Did I mention that I get up at 5 in the morning to watch the news on TV?

Now that I’m retired I get to do a lot of things I like to do. One of the things I like to do is get up and watch the news on cable TV at 5 in the morning. An advantage is I get to see all that stuff that happened while I was asleep. There are others.

What I saw yesterday morning was CNN anchor Chris Cuomo interviewing Peter Sprigg, speaking for the Family Research Council:

Sprigg joined the FRC in 2001, and his research and writing have addressed issues of marriage and family, human sexuality, and religion in public life, and opposition to same-sex marriage and gay rights. He has testified before federal, state and local courts on these issues. He has argued that gay marriage is not an issue of civil rights. He has linked homosexuality to pedophilia, and argued that homosexuals are trying to brainwash children into accepting homosexuality through public schools. Sprigg has publicly suggested that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would encourage molestation of heterosexual members of the military and suggested Kevin Jennings may have engaged in statutory rape. In February 2010, Sprigg stated on NBC’s Hardball that gay behavior should be outlawed and that Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decide by the U.S. Supreme Court and that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced; FRC President Tony Perkins later declared that criminalizing homosexuality is not a goal of the Council.

Readers should note the Wikipedia article excerpted above contains notes that certain sources may be unreliable. Follow the link and review the sources for yourself to get the full story. Take some time to view the clip. It may not be on CNN forever, but by now somebody has posted it on YouTube, where it will likely live for all eternity.

In the mean time Mediaite has posted a digest of the conversation, which I am posting here almost in its entirety:

“There is a picture that’s circulating around of the governor as he signed [the bill],” Cuomo said. “Several of the people in the picture are outspoken critics of gay existence. Now, that’s not a coincidence. It’s not a coincidence why you’re against it. Let me ask you, why do so many Christians these days believe that the exercise of their faith requires exclusion and judgment of others?”

“Some people have a sincere, conscientious belief that marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman,” Sprigg replied. “In fact the majority of Americans believe that.”

“Popularity is not the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong if protecting rights under the Constitution,” Cuomo said. “The question then goes to: why do you need this? What is it about someone being gay or someone wanting to marry someone of the same sex — what is there in that that is keeping you from being the Christian you want to be?…If I said, Mr. Sprigg, you must go marry a man right now, you can say, no, that’s a violation of my faith. Maybe that, you would be able clear this burden. But how is wanting to judge others somehow stopping you from practicing your faith?”

Sprigg objected that the burden placed on gay couples to find another florist or wedding photographer was nothing near the burden placed on religious business owners whom he said would be forced to violate their faith or suffer penalties.

“Everybody has the chance to be who they want to be in America except for apparently Christians in the wedding industry,” Sprigg said.

That is all so very interesting. “Everybody has the chance to be who they want to be in America except for apparently Christians in the wedding industry.” According to Peter Sprigg, what some Christians want is to not do business with a class of people they consider inferior to themselves. It would be a violation of some people’s faith to do business with homosexuals. At this point we may begin to wonder what kind of faith is it that considers some honest and law abiding citizens to be of a lower class.

The joy continues.

This morning they are still discussing the matter on CNN. The headline is “Indiana Governor: New Law “Grossly Misconstrued.'” Chris Cuomo is also announcing that Arkansas has a similar law on the path to adoption, with Governor Asa Hutchinson promising to sign it. Cuomo interviewed Ryan McCann, Policy Director for the Indiana Family Institute:

Ryan McCann serves as the Director of Operations and Public Policy at the Indiana Family Institute, a nonprofit public policy development and advocacy organization focused on strengthening Hoosier families.

Serving in this capacity for the Institute, McCann assists the President in managing the day-to-day operations of the Institute, with a special focus on influencing public policy within Indiana and informing Hoosiers of ways in which they can mold their government and culture in family friendly ways. IFI is among 34 Family Policy Councils across the nation, and is affiliated with Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs, Colorado, ministry; Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C. based think tank; and the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation. These organizations all share a passion for promoting policies and practices in the public sphere to strengthen families, the bedrock institution of all great nations.


The conversation went something like this:

Cuomo: Are you taken by surprise at this backfire at the law?

Cuomo is obviously talking about Indiana’s Queer Law. You would not know that from Ryan McCann’s response:

Yes, I am taken a bit by surprise. Thank you for having me on.

We were able to get through a legislative session and committee hearings and give a lot of information about the bill, how it passed in 1993 on the federal level…

Wait! The Indiana bill was passed this month. What happened in 1993?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” The bill was introduced by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The RFRA was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress’s enforcement power. However, it continues to be applied to the federal government—for instance, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal—because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized. In response to City of Boerne v. Flores and other related RFR issues, twenty individual states have passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.

To make it short, the video shows McCann going on and on about “RFRA” until finally Cuomo brings him back to reality. You can catch it all in the video. In the mean time I’m going to again fall back on Mediaite for a summary:

Things got personal when Cuomo demanded McCann account for the real motives behind the bill, which was supported by “groups like yours, that are Christian-based, with an animus toward the LGBT community. Own who and what you are. There’s nothing wrong with that you’re allowed to believe it but you’re not about native americans or people who want liver transplants, right?”

Cuomo tried to get McCann to answer whether he would support making gays and lesbians a protected class in Indiana, which critics of the law say would stunt its discriminatory impact. McCann would not answer; Cuomo even at one point cited George Stephanopoulos’ interview with Indiana Governor Mike Pence, in which the governor repeatedly dodged a yes or no question on the bill.

McCann ended by saying he was “offended” by Cuomo’s accusation that he was anti-LGBT. Cuomo put up and read a quote from McCann’s 2009 blog post in which he argued that homosexuality could be fixed. McCann claimed no familiarity with the language, essentially accusing Cuomo of making it up.

Further, McCann objected to what he considered an unwarranted attack by Cuomo—a mis-characterization of his views on homosexuals. Cuomo insisted he was only going on what McCann has previously stated as his position. Then Cuomo did something exceedingly cruel. He dredged up McCann’s own words and posted them for all to see:



I will do something almost as cruel. I will put up some words (in abbreviated form) by another person from long ago:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

The pertinent text is in bold.

Now I will put up recent words. These are by me:


Ryan McCann is a liar. Peter Sprigg was a liar before him. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was a liar before that. They have been coming on the news and telling us “The Indiana Religious Freedom Act” is not aimed at protecting discrimination. Really? Let’s take a look at another image.


That’s the governor signing the Religious Freedom Act. It’s not a public ceremony. Apparently nobody from the press was there. Apparently a photographer was there. Supporters of the law, including Ryan McCann, have pointed out the law will protect the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gender people. Here we see a number of them in attendance and giving support to the governor for protecting their liberties. I am currently not able to identify any of the LGBT community present in support at the time, but CNN has provided another image:


Now that really is cruel. The news media can be so heartless when ratings are at stake. Here’s what the images show. Standing behind and very close to the governor are:

Curt Smith: Heads up the Indiana Family Institute. “Indiana Family Institute is a statewide research and education organization affiliated with Focus on the Family that is a voice for traditional families in Indiana. It is our mission to persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking.”

Micah Clark: “Used biblical passage about it being ‘better to have a millstone tied around your neck and thrown in the sea’ in reference to the Boy Scouts accepting gay youth: ‘What did Christ say about harming the least of these?’  He said it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown in the sea on the day of judgement than to cause a child to stumble into sin.  And if we’re going to support organizations telling kids that homosexuality is okay—which is treatable, changeable, you don’t have to be homosexual, but if you are, you are at significantly higher risks of mental harm, psychical harm, emotional harm and spiritual harm—we cant be a part of that.  (Source; starts around 2:00 mark)”

[Edited for spelling]

Eric Miller: Executive Director of Advance America. “Hate crimes laws only apply to behaviors that are already designated as crimes, so no speech would ever be impacted. The Indy Star notes that Eric Miller, head of Advance America, has campaigned heavily against hate crimes protections based on sexual orientation for many years. In that regard, he’s been successful, because Indiana doesn’t even have such a law. If constitutionally codified discrimination is rejected, it will impact neither hate crime laws nor the freedom of speech — for pastors or anybody else.”

These are people who would not even walk across the street to protect the liberties of LGBT people. But they would show up to celebrate the signing of a law that allows Christians to discriminate against these people.

Somebody is lying.

There’s more to this story, and you’re going to see it. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.


Institutional Advertising


I believe this has come around before:

So now I’m watching the news on cable TV, and I see a lot of ads by Norfolk Southern. And these are really glitzy productions. There’s a cute jingle playing over the video (“Helping this here country move ahead as one”), and there are beautifully choreographed sequences of products being moved and trains and powerful locomotives moving in perfect harmony. Steven Spielberg, you need to watch this.

I considered it so odd that Norfolk Southern, a railroad company that doesn’t provide service into the region where I live, would be advertising themselves to me. Again this morning, as they have been for weeks, Norfolk Southern is showing all the stuff they haul. It’s impressive.

Cargo containers filled with manufactured goodies from across the Pacific.


Train loads of coal to fire my power plant. And steel products. New automobiles.


Would that I had that much stuff to ship.

But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the company is trying to build brand loyalty. If it wasn’t shipped by Norfolk Southern, then you don’t want it.

I’m telling you, it’s an impressive ad. There are these two train engineers talking over things in the yard, discussing what they’ve been hauling. They seem like earnest, committed railroad men. I’m sold. From here on out it’s Norfolk Southern for me and my family. Before Barbara Jean and I make the next purchase at the H-E-B store we’re going to ask, “Can you verify these carrots were shipped on Norfolk Southern?


Keep reading.

Indiana’s Queer Law


I will start with this famous scene from a famous movie. Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi prowl a low-life bar in Mos Eisley, looking for somebody who will pilot them off the planet of Tatooine, and away from the grasp of Imperial storm troopers. In the bar is a menagerie of critters from all over the galaxy. It’s a Hollywood make artist’s dream (though the movie was made in England). The problem comes when Luke tries to bring two ‘droids, robots, into the bar. The barkeep is quick and adamant. “Hey! We don’t serve their kind here.”

And that’s what this is all about.

I’m using a word in its traditional sense, odd, or even strange. And it certainly is a queer law. At its heart here’s what it says:

Sec. 9. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending
violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant
governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person’s invocation of this chapter.
Sec. 10. (a) If a court or other tribunal in which a violation of this chapter is asserted in conformity with section 9 of this chapter determines that:
(1) the person’s exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened; and
(2) the governmental entity imposing the burden has not demonstrated that application of the burden to the person:
(A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest; the court or other tribunal shall allow a defense against any party and shall grant appropriate relief against the governmental entity.
(b) Relief against the governmental entity may include any of the following:
(1) Declaratory relief or an injunction or mandate that prevents, restrains, corrects, or abates the violation of this chapter.
(2) Compensatory damages.
(c) In the appropriate case, the court or other tribunal also may award all or part of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney’s fees, to a person that prevails against the governmental entity under this chapter.

Sections 9 and 10 of Indiana’s Senate Enrolled Act No. 101 are the pertinent parts. The significant language is “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened…” About this time you want to ask, “Burdened in what way?” For that you need to go back a few years. Decades.

You have a business. It’s yours. You are in complete control. You can do what you want with your business. You can turn away customers if you want to. Just ask the Mos Eisley Cantina barkeep. That was Tatooine. This is Earth. This is the United States. Here’s what we used to have in the United States:

From Google Images

From Google Images

There was a problem. A large segment of the population was offended. A large segment of the population was inconvenienced. A large segment of the population was disenfranchised. You were not white in this country, and there were places you just could not live. Ferguson, Missouri, was a sundown town. There were signs in some parts of the country that said, “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In This Town.” These signs were countenanced by local governments. These signs were enforced by law. America was not exactly the “land of the free.” Besides levying an insult on its citizens, these practices were coming to be an embarrassment. The world was wondering if America was serious about “equality.”

The government did what it does. It fixed the problem with a law. That law as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a part of it known as the Public Accommodation Law.

SEC. 201. (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

(b) Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

(4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment.

(c) The operations of an establishment affect commerce within the meaning of this title if (1) it is one of the establishments described in paragraph (1) of subsection (b); (2) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (2) of subsection (b), it serves or offers to serve interstate travelers or a substantial portion of the food which it serves, or gasoline or other products which it sells, has moved in commerce; (3) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (3) of subsection (b), it customarily presents films, performances, athletic teams, exhibitions, or other sources of entertainment which move in commerce; and (4) in the case of an establishment described in paragraph (4) of subsection (b), it is physically located within the premises of, or there is physically located within its premises, an establishment the operations of which affect commerce within the meaning of this subsection. For purposes of this section, “commerce” means travel, trade, traffic, commerce, transportation, or communication among the several States, or between the District of Columbia and any State, or between any foreign country or any territory or possession and any State or the District of Columbia, or between points in the same State but through any other State or the District of Columbia or a foreign country.

(d) Discrimination or segregation by an establishment is supported by State action within the meaning of this title if such discrimination or segregation (1) is carried on under color of any law, statute, ordinance, or regulation; or (2) is carried on under color of any custom or usage required or enforced by officials of the State or political subdivision thereof; or (3) is required by action of the State or political subdivision thereof.

(e) The provisions of this title shall not apply to a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the public, except to the extent that the facilities of such establishment are made available to the customers or patrons of an establishment within the scope of subsection (b).

And that just about took care of that. It’s your money. It’s your business. There are limits to what you can do with your money and your business. You can’t use it to make life miserable for a segment of the American population. You can’t use it to embarrass the United States of America. What I have skipped over in the foregoing is that there are economic consequences of doing what you want with your money and your business, and those consequences impact the well-being of the United States, and that gives the government constitutional authority to enact such laws.

You think everything has changed in 50 years?


It would appear we haven’t quite gone the full course.

Come forward 50 years, and there is yet another segment of society feeling the rebuff of Mos Eisley Cantina’s barkeep. “Hey! We don’t serve their kind here.” That would be those who are sexually different. These people are not like the rest of us. They’re different. They do queer things. “We don’t serve their kind here.”

But there’s the Public Accommodation Law. Does it mention homosexuals or transsexuals? No. It does not even mention sex: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Public Accommodation Law is only Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII provides equal employment opportunity regardless of sex (or sexual orientation?), but protection in other areas is not covered. Subsequent provisions of federal law do provide protection:

The U.S. and many state governments have robust protections against discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or sex. However, the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens are currently in a state of flux. Gay and lesbian individuals are protected by a patchwork of federal, state, and corporate rules and regulations.

With this in mind there have been some exemplary cases, of which this is one:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a studio that refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.

The justices left in place a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling last year that said Elane Photography violated New Mexico’s Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph the same-sex ceremony “in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

Please note that a state law is involved here—not a federal law. There were consequences:

The court upheld the nearly $7,000 fine in finding that the studio is a “public accommodation” — an establishment that provides services to the public — that, under state law, may not refuse its services on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or sexual orientation, gender identity or physical or mental handicap.

Was this a case of a lesbian couple targeting a photographer of known prejudices in order to make a point, or to obtain an award? Apparently not, but the possibility always exists. Regardless of whether this was a targeted case, the company considerably misplayed their game. I do not have the particulars of the case, but I’m going to substitute imagination for fact here. I’m supposing it went like this. “We want you to photograph our wedding.” “That’s wonderful! We can do that. Who’s getting married?” “My girlfriend here and I.” “Two women? Ugh! We don’t do that kind of stuff. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. We don’t serve your kind here.”

Full disclosure: I have photographed a number of weddings, and I never turned down a reasonable assignment. Once a guy sent me an email. He wanted me to photograph his wedding. In Tucson. I just said, “No can do.” I never accused him of being a pervert. If Elane Photography didn’t want to handle the assignment, they could have avoided a lot of trouble—and expense as it turns out—by stating simply, “We do not have experience in same sex weddings, and we don’t think we could do an adequate job. Here is the name of one of our competitors who has considerable experience with same sex weddings.” I’m thinking that Elane Photography didn’t do that. They likely said something like, “God hates fags,” and showed the prospective customers the door. And it cost them.

The Indiana law is designed to protect concerns like Elane Photography. You hate fags, you don’t have to do business with them. All you have to do is to claim it’s a burden on your religion to “serve their kind here.” And the law will protect you from legal action.

As a result of the Indiana law we should not expect to see signs like the one above posted on business saying:


It’s going to be a lot more subtle than that. Not like old times.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

We Are So Thankful


Tuesday morning, and the news was bad. It quickly became worse. What we knew to be possible but believed to be improbable had come to pass. A fully functional airline pilot deliberately flew a plane load of people into a mountain side.

You cannot imagine the feeling of relief in some circles when it was learned this mass murder was not associated with a recent religious conversion. We can all be so thankful.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Bad Movie of the Week


Here’s one I never saw before. That’s no surprise, because about the time this came out I was living in a small Texas town, and we had only one movie theater, and it had only one screen. No film got more than two days screen time, and, even so, Hollywood pumped out more releases than we could handle. It’s likely this one just went right on by without showing there.

This is from RKO in 1951, and it stars Gig Young as public defender Paul Bennett of Los Angeles County, California. It starts with the story of William Jackson (James Anderson), who works in a bar and sometimes plays the piano, especially when cute Sally Clark (Lynne Roberts) asks him to. Only, his real name is Richard Kincaid, and he’s wanted for murder, and neither Sally nor anybody else in Salinas, California, knows this.

Nobody knows, that is, until one night a bandit comes in to rob Sally of the day’s receipts. The robber opens up on William/Richard, who wins the battle and kills the bandit.


This gets Richard some unwanted publicity.


The district attorney in Los Angeles County can read a newspaper, and shortly Richard is on trial for a murder that happened 12 years ago. Broke (he’s a dishwasher), Richard meets the public defender, and the story gets started. Richard tells his story.

Back before the war Richard ran into some strangers in a bar, and finished up the night with them at a party in somebody’s house. Here we meet all the critical characters in the drama.


Things would have gone all right for Richard, except part way through the party the husband of the woman Richard is with arrives. The husband is not in a good mood. Blows are exchanged. Threats are made. The husband winds up dead later that night. Richard is brought to trial, but he escapes when his guard collapses of natural causes.

Now public defender Paul Bennett needs to work up a case for his client, and here is where the movie gets interesting. A lot has happened to those people at the party in the past 12 years, and more is about to happen in the movie. One gets murdered. When Paul’s father, a retired cop with one arm, drives a witness back to town he gets ambushed by a couple of gunnies.


Bennett senior wins the gun fight, and the two gunnies are off to Boot Hill. If ever Paul considered his client might not be innocent, those thoughts have now vanished. However, he doesn’t get the break he needs until the trial is well under way. He gives one of the witnesses (now blind since the war) a lift to a cemetery to pay respects to his girl friend (now deceased) from the party. What Paul sees at the cemetery turns the trial completely around.


I won’t tell you any more than that, except I will note I did verify there really is a Picture Rocks Road in Tucson. It’s on the map, and I’ve been there.

As with a number of the movies I’ve reviewed recently, this one is not all that bad. The least useful plot turn introduced by writer DeVallon Scott is the interlude with the murdered man’s widow and her new husband, also one of those at the party. It goes nowhere and only gives viewers something to watch while Paul wades through his interviews of witnesses.

Gig Young got started in movies in 1940. He appeared without credits in Sergeant York (1941), which film I’m going to review on the 100th anniversary. He won an Oscar for best supporting actor in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? The end of his life was like one of his Hollywood dramas. In 1978 he married an actress decades his junior and three weeks later shot her to death and then himself.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

Some of these “bad jokes” are actually humorous. The following may or may not be actually responses by children.

Angels, as explained By Children.

I only know the names of two angels, Hark and Harold.

Gregory, age 5

Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it.

-Olive, age 9

It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to Heaven, and then there’s still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes.

-Matthew, age 9

Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else.

-Mitchell, age 7

My guardian angel helps me with math, but he’s not much good for science.

-Henry, age 8

Angels don’t eat, but they drink milk from holy cows!!!

-Jack, age 6
Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead.

Daniel, age 9
When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath again, somewhere there’s a tornado.

-Reagan, age 10

Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go south for the winter.

-Sara, age 6

Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who’s a very good carpenter.

-Jared, age 8

All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn’t go for it.

-Antonio, age 9
My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth.

-Ashley ~ age 9

Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don’t make the animals get better, they help the child get over it.

– Vicki , age 8

What I don’t get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them.

– Sarah , age 7

Stranger in a Strange Land


I have this cell phone, but I think it’s only for emergencies. I seldom get any call unless they’re from Rachel. But on Tuesday I got a call from my friend Zack. Zack’s a religious guy, and he was calling me up to find out if I planned to watch the CNN special report Atheists, Inside the World of Non Believers. I told him I was, and I was going to record it. And I did.

So here is what I found out. It’s an hour long, and it’s about how atheists get along in a world that’s wall-to-wall believeniks. It starts off with the story of a middle-age couple who are deeply religious. Christianity is the foundation of their lives. The problem is their college-age son is an atheist. Not only that, he heads up the atheist group at his college.

Of course the parents are devastated. They still love their son, but they are sure he is lost. That’s lost in non-recoverable, not just missing action. He’s going to Hell. They will never see him again after they die. Family meetings are strained. Conversation is limited. Religion can do that to people.

There’s also the case of the preacher, quite successful at conveying the good word to his flock, who has read more from the Bible than he should have (that’s dangerous). It came inexorably to him that Christianity was a big hoax. There is no magic sky person. Furthermore, nobody, but no body, is going to Hell. He carried on for a while, during which time he learned some useful skills. Then he resigned his position, moved to another town and entered legitimate employment.

There is also the case of the practicing pulpiteer who no longer believes. He gets up in front of the congregation Sunday after Sunday and issues forth reassurances. And other days besides. And he gives good advice and tends to the spiritual needs of his people. He’s a good pastor. He feels he’s helping people. But it’s all based on a lie.

You can’t cover atheism in a whitewash world without including Richard Dawkins and David Silverman. Dawkins is a world class biologists and an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. He is the author of numerous books explaining biological evolution in language for the masses, and he is a vocal spokesman against religion of all stripes. Wikipedia says this about Silverman:

David Silverman (born August 13, 1966) is the current president of the American Atheists, a nonprofit organization that supports the rights of atheists and the removal of expressions of religion in public when possibly interpretable as governmental endorsement, in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

There’s that and a lot more, and it’s all about people of good sense living in mind-locked society. It’s about how they cope and how society views them.

I look around me, and I see a lot of that. There’s an aspect of atheist activism that is all wrapped up with how society treats atheists. How atheists need to be accepted and recognized as worthy citizens. I’m not like that.

My problem is I’m not all that concerned about people’s attitude toward me. I long ago learned that a chunk of what people accept as truth is an inch shy of reality. If I end my existence stepping on a land mine, it’s not going to be because I trusted somebody’s phony mine detector.

And that’s why I’m not out there with a bunch of others clambering for acceptance. I’m stuck enough on myself not to need it. Whoa, you may say. Aren’t you going to miss out on a passel of worthwhile relationships? Not likely. People who do not accept me tend to be those who sell phony mine detectors. I’ve had my feet for a long time, and I plan to keep them.

Blessings of Faith

This came up earlier this week. We were watching the CNN special report, Atheists: Inside the World of Non Believers. And some of the people featured on the show were preachers, or former preachers, who do not believe in God. Jerry DeWitt was one of them:

Jerry DeWitt is an American author and public speaker, and a prominent member of the American atheism movement. He is a former pastor of two evangelical churches, who publicly deconverted to atheism in 2011. DeWitt is the former executive director of Recovering From Religion, a group which helps people find their way after a loss of faith.

But there was another. Another preacher who does not believe in God. And he’s still preaching. He gets up on Sunday and goes before his congregation and sounds forth the good word. Maybe on other days of the week as well. In his case nobody knows. The congregation has no clue they are receiving inspiration for somebody who does not believe.

And it came to pass that Barbara Jean spake unto me and said thus: “Tell me John, for you are my husband and most trusted advisor. How can such be true? Dost thou imagine that a multitude of the Lord’s messengers bear false witness?”

And I thought to myself. But only for a fraction of a second, for I know that a human life is but a second compared to the immense span of the history of God’s Universe. And I said unto Barbara Jean, “Yes.” And I proceeded to illustrate by example, for the Lord had recently provided me one by way of a cute meme posted on my Facebook feed. And here, forthwith, it is:


Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Hitler’s Super Weapons

I’m trying to recall when I first learned about the German Vergeltungswaffen (retribution weapons or vengeance weapons). My dad subscribed to Popular Mechanics, and in the mid-50s there was an item about rocket weapons, and there was likely mention of the V2 there. Arthur Daniel was our social studies teacher in high school, and he managed the library. We had some great books for a small time school, and one of these was Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel, by Willy Ley. Willy Ley grew up in Germany between the wars, and his fascination with rockets and space travel led him to the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel). Another member was Wernher von Braun, the brain behind the V2, for Vergeltungswaffe 2, rocket.

The VfR was a society of amateurs, whose interest was space. The group included some serious thinkers, including Hermann Oberth. Oberth significantly worked out (actually a straight forward problem in integral calculus) how a rocket’s mass ratio and exhaust velocity relate to the maximum velocity obtainable by the rocket. Nazis were just a troublesome fringe political group when the VfR was founded in 1927, but when they came to power in 1933 they were seen as a source of funding for rocket research. In this respect the VfR sold itself to the devil, with von Braun eventually becoming a party member.

I have said this before, and I’m repeating myself now. One of the best assets the Allies had in the European war was Adolph Hitler. His early successes cowed experienced German military commanders to the point that eventually few dared to question his decisions. Eventually Hitlers amateurish meddling in management of the war helped to grind the German war effort into the dust. One of Hitler’s pet ideas was a maniacal aversion to defensive. He considered talk of defense to be defeatist. In his autobiography Luftwaffe fighter ace Adolf Galland tells of his continued failed attempts to get Hitler (through Goring) to come around to placing more emphasis on fighter defense:

After a while Peltz and I were called in to Goring. We were met with a shattering picture; Goring had completely broken down. His head buried in his arm on the table he moaned some indistinguishable words. We stood there for some time in embarrassment. At last Goring pulled himself together and said we were witnessing his deepest moments of despair. The Führer had lost faith in him. All the suggestions from which he had expected a radical change in the situation of the war in the air had been rejected. The Führer had announced that the Luftwaffe had disappointed him too often. A changeover from offensive to defensive in the air against the west was out of the question. He would give the Luftwaffe a last chance to rehabilitate itself. This could be done by a resumption of air attacks against England, but this time on a bigger scale. Now as before the motto was still: Attack. Terror could only be smashed by counterterror. This was the way the Führer had dealt with his political enemies. Goring had realized his mistake. The Führer was always right. All our strength was now to be concentrated on dealing to the enemy in the west such mighty retaliation blows from the air that he would not risk a second Hamburg. As a first measure in the execution of his plan the Führer had ordered the creation of a leader of the attacks on England.

Galland, Adolf (2014-08-18). The First and The Last (p. 96). David Rehak. Kindle Edition.

Early on the V weapons were seen as a risky proposition, possibly not needed. This was supposed to be a short war. Then it became a long war. But by then some basic economics had set in.

Look at a map. In the beginning Germany was surrounded on all sides by enemies, except for Italy or by water. Then Germany made a deal with the USSR, eliminating the enemy on the east. In the mean time Germany had eliminated the enemy to the southeast, Czechoslovakia, through the aid and connivance of England and France. Germany first took advantage of the new void to the east and attacked defenseless Poland. That left only enemies to the west. Germany next struck west at the uncommitted countries of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. Then France and, when it finally become necessary, at England. Here Germany’s advance cracked. Germany’s economic dilemma was now crystallized. It was this:

  • Germany could not get food or military supplies from overseas. The British Navy blocked these routes.
  • Germany had enormous industrial capacity, but it did not have sufficient raw materials for a protracted war. Eventually petroleum, metals, even food, had to come from the east and the south.
  • Italy was an ally, but it was a poor source of war materials. Not apparent at first, but Italy was eventually to become a millstone dragging down the German war effort.
  • Germany’s wherewithal to prosecute the war came from draining its war conquests. Conquered countries were exploited for slave labor, war materials and food. People in conquered countries were murdered to eliminate their drag on the war effort.
  • Sweden became the only neutral country supplying the German war effort, chiefly iron ore. It was not enough.

Starting with its attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941 Germany was on a rigid timetable to win the war or to die. With the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941 the timetable became breathtakingly short. Reverses at Stalingrad and in North Africa late in 1942 made it apparent the war would be lost. Hitler’s desperation began to show. He was now ready to give the V weapons serious consideration.

The first of these to come to fruition was not the famous space rocket but it was the world’s first cruise missile, the V1.

The V-1 was developed at Peenemünde Army Research Center by the Nazi German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. During initial development it was known by the codename “Cherry Stone”. The first of the so-calledVergeltungswaffen series designed for terror bombing of London, the V-1 was fired from launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. The first V-1 was launched at London on 13 June 1944), one week after (and prompted by) the successful Allied landing in Europe. At its peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total, decreasing in number as sites were overrun until October 1944, when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was overrun by Allied forces. After this, the V-1s were directed at the port of Antwerp and other targets in Belgium, with 2,448 V-1s being launched. The attacks stopped when the last launch site was overrun on 29 March 1945.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

The operation of the V1 was straightforward. It was a small airplane, no pilot. It had an autopilot to keep it flying straight and level at a prescribed altitude in a specified direction. On top was a pulse jet engine.

The interesting thing about a pulse jet engine is its simplicity. It’s got only about one moving part. That part is a flapper valve in front. It works like this: A fuel-air mixture in the compression chamber is detonated. The explosion drives exhaust gases out the back, creating thrust. The pressure also keeps the flapper valve closed so that no exhaust is expelled out the front, which is also the air intake. When the pressure wave from the explosion reaches the open end of the tail pipe, a low pressure wave is reflected. Ask any racing engine builder about tuned exhausts. When the low pressure wave reaches the front end of the combustion chamber, the flapper valve swings open, and more air enters, even if the engine is standing still. I have seen a demonstration of one of these engines (not on a V1) in operation. It just sit there and makes a horrible buzzing noise. Hence the name “buzz bomb.”

The V1 needed some assist taking off, so it had a rocket motor to propel it down it’s launching rail. The rocket motor was dropped off after the V1 cleared the launch rail, and the V1 continued on its mission.

The technology for autopilots had been perfected for decades. It’s been around in torpedoes since World War One. A gyroscope provided directional stability. Now the flying bomb was headed toward its target. It was just a matter of knowing when to dive into the ground. This was managed by a small propeller turning in the wind stream. So many turns of the propeller meant the V1 had arrived at its target, and the V1 dived toward the ground. It’s warhead of 850 kg of amatol-39 was fused to explode on impact. Not intended, but the dive of the V1 caused its engine to starve and shut down, so when the buzzing sound stopped people on the ground knew death had arrived.

V1 attacks on London and other parts England began seven days after the Normandy landings in June 1944. This was no coincidence. The idea of the Germans was to give the invaders something else to think about besides invading France. Initial launch sites were located near the French coast facing England.

Marschflugkörper V1 vor Start

From Wikipedia

Hitler had hyped his super weapons to a selected audience within the Reich. They were going to be the salvation of his collapsing regime. However, they were no secret to the Allies. Ground intelligence and aerial reconnaissance had given the Allies fair warning of what was to come. Already, attacks on Peenemünde and other installations had stalled progress. When the first blows began to fall the impact was no less alleviated.

During the first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1s fell every hour on London. Over an 80 day period, more than 6,000 persons were killed, with over 17,000 injured and a million buildings wrecked or damaged.

Unlike conventional German aircraft bombing raids, V-1 attacks occurred around the clock in all types of weather, striking indiscriminately, causing suspense and terror among the population of London and parts of Kent and Sussex.

Since I’m analyzing the war against Germany in terms of economics, it’s only fitting I provide an economic excerpt. American General Clayton Bissell published an analysis. He produced the following table:

Blitz (12 months) vs V-1 flying bombs (2¾ months)
Blitz V-1
1. Cost to Germany
Sorties 90,000 8,025
Weight of bombs tons 61,149 14,600
Fuel consumed tons 71,700 4,681
Aircraft lost 3,075 0
Personnel lost 7,690 0
2. Results
Structures damaged/destroyed 1,150,000 1,127,000
Casualties 92,566 22,892
Rate casualties/bombs tons 1.6 1.6
3. Allied air effort
Sorties 86,800 44,770
Aircraft lost 1,260 351
Personnel lost 2,233 805

This compares the twelve months of The Blitz (beginining September 1940) to the critical period of V1 attacks from June to October 1944. The figures are for England and do not include the continued attacks on Belgium after V1 launch sites were overrun by advancing Allied soldiers in October. Also, General Bissell’s table does not include a number of German personal and aircraft lost in action related to their own V1 attacks. Note that the table lists 351 Allied aircraft and 805 crew lost in attacks on V1s and their installations, but it does not include Germany’s losses in defense of them.

Neither does this include the economic cost of the missiles.

Throughout the war over 34,000 V1 rockets were produced while roughly 10,000 were actually launched. Of those launched, around 25% reached their targets and caused extensive casualties. Over 12,000 people were killed outright and many more were injured, with most of the casualties occurring in London and Antwerp, which were the main two targets. What made the V1 so successful was its relatively simple design and low cost in terms of both money (5000 Reichsmarks, compared to 100000+ Reichsmarks for a Panzer tank)  and materials.

34,000 units at 5000 Reichsmarks each works out to 68,000 Reichsmarks for each bomb that exploded on a target. Now you still do not know what a Reichsmark is worth, except that it took 100,000 of them to build a Panzer tank.

The facts behind the low success rate of the V1 are worth noting. Since there was no pilot, the flying bomb could not take evasive action. It flew in a straight line until it was time to dive. That made for gunnery practice, and the fact is that the Brits quickly figured out the path of incoming V1s and stationed all their Bofors guns along the route—none in the target areas, principally London. The falling shells from the Bofors were considered comparable in destruction to the V1s. The deliberate targeting of V1s over the English countryside had the effect that people living there were killed who had thought they would be safe. The economics of war spoke for the benefit of this approach.

Also, the V1 was fast, but not that fast. At an average speed of 350 miles per hour it was vulnerable to a very fast fighter, especially if the fighter could make a diving attack. A dangerous occupation was to get behind one and pump rounds into it until it blew up. Gun sight footage of such an encounter is worth viewing. Another tactic was to fly alongside a V1 and nudge its wing over with the tip of the fighter’s wing.

The Brits also employed some counter intelligence. The Nazis had some spies on the ground, but eventually all known sources were turned by British intelligence. There existed a quandary about what the double agents should report back. If they reported that all V1s were falling long, then the Germans would get wind that something was wrong. Newspaper accounts, accessible to all the world, were telling of destruction throughout London. Eventually a compromise was reached, and enough erroneous reports were transmitted to cause the Germans to revise their aim—in the wrong direction. Interestingly the Germans put radio transmitters in some units to get a more accurate picture of where the bombs were impacting, but they even came to doubt this source in favor of the phony spy reports.

The short operating range (160 miles) was the V1’s ultimate undoing. Allied forces began to overrun the available launch sites in the summer of 1944, and they pushed into Holland in September and October, effectively shutting down the V1 blitz.

By September 1944, the V-1 threat to England was temporarily halted when the launch sites on the French coast were overrun by the advancing Allied armies. 4,261 V-1s had been destroyed by fighters, anti-aircraft fire and barrage balloons. The last enemy action of any kind on British soil occurred on 29 March 1945, when a V-1 struck Datchworth in Hertfordshire.

That was 70 years ago.

The V1 was not the showcase product of the von Braun and the VfR. That was the V2. It is appropriate to say the V2 was, after the atomic bomb, the most advanced weapon of the early 20th century. It embodied numerous technical achievements, any one of which would be a candidate for a Nobel Prize in engineering, if there were one. von Braun and his crew took the early work of Robert Goddard and carried it further an order of magnitude. Accomplishments included:

  • A liquid fuel rocket motor using a cryogenic oxidizer (liquid oxygen).
  • Boundary layer cooling of critical combustion chamber regions.
  • Thrust vector control to stabilize rocket flight until aerodynamic control could be established.
  • Aerodynamic control at supersonic speeds.

From Wikipedia

Once again Hitler resisted the enormous expense of developing a weapon that would not be needed in a short war. When the balance of the war shifted following 1942 Hitler came around.

By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde possessed the technologies essential to the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.

In early September 1943, von Braun promised the Long-Range Bombardment Commission that the A-4 development was “practically complete/concluded”, but even by the middle of 1944, a complete A-4 parts list was still unavailable. Hitler was sufficiently impressed by the enthusiasm of its developers, and needed a “wonder weapon” to maintain German morale, so authorized its deployment in large numbers.

It was a matter of too much too late. By 1944 German industry was on its knees. Allied air attacks regularly dismantled key pieces of the infrastructure. Materials were in short supply and becoming ever more scarce as Soviet and Western forces smothered their sources. The Wehrmact had lost millions killed, incapacitated and captured, and draft age men were pulled from their work places into the military. German war industry was running on women workers and slave labor from conquered lands, and slaves were dying by the thousands, squandered as an expendable resource.

Now came the V2, with essentially the same payload as the V1, but at multiple times the cost.


From Wikipedia

As with the V1, the Allies knew about the V2 in advance. Operation Crossbow was a major Allied effort to quash the V weapons programs at the source. It was a costly drain on our offensive resources, drawing bomber assets away from more strategic targets and at a great cost in assets and personnel.

Operation Hydra was a Royal Air Force attack on the Peenemünde Army Research Center on the night of 17/18 August 1943. It was the first time a master bomber was used for the main force. Group Captain John Searby, CO of 83 Squadron, commanded the operation. It began the Operation Crossbow strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany’s V-weapon programme. 215 British aircrew members and 40 bombers were lost, and hundreds of civilians were killed in a nearby concentration camp. The air raid killed two V-2 rocket scientists and delayed V-2 rocket test launches for seven weeks.

As British Field Marshall Montgomery’s troops prepared to push into Holland the Germans initiated operations with the V2.

After Hitler’s 29 August 1944 declaration to begin V-2 attacks as soon as possible, the offensive began on 8 September 1944 with a single launch at Paris, which caused modest damage near Porte d’Italie,. Two more launches by the 485th followed, including one from The Hagueagainst London on the same day at 6:43 p.m. – the first landed at Chiswick, killing 63-year-old Mrs. Ada Harrison, 3-year-old Rosemary Clarke, and Sapper Bernard Browning on leave from the Royal Engineers, and one that hit Epping with no casualties. Upon hearing the double-crack of the supersonic rocket (London’s first ever), Duncan Sandys and Reginald Victor Jones looked up from different parts of the city and exclaimed “That was a rocket!”, and a short while after the double-crack, the sky was filled with the sound of a heavy body rushing through the air.

V2 casualties in Antwerp (from Wikipedia)

V2 casualties in Antwerp (from Wikipedia)

A V2 attack was different from a V1 attack in just about every conceivable way. People could hear a V1 coming from miles away. The V1 was small and fast, but it was still visible to people on the ground, wondering just when it would suddenly cease its journey and plunge to the ground. Anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons and fighter interception were effective against the V1.

The V2 literally came from outer space. Thirty seconds after launch it reached the speed of sound. It’s engine shut down after one minute, and the 47-foot-long monster continued into the lower reaches of outer space, reaching altitudes of over 55 miles and speeds of 3850 miles per hour before plunging down to earth and impacting at 1790 miles per hour. Considerably faster than sound, it hit the ground before anybody heard it coming. Its descent was so quick few people witnessed the event and even fewer photographs exist.

Despite carrying slightly more (1000 kg vs. 850 kg) of the same explosive charge (amatol) the V2 was substantially more destructive on impact. The entire airframe plus warhead (3780 kg) impacting at 1790 miles per hour delivered over a billion Joules at the impact point. And that was before the warhead went off. The warhead had a contact (impact) fuse, meaning the explosion occurred at or below ground. This diminished the destruction from the warhead, but the shock wave from the airframe was sufficient to do much damage to nearby structures.

A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V-2 creates a crater 20 m wide and 8 m deep, ejecting approximately 3,000 tons of material into the air.

At first the British were reluctant to announce the V2 attacks to the citizenry. They weren’t fooling anybody, and 10 November 1944 Prime Minister Winston Churchill admitted that England had been for some weeks under rocket attack.

Besides attacks on missile production and launch facilities, the only effective defense against V2 attacks was, as with the V1, misdirection. The British leaked information that V2s were overshooting their main target, London, and thereafter V2s started falling short as the Germans “corrected” their aim.

For all time the V2 remained an area weapon. From an extreme range of 200 miles enough variation in flight control crept in to produce a CEP (circular error probability) measured in miles. Regardless, people were dying:

An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly. Accuracy increased over the course of the war, particularly on batteries where Leitstrahl-Guide Beam apparatus was installed. Missile strikes that found targets could cause large numbers of deaths — 160 were killed and 108 seriously injured in one explosion at 12:26 pm on 25 November 1944, at a Woolworth’s department store in New Cross, south-east London.

England was not the only target:

These attacks in Germany were among the last in the war. American forces stormed and captured the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen on 7 March 1945. It was the first bridgehead established across the Rhine, and Hitler was furious, ordering all means to destroy the bridge. One missile hit in the town and killed six American soldiers. By this time 70 years ago the German Reich was entering its period of catastrophic collapse. Hitler and many top Nazi officials had just days to live. The last of the V2s were fired off before the barrage fell silent:

The final two rockets exploded on 27 March 1945. One of these was the last V-2 to kill a British civilian: Mrs. Ivy Millichamp, aged 34, killed in her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington in Kent.

An analysis of the effectiveness of the V2 is due, and the numbers are not good for the program. For starters, two people killed for each rocket in London? And the economics were not impressive. The V2 was far less a bargain than the V1.

The German V-weapons (V-1 and V-2) cost $3 billion (wartime dollars) and were more costly than the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb ($1.9 billion). 6,048 V-2s were built, at a cost of approximately 100,000 Reichsmarks (GB£2,370,000 (2011)) each; 3,225 were launched. SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. The V-2 is perhaps the only weapon system to have caused more deaths by its production than its deployment.

The V-2 consumed a third of Germany’s fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical technologies: to distil the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes at a time when food was becoming scarce. Due to a lack of explosives, concrete was used and sometimes the warhead contained photographic propaganda of German citizens who had died in Allied bombing.

Of that $3 billion mentioned, $2 billion was for the V2, making it more expensive than America’s atomic bomb project.

Army Corps of Engineers General Leslie Groves was a man of big projects. After completing the construction of the Pentagon Building he was tapped for the new Manhattan Project. With a blank check, almost unlimited power and little detailed planning he built in a few months the largest industrial concern in the world at the time. The Manhattan project encompassed wholly new research laboratories and huge industrial plants erected on newly-purchased land. An observer noted later that the United States essentially duplicated its entire automobile industry to build the bomb.

This was in Nazi Germany, not the United States. Part way into the war the German economy was already dragging bottom, while the United States was producing 50,000 war planes and partying with the lights on right up to the final victory day.

Add to the cost of the rocket, the cost of launching one was daunting. The site lays out the grueling steps involved in a mobile launch. I will just summarize the description here:

German Mobile Firing Procedure for A-4/V-2
(Photo stills taken from film Operation Backfire)

  1. The V-2 was launched from hidden wooded areas or even vacated city streets. Seen above is the entrance to the Duindigt area in Wassenaar and a city street Stadhouderslaan in Den Haag, 1945.
  2. Triangulation marks on trees, the Duindigt Estate entrance, and steel sleepers used for launch table stabilization.
  3. Rockets arrive by railway, where they are met by the Technical Troop at the transfer point. Two rockets occupy 3 flatcars. The mobile crane is positioned to lift the rocket from the flatcar to the Vidalwagen road transporter.
  4. The Technical Troop transports the rockets to the field store where the warheads are attached and minor adjustments made. The field store was not usually in the vicinity of the firing areas, but some kilometers away.
  5. The mobile crane is later towed to a prearranged spot where the Technical Troop meets the Firing Troop. This was usually done in another secluded location, so as to not draw attention to the field store or firing locations. The Vidalwagen pulls under the crane, and the Meillerwagen pulls next to it. The V-2 is hoisted and moved to the Meillerwagen vehicle.
  6. With the rocket secured in the clamps of the Meillerwagen, the Vidalwagen pulls away. The Meillerwagen is hitched to the towing vehicle, in this case a Hanomag SS-100, and then driven to the firing location.
  7. Back at the railhead, the liquid oxygen railway tanker is approached by members of the Supply Detachment. Using a small gasoline-powered engine to run an external pump, they attach the hoses and tow the Betriebstoffanhaenger liquid oxygen road tanker alongside the rail tanker.
  8. The super-cooled liquid oxygen soon creates frost on the hoses and attachments. The white vapor is exiting condensed water vapor. Meanwhile, the Firing Troop tows the Abschussplattform (firing table) onto the launch site.
  9. The legs of the Pfaff-manufactured Abschussplattform are screwed down to lift the weight of the platform. The towing dolly is then removed. The dial-sight is adjusted, and then the Meillerwagen is wenched backwards to the firing table.
  10. The extending supports are swung out and screwed down at the rear of the Meillerwagen for the support needed while raising the rocket. A small Volkswagen gasoline engine operates (2) hydraulic rams, which, are controlled by one man to raise the arm of the Meillerwagen into the vertical position. The Meillerwagen is then rolled back about 96 cm after the V-2 is resting upright on the Abschussplattform. Also shown is the electrical cable mast that is mounted at one corner of the Bodenplatte. These cables travel to the Feuerleitpanzer launch control vehicle and the Steyr power supply vehicle..
  11. Soon the Supply Detachment or Fueling Troop was moving quickly to the location of the firing site. In this case, we see a Hanomag towing an alcohol bowser, followed by the Opel Blitz alcohol tanker towing a trailer pump, followed by a Hanomag towing the liquid oxygen trailer and finally, (the small truck in the distance) is the Opel Blitz t-stoff tanker.
  12. At the firing site, the survey crew is busy measuring to make sure the rocket is level. The protective engine jet covers are removed from the venturi in the combustion chamber.
  13. The fragile carbon graphite exhaust rudders are carefully bolted in place. Fueling started with the alcohol bowser being pulled up to the rocket. The Meillerwagen arm was built to also act as a servicing tower, with built-in plumbing for permanent delivery of alcohol and liquid oxygen when fueling. The hoses were connected to the Meillerwagen at the tanker and at the top of the V-2 fuel tanks.
  14. The towed trailer pump in action. Alcohol fueling took about 10 minutes. When alcohol fueling was almost completed, the liquid oxygen tanker was towed to the other side of the rocket.
  15. The bevey of vehicles surrounding the V-2. Directly infront of the rocket is the t-stoff tanker (hydrogen peroxide). The liquid oxygen was always pumped into the rocket no more than one hour before firing to prevent the internal valves from freezing. The sodium permanganate was kept heated to quicken the reaction with t-stoff when powering the steam turbine. The alcohol bowser is finished and pulls away. This bowser shown was not used by the V-2 troops—it was a Luftwaffe piece of equipment.
  16. During the liquid oxygen fueling, the hydrogen peroxide is manually pumped into a pre-measured container mounted to the Meillerwagen, which, is emptied into the t-stoff tank by gravity. A technician climbs up to the midsection joint and adjusts the tension created by 8 tons of added fuel. The z-stoff is removed from its heater, and emtied into the rocket manually. Fueling completed, the liquid oxygen tanker pulls away.
  17. The support vehicles retreat to a safe distance. The igniter is prepared to be inserted in the combustion chamber and the rocket is oriented by using a dial sight on the Abschussplattform. The arm of the Meillerwagen comes down.
  18. Meillerwagen heads away from the area. The members of the Firing Troop take cover in slip-trenches prepared earlier. The Feuerleitpanzer (Sd.Kfz.7/3) firing control vehicle is located about 100-150 meters away from the rocket, usually down in a protective trench that was dug when the site was prepared. The launch control officer and crew enter the Feuerleitpanzer. Inside, the launch control officer asks the man on the steeringtable, “Steuerung klar?”—”Steuerung klar!” is the answer. Everything is quiet. The soldiers are only whispering. The launch officer calls, “X1” (t-minus one minute).
  19. The officer steps on a small perch in the Feuerleitpanzer. He is able to see the launch site, “Schlüssel auf Schießen!,” he orders. “Ist auf Schießen, Klarlampe leuchtet!,” says the man behind the propulsion controls. The fuel ignites, flowing under gravity, burning at 1.5 to 2.5-tons of thrust.
  20. After a precisely established sequence of commands, the last order of the officer is barely heard over the roar of the engine, “Hauptstufe!” After that, the man at the propulsion controls pushes the button and the fuel pumps and steam turbine begin to scream. The earth is shaking and vibrating under the pressure of 25-tons of thrust. The rocket goes straight up and turns itself slow to the target. A man at the propulsion table jumps to the table and turns the spanner of the high pressure bottles down. The soldiers slowly go to the launch site, that ironically, looks very empty.

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James Oberg produced the following comparison:

24,000 fighters could have been produced instead of the inaccurate V-weapons.

Air Ambush


When I was in the Navy Reserve I was in a fighter squadron. As a kid I always had a fascination with fighter airplanes. Movies about World War Two were playing in the local theater, and the specter of two high-performance fighters dueling to the death in the sky had an enormous appeal on my young self. When the Korean war came alone there were now jet fighters, and these were even more cool. We lived on a bluff overlooking the Brazos River, and one day I heard the screech of jets in the sky over the flat lands beyond. I went out and saw two jets engaged in a mock fight just a few hundred feet up and across the river. They had their fun for a minute or so and then were gone.

All that is past me, but starting in 2005 The History Channel produced two seasons of Dogfights, consisting of recreations of combat using computer generated imagery (CGI) and created by Cynthia Harrison, Jason McKinley and Brooks Wachtel.

This episode relates the events surrounding Operation Bolo and the background behind the mission. Operation Bolo was the product of veteran combat pilot Robin Olds. He had become a fighter ace (5+ victories) in World War Two, flying P-38 Lightning fighters over Europe. By the time the Vietnam conflict came around his services were sorely needed.

The American military had become overly reliant on missiles. Fighters were being designed to attack multi-engine bombers, and fighting skills had been neglected. While our forces had enjoyed a victory ratio in excess of 7 to 1 in Korea, at the outset of hostilities in Vietnam this advantage had shrunk to around 3 to 1. Robin Olds was set to straighten things out at his base in Thailand. He placed emphasis on combat skills and tasked junior officers to come up with an aggressive program. One thing they came up with was Operation Bolo.


This was 2 January 1967, and about this time American forces were bombing the stuffings out of North Vietnamese facilities. What we used a lot at the time were F-105 Thunderchief jet fighter-bombers. You might think looking at an F-105—with its sleek, rakish profile—that this was one daunting foe to go up against in the air. It was not. This was no fighter, especially when it was carrying an external load of bombs. Instead of “Thunderchief” it was typically call the “Thud.” Anyhow, the Thuds needed fighter protection. MiG-21 fighters of the North Vietnamese Air Force were having Thuds for lunch. The United States Air Force was determined to do something about the MiG problem.

The scheme was this: Lure the MiGs into an aerial fight with somebody who could take them on. What Olds did was to set up a flight of F-4 fighters to look like a flight of Thuds. They flew the same schedule typical of a Thud attack, following the same routes and duplicating standard Thud formations. They even equipped the F-4s with the QRC-160 jamming pods used by F-105s. The F-4s flew in multiple flights, arriving over the designated area above a cloud cover. The cloud cover was an advantage. The North Vietnamese could only track the incoming F-4s by radar, making the deception that much easier.

After a few minutes over the target area the MiGs began to pop up above the clouds (the cloud cover had delayed their take-off), only to discover F-4s instead of F-105s. The North Vietnamese pilots were distressed to no end. The news reports at the time described their distress. Intercepted radio traffic was telling: “They are F-4s, not 105s. I repeat, F-4s.” And, “I would like to come down now.” North Vietnamese pilots were trained to strictly follow orders, and by the time their ground control got a handle on the situation seven of the MiG-21s had been downed. The Americans lost none of the F-4s. Seven might not seem like a big bag for a combat mission, but at the time the North Vietnamese had only about 12 to 15 MiG-21s. The MiGs were not such a big problem after that, with North Vietnam being reluctant to risk its remaining fleet.

The Dogfights production features interviews with actual pilots involved in the combat, including Robin Olds in this case. They were fortunate to get the interviews, as the retired Air Force General died in 2007. There is some available footage of the actual events, but even better are the CGI sequences, which are remarkable in their realism. Contributing to the educational nature of the series are illustrations of the air tactics employed and comparisons of the opposing weaponry. Here is a graphic depicting an F-4 making an attack on a MiG-21. In this case the MiG is drawing a bead on an American fighter when the F-4 executes a hard right turn from above to get behind the MiG. Hint: The MiG did not go home that day.


At the time the Air Force employed AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. We still use them, but new and improved models. Both are currently developed and manufactured at Raytheon’s facility in Tucson. The Sparrow is radar controlled. The Sidewinder uses passive infra-red tracking.

One thing brought out in recounts of the Vietnam combat was the unreliability of the Sparrow. Apparently primitive maintenance facilities in Thailand resulted in a high failure rate. A Sparrow shot was about 10% likely to score a hit on the target. A high percentage of the Sparrows, when launched, simply fell off the rail and dropped to the ground.

Sidewinders were mechanically more reliable. They typically launched successfully, but the model used at the time was adapted for taking down multi-engine bombers. A highly maneuverable fighter could dodge an oncoming Sidewinder by making a last-second maneuver. The Sidewinder, going several times the speed of sound, could not correct fast enough.


A comparison of the F-4 and the MiG illustrates the relative advantages of each. The MiG-21 was famous for being able to “turn on a single molecule of air.” F-4s defeated this ability by taking the fight into three dimensions, using its tremendous thrust advantage to climb rapidly and maneuver over the MiG.


I’ve since talked to some fighter pilots, and one thing they are aware of is the physics involved. For one thing, you can’t shoot at an enemy plane unless you can get him in front of you. If you are along side the enemy, or if you are too close behind for a missile shot, you have to somehow back off and get behind. If you just cut power your airplane will become less maneuverable as you lose speed. One tactic to get behind an enemy, if you have the power, is to keep the throttle wide open, but pitch up. You lose some speed, but you don’t lose any energy (physics again). You trade speed for altitude. If you execute what amounts to a high barrel roll you come back down to the enemy’s altitude, but now you’re behind him, and you are back up to, or above, your original speed.


The CGI recreations of combat are stunning. There’s is better detail than you could have obtained from gun camera video. Here is shown an F-4 letting loose with two Sparrows. Pilots often fired these expensive assets in salvos to increase the possibility that one of them will hit a target.


Some reality is sacrificed for viewer appeal. Here an F-4 is about to take down a MiG. The F-4 in this case was supposed to be nearly a mile behind the MiG.


Again, great detail. The F-4 is executing a rolling maneuver, exposing all its external stores. Lighting and shadows are meticulously rendered in what was surely the expenditure of billions of computer processor cycles.


The end of the day for a MiG-21. A Sparrow missile is coming up from behind.


Camera footage from 2 January 1967. F-4s return from Operation Bolo after a victorious day.