One Town, Thirty-Four National Guards Men, Nineteen Killed in One Day…

DSC00510.JPGOne Memorial = One town, thirty four National Guardsmen with nineteen killed in a single day plus four more killed during the rest of the Normandy campaign.

That is how the National D-Day Memorial came to Bedford, Virginia.  Bedford, a small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia,  had a population of about 3,200 then. (Population has doubled to slightly over 6,000 today).  Bedford proportionally lost more of its population than any other town.

Known as the Bedford Boys, Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment was part of the 29th Division.  Most of them had joined the Guard to earn extra money during the Great Depression.   They were mobilized into the Army for what was initially supposed to be one year on February 3, 1941.

They spent most of 1941 training at Ft Meade in Maryland.  After Pearl Harbor, they relocated to Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida.  From Camp Blanding, they went to Manhattan before embarking on the Queen Mary for Scotland and England.

They spent almost two years in Great Britain, training for the probable invasion of Europe.  Even though the troops did not experience combat before D-Day, they were among the best-trained soldiers and were selected to head the first wave of attack on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

To read more about the Bedford boys, I highly recommend,  The  Bedford Boys:  One American’ Town’s Ultimate D-Day  Sacrifice by Alex Kershaw.  Cambridge, MA:  Da Capo Press, 2003.  ISBN 0306811677

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bedford-Boys-American-Ultimate-Sacrifice/dp/0306813556 Variety of editions and prices

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bedford-boys-alex-kershaw/1100267057#/ Variety of editions and prices

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Reblog: Talking with Kids about Water

Compared to many places in the world,  the United States,even the desert Southwest,  (still) has access to adequate water.   No one can say what the future will foretell.  In the meanwhile, see how most the world survives without easy access to safe, clean water. (via Talking with Kids about Water

Book Review: Over the Horizon

Over the HorizonOver the Horizon by Luke Ridenhour.  Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018

Over the Horizon is heartwarming, fictionalized account of the USS Midway’s 1980-1981 cruise.  The story is told through the focus of the officers of VA-115 Eagles, who fly A-6 Intruders off the Midway. The reader is the 3rd person in the cockpit along with the pilot and the bomber-navigator (BN) from preflight briefs, through catapult takeoff and tail hook landing, and the long hour’s in-between.

The reader experiences why a lucky pilot is one whose takeoffs equal his landings. He doesn’t want to dick the donkey. Such irreverent observations are a way to cope with the reality that a single mistake can be the loss of a friend. “Although one pilot, three enlisted men, and four airplanes would not be coming home, the cruise was deemed a success.  Acceptable losses for such an at-sea period were defined as five aircraft loss or significantly damaged, three fatalities involving aviators, and three fatalities involving non-aviators.” (p.251).

The book follows a pivotal year for the USS Midway.  The Cactus collision and a potentially hazardous flyby of the Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk are two of the dramatic highlights.  The officers of VA-115 also face personal highs and lows from a break-up with a girlfriend that cannot handle the strains of the life and death situations that aviators face daily, a divorce from a wife who can no longer deal with the prolonged separations for people serving with the Navy’s foreign legion as the Midway was also known, and unlikely lifelong friendship with Eli, a Filipino caddy at the golf course in Subic Bay who understood that you “can’t argue with God about wind, rains and storm, or why you can’t teach a monkey to meow.”  (p. 233)

The friendships of the people in this story will stay with the reader long after the story ends.  Everyone is a wonderful human being.  Even the sailors on liberty in Olongapo (the adult Disneyland) show remarkable restraint except for the very few that throw pesos away from the children who dive into the Shit River for the tossed coins.  The better among the people who cross over the Shit River Bridge between the Subic Naval Base and Olongapo throw the coins near the children or the nets they carry. It is like a band of Eagle Scouts rather than the variety of flawed human beings that one normally finds in a group of individuals.  All of the Filipino children are precious, all of the Filipinos are friendly and have wonderful smiles despite the Americans on the golf course spending more in a day than that Filipinos make in a week.  Where do we find such friendly, pleased with their lot in life people?

Midway Magic is a constant theme through the story.  It helps save the ship from damage during the Cactus collision.  It also explains the luck experienced by the various pilots and crew as they perform their intricate, death defying ballet when the night is darker than a “black horse’s ass” and the flight deck is freezing.

Over the Horizon is another theme.  Pilots live to see what’s over the horizon.  Eli, the Filipino caddy, dreams of someday seeing over the horizon “the mystical line where the water meets the sky.  His dream was in full view every day—less than twenty miles away—yet out of reach for a life time, he had finally conceded.” (p. 19)

I would like to read more about life on the Midway as interpreted by those that served on her.  It is a time that has passed, but is evergreen for those who love a good sea story that either begins “This is a no shitter,” or “There I was on the…”  Let us end as one the flyers, Doc, is known to say, “Yes and Amen.”

 

 

Book Review: Encourage a Child to Watch Birds, by Denzil Walton

Most of us have birds somewhere in our lives (in the garden, divebombing the car, feeding from our feeders, or hanging out and talking in the early morning hours.)  They are fascinating and most of us don’t know as much about as we might.  Audrey Driscoll’s review of Denzil Walton’s new book can help you learn more about birds.

via Book Review: Encourage a Child to Watch Birds, by Denzil Walton

What to Read for the 150th Anniversary of “Little Women”

I first read Little Women when I was a rising 4th grader, visiting my cousins in Cape Cod.  (It was just a coincidence that I was in Massachusetts when I first read the book, but it seems appropriate.) I loved the book.  I was combination of the sisters: the oldest like Meg, a wannabe writer like Jo, could play at the piano like Beth, and wanted to be an artist like Amy (but alas that art talent went to my sister, Helen.)  Since then I re-read the books every decade or so.  Now that I can read all of Louisa May Alcott’s books on Project Gutenberg I can read them whenever I want. Mirabile Dictu has done her usual fantastic job of putting this annotated bibliography of books about Louisa May Alcott.  I have also heard that Hollywood is making at 21st century version of the story.  Not sure if it will do honors to the original (probably not.)

via What to Read for the 150th Anniversary of “Little Women”

Where to find Free Ebooks

Even if you prefer a print book, there are times when an ebook may be just the very thing.  It  is dark, you have just finished the last print book you have with you, you want to check out a new author before committing to purchasing the book….

Check out this summary from the Consumer’s  Checkbook. https://www.checkbook.org/washington-area/eread-for-free/

Sources can include your local library, Project Gutenberg, and freebies from booksellers.