Sunday, May 21, 2017

As'tWas: Columbus Day Typhoon and Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Sometimes we find ourselves swept up on a 'current of events' that defines part of our outlook on life.  Such was the case for me in October of 1962.  It  was Columbus Day in Eugene, Oregon.  As I looked out across the street from my student desk anxiously awaiting to go home towards the end of the school day, I observed that the smoke from a chimney suddenly started to flow down the side of the chimney and curl on the ground.  Before I could ponder on this too long, an announcement over the school PA system told us to all go home early without delay.  Typhoon Freda, despite the previous assurances of the national weather services, had continued up the coast and was soon to be upon us.  

I lived only a mile away, and even though I hadn't 'dilly dallied' at all, I was being hammered by steady winds that forced me to walk leaning into the wind in order to not be bowled over before I was even a third the way home.  I pitied those who had to walk further than I did.  Soon after I got home, my father arrived and the winds had increased to the point that gusts had buffeted his truck such that he'd experienced sideways slippage on the wet roads.

During the night, the storm did its worst.  In the morning, with the sun shining, we climbed out through the front window of our apartment because the neighboring buildings' shingles were all stacked up in front of our door.  Trees everywhere were either mangled or laying on the ground.  The roof had been blown off of my school -- with 2x4s from it shot like arrows into the building across from the school like arrows.  A wall in an old folks home down the street had blown inwards and killed several unfortunates.

I had a couple of weeks of staying home while the school was being repaired -- but it wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been.  The Cuban missile crisis was peaking before the school could be reopened.  And having  just experienced what a typhoon could do, I was all too aware of what a nuclear war could hold in store for all of us. [Two years prior, we'd been living in rural Idaho close to an air base and I'd spent one summer digging a deep hole in the ground to build a nuclear fallout shelter in.]

As'tWas: Lucky Marine in WWII

On the subject of our 'dropping the bomb' on Japan to end WWII, 
some apologists feel we shouldn't have done so.  The men of the
generation who actually had to fight the war don't agree.

One of my father’s best friends,
“Red” Thayne, served as a Marine In
WWII.  Here are a few stories on the
lighter side that bear repeating:
1) While digging a network of foxholes
on one island, his Sergeant (who was
notorious for his sense of humor & practical jokes) hollered at his troop, “All those who smoke, take a 15 minute break!”.  Normally there was no time differentiation between smokers and nonsmokers and since this was five minutes longer than the usual break, “Red” decided that this was a good time to take up smoking. 15 minutes later, Sarge hollered with a grin,” Now, everybody else take twenty”.
2) One day, as Red's platoon was advancing on their bellies through a huge expanse of high grass, “Red” thought he heard a strange noise in the direction that they were advancing. Quickly, he popped up, saw a Japanese soldier, fired his rifle, and ducked back down. Bizarrely, the enemy had done exactly the same thing in the same instant.  What makes this story worth repeating is the fact that their bullets met in  midair and ricocheted off one another.  If that hadn’t occurred, then both soldiers could’ve been casualties.
3) On another occasion, “Red” was working his way up a hill towards a Japanese strong point.  Suddenly, he felt the impact of a bullet hit him in the back.  He was perplexed when he didn’t feel any pain or blood seepage. 
After they took the hilltop, he pulled off his pack to grab his shovel and start ‘digging in’ --- that is when he found a ‘ding’ in his shovel made by the bullet that had impacted him in the back.  The shovel had saved his life.
4) The most miserable day he ever spent was advancing through a former plantation that was overgrown with what looked to him like Johnson
grass.  The weather was hot and extremely humid. As they moved along, the pollination of the grass stuck to every portion of their skin and worked its way under their uniforms.  Intense itching doesn’t even begin to describe their tormented suffering. And when they came to the abandoned greenhouse where the former land occupants had grown a 
garden, the only thing still growing were radishes. When they tried assuaging their hunger by trying  to eat them, they were worse off than ever. Suffice it to say, radishes are only worth eating when they’re very young and tender.

[p.s., "Red" knew that dropping the bomb was a 'no-brainer'.  There's really nothing else we could have done. Apologists who think we really had any other choice live in 'ivory towers'.  If they want to apologize for something, then they should reference the 'forced opening of Japan' by Commodore Perry.]