Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Historically it is difficult to overestimate the significance of that event. It brought us into World War Two (though it was coming anyway) and is notable as a break in our pretty successful, thanks in large part to two oceans and weak neighbors, streak of other countries not attacking the homeland.

The lessons of preparedness and vigilance are ones we have a bad tendency to forget.

Monday, September 1, 2014

75 Years Ago Germany Invaded Poland

On September 1, 1939, the German army under Adolf Hitler launched an invasion of Poland that triggered the start of World War II (though by 1939 Japan and China were already at war). The battle for Poland only lasted about a month before a Nazi victory. But the invasion plunged the world into a war that would continue for almost six years and claim the lives of tens of millions of people.

As of the last time I checked the news Russia had openly invaded the Eastern Ukraine, not the Crimea but generally just marching west from the border. I'm talking columns of tanks and such. Putin vaguely mentioned that he could take Kiev pretty soon in the news. Honestly Russia is looking to reassert influence in their 'near abroad' specifically the western buffer states that give them time when some Euro's get frisky again. One could argue the western powers caused this by pushing NATO and the EU further east.

Pretty much the entire middle east is in a complete state of chaos. The old strong man states are barely hanging on, Iraq is over all but in name and Turkey is quietly hanging on, for now. Those ISIS/ ISIL folks are doing their best to set up the new Caliphate. Seriously I cannot think of a time the Middle East was a bigger mess.

I am not trying to belabor the point but things are looking bad.  Honestly to me it feels like the beginning of the 20th century when old tired powers were trying to hold on while the world order was being questioned by new up and comers. We all know how well that war went for everyone and that after it's brief interlude it was continued in the form of WWII. Arguably WWII (and the British) caused every war from Korea to the Gulf War.

Like the Chinese saying "May you live in interesting times."

Friday, June 6, 2014

D Day 70th Anniversary

It is the 70th Anniversary of D Day today. So long ago on this day in 1944 approximately 150,000 American, Canadian and UK soldiers attacked a narrow stretch of beach in France by sea and air. They hit a well prepared but not to heavily manned beach in what was probably one of the most chaotic and dangerous attacks to happen on the western front. While the numbers involved were less than some battles and far less than say Kursk it is worth noting that the term battle is used much more narrowly than the huge sweeping mechanized battles on the plains of Central/ Eastern Europe and Russia.

A family friend was an Infantryman who hit the beach that day. He didn't talk about it too much, except to mention that he saved 8 soldiers lives that day. The boats dropped them off in about 10 feet of water loaded down with gear. He grew up in California so swimming was second nature. He went back in with a knife and cut the packs off those men under water. Lessons: A) learn how to swim and B) if water is involved pack your ruck to float.

Allied KIA's from that single day are approximately 4,400. Roughly 5,000 (seriously) wounded make for about 9,000 casualties. By my rough head math we lost more boys on that day then in the entirety of the current Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns IN ONE SINGLE DAY! Granted the scale of the total battle and facing a peer type opponent in as close to total war as we have really seen large nations come is very different from modern conflicts but the casualties are still staggering.

I really wonder if we have it in us to commit to such a fight knowing the best case is a huge amount of casualties and the worst is total disaster. Granted the kind of world domination type threat existed during the cold war but we have gotten so risk adverse as a military and even more so as a society. It is also worth noting that you could look at the situation in 1943 as pretty clear but 1937 wasn't so much that way. Actually as compared by multiple significant figures that situation isn't so different from Russia and the Ukraine/ Crimean right now.

DDay is a pretty interesting topic. You would do well to spend a little bit of time researching it. Back to normal posting tomorrow with the last Fighting Load Contest Entry. Voting will commence promptly on Monday.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quote of the Day

If your leadership style requires using machine guns on your own troops, you’re doing it wrong.
-Weapons Man

That is an understatement if I have ever heard one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The American Dream Revisited

Mayberry mentioned the American Dream (read my old thoughts here) in passing recently. While we don't agree on everything and do frag eachother from time to time I really enjoy his blog. Anyway I got to thinking about the American Dream today.

The real question in my mind is a) if the American Dream is still realistic b) and if so for who then c) under what conditions. Before getting into this too deeply I think it is worth noting that in the roughly decade or so before the 2008 housing bubble and the subsequent Great Recession this dream was seriously amped up. Homes got bigger, the huge increase in home prices lead to paper gains people borrowed against to buy all sorts of stuff and generally a lot of folks went into a consumer spending frenzy. A more traditional post WWII American Dream of buying a solidly decent home, having a conmfortable life, helping the kids through college and retiring comfortably is what I will base the rest of this on.

To question a) if the American Dream is still realistic, yes I would say that it is still realistic. I can say this confidently because plenty of people are still doing it. Don't buy into all of the doomer stuff. People are currently buying homes, putting kids through college and retiring which is clear proof that it can be done. Also I dare say that recent events should be a serious caution about getting too far into debt and buying a home you just can't afford.

To question b) and if so for who, the answer is a lot more complicated and a lot less optomistic. The sad fact is that for a variety of factors a lot of people are getting squeezed out of the middle class. Low skill manufacturing jobs are going away or becoming crap jobs, cost of living and (broadly speaking) housing are going up and American Dream is slipping out of these people's reach. If you look at what a lot of folks earn, a reasonable % of income that can be allocated to housing and average home prices in a lot of areas and for a lot of people the numbers don't work. America is facing some demographic shifts and the middle class as a broad group are losing. These folks are losing much more than most. Unfortunately they are coming to face the choice between figuring out how to earn more money or accepting a new normal. That new normal is going to mean a lot of things but most noticeably moving to areas with lower housing costs or some sort of alternate housing.

To question c) under what conditions I think the answer is multi part. We are going to have to make more good decisions and choices then the Greatest Generation or the Boomers did to get comparable outcomes. In particular we are going to have to put a lot more energy and effort into positioning ourselves to earn a decent living, not just at one particular job but over our working lifetimes. The good paying jobs with minimal prerequisites are largely gone and the ones that are left aren't very secure. We are also going to have to start earlier and do better with our financial planning. Homes and educational expenses (middle class/ American Dream staples) are a lot more expensive than they used to be. More significantly almost all of the responsability for retirement has shifted to the individual.

What can we do to be in the best position possible. Making the choices to get a degree or truly skilled trade that can earn a good living is so important to this. The difference in 20 or 30% income will separate a comfortable middle class type existence and something less comfortable. Buying homes a lot more like the Greatest Generation than the boomers will help us get into a good spot. In other words buy a modest (for your income and situation) home, pay it off and LIVE THERE. If you need to move don't upgrade substantially and certainly don't keep upgrading.

We can also take a lesson from the Greatest Generation when it comes to saving. Those folks did a lot of it and so should we. Surely hard learned experiences from the Great Depression were a factor in this but so was their lifestyle. Since they bought a modest home, paid it off and kept it there was plenty left over to save. As some Boomers are about to start learning if you keep trading up homes, live right up to or beyond your means and finance all sorts of stuff that doesn't leave much to save for the proverbial rainy day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Suggestion and Report

Dear TOR and family,

Glad to hear you had such a nice Christmas.

I have a suggestion for one of the first books for the New Year: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption written by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit.

As you know, I am learning all I can re WWII and the heroics of the Greatest Generation. POW Louis Zamperini, an Army Air Corps bombadier in the Pacific Theater, is one of the greatest of the Great. To say that he is an inspiration for survivors is likely the understatement of the century.

The Wall Street Journal published a two-page review/story. You can possibly access it online. Friday, November 12, 2010.

BTW: I was unaware until reading Unbroken that Pappy Boyington, leader of the Black Sheep Squadron, was also a POW at one of the same camps as Zamperini. He is quoted several times in the book.

You are probably too young to recall, but in the 70's, there was an excellent TV series starring Cliff Robertson, called Black Sheep Sqaudron. It might be available on DVD.

Robertson had earlier starred in the film 633 Sqadron, about an RAF pilot and a mission to Norway. Also a true story. Definitely available on DVD.

Best wishes to you all.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snow Shoes and Cross Country Ski's

Bro Brandon B inspired today's post with his comment yesterday. I can honestly say I do not know a whole lot about field expedient methods for making snow shoes. I read about it in a miltiary survival manual once. Basically you take a pine branch and then bend in back around on itself (thinning the part that bends or heating it up a bit helps) tying it together and then tying the thing to your foot is the jist of it. I don't think they work very well though they are better than post holing/ wading through the snow.

[A bit of background. I grew up doing a lot of cross country skiing and have done enough snow shoeing to know my way around it.]

Basically the whole point of ski's and snow shoes is to spread out your weight and keep you on top of the snow instead of sinking into it. They both help you move, relatively unimpeeded through snow when it is otherwise difficult or impossible to do so on foot. They are traditionally used in places that have significant amounts of snow throughout the winter. These traditions are especially strong in Northern Europe. I will discuss the characteristics of both then briefly discuss their pro's and con's.

Snow shoes are basically just a big thing that attaches to your foot to spread your weight out over a larger area. The old ones look like a big tennis racket and the more modern ones are made out of metal and or plastic. They vary in size based upon technology and the conditions and weight they are designed to handle. When you look at boyancy snow shoes are sort of like life jackets, they need to be purchased for an individual and their intended use. A set that works for a 90 pound kid will not work for a 200 pound man with a 50 pound pack.

The biggest advantage of snow shoes is that they are relatively easy to use. You need to walk a bit wide (think of the steriotypical bow legged cowboy from the old movies) and be very careful not to get the snowshoes crossed over eachother but fundamentally you are just walking. Most people can get comfortable on snow shoes by taking a short walk in them. Also snow shoes do well in varried/ uneven terrain (particularly in the woods where the holes around the bottom of trees, the snow doesn't accumulate under a pine tree so there is a big hole, can make skiing impossible, and lack of space for relatively long ski's is a real issue) and really deep powder. The disadvantage of snow shoes is that they are a lot slower to use than cross country ski's.

Cross country ski's are how people who live in really snowy places get around. Since you can glide on top of the snow (like water skiing or skating) you can move much faster and burn less energy than on snow shoes. Also on ski's you can go down a hill in two or three minutes that will take a half hour on snow shoes. I find that it is a lot easier to get into a rhythm and really cover ground on ski's than snow shows. However ski's do have some downsides also. First they are, while not too difficult to learn to use, certainly more difficult than snow shoes. In particular the less than ideal slopes (not a nice even cleared downhill style ski slope) inherant of cross country conditions and flexible bindings make it difficult to safely move downhill without a decent amount of skill. If I was keeping a spare set of something around to equip a random friend that came to my beautiful mountain cabin (I wish!) it would be snowshoes. Also some situations are better for snow shoes. Deep powder and moving through the woods are areas where show shoes beat out ski's.

Being able to move over snow under human power is a skill that has become a lower priority in a world of snow mobiles, snow plows and vehicles of all types. However if there wasn't fuel and the snow plows stopped moving it would, for folks in heavy snow areas, be the difference between utter isolation and being able to travel freely. Also cross country skiing and snoe shoeing are great cardiovascular exercise.

Some of my readers might be interested in how these winter travel skills have been employed by guerilla and partisan forces in the past. Some folks, if memory serves me correctly the Norwegians and the Finn's in particular capitalized on the mobility of their skiing skills to mount daring actions against much stronger but less agile and mobile enemies during WWII. In heavy snow areas a person who is a natural on ski's and a decent shot with a rifle could raise hell with a bunch of soldiers on foot.

If you live in an area with heavy snowfall then I urge you to learn to ski and snow shoe this winter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

quote of the day

"Without a rifle you are nothing, worthless, you are waiting for death, any minute, any second." -- Aron Bielski

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Traveling Fun

Yesterday we went to Praha (aka Prague). It was totally amazing. It is probably the most amazing city we have been to yet in Europe. Thanks to missing out on the large scale destruction other cities faced in WWII and then getting stuck behind the communist iron curtain for decades after the city is very well preserved. The food is great also. The beer is great. Thanks to a free market economy and not being on the Euro stuff is cheap. I got a nice beer stein as a souvenir for 25USD.

We drove there and spent the remainder of the day sight seeing. At about 8:30 we had a real nice dinner at a place near the castle. Headed back to our hotel from there. Woke up this morning and after a quick breakfast we did some more sight seeing. Spent the afternoon and evening driving back home. A couple staus and a bit of rain added hours to the trip. Really it was too long of a drive for a one night trip. I am pretty tired and Wifey though she lived the trip is totally done for.

That really doesn't have much to do with anything except that we did it and it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

quote of the day

"If the 20th century taught us anything it is that life is pretty cheap, and that the cheapest form of life, unfortunately is embodied in a refugee. Life is nasty brutish and short for a refugee and you don't want to be in that situation."- Jim Rawles on Coast to Coast Radio

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why Apologize

Are good

Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60's when
DeGaule decided to pull out of NATO.  DeGaule said he wanted all US
Military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded,
"Does that include those who are buried here?"

Did not respond.

Could have heard a pin drop.

When in England ,
At a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the
Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of
'empire building' by George Bush.

He answered by saying,
"Over the years, the United States has sent many of
Its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom
Beyond our borders.  The only amount of land we have ever asked for
In return is enough to bury those that did not

Could have heard a pin drop.

There was a conference in France
Where a number of international engineers
Were taking part, including French and American.  During a break,
One of the French engineers came back into the room saying, "Have you
Heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft
Carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims.  What does he
Intend to do, bomb them?"

A Boeing engineer
Stood up and replied quietly:  "Our carriers have three
Hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are
Nuclear powered and can supply emergency  electrical power to
Shore facilities; they have three  cafeterias with the capacity to
Feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand
Gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a
Dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and
From their flight deck.  We have eleven such ships;
How many does France have?"

Could have heard a pin drop.

A U.S. Navy Admiral
Was attending a naval conference that included
Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French
Navies  At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large
Group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a
French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many
Languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, "Why is it that
We always have to speak English in these conferences rather than
Speaking French?"

Without hesitating,
The American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because the
Brit's, Canadians, Aussie's and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't
Have to speak German."
Could have heard a pin drop.



Robert Whiting,
An elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.
At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport
In his carry on.
Have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked

Mr. Whiting
Admitted that he had been to France

You should know enough to have your passport ready."

The American said,
"The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."

Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France !"

The American senior
Gave the Frenchman a long hard look.  Then he
Quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in
1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen
To show a passport to."

Could have heard a pin drop.


I am proud to be of this land, AMERICA

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Future Is Not Set

Dollar to regain parity with Euro, if it still exists.

Belgians vote on future, united country in doubt. 

We need to not fall into a pre WWI mindset that history is set and all that can change is minor details. Seriously if you take a look at any period of (just to toss out a number) say 50 years in history some crazy stuff happens. The future is not set and things will change. Currencies will fail and borders will change and countries come and go all together. There will be conflicts.

I think that most notably sooner than later European nations and in particular Germany (man they really aren't happy about this Greek bailout madness and the Euro tanking) are going to collectively forget about the massive horrors and almost two entire generations of young men lost in WWI and WWII and give up on their whole recent pacifism kick. They may come to question the status quo in the tried and true fashion of war.

Just like the last 50 years (or any recent start point you choose) it is going to be a wild ride. Buckle up tight.

Our advertisers pay us so you don't have to. Please click on their links and check out what they have to offer. Seriously these folks sell some really cool stuff at very fair prices and it is worth giving them a look. A click a day will keep this place up and running. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where We Are Going

I have been thinking about this in various forms for awhile. Maybe the world will go all Mad Max and we will be killing each other over cans of dog food but almost surely not. Maybe there will be a massive long term global economic implosion brought on first by the total collapse of the Euro Zone then hyperinflation in America and the total collapse of the US Dollar. I hesitate to try and quantify this one. It is more likely than a Mad Max scenario but less likely than say higher taxes, increased crime, inflation of significant but not hyper levels and a generally bad economy for some time to come.

I have been thinking about positive things an individual can do to improve their situation. Also real world quantifiable stuff that is likely to affect us. Of course common sense stuff like having food, water, arms and savings applies but I talk enough about those.

I am seriously concerned about the long term prospects of those in the 40-60 age range. My Grandparents (more or less the "greatest generation" did pretty well for retirement. Most of them spent a long time at one job and got a defined benefits retirement which coupled with social security and various personal savings left them comfortable. They generally bought, stayed in and paid off modest homes and were pretty good savers. I fear that my parents generation (the Baby Boomers) are in a far worse spot.

They generally do not stay for their whole working life with one company. Few companies offer a lot in the way of retirement anyway these days. The only folks offering defined benefits plans (great for the worker, bad for the company) are a few huge corporations, union jobs and government at various levels. Unfortunately this generation seem to have saved like they had a defined benefits style retirement coming when in reality they sometimes had a 401k match. Thanks to modern health care they are going to live for a long time.

Where my grandparents generally bought one house, paid it off and stayed in it they move a few times, often up sizing and or using their equity like a Visa card. Instead of a paid off home at retirement age Boomers often have a relatively expensive not paid off house. I watch the financial adviser shows and laugh my head off when somebody wants to retire and still has a mortgage or two. How the heck do they think that will work.

Even if they want to just continue working that might not be an option. Workers in their mid to late 50's are in a rough spot. They are generally expensive to employ as they have a lot of experience at something. Also as their experience is pretty specific they can have a hard time finding a new job. Plus their health care costs are higher and they are sick more often. The old back up plan of just working a couple more years to help the retirement numbers is not something that should be counted on. Many organizations have a strong incentive to replace them with younger less expensive workers.

So I fear many in my parents generation may economically need to work past when they would want to retire but be unable to do so. That means a lot of folks are going to be hosed. If I was a 50 something I would be doing the math to see where I was for retirement without social security. Without some X factor the best I can see (from the retiree perspective) is them getting paid in increasingly less valuable dollars based on progressively more and more cooked CPI numbers.

One interesting thing is that people did not used to really "retire" but they also lived far shorter lives and were part of a 3 generation household with a fairly large degree of self sufficiency and low taxation. People were usually pretty healthy, got sick and then died. Thanks to modern medicine people live far longer than a hundred years ago. However we haven't really been able to extend the plateau of "good years" much. 

As a young person I see a lot of families becoming 3 generation households. I will likely be one of them but not for economic reasons. Young people might want to have an informal talk with their parents about this. If just to see if they should look at tacking on another bedroom to their house.

For us younger folks I think it is going to be a crazy decade or two. The only good thing for us is that we are young and have the ability to ride something out and recover afterwords. I see the scenario for low skill "blue collar" workers as particularly bleak. These folks are either going to need to either change paths or reside themselves to a life which is below the "middle class".

As for my generation. I think that for us the differences in outcomes based on choices of jobs and money management will be the starkest since the Great Depression. Those who get marketable skills will be in a decent place. Cash talks in a bad economy. However people who decide to have 2 expensive cars with loans to match and a credit card bill that costs a buck and a half to ship then buy a house with a payment that is 40% of their pre tax income will fail miserably. Wages will not necessarily grow at old rates. Relying on home equity growing fast and forever to bail them out won't work either. As people change jobs at least a few times in a working life those with payments to the hilt will have issues.

Those who stay out of debt and live within their means will do OK. They always have and always will if just relative to the situation. It is probably going to be a wild ride but those with  available resources will be able to best position themselves for it. Folks with payments up to their eyeballs don't have many available resources. Good choices beget more good things and bad choices beget more bad things.

If nothing else those spare resources can be put toward building a bedroom for the parents.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

quote of the day

"If every Jewish and anti-nazi family in Germany had owned a Mauser rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition and the will to use it, Adolf Hitler would be a little-known footnote to the history of the Weimar Republic." - Aaron Zelman, co-founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

Monday, April 19, 2010

quote of the day

"Thou shalt never be a perpetrator.
Thou shalt never be a victim.
And thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.” 

~Yehuda Bauer

Also in going completely old school religious I  do genuinely believe that there is a special place in hell for people who choose to be bystanders. Pick the side you think is best and do whatever is in your power to help that side. In many ways I respect people who choose the wrong side more than those who just stand by idly. At least they had the guts to make a decision and act upon it.
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