Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Great Hampton Roads Snowstorm of 2010 and Groundhog Day

Well it’s only the 31st of January but in about 29 hours it will be Groundhog Day back here on the East Coast.  We survived the great snow storm of 2010 here in Hampton Roads I measured 8-9 inches in my yard.  Now if we lived in a locale that actually was prepared for winter weather this wouldn’t be too bad…unfortunately since this is about a once a decade kind of event the region is woefully prepared for real winter weather.  First there isn’t enough snow removal equipment in the local cities, thus once the roads get funky there is no way to clear them.  Crews are working hard but Virginia Beach only has 36 trucks and there are hundreds of miles of primary roads in the cast expanse of the city, not counting important secondary roads.

Knowing this I was prudent and planned not to get out over the weekend and we stocked up on about all we would need and picked up a few items to make life easier like salt, kitty litter and a good flat blade shovel.  Likewise when we went to Gordon Biersch on Friday before the storm began I picked up a “growler” each of Czech Pilsner and Märzen in order to have proper sustenance which was a good move because for once the weather guessers got the forecast right much to the disbelief of some.  However as a weather junkie and had my college had a meteorology degree plan I might have taken it, I actually like about everything I do look at statistics, probabilities and as much hard data as I can when a major storm is said to be heading my direction.

So anyway we got hammered with a real winter storm in Hampton Roads and since we know that a large amount of the population of our fair regain can’t drive nails we elected to stay off of the roads Saturday.  Thus the Abbess and I after having worked about the house and relaxed at home watching DVD movies such as In Harm’s Way, M*A*S*H and the Big Lebaowski while nursing the “growlers” of the Czech Pilsner and Märzen. Finished the evening watching Death Becomes Her on HBO. Meanwhile I prepared nothing that could not be cooked in the microwave or poured from a box into a bowl.  Finally this afternoon we got out for a couple of hours and had enjoyable time with our friends at Gordon Biersch.

One of the more interesting parts of the weekend was watching the reaction of Molly to the snow.  She didn’t care for it too much when it was coming down but today with the sun out she spent time outside looking for trouble but fortunately for us not finding any.  She has made a path around the fence line and since she is rather smart has figured that she doesn’t need to make a new path every time she goes outside.  She now uses the path that she blazed for herself first thing this morning.

The Gordon Biersch Stein Club Faithful

So I get to head in to work as I have duty tomorrow.  The medical center like the rest of the Navy facilities here has only essential personnel reporting so things look to be pretty sparse with no clinics open.  So I will get to hang out with folks I know and pray that things are relatively uneventful.  I do expect that the drive in to work could be a bit sporting so I will definitely take it slow and easy.  Thankfully I a pretty good at winter driving thanks to winters in Germany, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Since Tuesday is Groundhog Day I watched that movie this evening.  This is one of my favorite movies, something about the twisted outlook of it that cracks me up.  Of course back in my days at the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course at Fort Monmouth New Jersey, the students referred to it as “Groundhog Day.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZbtAFq7dP8&feature=PlayList&p=1B0A88D7AB1399B9&index=28 One morning and I kid you not I was woken to the sound of “I Got You Babe” on the clock radio in my BOQ room.  That was eerie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_VKuivXAYshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_VKuivXAYs

Groundhog Day at Al Asad Air Terminal

Now I don’t know about you but I have had jobs or assignments where I really did think that I was living “Groundhog Day” however I did not ever steal the groundhog.  However, as I watch the movie I can imagine myself doing the same kinds of things that Bill Murray’s character did.  I may be a Priest but unfortunately I am simply and incorrigible miscreant which can be seen in some of my previous posts, especially How Padre Steve Got His Driver’s License, Passed Geometry, Escaped Advanced Algebra and Selects Mood Music for a Book Burning so I can’t be on the fast track for canonization but life is fun.

So anyway when I come home from work sometime on Groundhog Day I will be back.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under beer, hampton roads and tidewater, purely humorous

Stalingrad: Disaster on the Volga

Madonna of Stalingrad: Drawn by a German Chaplain and physician the piece was taken out of the city by one of the last officers to get out. It is now displayed in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin

Sunday the 31st of January marks the surrender of the remnants of the German 6th Army to the Soviets at Stalingrad. The focus of this article is on how the Germans and Russians fought the Stalingrad campaign. In particular it is an analysis of the way the governments and military’s of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union planned and executed strategy during the course of the campaign adjusted to the situation and how the campaign ended. It is also a reminder of the price that ordinary soldiers can pay when a country commits them to war. I conclude with a potential modern application for the US and NATO in Afghanistan.

Stalingrad: Primary or Secondary Objective

The mistakes began early in the planning and conduct of the operation

Following the Soviet winter offensive and the near disaster in front of Moscow the German High Command was faced with the strategic decision of what to do in the 1942 campaign.  Several options were considered and it was decided to seize the Caucasus oilfields and capture or neutralize the city of Stalingrad on the Volga.  However, the High Command was divided on the actual objective of the campaign.

OKH under the guidance of General Halder assumed that Stalingrad was the objective and the advance into the Caucasus was a blocking effort.[i] Hitler and OKW planned to capture the Caucasus oil fields and capture or neutralize Stalingrad to secure the left flank.[ii] Both OKH and OKW considered Stalingrad significant but “German commanders initially regarded it as a weigh station en route to the Caucasus oil fields.”[iii] The conflict echoed in the ambiguity of Directive No. 41 which “included the ‘seizure of the oil region of the Caucasus’ in the preamble concerning the general aim of the campaign, yet made no mention of this in the main plan of operations.”[iv] At the planning conference held at Army Group South in early June “Hitler hardly mentioned Stalingrad. As far as his Generals were concerned it was little more than a name on the map. His obsession was with the oil fields of the Caucasus.”[v] Manstein noted that “Hitler’s strategic objectives were governed chiefly by the needs of his war economy….”[vi] Anthony Beevor notes that at this stage of planning “the only interest in Stalingrad was to eliminate the armaments factories there and secure a position on the Volga. The capture of the city was not considered necessary.”[vii] German planners “expected that the Soviets would again accept decisive battle to defend these regions.”[viii]

In Moscow Stalin and his Generals attempted to guess the direction of the impending German offensive.  “Stalin was convinced that Moscow remained the principle German objective…Most of the Red Army’s strategic reserves…were therefore held in the Moscow region.”[ix] To disrupt the German offensive and to attempt to recover Kharkov three offensives were launched by Red Army forces under the direction of Stavka. The largest of these on Kharkov was defeated between 12-22 May with the loss of most of the armor in southern Russia. This coupled with an equally disastrous defeat of Red Army forces in Crimea by Von Manstein’s 11th Army meant that the Red Army would face the Germans in a severely weakened condition.[x]

Operation Blau: Opening Moves and Divergent Objectives

Panzers cross the Don

The German offensive began on 28 June under the command of Field Marshal von Bock. Bock’s command included two separate army groups, Army Group B under General Von Weichs with 2nd Army, 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army operated in the northern part of the operational area. Army Group A was to the south with 17th Army and 1st Panzer Army.[xi] Army Group B provided the main effort and quickly smashed through the defending Soviet armies and by the 20th Hitler believed that “the Russian is finished.”[xii] One reason for the German success in the south was that until July 7th Stalin believed that Moscow was still the primary objective.[xiii] Bock was prevented by Hitler from destroying Soviet formations left behind and was relieved of command by Hitler. He was replaced by Von Weichs which created a difficult command and control problem.  Manstein noted that this created a “grotesque chain of command on the German southern wing” with the result that Army Group A had “no commander of its own whatever” and Army Group B had “no few than seven armies under command including four allied ones.”[xiv]

Destroyed Soviet T-34s

This decision proved fateful.  Hitler’s decided to redirect the advance of the 4th Panzer Army to support an early passage of the lower Don, diverting it from its drive on Stalingrad.  Additionally the army groups became independent of each other when Bock was relieved of command.  They were “assigned independent-and diverging-objectives” under the terms of Directive No.45.[xv] This combination of events would have a decisive impact on the campaign.  The decision prevented a quick seizure of Stalingrad by 4th Panzer Army followed by a hand over to 6th Army to establish the “block” as described by Directive No.41.  Kleist noted that he didn’t need 4th Panzer Army’s help to accomplish his objectives and that it could have “taken Stalingrad without a fight at the end of July….”[xvi]

Field Marshall Von Paulus

The result was damning. Air support and fuel needed by Army Group A was transferred to 6th Army, denuding Army Group A of the resources that it needed to conclude its conquest of the Caucasus.[xvii] At the same time it denied Army Group B of the Panzer Army that could seize Stalingrad when it was still possible to do so.  Beevor calls Hitler’s decision a disastrous compromise.[xviii] Halder believed the decision underestimated the enemy and was “both ludicrous and dangerous.”[xix]

Focus on Stalingrad

Sturmgeschutz Battalion Advancing toward Stalingrad

On July 22 as the Wehrmacht ran short on fuel and divisions to commit to the Caucasus, and 6th Army fought for control of Voronezh the Soviets created the Stalingrad Front. Stavka moved an NKVD Division to the city,[xx] and rapidly filled the new front with formations transferred from the Moscow Front.[xxi] Stalin issued Stavka Order 227, better known as “No Step Back” on 28 July. The order mandated that commanders and political officers who retreated would be assigned to Penal battalions[xxii] and armies were to form three to five special units of about 200 men each as a second line “to shoot any man who ran away.”[xxiii] Russian resistance west of the Don slowed the German advance. German commanders were astonished “at the profligacy of Russian commanders with their men’s lives.”[xxiv] Von Kleist compared the stubbornness of Russians in his area to those of the previous year and wrote that they were local troops “who fought more stubbornly because they were fighting to defend their homes.”[xxv] Additionally, Stalin changed commanders frequently in the “vain hope that a ruthless new leader could galvanize resistance and transform the situation.”[xxvi] General Chuikov brought the 64th Army into the Stalingrad Front in mid-July to hold the Germans west of the Don.[xxvii]

German Militarpfarrer (Chaplain) leading field service in August 1942

Further weakening the Germans OKW transferred key SS Panzer Divisions and the Grossdeutschland Division to France. Supporting Hungarian, Italian and Romanian allied armies which lacked motorization, modern armor or anti-tank units were unable to fulfill the gaps left by the loss of experienced German divisions and the expectations of Hitler.[xxviii] 6th Army was virtually immobilized for 10 days due to lack of supplies allowing the Russians to establish a defense on the Don Bend.[xxix] To the south the Germans were held up by lack of fuel and increased Soviet resistance including the introduction of a force of 800 bombers.[xxx] Glantz and House note that with the fall of Rostov on July 23rd “Hitler abruptly focused on the industrial and symbolic value of Stalingrad.”[xxxi] Undeterred by warnings from Halder that fresh Russian formations were massing east of the Volga and Quartermaster General, Wagner, who guaranteed that he could supply either the thrust to the Caucasus or Stalingrad but not both.[xxxii] Again frustrated by slow progress Hitler reverted to the original plan for 4th Panzer Army to assist 6th Army at Stalingrad, but the cost in time and fuel were significant to the operation and the question was whether “they could make up for Hitler’s changes in plan.”[xxxiii]

Strategic Implications

General Chuikov who directed the defense of Stalingrad during the battle

Soviet Naval Infantry and Political Officer

The changes in the German plan had distinct ramifications for both sides.  Von Mellenthin wrote that “the diversion of effort between the Caucasus and Stalingrad ruined our whole campaign.”[xxxiv] The Germans could not secure the Caucasus oil fields which Hitler considered vital to the German war effort.  They advanced deep into the region and captured the Maikop oil fields, though they were almost completely destroyed by the retreating Russians.[xxxv] Army Group A was halted by the Russians along the crests of the Caucasus on August 28th.[xxxvi] This left Hitler deeply “dissatisfied with the situation of Army Group A.”[xxxvii] Kleist and others attributed much of the failure to a lack of fuel[xxxviii] and Blumentritt noted that Mountain divisions that could have made the breakthrough were employed along the Black Sea coast in secondary operations.[xxxix]

JU-87 Stuka over Stalingrad

Fuel and supply shortages delayed 6th Army’s advance while Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army was needlessly shuttled between Rostov and Stalingrad. By the time it resumed its advance the Russians “had sufficiently recovered to check its advance.”[xl] As 6th Army advanced the “protection of Army Group B’s ever-extending northern flank was taken over by the 3rd Rumanian, the 2nd Hungarian and the newly formed 8th Italian Army.”[xli] The allied armies were neither equipped for the Russian campaign nor well motivated.[xlii] The supply shortage in both army groups was not helped by a logistics bottleneck. All supplies came over a single Dnieper crossing, which Manstein noted, prevented swift movement of troops from one area to another.[xliii]

Reconnaissance Battalion of 24th Panzer Division near Stalingrad

Von Paulus’ 6th Army now attempted to rush Stalingrad between the 25th and 29th of July, while Hoth milled about on the lower Don.  However, Paulus’s piecemeal commitment of his divisions and failure to concentrate in the face of unexpectedly strong Soviet resistance caused the attacks to fail.  Paulus halted 6th Army on the Don so it could concentrate its forces and build its logistics base,[xliv] and to allow Hoth to come up from the south. This delay allowed the Russians to build up forces west of Stalingrad and reinforce the Stalingrad front and strengthen the defenses of the city,[xlv] and due to the distances involved it was easier for the Russians to reinforce the Stalingrad front.[xlvi] It also allowed the Russians to fill a number of key leadership positions with Generals who would skillfully fight the battle.[xlvii]

Russian Naval Infantry during early phase of battle

Hitler now focused on the capture of Stalingrad despite the fact that “as a city Stalingrad was of no strategic importance.”[xlviii] Strategically, its capture would cut Soviet supply lines to the Caucasus,[xlix] but this could be achieved without its capture. The checks in the south “began to give Stalingrad a moral importance-enhanced by its name-which came to outweigh its strategic value.”[l] To Hitler Stalingrad would gain “a mystic significance”[li] and along with Leningrad became “not only military but also psychological objectives.”[lii]

Red Army Armored troops using Lend-Lease American M3 Stuart and M3 Grant tanks

The Germans mounted a frontal assault with 6th Army and elements of 4th Panzer Army despite air reconnaissance that “the Russians are throwing forces from all directions at Stalingrad.[liii] Paulus as the senior General was in charge of the advance, with Hoth subordinated to him, but the attack had to wait until Hoth’s army could fight its way up from the south.[liv] Von Mellenthin comments rightly that “when Stalingrad was not taken on the first rush, it would have been better to mask it….”[lv] It is clear that the German advance had actually reached its culminating point with the failure of the advance into the Caucasus and Paulus’s initial setback on the Don, but it was not yet apparent to many involved.[lvi] The proper course of action would have been to halt and build up the front and create mobile reserve to parry any Russian offensive along northern flank while reinforcing success in the Caucasus. Manstein wrote that “by failing to take appropriate action after his offensive had petered out without achieving anything definite, he [Hitler] paved the way to the tragedy of Stalingrad!”[lvii]

Transfixed by Stalingrad

German Stug III at Stalingrad

On August 19th Paulus launched a concentric attack against the Russian 62nd and 64th Armies on the Don.  The attack ran into problems, especially in Hoth’s sector.[lviii] Yet, on the 22nd the 14th Panzer Corps “forced a very narrow breach in the Russian perimeter at Vertyachi and fought its way across the northern suburbs of Stalingrad,”[lix] and reached the Volga on the 23rd. That day 4th Air Fleet launched 1600 sorties against the city dropping over 1,000 tons of bombs.[lx] The breakthrough imperiled the Soviet position they had concentrated their strongest forces against Hoth.[lxi] The Germans held air superiority and continued heavy bombing attacks.  During the last days of August 6th Army “moved steadily forward into the suburbs of the city, setting the stage for battle.”[lxii] As the Soviets reacted to Paulus, Hoth achieved a breakthrough in the south which threatened the Russian position.  However 6th Army was unable to disengage its mobile forces to link up with the 4th Panzer Army and another opportunity had been missed.[lxiii]

German unit crossing the Don

As 6th Army moved into the city Yeremenko ordered attacks against Hube’s 16th Panzer Division and Soviet resistance increased as more formations arrived the Germans suffered one of their heaviest casualty rates.”[lxiv] Though unsuccessful the counterattacks “managed to deflect Paulus’s reserves at the most critical moment.”[lxv] The Germans remained confident the first week of September as 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army linked up, but Yeremenko saved his forces by withdrawing and avoiding encirclement west of the city, retiring to an improvised line close to the city.[lxvi] On September 12th Chuikov was appointed to command 62nd Army in Stalingrad.  Chuikov understood that there “was only one way to hold on. They had to pay in lives. ‘Time is blood,’ as Chuikov put it later.”[lxvii] Stalin sent Nikita Khrushchev to the front “with orders to inspire the Armies and civilian population to fight to the end.”[lxviii] 13th Guards Rifle Division arrived on the 14th saved the Volga landings but it lost 30% casualties in its first 24 hours of combat.[lxix]

T-34 in Stalingrad

An NKVD regiment and other units held the strategically sited Mamaev Kurgan, keeping German guns from controlling the Volga.[lxx] The defenders fought house to house and block by block, Army and NKVD were reinforced by Naval Infantry.  Chuikov conducted the defense with a brutal ferocity, relieving senior commanders who showed a lack of fight and sending many officers to penal units.  Chuikov funneled massed German attacks into “breakwaters” where the panzers and infantry could be separated from each other causing heavy German casualties.[lxxi]

Street Fighting


Now the “city became a prestige item, its capture ‘urgently necessary for psychological reasons,’ as Hitler declared on October 2. A week later he declared that Communism must be ‘deprived of its shrine.’”[lxxii] The Germans did continue to gain ground, however slowly and at great cost, especially among their infantry, so much so that companies had to be combined.   Chuikov used his artillery to interdict the Germans from the far side of the Volga and the fight in the city was fought by assault squads with incredible ferocity and the close-quarter combat was dubbed “’Rattenkrieg’ by German soldiers.”[lxxiii] Paulus brought more units into the city and continued to slowly drive the Russians back against the river, by early October Chuikov wondered if he would be able to hold.[lxxiv] By early November Chuikov “was altogether holding only one-tenth of Stalingrad-a few factory buildings and a few miles of river bank.”[lxxv] Paulus expected “to capture the entire city by 10 November,”[lxxvi] despite the fact that many units were fought out. The 6th Army judged that 42% of the battalions of 51st Corps were fought out.[lxxvii] On 9 November Hitler declared “No power on earth will force us out of Stalingrad again!”[lxxviii]

Soviet Counteroffensive: Disaster on the Flanks

Soviet offensive on the flanks

Hungarian withdraw

Hungarian dead

On September 24th Hitler relieved Halder for persisting in explaining “what would happen when new Russian reserve armies attacked the over-extended flank that ran out to Stalingrad.”[lxxix] Many in the German side recognized the danger. Blumentritt said “The danger to the long-stretched flank of our advance developed gradually, but it became clear early enough for anyone to perceive it who was not willfully blind.”[lxxx] Warnings were also given by Rumanian Marshall Antonescu and the staff’s of Army Group B and 6th Army[lxxxi] but Hitler was transfixed on Stalingrad.  In doing so the Germans gave up the advantage of uncertainty and once their “aim became obvious…the Russian Command could commit its reserves with assurance.”[lxxxii]

Chuikov and his staff

In the midst of Stalin’s concern about Stalingrad Stavka planners never lost sight of their goal to resume large scale offensive operations and destroy at least one German Army Group.[lxxxiii] Unlike Hitler Stalin had begun to trust his Generals and Stavka under the direction of Marshal Vasilevsky produced a concept in September to cut off the “German spearhead at Stalingrad by attacking the weak Rumanian forces on its flanks.”[lxxxiv] At first Stalin “showed little enthusiasm” for the attack, fearing that Stalingrad might be lost, but on 13 September he gave his full backing to the proposal[lxxxv] which Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Vatutin developed into a plan involving two operations, Operation Uranus, to destroy the German and allied forces at Stalingrad, Operation Saturn to destroy all the German forces in the south and a supporting attack to fix German forces in the north, Operation Mars aimed at Army Group Center.[lxxxvi]

Soviet Katusha Rockets

To accomplish the destruction of 6th Army and part of 4th Panzer Army the Red Army employed over 60% of the “whole tank strength of the Red Army.”[lxxxvii] Strict secrecy combined with numerous acts of deception was used by the Red Army to disguise the operation.[lxxxviii] The plan involved an attack against 3rd Romanian Army on the northern flank by 5th Tank Army and two infantry armies with supporting units.[lxxxix] In the south against 4th Rumanian Army and weak element of 4th Panzer Army another force of over 160,000 men including 430 tanks were deployed.[xc] Despite warnings from his Intelligence Officer, Paulus did not expect a deep offensive into his flanks and rear and made no plans to prepare to face the threat.[xci] Other senior officers believed that the attack would take place against Army Group Center.[xcii] Warlimont notes that there was a “deceptive confidence in German Supreme Headquarters.”[xciii]

Luftwaffe JU-52s made many resupply runs into the pocket but suffered great losses

The storm broke on 19 November as Soviet forces attacked rapidly crushing Romanian armies in both sectors[xciv] linking up on the 23rd.[xcv] 48th Panzer Corps supporting the Romanians was weak and had few operational tanks.[xcvi] It attempted a counterattack but was “cut to pieces” in an encounter with 5th Tank Army.[xcvii] A promising attempt by 29th Motorized division against the flank of the southern Russian pincer was halted by the Army Group and the division was ordered to defensive positions south of Stalingrad.[xcviii] German airpower was neutralized by bad weather.[xcix] Paulus continued to do nothing as since the attacks were outside of his area of responsibility and waited for instructions.[c] As a result the 16th and 24th Panzer Divisions which could have assisted matters to the west remained “bogged down in street-fighting in Stalingrad.”[ci] Without support 6th Army units west of Stalingrad were forced back in horrific conditions.  By the 23rd 6th Army was cut off along with one corps of 4th Panzer Army and assorted Romanian units, over 330,000 men.  This now entrapped force that would require seven rifle armies and much staff attention to eliminate.[cii]

The Death of 6th Army

Paulus Surrenders

Hitler ordered Manstein to form Army Group Don to relieve Stalingrad. Hitler would not countenance a break out and wanted Manstein to break through and relieve 6th Army.[ciii] Hitler refused a request by Paulus on 23 November to move troops to prepare for a possible a break out attempt, assuring him that he would be relieved.[civ] Albert Speer notes that Zeitzler who replaced Halder insisted that the Sixth Army must break out to the west.”[cv] Hitler told Zeitzler that “We should under no circumstances give this up. We won’t get it back once it’s lost.”[cvi] Goering promised the Luftwaffe would be able to meet the re-supply needs of 6th Army by air, even though his Generals knew that it was impossible with the number of transport aircraft available.[cvii] Hitler took Goering at his word and exclaimed “Stalingrad can be held! It is foolish to go on talking any more about a breakout by Sixth Army…”[cviii] and a Führer decree was issued ordering that the front be held at all costs.[cix] Goerlitz states that “Hitler was incapable of conceiving that the 6th Army should do anything but fight where it stood.”[cx] Likewise Manstein had precious few troops with which to counterattack and had to protect the flank of Army Group A deep in the Caucasus. His army group was only corps strength and was spread across a 200 mile front.[cxi] Any relief attempt had to wait for more troops, especially Panzers.  Manstein too believed that the best chance for a breakout had passed and that it was a serious error for Paulus to put the request to withdraw through to Hitler rather than the Army Group or act on his own.[cxii] Many soldiers were optimistic that Hitler would get them out.[cxiii] Other generals like Guderian, Reichenau or Hoeppner might have acted, but Paulus was no rebel.[cxiv]

German POWs only 5000 of some 90,000 would see home again

Operation Saturn began on 7 December destroying the Italian 8th Army and forcing the Germans to parry the threat.[cxv] A relief attempt by 57th Panzer Corps under Hoth on 12 December made some headway until a massive Soviet counterattack on 24 December drove it back.[cxvi] This attack was hampered by OKW’s refusal to allocate the 17th Panzer and 16th Motorized divisions to Manstein,[cxvii] and by 6th Army not attacking out to link with the relief force.[cxviii]By 6 January Paulus signaled OKW: Army starving and frozen, have no ammunition and cannot move tanks anymore.”[cxix] On 10 January the Soviets launched Operation Ring to eliminate the pocket and despite all odds German troops fought on. On the 16th Paulus requested that battle worthy units be allowed to break out, but the request was not replied to.[cxx] On the 22nd the last airfield had been overrun and on 31 January Paulus surrendered.[cxxi]

Analysis: What Went Wrong

Stalingrad had strangely drawn the attention of both sides, but the Russians never lost sight of their primary objectives during the campaign. The Germans on the other hand committed numerous unforced errors mostly caused by Hitler and or von Paulus. These mistakes began early in the planning and After the fall of Stalingrad as the Soviets attempted to follow up their success by attempted to cut off Army Group “A” Manstein was permitted to wage a mobile defense while Von Kleist managed to withdraw with few losses.[cxxii] The superior generalship of Manstein and Von Kleist prevented the wholesale destruction of German forces in southern Russia and Manstein’s counter offensive inflicted a severe defeat on the Soviets. However the German Army had been badly defeated.  The seeds of defeat were laid early, the failure to destroy bypassed Soviet formations in July, the diversion of 4th Panzer Army from Stalingrad, and the divergent objectives of trying to capture the Caucasus and Stalingrad at the same time.  This diluted both offensives ensuring that neither succeeded.  Likewise the failure to recognize the culminating point when it was reached and to adjust operations accordingly was disastrous for the Germans. The failure create a mobile reserve to meet possible Russian counter offensives, and the fixation on Stalingrad took the German focus off of the critical yet weakly held flanks. The hubris of Hitler and OKW to believe that the Russians were incapable of conducting major mobile operations even as Stavka commenced offensive operations on those flanks all contributed to the defeat.  Clark notes these facts but adds that the Germans “were simply attempting too much.”[cxxiii] Soviet numbers allowed them to wear down the Germans even in defeat.[cxxiv] At the same time Stalin gave his commanders a chance to revive the mobile doctrine of deep operations with mechanized and shock armies that he had discredited in the 1930s.[cxxv] All through the campaign Zhukov and other commanders maintained both their nerve even when it appeared that Stalingrad was all but lost. They never lost sight of their goal of destroying major German formations though they failed to entrap Army Group A with 6th Army.

A Modern Application

It is well and good to attempt to remain on the offensive.  The U.S. currently has forces spread thinly over two combat theaters with possibilities that other threats in the same region could flare up.  Like the Germans the U.S. is operating in areas, especially Afghanistan where overland supply lines are vulnerable and where weather can and does affect resupply operations by both ground and air.  The fact that the U.S. is operating with just barely enough forces in areas where others have met disaster calls for a circumspect look at what our enemy’s capabilities really are and not allowing ourselves to be surprised when they do things that have worked for them in the past against the Russians.  While it is unlikely that the U.S. and NATO would face a Stalingrad type situation in Afghanistan it is possible that isolated forces could be overrun as the Afghans reprise tactics used so successfully against the Soviets and as they begin to operate in larger units, concentrate them quickly and with more firepower to catch NATO forces when they are most vulnerable.  It is true that they will not mass large numbers of tanks and artillery as the Soviets did against the Germans, but the principle of speed, concentration at the critical point and surprise can inflict defeats, even small ones like the attack on the US outpost in Wanat that can turn public sentiment in the U.S. and Europe against further commitments and against the war and force the NATO governments as well as the U.S. to give up the effort.

Notes

[i] Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict: 1941-45. Perennial Books, An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1965. p.191

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titan’s Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. The University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 1995. p.111

[iv] Ibid. Clark. p.191

[v] Beevor, Anthony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books, New York NY 1998. p.69

[vi] Manstein, Erich von. Forward by B.H. Liddle Hart, Introduction by Martin Blumenson. Lost victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Brilliant General. Zenith Press, St Paul MN 2004. First Published 1955 as Verlorene Siege, English Translation 1958 by Methuen Company. p.291 This opinion is not isolated, Beevor Quotes Paulus “If we don’t take Maikop and Gronzy…then I must put an end to the war.” (Beevor pp. 69-70)  Halder on the other hand believed that Hitler emphasized that the objective was “the River Volga at Stalingrad. (Clark. p.190)

[vii] Ibid. Beevor. p.70.

[viii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.106

[ix] Ibid. p.105-106

[x] Ibid. Clark. p.203.  The offensive did impose a delay on the German offensive.

[xi] Ibid. Clark. p.191 Each group also contained allied armies.

[xii] Ibid. p.209.

[xiii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.119

[xiv] Ibid. Manstein. p.292.

[xv] Ibid. Clark. p.209

[xvi] Ibid. Clark.  p.211

[xvii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.120. There is a good discussion of the impact of this decision here as 6th Army’s advance was given priority for both air support and fuel.

[xviii] Ibid. Beevor. p.74

[xix] Warlimont, Walter. Inside Hitler’s Headquarters 1939-45. Translated by R.H. Berry, Presido Press, Novato CA, 1964. p.249

[xx] Ibid. Beevor. p.75 This was the 10th NKVD Division and it took control of all local militia, NKVD, and river traffic, and established armored trains and armor training schools.

[xxi] Ibid. Clark. p.212

[xxii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.121

[xxiii] Ibid. Beevor. p.85

[xxiv] Ibid. p.89

[xxv] Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishers, New York, NY 1979. Originally published by the author in 1948. p.202

[xxvi] Ibid. Beevor. p.88

[xxvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.90

[xxviii] Ibid. Beevor. p.81

[xxix] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.121

[xxx] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. p.202

[xxxi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.120

[xxxii] Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff. Westview Press, Frederick A. Praeger Publisher, Boulder, CO. 1985 p.416

[xxxiii] Ibid. Beevor. pp.95-96.

[xxxiv] Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated H. Betzler, Edited by L.C.F. Turner. Oklahoma University Press 1956, Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 1971. p.193

[xxxv] Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster, 1981, Copyright 1959 and 1960. p.914

[xxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.122

[xxxvii] Ibid. Warlimont. p.256

[xxxviii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. p.203

[xxxix] Ibid. p.204

[xl] Ibid. Shirer. p.914

[xli] Ibid. Goerlitz. p.416

[xlii] Ibid. Goerlitz. p.416

[xliii] Ibid. Manstein. p.293

[xliv] Ibid. Clark. p.214

[xlv] Ibid. Beevor. pp.97-99. The mobilization included military, political, civilian and industrial elements.

[xlvi] Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy. A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY. 1974, Originally Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London. 1954 & 1967. p.250

[xlvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.99.  Two key commanders arrived during this time frame, Colonel General Andrei Yeremenko, who would command the Stalingrad Front  and General Chuikov commander of 64th Army who would conduct the defense of the city.

[xlviii] Carell, Paul Hitler Moves East: 1941-1943. Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, German Edition published 1963. p.581

[xlix] Ibid. Shirer.  p.909.

[l] Ibid. Liddell-Hart, Strategy. p.250

[li] Wheeler-Bennett, John W. The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 1954.  p.531

[lii] Ibid. Wheeler-Bennett. p.531

[liii] Ibid. Beevor. p.96

[liv] Ibid. Clark. p.216.

[lv] Ibid. Von Mellenthin. P.193

[lvi] See Von Mellinthin pp.193-194.  Von Mellinthin quotes Colonel Dinger, the Operations Officer of 3rd Motorized Division at Stalingrad until a few days before its fall. Dingler noted that the Germans on reaching Stalingrad “had reached the end of their power. Their offensive strength was inadequate to complete the victory, nor could they replace the losses they had suffered.” (p.193) He believed that the facts were sufficient “not only to justify a withdrawal, but compel a retreat.” (p.194)

[lvii] Ibid. Manstein. p.294

[lviii] Ibid. Clark. p.216

[lix] Ibid. Clark. p.217

[lx] Ibid. Beevor. p.107

[lxi] Ibid. Beevor. p.107

[lxii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.122

[lxiii] Ibid. Carell. P.601

[lxiv] Ibid. Beevor. p.118

[lxv] Ibid. Beevor. p.118

[lxvi] Ibid. Carell. p.602

[lxvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.128

[lxviii] Ibid. Carell. p.603

[lxix] Ibid. Beevor. p.134

[lxx] Ibid. Beevor. pp.136-137

[lxxi] Ibid. Beevor. p.149

[lxxii] Fest, Joachim. Hitler. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego, New York, London. 1974. p.661

[lxxiii] Ibid. Beevor. pp. 149-150

[lxxiv] Ibid. Beevor. p.164

[lxxv] Ibid. Carell. p.618

[lxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.123

[lxxvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.218

[lxxviii] Ibid. Carell. p.623

[lxxix] Ibid. Goerlitz. p.418

[lxxx] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. The German Generals Talk. p.207

[lxxxi] Ibid. Manstein. p292

[lxxxii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. History of the Second World War. p.258

[lxxxiii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.129

[lxxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[lxxxv] Ibid. Beevor. pp.221-222 Glantz and House say that Stalin gave his backing in mid-October but this seems less likely due to the amount of planning and movement of troops involved to begin the operation in November.

[lxxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[lxxxvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.226

[lxxxviii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.132

[lxxxix] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[xc] Ibid. Beevor. p.227

[xci] Ibid. Beevor. p.228

[xcii] Ibid. Clark. p.235

[xciii] Ibid. Warlimont. p.274

[xciv] Ibid, Carell. p.627 3rd Rumanian Army lost 75,000 men in three days.

[xcv] Ibid. Clark.pp.247-248

[xcvi] The condition of the few German Panzer Divisions in position to support the flanks was very poor, the 22nd had suffered from a lack of fuel and maintenance and this many of its tanks were inoperative. Most of the armor strength of the 48th Panzer Corps was provided by a Rumanian armored division equipped with obsolete Czech 38t tanks provided by the Germans.

[xcvii] Ibid. Clark. pp.251-252. The designation of 2nd Guards Tank Army by Clark has to be wrong and it is the 5th Tank Army as 2nd Guards Tank was not involved in Operation Uranus.  Carell, Beevor and Glantz properly identify the unit.

[xcviii] Ibid. Carell. p.630

[xcix] Ibid. Beevor. p.244

[c] Ibid. Beevor. p.247

[ci] Ibid. Beevor. p.245

[cii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.134

[ciii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.134

[civ] Ibid. Clark. p.256

[cv] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. Collier Books, a Division of MacMillan Publishers, Inc. New York, NY 1970. p.248

[cvi] Heiber, Helmut and Glantz, David M. Editors. Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945. Enigma Books, New York, NY 2002-2003.  Originally published as Hitlers Lagebsprechungen: Die Protokollfragmente seiner militärischen Konferenzen 1942-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH, Stuttgart, 1962. p.27

[cvii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.135 Glantz and House note that the amount of aircraft estimated to successfully carry out the re-supply operation in the operational conditions was over 1,000.  The amount needed daily was over 600 tons of which the daily reached only 300 tons only one occasion.

[cviii] Ibid. Speer. p.249

[cix] Ibid. Carell. p.636

[cx] Ibid. Goerlitz. p.426

[cxi] Ibid. Clark. p.252

[cxii] Ibid. Manstein. p.303

[cxiii] Ibid. Beevor. p.276

[cxiv] Ibid. Carell. p.640

[cxv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.140

[cxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.140

[cxvii] Ibid. Clark. p.264

[cxviii] Ibid. Manstein. p.337

[cxix] Ibid. Beevor. p320

[cxx] Ibid. Beevor. p.365

[cxxi] Of the approximately 330,000 in the pocket about 91,000 surrendered, another 45,000 had been evacuated.  22 German divisions were destroyed.

[cxxii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. The German Generals Talk. p.211

[cxxiii] Ibid. Clark. p.250

[cxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.124

[cxxv] Ibid. Beevor. p.221

Bibliography

Beevor, Anthony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books, New York NY 1998

Carell, Paul Hitler Moves East: 1941-1943. Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, German Edition published 1963.

Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict:1941-45. Perennial Books, An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1965.

Fest, Joachim. Hitler. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego, New York, London. 1974

Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titan’s Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. The University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 1995.

Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff. Westview Press, Frederick A. Praeger Publisher, Boulder, CO. 1985

Heiber, Helmut and Glantz, David M. Editors. Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945. Enigma Books, New York, NY 2002-2003.  Originally published as Hitlers Lagebsprechungen: Die Protokollfragmente seiner militärischen Konferenzen 1942-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH, Stuttgart, 1962.

Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishers, New York, NY 1979. Originally Published by the author in 1948.

Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy. A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY. 1974, Originally Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London. 1954 & 1967

Manstein, Erich von. Forward by B.H. Liddle Hart, Introduction by Martin Blumenson. Lost victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Brilliant General. Zenith Press, St Paul MN 2004. First Published 1955 as Verlorene Siege, English Translation 1958 by Methuen Company

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster, 1981, Copyright 1959 and 1960

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. Collier Books, a Division of MacMillan Publishers, Inc. New York, NY 1970.

Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated H. Betzler, Edited by L.C.F. Turner. Oklahoma University Press 1956, Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 1971.

Warlimont, Walter. Inside Hitler’s Headquarters 1939-45. Translated by R.H. Berry, Presido Press, Novato CA, 1964.

Wheeler-Bennett, John W. The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 1954

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Power and Beauty the Battle Cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau

Scharnhorst

The naval architects of Germany in the early 1930s designed some of the most beautiful as well as deadly warships of the Second World War.  Following Germany’s rejection of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles the Kreigsmarine enacted a building program to enlarge and modernize the German Navy which then was composed of obsolete pre-Dreadnaught battleships and a few modern light cruisers and destroyers.   The first major units constructed were actually begun by the predecessor to the Kreigsmarine, the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic.  These were the Deutschland class Armored Ships, sometimes called “Pocket Battleships” and later reclassified as Heavy Cruisers. These ships were designed to replace the old pre-Dreadnaught battleships and incorporated electric welds to reduce displacement, diesel engines for extended cruise range to enable them to serve as commerce raiders and a battery of six 11” guns.  While an advance over anything in the German inventory they were outclassed by the British battle cruisers Hood, Renown and Repulse.

Gneisenau

The next and first truly capital ships built by the Kriegsmarine were the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau battleships which in reality were battle cruisers because of their light main battery of 11” guns as opposed to the 14”, 15” or 16” batteries of other nations battleships.  Despite this in displacement and armor protection of the ships was comparable to other battleships of the era and their designed speed of 31.5 knots was superior to almost all other battleships of the era including the British King George V Class and the US North Carolina class.  Only the British Hood was their superior in speed.

Gneisenau Main Battery

As built they displaced 31,000 toms, however at full combat load they both weighed in at nearly 38,000 tons and were 772 feet long.  They had an armor belt that was nearly 14 inches thick.  Armed with a main battery of nine 11” guns and a secondary armament of twelve 5.9 inch guns they also mounted a powerful for the time anti- aircraft battery of fourteen 4.1 inch guns, 16 37mm and 16 20mm anti-aircraft cannons.  Additionally they mounted six 21” torpedo tubes and carried three Arado 196 A3 scout planes.  The main battery was eventually to be replaced by six 15” guns but this never occurred although Gneisenau was taken in hand to mount the new weapons but the conversion was never completed.

Scharnhorst in Action Against HMS Glorious

Laid down on 15 June 1935 and launched 3 October 1936 Scharnhorst was commissioned 7 January 1939.  Her sister Gneisenau was laid down 6 May 1935, launched 8 December 1936 and commissioned 21 May 1938.  Upon the commencement of the Second World War the two sisters began a reign of destruction on British shipping. In November they sank the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Rawalpindi During Operation Weserübung the pair surprised sank the aircraft carrier Glorious and her two escorting destroyers, the only time a Fleet carrier was caught and sunk by battleships during the war.   From January to March 1941 they conducted Operation Berlin against British merchant shipping in the North Atlantic sinking 22 ships before returning to base.

The Channel Dash Seen from Prinz Eugen

While in the port of Brest Gneisenau was bombed and torpedoed requiring extensive repairs.  Due to the exposed location of the port the German high command decided to return the ships to Germany along with the Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen.  This was Operation Cerberus and it took place from 11-13 February 1942 and involved the ships making a dash up the English Channel which was unsuccessfully contested by the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy although both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were damaged by mines and needed subsequent repairs.  While undergoing repairs in Kiel Gneisenau was further damaged by the Royal Air Force requiring repairs in or to steam to the port of Gotenhafen for repair and conversion.  Although some work was completed she was decommissioned and sunk as a blockship on 23 March 1945.  Following the war she was raised by the Poles and scrapped.

Gneisenau Sunk as Blockship

Scharnhorst was repaired following Operation Cerberes and in March 1943 was transferred to Norway where along with Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer, Lutzow (the former Deutschland), Admiral Hipper and Prinz Eugen she became part of a “fleet in being” poised to strike the Allied convoys bound for Russia. On Christmas Day 1943 under the command of Rear Admiral Erich Bey the Scharnhorst set sail with several destroyers undertook Operation Ostfront and the ensuing battle became known as the Battle of North Cape. This was to be an attack on two Russia bound convoys; however the orders were intercepted and decoded by the British which allowed Scharnhorst to be intercepted by the battleship HMS Duke of York four cruisers and a number of destroyers as she closed with the convoy after Bey had detached his escorting destroyers.  While attempting to escape she received damage that impacted her speed and maneuvering capabilities and was sunk with the loss of all but 36 of her 1968 man crew.  Her wreck was discovered 3 October 2000 some 70 miles north of North Cape Norway.

Thus ended the careers of two of the most beautiful ships to grace the seas, though their careers were short they both survived frequent heavy battle damage to return and fight again.  Perhaps their greatest weakness was the inability of the German Navy to provide them adequate escort and the Luftwaffe being unable to protect them against air strike while in port.

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A Global Force for Good

A Global Force for Good: A Sailor holds the hand of a Haitian Child

The Navy A Global Force For Good TV Spot

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DriBYQvG_4

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’” President John F Kennedy 1 August 1963, at the Naval Academy

“It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.” George Washington 15 November 1781 to the Marquis de Lafayette

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.” President Theodore Roosevelt 2 December 1902, second annual message to Congress

“For in this modern world, the instruments of warfare are not solely for waging war. Far more importantly, they are the means for controlling peace. Naval officers must therefore understand not only how to fight a war, but how to use the tremendous power which they operate to sustain a world of liberty and justice, without unleashing the powerful instruments of destruction and chaos that they have at their command.” Admiral Arleigh Burke CNO 1 August 1961 at the Naval Academy

USNS Comfort off of Haiti

The newest Navy recruiting and public relations campaign features a comment “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good.”  When it first came out some expressed their dislike of the new slogan; however as a Navy and Army veteran as well as a long time “Navy Brat” I found the slogan and the accompanying commercial inspiring and I can be extremely jaded and cynical when it comes to such advertisements and slogans.  See my post Memorable Recruiting Slogans and the All Volunteer Force. http://http://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/memorable-recruiting-slogans-and-the-all-volunteer-force/

Neurosurgeons from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth operating on a patient aboard the Comfort- Baltimore Sun Photo

Maybe it is because I serve with a lot of great people who make up the Navy that I think this way. I have served with the brave souls of our EOD force, the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, the crew of an elite Guided Missile Cruiser, the USS Hue City CG-66 and the professionals of Navy Medicine.  All these professionals be they war-fighters or care givers give so much of themselves to serve this country and protect others while at the same time laying their lives on the line to defend the people of the United States and others around the world.  For me this understanding of the Navy being a global force for good is relational and it goes beyond the crass cynicism of so many in the world who find little good about our nation.  I know that we have our faults but I really do believe that the good that we have done over the years and now outweighs our sins of commission and omission.  I was really offended when I saw some of the comments from some people in other countries condemning our efforts in Haiti.  I know of no other country that will empty itself to care for the people of a devastated and impoverished nation without expecting any form of repayment even while it is still in difficult economic straits.

Comfort receiving casualties- Baltimore Sun Photo

In the forefront of the humanitarian effort are my friends and shipmates in Navy Medicine on the USNS Comfort and ashore who are caring for the injured, sick and dying Haitian people.  These men and women were pulled out of our medical treatment facility and others with as little as 24 hours notice to deploy on a mission of incredible difficulty and undetermined length.  The emotional toll can be difficult as many of these professionals, physicians, nurses, corpsmen and others have deployed at least once if not two or three times to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Navy Pediatric Intensivist performs a procedure on a Afghan child

While the staff of the Comfort and those ashore toils to save lives others serve in Afghanistan running medical facilities often in conjunction with our allies.   These professionals are deployed from 7 months to a year and include some of the finest clinicians in the Navy.  Serving in Afghanistan the care for American wounded and sick, those of our NATO and Afghanistan National Army allies as well as the unfortunate civilians including children who are victims of terrorists acts, IEDs or military action mostly initiated by Taliban or Al Qaida forces.  Serving in harm’s way they see their compounds bombarded by incoming rockets, mortars and occasional artillery fire.  They also know that the vehicles that they travel in and helicopters that they fly in are targeted by Taliban forces and they care for those who are injured by IEDs on the same routes that they travel.  Having experienced this in Iraq I can say that it is a sobering and often eerie feeling that you get after you have been with Marines or Soldiers wounded by IEDs and ambushes on routes that you travel.  These men and women see the worst that humanity can do and still care about the victims.

USS Carl Vinson arrived quickly and began relief operations

Others serve in Iraq now supporting our Army troops with medical care working alongside Army and Air Force medical personnel, others are in the Horn of Africa and still others involved with other humanitarian missions or operational support of US Forces abroad.

One has to remember that these medical professionals do not just come out of a vacuum but are normally assigned to medical treatment facilities in the United States. As they depart to serve abroad those left behind continue the mission of caring for our military, their families, and military retirees going back to the Greatest Generation and other combat wounded veterans still entitled to medical care.   The workload back at home does not let up and the professionals back here work harder and longer to provide the quality care that our beneficiaries deserve. Dealing with patients and families I always hear about how much they appreciate the kindness and superior care that they get from our physicians, nurses, corpsmen and other medical professionals.

Boarding Team from USS Hue City

If you do not believe that these men and women are a “global force for good” then I am sorry that you cannot see the labor of love that these men and women provide to those entrusted to their care.  I am ashamed when I hear prominent media personalities call these “meals on wheels” missions. Personally I think it is hateful and demeaning towards the proud professionals who serve in these human tragedies and care for God’s people.  Likewise those that claim that this is being done to further US influence in Haiti are so clueless, in Haiti there is no payback even from a military or strategic point of view and even with our forces stretched thin around the world we still go out and do what no other country can do when we use our military to care for those afflicted by disaster.

In Haiti we are working hand in hand and side by with numerous Non-Governmental Organizations and other military medical professionals from the United States, Canada and other nations who are giving of themselves to serve the Haitian people.

USS Hue City 565 Feet of Naval Power on Patrol

I think that for once a recruiting phrase actually captures the essence of the Navy.  This is not about just being a better individual or improving your life or getting an education and experience.  It is about serving our nation and people as well as others around the world whether that mission is combating terrorists, pirates, protecting our vital interests or like in Haiti, or during the Indonesian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina or at the World Trade Center and hundreds of other places, this Navy is a global force for good.

Tonight as you go to bed and sleep soundly after eating well and spending time with family, friends or enjoying some form of entertainment remember those of our Navy who serve at sea, in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, the cities of Iraq, the desolation of the Horn of Africa and around the world defending our interests, caring for our military personnel and their families and deploying to serve in harm’s way and in areas of devastation.  They are America’s “Global Force for Good.”  They are my shipmates.  They are the United States Navy.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Tangled Web of Friends

“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.”
- Benjamin Franklin

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”
~ Mark Twain

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.
-Shirley MacLaine

We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.  ~Abraham Lincoln

It is interesting when you have traveled a fair amount and lived in quite a few places you get to know a lot of people from across the social, political, racial and religious spectrum.  In fact my friends are among the most diverse collection of people that anyone that I know.  I was looking on my Facebook.com page recently after a post and noted the diversity of my friends. What was interesting was that they often are very passionate about their particular point of view be it religious, social or political.  After a recent post I realized that in some cases it would not be a good thing to have some of them in the same room as each other as there might be bloodshed.

“To know someone here or there
with whom you can feel
there is understanding
in spite of distances or
thoughts expressed
That can make life a garden.”
~ Goethe

Friendship… is not something you learn in school.But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
Muhammad Ali

One doesn’t know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one’s friends who believe in one rather generously, mean to one.  ~D.H. Lawrence

The interesting thing is that somehow the lives of this very diverse group of friends somehow intersect mine.  I guess that is part of the life of a moderate.  Now I’m sure in their hearts that some on the Left think that I’m a fundamentalist right fascist with militarist tendencies who is too concerned with the concerns of those on the political right, to which I will admit the militarist tendencies. Some on the right think that I am a leftist, agnostic socialist with militarist tendencies who is far too concerned with the concerns of those on the political left, to which I will admit my militaristic tendencies. However in the case of all my absolute concern with the rights of people on all sides of the political, social and religious spectrum that is the United States of America overrides about everything. While I may have strong opinions on various issues or may not have an opinion whatsoever depending on the issue I do not believe that political, religious or social views should keep me from being friends with anyone. There are some who will disagree with that and a decent number of people that have ended relationships with me over issues that I think are extraneous to friendship but what the hell these is no accounting for taste.  At the same time I have been an ass at times and blown away relationships that should have been cultivated, but there is no accounting for my bad form.

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”
~ Abraham Lincoln

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.
-Plutarch

A true friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked. ~Author Unknown

Despite all of this somehow I stand in the intersection of all of these wonderful people who are my friends going back to childhood.   I guess one thing I’ve learned, often the hard way, is that you can have friendships and care about people even when you have disagreements with them, even serious disagreements because respect and love are more important than necessarily having to agree.  Thus in an era of polarization I believe that as Americans that we need to find ways to get along.  Thus when those on the left suggested leaving the country or persuading the military to lead a coup when George Bush was President and those on the right who advocate the same about President Obama I wonder what the hell they all are thinking.  Now I know that many of my friends are extremely passionate about what they believe regardless of the viewpoint and that those views are very important to them I know that somehow we must find a way to as Rodney King once said “to get along.”  Maybe it is my inner Anglican speaking but somehow I think that we need to find an American Via Media or middle way.

“There is no hope of joy except in human relations.”
~ Antoine de Sainte-Exupery

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival ~C.S. Lewis

My friends include political conservatives and liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents.  They include Christians from across the spectrum, Catholic and Protestant, Orthodox and Evangelical, Social Gospel and Fundamental, Charismatic and anti-Charismatic, Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, Oneness Pentecostals, Particular Baptists, Calvinists, Wesleyans, Premillenial Dispensationalists and Amillenialists.  Likewise they include Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and Wiccans and I think even a few believers in the Klingon God Kahless. Also represented are heterosexuals and homosexuals, anti-homosexual activist and pro-homosexual activists, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, militarists and pacifists, capitalists, socialists, environmentalists, industrialists; progressives, traditionalists, white, black, Asian and Hispanic, people from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Korea, Japan and China, India, and Central America, Mississippi and Manhattan, California and Carolina, Dallas and Detroit.   Doctors, lawyers, priests, rabbis and imams; Protestant ministers, labor leaders, teachers, preachers, pundits, poets, politicians, professors and prosecutors; nurses, doctors, scientists; actors, musicians and artists; bureaucrats, technocrats, kleptocrats; geeks, freaks, sailors, jailers, whalers, runners, gunners, fighters, riders, sky divers, scuba divers, truck drivers; guitar players, ball players, naysayers; free thinkers, beer drinkers,  thrill seekers and Methodists.  I have to admit that I stole the Methodist line from Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles.

“There is nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends.”
~ Hillaire Belloc

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.
Saint Thomas Aquinas

In all of this, each one of this diverse  including you all in your own way are my friend, some closer than others, but friends none the less. We have shared good times and bad, encouraged each other prayed for each other, laughed together, cried together and even shared some good beer with each other.   We’ve agreed and disagreed, and agreed to disagree.  Yet we are all friends and each of you has added something to my life.  I think Jesus said it well, when he said, “I no longer call you strangers but friends.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Laughing to the Music: The Musical Genius of Mel Brooks

The Zany Mel Brooks as the Governor in Blazing Saddles

When most people think of legendary comedian Mel Brooks they are likely to think of the hilarious shtick of such movies as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, the Movie, DVD or Video. Brooks is a comic genius but mixed in with the comedic side of Brooks he has a musical side that captures some of the most popular genres of yesteryear and overlays them with incredibly witty lyrics and catchy music.  Whether the music is Broadway musical, crooning, or even something out of the old west brooks brings a comedic edginess that can offend and delight at the same time. Today I will share a bit about the songs and soundtracks from the various Brooks films interspersed with the songs from the films.

Teri Garr, Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein

Now I know that some people will say and rightly so that I am just a bit warped in my worldview.  I’m okay with that, in fact I would hate not to be as I think that life would be boring.  Maybe that is why I like Brooks so much.  He demonstrates that rare form of being able to entertain and even provide social commentary on issues like racism and discrimination in Blazing Saddles.  Part of how he did this so successfully was in the music that he often wrote for his movies.  It is one of those unusual things that most people, even Brooks aficionados have no idea that Brooks was the genius behind the music in his movies.

As for me I love Brooks’ music as well as his comedy.  I can practically sing from memory the major songs of each of his movies and frequently will find that I am inadvertently singing them going down a hallway at work or in the car. Some Priests sing hymns or praise and worship songs, I sing Mel Brooks songs. C’est la vie.

Springtime for Hitler 1968

The first film that Brooks music featured prominently was the original The Producers starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn which was reprised on Broadway and later on the big screen with Nathan Lane, Matthew Modine and Will Ferrell. The original Producers involved a Broadway producer who has seen better days (Mostel) and his new tax accountant (Wilder) trying to find the “world’s worst play” to produce as a flop which they would then keep the money raised for the play.  They find their play written by former German Soldier Franz Liebkind the author of Springtime for Hitler “a gay romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchesgarten.”  They hire the world’s worst director “Roger DeBris” to direct the play and raise a huge amount of money to produce it by selling well far more than 100% of the profits.  Expecting the play to offend everyone they begin an early celebration before finding out that people love the play. The play becomes a critically acclaimed hit leading them to try to blow up the theater.  The music of Brooks is prominently featured in all three. The irony of producers producing a guaranteed flop which becomes a hot on the big screen and then a real hit on Broadway is not to be lost.  The theme song from the play Springtime for Hitler both in 1968 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGp0hCxSg98 and the later version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCUfkMkVbwo also found its way into Blazing Saddles.

Springtime for Hitler 2005

As an interesting side note Brooks has a cameo during the song in both versions where as a member of the cast he sings “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty come and join the Nazi Party.” The Producers also featured more Brooks’ songs including Love Power sung by Dick Shawn playing Lorenzo St. Dubois or LSD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkYBJId7WZs Prisoners of Love featured in both the 1968 and the 2005 versions and When You Got it Flaunt it, I Want to Be a Producer and Keep it Gay all from the 2005 version are classic show tunes.

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles

The Producer’s netted Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Brooks’ next two hit films Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featured interesting musical arrangements, The most memorable coming from Blazing Saddles which starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn.  The songs Blazing Saddles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tyhpt6_pwc the Ballad of Rock Ridge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiTKIbR69ss

Madeline Kahn as Lilly Von Schtupp singing “I’m Tired”

I’m Tired http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQU0_PHUB2E and the French Mistake featuring Dom DeLuise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMK6lzmSk2o are all Brooks’ work.

The French Mistake Musical Scene from Blazing Saddles

He even managed to take an old tune into Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle as Dr Frankenstein and the monster perform Puttin’ on the Ritz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH2nQHPs4aA.

Dr Frankenstein and the Monster (Wilder and Peter Boyle) singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Brook’s next film’s High Anxiety, a takeoff on Hitchcock movies starring Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman feature Brooks’ songs High Anxiety http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_UcRmELvs and If You Love Me Tell Me Loud. History of the World Part I which starred Brooks, Kahn, Korman and a host of comic greats would incorporate music is ways undreamed of by those who viewed these films.

The Inquisition from History of the World Part One

In fact the musical segment The Spanish Inquisition featured the song The Inquisition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oppHeMlaLVM where Brooks plays the Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada in a spoof of the 1930s musical featuring dancing monks in wink tips, nuns who perform a synchronized swimming number as well as banter between Brooks and the various Jews and heretics that he is trying to convert. The irony of course being that Brooks is Jewish.  The closing song Jews in Space http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_jLnrUXJNM is the trailer for a sequel which was never produced. In Spaceballs Brooks collaborated with others to produce the title song Spaceballs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezyoKr0v-HQ which was performed by The Spinners.

Men in Tights

Brooks would continue making movies which though not as popular brilliant as his earlier works would feature some funny songs written by Brooks.  Robin Hood: Men in Tights featured Men in Tights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc1am3KyYgA , Marian and the Sherwood Forrest Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APTXBm5Zp-Y The 1983 film To Be or Not to Be in which Brooks starred with his wife Anne Bancroft was about the Nazi invasion of Poland featured the Brooks songs A Little Peace and Ladies. A music video for this film entitled The Hitler Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu2NqfISm9k was released as part of the promotion for the film.

Hitler as a polish Jew playing Hitler in a Parody in pre-War Warsaw in To Be or Not to Be

I don’t know that we will ever see a comedic genius who is able to also incorporate music, especially classic Broadway style show tunes in about every movie that they make.  Brooks in my mind is one of those once in a blue moon kind of entertainers whose creativity is not bound by words or gags but crafted through a diverse experience of live performance, film, writing and producing taking comedy to places where his edginess and occasional social commentary was heard and appreciated by middle America.  That is the genius of Mel Brooks.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under film, music, purely humorous

More about Why I Miss the Music of the 70’s and 80’s

The Carptenters

A few weeks back I posted an essay that looked back a the music of the 1970s and early 1980s that dealt with some of the historic context of the era as well as a bunch of videos and pictures of some of my favorite groups and their music.  As I mentioned in that essay the time was somewhat tumultuous a lot of social unrest, economic crisis, terrorism, communist expansion, a lost war and political crisis culminating in the resignation of a President.

Padre Steve and the Abbess at Mission San Fernando Fall 1980

The time was also one where people were also attempting to return to some semblance of normalcy in the post Vietnam and Nixon era.  The 1960s were a time of social revolution which impacted almost every area of life and a time where almost everything was reduced to some sort of “message.”  By about 1973 the new younger generation which was entering high school and junior high school were less bent on activism and more on having fun as well as more inward discoveries.  The 1970s were certainly not a return to “traditional values” although there was a recovery of nostalgia for the 1950s with the movies American Graffiti, Grease and the sitcom Happy Days. This desire to feel better was partly in reaction to the turbulence of the 60’s and the reality that things were not good in the 1970s and as a result my generation sought entertainment and diversions for the nearly endless litany of bad news.  Much social change was still underway spurred on by the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement and reproductive rights, the end of the draft and change in law which allowed 18 year olds to vote.  Like the 1960s there was experimentation with drugs as well sex.

Fashions morphed from bell bottoms and t-shirts and long hair to double knit polyester, silk shirts, leisure suits and tight fitting designer jeans. Tie-dye gave way to earth tones which were followed by bright colors and finally in the early 80s leather and pastels.  Classic styles began to return by the early 80’s “Preppy” was in, Oxford shirts, khakis and natural fibers such as cotton replaced the polyester double knits.

Rocky

Movies too began to change films like Star Wars and Star Trek launched people into undreamed of worlds even as NASA worked on the Space Shuttle.  Gritty films like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky featured everymen who battled either crime or took on superior adversaries in the ring.  On television a team of young comics launched a comedy franchise, Saturday Night Live which is still with us today and which spun off a generation of comics who have made their own impact on American entertainment.  The musical returned in movies such as Grease and Xanadu while Disco rode the wave of Saturday Night Fever and country music returned with Urban Cowboy.

Here are some more of my favorites as well as some songs that helped make the 70’s and 80’s what they were.  Enjoy.

Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night, Joy to the World This was a fun song that came out in the early 1970s and when I hear it I can still find me singing along.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2x3af_three-dog-night-joy-to-the-world_people

Credence Clearwater Revival Credence was one of the great groups of the 60s and early 70′s, members such as John Foggarty would go on to successful solo careers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYnySGM9dQA

The Carpenters Possible the most precise and skilled musical group of the late 60′s and the 70′s the Carpenters were middle America’s sweet hearts.  Karen would die tragically from a heart attack induced in part due to her struggles with depression and subsequent Anorexia Nervosa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n53E_J9a_Fo&feature=PlayList&p=F02D8CA7FF8AA675&index=12

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmbT5XC-q0

Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” become the anthem of the Women’s Rights movement

Helen Reddy: I am Woman My mom absolutely loved Helen Reddy while my dad hated “I am Woman.” She had quite a few other major hits through the 70′s and I saw her in concert in Stockton CA back in 78 or 79.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmExAiCcaPk

Paul McCartney and Wings: Band on the Run Paul McCartney was the most successful of the Beatles in his solo career.  Wings was an outstanding group centered around McCartney and his beautiful wife Linda.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qx2jEfBsqY

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Elton John had one of the most successful careers of any solo artist, his flashy clothes and wild glasses coupled with a high energy live performance made him a crowd favorite.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43Ho_6C_fM4

I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc4ZRdPGGTI&feature=PlayList&p=7B1E53DD1B27118D&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=39

Ringo Starr: The Non No Song Ringo did not have the same success as either Paul or John Lennon but this song was fun to listen to on the school bus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-PirP4LiFo

Abba

Abba: I do, I do I do Abba who broke into the international music scene in 1972 remained incredibly popular throughout the 70s and the 80s before disbanding in 1989.   They survived and thrived through every major musical swing of the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjgxxeA83FQ&feature=PlayList&p=11B0CC8778FA9A05&index=15

Honey Honey

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeGtaSWzFRA&feature=PlayList&p=11B0CC8778FA9A05&index=4

Dancing Queen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctzIEjjOfd4

Eagles: Already Gone The Eagles have been and always will be one of my favorite groups.  Known for their stellar guitars and five part harmonies they have endured and their music has not been duplicated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHk2em4ZNwA&feature=PlayList&p=8A2216020416503A&index=16

Lying Eyes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYQgPTsiZIU

Dr Hook: Walk Right In One of the lesser known but still successful groups of the 70′s and 80′s this group teamed with poet and children’s writer Shel Silverstein to come up with some of the most unusual, quirky and funny songs of the era.  Having a country rock style they regularly sung about sex, drugs and alcohol they morphed into a less controversial stance in the 1980s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPj5O3AMGDA&feature=PlayList&p=54CD692E585AE055&index=13

Years from Now

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfsPeVVL8zE&feature=PlayList&p=AF906570E242A626&index=18

The Trammps: Disco Inferno Probably the group that had the signature Disco song, the Trammps were from Philadelphia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_sY2rjxq6M

Bee Gees

Bee Gee’s: Tragedy While the Trammps may have produced the anthem of the era but the Bee Gees were the group that best personified the era with their harmonies and passion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1_DdIxfpIU

The Village People

The Village People: YMCA While the Bee Gees may have personified the music of hte era the Village People were iconic with thier signature costumes and appeal to the gay community and their crossover into the mainstream with hits such as Macho Man, YMCA and in the Navy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

In the Navy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InBXu-iY7cw

Donna Summer: She Works Hard for the Money The beautiful Donna Summer would be the queen of Disco and transition to a more pop and R&B sound in the 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKQcWEXSKU

The Cast of Grease

Travolta and Olivia in Grease: You’re the One that I Want The musical Grease starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta had an appeal that spanned generations and was wildly popular.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKQcWEXSKU

Olivia Newton John and ELO: Xanadu The musical Xanadu was not a strong performer at the box office and was panned by most critics but birthed a host of top ten hits.  It was notable for is choreography and costumes which place it solidly in the middle of the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1UWSD-FaA

Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down to Georgia As country music found a new appeal among younger people artists like Charlie Daniels careers took off crossing over to the pop charts from the country charts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1UWSD-FaA

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson: You Were Always on My Mind Possibly the most prolific of the country artists to cross over into the pop world was Willie Nelson who along with Waylon Jennings produced hit after hit and also had a solid social conscience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsLL6bIUs6M

A Young Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow: Mandy Barry Manilow was a one man hit machine in the 70′s and 80′s and while rockers, disco fans and others would scoff at his music he had an enduring appeal that spanned generations. I can remember many girls in high school who had their Mailow t-shirts and his songs wee always on the radio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5R6dunFOc&feature=related

Weekend in New England

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpkOz-zJiq0&feature=PlayList&p=A0D84ADACA5F5E08&index=0

Boz Skaggs

Boz Skaggs: Lido Shuffle Boz Skaggs had a unique sound and was hard to pin down but again was an artist who was solid throughout the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIu0jQ5TaRQ&feature=PlayList&p=8201408B8B6E42C8&index=2

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder: I Just Called to Say I Love You: R&B singer Stevie Wonder was popular throughout the era and successfully crossed over to the pop charts with I Just Called to Say I Love You from the movie Woman in Red and his duet with Paul McCartney Ebony and Ivory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY45DkaP9Ls&feature=PlayList&p=3C966AE64CF668CB&index=10

Rod Stewart” Maggie May Rocker Rod Stewart lived on the wild side in the 70′s and 80′s but by the 90′s and 2000′s had transformed himself into a classic crooner.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9dlG-iq3F8

Commodores: Brick House Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores from Motown we electric in the 70′s and Ritchie would cross over into a even more successful pop career in the late 70s beginning with the theme to the movie Endless Love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5EmnQp3V48

Kermit the Frog with Blondie’s Debby Harry

Kermit the Frog and Debbie Harry: Rainbow Connection The Muppet Show led by Kermit the Frog featured a wide number of popular music artists who would ham it up often singing duets with Kermit of Miss Piggy. The Muppets had thier own top ten hit The Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRvhRhWWE44

Debbie Harry of Blondie

Blondie: Heart of Glass Sexy former Playboy centerfold Debbie Harry and Blondie were a dominant influence on the rock and pop charts in the late 70s and 1980s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRvhRhWWE44

Sunday Girl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obwanhb6kww&feature=PlayList&p=F2ED8F30DB2943CD&index=10

Kim Carnes

Kim Carnes’  Betty Davis Eyes and Debbie Boone’s You Light up My Life would hold the Billboard Pop Single number one record of 9 weeks in the late 1970s. Carnes, a singer songwriter for Kenny Rogers launched a successful solo career of her own with the quirky Betty Davis Eyes while the wholesome Boone, the daughter of pop icon Pat Boone would gain fame with You Light up My Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPOIS5taqA8

Debbie Boone

Debbie Boone: You Light up My Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC9sEAqEjxs

Air Supply: Lost in Love One of the bands from down under Air Supply would make its mark on the pop scene with a number of popular love songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpntNDAYltM

Boston: More than a Feeling The rock group Boston and their driving rhythm and guitar solos would compete with other classic rock groups of the era and help define the “death before disco” movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcsVPis1iNs

Supertramp: Breakfast in America One of the more overlooked groups of the era was Supertramp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh2TJ2DAy_o

Freddy Mercury and Queen

Queen: We are the Champions Freddy Mercury and Queen easily moved between the rock and pop charts with powerful ballads and rong songs with a quircky edge. Mercury’s vocals and stage presence were amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSTivVclQQ0

Billy Idol: Dancing with Myself Billy Idol a rocker also helped symbolize some of the New Wave movement his ghoulish Dancing with Myself was an early hit on MTV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VNx78SAq8M

Katrina and the Waves: Walking on Sunshine Another 80s group with lasting appeal was Katrina and the Waves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPUmE-tne5U

The Bangles: Manic Monday The Girl Group The Bangles had a number of hits in the 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAZgLcK5LzI

Madonna: Lucky Star Pop legend Madonna broke into the music scene in this era and really until recently has never left.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThHz9wlBeLU

Kenny Loggins: Danger Zone Kenny Loggins solo career really took off with the movie Top Gun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1a_ikfUico

Billy Joel: Uptown Girl Billy Joel was another solo artist with hit after hit in the 70s and 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuMWrfXG4E

AC/DC: You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC never failed to shock but produced some of the most enduring, if not occasionally controversial hits of the era and still have a large following today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5FWXSnCEZE&feature=PlayList&p=66074A5666DBAB87&index=2

Berlin: Take My Breath Away Berlin produced a large number of sultry hits but it was Take My Breath Away from Top Gun put them on most people’s radar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DARX9nzNE3E

Well, they were interesting times and despite everything I still enjoy the music of these groups.  Diverse and unpredictable as to what would find its way onto different charts the artists of the 70′s and 80s and their music is still popular today.

Peace

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under History, music

The Caine Mutiny: A Lesson in Leadership

“Now you’re learning, Willie. You don’t support your captain because you like him; you support because he’s got the job or you’re no good!” Jose Ferrer as Lieutenant Barney Greenwald

I write this after seeing a number of officers do some really dumb things in my 28 year career in the manner in which they supported their commanders or chain of command in trying times.  While none of these incidents could be described as mutiny they were certainly acts which undermined the chain of command, endangered the mission and had they occurred in a combat zone or in emergent conditions could have gotten soldiers or sailors killed.  The Caine Mutiny is a classic on leadership either in book or movie form.  I prefer the book but I am captivated by the performances of Humphrey Bogart and Jose Ferrer. In this essay I go through the movie and book and illustrate my point with quotations from it.

There has never been a mutiny on a United States Navy ship yet the book and later the movie The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk is one of the most poignant books on leadership in existence. The book gained popular success and was made into a movie in 1954 starring Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer and Robert Francis.

The story centers around the officers or the wardroom of the USS Caine, an elderly Destroyer Minesweeper which had been in continuous combat in the South Pacific.  In the book she is a First World War One 1250 ton Wickes or Clemson class four piper.  In the movie she is played by the USS Thompson DD-627/DMS-38 a 2500 ton Gleaves class destroyer converted into a Destroyer Minesweeper since by the time the movie was made no “four pipers” were left in existence.  It took the film’s producers many months to convince the Navy to endorse the film because of the subject matter with the Navy only relenting when the producers agreed to place a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that there has never been a mutiny aboard a US Navy ship.

In the book and film the ship has returned to Pearl Harbor and in the process picked up a couple of newly assigned Ensigns fresh out of Officer Candidate School, what back in World War II were known as “90 Day Wonders.”  The young and impressionable Ensign Willis Seward Keith a Princeton grad and scion of old money and political contacts is one of those officers and while the story focuses on “Willie” Keith the true drama comes with the assignment of a new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Phillip Francis Queeg, a career officer and Naval Academy graduate.  The Executive officer, Lieutenant Steve Maryk, another OCS officer from humble means is played by Van Johnson while Fred MacMurray plays the ship’s communications officer, Lieutenant Tom Keefer another reservist and a writer by trade who remarks early in the story: “There is no escape from the Caine, save death. We’re all doing penance, sentenced to an outcast ship, manned by outcasts, and named after the greatest outcast of them all.”


Keith is disappointed in his new assignment and his mother and uncle try to pull strings to have him assigned to an Admiral’s staff.  The initial commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander DeVriess questions the new officer on his feelings about being assigned to the Caine:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTt5iVP8-GM

DeVriess: Disappointed they assigned you to a minesweeper, Keith?
Keith: Well, sir, to be honest, yes, sir.
DeVriess: You saw yourself on a carrier, or a battleship, no doubt.
Keith: Yes, sir, I had hoped…
DeVriess: Well, I only “hope” that you’re good enough for the Caine.
Keith: I shall try to be worthy of this assignment, sir.
DeVriess: She’s not a battleship or a carrier; the Caine is a beaten-up tub. After 18 months of combat it takes 24 hours a day just to keep her in one piece.

Queeg on his arrival insists on strict military discipline on a ship that has little outward appearance of such qualities. He remarks to his officers: “Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard, standard performance is sub-standard, and sub-standard performance is not permitted to exist – that, I warn you.” Keefer a malcontent with a cynical attitude about the Navy takes an immediate dislike of Queeg and goes out of his way to poison the wardroom against the new Captain and is aided by various quirky and even neurotic actions of the new commander.  In the next few months he creates an air of disrespect, distrust toward Queeg even to plant questions about Queeg’s sanity and emotional stability among his fellow officers, including the Executive Officer who begins a “medical log” on the Captain.  One remark when pushing the Executive Officer demonstrates how far he was willing to go in trying to plant the idea that the Captain is mentally ill: “Will you look at the man? He’s a Freudian delight; he crawls with clues!”


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiGVMshkwrY&feature=PlayList&p=6E5FDB52D2DC4238&index=6

After a number of incidents Queeg attempts to reconcile with his officers who reject him but his words are true: “As I always say, a command is a lonely job. It isn’t easy to make decisions. Sometimes the captain of a ship needs help. And by help, I mean constructive loyalty. What I’m trying to say is, uh, a ship is like a family. We all have our ideas of right and wrong but we have to pitch in for the good of the family. If there was only some way we could help each other.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtqf0CCVUek

When the ship is caught in the great typhoon, sometimes known as “Halsey’s typhoon” which in actuality caused the loss of three destroyers and heavy damage to numerous ships, Queeg freezes on the bridge in a dispute with his officers over the action that needs to be taken.  Queeg wants to maintain the fleet course and speed while the bridge watch including the Executive Officer and Ensign Keith want him to steer an opposite course.  In the exchange Queeg apparently frozen by fear insists on following fleet course and when Queeg freezes relieve him under Article 184 of Naval Regulations.  The ship survives the storm and upon the ship’s return to San Francisco a Court Martial is convened charging Maryk and Keith with mutiny.

In the trial they are defended by Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, a lawyer in civilian life and Naval Aviator on convalescent leave. While the prosecution breaks Maryk and makes Keith look foolish Keefer aids the prosecution’s case to keep his reputation untarnished and after pushing his shipmates into mutiny leaves them to hang.  Greenwald then gets to work.  He pushes the psychiatrist who certified Queeg as sane and fit for duty hard planting doubts about the diagnosis:

“Doctor. You have testified that the following symptoms exist in Lieutenant-Commander Queeg’s behavior. Rigidity of personality, feelings of persecution, unreasonable suspicion, a mania for perfection, and a neurotic certainty that he is always in the right. Doctor isn’t there one psychiatric term for this illness?”

He then causes Queeg to have a breakdown on the witness stand.  The scene is dramatic as Queeg begins to fall apart:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9esAr7gLapE&feature=PlayList&p=6E5FDB52D2DC4238&index=12

“They were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly by the book, but they fought me at every turn. If the crew wanted to walk around with their shirttails hanging out, that’s all right, let them! Take the towline – defective equipment, no more, no less. But they encouraged the crew to go around, scoffing at me and spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles and then ‘Old Yellowstain.’ I was to blame for Lieutenant Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamanship. Lieutenant Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Captain Queeg. Ah, but the strawberries! That’s, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with, with geometric logic, that, that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. And I would have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer. (He pauses – looks at all the questioning faces that stare back at him, and realizes that he has been ranting and raving.) Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory…”

The scene ends with everyone knowing that Maryk and Keith will be acquitted. Greenwald’s clients are exonerated but the story does not end there.  While the officers celebrate the acquittal a drunken Greenwald arrives announces that he feels guilty for “torpedoing Queeg” and excoriates the wardroom and brutally identifies Kiefer as the “author of the Caine mutiny” and makes very pointed comments that any officer would be wise to heed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKeISsYKROI

Greenwald: When I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no! We knew you couldn’t make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys, tough, sharp guys who didn’t crack up like Queeg.
Keith: But no matter what, Captain Queeg endangered the ship and the lives of the men.
Greenwald: He didn’t endanger anybody’s life! You did! All of you! You’re a fine bunch of officers.

Greenwald: Tell me, Steve, after the Yellowstain business, Queeg came to you guys for help and you turned him down, didn’t you?
Maryk: Yes, we did.
Greenwald: You didn’t approve of his conduct as an officer. He wasn’t worthy of your loyalty. So you turned on him. You ragged him. You made up songs about him. If you’d given Queeg the loyalty he needed, do you suppose the whole issue would have come up in the typhoon?

Greenwald: And now we come to the man who should have stood trial. The Caine’s favorite author. The Shakespeare whose testimony nearly sunk us all. Tell ‘em, Keefer.
Keefer: No, you go ahead. You’re telling it better.
Greenwald: You ought to read his testimony. He never even HEARD of Captain Queeg!
Maryk: Let’s forget it, Barney.
Greenwald: Queeg was sick, he couldn’t help himself. But you, you’re real healthy. Only you didn’t have one-tenth the guts that he had.
Keefer: Except I never fooled myself, Mr. Greenwald.
Greenwald: I wanna drink a toast to you, Mr. Keefer. From the beginning you hated the Navy. And then you thought up this whole idea and you managed to keep your skirts nice and starched and clean, even in the court martial. Steve Maryk will always be remembered as a mutineer. But you, you’ll publish your novel, you’ll make a million bucks, you’ll marry a big movie star, and for the rest of your life you’ll live with your conscience, if you have any. Here’s to the real author of the Caine mutiny. Here’s to you, Mr. Keefer.
[Splashes wine in Keefer's face]
Greenwald: If you wanna do anything about it, I’ll be outside. I’m a lot drunker than you are – so it’ll be a fair fight.

The movie ends with Keefer alone as his fellow officer leave the party and Keith receiving orders to a new destroyer commanded by Captain DeVriess.  However the book has another ending.  In it Keefer becomes the commanding officer of the Caine and Keith the XO. The ship is hit by a Kamikaze and Keefer loses his nerve and in a truly cowardly fashion abandons the ship and his crew leaving Keith to save the Caine which he does.

As a leader it is important to support the commanding officer, especially if he or she is going through a difficult time.  While this does not mean that subordinates should ignore illegal actions of a commander as the XO of a ship did recently resulting in his and the CO’s relief for cause, but officers from any service do not have the luxury of subverting their commander or chain of command based on any personal like, dislike or any ideological, political or religious agenda.  A prime example of the latter was former Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt who waged a vicious campaign against every Commanding Officer that he worked for and the Navy in order to push his own political-religious views on his sailors and in the media.  There are certainly other examples but no to belabor the point I will end here.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Mission Accomplished in Al Anbar: The Marines Turn Over the Mission to the Iraqis

Religious Support Team 2 MNF-W the Desert Rats at Al Waleed August 2007

There was a time not very long ago that names like Al Anbar, Fallujah and Ramadi were synonymous with futility and humiliation.  But that was before a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. In late 2007 the Marines and our Iraqi Allies aided in large part by the “Anbar Awakening” where the Sunni in the province realized that Al Qaida Iraq’s motives were not in the best interest of the people gained the upper hand in a very short time.  The success was heralded as part of the “surge” but was in large part due to the effort made by the Marines to be seen as something other than occupiers but allies in a fight against foreigners that would brutally kill Iraqis to achieve their goals.

Iraqi Children Happy to see us near Baghdadi

I arrived in Al Anbar in August of 2007 and spent my tour as the Chaplain to the Marine, Army and other advisers in the province which at the time of my arrival were still very much in play.  Within days of arriving at our base of operations I took part in a number of mass casualty situations at the Shock Surgery Trauma center at Ta Qaddum where I prayed for, anointed and looked after Marines wounded when their vehicles were destroyed by improvised explosive devices during combat missions.  My tour was the highlighter of my military career.  In my tour with the advisors as well as the Iraqis of the 1st and 7th Iraqi Army divisions, Second Border Brigade and Iraqi Police, Highway Patrol and even a reconstruction team or two.

Allies: Colonel Cottrell and General Murthi of the 7th Iraqi Division at the Marine Corps Birthday 10 November 2007

During my time there I was privileged to serve with great Marines, Soldiers and even a number of Navy, Air Force, US Border Patrol and Customs personnel and contractors working with the Iraqis.  The Iraqis in many cases were valiant men who while serving against the insurgency and Al Qaida knew that their families were in danger from retaliation as were their own lives.

Friendship: Dinner with General Sabah

While Marines and Army forces took the battle to the insurgents the Iraqi Sunni Muslims in Al Anbar suddenly turned on the insurgents and Al Qaida Iraq.  Soon Iraqi civilians who had been either hostile or neutral towards the Marines and their own Iraqi Army and Police units turned on the Al Qaida and their allies.  Suddenly violence began to subside; Iraqi civilians began to report insurgents, weapons caches and IEDs.

Near COP South waiting to clear suspected IED

By the time that I left Iraq in February 2008 the situation in the province was such that the 1st Iraqi Division was able to be dispatched to Basra and Diyala where they in conjunction they would take the lead in driving the insurgents from these regions. Just before I left an Iraqi General, General Ali in Habbinya told me that I should come back in 5 years as a tourist because everything would be alright. Another Iraqi officer told me that if anything ever happened between us and “the Persians” that the Iraqis would be on our side.  I knew when I left that Iraq would be okay in the long run and I still believe that to be true.

Me with General Ali January 2008

Thursday the Sergeant Major of what used to be Multinational Force West or MNF-West announced the Marines of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) would be conducting a transfer of authority for the American mission to the 1st Armored Division of the US Army as part of the US drawdown in Iraq without a relief in place.   For most people in the United States this will be an event of little significance Iraq is now despite the continued presence of US forces has been forgotten by most.

With Advisers and Leaders of a Company of the Iraqi 2nd Border Brigade

Concern is now focused on US military actions in Afghanistan and the humanitarian relief operations in Haiti.  However, it was in Iraq that an insurgency was defeated, the first time since the British defeated the Malayan insurgency sponsored by Chinese Communists, and the French had militarily defeated the Algerian insurgency before the French government under DeGaulle surrendered the hard fought success of the Paras and Legionnaires betraying them even as he looked after what he viewed as the future of France.

With Bedouin Family and Advsiers near Syria

In the summer of 2007 Iraq was viewed as a lost cause by much of the American body-politic, politicians of both parties and the media.  Now it is becoming a functional state, in large part due to the sacrifices of US Military personnel and the Iraqi Army and security forces.  U.S. Forces are disengaging and exiting the country. While it is likely that and advisory and support mission will remain as the Iraqis continue to rebuild and their Army and security forces continue to expand their capabilities.  The Iraqis recently showed their metal by facing down an Iranian incursion into Iraqi territory on a strategic oil field.

The text of the Sergeant Major’s message describing the transfer is posted below:

From: Carpenter SgtMaj Kiplyn (USF-W SGTMAJ)

Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 15:55

Subject: FAREWELL OF THE MARINES FROM IRAQ

UNCLASSIFIED

Please pass on,

SgtsMaj, MGySgts, CMDCMs, Marines and Sailors, Saturday, 23 January at 1100 will mark the end of the Marines in Iraq as an organization.  II MEF (fwd) will conduct a Transfer of Authority Ceremony with the First Armored Division without a Relief in Place from any incoming unit. USF-W (formally MNF-W) will merge with USD-C (formally MND-Baghdad) and will cease to exist.

After 6 years, over 850 Marines and Sailors killed in combat and another 8800 wounded we have completed our mission.  At our peak, we had almost 26,000 Marines and Sailors on deck, close to 200 aircraft, over 380,000 pieces of ground equipment, and were averaging close to 2000 significant events a month.  We have added a whole new generation of Heros; and names like Al Nasiriyah, Fallujah and Ramadi will be added to our History books.

Words can’t begin to explain the magnitude of effort and sacrifice our Marines and Sailors have gone through to help the Iraqi people.  Each year since the initial invasion, Marines and Sailors from all over the Corps have been a part of the revolving I MEF (fwd) and II MEF (Fwd) Commands.  Each year has been different with its own sets of unique challenges and each successive year, the incoming organization has built upon the successes of the outgoing organization.

This year was no different, we didn’t have anywhere near the level of fighting that previous MEFs have done.  However, we did conduct many operations, maintained security, continue to professionalize the Iraqi Security Forces, develop good governance and economics, assisted with the continued establishment of the Rule of Law and oversaw the peaceful transition of the provincial government.  We also had one unique mission that we can call our own. That was to finally bring the Marine Corps home. Over the past year, we have simultaneously conducted the responsible drawdown of 24,000 Personnel, over 34 COPs and FOBs, including Baharia, Rawah, and TQ and sent six years worth of equipment out of theater.

For those of you who served with me this year, thank you.  It was long and difficult at times, with our own set of challenges, but we did it.

It has been an honor to serve with you.

For those of you who have left your boot prints over here at least once during the last six years; thanks to you too. You set the stage for us to finish the job.  It has been costly, it has been challenging, it has taken a while with quite a few dark days. But, in the end, it was worth it.

All Marines and Sailors, including those who remained stateside have contributed to the overall success of the Marines and Sailors in Iraq and; all of us have known someone who didn’t make it back alive or has permanent injuries. It is up to us to ensure that those who follow never forgot their sacrifice or what we did here.

Collectively, we have added another illustrious chapter to the successful story of our Marine Corps.  One that all of us can be proud of.

Semper Fidelis,

K. Carpenter

Sergeant Major

United States Force – West, Iraq

(Previously Multi National Force – West) II Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd)

21 January 2010

UNCLASSIFIED

Iraqi Recruits going through Basic Training

I am proud today to have been part of a mission that appears to have ended in success, at least in Al Anbar Province.  Semper Fidelis to the Marine Corps and the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who served alongside of us in Al Anbar as well as the Iraqi Army and security forces who despite the odds set the stage for the Iraqis and US Forces in the rest of the country to begin to re-establish order and normalcy to a country that has known little but war, dictatorship and tragedy over the past 40 years. I look forward to going back to Iraq someday and maybe visit some of those Iraqis that I was privileged to serve alongside.  May God bless all those who served honorably in Iraq and the Iraqi Army, security forces and the people of Iraq.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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NASCAR to Allow More Contact…Ricky Bobby Comes to Your Track

What the People Want

Well, this is interesting, the folks who run NASCAR have decided that the sport isn’t exciting enough and have decided to allow more “contact” between cars in various races.  In a move reminiscent of the movie Talladega Nights, the Ballad of Ricky Bobby the sport has decided to “let the drivers drive.” After penalizing drivers for being too aggressive on the track and for comments of the track the pendulum shifted.  Deciding that the sport had become just a bit too boring as drivers zipped around single file for 498 miles before letting things go flashing sponsor logos do the talking the management said “what the hell, if Ricky Bobby can do it why not us?”

American Hero

Actually it wasn’t Ricky Bobby but drivers complaining publicly of “watered down racing” and some drivers such as Denny Hamlin having a bitter month long on track feud with Brad Keselowski while Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya played demolition derby in the last race of the season that the NASCAR big wigs said, “damn, look at those ratings, how could we not have seen that? We better get off of our asses and do something quick, otherwise the people will revolt.” Not wanting to get swept away like Martha Coakley they quickly lightened up on the rules to make things more exciting.

Emotion and Confrontation

So get ready for the fun to begin as the season heats up at Daytona and Talladega.  I wonder how things will go. My bet is that the television revenues will skyrocket as people get what they want, speed and violence, mayhem and raw emotion as drivers bump, grind and sideswipe one another while flipping each other off in the pits.  I think that maybe the next logical step is to arm the cars to simulate aircraft dogfights.  Of course this certainly would increase casualties but if anyone remembers the original Rollerball with James Caan, it probably would sell.

Of course for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, with Tiger Woods sidelined the PGA is rumored to be considering arming its players with sniper rifles to liven things up and Formula One not to be outdone may allow the use of VIEDs (Vehicular Improvised Explosive Devices) on its tracks in the Middle East. As regular Joe 12 Pack’s gain inspiration look forward to more bumping on your local expressway.  What a deal, you gotta love it.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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