Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Unfinished Work of Memorial Day

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced…” Abraham Lincoln, from the Gettysburg Address

“Heroism is latent in every human soul – However humble or unknown, they (the veterans) have renounced what are accounted pleasures and cheerfully undertaken all the self-denials – privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sicknesses, mutilations, life-” Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Sometimes it is best to remember that people that lived long before us have profound things to say about subjects that we often address in rather cheap and banal ways.  It is easy to do this; in fact many people, especially ideologues and pundits simply quote the great men and women of history simply to buttress what they want to say in much the same manner that preachers from all sides of the theological spectrum will comb the Bible or the Church Fathers to find support for often decidedly un-Christian ideas.  Of course unscrupulous preachers of other religions do the same with their sacred texts so it tends be a universal problem.

Of course we should know better than to do this but all of us do it to one degree or another.  Even worse are those that will misquote people either to bolster their arguments or to tear down the person that they quote.  It should not be that way on Memorial Day. The sacrifices of those that gave “the last full measure” in defense of their homeland, principles and those that they loved are too great to trivialize by using the sacrifices of the fallen to promote themselves as they prepare to launch political campaigns as was recently done by a prominent politician at an annual event which honors veterans in Washington DC.

I think that Abraham Lincoln eulogized the fallen better than almost anyone in the history of our nation when he traveled to Gettysburg and gave a refreshingly short speech for a politician.  Lincoln considered the speech a failure but history shows it to be one of the most remarkable ever made by any American public figure.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes gave a speech in 1884 twenty years after his service in the 20th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War. A veteran of Antietam and other major engagements he made these remarks in a speech so powerful that it was a key factor in Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to nominate him for the Court.

“Every year–in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life–there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march–honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away…

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death–of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”   

In his inaugural address President John F. Kennedy a combat veteran of the Solomons Campaign provided a message which though not directly related to Memorial Day certain echoed the themes of the sacrifices of our fallen but also call us to the highest ideals of our nation. As a Naval Officer in command of PT 109 his boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer after which his leadership and courage was a deciding factor in the survival of most of his crew. Kennedy was a child of privilege but he volunteered for the arduous duty of service on the tiny PT Boats.  The speech is considered one of the premier speeches by an American President.

“In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,”² a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself….

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”   

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan visited Omaha Beach in Normandy, the site of the bloodiest of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944.  Reagan was a master of rhetoric and understood the importance of his visit to this hallowed site at the apex of the Cold War.  At that time it was unimaginable to most people that the Soviet Union would be no more barely 5 years hence and Reagan used the speech to link the sacrifices of those who fought and died at Normandy to those that served in his day. While his focus was on the sacrifice of America and its British, Canadian and French allies that landed on the beaches of Normandy he recognized the sacrifices of the Soviet Union which lost 20 million soldiers and civilians in the war against the Nazis. Reagan said of those who went ashore in Normandy:

“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you….The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”   

Today President Barak Obama made these remarks to conclude his speech following the solemn duty that all Presidents have in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.  Obama who is vilified by his most extreme opponents, as was Reagan for that matter ended his speech with these comments in which he eloquently expressed what the nation must do for its military, veterans and those killed in action or missing as well as the highest example of the brotherhood that those of us who have served in harm’s way feel for our fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen:

“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay. But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set. And we must honor it as a nation by keeping our sacred trust with all who wear America’s uniform, and the families who love them; by never giving up the search for those who’ve gone missing under our country’s flag or are held as prisoners of war; by serving our patriots as well as they serve us — from the moment they enter the military, to the moment they leave it, to the moment they are laid to rest.

That is how we can honor the sacrifice of those we’ve lost. That is our obligation to America’s guardians — guardians like Travis Manion. The son of a Marine, Travis aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and was accepted by the USS [sic] Naval Academy. His roommate at the Academy was Brendan Looney, a star athlete and born leader from a military family, just like Travis. The two quickly became best friends — like brothers, Brendan said.

After graduation, they deployed — Travis to Iraq, and Brendan to Korea. On April 29, 2007, while fighting to rescue his fellow Marines from danger, Travis was killed by a sniper. Brendan did what he had to do — he kept going. He poured himself into his SEAL training, and dedicated it to the friend that he missed. He married the woman he loved. And, his tour in Korea behind him, he deployed to Afghanistan. On September 21st of last year, Brendan gave his own life, along with eight others, in a helicopter crash.

Heartbroken, yet filled with pride, the Manions and the Looneys knew only one way to honor their sons’ friendship — they moved Travis from his cemetery in Pennsylvania and buried them side by side here at Arlington. “Warriors for freedom,” reads the epitaph written by Travis’s father, “brothers forever.”

The friendship between 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion and Lieutenant Brendan Looney reflects the meaning of Memorial Day. Brotherhood. Sacrifice. Love of country. And it is my fervent prayer that we may honor the memory of the fallen by living out those ideals every day of our lives, in the military and beyond. May God bless the souls of the venerable warriors we’ve lost, and the country for which they died.”

Sometimes our fallen are eulogized by the less notable and sometimes oft vilified people. One of these men was Robert Ingersoll, a politician, orator and lecturer as well as an agnostic in a time when that was not a popular belief.  Ingersoll was the son of a Congregationalist minister who often preached for revivalist Charles Finney.  Ingersoll was also a veteran of the Civil War where he raised and commanded the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment which fought at Shiloh.  remarked:

“These heroes are dead. They died for liberty – they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.”  

As we conclude this Memorial Day weekend let us remember those who have given the last full measure of duty for our nation, those who have served those that continue to serve and the friends and loved ones who cherish the lives and memories of each one.  Let us remember as a nation, as fellow citizens and never let our own agendas, ambitions or even our baser instincts sully their memory. May we choose the higher calling of service to our country and each other as Americans, the ideals of which are woven in the lives and sacrifices of those that we honor today and as Lincoln said to finish “the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No Time to Be Bitter: Padre Steve takes a Lesson from Buck O’Neil

Where does bitterness take you?

To a broken heart?

To an early grave?

When I die

I want to die from natural causes

Not from hate

Eating me up from the inside

Buck O’Neil

 

I was browsing the internet the other day searching for information on  the life of a person that I am interested in and came across a number of internet sites which indirectly referenced the man but were filled with more bitterness, anger and hatred than I could ever imagine being harbored in the heart of a single person.  They came from the far right and far left but the far right crowd seemed more angry bitter and then I had remembered them being, admittedly this website was extreme even by the standards of Der Stürmer  especially in the overtly racist overtones of the site and that the woman that runs it claims to be Jewish and “mad.” I presume that the site owner was referring to mental illness because only a deranged person could be so bitter, hateful and vengeful and all in the name of righteousness.   I was amazed just how far this woman went but instead of being put off I was morbidly drawn into her site reading article after article as if I had come upon a horrible accident involving Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin.  I finally got away, put down my laptop computer and resumed reading Buck O’Neil’s America on my Kindle.

The sites that I had visited when looking for a totally unrelated subject were filled with such hatred and bitterness that I was stunned. Anyone who reads this site knows that I am certainly not naïve and fully aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, and I include women in that somewhat exclusivist comment.  I began to realize that although I get angry at injustice I don’t have time to be bitter even at things that have been said about me or done to me.

I have seen the cost of bitterness in lives of people around me and in lives of people dying horrible deaths eaten up by the bitterness in their hearts.  I realized a long time ago that even if I was angry and even right in what I knew I could not remain bitter. When I came home from Iraq and was emotionally torn by things that were happening to me as well as the terribly bitter invective of the 2008 elections I knew that I could not live that way.  I had allowed such anger and bitterness to be part of me for a number of years after 9-11 that it consumed me at times, some directed toward those that directed those attacks but an even more vengeful attitude toward political liberals in the United States and Europe.  For a time I lost my sense of moderation and ability to see people as people that God loved and cared about.

Iraq changed that and since I have written about that time and time again I will simply say that when I came back from Iraq I could no longer bear the anger and bitterness of those that hated their fellow Americans as much or worse than those that attacked us.  It made no sense and I knew that I had changed.  I no longer had the time or energy to be so angry that I was bitter.  I was done. I stopped reading and listening to those that promoted such attitudes from the left or the right. Even then I had my moments especially as I battled all the components of PTSD, depression and a loss of faith that left me for all practical reasons an agnostic.  As faith, hope and stability began to return to my life those moments have become far less frequent and for that I am most grateful.

I am now inspired by those that overcame great obstacles of hatred, racial, gender, economic or religious prejudice and many of those stories come from baseball. One of those is the story of Buck O’Neil the great player and manager of the Negro leagues who never played in the Majors and was denied the chance to manage at the Major League level, instead serving as a coach and scout for various Major League teams.  In spite of having endured prejudice, discrimination and all that went with being an African American man, even a talented and successful one.

Yet O’Neil was one of those people that found good in everything and everyone.  He was one of those unique individuals that rises above hatred and does not become infected by it.  Such people seem to be a rarity but thankfully there are others like him and they reside in all corners of our land, they are of every race, religion, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and even political affiliation.  They would give the shirt off their back to help others and somehow in spite of things that they have experienced and the painfully nasty tone set by so many politicians, pundits, media types and terribly nasty and bitter people like the lady I referenced above, they still see the good in others and refuse to live lives infected by hatred, prejudice and discrimination regardless of the source.

However I ran into a number of people in the past couple of days that I could not believe. A few years back I started a Facebook page for those in my graduating class at Edison High School in Stockton California.  The title was Edison High School 1975-1978 and its description plainly said that it was for Edison High School in Stockton California.  I thought that was pretty straight forward I set up the page and forgot about it, which I often do because of my Mad Cow symptoms which is what I call my continuing PTSD symptoms, mild cognitive and speech cognition deficits that have affected me since Iraq.

So I forgot about the page, I don’t know how many people are even on it and I start getting nasty and condescending messages on Facebook from a bunch of people from New Jersey for God sakes.  These people were all over me like stink on shit and for what reason?  That I didn’t specify in the title that it was California and not New Jersey. It was in the description for goodness sake; all these people had to do was read. Instead they were all telling me that I needed to change things, tell all of the New Jersey people that this was a California page and remove them from the page. I’m sorry I don’t have time for that and if people can’t bother to read details or even see that the mascot logo was a Viking and not their school’s mascot.  According to the most vocal of these people there were like 29 people that can’t bother to read. So I changed the title to say it was Edison High School Stockton California and put a blurb to the New Jersey people that it was California and not New Jersey. Even that wasn’t good enough and so I passed it by, made a comment that people should read something before signing up for it and left the conversation. If I had stayed I would have started losing any sense of peace.

The I realized that people that do this are probably mad at the world in general, they feel cheated or lied to, they are bitter and need to take it out on someone.  So I took a deep breath, re-read some of Buck O’Neil’s story and thanked God for him. I knew at that moment that I was on the right track. As much as an irritant these people were I could not be angry at them or let it fester.  They must have things going on in their lives that I cannot understand which contribute to them needing to come after me when the obvious solution was simply to remove themselves from the site and tell their friends that they made a mistake.

Whatever, it doesn’t matter because I haven’t got time to be bitter and I don’t want anger and bitterness to eat me from the inside out and take me to an early grave. Maybe someday those that thrive on hatred, division and the promotion of enmity will figure out life and let go.  But as Master Yoda said to Luke “Strong is the power of the dark side” and “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  I have seen enough of suffering and don’t want to contribute to the climate of hate and discontent that pervades our country.  I think Jesus even talked about not living in anger and bitterness and preached forgiveness even from the Cross. Funny how we have such a hard time living that way.

I have too many friends who have experienced the hatred of others and been wounded deeply by the words and actions perpetrated against them. Some have endured these patiently and others have turned to the same tactics and attitudes that they have been the victims of, perpetuating the cycle. Some things never change; the victims often in time become the persecutors.

Does this make this moderate a liberal and will the label stick?

It most probably does, but what the hell?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Memorial Day 2011: Counting the Cost of War and Remembering its Brotherhood

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother…” William Shakespeare “Henry V”

“Heroism is latent in every human soul – However humble or unknown, they (the veterans) have renounced what are accounted pleasures and cheerfully undertaken all the self-denials – privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sicknesses, mutilations, life-” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Monday is Memorial Day, the ninth that we have observed during our current series of wars which officially began on September 11th 2001.  One could argue that they had begun sooner with attacks on U.S. Forces and installations overseas and even the attempted truck bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  But we really did not go to war until that fateful Tuesday in September 2001.  As we come to Memorial Day I am a bit melancholy as the war continues, force reductions loom, threats abound and I observe my first Memorial Day without my father, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer who served in Vietnam who died of complications of Alzheimer’s Disease in June 2010.

Iraq Military Training Team in West Al Anbar

We did go to war but it was not like wars past where we relied on a true national effort to win the wars. The wars have been fought by a force profession force of Active and Reserve Component Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen that hovers a bit above a half a percent of the total population. Of those eligible for service most do not meet the entrance requirements for military service meaning that the prosecution of the war has been the task of a miniscule portion of the population.  Shortly after the 9-11 attacks President George Bush urged Americans to do their civic duty “go shopping” to get the economy moving.  As a career military officer I was aghast at his words. While he praised the military at every turn and increased military budgets, much of which went to defense contactors the actual heavy lifting was and continues to be done by men and women who volunteer to keep going back.  While the military fights the war Wall Street does business in a manner that is good for it and the vast majority of Americans are totally immersed in self-entertainment, the latest video gaming system or imbibing on a constant diet of “reality TV.”  Others on both sides of the political spectrum elect to shred their political opponents to itty bitty sheds and maneuver to gain political advantage and power without really caring what is happing to the country despite their proclamations of doing what is right for America.  In regard to the troops most of the political classes only seem to care when it affects their state, district or party.

Advisors in Afghanistan 

This Thursday 9 more Americans were killed in Afghanistan, eight in an IED blast while on a mission to root the Taliban out of a suspected strongpoint and another in a helicopter crash.  In Afghanistan we have lost 1514 military personnel killed in action or died of wounds. Another 11191 have been wounded. Additionally or NATO Allies have lost 889 military personnel listed as killed or died of wounds. In Iraq 4454 U.S troops have been killed and another 32227 troops have been wounded.  Additionally 318 Coalition troops have been killed in Iraq.  None of these figures include the high number of personnel with PTSD, mild to moderate TBI or other psychological and spiritual wounds.  5968 Americans have been listed as killed or died of wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan while another 43,418 have been officially listed as wounded.

Memorial Day is a day to remember the fallen.  It is a day to reflect on the sacrifice of those that have died in the service of our country.  Originally established as Decoration Day and its roots stretch back to the Civil War.  Other nations have similar remembrances for their war dead.  Unfortunately because our military is such a small part of our population and now concentrated into a few major bases often out of sight and out of mind of most Americans the observance has become a kick off to the summer for most Americans who are blissfully unaware of the real costs of war.  In a way I can’t really fault them because when the war began with an attack on our shores our President did not call the nation to make sacrifices to win the war he told people to go shopping while “the few” would take the war to the enemy and avenge the devastation of September 11th 2001.  It turned the vast majority of the country into cheerleaders or bystanders.  History shows time after time that nations that wage war this way seldom achieve their goals.

As Clausewitz so aptly observed that war the nature or the “remarkable trinity of war” violent emotion, chance and rational policy which are balanced with the social trinity of the people, the commander and the army and the government (or in the case of non-nation state actors tribal, social or revolutionary leaders) necessitates that the people have to be part of the equation if one is to successfully conduct a war.  While it is possible to win short wars without much support of the people any long conflict necessitates that the people be engaged as much as the military and the government policy makers, especially in a democracy. Vietnam was a classic example of the social trinity gone bad. Policy makers failed to set goals for the prosecution of the war, military leaders attempted to fight the war with operational theories and forces that were not adapted to the type of war being fought and ignored the lessons of history regarding the type of war and eventually the people turned on the policy makers and the military as the war ground on with no apparent victory in sight.  The same can be seen in the current conflict in Afghanistan with the government pushing a policy that seems to have little strategic benefit or chance of success.  A military that can inflict punishing losses on the Taliban without destroying them or due to limited resources hold onto areas that they drove the enemy and a public that is divided between cheerleaders, critics and bystanders.  Few of the latter have any personal stake in the war other than bearing some of the financial cost and having to it occasionally referred to in the news cycle.  Our “trinity” is dysfunctional and will be our undoing despite the heroic efforts of those who give their “last full measure” on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya.

While we can discuss ways bring functionality back to our social trinity and the “remarkable trinity” or essence of war we must understand that our enemies, even non state actors often have a much more congruent view of war than we do and how to connect their strategic goals, military strategy and leverage the energy of the people against the United States and our Western allies.  They do not have our military power and wherever we meet them on the battlefield where we can employ our tactical superiority in weapons and training we have success but we have been unable to translate battlefield success into victory because we do not understand the nature of the conflict, the heart and will of our enemy and are dysfunctional in our own social, military, policy and political understanding of this war and how to win it.

What does this mean to those that have given their “last full measure” and those “happy few” that bear the burden of prosecuting the war? It means that their sacrifices may not be enough and will like the veterans of Vietnam come home without victory despite never losing a battle.  After Vietnam the force was cut back, military personnel who gave all they had on the battlefield were turned out of the service and even officers reverted to enlisted status to remain in the Army and Marine Corps.  Today even as the war rages cuts are being made to the force and those cuts will only get bigger as time goes on. Like Vietnam we already have a substantial number of veterans suffering from wounds physical, psychological and spiritual unable to get adequate care or assistance from an overburdened, underfunded, under staffed and often dysfunctional or even worse uncaring Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Others that have served most of their careers at war and are approaching retirement are seeing the benefits that they earned with their flesh and blood and the long sacrifice of themselves and their families being termed “a rich entitlement program” targeted for reductions in pensions and medical care.  People that make these decisions if they served in the military at all often served only in peacetime or in times of short military conflicts and thus really do not understand the terrible cost and burdens placed on those that serve and continue to serve in this “war without end.”

Since Monday is Memorial Day and I simply ask that people take a few minutes and reflect on sacrifices of those that served in this war, wars past or those that continue to volunteer and serve in harm’s way far from home in a cause that the government does not understand and the public no longer supports.  Yes people treat military personnel better than in times past, there is little hostility to the military but at the same time has little social connection to or understanding of, thus we are a small brotherhood forged by a war that most of our fellow citizens can comprehend.

One of my Brothers: RP2 Nelson Lebron in Iraq

As for all who served we are part of a Band of Brothers.  As William Shakespeare so well wrote in Henry V:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Kenneth Branagh Henry V: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-yZNMWFqvM

At the same time I cannot count the number of men and women that have come to me and expressed their regret at never having served when they had the chance. By and large they are wonderful people that live with this regret. In a sense they know well the last part of the Henry V speech “And gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” For such men and women I can bear no hostility because the regrets that they live with are more than I would want to live with. When spending time with people living in regret I simply to do what they do in an honorable manner, take care of their families and support the troops in any way that they can.

One of my Band of Brothers MTT with 3rd Battalion 3rd Brigade 7th Iraqi Division

As for me I continue to serve affected by war in ways that I never imagined when I enlisted nearly 30 years ago. All those who have served, past present and future are my brothers and sisters and it matters not their social status, race, religion or politics as Shakespeare noted  “For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition….”

Guy Sager wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier” about his return home from war, society and that brotherhood, something that many who have served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan can share:

“In the train, rolling through the sunny French countryside, my head knocked against the wooden back of the seat. Other people, who seemed to belong to a different world, were laughing. I couldn’t laugh and couldn’t forget.

I had looked everywhere for Hals, but hadn’t been able to find him. He filled my thoughts, and only my acquired ability to hide my feelings kept me from weeping. He was attached to me by all the terrible memories of the war, which still rang in my ears. He was my only friend in this hostile world, the man who had so often carried my load when my strength was failing, I would never be able to forget him, or the experiences we had shared, or our fellow soldiers, whose lives would always be linked to mine.”

Most of us that have served in combat zones have memories like that and like the people in the train most people don’t understand.  One thing that I do know is that I am part of a brotherhood that extends from time in memoriam to the consummation of time when war will be no more, death will be swallowed up in victory and every tear will be wiped from our eyes.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, iraq,afghanistan, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, national security, PTSD, shipmates and veterans

For the Love of the Game: Buster Posey’s injury should be a Clarion Call for Change

The Collision: Scott Cousins levels Buster Posey (ESPN Sports Nation)

San Francisco Giants Catcher Buster Posey suffered a serious and probably season ending injury which could also shorten or end his career as a catcher at the hands of Florida Marlins Outfielder Scott Cousins. Catching is inherently the most dangerous position to play on the baseball or for that matter the softball diamond especially when they a runner is coming down third base hard and they are trying to make a play on a throw coming from right field. In such a situation the catcher is terribly exposed to injury from collisions at home plate.  This is part of the game but there are times that a runner takes advantage of that to level a catcher even when it is not necessary.

The hit that Scott Cousins put on Posey was devastating and uncalled for as Posey was not blocking the plate. In fact Cousins went out of his way to smash into Posey when he could have easily scored with a clean slide. Posey was not blocking the plate and did not have control of the ball.  Why baseball experts are divided on the hit with some shrugging their shoulders and simply saying that it is part of the game and others calling the hit dirty.  I watched the video of the play again and again. In my opinion it was dirty and uncalled for. Cousins says that he didn’t mean to cause the injury but watching the play, the hit and Cousins facial expression going in and reaction after the game I have a hard time believing it. He’s from the Bay area and played his college ball at San Francisco and he had friends and family at the game. If you ask me he was trying to make a splash for them.  Cousins who is hitting .157 on the year and has a .227 Mendoza line average in his second major league season was unlikely to do something with his bat so why not take out one of baseball’s premier young catchers?  I could be wrong but I don’t believe him.  He got noticed alright and if I am the Giants I am planning for my next encounter with Cousins and the Marlins.

I have seen other catchers suffer terrible injuries at the hands of similar hits. I remember the 1970 All Star Game vividly when Pete Rose destroyed Ray Fosse behind home plate.  Last August Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana was seriously injured in a collision at the plate.  There have been others but the one that really sticks in my mind is me.

In 1979 while playing catcher in a Church Softball League and having the best season in baseball or softball that I had before or since I was run over at home plate. The hit was premeditated and easily avoidable as I was off the line and actually in the air trying to catch a high throw coming in from center field.  I wish I still had the photo that a friend took of the collision. My assailant was a foot taller than me and outweighed me by at least 70 pounds. Instead of sliding which would have been easy he put his shoulder down and leveled me sending me flying backward and causing me to break my right wrist.  He then had the nerve to point and laugh.  I tried to stay in the game and shake off the injury but I had to walk the ball out to the pitcher and thankfully the next batter went out quick.  I led off the next inning but when I tried to swing my hand came off the bat and I hit a tapper down the third base line to the player that injured me. I beat out the throw and the asshole tried to have me called out for “bunting.” I went ballistic and was removed from the game by our coach before the umpire could throw me out as I was leaving the base and was heading to third to lay into the player.  It was an unusual fracture which ended my season as the casting had to set the bone in such a way that I could do nothing with my right hand for a month.

My experience colors my perception of this kind of hit and I cringe every time I see a catcher from any team get hit in this manner. While such plays are fast to occur with little time to think a player that has the time to put his shoulder down to maximize the effect of the hit has the time to do something else.  I think that collisions at the plate are an inherent part of the game and cannot be avoided. At the same time Major League Baseball can outlaw the squaring of the shoulder to hit a catcher.  If a runner wants to come in hard with a slide be it head first or otherwise fine, but no football type blocks.  I have no problem with going in hard and when I play I do it all the time but I have not and will not drop my shoulder to level an exposed catcher. Such a rule would be easy to police and it would not matter if the hit was intentional or not, level the shoulder get thrown out, injure a player doing so get a stiff fine and even bigger if there was a straight shot to the plate like in the case of the Cousins-Posey collision.

There is no good reason that I can see to continue to allow such hits. Simply because we have always done it is not a good reason. The injuries are all too real and all too devastating.  Heck even the NFL has figured out that certain kinds of hits are so dangerous that big fines and penalties can be leveled against offending players and is considering expanding those to the teams themselves. Some players don’t like it but why should players be damaged for life simply because it’s “part of the game?”

I hope that Posey recovers and can resume his catching career next year and he probably will not be able to do so this year.  If not he may be relegated to First Base and that would be a shame for him, the Giants and the game of baseball.

What else needs to happen to get people to take this seriously?  Violent hits are not good for baseball.

That’s my opinion and some will think that it stinks but I don’t care.

For the love of the game,

Padre Steve+

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Ahhh Choo! Padre Steve Battles a Rare Allergy Attack

I should have seen it coming. The past few days the wind has been up coming out of the south and east with the result that a lot of dust created by the sand of our beaches is now airborne.  I have had trouble sleeping since Sunday barely getting a couple of hours a night.  I had also noticed some congestion and sinus pain early in the week but paid it little heed.  I also produced a few of my “nuclear sneezes” which have been heard by the profoundly deaf. Our roommate Kendra in college has a 110 Db loss across the entire sound spectrum and heard was shocked when she heard me sneeze.

I have had little problem with seasonal allergies this year even when the pollen was coating cars in an opaque yellowish green hue, so I was not expecting any problems this week with pollen counts going down.  But the problem was not the pollen but the dust.  Dust has been one of those persistent allergens for me and whenever I served in the desert my sinuses have always been worse than normal.

Now I used to have terrible seasonal allergies as a kid, so bad that I was taking allergy shots one to two times a week from 1970 to 1980.  When I was tested for allergens I was positive to almost everything that I was tested for and my forearms looked like volcanic mountain ranges as the allergens interacted with me.  I took Actifed, Dimetapp and Drixoral for years.  The came Seldane and I thought I had found the silver bullet but it was taken off the market because of bad side effects like cardiac arrhythmia and death.  In 2000 my Battalion Medical Officer prescribed a combination of Allegra and Flonase and I have not had any real problems since even when I miss my meds. I presume that I have outgrown most of the seasonal allergies which for most of my life affected me year round.  I have gotten spoiled, everyone around me can be dying from allergies and I am not bothered, well I can sympathize with them but allergies seldom affect me.  Now Judy who had few allergy problems has a lot more problems with seasonal allergies than me at this time.

This morning I awoke with a colossal sinus headache and a little bit of vertigo.  I had taken my normal allergy regimen last night, 180 mg Allegra and a dose of Flonase but evidently they were not enough and I was miserable.  Judy has been on me for months to start using something called the Neill Med Sinus Rinse system and like any husband I blew her off because I didn’t thing that I needed it.  I mentioned my malady on Facebook this morning and several friends also suggested this, since I am not married to them I paid attention. I called Judy and told her that she was right all along and that I was going to get the Neill Med bottle and solution.

So I trudged out the door, got in my car and drove up to Morehead City to Wal-Mart where I picked up the Neill Med system. I was amazed at the amount of dust in the air as I drove over the bridge that links us to the mainland.  Before I left the Island Hermitage I looked on the internet to see if the pollen count was high and it was not. So I said to myself “self I think it must be the sand in the air that is causing my problems today.”

When I got home I loaded up the bottle, heated the mixture and followed the directions. I was amazed with the amount of crap that came out. I felt like I was being water boarded but some of the pressure was relieved. I plan on repeating the treatment in a few minutes before I go to bed when I take my Allegra.  Hopefully the combination of the medications and the water boarding will do the trick.

To those that suffer from allergies I understand and was reminded just how much I don’t miss dealing with this all the time.  As it was it kicked my ass and I don’t like having my ass kicked.

On a serious note no matter how bad my allergies are now right now they are minuscule compared to what many Americans are facing right now.  In Joplin Missouri but also throughout the Midwest have been affected by a devastating outbreak of tornadoes.  A lot of people have been killed, thousands injured and much of Joplin has been destroyed.  Other towns and cities have been hit but Joplin is the hardest hit. Likewise there has been significant flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries which have also devastated many individuals and communities, and there was the April tornado outbreak. It will take a lot to help our fellow Americans going through this disaster and I know that many people are tapped out financially because of high unemployment and the long term economic downturn.  If you cannot do anything else pray, but if you can please give to relief agencies or if you are in a place where you can donate time please do so.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings

Zen and the Science of Mountain Bike Maintenance

“I only ride ‘em, I don’t know what makes ‘em work.” 

I know little of Zen other than it is a Buddhist meditation practice that does not involve shouting “serenity now.” I also know little of Mountain Bike Maintenance but using the “serenity now” technique I am I am learning the science of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

Now I’m sure that those that know more than me about mountain bikes will say that this is an art. But for me art is either something related to baseball or Navy ships that I hand on my wall, something beautiful that Judy produces or something that I hate and wonder just how the hell the artist got paid for it.  Of course none of these categories fit in the paradigm that I call the science of mountain bike maintenance.

I have ridden and destroyed bicycles for decades though until I moved to Emerald Isle I have had few places that I felt safe to ride the Mongoose E303 that I bought just before I deployed to Iraq.  My attitude with bicycles through most of my life was like Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie Kelly’s Heroes named “Oddball” who said in regard to work being done by his men on his tank “I only ride ‘em, I don’t know what makes ‘em work.”

I always had a habit of riding my bikes hard and though I learned to do a few rudimentary tasks I really had no clue what made them work. I remember doing an “Evil Knievil” jump over a wide construction ditch with my Schwinn Stingray which came up just short wiping out my bike and leaving me with a broken arm.  Then there was the 10 speed touring bike with dual headlights that my dad brought me back from Japan in 1972. That bike was a heavy duty warhorse that I used in games of bike to bike chicken against other neighborhood kids in Stockton California.  That bike was like the “Deathmobile” in Animal House, it was not aluminum but steel and its tires were heavier duty than most American bikes.  Those were good times, maintenance other than to patch flat tires was not a priority.  That bike got me through Junior High School but I gave it up like a broken down stead when I got my first car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a 287 V-8 and 4 barrel carburetor.  I had a bike when I was a student at Cal State Northridge and nearly ran over Joni Erickson Tada as she motored about in her motorized wheelchair and nearly drove into a filming set of Dynasty to get almost up close and personal with Heather Locklear. Both were unintentional but a product of my rather reckless riding.  Once again maintenance was a secondary concern and I drive that 10 speed into the dirt as well.

The next time that I used a bicycle was when I was deployed to Würzburg Germany to support the Bosnia operation.  I had the use of a used 18 speed road bike which I would ride down the big hill from my apartment to the city center on almost every decent day for weather. I also took it on longer rides around the countryside.  But that was pretty much the last time that I rode a bike until this year. I bought the Mongoose in 2006 as I was recovering from an IT Band injury while overtraining for the Marine Corps Marathon having just completed the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.  Back then I was even more stupid than I am now and would run 12-20 miles 4-5 times a week.  It was great for the endorphin rush but hell on my legs.  Unfortunately there were no interesting places to ride in Virginia Beach unless I wanted to pack my bike on my car to get to the Oceanfront or a rural area.  I hate being bored and feeling like a target for any typical Hampton Roads driver.

So finally I get stationed at Camp LeJeune and bring down my nearly new bike, 5 years old but no wear and tear.  I got it tuned up and then started to ride around the roads and trails near the Island Hermitage which is rapidly becoming the Island Heritage of the Church of Baseball.  I have permission of my land lady to paint outfield walls in the living room to match the baseball décor.  Since I plan to keep it as a place of refuge for Judy and I whenever I am stationed back in Virginia Beach I should not have to paint over it for a while.  But I digress….

I finally have a place where I enjoy riding again even a couple of places to go off road and actually use the bike as it was intended to be used.  I also discovered that hard riding also requires maintenance and that maintenance on a mountain bike is a lot more intensive than the bikes that I rode in times past. It is also a lot more expensive to have done by a bike store so I am learning the science of mountain bike maintenance.  The first thing I had happen was a flat rear tire which occurred about a mile into a ride. I had to walk the bike back because I did not have a hand pump and when I tried to fill it at a gas station the tire blew.  The next chance I got I went and purchased a heavy duty inner tube as well as a Trinitarian Allen Wrench, a hand pump to keep with the bike and lights since I tend to ride near dusk in order to get pictures of sunsets and wildlife.

I discovered something. I had to remove the brake pads to change the rear tire. It wasn’t enough to have to take the damned chain off but I had to take the brakes off to get the tire off. That brought me some measure of discontent but I persevered I got the tire off.  I also got some tire levers to help me with getting the very heavy tire off the rim. Back in my previous life when I rode bikes changing a tire was a snap, the tires were thin and came off without difficulty.  Well if you haven’t ridden one a the walls of a mountain bike’s tires are fricking thick and harder than hell to get off the bike, I even broke one of the damned levers trying to get the tire off. But I was successful despite a number of “serenity now” moments. I replaced the inner tube and put the tire back on the bike. I adjusted the chain and put the brake pads on. I thought that I had cracked the code. Sure I was covered in grease and sweaty but I had done it, or so I thought.  I had no idea that the damned tension on the brakes had to be reset.

So I went to the internet for a “Google how too” session. The sites that I found were no help and I had to travel to Virginia the next day so I said the hell with it. When I returned this week I stopped by the bike shop and asked for a demo of how to fix the damned thing so I could get back on the road.  The man at the shop demonstrated on a bike and I locked the information into my brain housing unit.  I ended up having to leave work early today because I have not slept more than three hours in the past three days. After crashing at home I got up, had dinner and decided to do the brake adjustment which went surprisingly well. I then took the bike out for a ride in the evening, got a couple of nice pictures and came home to watch baseball and relax. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight. I noticed that on nights where I got a ride in that I slept better so hopefully that continues.  I will need to do some more adjustments on the bike to get it where I want but I think I am beginning to crack the code on the science of mountain bike maintenance.  So long as it does not rain tomorrow evening I will do the adjustments and take another ride.

So until tomorrow, have a nice night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Death of the Mighty Hood: The Battle of the Denmark Strait 24 May 1941

HMS Hood arrives in Malta

Seventy years ago today the “Mighty Hood” was sunk by the German Battleship Bismarck. This essay is in honor of that gallant ship and crew.  May we never forget the sacrifice of these men and all others who have gone down to the sea in ships.

There are some warships and naval engagements which assume legendary proportions.  The Battle of the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941 between the two largest battleships in commission at the time, the pride of the British Royal Navy the HMS Hood and the German behemoth Bismarck is legendary as are those two mighty ships.  The battle came at a critical time as the Britain stood alone against the seemingly invincible German Blitzkrieg.  Britain had been driven from Western Europe and was being bombed regularly by Herman Goering’s Luftwaffe while a British expeditionary force that had been sent to Greece had been defeated and the Germans were assaulting Crete with airborne forces.  In the Western Desert the Afrika Korps under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel had driven off a British counter-offensive on the Libyan-Egyptian frontier and were laying siege to Tobruk and in the Atlantic German U-Boats sank 66 Allied Merchant Ships of over 375,000 tons and the Royal Navy would lose 25 warships not including the Hood.

The “Mighty Hood” at San Francisco in the 1920s

The Hood was the pride of the Royal Navy and was world famous due to her inter-war international presence and goodwill visits.  Displacing 47,430 tons full load she was armed with eight 15” guns in four twin turrets.  Designed as a battle cruiser she was less heavily armored than contemporary battleships and had very weak vertical protection from plunging shellfire.  This was a fault which was known but never rectified between the wars and when the war came the Royal Navy could ill-afford to take her out of service for the necessary improvements to her protection system.  She was fast with a designed speed of 31 knots which been reduced to 28 knots by 1939 as a result of modifications which increased her displacement.   This was further reduced by the wear and tear on her propulsion plant to 26.5 knots by 1940.

Hood in September 1924

Hood was designed before the battle of Jutland (May 1916) where the weaknesses in the armor protection of British Battlecruisers was exposed as three, the HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary and HMS Indefatigable were destroyed by plunging fire which exploded their magazines.  Though her design was modified during construction she still was vulnerable to plunging fire. She was scheduled for a major refit which would have included significant improvement in armor protection in 1941 but the war prevented the Hood from receiving anything more than improvements to her anti-aircraft batteries.

The Killer the German Battleship Bismarck

During the war Hood was engaged in patrol and search operations against German raiders in the North Atlantic and in June 1940 joined Force “H” in the Mediterranean.  As Flagship of Force “H” she took part in the sinking of French Fleet Units including the Battleship Bretagne at Mers-El-Kebir on 3 July 1940 following the French surrender to the Germans and remained in operation searching for the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Scheer and Heavy Cruiser Admiral Hipper until she withdrawn for a brief refit in January 1941. Following a brief refit in mid-March Hood was underway from mid-March searching for the German raiders Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and a false report of Bismarck breaking out into the Atlantic in April 1941. She returned to Scapa Flow on 6 May 1941.

Bismarck Firing at Hood

When the British discovered that Bismarck had entered the Atlantic Hood as the flagship of Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland was dispatched with the newly commissioned battleship HMS Prince of Wales to join the Heavy Cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk at the entrance to the Denmark Strait.  When the cruisers discovered Bismarck along with her consort the Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen the two British Battleships steamed into naval history.

The last photo of Hood taken from HMS Prince of Wales

Bismarck was slightly larger than Hood and mounted the same main armament but that was about all the two ships had in common. If the battle was a battle between heavyweight prize fighters Hood was the valiant but crippled champion and Bismarck the young and overpowering challenger.  Bismarck was slightly faster than the limping Hood and was one of the most well protected ships ever built.  Her gunnery officers and the men that manned those deadly 15” guns were like previous generations of German sailors’ gunnery experts working some of the finest naval guns ever made.

Hood Blows up, picture taken from Prinz Eugen

The German ships shadowed at a distance by the Norfolk and Suffolk German task force under the command of Admiral Gunther Lütjens emerged from the strait and was sighted by the British at 0537.  Knowing his ship’s weakness in regard to plunging fire Admiral Holland desired to steer a direct course at the German ships in order to close the range quickly. Events dictated otherwise and the British were forced to close the range much more slowly and exposing Hood and Prince of Wales to German plunging fire for a longer period of time.  Holland turned to close faster with the result that his gunnery was degraded by wind and spray coming over the bows of his ships and the inability to fire his after turrets.

At 0553 Holland ordered his ships to open fire without the benefit of Suffolk and Norfolk being in position to engage the Prinz EugenHood initially concentrated her fire on Prinz Eugen assuming her to be the Bismarck while Prince of Wales engaged Bismarck.  Prince of Wales drew first blood striking Bismarck three times. One which damaged her seaplane catapult, a second which did minor damage to machinery spaces and a third which passed through the bow near the waterline which severed fuel lines from her forward fuel tanks.

The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen. Mistaken for Bismarck bu Hood she scored the first hits on Hood

Both German ships opened fire at 0555 concentrating on Hood.  Prinz Eugen immediately hit Hood with at least one 8” shell which set a large fire among the ready to use 4”ammunition stored in lockers near the mainmast. The hit started a large fire which Hood’s damage control teams raced to contain.  At 0600 Holland ordered his ships to turn to port in order to bring his rear turrets into the fight. As the squadron executed the turn Hood was straddled by a salvo from Bismarck and observers on Prince of Wales observed an explosion between “X” turret and the mainmast which consumed the Hood causing her bow to jut sharply out of the water before sinking beneath the waves in under 3 minutes time. Witnesses on both sides of the engagement were stunned by the sudden and violent end of the Hood and the Germans rapidly shifted fire to the Prince of Wales knocking her out of the action.  Against the advice of Bismarck’s Captain Ernst Lindemann, Lütjens did not follow up his advantage to sink the crippled British ship.

Petty Officer Ted Briggs

Only three crewmen Petty Officer Ted Briggs, Seaman Bob Tilburn and Midshipman Bill Dundas survived the sinking of Hood out of a total of 1415 souls embarked. They were rescued 4 hours later nearly dead of hypothermia staying awake by sinking “Roll out the Barrel” by the destroyer HMS Electra.  Briggs who died in 2008 recounted the sinking:

“Then she started listing to starboard. She righted herself, and started going over to port. When she had gone over by about 40 degrees we realised she was not coming back…” Briggs was sucked under the water “I had heard it was nice to drown. I stopped trying to swim upwards. The water was a peaceful cradle – I was ready to meet my God. My blissful acceptance of death ended in a sudden surge beneath me, which shot me to the surface like a decanted cork in a champagne bottle. I turned, and 50 yards away I could see the bows of the Hood vertical in the sea. It was the most frightening aspect of my ordeal, and a vision which was to recur terrifyingly in nightmares for the next 40 years.” (The Daily Telegraph 5 October 2008)

Seaman Tilburn


Artist rendition of Hood’s destruction

The Admiralty reported her loss later in the day saying Hood “received an unlucky hit in a magazine and blew up.  The official report of the sinking released later in the year said:

“That the sinking of Hood was due to a hit from Bismarck’s 15-inch shell in or adjacent to Hood’s 4-inch or 15-inch magazines, causing them all to explode and wreck the after part of the ship. The probability is that the 4-inch magazines exploded first.”

The commission’s findings have been challenged by a number of naval historians and there are several theories of how the magazines might have exploded but all point to a massive magazine explosion but probably not due to a plunging round but from another hit which detonated the unprotected 4” magazines or a hit from Bismarck below Hood’s waterline which stuck a magazine.  Hood’s wreckage was located in 2001 lying across two debris fields and the examination revealed that the after magazines had exploded.  The site is designated as a War Grave by Britain and protected site under the Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986.

Revenge: Bismarck being pounded into a wreck by British Battleships

Bismarck did not long survive her victory being crippled by a lucky aerial torpedo hit from a Fairley Swordfish bomber flying from the HMS Ark Royal on 26 May and being scuttled by her crew after absorbing massive damage from the HMS King George V, HMS Rodney and several cruisers including HMS Dorsetshire the plucky HMS Norfolk and several destroyers. When she went down she took with her all but 115 souls of her crew of over 2200 which included the Fleet Staff of Admiral Lütjens.

HMS Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales would take Winston Churchill to Argentia Bay Newfoundland to meet with Franklin Roosevelt from 9-12 August 1941 where the Atlantic Charter was drafted. She reported to the Far East where she was sunk along with the Battlecruiser HMS Repulse on 9 December 1941 by a force of land based Japanese aircraft.  The Prinz Eugen was the only heavy ship of the German Navy to survive the war and was taken by the US Navy at the end of the war. She was expended as a target during the Able and Baker nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll.  Too radioactive to be repaired she was towed to Kwajalein Atoll where she capsized and sank on 22 December 1946. Her wreck is still visible.

Midshipman William Dundas, one of three surivors

The loss of the Hood traumatized the people of Britain and the Royal Navy; she had been the symbol of British Naval power for over 20 years and people around the world were likewise stunned at her demise. The sinking of the Hood and her crew was a tragedy which all sailors assigned to large and prestigious ships and the nations that they sail for need to keep in mind. No matter how mighty the ships all have an Achilles heel and none are unsinkable.  Of the over 3600 officers and crew of the Hood and the Bismarck only 118 survived.  I will remember the Hood, her gallant crew especially my very distant relative Midshipman Bill Dundas who I never met.  He left the Royal Navy about 1960 and was killed in a car wreck in 1965.  According to the Hood Association website he was troubled by the sinking for the rest of his life.  One can understand.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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