June 24th is Midsummer’s Day

Midsummer started as a pagan ritual for fertility and a successful harvest during the Stone Age. The pagans believed that plants had healing properties during the summer solstice and they honored the day showing reverence to nature with rituals. They danced around maypoles, fashioned garnets, and herbs were picked on Midsummer’s Eve and bonfires were used to keep away any evil spirits. It was said that spirits were free to roam the earth when the sun was turning towards the southern hemisphere.

In the fourth century, the holiday was changed to fit into Christian beliefs that honored St. John the Baptist called St. John’s Day. In the Gospel of Luke, Saint John’s birthday is said to be six months before the birth of Jesus, which would put his birthday in June. It was celebrated by bathing in water the night before for purification, a feast, and prayer on the holiday, but despite the name change, some of the customs from Midsummer remained.

In the Middle Ages, Germany had its own Midsummer rituals which would eventually be adopted by Sweden and others. Germanic neopagans called their summer solstice festival Litha. In their rituals, the Maypole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1, which is where the name comes from. It was hard to find green leaves during that time, and the holiday was moved to Midsummer.

Today, it’s still a celebrated holiday and it’s incredibly popular. In Sweden, it comes only second to Christmas and people travel from all over the world to experience it themselves. During the time of the Summer Solstice, inhabitants of the British Isles and Scandinavia have nearly a full day of sunlight, making it easy for them to imagine how the Pagans once lived and they reenact the traditions of old.

San Diego NIP Chapter Battle of Midway 80th Anniversary Commemoration

Used with permission of the author, Phil Eakin, CDR, USN (ret)

NIP = Naval Intelligence Professionals, of which there is a chapter here in San Diego.

I’m fairly certain most of us are familiar with the key role played by what we today call Information Warfare in the Battle of Midway by the breaking of the Japanese military encryption code JN-25 at Station Hypo in Hawaii, to the point that the target of a large Japanese invasion fleet was identified as Midway Island in time to allow Admiral Nimitz to assemble and position U.S. naval forces.

We are fortunate to have a personal connection, however tenuous, with one of the players at Station Hypo, Mac Showers, who eventually became a Rear Admiral, but at the time of events surrounding the Battle of Midway was just a young ensign and assigned to the Combat Intelligence Unit, part of Station Hypo, which was located at the time in the basement of what I am told is currently COMSUBPAC HQ at Pearl Harbor. 

Our connection is via one of our own of the current era, retired naval intelligence officer, CAPT JR Reddig, who over the course of a decade or more up until the time of Mac Shower’s death in 2012, debriefed Mac from time to time over drinks and pupus at a bar named The Willows in Arlington, Virginia.  The Willows was across the street from Mac’s retirement village.  The range of topics covered Mac’s entire intelligence career, but the Battle of Midway was the starting point.

With the approach of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, JR finally got all his hand-scrawled notes on bar napkins taken during conversations with Mac together, and JR published a book on the subject titled Cocktails with the Admiral.  Knowing we would probably do something here in San Diego for our local NIP chapter on the Battle of Midway, I reached out to JR to ask for a couple of what JR considered the highlights of talking to Mac about the Battle of Midway.  JR gave me his two favorite memories.

The first relates to how the Japanese were fooled into confirming the target of their operation.  The target was code-named AF, but nobody was sure where that was.  Washington though it was Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  The guys in Hawaii thought it was Midway Atoll.  CINCPAFLT got the C.O. of Midway Island to put out a water supply casualty report in the clear over the radio waves.  A few days later, Station Hypo broke a coded Japanese message regarding a water shortage at AF.   So JR asked Mac who came up with the idea and where was the decision made to execute the course of action followed.

Mac said it was LT Jasper Holmes who came up with the idea because he knew there was an undersea cable connecting Oahu and Midway that the Japanese couldn’t copy, and that meant our side could get the word to Midway to  put out the water supply casualty report without the Japanese being aware they were being setup.  Holmes passed on the idea to the Station Hypo boss CDR Joe Rochefort, and that conversation took place at the corner of Mac’s desk.  In fact, Mac drew a map of the Dungeon (space where they worked) on a bar napkin in The Willows laying out all the desk and equipment locations and then pointed to one corner of his desk as to the location where this conversation took place.

Then JR looked at the drawing and said words to the effect, “So the fate of the Pacific War was decided at the corner of your desk?”  To which Mac responded, “It was an interesting place with interesting characters.”

The other ‘sea story,’ if you will, took place on the night on June 4th, the first day of the battle.  Mac’s immediate boss, LCDR Eddie Layton, told Mac that Mac had to monitor the pneumatic message traffic tubes that ran between Station Hypo and the Communication Center all night, and if any traffic came in relating to how the battle was going, Mac had to get it to the CINCPACFLT N2 right away.  Mac said he got a chair right by the tube access door, ready to grab the latest traffic.

JR asked, “So, what happened?  Were the reported developments pretty clear?”  Mac responded, “No.  Only a couple message containers showed up and I spent most of the night in the dark sitting on a folding chair.  I guess they were busy.”

And that concludes my portion of today’s presentations.  I hope it brought you a little closer to our Community’s participation in the Battle of Midway.

Black Venus in the Pantheon

Josephine Baker may be more adequately recognized in France than she is in the US, although she has many fans here too.

words and music and stories

Joséphine Baker (born on 3 June 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri) was not only an American-born French dancer, singer and actress, but also a French Resistance agent and civil rights activist.
She spent her youth in poverty before learning to dance and finding success on Broadway. In the 1920s she moved to France and soon became one of the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe.
Her rise to stardom on the stage of Paris’s famous cabaret music hall, the Folies Bergère, made her a symbol of wealth and freedom, admired in her costume, consisting of only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, which became an iconic image and a symbol both of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties.

Baker had several nicknames: the “Black Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, the “Bronze Venus“, and the “Creole Goddess”.

During the German occupation of…

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Lincoln Memorial is 100 Years Old

It opened on May 30, 1922.

From Wikiepedia

The Lincoln Memorial is a U.S. national memorial built to honor the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is on the western end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., across from the Washington Monument, and is in the form of a neoclassical temple. The memorial’s architect was Henry Bacon. The designer of the memorial interior’s large central statue, Abraham Lincoln (1920), was Daniel Chester French; the Lincoln statue was carved by the Piccirilli brothers.[3] The painter of the interior murals was Jules Guerin, and the epitaph above the statue was written by Royal Cortissoz. Dedicated in May 1922, it is one of several memorials built to honor an American president. It has always been a major tourist attraction and since the 1930s has sometimes been a symbolic center focused on race relations.

The full quote, which came when Lincoln concluded his speech on the steps of the Capitol, was: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne .

Abraham Lindoln’s motto
Washington D.C. – Lincoln Memorial 05” by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Remember the Fallen

Remember the fallen
this Memorial Day
Bow you heads
and simply pray
that a better world
may come tomorrow
that does not require
this death and sorrow.

They were young
and full of hope
before lying here
on this grassy slope
Dreams and ambitions
with a limitless sky
undone when
it was their time to die


Did you know that Confederate grave markers are pointed while Union grave markers are rounded?

The tops of these markers were pointed, to make the Confederate graves stand out from Union ones (not, as legend would have it so that Northerners would not sit on them and desecrate them).

From the UVA Cemetary in Charlottesville, VA. The grave marker on the left is an actual Confederate marker, the grave marker on the right is not the size to be a Union grave marker, but it does show the correct shape. Both markers would be the same size if they were actual Civil War grave markers. A government-issued headstone today is still that same size and shape.

Memorial Day Celebrations

WASHINGTON – The nation’s 154th National Memorial Day Wreath-Laying and Observance Program to honor America’s fallen will be live-streamed from Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) at noon EDT, Monday, May 30.

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will conduct a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, followed by an observance program hosted by the Department of Defense in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. A prelude by the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will begin in the amphitheater at 11:15 a.m.

President Biden will lay the wreath at the ceremony, hosted by Maj. Gen. Patrick E. Matlock, Special Assistant to the Director of the Army Staff. Attendance at the wreath-laying ceremony will be limited to official participants only

The VA is proud to host public Memorial Day commemoration ceremonies at more than 120 of our national cemeteries this Memorial Day weekend. Please check out the listing below to find ceremony dates and start times for a cemetery near you.

Cemetery information, including address and phone number, can be found by clicking on the hyperlink in each cemetery’s name. We look forward to your company as we honor the patriotism and sacrifice of all those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

https://www.cem.va.gov/Memorial-Day/

Featuring all-star musical performances and tributes, the 33rd annual National Memorial Day Concert from PBS will air and stream on Sunday, May 29, 2022, honoring our men and women in uniform, Veterans, their families and all those who have given their lives for our country.

Veteran’s Legacy Memorial Concert, including a tribute to GEN Colin Powell

National Archives: Matthew Brady Civil War Photographs

While Mathew Brady’s exact birthdate is unknown (circa 1822 – 1824), this year marks the beginning of the commemoration of Brady’s 200th birthday.

National Archives, Photographing the Civil War

During the Civil War, Brady and his associates–notably Alexander Gardner, George Barnard, and Timothy O’Sullivan–traveled throughout the eastern part of the country and produced several thousand photographs, capturing the effects of the War through photographs of people, towns, and battlefields. Additionally, Brady kept studios in Washington, DC, and New York City, where many influential politicians and war heroes sat for portraits. To read more click here

This series consists of several thousand glass plates (and modern derivative copies including prints, duplicate negatives, interpositives, and microfilm) which were produced by the photographer Mathew Brady and his associates. Brady (1823-1896) was one of the earliest practitioners of daguerreotype in the United States and soon became a prolific portrait photographer. In his New York and Washington, DC studios, he and his assistants photographed many of the luminaries of the 1850s and 1860s.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Brady endeavored to record the progress of the war with his camera. He and his associates, notably Alexander Gardner, George Barnard, and Timothy O’Sullivan, traveled throughout the eastern part of the country and photographed many of the battlefields, towns, and people touched by the war. In addition, Brady photographed many of the distinguished political and military personalities who found time to stop by his Washington, DC studio. The result was a collection of some 12,000 images (possibly more) which comprises a rich visual document of the Civil War period.

Jefferson Library: A Virtual Tour

From the webpage: “In 2022, the Jefferson Library at Monticello celebrates its 20th anniversary. From its beginnings as just an idea for a “scholarly campus” to the busy center of discovery and connection it has become, the library has experienced great growth and change over the last two decades. In this exhibit we tell the story of the library so far through the lenses of place, people and community, collections, and contribution.”

I volunteer here one day a week and catalog at a higher level than I ever had to when I was working.

Jefferson Library at 20.

Milestone Document List from the National Archives

Now brought together in one easy-to-find list, historical documents from American history.

From the Natational Archives:

The Milestone Documents website organizes the documents by historical era, and features an interactive timeline to explore documents chronologically. Each document has historical context and a transcript, as well as links to images in our Catalog and teaching resources.

The April Full Moon is April 16

This moon of full power
is named after a flower
herbal moss pink
that cascades over rocks,
 also known as mountain phlox
It has other names that might make you think.

Inspired by the Springtime
various tribes
used regional names
that would help to describe
events of this season
like Grass-Sprouting Moon
Or Egg Moon for some bird-brained reason.
Near the coast it was called after Fish,
will they soon appear in a dish?




War: “I Have a Rendezvous with Death”

I mentioned this poem in another of Luisa’s blog posts. She has written an eloquent explanation of the poem. Well worth reading today.

words and music and stories

When I published the post “T.S. Eliot & April “(see here) where there was a connection between spring and death, our friend Pat (e-Quips) left a comment in which she said: “ Eliot’s poem reminds me of a more convoluted version of Alan Seeger’s ” I Have a Rendezvous with Death”

Here is the poem she was referring to:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And…

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March 23 is National OK Day

OK is probably one of the best known English expressions in the world

It is believed that the word was first used in the 1830s as a slang word, particularly by those young and educated, who misspelled words intentionally and then abbreviated them. OK stood for “oll korrect,” which was a misspelling of “all correct.” Other slang words of the time were “KY,” standing for “know yuse,” a misspelling of “no use”; “KG” standing for “know go,” a misspelling of no go”; and “OW,” standing for “oll wright,” a misspelling of all right. The word made its print debut on March 23, 1839, in The Boston Morning Post, explaining why OK Day takes place when it does.

Beware the Ides of March?

From History.com: .. (T)he Ides of March actually has a non-threatening origin story. Kalends, Nones and Ides were ancient markers used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases. Ides simply referred to the first new moon of a given month, which usually fell between the 13th and 15th. In fact, the Ides of March once signified the new year, which meant celebrations and rejoicing.

Thanks to Shakespeare’s soothsayer, the Ides of March has become the epitome of a dire warning. Julius Caesar, the dictator of Rome, was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate house by 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus on March 15.

K9 Veterans Day-13 March

The program was approved by the U.S. Army in March 1942, the U.S. Army K9 Corps was founded on March 13, 1942, and the rest is history (literally).

To read more, click here.

Did you know that there is a monument to Military Working Dogs National Monument at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland?

“The development of the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument (MWD) was spearheaded by Mr. John Burnam, a U. S. Army combat infantryman and German Shepherd Scout Dog Handler during the Vietnam War. While his war dog partners died in Vietnam he wanted to keep their memories alive and mounted a campaign to create the monument. To provide the foundation for the project he established the John Burnam Monument Foundation in 2008. With the support of Congressman Walter Jones, R-NC, the National Defense Authorizations Act for 2008 was amended and authorized the Burnam Foundation to design, fund, build and maintain the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument. The Burnam Foundation solicited private and corporate donations and collected more than $2 million for the publicly funded National Monument. Since the Monument could not be placed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Joint Base San Antonio — Lackland was the most appropriate alternate location. The local command welcomed the National Monument and provided the land needed to build it adjacent to the parade ground. The monument was constructed and unveiled on October 28, 2013. In 2014, the John Burnam Monument Foundation was deactivated, gifting the structure to Lackland, and transferring maintenance of the Monument to the Airman Heritage Foundation.”