious. The attack was far from perfect but even so, American officers were able to lead their men and accomplish their mission. And for the first time, America turned from a defensive military posture to an offensive one, a posture they never relinquished until the British government finally acquiesced after the Battle of Yorktown in 1783.
That eight-year period, from 1775 to 1783, was never easy for American patriots. By declaring war on Britain, they have lost their most important trading partner and certain types of goods were always in short supply. Fear of retribution among the general populace soon subsided after the siege of Boston succeeded and the first of the British departed. But until the tide of the war turned, no one could feel both safe and a patriot. But Americans asserted their grit and determination to be respected as a sovereign nation and this required 13 colonies to become united which they did.

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The Earth’s Coming Death?


Since man first stood upright on this planet he has been a creature like none other. In his earliest days, he was a hunter-gatherer. That meant he used very rudimentary tools to kill animals and he harvested fruits, berries, roots, and other edible plants to stay alive. To be sure, for man’s first million years, his was a constant struggle just to stay alive.

But during this period he also started to move outward from East Africa where he first rose to prominence. He discovered that even though he was not match for many of the larger animals he co-existed with, he could use his brain to elude those animals should they decide they had a taste for human flesh.

But also during this period man discovered war. Man grew from family groups into small protective groups and then into small communities. These communities fought one another when food became scarce and possibly when one group felt another was impinging on their territory. This probably did not happen very much but we need only look at today’s society to discover man’s ancient proclivities.

And so it went until the 20th Century arrived. The 20th Century, and now the 21st Century, have burdened our planet early like never before. Even though the industrialization of the Earth started in the 19th Century, those toxic fumes emitted by mills were not so great that they posed an immediate threat to Earth’s biosphere.

The 20th Century, however, was one of great scientific and industrial invention. It has also been the period of the most rapid growth of Earth’s human population. Between these two things, planet Earth has been put at risk of dying, literally.

Industrialists, and those who support them, contend that what is happening to planet earth is little more than a natural progression. That the earth is warming is nothing new and those who complain about it are just alarmists. The contend that there is more than enough proof that the Earth has gone through similar events and survived. The question here is: Is their logic sound?

During the 1940s through and into the 1970, aerosol cans used a gas named florochlorohydrocarbons. This gas was used in items such as hair spray and other consumer items that needed a gas to propel their active ingredients. When it was discovered that the use of this gas compound was causing a big hole over the Earth’s poles where ozone had previously existed, the federal government stepped in and banned the use of those compounds. Most other countries on the earth did the same, following our lead. The result was the holes closed up and there was proof positive that man had caused an unnatural imbalance in the earth’s biosphere.

Plastic was first made in the 1920 but did not come into any sort of widespread use until the 1950s. As a child I remember our milk was delivered either in glass containers or paper containers that were lined with was. Neither of these containers posed any threat to our biosphere. Additionally, most other liquid items were delivered either in glass or metal containers. Again, no serious threat to the biosphere. But starting in the 1970s industrial economies dictated that the delivery of fluids in plastic containers was much more economical. Glass containers, such as the soft drink industry used, required that the bottles be returned, then cleaned for reuse. This process proved relatively expensive. Today, such a process is considered “green.”

Grocery stores changed over from the paper bag to the plastic bag. Plastic bags were less expensive and required smaller spaces for containment. But plastic bags, once recycling took hold, were not acceptable items for many communities recycling. The problem? They tended to get bound up in the gears of the machinery processing them with the other forms of plastic and therefor became prohibited items.

Curiously, one of the nation’s larger food market chains which uses only paper bags and promotes its reusable repurposed plastic bags has no system to capture used plastic bags. To be fair, the reusable plastic bags that I am referring to, feel like fabric to the touch and last a long time making the need to use a food stores plastic bags unnecessary. This is an industry at least attempting to take positive measures in the responsible use of plastics.

To further illustrate the threat these plastic containers pose to the planet, there is an island of plastic sitting in the middle of the oceans larger than 3 countries. More, who has not been to a beach where plastic bottles and bags could be found along the beach front?

The other great threat to our biosphere is atmospheric pollution, green house gases. Most prominent, but not alone, are carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). I put the chemical formula for these compounds to show how closely related they are. Carbon monoxide is unstable and will capture an oxygen molecule quickly thereby robbing our atmosphere of its precious oxygen content and leaving behind carbon dioxide, the compound which most seriously impacts the green house warming our planet is presently experiencing. Green house gases trap sunlight in the earth’s atmosphere, sunlight that would otherwise be reflected back out into space.

One method scientists use for tracking the effect of our planet’s warming is the regression of glaciers. In the 1930, many was the author who wrote about the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. They were legendary but they no longer exist because of global warming. Of particular interest to them has been the glacier which covers most of Greenland. This glacier has always melted during the summer months but the rate of melting has increased over the past decades. Also, where small puddles of water that existed atop this glacier during the summer months, they have been replaced by large lakes, further proof of the extent of global warming.

One of the side effects of global warming, and probably the most deadly to the continued existence of the human race, is that deserts are becoming larger and small tracts of arid land are fast converting into deserts due to the lack of rainfall. The reason for the lack of rainfall is how air circulates around our planet. The rainy seasons that sub-Saharan residents used to rely upon have all but disappeared. The Sahara desert in turn moves southward pushing out the people who used to populate this land. Many other parts of our planet are experience elongated droughts. Such droughts have never been recorded in these areas for as long as man has inhabited them.

A case in point is California. California had traditionally relied upon the snows of the Sierra Mountains to provide them with needed water. But for years on end the snows came in such reduced amounts that the reservoirs they typically filled fell far short of the water necessary. Certain of these reservoirs dried up completely. The city of Los Angeles was in crisis. The drought ended just in time to avert the crisis at hand. But it is only a question time, and not an if, when the next elongated drought strikes the southwestern United States and it lasts far longer than the available water can support.

California is one of the chief vegetable and other food producing areas of the United States. A plant killing drought will be disastrous for both the people of the United States and its economy. That a single state can be the root of a catastrophe illustrates how dependent we are on any one region being economically healthy.

The bottom line is: the Earth is reliant up a series of interrelated eco-systems, each reliant upon the other. When any one of these systems changes, even slightly, the effect of that change is felt in all the rest of the systems. The question is how much is each system affected? That we can quantify the rise in the temperature of sea water to be several degrees is hugely significant. Were it just a tenth or two, there would be no reason for concern. But that is simply not what is happening. The larger question at hand here is: how much more will the temperature of the oceans rise? The is extremely important because the ocean’s temperature directly affects weather patterns. In the Atlantic ocean we have seen a marked increase in both the number and the intensity of hurricanes. In other parts of the earth the change in weather patterns have caused stronger winter storms, greater flooding, hotter summers and even colder winters.

That the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords is a travesty. It says that the United States cares more about corporate profits than the continued life of our planet. The United States, which for over 100 years, has lead the world in most areas, has abdicated its leadership responsibility. This is a debt which must be paid whether the United State’s present political leadership acknowledges or not. The debt grows daily and will be paid by our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren.

Our World in 50 Years


There are three generations whose ability to impact positive change in the United States has either gone to zero or is on that track. I’m a baby boomer, born in 1949, which means the majority of my generation is either retired of contemplating it. The generation ahead of us has, for the most part, embraced their retirement and only gives thought about our country during national elections. Then there is the generation right behind me. Their age range is about 30 to 55. The youngest end still has a chance to make strong positive changes while the older end, if they are not actively engage in public policy, are not likely to join in.

 
The future of our country lies in the hand of those who are now in high school and country. We need them to be as well-educated and actively involved in government as possible. History teaches us that a large portion of discoveries, inventions, and activism happens to this age group as soon as they finish their education. But my generation, and those generations around mine, are leaving a legacy which is in desperate need of a large influx of new ideas. The ideas of those presently in power are simply not working to a large degree.

 
What will our work look like 50 years from now? First of all, recent history has shown our planets oceans have risen enough that ocean-front cities are experiencing flooding at ever increasing levels. My own city, Boston, Massachusetts, has just this last winter seen flooding of city streets with water from the ocean that has entirely overwhelmed the ability of the city’s storm drains to remove these waters. That the level of our oceans in continuing to rise in indisputable. What will our children have to do?

 
First of all, they are going to need to occupy and become a majority of every country’s leadership and embrace the fact of global warming an man’s contribution to it. Their’s will be the challenge to improve and expand upon renewable energy sources which do not contribute to global warming: wind farms, solar panels, geo-thermal, and water both from the planets rivers but also from the ocean, a well-know but entirely undeveloped source of energy.

efully, the internal combustion engine will be mostly, if not entirely, obsolete worldwide. It will have been supplanted by electric automobile. But to do that effectively three things have to happen: first, batteries capable of operating automobiles at highway speeds must be good for 450 miles. At present 200-250 it about the best. Secondly, the price of these automobiles must be brought into line with what the average consumer can afford. With an average price tag of around $40,000 at the low end, such cars are simply out of the range of the average consumer. But with such cars available, cities, towns, and villages are going to have to accommodate charging stations in their public parking lots, at a reasonable fee of course. And lastly, as the price of oil rises at first, such demand should fall with the advent of the wide-spread electric automobile. This in turn should mean lower diesel fuel prices which will keep our trucking and railroad industries viable. But even their, the Hybrid diesel engine must come into wide use and still have the ability to haul heavy loads.

 
I believe that in 50 years the most notable global crises will be a food shortage. But at the root of this will be two things: expanding deserts and extreme water shortages worldwide, even in the United States. One solute to the water problem is the desalinization process of turning ocean water into fresh water. Right now such costs are prohibitive but that does not mean with our young people and their new idea, the cost of such a process cannot be reduced to where the economics of desalinated ocean allows the flow of huge quantities of water to feed the world’s farmland. Man can develop friendly ecosystems but he has to be willing to pay for the initial costs. My generation is not so inclined but hopefully the next two generations will see this differently.
These three things, energy, food and water, are guaranteed to be at the root of future wars if we do not start acting in a positive manner now and in the immediate future.

 
If you happen to read this and are between the ages of 15 and 30, I do not envy the challenge ahead of you but I believe that when you see the enormity of our failures you will take on the challenge and succeed like we never have.

Thanksgiving


The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 in Plimouth. That is how they spelled it back then so don’t correct me. Anyway, there were only about 50 white people at the meal and no one knows how many native Americans but probably at least an equal number. Those 50 settlers were giving thanks for having survived that first winter which took 50 of their brethren. But they were also thankful that the local natives were instrumental in assisting them in farming and fishing techniques. Most of those settlers had professions other than farming or fishing and knew little of either.

But can you imagine living in America those first few decades? Between the Plimouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony there were only a handful of towns, Boston, Salem, Ipswich, and Newbury being a few. A quick look at any map shows these towns all sit on the ocean. And each had its own port. Two things were certain in the minds of the early settlers: they would need to harvest the ocean and they would need a supply line from England.

Landing in those few towns was easy. But as soon as they traveled inland things became extremely difficult very quickly. The natives were not unhappy with their new neighbors but neither spoke the other’s language so to ask a question of the natives, like, where is there a large body of water inland that we might settle near, simply was not happening. That meant exploration. And remember, there were no roads, no maps, no knowledge. There may have been trails the natives used but where did they go?

The Pilgrims who settled Plymouth did not grow in size at the same rate as their brothers to the north did. For one thing, they were still persona non grata in England and for those still not in America, arranging travel was a challenge.

The Puritans, on the other hand, were mostly middle class Englishmen in somewhat good standing and could come and go in England as they pleased. The King, Chares I, was just as happy to see them go as they had proven to be a thorn in their side. They openly challenged the beliefs of the Church of England which, at the time, was quite the sin. But these Puritans were more than capable of bringing more than the shirts on their backs to the New World unlike the Pilgrims.

By 1636, however, a schism in the Boston Puritans arose when several of the men asked to see the charter which John Winthrop had held close to his chest. Once they read it, and discovered they could not be compelled to believe as Winthrop believed, something he had done, they quickly moved across the Charles River and founded Cambridge and a quaint little school was started to guarantee their form of religion was properly taught. They were the first Congregationalists, no central leadership, no hierarchy. And that little theological college took on the name of its founder, John Harvard.

Now when the Puritans first arrived in the New World, they first settled in what is today Charlestown. But all the water was brackish, not fit to drink or cook with. By chance they ran across a fellow who was living on the peninsula across the Charles River, William Braxton, who claimed he had a fresh water well. And so the move was on. But this amplifies the very basic needs of the settlers and the difficulty surrounding such needs. The Pilgrims had had a similar experience ten years prior when the first stopped at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown today, and were unable to locate drinking water. While most of the Pilgrims left the Mayflower’s tight confines for the shores of Cape Cod, a small group of others went in search of drinking water and hence came to Plymouth.

Traditionally the first thing settlers did was to build their church and then continue on to small dwelling surrounding the church. But where did they get the lumber, the nails, and the other materials needed to construct any building? New England abounds with trees which meant they needed a brook, for power, and a saw mill built next to it.

One thing is certain about both groups, they were happy to be in this new world, a world where they decided what their religion would be, a world where they made all the laws, all the rules and through a democratic process in the earliest days, they decided upon their leadership. The Virginia Colony, the Plimouth Colony, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony all had one thing in common, a charter. And it was from those charters that each colony first developed its laws and later each wrote a constitution for the colony which defined their form of government.

The Thanksgiving tradition died out pretty quickly in those early years. It was not celebrated as a national holiday until 1863 when Lincoln declared it such. The first president to broach the question, however, was Thomas Jefferson who said that it was a religious feast and that there must remain an absolute separation of church and state. I think it wise to remember that it was the travails of those early settlers, their mettle and hard work, that kept us together and gave us a land to be proud of and to be thankful for.

Despotic Donald: The Ultimate Narcissist


Let me start by telling you that I have over 30 years of service in the federal government, am now retired.  I spent the first almost 11 years of that service as a member of the U.S. Army on active duty: 1968 – 1979.  Then from 1987 – 2007 I was a systems analyst/computer specialist for the U.S. Department of transportation.  I mention this to validate what I know from experience within the government.

I have listened very carefully to Donald Trump and two things occur to me, both scary.  He is an absolute narcissist.  A narcissist cannot image that anything he says or does is wrong.  He believes that he is always misunderstood when people try to correct him.  But worst of all, a powerful narcissist, as Trump is, feels he can do just about anything with impunity; he believes he is above the law, that he has certain privileges that set him apart from most everyone else.  And as a despot, he wields his power without an sense of responsibility when things go wrong.  In his case, he does not feel stiffing people their wages when his companies went belly up is wrong.  And just last night (September 26), he thought the fact that he did not have to pay any income tax on over $600 million income meant he was smart.  Those were his words actually.  Had he paid only the 14% tax rate most of the middle class pays, he would have paid $84 million.  Don’t you think some school systems, some public health agencies, some poor municipality could have used that money?  It makes me wonder just how much income over the years he has paid nothing on.  And in that same sense, how many others do the same?  But that’s another subject.

Trump stated last night that he had been endorse but the Federal Agency ICE.  That is a very interesting statement since no agency, by law, can endorse or engage in any political activity.  And to do so would require action from that agency’s inspector general with possible criminal charges.  Every year I worked for the federal government I was required to attend ethics training and that is one subject, particularly during election years, that was emphasized.  It is a prohibited action.  I think more likely he got some official to say he is support Trump in his run.  But that official cannot say those words publicly as a member of ICE for to do so would “give the appearance of a conflict of interest,” very damning situation in the government.

Trump was born June 14, 1946 which means he was required in 1964 to register for the draft.  Curiously when he registered he was a student at the New York Military Academy, a military prep school.  I too went to a military prep school and I can tell you with certainty that a very large portion of my classmates went into the military.  We had 10 out of a class of 69 who went to one of the service academies, several others went to Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel.  We had a feeling of duty to our country.

Trump, like so many, got a college deferment while he attended Fordham University and after 2 years transferred to Penn.  That means he graduated in 1968, the height of the Vietnam war.  He did not continue on to grad school and probably would not have gotten a deferment had he, the exceptions were medical school and theological studies.  We know he is neither Dr. Donald nor Rev. Donald, so how did he avoid military service.  He was not married until 1977 so that was not it either.  He was quite the patriot!  What he was doing during the early 70s was using his family money to buy real estate, housing mainly.  It was also the first time, of many, that he was charged with “anti-black bias” in a suit brought by the Dept. of Justice.  In turn he filed suit against the federal gov’t for $100 million because he said the gov’t was trying to force him to rent to welfare recipients.  Contrary to what Trump said last night, the affair ended 2 years later when he settled with the DOJ.  The narcissist looks back upon such incidents and claims no wrong doing, no fault, no responsibility, and states he was innocent of anything said against him even when the facts show the opposite.  He cannot see such facts because they do not suit the narcissistic mind.

One of the strong-holds of the Republican Party has traditionally been the military.  Trump claims to have been endorsed by over 2o0 admirals and generals.  Why have we not seen this list?  You would certain want such a list front and center to prove your validity as Commander-in-Chief.  I suspect he had 2 or 3.  I noticed time after time during the debate Trump’s penchant for speaking in hyperbole.  And since he refuses to show proof, then hyperbole of the worst kind it is then.  Our military is literally tired from all the wars it has been forced to fight.  They are war weary.  But if you listen to Trump, it takes no imagination at all to see he is hell-bent on starting a war somewhere.  He thinks that is the was to kill of ISIS, and other undesirable elements.  Trump will probably still get a large portion of the military vote but it is unlikely he will get the 90% most Republican candidates have enjoyed over the years.  It is very difficult to have confidence in a commander-in-chief who has absolutely no military or government service experience.  And as an aside, if elected, he would be the first president to have neither.

There is one thing all president over the past 50 plus years have understood implicitly.  They knew you dealt with friends and enemies both via diplomacy.  The military necessarily is the last resort, when all forms of diplomacy have failed, AND, you are under attack.  Trump definitely does not understand this.

The man is dangerous and I am at a loss for what people see in him as a realistic leader, as someone who will keep our country safe and do what is best for the country, not what suits him.

 

 

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!

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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