Friday, September 30, 2011

USS Pickens heads for Panama Canal

As the Pickens steamed south in February winter was left behind.  As we traveled past Costa Rica a strong, pleasant smell of flowers and greenery contrasted with the sea.  We reached Panama City, the Pacific entrance to the canal and spent several days there.  I served as a temporary shore patrolman in Colon, the city on the Atlantic side, but I can't remember if I did in Panama City.  I did go on liberty but I remember nothing about it.

The Pacific ocean is some 8 inches higher than the Atlantic at this point, which makes locks necessary.  We proceeded through the  locks and on to Colon, where we also spent a few days.   It was here while I was on shore patrol duty that I saved three seamen from being locked up in a Panama jail.  They were in a bar but did not socialize with  the girls working there.  When they got up to leave the barman insisted they pay some high prices for drinks the girls had consumed.  They refused and a paddy wagon was called.  I had become acquainted with a policeman and got the police to agree not to jail the guys if they would pay for those drinks.  One refused, standing on his rights that they did not owe anything.  I pleaded, pointing out that they would miss their ship and being jailed in Panama would not be pleasant.  The other two paid for all three and they were freed.  On our ship before we landed at Panama City, we were warned Panamanians did not like us and if we got into trouble the ship would not wait for us.  We were also warned to avoid women. Not bad advice at any time.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even as a kid, I talked when I should have listened

Imagine the consternation of my parents when I informed them that I had announced to my first grade class that , "My daddy said that if things didn't get better we will have to go on the Red Cross."  My mom and dad would have starved to death before taking charity, and of course, daddy was not serious when he made the remark. Art Linikletter would years later have a popular radio program, later  on TV, called "Kids  say the darndest things."  And kids do.  If parents could hear their young children  talk about things said and done at home, the parents would blush and look for a hole in which to hide.

The year  was 1932 and the depression was destroying the American people.  In one weekend we had gone from being  a comfortable farm family with no debts and money in the bank to huge indebtedness and not a cent. All over the nation as banks closed families lost their homes  and even their farms. Unemployment in 1929 was about 1.5 million, a rate of 3.2, increasing to 4.4 million in 1930; to 8.6 million  the next year, and to more than 12 million and a 24 per cent rate in 1932.  The Red Cross and Salvation Army were among those organizations  trying to feed the needy, but many people starved to death.  Conditions were bad on farms because no one had money to buy the products, but life was much worse in cities, where people fought over scraps in garbage cans.  The story is told of a pale, sickly girl being told to go home from school and eat something. She said she couldn't; it was her sister's turn to eat that day.  I had a friend who lived in New York City during this time, and he said his family lived out of garbage cans.  His younger sister died of hunger and related sickness.

There is no reason we should see those times again, but we could unless this country demands and gets better leadership.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Four months on Magic Carpet come to end

The Pickens began "Operation Magic Carpet" in September when we left troops to occupy Japan and picked up Marines and other combat veterans and took them home, landing them in San Francisco.  For over four months we continued this operation, taking troops to the South Pacific to occupy Japan and other islands and bringing veterans home.

Our crew  changed, also, as seamen amassed enough points to be discharged.  Each round trip would see some leaving, to be replaced by personnel from ships that were being taken  out of service.  Near the end of this operation I was the only radarman left of the original crew.

Although we would spend only enough days in San Francisco each trip to take on troops and supplies, I had enough liberty to become well acquainted with the area.  Actually, about all   I did on liberty was  go to movies.  I saw new releases and very old movies.  Once some mates informed me they had found a bar that did not check ages and they invited me to go with them.  When asked to name my drink, I hesitated and stuttered and the barman demanded our identification and ordered us out.  Girls and people not in uniform could drink at 18 but military people had to be at least 21.

 We were a part of  the magic carpet until it completed its work on January 7.  We then prepared to get our ship ready to be decommissioned, but orders changed and we were ordered to go to Norfolk, which meant we would pass through the Panama Canal.  That was an experience we looked forward to as was a trip to the east coast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Caddo falls for bread and circuses

Schools may get $40.l M -- trumpets headline in the Sunday Times.  The article conveys the thrill that Caddo school leaders exude as they excitedly talk about how they will spend the money, as if it is certain to come into their grasping hands.  It is to be part of the $447 billion dollar stimulus plan presented by Obama.  The top school dogs give no thought to where such money will come from, giving the impression they think it comes from Obama's generous pockets.

I predicted that Obama's so called jobs plan would involve giving money to schools and other groups like police and fireman and would get Obama praise, sort of like an uncle giving candy to nieces and nephews.  They don't seem to understand that any money that comes from Obama must be taken from someone else.

School officials say this money comes at the right time, that many Caddo buildings are old and badly in need of repair or replacement.  Then, I ask, why have the school boards and administrators not  taken care of these needs?.  I can not recall propehty owners voting down a school tax that was called for a worthwhile purpose. My five children attended a primary school where most classes were in shacks called temporary but were used for years.  Parents would gladly have paid for needed construction, but they were told the courts would not  allow improvements because the majority of the students were white.

Our country is in trouble; no one can doubt that, but we don't need more government spending.  Get the government off our backs with  its excessive reulationss and we will provide jobs and restore health to the economy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Money getting hard to get for charities

This morning I was looking at the schedule of delivers of Meals on Wheels when Charlie Walker came in and said  the program is over.  He said the program is out of money and cannot raise funds to keep it going.  That is a shame as shut-ins and elderly have received meals delivered to them Monday through Thursday each week.  For some people that is the only hot and  balanced meal they get.

This is an example of what happens when the economy is bad.  Needs are greater while funds to meet those needs get scarcer and scarcer.  For some reason my name is on the lists of many charitable organizations and, while many requests often sound urgent, I have noticed recently a note of desperation in some letters.  And now our president wants to spend billions repairing bridges and  playgrounds, while to pay for this he wants to tax charitable groups like soup kitchens.  We need the government to get out the way and let the private sector grow and create jobs for the millions now unemployed.  Getting people back to work and paying taxes instead of them costing money will give us a healthy economy again.  Turn the oil and gas industry loose to produce all this country's energy and eliminate the stupid regulations imposed upon us by EPA and other government bureaucracies.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Let's have more information and less bickering in the debates.

The debate Thursday featuring Republican candidates for president was more informative than were some previous debates, but it had too much bickering between candidates.  That has been the desire of debate moderators who seem to think controversy gets a larger audience than does  information.  What American voters need is information on how each candidate proposes to solve the major problems faced by the nation.

There are limits on what a president can accomplish by himself and what can be accomplished only with the consent  of Congress. The president cannot alone repeal Obamacare, which is stifling the economy and will add to the debt. He, or she, can relax some of the harmful regulations of the EPA and other federal departments that are  huge stumbling blocks to creating jobs and putting people to work.  The president acting alone can turn the oil and gas industry loose to make this country energy secure and put hundreds of thousands to work.  Other steps that can be taken, some only with congressional action, are restructuring the tax system, especially lowering the tax on corporations form the present 35 per cent.  Also, make an arrangement with corporations to bring more than a trillion dollars home and use it to expand and put more people to work.

 Romney and Perry must refuse to be drawn into silly arguments of    "you said, no I didn't but you said."  This comes across as churlish and childish and does not outline for us their  economic and foreign policies. Take a page from Newt Gingrich; be an adult, state your plans to solve the nation's problems and be above the frray. That's my advice for every candidate, and I'm offering it free.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green energy waste makes me see red

Promoting "green" energy  as  the way to create jobs is a dangerous idea.  I have warned about this several times, hoping congress would have the courage to stop Obama's plan of  financing "green" companies and on the other hand promising to destroy the coal industry and handicap oil  and gas development.

The  bankruptcy of Obama's pride, solar panel maker Solyndra, is only a small part of the waste in the program to turn America green.  Of 38 billion dollars the stimulus  plan had to subsidize green companies, 19 billion has been spent, creating a total of only3500 jobs.  That comes to a cost of 5.4 million dollars per job.  While this criminally waste was going on, the energy department, carrying out Obama's wishes, refused permits to drill in the gulf, costing thousands upon thousands of jobs.  Such misguided policies are losing  more and more jobs and not allowing our economy to regain its health.

It seems I possess rare traits; who would have known?

Monday's mail included a check for Jessica, a bill for me, and letters   from 10 organizations, thankfully, all without calendars or gifts, asking for donations.   Oh, there was one more item, a personal letter to me of  four sheets, typed single space front and back, with my name mentioned over and over again.  It seems that I have rare but valuable traits although   " those around you  don't recognize them ."  I had to read a paragraph to my wife to let her properly appreciate me. The letter goes,   "Roy, please forgive us, but we have just taken a closer look at your profile.  It turns out that you're more special than any of us thought..... it turns out that  people who possess these same rare and often hidden traits that you do are some of the most famous and most successful people on this planet. Roy, you are indeed blessed."

Such praise goes on page after page.  It seems I am destined for wealth (thousands of dollars a week coming in) and for romance and recognition.  Whoever these people are, I can only wish they had found me earlier. I would have enjoyed  living in a penthouse with a million dollar estate like others this association has found.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finally a cool morning; fall is on its way

Finally, a cool morning. It's more than about time for the extremely hot weather to pass and to hang on only in our memory.  The weather was comfortable for  the church barbeque Sunday  after the shower stopped and the sun came out.  Autumn is only a few days away, and October, together with May, are usually our best months of the year.

Every day was busy on the farm but I especially liked the fall when harvest gave up the results months of hard work in hot summertime.  Peanuts had to be pulled up and sweet potatoes dug, with cane  harvesting and syrup making following a month later.  Cotton picking started in late August but September was the main month for harvesting this, the main money crop.

We put a concrete floor in our smoke house and converted it into a temporary cotton house and for  other uses.  I can remember sneaking into the cotton house on a cold morning for a five minute nap before completing my chores and getting ready to catch the school bus.  Yes, my memories of autumn are very pleasant except for the need to attend school.  Worse was if fall is here winter can't be far behind and that was never a happy time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why I do not own a Japanese sword

I keep hoping a former ship mate or family member of one will have the itinerary history of the USS Pickens and make me a copy.  I resort to memory and research to compile a sort of history. 

When the emperor of  Japan agreed to unconditional surrender the Japanese people immediately ended the war. Our ship and others were preparing to invade the main island when Japan surrendered August 14-15. Less than a month later our occupation troops were accepted.  The nation was so peaceful that our captain took a Jeep and a driver and went on a sight-seeing trip through Nagoya and surrounding area. 

Japanese rifles and swords were turned in and as we were among the first Americans there, each crew member was to get a rifle and a sword.  All that was required was for the captain or executive officer to sign for them.

The exec offered to accompany a working party and sign, but the captain refused, saying he would sign. The working party went to the storage building  and waited and waited but the captain never showed.  He returned to the ship, saying he just forgot.  The exec cursed him but we had to leave the next morning.  I don't know the places we stopped on the way back to San Francisco, probably Saipan or Guam and the Philippines.

We became part of the "magic carpet" and spent months bringing troops home from various places in the South Pacific.  We would spend a few days in San Francisco, take on supplies, and head back to sea, going at the ship's top speed of about 19 knots.  We had to convert sea water to fresh and as a result water was rationed.  When troops came on board they used little water, having grown accustomed to bathing in a helmet.  As we approached San Francisco they would begin to bathe and  water would be restricted to fresh water being available in showers only five minutes every four hours. Unless you could get a shower in those five minute periods, you bathed in salt water, or just stank.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We must have a jobs bill but not Obama's

I have waited several days to give my view of  Obama's so-called jobs plan.  I did not expect his plan would put people back to work, but I hoped he would not propose a plan that will make the situation worse.  With unemployment not improving  and no recovery in sight, the president wants to take some 450 billion from the people who are working and spend it, most likely misspend, by the government.  The old Indian trick, cut one   end of the blanket off  and sew to the other end to make it longer.  Obama must sincerely believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the federal government can create jobs better than the private sector.  He can create his jobs by giving workers a shovel and let some dig holes while others fill them in.

Our nation is in trouble and conditions are going to get much worse.  Everything from gas to food is going up, and people who have jobs must not only pay the unemployed but are saddled with the enormous obligation to pay those who have retired.

Some actions can still be taken that will bring about a recovery and put some people to work, and most of these actions cost nothing.  Several individuals and organizations have made excellent proposals. Most vital is for the government to get out of the way.  Abolish  the stifling EPA regulations.  Do away with Obamacare.  Sign the three free trade agreements on Obama's desk. Turn the coal and oil and gas industries free to produce and create jobs. Cut the corporate tax from 35 per cent;  10 per cent of something is better than the 35 per cent levied but avoided  by General Electric.  Corporations have about l.2 trillion dollars overseas; give them the opportunity to bring that money home tax free if they will put it to work here.

We can save this nation from a economic horror never before seen if Democrats will put the welfare of the nation ahead of pleasing Obama and support measures that will work. If Obama's spending proposals are approved and nothing is done to free business from strangling regulations, we'll get higher unemployment and a nation with a shattered economy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our 7th grade goal, four-lane US Highway 80

I have no idea why  so many of my stories of school events involve the seventh grade.  It was not a good year for me; in fact, it was a miserable year.  I had to resort to bribery to pass spelling; I was the only boy in the class without a coping saw for activity time, and we didn't take a newspaper to help me with current events.
On the world stage Hitler was building Germany into an economic and military power and threatening all of Europe, while Imperial Japan had invaded China and was killing millions.  At the same time the depression in the United States was getting worse each year because of the economic policies of the federal government. Thus, unemployment continued high and most people lived in abject  poverty.  ( Poverty then was real compared to now when a family may said to be impoverished but  own two cars, two big TV sets,  cell phones and electronic games.) Food stamps did not exist although a typical couple on welfare would receive 18 dollars a month and surplus foods such as grapefruit (which few people knew how to eat.)

Some teachers and other adult leaders of children get their charges involved in "saving the world" by  campaigning for such things as outlawing foam cups.  As seventh graders we were not confident enough and well informed enough to think that big, but we did take on a major project.  US Highway 80 was a major highway reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but we were concerned only with that portion from Minden to Shreveport. I think it was the teacher, Oren Trout, who inspired us to set as our goal to four-lane the highway from Minden to Shreveport and thus save lives.  As I remember we embraced this enthusiastically. However, when the teacher warned us it would take time, that we could not expect to accomplish this by Christmas,   our enthusiasm fell, as we wanted to see results immediately.  Eventually, I-20 was completed and we had attained our goal, although this is the first time I remembered this and I doubt any other class member who is alive remembers it.   Anyway, youngsters of today were not the first to be convinced they can accomplish great things.  Children still believe they can make a difference; let's hope they never lose that belief.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pickens and other transports arrive at Wakayama

Like other World War II veterans I gave no thought to my experiences, even though I agreed to give an oral history a few years ago.  It was only after starting this blog and being in correspondence with descendants of former shipmates that I have become interested in the history of the ship and the crew.  I have either lost or misplaced a history prepared at the time the ship was being decommissioned and must resort to the internet for information.  Less and less can be found and it has gotten to the point that my blog is one of the sites you reach when you try to find a more complete history.

A few days ago our of the blue I remembered that our first contact with Japan was at Wakayama, and that led to other  memories.  We had arrived in San Francisco August 3 to load on the Blackhawk division and take part in the invasion of Japan.  The atom bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered.  Our plans changed from an invasion to an occupation.   We left August 23 for the Philippines where we left the Blackhawk division and took on board the troops that had occupied the Philippines.  We proceeded to Wakayama with other transports, and there we waited for orders.                                                                                             We gave out of food and shared the K or C rations with the troops.  We bought rice, which was old and just a shell, and sweet potatoes which had been frost bit and were not fit to eat.  Eventually, we got orders to proceed to Nagoya where we were to leave the troops. Our convoy came up on a ship that had food and somehow took possession.  While we were at Wakayama or Nagoya, I don't remember which, a hurricane struck.  We went out to sea and rode it out.  Some destroyers were sunk, if I remember rightly.  One thing I can still picture; we had taken on a Japanese pilot to lead us through the minefields at Nagoya and we watched hungrily as the captain and the pilot enjoyed bacon and eggs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Church service honors first responders

Like many churches and in keeping with observances throughout the nation, Christ UMC marked the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the heroes of Flight 93 who kept a plane from hitting the White House.

A significant number of fire fighters, police and sheriff deputies and families attended and were recognized as were past members including service people.  The fire chief gave an inspiring message.  He said the attack on Pearl Harbor was an act of war  but the attacks by the planes were acts of terrorism.    

Music included accompaniment by trumpet which gave a martial air to the service.  By the way, is there any more tortured lyrics than those to "A Mighty Fortress is Our God?" Written in German by Martin Luther and translated into English, it is a good song but those lyrics:

                       A mighty fortress is our God,
                      A bulwark never failing;
                      Our helper he amid the flood
                      of mortal ills prevailing.
                      For still our ancient foe
                      doth seek to do us woe;
                      his craft and power are great;
                      and armed with cruel hate,
                      on earth is not his equal.

It gets better, still difficult, and ends:
                     God's truth abideth still;
                     his kingdom is forever.

America remembers events of 9/11

Why does America celebrate its greatest defeats?  Is it because we respond with bravery, honor and unity?
Certainly, that is the way we responded after the dastardly attacks on us September 11, 200l.  Terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the twin towers in New York and into the Pentagon, killing almost 3,000 persons.  Passengers on flight 93  gave their lives to save others when they forced the plane, headed for the White House, to crash in an open field.

Will this nation ever forget this date?  No, but like the Alamo and Pearl Harbor the pain continues to lessen while we keep alive the memory of our brave and honorable response.  Most people remember where they were and what they were doing when the planes hit.  Many, like me, were watching the news and saw the second plane hit the tower.  I remember as a teenager where I was when the news came that Pearl Harbor had been hit.  (No, I don't remember the Alamo.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wakayama, Japan just came to my mind

Yes, the name of the city we first visited in Japan had escaped me for many years and I never expected to know it unless I found my ship's itinerary, but out of nowhere the name came to mind.  I had the impression of it being a small, muddy town, but it now has a population of over 300,000 so it must have  been more of a city than I thought at the time. 

I've got more to say about this later.  Right now I'm just realizing that the official surrender of  Japan was 
September 2 on the deck of the battleship Missouri.

Candidates agree with my position on energy

Back in February I researched my blog and found that in the previous year  I had ten times called for more development of oil and gas,  pointing out that it would keep 500 billion dollars in this country and could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Last night at the debate several candidates emphasized this.  Romney, refusing to ridicule Bachman's promise of two dollar gas, stated the United States has great reserves of oil, gas and coal and can utilize nuclear energy, making importation of energy unnecessary.  Bachman said the US could save 500 billion and create a million jobs by developing our energy resources. She was supported by Gingrich. The call for utilizing our wealth of energy is going to get louder and louder as people without jobs press their congressmen for action.

Obama cannot continue to penalize our fossil industry while rewarding his contributors with grants and loans. He was so proud of the panel manufacturer which received over 500 million dollars but now has  declared bankruptcy.  Who in our news media will ask him to explain why the principals of this company visited him 20 times and gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To create jobs we must produce wealth

Better three years late than never.  The president is to reveal his jobs program tomorrow (Thursday).  You can bet his plan will emphasize spending but will it attack the real problems, which include too many unneeded regulations.  To create jobs and build prosperity for the long term the nation must produce and compete with the world.  We must bring manufacturing jobs back home.  We have done enough for China; let's take care of ourselves now.

Last Saturday USA Today proposed its own plan of seven ways to create jobs.  Most are short term fixes at best, although  two proposals  are included in actions I recommended months ago. Let's  take a look at their plan with my comments.

                         Repair roads and bridges
Shades of the WPA.  Give every unemployed person a shovel and hoe and go dam up  some streams.
Repairing infrastructure will put people to work who are now drawing unemployment insurance, which will lower the effective cost of the program. However, heavy machinery will be utilized so the number of jobs  it creates may be disappointing.  This will likely head Obama's plan.

                         Give states a helping hand
This amounts to swapping state debt for more federal debt, but if Obama proposes this it will benefit him politically.

                        Add workers at a discount
A few workers could be added by some companies if they are rewarded by tax breaks for each new worker.  A very short term benefit.  Again, no real wealth is created, and unless the need for more workers develops, the job will be eliminated.

                        Share jobs to save jobs.
Let's say you were employing 40 people; you now need only 30, so instead of laying off 10, you cut everyone to 30 hours.  It is a little late to do this.  Besides, can you see the postal union, for example, agreeing to this?

                        Lower corporate taxes
Now you're talking sense. This has been one of my major proposals.  Drop that 35 per cent rate low enough for companies to bring back manufacturing to this country.  Also, let corporations bring their money from overseas to this country without taxation and put it to work here making products and hiring workers.

                        Train the jobless
Train them for what?  What's the purpose in training someone for s job that doesn't exist?  Create the jobs and train for them.

                        Cut red tape
Probably the most effective action we could take and it does not cost  a cent.  Eliminate the job-killing and unneeded regulations that the EPA likes to impose.  The feds must get out of the way and let the private sector free to grow, hire and create wealth.

You will note that while this plan has two of my proposals it does not include at least three that should be taken.

                         Repeal Obamacare
This was a horrible plan from the beginning; Obama must agree because he granted  hundreds of exemptions.Small businesses do not know how much it will cost them and the damage it will do to their
operations so they cannot expand.

                         Let the energy industry free

It is about the  only sector adding jobs, and it could create hundreds of thousands, eventually millions, if left alone to make this country self-sufficient in energy.

                        Reduce our imbalance of trade, especially with China
Let's bring back jobs that we have let  go overseas.  To have prosperity we must be competitive and produce goods the world wants and needs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yes, I did need a wheel chair in Shrevport air port.

Before we left Atlanta the stewardess came to me with disbelief  in her voice, "You not going to want a wheelchair in SHREVEPORT, are you?"  I agreed that no I would not need a wheelchair.  I didn't know I would be walking from the very end of the tunnel all the way to the baggage claim area.  I got short of breath and began to have chest pains.  About midnight I woke with severe angina; I used nitro and eased the pain but I am still hurting and am very tired.  Next time I won't let a stewardess shame me into doing without assistance.

On our return from North Carolina

Josh and I got back to Shreveport some time after 6 p.m. and Jessica returned to Baton Rouge about that time, also. Jen is staying another week to help with Julie and the baby.   

We had a great time, getting acquainted with Oliver Roy Lowe and of course visiting with Julie and Mark and :Lily.  Jessica, accompanied by Jen and Josh, visited with seminary officials and toured the Duke campus.  Jessica was impressed and thinks this could be her choice to attend next year.  They were awed by the cathedral and we, all of us including  Oliver, attended services at ll a.m,. Sunday.  The dean, a former priest in the Church of England, preached.   The cathedral and the service, including a choir of 150, are inspiring but I would no be comfortable worshiping there.  We left before communion because I was having chest pains.

Josh, Jessica and I traveled together to Atlanta where we separated as Jessica was going to Baton Rouge.
The ride to Shreveport was rough but we were ahead of the real bad weather that hit Atlanta.