Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Attempt to Fly in a B29 over Japan

The USS Pickens and other ships in the South Pacific fleet spent many days in the Northern Marianas (Guam, Saipan and Tinian) where we watched B29 Superfortresses take off from 8,500 foot runways. During one of the times we were anchored at Saipan, a shipmate and I thought it would be a great experience to take part in a bombing raid over Tokyo. He had a contact, whether a pilot or some higher officer, I do not remember, but he got permission for us to ride as passengers on a raid.

Before I go further let me refresh you on the use of the B29 in the war with Japan. June 15, 1944, the first B29 flew from China to strike a factory in Japan. Shortly after the Mariannas were taken, airfields were constructed and planes were flown from there. Daylight bombing from 30,000 feet was ineffective and costly, with losses as high as 25 per cent. In January 1945 Curtis LeMay switched to night bombing from 7,000 feet and used a combination of bombs, including incendiary bombs, which did great damage to industry but resulted in many human casualties.

Planes were so heavily loaded that often when they left the runway they dropped down toward the ocean before gaining altitude. The casualty rate for B29's at this time was about 5 per cent, which was considered acceptable. Pilots often said the two danger times were when they were taking off and when they were over the target. Adding two more men to a plane would have made takeoff more dangerous. No matter, the captain of our ship refused to let us go. I don't know whether I was more disappointed or more relieved.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Joyful Noise Sings I'll Meet You in the Moning

Our offertory hymn this morning was the gospel song "I'll Meet You in the Morning," sung by the Joyful Noise. I would have enjoyed it even more if the congregation had been invited to join in. It was a pleasure to see how much some of the group enjoyed singing, smiling and moving their feet in time.

I would like for us to have more gospel singing. On the other hand I don't want to eliminate any of those great hymns with their awe-inspiring poetry worshiping God, such as Issac Watt's--

"When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."

Wh0 is not inspired by such poetry? I continue to enjoy the expressions of love for Jesus in the simpler songs of Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley and many others. There may be sermons in stones, although I've never heard one, but there are certainly sermons in our music.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coral Snake Visits Schoolroom

Jen took the grandkids, Tia and Kyle, to the Tyler zoo to see the animals and other critters, including snakes. One of them mentioned coral snakes and it brought to mind the time, when I was in high school, that a coral snake got loose in a crowded class room.

A girl had found a pretty little snake, put it in a jar, and brought it to school to show it and let her friends pet it. Someone identified the snake as the very poisonous coral snake. As students were going to their rooms after lunch break, the reptile was brought into the room where biology was taught and various creatures were preserved in glass cases. The teacher, Mrs. Baskerville, surrounded by curious students, placed the jar on her desk and began to pour in formaldehyde. The little snake, which had been quiescent, exploded out of the jar onto the desk, writhing and spinning furiously.

Pandemonium ensued as students screamed and ran. I was not by the desk but I was in a position to see everything. The teacher dropped a heavy book on the snake but the creature was strong enough to throw the book off. Mrs, Baskerville remained calm and added books unil she had it under control and back in the jar. When we have class reunions someone is sure to bring this up, and it seems that all of our class was there.

Monday, April 19, 2010

High Corporate Taxes Cost Jobs

Those 53 per cent of Americans who paid income taxes can be excused for being angry that General Electric did not pay any corporate income tax on profits of l0.8 billion dollars but claimed a loss for United States operations of 4o8 million and a tax credit of l.l billion dollars. How does GE accomplish this? Well, it has an army of tax avoidance attorneys and accountants, for one thing. GE operates in two divisions, General Electric Capital, and everything else. The everything else, maker of engines, power plants, TV shows and the like, would have paid a 22 per cent tax rate if it was a stand-alone company.

Anger at GE is not only futile but misplaced. Any corporation with a global reach can do the same and many do. The culprit is the United States corporate tax rate that averages 39.5 per cent, second only to Japan's 4l per cent. This high rate not only does not bring in revenue but it discourages foreign investment thus costing jobs. American political leaders are waking up to this and there are some proposals to cut the rate to 25 per cent. Fifteen per cent would be even better. Consider Ireland. Never an industrial giant, Ireland was in bad trouble in the 80's. "We went on a borrowing, spending and taxing spree, and that nearly drove us under," Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney said. Ireland reduced its corporate tax rate to 12.5 per cent and began to attract foreign companies. Ireland is now the second richest nation in the European Union with a GDP higher than Britian, Germany or France. This is an example we should emulate. High taxes do not equate to high revenue and they discourage creation of jobs.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Gifts-- Just Ask for Money

Make a donation to a charity -- St. Judes, Easter Seals, Paralized Vets, Native Americans etc. --you go on a list and your mail box is filled with requests for funds. What bothers me is that many of these funds try to obligate you by enclosing gifts. They include address labels by the thousands, note pads, cards, calendars, blankets, T-shirts, socks, key chains, good luck charms, seed, children's underwear, nickels, dimes, stamps, dollars, and checks. My advice to all charities -- send no gifts, just ask for money.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Night I Caused General Quarters

We (the USS Pickens) were anchored at Saipan along with a large number of ships when I triggered a call that forced the base and all the ships to report to battle stations. This was in between operations, probably after Iwo Jima but before Okinawa. Our radarmen were not assigned duty this night, but I was in the radar shack and for no real reason turned on the air search radar. I picked up a plane coming towards us and as was routine flipped the IFF switch (Identification - Friend or Foe) expecting to get a coded radio signal confirming the plane was friendly, but I got no signal. I thought it was almost certainly a damaged B29 returning from a bombing raid on Japan, but I was uncomfortable and worried. I pondered for a few moments but eventually I reported an unidentified plane. General Quarters was called, which meant that not only base personnel but every crew member on every ship had to man battle stations. The plane got close enough for powerful search lights to be turned on and it could be identified. The plane had been badly damaged including the radio shot away. I worried that I might be called to account but never heard a word. You can bet I never let any of my shipmates know that I was responsible for yanking them out of bed and sending them to battle stations.

Shovel Was My Crutch

I almost played hell this morning -- dropped to one knee to set out a tomato plant and could not get up. I crawled to a shovel and used it as a crutch to help me up. I was already out of breath and my blood pressure was going crazy, but it settled down to normal in a few minutes. I am frustrated that it is likely I have to give up on having a garden this year. That sucks big time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Weakening of America

I have been asking for months whether the United States can survive President Obama. I was considering his apparent disdain for the constitution, his appointment of czars in an effort to avoid or overrule Congress, his destructive policies on energy, health and the economy, his insults to our friends like England and India, and his kowtows to our enemies. Now, judging from what he is reportedly announced, his goal is to disarm or weaken America and allow enemies to attack us with chemical and biological weapons without fear of nuclear retaliation. This policy would also include reducing our stock of neclear weapons and not modernizing those that remain. The policy of Mutual Assured Destruction, while not pretty, has protected us for 65 years. Obama has also opposed nuclear shields in Europe and at home. What can we expect next from this disciple of Bill Ayers and the Reverend Wright?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Reverent and Happy Easter to All

Holy Week began with the celebration of Palm Sunday as we commemorated Jesus making a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Adoring crowds lay their coats on the roadway and waved tree branches while shouting "Hosanna." Triumph turns to tragedy when Jesus is betrayed by one disciple, denied three times by another, is arrested and crucified. His followers are saddened, disappointed, and filled with fear, but then comes victory as Christ is risen from the dead and his followers cast aside their fears, regain their faith, and take the message of Christ to the world.

"Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked,
welcome the stranger, care for the ill and visit the prisoner."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday I called attention to April 1 being the 65th anniversary of the battle for Okinawa, the last battle of World War II and one so costly in lives expended that President Truman approved dropping the atom bomb, which in turn convinced the Japanese to surrender and end the war. I noted that the day would probably pass unremarked. There was not even a mention in the newspapers I read, and I doubt the TV news programs said much if anything about the day. World War II veterans are fast dying out, but they are being forgotten even faster. I could not even get my family to become knowledgeable about the battle and its importance to the nation. Thank God we still have some young people who care enough about their country to serve in the armed forces though risking mutilation and death. I hope they will be remembered for their sacrifice.