March 13 is National K-9 Veterans Day.

National K9 Veterans Day, March 13, is a day set aside to honor commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.

It was on March 13, 1942, that the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps,” according to American Humane, marking the first time that dogs were officially a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Reblog: August Chiwy, World War II Post

Denzil at Discovering Belgium posted a story about another nurse of color during the Battle of the Bulge.

On June 6, 1921 in the village of Mubavu in the Belgian Congo (now part of Burundi), a baby girl was born and given the name Augusta Marie Chiwy. The name of her mother, a Congolese woman, is unrecorded. Her father Henri Chiwy was a Belgian veterinarian. Augusta was one of thousands of biracial children fathered by Belgian men working in Africa during Belgium’s colonial era. When Augusta was nine years old, her father returned to his hometown of Bastogne in Belgium, and brought his daughter with him.

In Bastogne, Augusta was cared for by her father and his sister, whom Augusta called “Mama Caroline.” She attended a Catholic boarding school near her home where she was described as bright, ambitious and popular. She was also petite, measuring just 152 cm. At the age of 19 Augusta decided she wanted to become a nurse and began attending a nursing college in Leuven. She qualified as a nurse in 1943, and started working at the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Leuven.

Click on story to read the rest .

Reblog: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained by A. James Oakes, Jr. UNSA ’63

ENS Oakes was assigned to Engineering as a ‘snipe’ on the USS Midway (CV-41) when it was homeported near San Francisco, in Alameda.

Crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco became almost a daily routine for me while the ship was in port. I knew that Fleet Admiral Nimitz lived in quarters #1 on Treasure Island and I started thinking to myself if there was some way to meet this great warrior, and perhaps even getting him to autograph my yearbook. After much thought, the decision was made to make a direct frontal assault and hope for the best. With my 1963 Lucky Bag in hand, on a mid-September 1963 afternoon, I exited at Treasure Island on my way across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco and drove up to Quarters #1.1 was nervous as I rang the doorbell and waited for what seemed like a very long time. A Philippine steward answered the door finally and I explained that my name was Ensign Oakes, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy, and would he be so kind as to ask Admiral Nimitz to autograph my yearbook

To find out what happened next, click here.https://www.usna.com/tributes-and-stories-1963#Ventured

More Sea Stories with Carl Snow

Carl’s biography: A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Carl Snow graduated from the University of Maryland and had a long career in the United States Navy. Carl started out as a Radarman (RD) and advanced to first-class petty officer. He was involved in “ECM” as the Navy called it then, when a new rating was created, Electronic Warfare Technician (EW) and Carl was folded into that, advancing to chief petty officer. Then he applied for a commission as a Warrant Officer and was selected, becoming an Operations Technical Officer. After retirement as a CWO4, he worked as Assistant Editor for The Hook magazine and then as Production Editor for the Topgun Journal at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. When Topgun moved to Fallon, Nevada, Carl remained in San Diego, working as a Technical Writer, researching and writing manufacturing process documents for hi-tech electronics manufacturers.

Carl retired for good in March 2011 and volunteers in the Midway Museum Research Library in San Diego, California.

On Getting Face-time in Thailand

Ah, Pattaya Beach, the first port call coming out of the I.O (Indian Ocean). I don’t think that I am in the picture; my days of “scouting local talent” were far behind me by then. About the only thing I ever got in Pattaya Beach were a pair of ornamental brass dolphins (somewhere in one of the sheds by now) that I had to carry back to the ship by boat. They weighed about 30 pounds when I bought them and I swore they were 200 pounds by the time I got them back to the ship. I went a couple of times for the freshest sea food in the world at a restaurant called Dolph Rijk’s. The fish were unloaded on the beach and carried across the road to the restaurant. Delicious and you could watch the boxing matches across the street while you ate. Once in a while the admiral would host a battle-group party for all the ship’s officers at the Holiday Inn hotel up the beach. These were mandatory, “face-time” events; you’d go and make sure your department head saw you, and maybe do something obnoxious so he’d remember that you were there. Two drinks and about twenty minutes of mingling usually satisfied the face time requirement. An engineering junior officer brought a local girl to one of admiral Brown’s parties. She was dressed in a frilly lace top and long native Thai wrap-around skirt. He twirled her on the dance floor and her skirt unraveled, leaving no doubt that she had no underwear on. They hastily exited the hotel and the general consensus was that it was an intentional, though raunchy, attempt at face time.

On Man Overboard Dummy

The helicopter squadrons (both) ready room was in the area where the F-8 Crusader “mini-museum” is now. The first time we had a man overboard drill after I became ATO (Air Transfer Officer) we had an argument when the helo crew dumped the water-soaked Oscar dummy in the ATO shack. I soon found out that, being a “passenger” in the helo, he belonged to us until we got him back to the forecastle and turned him over to the Boatswain’s Mates. After that, when there was a man overboard drill one of my airmen always met the helo and hustled the dummy down to the forecastle. Live and learn.

On Where do Oscars (Man Overboard Dummy) come from

We could probably find a photo of Oscar in one of the cruise books and send it to the “cushion lady” in the Air Wing Department. They were all home-made by the Boatswain’s Mates, usually by cutting up old kapok life jackets. We may be able to get an active-duty ship to donate one in exchange for attribution in the exhibit.

On Helo Rotor-over

I remember the Wessex coming over. He brought the British admiral to see our admiral and they tied it down on spot three. The pilot was a warrant officer and, since their passenger was staying for lunch it fell to me to entertain him until time to man up for departure. One of the chiefs from HC-1 (Helicopter Combat Support Squadron-1) took the crewman under his wing and I took the pilot down to the dirty shirt locker for lunch. He was taken with the “auto dog.”

Afterward I took him around the ship to see some of the spaces he was interested in. He asked if we’d ever seen a “rotor-over,” which turned out to be the helicopter equivalent of a wing-over in an airplane. He asked if we’d like to see him do one upon take off. I called the Boss on the Mouse when we were manning up and requested permission for the helo to do a rotor-over. He said it was okay, just don’t hit anything. I called for the admiral at the flag mess and escorted him to the helo. The Boss alerted the flight deck crew to watch the helo for some aerobatics.

As soon as he was clear of the deck, he accelerated and made a couple of passes up the starboard side and then after the second pass, he climbed and “rolled” the helicopter then dove aft and crossed the fantail and took off for the admiral’s flagship. I always assumed that the British admiral knew about the maneuver and was okay with it. We were all impressed.

On Will Rogers

Speaking of Will Rogers, I’m reminded of his comment, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” When I was on Enterprise (CVN-65), our CIC Officer, a certain commander Wheeler, apparently not well regarded, was transferring from the ship. Some of the officers in CIC wore tee-shirts that read, “CDR Wheeler never met Will Rogers!”

Keepers of the Flame: A Love Letter to Libraries

Libraries have been one of the loves of my life for years. I was fortunate to be a military librarian for over 30 years and I still volunteer as a librarian for the USS Midway (CV-41) Research Library. I thought that I’d celebrate military libraries with a re-posting of this library tribute from the U.S Naval Academy website. https://www.usna.com/tributes-and-stories-1963#Legacy

I learned about this website from a recent Scuttlebutt Vol 6, issue 3, 11 February 2021, edited by Carl Snow, put out bi-weekly for the library volunteers and other interested members of the USS Midway.

The real Keepers of the Flame are libraries. There are two categories of libraries worthy of your consideration:  genealogy libraries and military/naval history libraries. What to send to each? That is certainly up to you, but I suggest you contact them first to see if they would welcome your treasures, your documents, your artifacts. Our Naval Academy Nimitz Library is one of the best, and Dr.Jennifer Bryan maintains its Special Collections and Archives. Here is the web site entry about such donations from another major military library, the Navy Department Library (under the Naval History and Heritage Command) at the Washington Navy Yard: 

The Navy Library is open to the public and provides resources vital to the writing and publishing of naval history, as well as information relating to the needs of today’s Navy. The library catalog is online, and the library posts numerous publications, documents and subject presentations on the Naval History & Heritage Command’s Website. The library’s collection continues to expand thanks to the installation of compact mobile shelving and materials acquired from Navy offices, private individuals, and organizations such as the Naval Historical Foundation. Significant holdings have been obtained from disestablished libraries (including Naval Air Systems and the Navy Judge Advocate General), as well as from libraries whose collections have been downsized (such as the State Department). Over 13% of the book titles in the library are unique in the international OCLC (Worldcat) database.

Materials that enhance the Archives’ collections and support the research of U.S. Navy personnel, historians, scholars, and other researchers are greatly appreciated. Please email archives@navy.mil if you have material you are interested in donating. Do not send unsolicited material. 

What type of items are of interest? The question is, what items do you have? Email the library to see if they would welcome your items into their collection, which includes:

From the front page of the Scuttlebutt Vol 6, issue 3, 11 February 2021

Some of your items almost certainly relate to family history. Genealogy libraries are well known to researchers, perhaps not so much to the general public.  For example, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is considered one of the ten destination libraries for genealogy, as is the Birmingham [Alabama] Public Library and the Detroit Public Library – do a search for top genealogy libraries. Vertical files can hold collections that are not bound– and LAPL even has its own bindery. If you were to send them loose pages of your unpublished biography, they will bind it and enter it into their collection–and WorldCat. Check with your local library and talk to the Genealogy Librarian, let them know what you have. They are so much more interested in your holdings than your kids!

🎶Buffalo Soldier🎶 (2. Analysis)

Luisa has provided an analysis and insight that many if us as Americans might not see on our own. Look at our racial history with fresh eyes.

Buffalo Soldier Pt 2 Analysis

The title and lyrics (see here) refer to the black U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment, known as “Buffalo Soldiers”, formed in 1866, that fought in the Indian Wars.
Many of the privates in this segregated regiment were slaves taken from Africa who went to rid the west of Native Americans , so that white people could occupy their lands.
That nickname was given by the Indian tribes who were fighting against them, as a result of their skin colour and hair texture, which seemed to resemble the mane of the buffalo. They accepted the name and wore it proudly knowing the Native Americans worshipped the buffalo and that name that appellation could be considered as a sign of their respect.

Their specific task was to protect the white colonizers who had settled in their lands from “Indian” attacks. In practice, the black people who had been taken from Africa as slaves, once freed (just after the Civil War) were sent to kill the natives, in the name of the Country that was no longer slaver but even ‘allowed’ them to form military regiments.

That war was a fight for freedom on both sides. The African American soldiers were fighting to obtain a freedom they had never known (although the war against slavery was over), while the Native Americans were fighting to defend their freedom.

Over a Century Later, “Harlem Hellfighters” Are Official

From Stars and Stripes by Chad Garland, 1 Feb 2021

My friend, Da Blonde, shared this with me from the Ft Belvoir Retiree Council.

“They called themselves the “Black Rattlers” and the French dubbed them “Men of Bronze,” but the Army now officially recognizes a historic Harlem unit by what the enemy called them in World War I — the “Hellfighters.”

The “Harlem Hellfighters” is now the official special designation for the 369th Sustainment Brigade, the New York National Guard said Friday. The unit traces its lineage to the all-Black 369th Infantry Regiment, which earned the moniker over a century ago in fierce fighting that’s been credited with helping to break down racial barriers.

The regiment was the first unit of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I that allowed Blacks to serve.”

Read more to find out why they were not allowed to participate in the Rainbow Parade that was the send off for the 42nd Infantry Division

When Will the Looney Tunes Stop?

In the real Looney Tunes, Porky Pig has a signature line, ‘Ththththat’s all, folks.”

Mitch McConnell:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday blasted Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” as a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said in a statement first shared with The Hill. “

I was living near Washington, DC when the plane hit the Pentagon. I saw the huge gash in the side of the Pentagon where the plane hit. At the National Defense University Library, we shared space with the Pentagon Librarians who were temporarily re-assigned there because the Pentagon Library was closed (almost forever) when the nose of the plane affected the rear wall of the library and the resulting moisture created such toxic mold that hundreds of books were damaged and the library was a toxic waste site until it could be cleaned.

One of my best friends was responsible for saving many of the books in the library because she thought to call the experts in book preservation before it was too late. Did you know that freezing the books can halt the build up of mold?

Another friend fractured her foot and had 2nd degree burns on her head and hands escaping from the Pentagon after the plane struck. Several of her friends died from burns or smoke inhalation after the plane struck.

I think most of these conspiracy theories are bunk, but this one I have seen the aftermath for myself.

Do the conspiracy theorists, seemingly smug in their cocoon of superiority, realize that they are defaming or lying about real people who have sustained real injuries?

Birthday Card for 100 Year WWII Vet

WWII Veteran Kenneth Boyd is turning 100 on February 18th. He served in the Army Air Corps and flew from Burma to China. Kenneth flew 12 different planes during his service! ✈
As always, you don’t need to buy a card, you can make one! Have kids, students, grandkids?? Have a them draw him a colorful picture!! He WILL LOVE it!  Here is how to address your envelope: 

Kenneth Boyd
961 James St. Apt 106
Galena, Illinois 61036

Put your cards in the mail within the next week or two to ensure he has a bunch of cards to open on his birthday!  🥳
Thanks for your help! America is beautiful because of people like you who take the time to care. 

Heraldry: Yesterday and Today

From Nicholas C. Rossis, excellent blog post on Heraldry Basics

Heraldry Elements

The face of the shield, on which the arms are painted, is known as the Field or Ground. A shield has:

  • A chief (top),
  • sinister (left) side,
  • dexter (right) side, and
  • base (bottom).

These are from the viewpoint behind the shield, so to a person looking at the shield, the sinister side is on right. Fields near the rim of the shield are thus called dexter chief, middle chief, sinister chief, dexter base, middle base, and sinister base.

Additionally:

  • The Fess or Heart Point is in the middle of the shield.
  • The Honor Point is located between the heart point and the middle chief, and
  • the Nombril or Navel point is located between the Heart Point and Middle Base.

Heraldry also exists today. Since 1919, the US Army has had an Institute of Heraldry.

The Institute of Heraldry has a long and distinguished record of support to the United States Army. Its roots were firmly planted in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson directed the creation of the Heraldic Program Office under the War Department General Staff. Its purpose was to take responsibility for the coordination and approval of coats of arms and other insignia for Army organizations. By the end of World War II, its role expanded to include the other military services. In 1957 Public Law 85-263 directed the Secretary of the Army to furnish heraldic services to all branches of the federal government. The Institute’s wide range of heraldic services include decorations, flags, streamers, agency seals, coats of arms, badges, and other forms of official emblems and insignia.

2020 Naval Institute Proceedings Statistics

Summarizing all of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings has been one USS Midway (CV-41) Research Library’s major ongoing projects. Under the leadership of Phil Eakin (CDR, USN ret), approximately 10 volunteers soldiered (or should I say sailored) on with the project through the Pandemic.

The project began in 2011. Phase I, which is almost completed, consists of building the database and summarizing all of the Main and Essay Contest articles that have appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.

From Phil, the 2020 summary.

State of Play.  As you will recall, Phase I consists of building the database and summarizing all of the Main and Essay Contest articles that have appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.  Our summarizing history and where we stand today are illustrated below. 


 


One can see that we did not break any completion records in 2020, but it was a COVID-19 year, with a good dose of pandemic fatigue and maybe a little bit of Proceedings summaries fatigue thrown in as well.  We had10 team members contribute summaries in the JUL-DEC period, down from 16-18 contributors in each of the more recent 6-month periods.  The pandemic docent-hermit Marty Vehanen led the way again, contributing a couple more issues than the rest of us combined.  Well Done, Marty. 

Simple math tells us that we only have 20 issues left to do, plus the two or three issues yet to arrive in 2021 before we are caught up.  Right now there are only a few issues not assigned to team members.   

Eight of the assigned issues are with team members who haven’t turned any completed issues in during the last six months, so I’ll be going out to those folks individually in the next week asking for them to finish up what they have left in the next month or so or turn in what summaries they have completed so we have something to hand out for completion as the remaining outstanding issues are submitted for review. 

When will the database be available online?  The pandemic pretty much shattered the plans to get grant requests ginned-up and submitted.  I was counting on getting help from the Midway IT Department, but shutdowns and staff cutbacks have made that unlikely for the remainder of the pandemic.  One thing the IT folks did set the Library up with during the pandemic was access to a 5 TB OneDrive (cloud storage) from which we can share files/folders with the outside world.  Once Phase I is complete, my plan is to place a Microsoft Access database version with basic query and retrieval functionality on the Midway Museum OneDrive and share that with USNI and our team members.  Down the road I can see access to that database being made available on the Library page of the Midway Museum website.  And we can notify San Diego area public libraries and institutions of higher learning of the availability of the resource which we will identify as a work in progress.  I also plan to construct a PowerPoint presentation/guide on data composition and use of the query functionality of the database and make that PowerPoint file available in the same location as the database itself. 

Phase II.  As previously mentioned, Phase II will consist of cataloging and summarizing Comment and Discussions (C&D) items appearing in Proceedings.  Most of these items are submitted by the Proceedings readership in response to previously appearing articles.  It will be valuable to researchers to have those comments available and linked to the article to which they relate.  Not all C&D items relate to the main or essay contest articles we have summarized, so the other articles to which they relate need to be cataloged and summarized as well.  And some C&D items stand alone.  They do not relate to any previously published article.  They also need summaries completed.   

C&D items are much, much briefer than the articles we have been dealing with, and Phase II will go much, much quicker than Phase I.  I still haven’t figured out the methodology for dolling out C&D items and, in some cases, the articles to which they refer that we haven’t summarized yet.  And I still need to catalog about 90 issues-worth of the C&D items so they are in a form to assign.  That is what I will be doing the next two months in addition to reviewing your splendid summaries. 

Beyond Phase II.  I really need to determine the druthers of USNI as to how they would have us proceed after Phase II.  Is one era more important to them to get done than another era?  In what order would they prefer we address categories of items like Professional Notes, From the Deckplates, Nobody Asked Me But …, and a myriad of other article types that have appeared over the years?  I was planning a trip back east last Spring to interface with USNI on location, visit the USNA Library, spend a day at the Naval Archives with our Distance-Laboring Virginia volunteers scanning Midway deck logs one day a month (pre-pandemic), but the pandemic put a stop to that.  I hope to get all that accomplished soon after the pandemic allows it later this year. 

That is where we are and where we’re going.  Hope you all will hang around for the ride.  Should be fun.  And thanks again for all your hard work, especially in these trying times. 

Author Interview with JR Reddig, aka Vic Scotra

  1. From reading your introduction, Nick Danger was the manifestation of the Ranger being unable to relieve the Connie and the Midway riding to the rescue on its thousands of horsepower.  It was cross fertilized by the hours you whiled away reading Raymond Chandler.  Did you always intend to be a writer or was this a pre-Internet way to stay busy?

No, Ranger’s collision happened in the Straits of Malacca after we completed Indian Ocean Deployment #1. We had been relieved out there by- Coral Maru?- and returned to Japan after months gone. Ranger was headed to the IO to support Hostage Rescue operation “Eagle Claw” when she was struck by a merchant ship. Damage was significant.

With Ranger needing repair, she was directed to head for Yoko for repairs and we were directed to return to sea and assume Ranger’s role way out there after only a week or so ‘home” in Japan. There are many stories about the interpersonal relations of the Ranger crew and the Midway families while we were gone. Nick Danger was a project intended to relieve some of the anxiety and endless sameness of operating in a pleasant blue environment. We were in Perth Australia on IO #1 when word came about the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. We sortied north out of Freemantle, Perth’s port city, assuming we would head north to take station in the North Arabian sea. Instead, we were directed to proceed to Mombasa, Kenya, for a scheduled port visit. It was very cool, with a little apprehension about what was happening next.

2.  Which was more difficult, what you did with the squadron or keeping Danger’s adventures from flying too far afield?

They were literally the same thing. Afloat, we worked Squadron business as an integrated part of flight ops for Air Wing FIVE. The Air Intelligence officers assigned to the squadrons were seconded to the Carrier Intelligence Center- CVIC. We augmented the Ship’s company intelligence staff, performing the mission briefings and debriefing the aircrew on their return four hours after the brief. Also worked recognition issues, other training, handed out cameras and film, worked on relevant charts, answered questions and tried to keep them accurate. Merchant shipping was big on the sea lanes, and periodically SOVINDRON (Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron–not an official acronym, used by the CVIC) would deploy a submarine to keep us on our toes- nothing hostile, just interested. So it was all one kluge of unstoppable activity, of which Squadron mess treasurer (“Get more plaques made!”), legal officer blah blah went along with SERE school in California or Maine (Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), JEST (Jungle Evasion and Survival Training) in the Philippines to ensure we were all on the same sheet of music. SERE school was pretty interesting, beatings and waterboarding included, no extra charge. That was all part of working.

Liberty was very much like the bar scene in the original Star Wars film. It included Tokyo, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Bangkok, Mombasa, Perth and Nairobi, among others. At the world-famous Grace Hotel Coffee Shop in Bangkok, they served the employees of the clubs on Pat Pong Road after the bars closed down. At the bar there, one of the other fighter guys shouted out: “Where am I going to find an Laotian lady at this hour?” He succeeded.

3. It seems like you published a chapter of Nick Danger every day?  Was this the schedule and how did you find the time to be a naval officer and a writer?

I tried to publish something every day that the Midway Multiplex would print. The trick was to try to do something we all knew about in a unique environment. The PacMan game machine in the Dirty Shirt Wardroom was worth several issues and plot changes. It was written in the same way we did operational things. In between flight operations or in a spare half hour between one thing and another (the only other things were eating, sleeping or working out), I would jam some paper in an IBM SelEctric typewriter, bang on it for a while and then run it down to the newsletter guys. There was, I heard later, some mild controversy over the idea that one of the squadron guys was generating the continuing story, but RADM Bob Kirksey apparently thought it was good for morale or something, and I tried to stay a bootstrap away of anything that would get in the way of good order and discipline. Apparently it worked. Racy enough for the time without being too disruptive. But to a crew used to the Philippines, we were indeed the Navy’s “Foreign Legion” in perpetual motion.

4. What is the significance of Nick Danger, Third Eye?  Is he psychic or does it have some other meaning?

It was an idea borrowed from the Firesign Theater, a comedy troop of deranged hipsters popular in the early 1970s. The term ‘Third Eye’ was their attempt at jamming the vaguely spiritual references of the crazy late sixties (Hindu and others) and 1940s cinema noir into the reality that we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.t we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.

5. What is the relationship between JR Reddig and Vic Socotra?

JR was a new Ensign fresh out of NIOBC (Naval Intelligence Officer Basic Course) and volunteered for Midway, then considered a two year ‘hardship’ tour. After two IO deployments from Japan, they offered him a one-year tour in Korea at USFK (U.S. Forces, Korea) to “get even” with the other Intel folks who got three year tours at CONUS-(Continental United States) based squadrons and ships. I was irate about that, still in the Foreign Legion mode in Korea and wrote a fun book about it called “The Snake Ranch Papers,” named after our hooch at Yongsan Garrison at Seoul. I actually got more operational time in Navy and Joint before it was cool. Then OSIS (Ocean Surveillance Information System) and anti-Soviet sub analysis as things got strange with the Soviet Union. Writing a newspaper on the floor of the stock exchange is how one watch officer described it. 


Korea time included a military coup in Korea, civil Unrest at Kwangju, Analogous Response ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) ops in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor and best fun.
With Cold War, Persian Gulf War and GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) were four or five undeclared but real contingency ops, mostly focused on the Persian Gulf. Other assignments included organizing Congressional Travel to Haiti, Burma, PRC (People’s Republic of China) & Pyongyang, and more excitement. Writing about it meant a certain dual tasking and processing of life, since I was supposed to provide accurate notes as “aides memoire” to the trips and then I could play with it if I got time. As with all things Midway, it was part of a continuous process of all sorts of unrelated things jammed into one very large one of operating a nuclear-armed (“I can neither confirm nor deny!”) mobile airfield far from America’s shores.


“Vic” came from the early days on Midway in the northern Arabian Sea. Much later I was working at CIA HQ on the Community Management Staff in Y2K times. The Farm- the CIA training facility on the Neck- had done some business conducting classified seminars for Government customers, and we were billeted behind the fence for a couple of those sessions.


The place is interesting, and includes property that was once colonial. The house where the last Royal Governor of Virginia hung out was one of the interesting parcels. I did a photo journalist story about the place- nothing about who ran the facility or why. I duly submitted it for Agency review prior to posting it. They said “no” because “the location is classified.” Now, the fact that everyone on two rivers knew what and who ran the place was irrelevant. 
I decided to keep doing what I was doing, but nothing more about the Royal Governor, nor what we call “True Name” blogging. There were a lot of people at Langley  operating in various manifestations- covered, uncovered, ambiguous, so things like pen-names were common not only in professional tradecraft but social situations.


Vic Socotra is the phrase we used for Soviets operating (or hanging on the hook) in the approaches to the Suez via the Gulf of Aden at Great Socotra Island. When we arrived at what became GONZO Station, we would say it something like “Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron NOB continues routine operations in the vicinity of Great Socotra Island.” That lasted a couple weeks since they normally were doing nothing. It soon became “SOVINDRON vic Socotra NTR.” Or, better said, nothing to report.

Vic Socotra became a more general locational phrase to identify things happening at the SOVINDRON anchorage, or in the general vicinity of the island, toward the entrance to the shipping channel up the Red Sea.

 6. The Midway seems to cast a spell over  many of its crew and now it’s volunteers.  What spell did it cast over you?  Did any other job ever come close to the Midway’s Magic?

Phil Eakin in JR Reddig’s Midway Stateroom. JR graduated from the bottom left to the top left bunk.

Yes. And yes. Yes, no, yes. This is one of your volunteers, who asked what bunkroom I lived in for two years, and then sent me a picture of what it looks like now. Sleep was precious there. I still could reset the circuit breaker out in the passageway in the deep silent darkness when the line tripped out. Nick Danger happened because the lunk private detective seemed to be just what we needed at the time. Ever have a job that occasionally meant hanging out of the moving helicopter at ten thousand feet tracking a missile shoot? Once, suiting up and strapping on the back seat of a 55,000lb. Phantom fighter, being hurled off the front end of a moving Midway to go feet-dry and pass Mt. Fujiyama inverted before a routine recovery on the field at Atsugi Naval Air station? The one that still had hard-stands for the Zero fighters that once operated from there against us? Meeting one of their then-ancient aces- Warrant Officer Saburo Sakai, thanking him for his service and hospitality in his land? 

7. Your blog, https://www.vicsocotra.com/ is deliciously ambiguous.  I love your tag line “Purveyor of Glib Words to the World.”  How long did it take you to come up with that and has it been difficult to live up to that motto?

That all gets to the nature of what I have done for fifty years. It started before the internet, of course, and when I saw or did something I thought was interesting, I would write a letter about it, addressed to one or two folks and with enough carbon paper to keep a copy. There is a body of that stuff from Midway around someplace, and another one or two about the last cruise of the IJN Nagato, initially the same sort of thing I did penned by the American XO who took the Japanese battleship down to Bikini Atoll for the Crossroads atomic tests. Great story he did not finish, and may have been one of the Navy people who died young because of radiation exposure. He was a great pal of my Uncles, and his papers were all I had. Part of the dynamic tension in the business was that we wrote for a living- taking the words from the aircrew or the meeting or the trip and crafting them into a narrative that made sense. That stuff was stark and hard edged and based on fact. Taking those sorts of situations and breathing things into them for context- non-frightening context-was the ability to use a slippery glib word for something intensely real. Describing a routine catapult shot on a routine relocation hop. Drama and routine all wrapped up in one- the essence of the Midway experience. She also was home to pals who went to war on her in the Gulf. She is a ship of magic.

8. If life is a conspiracy theory, which theory do you find most plausible?

This week demonstrates the whole thing. I lived the sixties- all of them- as a teen. A President was murdered in public. Then a spiritual leader of great stature was shot down on a motel balcony. And then a brother of the murdered President was shot campaigning for the same office. And the attempts on the lives of other Presidents and governors of Southern states. None of them had much explanation, except for “deranged lone gunmen/women.” Now, we have a clumsy attempt to insert millions of bogus votes in an attempt to remove a legitimately elected President on a fraudulent vote count that is the product of increasing fraudulent activity that incudes our 7th District of Virginia Congressional representation. The idea that hundreds- thousands- of people who swore the same oath to defend the Constitution that I did- participated in this and that it seems about to be successful, and maybe permanent. I find this all wildly improbable in the nation in which I was raised. I think there is the distinct possibility that it is true.

9. What are your current literary inspirations?

I wrote as things happened, and cleaned it up when I could spare the time. The best effort is a biography of an older pal named Donald “Mac” Showers, one of the last survivors of the station HYPO codebreaking group at Pearl from WWII. Unlike most, he had no civilian job to return to after the end of hostilities since he was so young, and stayed in. I came to his attention through my use of a disparaging- glib, if you will- term about General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. I called him “Doug-out Doug” in some social context and it concerned Mac because his boss, Chester Nimitz had a primary directive: “Don’t disrespect the General.” We got over that and became friends. The very idea of getting the Japanese to disclose their target at Midway atoll happened at the corner of Mac’s desk in The Dungeon at Pearl Harbor, conceived by the legendary Jasper Holmes. So that was fun and took a couple years of meetings. But we traveled together through the big Defense reorganization of 1948, and the creation of CIA and NSA, and the later abuses that occurred, and the fixes to the scandals of Watergate, and establishment of the FISA Court system, and his final retirement with the current Intelligence Community I served. The last volume is about the ten-year decline of his beloved wife to early onset Alzheimers, and what it takes to live a 26-hour-day with dementia sufferers and their loved ones. My Dad was doing the same thing when he told me what it was going to be like, so it was personal and real. All the Intel issues he worked are now back in full bloom, so real life with him was also time traveling into the past and future. Anyway, that book is complete, but deserves proper traditional treatment.

Others in Process:

“The Lucky Bunch:” Naval Intelligence and the Mob in New York and The Castle on the Hudson. Fun with Lucky Luciano.

“Love and War in the West.” Civil war family romance amid the Rebel and Yankee aligned recent Irish immigrant community in a tumultuous America. Really fun, and true.

“Snake Ranch Papers” a 14-month one year tour in the Republic of Korea during a military coup conducted by Lt. Gen Chon tu Hwan.

“Boondoggle” Congressional travel in a Haitian-Burmese-North Korean crisis. Oriented to fine hotels in pariah nations.

“Tales from Big Pink,” life in the remarkable Arlington, VA, in the go-go decade that followed Y2K.

“Cruisebook,” the last Cold War Med Cruise 1989-90 as the Wall Comes Tumbling Down and the long struggle….ends?

There are a couple others, including a cookbook I was working on with pal Jinny Martin. She had been an attache wife, and I asked her, and pals from the circuit for sure-fire dishes to prepare when Hubby says he is coming over with the Hungarian delegation for drinks. It was fun, while in progress with lots of photos. I edited her group’s memories of having families in the Philippines and Japan in Cold War times.

And cars- Dad was assistant head of design at American Motors, and he was in that crowd of forward thinkers and creative artists. I came home from high school one afternoon and his gang had a collection of racing machines in the driveway, including a Ferrari Testa Rosa. We were part of it all- first ticket was 120-in-a-50 violation in a pals 440RT Charger while still on my learners permit. Other memorable rides included the Syclone World’s Fastest Production Pickup Truck, the black-and-white-beetle convertible “Shamu” and the 1959 Rambler Cross Country station wagon that Dad designed. Fun stuff in the go-fast years.

Currently in work is a book called “Swamp Postcards,” devoted to this crazy year, and “The Seventy Days” between the election and what is coming next. Glib words conceal the humorous enormity of what is going on in the wide world and right here

10. If somebody asked you why, how do you respond?

I am a predigital creature, but collected sights and situations that were interesting were always…interesting. I felt we lived in times that had a historic aspect, having studied them in college, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and Harvard’s JFK school of Government later. Seeing how it really works was something that kept me going, in the Fleet and Washington and on the streets of places like Pyongyang. It made telling the story of it fun, even if living in the lower rack of a four man compartment on a WWII ship was a necessary part of the whole story. I volunteered for Japan duty out of a failed attempt of the heart, and what the meaning of being alive really is. I still don’t know, but it is…interesting. This is the first time in life that things are not hurtling from one thing to another without respite. It is a treat to be able to look back at it all with wonder.

For readers interested in reading some of Nick Danger’s adventures, check out Vic Socotra’s website.https://www.vicsocotra.com/wordpress/novellas/nick-danger/

For readers interested in reading some of Nick Danger’s adventures, check out Vic Socotra’s website.https://www.vicsocotra.com/wordpress/novellas/nick-danger/

Port Guides Before the Internet

How large is an aircraft carrier crew?

  • The USS Midway (CV-41) carried a crew of about 4500 when she was deployed, with an Air Wing aboard.
  • The USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) has a crew of 5500.
  • The Navy used to have a recruiting slogan, “Join the Navy and see the World.”
  • Ports could include
    • the Mediterranean Sea,
    • the Caribbean Sea,
    • Central or South America,
    • the Red Sea,
    • Persian Gulf,
    • Indian Ocean,
    • Pacific Ocean,
    • Arctic Ocean or
    • literally around the world.

In addition to the normal liberty ports like the Philippines, San Francisco, or Marseilles, the ship could also be sent to Karachi, Pakistan; Mombasa, Kenya; or Hobart, Tasmania. For many of the crew, these ports are often unknown–

What can we see?

What can we eat or drink?

What can we get away with?

The USS Midway used to type out and then mimeograph tour guides. Troy Prince has a collection of 13 pocket sized (3 1/2″ x 4 1/2″) guidebooks for liberty ports visited by the Midway from the 04 JAN 1954 – 04 AUG 1954 Mediterranean Cruise. Here are few pictures from that collection.

In 1978, the guides had gotten larger and had a new name–Liberty Hound. Here is an example from a 1978 port stop in Karachi Parkistan (again courtesy of Troy Prince.)

To see more of what Troy Prince has on the USS Midway, visit his site, Midway Sailor.com,

An Update from Troy:

The newer ones I just scanned this week and last week. I’ve only shared them with the Library and haven’t posted them online yet.

There is a Memorabilia section on my website with a subsection called Ship’s Messages. Some of my older (lower quality) scans are there, including the Haiti booklet and Japan Information message. I also have an older scan of the Olongapo booklet contributed by someone years ago. The newer booklets will eventually be added to this page or even to a completely new subsection called Liberty Port Guides

.https://www.midwaysailor.com/midwaymemorabilia/messages.html

Celebrated Line Crossings in the US Navy

Probably the most famous line crossing is when a Navy ship crosses the equator: pollywogs have to pass through a series of obnoxious obstacles to become shellbacks. However, there are also celebrations when a sailor crosses the Arctic circle and the International Dateline.

Crossing the Arctic circle is known as the Order of the Blue Nose. The “Order of the Blue Nose” is a Navy tradition which dictates that when Sailors cross into the Arctic Circle, they enter the realm of Boreas Rex, King of the North. The only way to be accepted into the order is to successfully complete his list of challenges

If a sailor crosses the International Date Line, he or she becomes a Golden Dragon. However, if the sailor crosses the International Date Line at the Equator, he or she becomes a Golden Shellback.

Wreaths Across America-2020

Yesterday was Wreaths Across America Day. COVID restrictions may have changed the policies in many National Cemeteries, and the event still went on.

From the website:

The following is the Wreaths Across America story. I have also attached our “What is a veteran’s wreath poster” so you can see what the wreath itself stands for. 

“Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes.

Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington. This began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” that travels the east coast in early December.

The annual trip to Arlington and the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester’s simple wreath-laying event grew each year until it became clear the desire to remember and honor our country’s fallen heroes was bigger than Arlington, and bigger than this one company.

In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non-profit 501-(c)(3) organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same.

The group is non-profit and one of it’s ways to make money is the sale of merchandise. Options include

  • t-shirts
  • tank tops
  • ball caps
  • Every Star Tells a Story–American Gold Star Mothers Book with Wreath
  • Navy themed sweat pants
  • American Strong Yard sign (single or bundles)