Thursday, March 31, 2011

Okinawa -- Last Great Battle of World II

April 1 was the date scheduled for the invasion of Okinawa and that was when the real battle started although some activity was underway March 31 so that is sometimes given as the official day for the beginning of the last, and perhaps most important, battle of World War II. There will not be many commemorations of the 66th anniversary of the  battle, but I will continue to observe it as long as I live. Tomorrow I will tell of my personal experience as our ship, the Pickens, played its part but today I will  write a few words about the battle and why it was so important to the nation and to me personally.

Few people realize that Okinawa was the largest sea and land operation of the war, larger than Normandy in ships, men and supplies. Okinawa lies some 350 miles from Japan and in American hands could be used as a staging area from which to attack the Japanese mainland.  Japan's leaders knew that loss would leave them with two options, surrender or wage a war of national suicide.  They hoped that if Japan were invaded they would wage costing so many lives that Americans would agree to negotiate a peace.

The battle waged from April 1 to June   22 with casualties high for both sides, Americans losing more than 12,000 dead, including almost 5,000 Navy dead and almost 8,000 Marine and Army dead and 30,000 wounded. In addition, non-wounded casualties numbered 26,000.  Japan lost 130,000 soldiers killed and 10,000 surrendered or captured.  Civilian deaths were estimated at 132,000.

Allied forces lost  34 ships sunk, mostly by kamakaze, 368 ships and crafts damaged, and 763 aircraft destroyed. Casualties were so high  there were congressional calls for an investigation into  the conduct of military commanders.  The effectiveness of kamakaze attacks was proven beyond doubt and it was only a sample of what American could expect in an invasion of Japan.  The high cost in lives convinced President Truman to drop the atom bomb, leading to Japan's surrender.  This saved the lives of hundreds of thousands, including me, who were preparing to invade Japan when that nation surrendered.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

66 Years Ago We Are Two Days from Okinawa.

The USS Pickens, along with some 1200 other vessels of various sizes and capabilities was just three days out of Saipan and some two days away from Okinawa.  I don't remember that Tokyo Rose informed us that the invasion of Okinawa was planned for April 1, but she warned us Japanese resistance would be fierce and out casualties would be high.  She said the Japanese realized that if we took Okinawa, giving the United States forces  a nearby platform from which to attack, that Japan could not win the war.

Looking back from the viewpoint of 66 years, I don't believe  the elected officials in Washington, our top military leaders, or we rank and file servicemen had any idea how difficult the battle would be.  We had experienced kamakaze attacks at Iwo Jima a few weeks before but that was only a sample of what we would get at Okinawa.  We radarmen searched the skies diligently for unidentified planes and lookouts kept visual watch as we got closer and closer to Okinawa.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What are Caddo school board members thinking?

The answer is they must not be thinking, at least about what is best for school children.  I could blast the staff for presenting a plan for school consolidation that ignores what's best for the students, but  they are trying to justify their jobs and high salaries.

I admit I don't know all of their proposal but  here's just part of it -- Abolish elementary schools Forest Hill, Southern Hills and Summer Grove, move all their students to Ridgewood Middle School.  How can that school take care of some 2,000 more students?  I don't want to call any school bad, but Ridgewood is rated low academically and it has a reputation of poor discipline.  Picture this -- the bell rings for classes to change and the students storm the halls, with seventh and eighth graders speeding through swearing and cursing as kindergartners and first graders move against the walls trying to avoid being trampled.  Listen, I've been in those halls when the bell rang and saw what happens.

Let's hope the school members come to their senses and aborts these plans.  Parents can always speak out and they will if the board tries to enact such a bad program.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kicked out of car while hitchiking

During the years I attended  LSU  I traveled various ways from Baton Rouge home and from home to LSU. rode the train sometimes and often I rode both ways with friends who had cars.  I also hitchhiked, mostly from Baton Rouge to home, seldom the other way, from home to LSU.

One  ill fated time I left home planning to use my thumb to get back to LSU.  I had only a few dollars with me but turned down an offer of  some money from my dad.  I knew a check was waiting for me in the post office. I walked a mile to Highway 80 and caught a ride to Highway 17l in Bossier City.  A car stopped but as I started to get in the driver said "wait, I may have to kick you out down the highway."  I thought he was joking, told him I was headed back to LSU, and got in the car.  He began to talk but I paid little attention.  It was spring and  people were in the fields plowing and planting crops.  He asked me something about Henry Wallace speaking at LSU at the invitation of the student council.  I responded something like, "they would invite anybody."  He stopped the car and told me to get out.  I couldn't believe it.  He yelled, "get out of my car, you communist.: I responded, " I just get out of the navy. I'm a veteran."  I got out and he drove off.                                                Now, consider this: I was just a few miles south of Bossier City and with only a few dollars.  I flagged a bus down and bought a ticket to Alexandria, hoping to catch a ride the remainder of the way.  At the bus station I
saw a number of people who I thought might be students on the way to LSU.  I walked up to one guy and asked him if he attended LSU.  When he  said yes, I asked him if he would lend me enough money to buy a ticket to Baton Rouge.  He was so startled that he let me have the money although later he looked like he regretted it.  I paid him back the next day.

Henry Wallace was a member of the communist party and, in mine and most informed people, a traitor to the United States.  He almost became president.  Southerners refused to have him on the ballot  for vice president, replacing him with Harry Truman.  An ill and incompetent Franklin Roosevelt allowed Stalin to take over Eastern Europe. I dread to think of what would have happened to this country if Wallace was vice president when Roosevelt died.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Is Our Foreign Policy?

I don't know whether I support what we are doing or am strongly opposed, because I cannot figure out what the hell is going on.  Obama supported Mubarak and then he demanded he resign and let the rebels take over. But who is leading those rebels now?  It appears the extremist  Muslim Brotherhood and the military have joined forces and those who demonstrated on behalf of liberty in Egypt will have little if any voice.

We let Europe drag us into war in Libya on the side of  those opposed to Gadaffi  but the president says we don't want to hurt Gadaffi..   Governments all over the Mideast are being challenged. How do we decide whom we support and whom we oppose?  Will we support the rebellion in Saudi Arabia and lose an important ally who supplies us with oil?  This country needs  a policy we can understand and a leader who can lead, but it does not appear we will get either one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Still Resent Being Punished for Reading Well

I am avid reader and have been since the first grade and " Bob can ride; Nancy can ride; Bob and Nancy can ride. See Spot.  See Spot run."  I didn't have access to many books although, according to my Grandma Berry, I read  "The Last of the Mohicans," and  "Don Quixote." in the second grade. I am sure I did not know all the words and I missed the irony in "Don Quixote."  Tilting at windmills meant only that, not fighting an imaginary foe or taking on a task you cannot win.

Yes, I was an excellent reader but I got into trouble twice because of it.  My second grade teacher had me take a note home that said I got a "B" in reading because I didn't follow each word read by the slow readers. In the fifth grade the teacher took up my reader because I read ahead of the story she had assigned.  We were visited by a supervisor one day and our teacher decided on a reading exercise.  When we  completed this work we went on to some other study.  But wait -- a girl got involved.  She squealed, "You didn't take up Roy's book. He still has his book." The teacher was embarrassed and tried to shush her, but the girl wouldn't stop her call for the teacher to "take up Roy's book."  I kept the book for the remainder of the year.

I still, many years later, resent being punished because I refused to restrict myself to learning at the pace of the slower students.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Being Remembered by Grandchild

Years ago a friend whose grandchildren had left after visit of several days said the second happiest day is when your grandchildren come to visit; the happiest is when they go home.  He was joking but there was truth in what he said; people who are no longer young can get exhausted  taking care of rowdy kids.

Jen and I have a different problem, not seeing grandkids enough. We visited by Skype Sunday but it wasn't working well.  We did see Lily enough to see how much she has changed since Christmas.  She no longer looks like a baby but is a little girl. Young children change so rapidly and we miss so much as they develop.

Julie said that a few weeks ago she got Lily out of bed in the morning and asked her if she had a good night's sleep.  Lily said 'BUS, BUS, BUS" while waving her arms.   Her mom  asked her if she dreamed about a bus and she answered with an emphatic "YES."
  Julie, "Did you get on the bus?"
  Lily, "Yes."    
  Julie, "Where did the bus take you?"
  Lily, "Grandpa.
  Julie, "The bus took you to see Grandpa?"
   Lily, "YES."
   Julie "Was Grandma there too?"
   Lily, "YES" 
   Julie, "Did y'all have fun?"
   Lily, "YES"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Few Words about Isaac Watts and Other Things

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.

Just one verse from one of the greatest hymns in Christendom, one of 697 by the amazing Isaac Watts.  Of this song Charles Wesley said he would have given up all his hymns to have written this one.  The choir sang this anthem today and I enjoyed the selection of others known from my childhood, including  "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and "Open My Eyes, That I May See." 

Watts was not only a great poet.  He wrote a textbook on logic that was used for decades and wrote books on metaphysics and astronomy in addition to his preaching and  hymn writing. He was a little man, five feet tall, and had a lingering illness. Throughout his life huge crowds would go to hear him preach.   

(This is a note to Jessica.  People at church were complementing us and taken pride in your accomplishments. Since you grew up in the church, members feel they have part ownership of you and are supportive of you."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I Have a Bad Ear Affliction

I've got an ear problem, actually an affliction.  No, not what you may be thinking.  It is that I have noticed how ugly and out of place they are sticking out on both sides of the head.  My problem started with Charles Krauthammer, one of my favorite commentators, when one night I became aware of  how large and funny shaped his ears are. Then I went and looked in the mirror and to my horror I saw as never before how large and out of place my own ears look. Now I find myself staring at ears instead of seeing the individual.

This has become almost painful.  I think everyone  sees ears as something foreign to his face but becomes so accustomed to the appendages that they are not brought to mind.  The unattractiveness of ears may be why men like for women to wear hair curling down below their shoulders and covering those ears.  I recently saw  a picture of  Valerie Bertinelli on the cover of Good Housekeeping.  Her face was beautiful in part because her hair completely hid her ears.  When they can't cover their ears many women like to decorate them with earrings, bangles and dangles in a vain effort to hide.

Mark Twain tells of being afflicted by a tune, or was it a rime, that he got free of by passing it on to someone else.  I decided to write about this in hopes it will cure me, although I don't wish this on any of you who read this.
But suppose I am cured of this affliction only to become fixated on noses?  What a downer that would be.

We Are in a Convoy Headed for Okinawa

On this day 66 years ago, the USS Pickens was probably in a massive convoy of ships on the way to Okinawa to take part in the decisive battle of World War II.  Planned to be launched April l, some landings were made March 31, beginning what would be a fierce battle with huge casualties.

This day marks the 66th anniversary of the attack on "Big Ben," the name  the ship's crew gave the Ben Franklin..  The aircraft carrier, having already done heroic duty and been attacked three times, was 50 miles off the coast of Japan when it was hit by two 550 pound bombs, the first penetrating to the hangar deck and the second setting off fires and explosions, demolishing the Combat Information Center killing 45 radarmen. Total casualties amounted to 724 killed and 265 wounded.  How we got the news of the attack, I do not remember, but it affected us personally because some of us radarmen had been in radar school with some of the those on the Franklin.  The was saved and repaired but never fought again.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Morning I Was Late for General Quarters

As I was thinking about the  up-coming anniversary of the battle for Okinawa, a long forgotten event came to my mind -- the time I failed to hear the call to General Quarters and reported late.  It was our practice at that time in waters where kamikaze attacks were probable to report to battle stations around 5 in the morning..  The Japanese liked  to attack at dawn, preferably from the east,  flying just above the ocean at 350 knots.

I had been on watch from midnight to 4 a.m. and had fallen so deeply asleep that I didn't hear the clanging of the call to General Quarters.  I woke up to a quiet and abandoned compartment and with a muscle cramp in my right leg. I climbed two ladders, went out on the main deck, dragging my leg across a cable, then on to the radar shack.  I don't recall what was said to me but it wasn't treated as a big deal.

If he is still living, there is one former radarman  who owes his life to being late for General Quarters.

The aircraft  carrier Ben Franklin contributed in action after action and paid the price. In different actions the ship was hit by a plane, a bomb, and a kamikaze with deaths and wounded the result. But the greatest hurt was done March 19, 1945, when enemy planes struck at dawn, dropping two 550 pound bombs, demolishing, among other damage, the  Combat Information Center. Among the 724 killed were 45 radarmen.  Two escaped death because they were in a different area manning an emergency radar.  One radarman, supposed to be on duty with the 45, wasn't awakened by the call to General Quarters and was a few minutes late, thus avoiding the fate of his mates.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Stop Plowing, We're Going to the Revival"

It was a typical morning in July, very hot and no sign of even a faint breeze.  Daddy was plowing in one field  and I was plowing in another nearer the house.  Suddenly, he stopped and headed toward the house.  He said, "Put your horse up and get cleaned up.  We're are going  to church, to the revival."  I was stunned.

Now revivals were big events in rural churches.  They were usually held during the summer after crops were "laid by"  Services were generally held at 11 in the morning and again at night.  Morning services were attended almost entirely by women and children as while most crops may have been cultivated for the final time, much farm work was still to be done.  I never understood whether Dad felt a need for some hell fire preaching or wanted a break from the heat.  Whatever his reason, I welcomed the break.

Our little community had a Methodist and a Baptist church and members of  both denominations looked forward to revivals at both churches and attended both.  Even in later years when mama and daddy might not go to a night service at the Baptist church, my male cousins, my brother and I would catch a ride or walk.  Church was about the only social life we had.

He Plays Golf as Disaster Stuns the World

Japan struggles to overcome a powerful earthquake and tsunami; the world fears a nuclear meltdown; a million Japanese are without food and water and hundreds of thousands are without shelter in freezing weather. The Mideast is aflame; markets are crashing, but all is right with the  administration as the fed prints billions of dollars and our leader is on the golf course  happy as a lark with no concerns or worries.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jessica Returns to School Leaving Us With Sinking Feeling

We enjoyed having Jessica, and her boyfriend, with us over the weekend, but there is always a feeling of emptiness when she returns to school.  However, our plans are  to be in Baton Rouge the weekend of April 3.
Jessica is one busy person with all her academic demands and her jobs.  She has managed so far and managed well.  On my best days I couldn't keep up.

All of her talents do not include her sense of directions while driving.  She was forced to turn around by a wreck and traffic snarl on I-49.  With Jen's direction by cell phone, she managed to get far off the route, finally getting on Highway 171 to Alexandria and thence back to I-49.-----

This note is being added a few minutes before 9 Monday night.  I returned from a Lions Club meeting at which several members, who were at church Sunday,  complimented Jessica on her participation in the service. Some of them remembered that she gave sermons several times in the past years.

Tragedy in Japan Is Overwhelming

The 9.l earthquake followed by an enormous tsunami has left tens of thousands dead and devastated area of northern Japan. Nuclear power plants are in danger of melting and spreading dangerous levels of radioactivity. Today Japan, already hit with more than 200 after shocks, could be struck with another earthquake of around 7.0 magnitude.  This catastrophe is so tremendous that many nations including the United States will be affected. Relief efforts are underway but damage is so great and far reaching that even the best efforts will leave Japan forced into a long recovery.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sitting In the Same Pew Till You Think You Own It

Tom, our pastor, said something this week that disturbs me.  He informed  a committee that two visitors said they had seated themselves in a pew when some member asked them to move, saying that they, the visitors, were in  the places where they, the members, always occupied.  I have heard jokes about something like this happening but I never would have believed it of our friendly, warm congregation.

I am very well aware that people get in the habit of sitting on the same bench Sunday after Sunday; we usually sit on the third bench from the front  in the left section.   When the call is made to meet and greet we are greeting the same people Sunday after Sunday.   Maybe, the church should some Sunday ask  everyone to sit anywhere but his  customary pew.

It is not just in church where an individual sits in the same place so long he begin to think he owns  it. Some 20 to 25 years ago I stopped in a Burger King, ordered a sausage biscuit and coffee, and sat in a chair at a table for two.  A somewhat older man walked up to me and in an angry voice said, "Move. You're in my chair. I have been coming here for years and I always sit there.  Get up."  I was shocked but then it was so crazy I laughed and got up.  An employee came over to me upset, but I assured her I was not angry, only amused.  The place was almost empty at the time.but only one chair would do for that customer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tapping Strategic Reserve Is Bad Idea

Drawing oil from the strategic reserve in the hope this would temporarily lower gasoline prices  is a very bad idea.  Some of the officials now calling for tapping the reserve were among the loudest in opposition to establishing the reserve.   It exists for one purpose, to have oil available in case of  a threat to our national security, not to be used to manipulate  gas prices.

There is a way to push the price of oil down, which would be followed by less cost at the gas pump.  All President Obama has to do is announce that drilling will commence  in the Gulf, or if the world is informed that we are going to drill in Anwar or in some other areas now off limits.  Oil prices are influenced by anticipation of the long term future, not on some action that would have little effect even in the short term.

Gasoline prices have risen 67 per cent since Obama was elected, and the increases this year will cost each household an average of 700 dollars more than last year.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Obama Is Responsible for Gasoline Prices

How damaging to our fragile economy is this huge spike in gasoline prices?  Certainly, it will take billions from Americans who are already hurting badly  from high unemployment and inflation.  The situation is so grave that some Democrats have gently urged President Obama to allow more domestic oil production.  They know that Obama has said several times that he wants high gasoline prices; he has promised to destroy coal fired electric generating plants and his budget called for taxes on oil, gas and coal.  We need at least one congressman with guts to shake his finger in Obama's face and shout " You, Mr. President, and you alone, are responsible for the l00  dollar oil and high gas  prices at the pump.  You have refused to allow drilling permits to be issued,  and oil production in the Gulf, which should have increased, has declined more than the amount of oil we could have gotten from Libya.   Mr. President, you are deliberately wrecking this country and we demand you stop."

Let's take a look at some major problems that are weakening  the economy and keeping millions unemployed. Our trade with China is so one-sided it is almost impossible to  comprehend.  Last year we had a deficit trading balance with China of 273 billion dollars, all of those dollars leaving this country never to return.  Consider this; the United States consumes 20 million barrels of oil per day.  At l00 dollars a barrel that is two billion dollars per day and 730 billion dollars in one year, of which 60 per cent is imported, sending 440 billion dollars overseas.We are talking 700 billion dollars that could remain in this country, reducing the deficit and adding wealth.  Think how many millions of jobs we could add if we insisted on fair  trade  with China ,and we produced all of  the energy we use. Okay, I agree oil is not always 100 dollars a barrel; it could be lower but it could be even higher.We should rely on all our own energy resources, especially coal, nuclear, oil and gas.
Above all, it is a matter of national security.    Our nation does not have to  suffer so badly if our  elected "leaders" would have the courage and intelligence to act.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How Polywogs Become Shellbacks

Although our ship had been in the  South Pacific for months we had never crossed the equator.  After Iwo and Okinawa and a return to Guam, we headed to New Caledonia along with some other ships; I think it was to pick up some Seabees.  Some of our crew had previously crossed the equator and were proud to be shellback, while most of us were mere polywogs who would have to be initiated.  The captain, although a veteran of many years in the navy, was a polywog, while the executive officer had served years in the merchant marine and was a shellback.  

Some polywogs were bold and harassed the shellbacks during their planning meetings.  One brave soul climbed the highest mast and planted a polywog flag.  The commanding admiral, on another ship, ordered the flag be lowered immediately.  Several people tried but the only person able to climb up and get it down was the guy who had put it up.  

As we crossed the equator the initiation began; first off we were blasted with water from fire hoses.  We had to kiss the baby  ( the butt of the ugliest guy on the ship), be locked in stocks and shocked by an electrified wand until we would yell  shellback.  Next was a visit to a barber chair where disgusting things were done to our hair before a lever was moved and we were dumped into a water tank.  When we came up out of the water we were dunked again and again until we said shellback.  I didn't try to be tough and said shellback as soon as I could breathe, but I was dunked several times anyway.  Last was the most painful; we slid headfirst down an inclined table while shellbacks beat us with clubs.  Upon hitting the  deck stunned, we were greeted by Davey Jones and his trident, which carried a potent electric shock.The captain was the first to go through the gauntlet and slid so fast on the newly greased incline that he hit the deck had and injured his wrist. 

When my locker was broken into  and robbed, my billfold was among the items stolen, and it contained my shellback card.  If I rejoin the navy  and cross the equator for the third time, I suppose I'll have to go through another initiation.  I'm not too worried about it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Right to Work Story Continued

I had persuaded a family-owned but large furniture manufacturer to consider locating a plant in North Louisiana.  Representatives of the company flew in to take a look at the area and inspect a 93,000 square foot building that was available in Arcadia.  I met them and took them to dinner that night.  They started complaining about the state not having a right to work law and conveyed the impression that the trip was a waste.  

They spent the night at a hotel near the airport.  I arrived early and saw the headline on the Times that one house of the Louisiana legislature had  passed a right to work bill.  I picked up a newspaper for each one and placed them on the table at their places.  They accused me of having the papers printed just for them.  Later, the plant was located in Arcadia and operated for several years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Discussion of Right to Work Law

The labor conflict in Wisconsin reminds me of a meeting I had with company officials in St. Louis on the  first industrial prospecting trip I made with the Louisiana Department of Commerce and Industry.  I don't believe it would be any harm in naming the corporation but I will only say it was a significant and diversified company.  I showed up at my appointed time expecting to meet one or maybe two officials but I was taken to a room where some six or eight men sat around a long table. One official spoke and as I  remember it,  he said, "Before you give us one reason why we should put a plant in Louisiana we can give you several why we should not.  First, take a look at map.  Louisiana is way down on the Gulf, not suited for distribution, and it is the only state in the South without a right to work law." 

I came up with some reasons why Louisiana is a good location for industry, its work force, etc. but my words fell on deaf ears.  For several years, until we passed a right to work law, this was a handicap in our industrial development efforts.