Articles start in the “Features” section,” then after a couple months or so they move to their respective “Archives” section. They remain there so long as they attract solid interest from our readers, and then move to this, the “Retired but still good” section where they are stored in pdf format. I am starting to post them. Please be patient.
Pistol Pete Reiser, a man for all to admire. Harold Patrick Reiser was born in 1919 in St. Louis, and by 1941 had become the National League's batting champ with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He's not in the Hall of Fame, but at least one of our country's most prominent sportswriters, W.C. Heinz, says Pete is his “all time guy,” a man who is “what professionalism is all about.” Heinz said, “A professional is someone who makes every play. There's no compromise.” For Reiser, there was no compromise. Carried off the field on a stretcher at least 11 times, given his last rites at least once while playing, concussions, dislocated shoulders, torn muscles, bruises, and scars were all a part of the Pistol's game. July 30, 2004
From McSorley’s Pub to The Ashcan art movement, our American heritage is fun. It can be lots of fun to read stories of America’s heritage, as American Heritage Magazine would say, to “share in the stories that have built our nation ... (stories) that make America the greatest story ever told.” We start here by looking at McSorley’s, an old ale house on New York City’s East Side that has been there since 1854, a place where you can literally encounter world history and “commune with the traditions and legends that have played a vital role in the development of this nation.” And if you study this age-old pub closely, you’ll be drawn to “The Ashcan School” of American art, a small and rebellious group of artists who were so bold to paint what interested them in life, ordinary people, commonplace settings, “men and machines at work, women at leisure,” both “shocking and educating contemporary tastes.” As you wind up this heritage trail, you come across an Irish playwright named Brendan Behan, who oh so frequently stopped off at McSorley’s as his West Side hit play, The Hostage, “made the beatnik movement look respectable uptown.” September 14, 2003.
The Hunley, a Confederate submarine with a place in history. The Confederate battle flag, called the “Southern Cross,” or the cross of St. Andrew, has been described as a proud emblem of Southern heritage and a shameful reminder of slavery and segregation. This editor’s view has always been that the flag represents the rebellious and independent spirit that is a hallmark of the American culture, then and now. That aside, the facts are that many brave, courageous and heroic Americans served under the "Southern Cross." We have one story of their courage here, the story of a submarine named the Hunley. The Hunley was a “people powered” Confederate submarine carrying a 90 pound bag of explosives strapped to a 22-foot spar tied to her bow. History has recorded she was the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship in combat. Her crew and the ship itself were recently recovered. Their story of service and sacrifice still has many chapters to be told as science reconstructs her and her crew stem to stern, head to foot. The legacy of her crew is already a story of courage, heroism, a stubborn determination to find work-arounds to an almost impervious blockade, and good old American ingenuity. March 21, 2004, updated on August 9, 2010
Largest non-nuclear explosion on record hits Beirut Marines, 25 years ago. “We lost a lot of Marines that day." On October 23, 1983, enemies of the United States bombed the Marine Battalion Landing Team Headquarters and a French garrison in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 American servicemen, mostly Marines, and 58 French soldiers. Iran was mightily involved, working through Hezbollah. This year marks the 25th Annual Remembrance. There is much to remember. First we are obliged to grasp what happened, and listen to the men who were there as they advise us what the impact of this event has been. Some have called this an act of terrorism. I don't buy it. It was an act of war and that war continues to this day.
Peacekeeper, a brave and able warrior, is retired: "Papa out." A ceremony was held at F.E. Warren AFB on September 19, 2005, officially deactivating the Peacekeeper ICBM force of 50 missiles. Capt. Steve Lewis and 2nd Lt. Dave Perez, stationed at the Papa 01 alert facility, broadcast, "'There are no longer any Peacekeeper ICBM missiles on strategic alert in the 400th Missile Squadron. Papa out.'' Senior Master Sgt. Steven Levin, a maintenance training flight supervisor, commented, "It has served its purpose ... The mission is complete." Exploring the legacies of this missile system and this air force base takes you through a lot of history. October 7, 2005, completed on October 16
Excellence, tradition, valor
“We happy few,” the special brotherhood of men at war. Many people have written about the special bonds that tie men and women at war together. Bill Coffey, a retired Army officer, has assembled a marvelous presentation that tries to convey what those bonds really mean, matching photography with quotations from those who have tried to describe that bond. Having just returned from work in Kuwait, Bill comments, "Once again, I witnessed the power and inspiration of this thing which is referred to by many names, titles, nouns and adjectives." You'll not leave this presentation dry-eyed. October 20, 2008
General Clarence Tinker, Hap Arnold's daring go-to guy. General Clarence "Tink" Tinker was a daring flier, warrior and strategic thinker, and became Hap Arnold's "go-to"guy early on in his career. Part Osage Indian, an Oklahoman, "Tink" was the first US general officer to die in combat in WWII, and the first American Indian to become a major general in the US Army. An "enlisted man's general," from the beginning Tinker sought to teach and train, and most important, lead. He was seen by some as a "fine gentleman," a "spit-and-polish, sky-ripping flight officer" by others. His life's experiences will rouse your thirst for geography and history during a most exciting period of the American evolution. July 2, 2007.
Hey, that smiling pilot is me! In a story earlier this year about the USAF's "Pedro" helicopter and crews in Vietnam, we used a photo of a young pilot after he was rescued by a "Jolly Green" search and rescue crew. To our delight, this month we heard from him after he saw our article, surprised to see his happy face in a 35 year old photo. He has shared his story with us, and we wanted to share it with you. You'll get a feel for what it’s like to contend with a battle damaged fighting machine like the F-4 Phantom II jet during the course of a combat mission. And, you'll get a small glimpse at what can really make a fighter pilot smile. November 17, 2005.
How did so many smart guys make such a mess of Vietnam? As you enter the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, you can read this message from the president: "I hope that visitors who come here will achieve a closer understanding of the presidency and that the young people who come here will get a clearer comprehension of what this nation tried to do in an eventful period of its history. LBJ." In paging through some 150 photos of the president considering issues relevant to the Vietnam War, one is struck by at least two things. First, one is reminded how many smart people advised the president on that war. How did such a smart bunch of guys with all those credentials make such a mess of the Vietnam War? Second were the facial expressions and body language of the president as he listened to these smart guys. You need to read his expressions for yourself. Take a look through a gallery of photos we have selected for you. December 20, 2004
"Black Sunday" in Sadr City, April 4, 2004. April 4, 2004 was a bloody day for American forces in Sadr City, Iraq. Some of the troops call it "Black Sunday," sad, because it was Palm Sunday. What began as a routine patrol escorting sewage trucks, known as the "honey wagons," ended up in surprise ambushes that left eight US Army soldiers killed in action that day. We think about 50 were wounded, many of whom had to be taken back to the US. "Black Sunday" seems to have occurred at the confluence of various events. The city was and remains shamefully poor, but had been peaceful. Some political events were already in train that caused tensions between the city's independent-minded residents and American forces who were trying to improve the city's condition but were nonetheless increasingly seen as occupiers. Then some new political events emerged that made confrontation inevitable, all at a time when the US was finishing up a major troop rotation. At the end of the day, a routine patrol and patrols that would try to rescue it took the brunt of these and other converging events. As you will see, little in life is simple, little can be taken for granted, and one is always best advised to keep his or her guard up. Furthermore, every one of these kinds of fights has consequences, in Iraq, here, and around the world. October 19, 2004
“Never Retreat, Never Surrender,” USS New York. About 24 tons of steel taken from the ruins of New York’s World Trade Center have been turned into molten liquid and poured into the mold of the bow stem of the USS New York, LPD-21, an amphibious Landing Platform Dock of the new and innovative San Antonio class. This bow stem will be the first section of the ship to cut through the water when she is underway, “the first part of the ship slicing through the (seas)” to combat terrorism around the world. Her motto has already been selected, and is apt: “Never retreat, never surrender.” International terrorists want to play hardball, and it’s hardball we’ll play. Taped speeches threatening Americans on Al-Jazeera TV and made in safe havens far away are one thing. Playing hardball against the United States of America is quite another. The USS New York and the 11 others in its class are designed to reach out and touch terrorists anywhere, at anytime, and deliver a jolt that will be felt 'round the world. October 19, 2003. Updated October 14, 2009 as she departs New Orleans bound for NYC and her November 7, 2009 commissioning. Updated on November 10, 2009 with photos from her commissioning on November 7, 2009.
Enemy attacks against the US since 1979 cost roughly 3,500 American lives. Japan attacked the United States by air on December 7, 1941 and killed some 2,500 Americans. The next day, President Roosevelt, in a ten minute presentation, asked the Congress for a declaration of war and got it. The president simply said, "Hostilities exist," and promised we would "win through to absolute victory." Once again, hostilities exist. This report outlines a number of significant attacks by Islamic enemies from around the world against the United States since 1979. Their attacks have killed about 3,500 Americans. It is imperative that Americans understand the implications of these hostilities to the life of our nation. We must mobilize double-time to obtain decisive victory over these enemies, and their state-sponsors, wherever they are, by whatever means necessary. By Ed Marek, editor. December 3, 2005.
Men of Task Force Smith, I reports we completed our assigned task with honor. Captain Joseph Darrigo, US Army, was the only American on the 38th parallel separating the Koreas on the morning of June 25, 1950. He was the first American to observe the North Korean invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK). Why was Darrigo there? What happened after he spotted the enemy coming down the pike? We explore both those questions in some detail. That leads you to the men of Task Force Smith, the heart of this story. But their story must be framed by the context of the history that put Darrigo at Kaesong on the day the North Koreans invaded. The Korean War is not a forgotten war here. The men and women who fought in it are not forgotten here. Lt. Bill Wyrick, the "Chief," paid tribute to this task force in 1988. He said, "When you explain the meaning of freedom to your children - tell them about Task Force Smith." That's exactly what we'll do. By Ed Marek, February 19, 2008.
Ansari X, private sector race to space. SpaceShipOne, designed and produced by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, is going to try this month to be the first commercially funded manned vehicle to make it to the edge of space, 62 miles up. The lead designer is Burt Rutan, who designed the Voyager aircraft, the first manned aircraft to fly around the world without landing or refueling. SpaceShipOne is one of 27 different vehicles being made by as many companies from seven countries trying to achieve this feat. Together, all these companies are competing in a contest for $10 million known as the Ansari X Prize. It looks like SpaceShipOne will be the first to go for the gold. A spin-off of this contest will be an annual event known as the “X Prize Cup,” a “space-race” competition that will be held in New Mexico, at the newly emerging Southwest Regional Spaceport. Just as many laughed at the Wright Brothers, many have laughed at ideas such as commercial space tourism. Just as the Wright Brothers got the Kitty Hawk airborne, so too are we on the verge of seeing manned commercial space flight. The opportunities are incalculable.
Calgary Stampede, Ride 'em Cowboy! The Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada seeks to preserve and promote western heritage and values. Its 2008 celebration was held July 4-13, 2008. The Great Stampede was born in 1912, called "Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest." We've gathered some photography from this year's Stampede rodeo events. It looks wild and fun.The Stampede is much more than rodeos, with agricultural shows, evening shows, a Midway, music shows and parades. It most certainly sounds and looks an event worth seeing in person. July 19, 2008.
World War II - Europe
What did it take to be a WWII fighter pilot? The US Army Air Force (AAF) fighter pilots who flew combat in WWII just didn't hop out of their hot rods at the hamburger stand to start bombing, strafing and fighting air-to-air combat against Germans and Japanese who had prepared for battle years ahead of the war. Fliers had to be found in the cities and burgs across the land, they had to be recruited, and they had to be trained, first as soldiers, then as pilots, then as fighter pilots. Then they had to go into the fray and learn the hard way. We have had access to the records of one who went through this ordeal. We'll use his records and notes to describe what it took to win the silver wings of a fighter pilot in WWII. January 10, 2006The US Air Force has just announced it intends to buy 141 HH-47 Chinook helicopters to conduct Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions. If you want to talk about multi-tasking, you've found the right aircraft in the Chinook. We want to use the selection of the HH-47 as an excuse to explore the CH-47 aircraft from the time of its first appearance in combat in Vietnam in 1965 to its present use in Afghanistan, including its emergency use responding to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. We'll even give you an aircraft "walk-around."
Meet the men of D-Day, 60th anniversary album. Kings, queens, dukes, presidents and prime ministers gathered on June 6, 2004 in France to commemorate the D-Day invasion of continental Europe in 1944. They all made speeches and did all the things they do. The real story, however, rests with the veterans of that bold invasion. This is meant as a photo album of the anniversary events and the men who did it. We’ve tried to keep the politicians and royalty out, but in a few instances, well, they are part of the photo. These are presented in no particular order, but rather posted as we came across them. No matter, each is as important as the other. June 8, 2004.
The Berlin Candy Bomber, retired World War II Air Force pilot Col. Gail Halvorsen, April 7, 2003. U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen's bunk became a factory for miniature parachutes weighted with Lyons chocolate during the Berlin Airlift. The idea to drop candy to German children on the approach to Tempelhof Airport grew out of a chance meeting in July 1948 between Halvorsen and 30 German school children at the perimeter fence of the airport. Updated June 5, 2005 with "Christmas Drop" photo and 1999 photos of deliveries in Albania involving present-day retired Colonel Halvorsen. Updated November 17, 2009 to reflect chance encounter with child who received his candy "in the day."
World War II - Pacific
The very human nature of the war in the Pacific. While doing an article about the events leading to the unconditional surrender by Japan to end WWII in the Pacific, I came across Roger McDonald, a founding member of Arts Initiative Tokyo, who wrote this about the plan to invade Japan's Home Islands during WWII. He made an important observation: "Looking through the 1945 invasion plans of Japan, I was struck by the very human nature of them - relying not on the dropping of bombs, but on the landing of troops who would move into and through populations, neighborhoods, wards." Ken Burns, in his film, "The War," worked very hard to get at this point, the human nature of warfare. I decided to try the same thing. Digging for interviews with and comments made by men who fought in the Pacific, and who were slated to invade Japan, I present their most interesting observations and recollections from Guadalcanal to Okinawa. By Ed Marek, editor. December 10, 2007, adjusted January 17, 2008.