Who Will Write Planet Earth’s Obituary?

This morning I told my wife our next car will be a hybrid. Knowing me, you would have thought I would have gone that route much earlier. The trouble is my gender. I’m a guy and you know how we like our cars to have a big engine. Well, two years ago, when I went to buy a new Ford Fusion, I asked for their V-6, previously the most powerful engine they offered for such cars. The salesman informed me that Ford no longer had a V-6 version and sold me on a turbo charged 4-cylinder engine. It got only slightly better gas mileage than my previous car and allow me to believe that I had the best engine available.  I have altered my thinking.  I am an excellent recycler but have not taken other issues to heart as I need.
I am a baby boomer which means I was raised in the era of muscle cars and cars we derisively, even then, called tanks. Most often we were referring to the big Buicks and Cadillacs. You need only go back to the 1960s and 70s to see the truth of such a statement. Then in 1974 OPEC came in to being, the U.S. immediately had a gasoline crisis and suddenly car manufacturers were shedding those tanks for smaller cars. But if you look more closely at such cars they were only marginally more fuel efficient than their predecessors.  The requirement for better fuel efficiency was years away although new strict emission standards were put into effect.
But as the years passed, people forgot their history, and the era of the SUV entered. I named the Japanese versions of the crossover SUVs, the Acura MDX, the Infiniti QX70, and the Lexus RX as “a penis on wheels.” SUVs have exploded in the U.S. and both Japanese and U.S. manufacturers have done well with such vehicles. The problem is simple. Most SUVs are in the truck category which makes them exempt for two federal regulations, emission standards for automobiles and fuel standards. Detroit and Tokyo found the loophole and exploited it. Nothing has been done to close this loophole. And the most baffling product to come out of Detroit was General Motors version of the military HUM-V which the dubbed the Hummer.
This brings me the latest issue to rear its ugly head. The United States has the largest coal reserves on the planet and Pres. Donald Trump wants coal to be king again. In the short term, probably very short term, this would breath economic life back into the coal regions of the United States. But the trade-off is painfully obvious. Coal fired plants push extremely large amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The former creates a warming blanket in the earth upper atmosphere while the latter creates acid rain.

A very recent University of New Hampshire study of sea levels expects there to be a 1 to 1.5-foot rise in sea levels by 2050 (Boston Globe, March 31, 2018, p. 4). Another study of the polar ice caps, and in particular the North Pole:

“The Arctic climate is changing rapidly, breaking at least a dozen major records in the past three years. Sea ice is disappearing, air temperatures are soaring, permafrost is thawing and glaciers are melting. The swift warming is altering the jet stream and polar vortex, prolonging heat waves, droughts, deep freezes and heavy rains worldwide.” (Francis, Jennifer A.; Scientific American, April 2018, p. 50)

I find it alarming the American conservatives are so caught up in their political ideology that they cannot listen to the well-reasoned and heavily researched conclusions of the highly respected scientist who have sounded the alarm. Many have labeled these findings as pseudo-science and that their findings are questionable. Such a statement is difficult, if not impossible, to defend given the overwhelming majority of scientists around the world agree with these findings.
The hard fact is that we are bequeathing our children and grandchildren a planet in its death throws. We could easily be looking at widespread famine, large new deserts, and a world in which people go to war over food and water.
In 1960 a woman named Rachel Carson published a book named Silent Spring in which she predicted everything that is happening today. Now, scientists everywhere are sounding the alarm. The question is an easy one: Why is the Congress of the United States deaf to these warnings?



Why Has The Catholic Church Deserted Me And Millions of Others?

The Roman Catholic Church has to change, particularly in America. It needs to allow women to become priests and it needs to allow priests to marry. Up until 1139 priests were allowed to marry. The idea behind it was to separate priests from a sinful world. The hypocrisy there was that priests were, and still are, sinful themselves. They are human, they screw up, the have to go to confession. At the time it was meant to insure the morality of the priesthood.
That worked up until the mid-20th Century when those men entering the priesthood declined. And the decline continues. There are places in America where churches have no priest permanently assigned, the duties being taken over by a deacon or by a priest who travels from one parish to another.
The American Catholic Church is so arrogant that when Poland offered to send priests to cover parishes in American they were declined! Maybe they were embarrassed that the word would get out that most Sunday masses in America are only lightly attended.
This brings me to my issue with the Church. I am a divorced Catholic and have been so since 1988. Because I am now remarried I cannot receive communion, central to the Catholic service. Curiously, I have been told by more than one priest that were I to stand in front of him to receive communion, and he knowing I was divorced and remarried, he would not deny me. I mention that because there appears to be a large group of priests who believe the prohibition is ridiculous.
There is a remedy according to Rome. A divorced Catholic must petition the Pope to have his marriage annulled. Now understand, an annulment, according to Catholicism, means no marriage occurred in the first place. I have three beautiful children by my first wife. I refuse to insult them, or my former wife, by getting an annulment. But I want my church back.
I firmly believe that were Jesus to come back just to visit the Pope and his college of cardinals, he would have some very harsh words for them. I think they need to read that part of the Bible which speaks of the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in search of the mission one.

Have Americans Lost Control of Their Government?

The current state of our government and, in particular, the chasm that exists between Republicans and Democrats, seems like a child’s food fight rather that an ongoing adult conversation. Each side is doing what is called, “right fighting.” That is, each side is so convinced that it is right that the art of compromise seems to have gone out the window. An old cliché says that a fish stinks from its head down. Our government right now is exemplifying that more than ever.

Our government was via the Constitution set up with three branches, none of which was supposed to have more power than the other. But our present Congress is so fearful of doing the next right thing, and its job, has abdicated in favor of the Executive Branch. Article 2 of our Constitutes delineates the powers granted the President. What amazes me the most is that Article 2 section 3 clearly states that the President “. . . from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient . . . “ The framers of the Constitution left many parts of it vague as they judged that with the passage of time necessary changes to the Constitution or different interpretations of It would be necessary. But it is my opinion the Article 2 Section 3 is rather clear in its intention; that being that changes to law and policy may be suggested by the President and that Congress would then act upon them. The Constitution is also repeatedly clear that a 2/3rds vote should be the standard for passing any legislation.

Over the years, however, Congress has made changes to what is necessary for certain measures and that being a simple majority favor the law.

Most recently, President Trump made the unilateral decision to scale back some remote (Utah) national monuments at the behest of industry. He has also charged his Interior Secretary to find other locations to which he can to the same. The idea of National Parks and National Monuments was the idea of President Theodore Roosevelt when he created Arcadia National Park and Yosemite National Park. “The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.” (Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/legal/american-antiquities-act-of-1906.htm). The law is quite specific in saying that the President is obligated to preserve “objects of historic and scientific interest. Pres. Trump has chosen to ignore this law and turn over these precious lands to commercial interests, destroying artifacts that favor the public interest and the scientific community.

The Constitution, and all its framers in their writings, made very clear that the first job of the Federal Government is to act in the best interest of the people. But for decades now our Congresses and Presidents have only too frequently done the bidding of powerful interests and PACs. It would be only too easy to show how the Republicans Party over the past 6 years or so has worked mostly in a self-serving manner. But that would less than truthful. The fact remains that the Democrats are equally responsible in bending to the will of powerful and well-monied interests instead of the people. The Democrats have not had control of Congress for many years now and the Republicans have been able to run rough-shod over them by passing bills that make a simple majority vote the rule of Congress. No Democrat has been able to find the inner fortitude to challenge such bills in front of the US Supreme Judicial court.

Time-and-again the Republican Congress has passed bills which are clearly unpopular with the people of the United States. The most visible action at present has been their persistent attempts to gut and eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Their most recent move has been to tied changes to the ACA to the government funding bill now in Congress. Such actions are referred to “rider bills.” It is the blatant attempt to circumvent the proper way to have a bill passed, a “clean bill.” That refers to a bill which has no riders and is voted up or down on its own merits.

Both parties in Congress are not doing the “right thing” but rather doing the most self-serving thing. That has never more true when Senator Mitch McConnell declared that he would not allow then President Obama to seat a new Supreme Court justice when Justice Scalia unexpectedly died two years ago. Not only was that self-serving but it went entirely against the spirit of our Constitution and the manner in which all justices have been confirmed since 1789. Such actions must stop. This means that U.S. Citizens, regardless of political favor, must make Congress accountable for its actions.

A majority of U.S. citizens of both parties has said they do not trust congress to do the right thing. There is an easy solution to that; stop re-electing your representatives and senators.

There is an old saying, “nothing changes if nothing changes.”

Why Is New Hampshire So Passenger Rail Adverse?

Five of New England’s six states have taken a very proactive approach to public transportation. In particular, they have all embraced the idea of upgrading their existing passenger rail lines with an eye towards expanding them. The lone state to shun such thought is New Hampshire.
When the Northern New England Rail Authority was planning a passenger rail route from Boston to Portland, New Hampshire pointedly stated it want no part of it even though the line would run through their state. But as the planning and funding stage turned into preparing the line for passenger service, New Hampshire, somewhat begrudgingly, opted in for stops in Exeter and Dover. It has since added one more station in Durham. Now, many years into the Portland service, all three of those stations have seen considerable use.
In the early 1980s Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, convinced New Hampshire leaders to have a trial run of passenger service to Nashua, Manchester and Concord. Even though the trial was successful and showed promise of growth, New Hampshire declined to fund it any further and the state has resisted all efforts, both within the state itself and by Massachusetts, to re-instated commuter rail to Manchester with stops in Nashua and Merrimack.
The MBTA also more recently made overtures to New Hampshire to extend the Boston to Haverhill line to Plaistow New Hampshire only to be shunned once again. It is impossible to find any rational reasoning behind such rebuffs. Anyone who commutes into Massachusetts using Route 3, 93, or 125, is keenly aware of the traffic nightmare that exists on all three routes. Worse, in the case of route 125 there is no reasonable way to widen the route. Both route 93 and 3 could be widened but at great cost, more than New Hampshire is willing to commit to at present.
Southern New Hampshire’s population is booming as people who work in and around the great Boston area move further out in search of affordable housing. The four counties in southern New Hampshire closest to Boston are Stafford with 125,600 residents, Rockingham with 300,600 residents, Merrimack with 147,200 residents, and Hillsborough with 405,200, a combined total of 978,600 or 74% of all New Hampshire residents. The state itself expects, conservatively, that each of these counties will grow by at least 10% over the next 20 years.
Years ago, the Boston to Montreal route, which passes through Manchester NH was declared a future rail corridor. Research showed that there is likely sufficient number of boardings on this route to create a Boston to Montreal Amtrak route. And while New Hampshire would have to make a significant investment into the project, it would ultimately pay for itself by removing automobiles from its highways while adding revenue to the state via people who live outside New Hampshire visiting the cities along the route. The Maine model has been so successful that not only it added stops to the original route, it has extended the route to Brunswick and is now planning on a second extension to Rockland with further plans for service to Augusta.
With the rail line through Nashua, Manchester and Concord being raised to passenger service levels the state could then enjoy commuter rail service in the same way Rhode Island has with the extension of the Boston to Attleboro route to Providence and T.F. Green Airport. If the state would simply show the willingness, it could immediately extend the Haverhill route to Plaistow and bring immediate relief to the route 125 travelers.
Another example of two states cooperating in such efforts is Connecticut and Massachusetts who are now actively pursuing and extension of commuter rail traffic from Hartford to Springfield and Greenfield Massachusetts. And Vermont of actively working to reinstate service to Montreal from Burlington using the existing New York to Burlington Amtrak route.
Five states see the benefit of pro-actively working on extending and expanding passenger rail service within their states. It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand New Hampshire’s continuing abhorrence of passenger rail service. I suspect, and hope, that with the continued pressure for rail service expansion in the Northeast, the near future will see the state finally join what has proven extremely desirable and successful for its neighboring states.

State Defense Forces

There is a little known organization, established under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, call the state military branch.  Under Title 32 are two entities.  The better known is the National Guard while the other is the state militia or the state defense force.  Each is organized under the state’s governor and his Adjutant General, usually a two star general in either the Army or the Air Force.  Beneath the Adjutant General, or AG as he is known, are all the state’s military functions.  The difference between the two, in part, is the Department of Defense, or the President, can call the National Guard to active duty at which time they are governed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code.  Under Title 32 the military forces’ Commander-in-Chief is the governor of the state whereas under Title 10 it is the President.  Title 32 states that a state’s militia cannot be called up under Title 10 except under a few extraordinary circumstances.

Right now approximately 20 of the 50 states have active State Defense Forces although certain states use other monikers such as State Militia.  As a general rule, State Defense Forces are not eligible to receive Federal equipment.  They can, however, use the same facilities as the state’s National Guard and usually do.

The mission of State Defense Forces is primarily to augment the state’s National Guard.  Over the past 30 years the National Guard of all 50 states has been reduced by more than 50%.  Their state mission has not changed however.  In times of an emergency in the state, they are frequently called up, floods, crowd control, storms, security and a variety of other missions.  But also over those 30 years the active mission of all the National Guard has increased with numerous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq to augment the regular army.  Many times this has left the various states short of personnel during times of emergency.  At such times it becomes the mission of the State Defense Force to back-fill for the state’s National Guard as needed.  One of the more valuable missions for a State Defense Force is to act as a liaison between local first responders and the state’s National Guard.  This type of a mission is not defined in the state National Guard mission and not usually trained for.

State Defense Forces are volunteer programs.  In many, if not most, states the time a person gives to the force is free.  There are some states that do give a small stipend for training.  The only time a State Defense Force is paid is during a time of call-up by the state’s governor or AG.  Personnel are paid in accordance with their rank and its federal pay scale.  Most State Defense Force are formed along US Army lines, uniforms, ranks, units, types of training.  A few states have an air wing and a couple even have a small naval force, more akin to the Coast Guard than the Navy.

My experience came with the Massachusetts State Defense Force which was re-activated January 2012 and then deactivated March 2016.  We bought our uniforms, attended monthly training on our own dime, and assisted the Massachusetts National Guard at the National Guard Headquarters during several emergencies.  The members of our unit, with a few exceptions, had considerable active military service or service in the National Guard.  We had Silver Star and Bronze Star recipients, a couple of Purple Heart recipients.  Many of the members had advanced degrees and professional degrees.  Every member wanted to serve out of a sense of duty to state and country.  No reason was ever given for the unit’s deactivation except that Governor Charlie Baker declined to sign the units authorization documents when he took over as governor.  It seems an odd thing to do considering the unit had not cost the state a thing.

The value of such units around the United States should be obvious.  There is a very large group of veterans who would like to continue their military service in this manner.  There is also a group of professionals who would also like to contribute to their community, doctors, lawyers, nurses, ministers, etc.  The value of having such personnel available to the various states should be obvious and the fact that State Defense Forces come at a very low cost should render them extremely desirable to all 50 states.

A Year in Korea — Leaving and an Epilogue

When I arrived in Korea I was extremely naïve about the workings of the world. But as my time to depart approached, I had grown, I had matured, I had learned.

By June 1969 I had been promoted four times by the Army, the most any soldier could be promoted. When I entered the army, my monthly pay was $102.30 per month, and when I left I was earning the grand sum of $254.70. That is not a typo, per month is correct. An army captain in 1969 received exactly $466.20 per month. No one went into the military to get rich. But most of us were extremely proud to have served. And when our time came to leave the military, we were extremely happy to go. I refer to those years as “crazy days.”

This is an example of how things got crazy. A couple of months before I was scheduled to leave Korea, a buddy of mine was supposed to leave. But on the specified day of departure, he was nowhere to be found. It turned out he was shacking up with his Korean girlfriend. He was almost literally dragged back to Camp Coiner and informed he would leave the country either voluntarily or under guard. He left under guard. I cannot say I understand his actions but I can assure you that his level of insanity was no greater than a thousand other guys who did crazy things.

An incident I heard about went like this. A guy was driving a 2½ ton truck through a Korean village. Every GI has witnessed at one time or another mamma-san walking out in front of traffic and simply raise he hand as if to magically stop traffic. She was usually successful but when it comes to a deuce and a half, what we called that type of truck, you need a little more room to stop. Mamma-san was killed. The military police were quickly called to the scene and before the Korean government could react, he was spirited out of the country and out of the reach of the Korean police. The Korean government most likely protested the incident but they were certainly aware of mamma-san’s actions and the inevitability of what happened. It was a terrible accident which happened too many times, but it was tragic, not criminal.

I also heard of other guys, not so lucky, who got drunk and drove a military vehicle through a rice patty. Rice is of course a staple of the Korean diet and the farmers, poverty stricken, could ill-afford to lose any of their planted rice. The GI in question was forced to pay the damages, or so I was told but knowing how thing went over there, there is little reason to doubt it.

The fall of 1969 was quiet for me. Word came down that I would depart Korea on December 20, 1969. The last day for soldiers to leave the country. December 20th was a very early day. Those of us who were leaving, I think there were five from my unit, had to be at Kimpo International Airport by 6AM for a 9AM flight out of Korea. We would board one of the big “red tails.” We called those airplanes that because Northwest Orient Airlines painted their tails red and the military used them almost exclusively to ferry troops between the U.S. and Korea.

We all checked in with the Air Force Military Airlift Command desk where we were checked against a roster. That done, we had only to wait. But on this day all did not go as planned. Somehow the five or so of us from Stratcom were told the flight had been overbooked and we would not be leaving that day. We all knew that meant we would have to stay another month. One of us, however, was a sergeant major. A sergeant major is the highest rank an enlisted man can gain and he is usually assigned to a battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel or to a brigade commander, a colonel. Our sergeant major went one better. He was part of a general’s staff and he did not take kindly to the news. He told us to wait and he would take care of things.

We heard him tell the desk sergeant he wanted to speak to his commander immediately. We were shuffled away and did not see the sergeant major for another 2 hours at least. I remember when 9:15AM rolled around we all watched forlornly as the Northwest Boeing 707 left the gate and departed. We were certain all was lost. But a little while later the sergeant major returned and informed us that we were going to leave on a 1:15PM flight that day. No one asked him how he did it, we just thanked him profusely. And so at 1:15PM our 707 left the gate with all aboard. We first flew to Tokyo where we changed planes. It was just a two-hour flight and the change in flight was quick. Our next leg took us from Tokyo to Anchorage Alaska, a 14-hour flight. We arrived in Anchorage at 7:30AM on December 20th. We arrived in Anchorage 5½ hours before we left Korea. The International Date Line came into play of course. Ironically, we boarded another aircraft in Anchorage at 1:15PM on December 20th. I can claim to have taken off from two different airports, thousands of miles apart, at the same time, day and year.

The flight took us to Seattle, a four-hour flight if memory serves properly. But before leaving Anchorage we got to see the sun rise at about 11AM and set just before we took off. From Seattle Tacoma International airport I had to catch a cab to Fort Lewis when I would be usher out of the army. In 1969, December 20th fell on a Saturday which meant the personnel office at Fort Lewis was minimally manned. All I wanted to do was to get my final separation orders, my pay, and an airline ticket home. The personnel people were in no particular rush for me, I was alone, and so I had to cajole them into getting the job done and not make me wait until the next day or Monday. They came through.

I then caught another cab back to Seattle Tacoma airport. I was in my dress uniform, a requirement for members of the military back then when traveling on military orders. As I was about to enter the airport I saw a girl sitting next to the door in hippie style dress. She took one look at me, spit at me and said, “baby killer.” In just a year things had changed so much. I left one war zone and returned to another. The military was not very highly though of by many in the civilian populace and I had just gotten a taste of it.

But I was tired, really tired. I had not been able to sleep much on the airplane from Japan to Alaska even though it was mostly empty and I could sprawl across the three seats where I was situated. And the flight from Alaska offered no respite either. By this time, it must have been about 10PM because I remember having to rush to the United Airlines ticket counter to get checked in. Once I arrived there, however, I was informed there we no more seats available. I must have looked pretty bedraggled and crushed because the woman behind the counter asked, “are you returning from overseas?” Of course, I answered yes even though I knew she thought I was coming from Vietnam. She handed me a first-class ticket and told me to rush to the gate. She gave me an extremely nice “welcome home” before I left.

By the time I got back to North Andover, Massachusetts, it was late morning December 21, 1969, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Sleep eluded me, however. I was probably over-tired. I did sleep a little but nothing close to 8 hours. Still, home never looked so good.

Just a little over a month later, on January 24, 1970, my father died from his 3rd heart attack. My mother told me, “he was waiting for you to come home.” I was crushed, to say the least.

I had enrolled at Merrimack College, just a mile from home. But my heart was not in it. And towards the end of the semester everyone was going on strike. Merrimack called off its commencement because of the student strike. Similar things were happening all over the country. In July I headed out to Oklahoma to learn to fly. I was days away from getting my license when I was in a horrible accident. Aside from a few stiches in my head and an empty wallet, I was all right. But my mother had called me out there asking why the army was looking for me. You see, as someone who had only spent two years on active duty, I was supposed to attended army reserve meeting monthly for two years. I never went to a single one. I knew why they were calling and so I went to the recruiter in Lawrence Massachusetts and re-enlisted.

When I arrived at Fort Dix New Jersey, I was put in one of two barracks which were full of other soldiers, airmen, and sailors who had also not met their obligation. While there, however, I ran into a high school classmate, Doug Middleton. Doug was returning from Vietnam and heading out for Germany. I was heading for Italy. By 1976, Doug had driven to a remote spot in Maine and ate his gun. Vietnam claimed another. Ten years later, another classmate, Jimmy Cippola, was found dead from a heart attack. He had told me how while in Vietnam he had endured countless agent orange sprayings. Jimmy returned from Vietnam full of demons, horrible nightmares. And so Vietnam claimed yet another.

It was the early 1990s before the American public began to thank veterans for their service. Towns organized parades to honor Vietnam vets. Even though I was just a Vietnam era vet, I was asked to March in uniform in a parade in Andover Massachusetts, which I did. Finally someone said thank you.


A Year in Korea – The Summer of Love

I must make an apology for the title as the actual “summer of love” happened in 1967 but I think 1969 also qualifies.

The Korean people are a very proud people and considering their history, they have every right to feel that way. In downtown Seoul there is a small monument dedicated to the first iron clad ship that sailed anywhere in the world. Korean culture in born of Chinese culture which makes it some of the most ancient anywhere on Earth. But in 1960, Korea what largely an impoverished nation. Pretty much everything they used came from either Japan or the U.S. Much of it was cast-off but the Koreans only saw it as opportunity. I think one thing which was made in Korea were their buses. There were claims that the buses were made of old 50 gallon drums. I couldn’t tell. I rode on one once just for the experience. It must have been unremarkable because I do not have any memory of the ride itself.

For its part, the U.S. Government tried to keep its troops in Korea entertained. They fell short but I put that more to situation than any true government malaise. There were two movie theaters available to me, one on the main compound and a second, very small, theater on Camp Coiner. We got our fair share of first run movies but intermixed were a lot of oldies. I remember going to see “Gone With the Wind” which was released in 1939. But since I had not previously seen it, it was just as good as first run to me.

Also on the main compound were the enlisted club, the top 5 NCO club and the officer’s club. I never set foot in any although I was welcomed at one time or another in the enlisted and top 5 club. There was also an organization called the Service Club. This was a civilian run, though military authorized, organization world-wide. They would bring in various sorts of entertainment. That did not happen very often so the women, American, who ran the club tried to entertain us with card games, checkers, and other such things. There was also a club called the United States Overseas Mission, or the USOM Club. That is a place I frequented. They had slot machines and a 24-hour bar. I spent a little money in the slots but most of my money on alcohol. The USOM club sat on the north portion of the main compound. The north portion and the main portion were divided by a wide public boulevard. On occasion, I stayed just a little too long at the USOM which meant I had to go out the gate there, cross the road, be given access to the main compound, rush down the main street to another gate which open up on another Korean street. This street separated the main compound from Camp Coiner by a couple of tenths of a mile. It happened to me once that I made it out of the main compound gate only to find myself locked out of Camp Coiner which meant finding refuge with one of the lingering “ladies of the night.” That was not a fun night and one I regretted greatly the next morning. It was actually illegal for us to go into certain portions of the surrounding community. One such off-limits location was actually right across the street from Camp Coiner and that is where I spent that fateful night.

I think the average G.I. had a constant battle with loneliness and homesickness.   I know I did. Most of us resorted to alcohol to pass the time and forget our loneliness. Some smoked some pot and a few got into some harder drugs.

The cold windy dry Korean winter faded into spring. I remember in the late spring, early June, my houseboy announcing that the monsoon was on its way. I was surprised to hear that such a thing happens in Korea. I thought it only happened in the tropics. I can remember him saying it was going to arrive in seven days. I asked him how he could be so sure but he refused to expand upon his pronouncement, just repeated that the monsoon would arrive in seven days. And sevens day later, sure enough, it arrived. Camp Coiner, and many other locales, had these things called banjo ditches. This ditches ran alongside the road, were at least a foot deep and more than wide enough that a man could easily lie down in one. During monsoon their design was apparent as the banjo ditches would be full.

The Quonset huts were lived in were made of corrugated steel and the joints had to be tarred prior to monsoon to protect against leaks. This we did. The picture below is of a Quonset Hut in Camp Coiner.  They are not much to look at but for a year they were home.  The mountain in the rear is Namsan and gives quite a good view of Seoul and surroundings.



I think it safe to say that GIs living overseas back that lived pretty insular lives. I cannot say I remember hearing about the Woodstock festival that happened August 15 – 18, 1969. What we did hear about was the impending moon landing. There was quite a buzz in the Korean community too. So that its people could see the moon landing, televisions existed only in very wealthy homes, a large screen was erected and the images of the landing projected upon it. That was July 20, 1969.

What we did not hear about were the anti-war protests which were gaining traction on college campuses across the United States. We knew nothing of the anti-military sentiment. The only news we were aware of was that related to us via mail from our loved ones. It is pretty clear to me now that the only news we heard was that which the Pentagon approved of.

One day that summer I saw an airplane fly overhead dropping leaflets. They were all in Korean, of course, but my houseboy said they were North Korean propaganda. I don’t know how he made it past the DMZ without being intercepted or shot down, but he did. All I can say is, a lot of strange things happened in Korea.

One thing which happened with some regularity was what was called “MPC change.” Without warning the U.S. Government would issue new MPC declaring the old style void. As GIs we had only to go to a predesignated place and exchange the old for new. I remember coming out of work one evening and being told we were being returned to our compound in the back of an MP truck. For reasons I’ll never know, the truck took a very circuitous route through large portions of civilian areas. But we could see the word was out. There were large quantities of MPC being held by Koreans which in itself was illegal but was also impossible to stop. As we wound our way through the town anytime we slowed down we were pursued by Koreans on foot holding large number of MPC bills in their hands begging us to take it in exchange for the new. Of course the MPs would not have allowed this even if we could, but at that point we did not yet have the new currency so all we could do was watch with some sadness. The sadness was because we all knew that even though Koreans could not legally possess MPC, they were just trying to eke out a living and MPC was a currency they used.

Korea was an odd short tour for me. Because of my arrival date, I could not be guaranteed I would leave the country after 12 months. It was a matter of logistics, meaning the availability of military chartered aircraft to transport us. There was a 30 day period over which no troops either entered or left Korea. That date was December 20 to January 20. Another thing I do not know the reason for but at summer’s end I was advised that my return would happen in January. One of the things every GI does from the day he lands “in country,” is he counts backwards from 365 the number of days he had left before he can leave to return to the U.S. By September my count should have been under 100 days but being told I would not leave until January changed all that. Such was the life of a G.I. It was disappointing, greatly, of course but not surprising.