Turning Point

One of a Series

This is another in my continuing series marking the 100th anniversary of the The First World War. I’m tracking events through Hew Strachan‘s authoritative book of the that name. Strachan did not treat the story of the war chronologically. It would have been pointless to do so, and I’m not going to either. There are a number of salient themes that catch the nature of this world conflict, and I am posting on each one at an appropriate anniversary.

A significant turning point in the war came in May of 1916, and it came not on the battlefields of France and Belgium, but in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark. It’s the Battle of Jutland, named after the peninsula occupied by the country of Denmark, and it came about this way.

Look at a map of Europe. Germany (and Austria-Hungary) are fighting England, France and Russia. England and France are to the west and southwest, Russia is to the east. Italy to the south is no friend. At the start Germany (and most others) figured on a short war. These things never lasted for more than a few months. When the battlefronts bogged down in the autumn of 1914, and the war dragged on all through 1915 it was obvious to all that Germany was in trouble.

Germany was prepared to supply its war effort for a matter of months. Beyond that it would require resupply. And that was the problem. Germany touches the world’s oceans only in the Baltic Sea and along a short stretch of coast between The Netherlands and Denmark. England, the dominant sea power at that time had a choke on Germany’s sea outlets. Resupply by sea could come to Germany through the English Channel—out of the question—or north over the top of Scotland. England’s navy early concentrated on blocking this route. Take special note that the Orkney Islands north of Scotland are the home of Scapa Flow, both during this war and in the one that was to follow a few years later, a major anchorage of Britain’s battle fleet.

Germany’s naval losses early in the war have already been noted. By 1916 they had not yet built up their full U-boat strength, and their remaining surface raiders were bottled up in the Baltic ports. German naval commanders were stymied. An enormous armed conflict was raging beneath their noses, and they could only sit on their hands. They had to do something to get into the war and claim some of the glory at the end. In the end they sealed Germany’s fate.

British and German signaling at the time represented opposite poles in strategy. In the previous 15 years radio technology had provided the means for reliable communication across great distances. Both belligerent powers made good use of it, especially the Germans in organizing their military assets, both naval and ground, at widely separated points on the globe. Close in, the Germans made great use of radio to coordinate efforts by their fleet in the Baltic and in ventures into the North Sea. The British took an opposite course. They had set up ranging stations along their coast and used these to pinpoint the location of German ships. And there was more.

Within four months of the war’s outbreak the British were in possession of all three German naval codes. The Australians laid their hands on the code book for merchant shipping; the imperial naval code book was taken by the Russians from a cruiser which went aground in the Baltic; and the traffic signals book from a sunk destroyer was picked up in the nets of a British trawler.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3248-3251). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

The Brits read German radio signals to great advantage throughout the war. Possibly because of their own two-pronged approach to signal intelligence, the Brits refrained from using radio in tactical operations. Ships communicating with each other used signal flags, a well developed naval art, but fraught with difficulties if conditions were not right.

Germany’s plan, beginning in late 1914, was to settle matters with the British Navy. They would draw capital British ships into combat and send them to the bottom in a direct confrontation. The Germans initiated this scheme by strikes on the British east coast.

German attacks on the British coast, as opposed to British attacks on the German coast, might sting the British into a response and so enable the German navy to take on fractions of the Royal Navy and gradually whittle away its strength.

At 8 a.m. on 16 December German battle cruisers of Franz von Hipper’s Scouting Squadron bombarded Hartlepool and Scarborough, killing over a hundred civilians.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3229-3232). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Britain’s immediate response to this raid was a propaganda campaign that emphasized the uncivilized conduct of their enemy.


From Wikipedia

Hipper’s fleet tried again on 23 January 1915. “Beatty” is Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty.

At 7.05 a.m. one of Beatty’s destroyers reported contact with the enemy. At 8.34 Beatty ordered his battle cruisers to raise their speed to 27 knots, four knots faster than the maximum speed Hipper could maintain. Twenty-six minutes later his flagship, HMS Lion, opened fire at a range in excess of 20,000 yards. The wind was north-easterly, with the result, according to her captain, that ‘the smoke of the enemy coming almost straight towards us, combined with the gloom, made spotting very difficult. Flashes of the enemy’s guns were extraordinarily vivid, so that it could not be seen whether we were hitting the enemy or not.’ They were: the leading German ship , Seydlitz, caught fire.

However, she was saved by the deliberate flooding of her magazines . Ultimately, of four German ships, only the weakest and oldest, the Blücher, a so-called ‘five-minute’ ship in reference to her likely survival time in battle, was sunk. The restrictions of flag signals created ambiguity in Beatty’s orders. Greater use of wireless would not only have ensured the more effective distribution of his ships’ firepower, but also have prevented him breaking off the action prematurely. At 10.54, Beatty persuaded himself that he saw the wash of a periscope. Fearing that Hipper might be luring his battle cruisers over a submarine screen, he turned away rather than risk being torpedoed.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3271-3281). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

At issue here and also in the subsequent Battle of Jutland was the British needed to keep the Germans from discovering their codes had been compromised. Although British signal intelligence, under the name “Room 40,” often had excellent information about German plans and movements, this information was withheld from the fleet, otherwise the German commanders would figure out the British were reading their codes.”

An early development was to have crucial, and fatal, consequences in the coming Battle of Jutland. In the Battle of the Falkland Islands and again in the Dogger Bank battle (just described) the British came to realize they were getting very few shells on target at long range. Their response, which was to prove catastrophic, was to increase their rate of fire. What made this fatal was that it was accomplished by sacrificing safety. Extra shells and bags of propellant were stocked near the guns, and channels between the ship’s magazines and the gun mounts, channels that should have been protected by safety locks, were kept open to allow the speedy flow of ammunition.

In early 1916 the Germans prepared their crucial action to defeat the British fleet.

Reinhard Scheer, who succeeded to the command of the High Seas Fleet in February 1916, was a decisive, even impetuous, man, in stark contrast to his predecessors. He won the Kaiser over to a more aggressive use of the fleet, its guiding principle being that, as before, Hipper’s Scouting Squadron should lure Beatty’s battle cruisers out to sea. This time, however, both submarines and the battleships of the High Seas Fleet would be waiting.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3310-3313). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

By then Sir John Jellicoe commanded Britain’s Grand Fleet. He was a cautious man, mindful that the fate of British naval superiority hung on his every decision. A big concern of his was the German U-boat threat.

To avoid that danger Jellicoe proposed to refuse action in waters of the Germans’ own choosing, however ‘repugnant to the feelings of all British Naval Officers and men’. On 17 May 1916 Scheer ordered nineteen U-boats to positions off the Firth of Forth. He planned to raid Sunderland, hoping that the Battle Cruiser Fleet would put to sea from Rosyth and using airships to warn him if the Grand Fleet left Scapa Flow. But bad weather prevented the airships from taking any part in the action, and he therefore concluded it would be too risky to approach the British coast. Instead, he ordered a sortie to the north, to the Skagerrak, the waters between Norway and northern Denmark, off the Jutland peninsula. Here his line of retreat would be more secure, but now the principal submarine danger, in contradistinction to Jellicoe’s fears, would be mines, not U-boats.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3325-3331). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

From The First World War

From The First World War

One of the signals intercepted and decrypted by Room 40 in the course of the night of 31 May-1 June 1916, but not passed on to Jellicoe at sea. The order to open the barrier suggested the German fleet was breaking off the action to return to harbour

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3373-3374). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

On 28 May Room 40 signaled Jellicoe of the German commander’s intentions, and on the night of 30 May the British fleet began to make its move. Day came, and poor communications began to unravel the British plan.

The result was that the Grand Fleet advanced slowly, so conserving fuel but losing daylight . At 2.20 Beatty signalled that Hipper’s Scouting Squadron was in sight. He manoeuvred on a south-south-easterly course in order to cut the Germans off from their base, while Hipper also turned south, aiming to draw Beatty on to the approaching guns of the High Seas Fleet.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3335-3338). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Now poor British gunnery and lack of consideration for safety began to tell.

At about 4.00 they still had not opened fire, when a midshipman on one of them, Malaya, suddenly said to Sub-Lieutenant Caslon, “‘ Look at that!”’ Caslon ‘thought for an instant that the last ship in the line had fired all her guns at once, as there was a much bigger flame, but the flame grew and grew till it was about three hundred feet high, and the whole ship was hidden in a dense cloud of yellow brown smoke. This cloud hung in the air for some minutes, and when it finally dispersed there was no sign of the ship.’

The battle cruiser Indefatigable had blown up within thirty seconds of being hit . All but two of her complement of 1,019 were killed.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3342-3348). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

This was to be repeated two more times during the battle. The sea battle was to be one of attrition. It was also to be famous for Jellicoe’s employment of a practiced tactical maneuver.

By 18:30, the main battlefleet action was joined for the first time, with Jellicoe effectively “crossing Scheer’s T”. The officers on the lead German battleships, and Scheer himself, were taken completely by surprise when they emerged from drifting clouds of smoky mist to suddenly find themselves facing the massed firepower of the entire Grand Fleet main battle line, which they did not know was even at sea. Jellicoe’s flagship Iron Duke quickly scored seven hits on the lead German dreadnought, SMS König, but in this brief exchange, which lasted only minutes, as few as 10 of the Grand Fleet’s 24 dreadnoughts actually opened fire. The Germans were hampered by poor visibility, in addition to being in an unfavourable tactical position, just as Jellicoe had intended. Realizing he was heading into a death trap, Scheer ordered his fleet to turn and flee at 18:33. Under a pall of smoke and mist, Scheer’s forces succeeded in disengaging by an expertly executed 180° turn in unison (“battle about turn to starboard”), which was a well-practiced emergency manoeuvre of the High Seas Fleet.

[Some links deleted]

Critical action (from Wikipedia)

Critical action (from Wikipedia)

The total of the battle was destructive to the British fleet but ruinous to Germany’s naval ambitions for the remainder of the war.

The High Seas Fleet claimed that the battle of the Skagerrak was a German victory. At first the British press tended to agree. At Scapa Flow the mood was despondent, a mixture of combat exhaustion and disappointed expectation. The battle of Jutland (as the British called it) engaged 100,000 men in 250 ships over 72 hours. It dwarfed Trafalgar in scale but not – it seemed – in outcome. The Royal Navy had lost fourteen ships, including three battle cruisers, and had sustained 6,784 casualties. The Germans had lost eleven ships, including one battleship and one battle cruiser, and had suffered 3,058 casualties. But ten of Scheer’s ships had suffered heavy damage, and only ten were ready for sea on 2 June. Jellicoe, with eight ships undergoing repairs, could have put twenty-four capital ships to sea. On 4 July 1916 Scheer renounced fleet action as an option. Jutland left the Royal Navy’s supremacy unimpaired and Britain’s strategy intact. ‘It is absolutely necessary’, Captain Herbert Richmond reminded himself, ‘to look at the war as a whole; to avoid keeping our eyes only on the German Fleet. What we have to do is to starve and cripple Germany.’

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 3392-3401). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

This marked the beginning of committed economic warfare against the Central Powers, a campaign that was to be a major deciding factor. Hew Strachan’s book deals extensively with this economic war, and I will cover that in a future post.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


I was watching episodes of the TV series NUMB3RS, when mathematician Charles Eppes (David Krumholtz) mentioned this problem in game theory. This is an abbreviated version of the problem, one with an quick and easy solution.

There are three shooters, and they are going to have a gun fight. Prior to the fight they spend some time on the shooting range and discover something interesting. At a range of 50 feet shooter A never misses. Shooter B misses 20% of the time. Shooter C misses 50% of the time. Now it’s time for the match.

They stand at points on an equilateral triangle, 50 feet on each side. This is a math problem. A referee pulls a name from a box to determine which shooter goes first. He tells shooter C it’s his turn. The rules are thus:

  • Each shooter gets one shot at a time, and the opportunity to shoot passes to the next shooter in turn.
  • If a shooter is hit, he is dead and is out of the game. He loses his turn.
  • If a shooter misses, the next shooter in turn gets a shot.
  • The game is played until only one shooter is left standing.

Shooter C wants to maximize his chances of living to die another day. What does he do?

Post your answer as a comment below. Don’t guess. Justify your answer.

Update and answer

Mike has provided the correct answer on Facebook, so I will post the answer now.

The best option for C is to avoid killing anybody. This seems counterintuitive at first, but look at what happens:

  • Suppose C shoots at B. He better not hit B, because if he does he is a dead man. The turn passes to A, who will shoot him dead, 100%.
  • If he kills A, then B has a shot at him, and he has a 20% chance of surviving the first round.
  • However, if he fires into the air, then it’s the turn of either A or B. A will shoot B for sure. Verify this. Then it’s C’s turn, and C has a 50% chance of killing A and living.

Sometimes the best option in a war is not to fight it.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I am sure this is the first time I ever watched this movie. It came out 50 years ago, but it is so bad I would have remembered it if I had seen it before. It’s Batman from 20th Century Fox and based on the TV series, which was based on the comic strip. It stars Adam West in the title role, with Burt Ward as his teenage side-kick Robin. It was recently available on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. I’m not going to get deeply into the plot.

As everybody knows, Batman is really millionaire Bruce Wayne, and Robin is his ward, Dick Grayson. Having nothing better to do, they sally forth to combat crime, since the police are inept in such matters. They wear super hero disguises so they won’t be hassled by the public, and also by assorted crooks, in their private lives. Here are Batman and Robin are setting out from the Bat Cave in the Bat Car on yet another adventure.


There’s word that Commodore Schmidlapp is in danger aboard his fabulous yacht, and the Dynamic Duo station the Bat Copter above while Batman shinnies down a rope ladder to see what’s afoul.


Zounds! The yacht disappears in a flash, to be replace by a booby-trapped shark, which gets a bite on Batman’s leg and won’t let go. Fortunately there is a can of shark repellent spray on board the Bat Copter, and Robin sets the Bat Copter on autopilot while he climbs down to hand it to Batman. The shark lets go seconds before exploding into thousands of pieces.

Next we see the pair in the Batboat, off to check out a mysterious buoy, which details I will not dig into. I made a special effort to post this image, because it’s the first time I got a look at the Batboat.


Tony Bell was an artist living in Austin at the time. He told of his adventures with building the Batboat, following up with testing on Lake Travis. The basis was a model by Glastron, an Austin company. A recent news item shows it being sold for £42,000. Here’s a photo of Tony Bell as a favor to all his fans. He was in the process of building an airplane in an unused shed at a company I worked for.


Arrayed against the dynamic duo is a cast of nefarious characters. Pictured here are The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), and the Joker (Cesar Romero). Imagine what they had to do to convince suave and debonair Cesar Romero to act the fool in public.


Meriwether was a natural. The movie exercises every option to display her cat-like body for the benefit of all those Y chromosomes in the audience. Here Bruce Wayne falls head over himself for Catwoman’s alter ego, Miss Kitka. At a swanky club they sensuously dance while a cabaret singer intones the romantic hit Plaisir d’Amour.


Like I said, no opportunity is bypassed to show display Meriwether’s considerable assets.


Of course the movie is a spoof on comic book characters, which in turn are a spoof on real life heroes and villains. Here the pair ascend a vertical wall with the aid of a thin line. It’s obvious the scene was shot on a level surface and then rotated. Everybody’s got to enjoy this.


Comic book fist fights are punctuated with comic book sound effects. Here Batman battles The Riddler aboard The Penguin’s submersible.


Having defeated the evil schemes of The Penguin and salvaging the dehydrated substance of the United World Organization’s Security Council, Batman rehydrates them, but only after sorting out the dehydrate of the individual members, which became mixed by accident.


The separation process was almost completely successful. Unfortunately, the various languages did not get sorted to the appropriate bodies, and the council members wind up speaking the wrong languages.

And there is the Batman theme music, by now a national icon. “Da-da-dada-da-da-dadda…,” How can I ever forget? I was working on a software contract in Burbank, California, eight years ago, and there was a crew (200+) of testing people working in India. They needed to run tests on the hardware we had in the shop near the airport, and they worked in the day time when it was night for us. Only, if something needed to be connected, or a computer needed to be plugged in, they couldn’t do that from India, so we had set up a phone link. We took turns manning the phone at night, and if whoever had the phone duty got a call in the middle of the night, then that person had to get dressed and drive down to the shop and fix the problem. We were given a cell phone, and it was “the batphone.” It had a Batman motif, and the ring tone was, you guessed it, “da-da-dada-da-da-dadda…”

So I had the duty one night, and I was sleeping well, when, “da-da-dada-da-da-dadda…” I grabbed for the phone, half asleep, and a voice with a deep Indian accent told me they weren’t able to connect to (he named the system). I rang off, and then I thought, “Did I get the system right?” I didn’t know how to phone the caller back. I got dressed and drove down past the airport to the shop and wandered around to the building where they kept the test equipment. I went in, and sure enough, there was a test computer unplugged. I powered it up, made sure everything was running, and went back to my apartment. I charged the company two hours. Later somebody told me they had had the batphone for months, and I was the only one who ever had to drive out in the middle of the night. I should have charged them for three hours.

I will never forget you, Batman.

Tony Bell went on to work as the set designer for a movie titled She Came to the Valley. It’s not likely I will be able to obtain a video to review. More recently, renditions of Batman have taken a serious tone, but I haven’t watched any of those. Look for a review in the next few months.

Noch Einmal Das Horst Wessel Lied

By now everybody knows Humphrey Bogart never once said, “Play it again, Sam.” But there was this song, and it’s not the one in the movie. William Shirer, in his epic work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, recounts its origins.

Passing notice must here be taken of one of these encounters, for it provided National Socialism with its greatest martyr. One of the neighborhood leaders of the S.A. in Berlin was Horst Wessel, son of a Protestant chaplain, who had forsaken his family and his studies and gone to live in a slum with a former prostitute and devote his life to fighting for Nazism. Many anti-Nazis always held that the youth earned his living as a pimp, though this charge may have been exaggerated. Certainly he consorted with pimps and prostitutes. He was murdered by some Communists in February 1930 and would have passed into oblivion along with hundreds of other victims of both sides in the street wars had it not been for the fact that he left behind a song whose words and tune he had composed. This was the Horst Wessel song, which soon became the official song of the Nazi party and later the second official anthem—after “Deutschland ueber Alles”—of the Third Reich. Horst Wessel himself, thanks to Dr. Goebbels’ skillful propaganda, became one of the great hero legends of the movement, hailed as a pure idealist who had given his life for the cause.

Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (p. 147). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The Nazis do not sing Das Horst Wessel Lied in Rick’s Café Americain in the movie. But it was for all intents the Nazis’ theme song. Which got to me to wondering as I read Stephen Harding’s The Last Battle.


Whether this was the last battle World War Two in Europe may be debatable, but, five days after German Chancellor Adolf Hitler killed himself and two days before both sides finally decided to call the whole thing off, a squad of American soldiers, in cooperation with a collection of disaffected Wehrmacht troops, fought a significant skirmish to protect a small collection of French prisoners. There’s some history.

France, along with Great Britain and the United States, won World War One, the War to End all Wars. The Germans gave up and retreated to within their borders, ultimately accepting excruciating terms pressed upon them by the victors. In the twenty years following the Germans regrouped, rearmed, and prepared for war again. In the meantime French society tore itself apart in ceaseless political and social strife. Shirer recounts from first hand observation:

PARIS, February 7 [1934]

A little dazed still from last night. About five p.m. yesterday I was twiddling my thumbs in the Herald office wondering whether to go down to the Chamber, where the new premier, Édouard Daladier, was supposed to read his ministerial declaration, when we got a tip that there was trouble at the Place de la Concorde. I grabbed a taxi and went down to see. I found nothing untoward. A few royalist Camelots du Roi, Jeunesses Patriotes of Deputy Pierre Taittinger, and Solidarité Française thugs of Perfumer François Coty— all right-wing youths or gangsters— had attempted to break through to the Chamber, but had been dispersed by the police. The Place was normal. I telephoned the Herald, but Eric Hawkins, managing editor, advised me to grab a bite of dinner nearby and take another look a little later. About seven p.m. I returned to the Place de la Concorde. Something obviously was up. Mounted steel-helmeted Mobile Guards were clearing the square. Over by the obelisk in the centre a bus was on fire. I worked my way over through the Mobile Guards, who were slashing away with their sabres, to the Tuileries side. Up on the terrace was a mob of several thousand and, mingling with them, I soon found they were not fascists, but Communists. When the police tried to drive them back, they unleashed a barrage of stones and bricks. Over on the bridge leading from the Place to the Chamber across the Seine, I found a solid mass of Mobile Guards nervously fingering their rifles, backed up by ordinary police and a fire-brigade. A couple of small groups attempted to advance to the bridge from the quay leading up from the Louvre, but two fire-hoses put them to flight. About eight o’clock a couple of thousand U.N.C. (Union Nationale des Combattants1) war veterans paraded into the Place, having marched down the Champs-Élysées from the Rond-Point. They came in good order behind a mass of tricoloured flags. They were stopped at the bridge and their leaders began talking with police officials. I went over to the Crillon and up to the third-floor balcony overlooking the square. It was jammed with people. The first shots we didn’t hear. The first we knew of the shooting was when a woman about twenty feet away suddenly slumped to the floor with a bullet-hole in her forehead. She was standing next to Melvin Whiteleather of the A.P. Now we could hear the shooting, coming from the bridge and the far side of the Seine. Automatic rifles they seemed to be using. The mob’s reaction was to storm into the square. Soon it was dotted with fires. To the left, smoke started pouring out of the Ministry of Marine. Hoses were brought into play, but the mob got close enough to cut them. I went down to the lobby to phone the office. Several wounded were laid out and were being given first aid.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 80-101). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The upshot was this: The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and stepped up the re-armament that had been under way for years in secret. They also instigated a brutal, totalitarian regime and began to dismantle the Versailles Treaty. In the process Hitler began to encroach upon neighboring lands, starting with Austria. Austria was always German, but more recently a separate nation state, nation states being a novelty within the past few hundred years. Next came Czechoslovakia, and the former victors did nothing to stop him. When the Wehrmacht invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, Great Britain and France resumed hostilities against Germany, which by now included the former Austria. In the spring of 1940 German forces launched a blitzkrieg attack into France, and that country’s defenses simply fell apart. Within a few weeks German forces occupied northern and western France, and a French government, seated in Vichy in unoccupied France, collaborated with the Nazis.

The United States joined the fracas in December 1941, and by April 1945 American, British, and French troops were running wild in western Germany and also pushing up from Italy into the former Austria. Soviet troops were beginning to pound Berlin, itself. That’s when Hitler shot himself.

What should by now have been over was not by now over. High ranking survivors of Nazism looked for ways to escape the hangman’s noose. Some hoped for a deal that would leave Germany an unconquered nation (in defiance of existing fact). Possibly some wanted to sing das Horst Wessel Lied just one more time. As negotiations began and then began to drag, shooting continued, and people continued to die. Those knowing a noose awaited them beyond the bargaining table cast about for some they wanted to take with them behind that dark curtain. Prison camps began to empty at the turn of a shovel, or even less neatly.

A notable target in peril was a gaggle of French higher-ups who had been less than collegial during the occupation, and the aforementioned Édouard Daladier was among them. The group also included Maurice Gamelin, the general who had been unable to hold off the German invasion; Paul Reynaud, the prime minister who succeeded Daladier (plus Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire); Maxime Weygand, the French general who succeeded Gamelin and further screwed up the invasion defense (plus Marie-Renée-Joséphine Weygand), and a few more.

Over a period of several months these valuable bargaining chips were collected at an ancient castle-turned resort hotel-turned prison in Austria: Schloss Itter, near Wörgl. How Schloss Itter came to be and how the French prisoners worked their way there makes for a great story, and Harding’s research is comprehensive. But it’s all preparation for the story of the battle, which occupies only one of the eight chapters.

Not the least is the story of disillusionment that permeated German forces toward the end. As the fortunes of war went against Germany, starting especially with defeats at Stalingrad and North Africa in early 1943, reality set in. An attempt to murder Hitler with a time bomb in July 1944 failed, and scores of plotters and innocents alike were disposed of in hideous fashion. Additionally, Hitler, and the upper reaches of Nazism, grew increasingly paranoid. A brutal campaign of repression commenced. Even before Allied forces breached the German border, the orders went out for the elimination of all traces of disloyalty and “defeatism.” Defeatism could be as minor as expressing doubts about ultimate German victory, often leading to swift execution without trial.

The German annexation of Austria in 1938 enjoyed popular support, but an undercurrent of resentment grew within a segment of the population, even into those Austrians pressed into Wehrmacht service. It was this contingent, plus additional elements from native Germany, that fortified the plan to save the lives of the French prisoners. In the end, some Wehrmacht troops in the vicinity of Wörgl threw in their lot with Austrian resistance elements in those final days of the war.

SS Captain Sebastian “Wastl” Wimmer was an unlikely commandant of a prison designated for treating prisoners kindly. The French notables were intended to be protected and coddled, for possible use as hostages or pawns in a future bargaining session. Wimmer’s previous roles had served to fulfill his depraved indifference to human life. At Schloss Itter he was now obliged to not only see that his charges were well fed, but treated courteously—right up to the moment they were no longer needed. As Allied troops neared in the opening days of May 1945, Wimmer saw a rope noose in his future and slipped away without fanfare, leaving his prisoners, and their guards to fend for themselves. The guards took the hint, and the prisoners were left unguarded, and also unprotected. The area swarmed with die-hard SS units, ready and well-practiced at meting out extra-judicial death upon laggard soldiers and lackadaisical civilians, as well. Foreign prisoners would be a prime target.

Into the breach stepped Captain Kurt-Siegfried Schrader, a hardened SS veteran. He turned out to be the salvation of the French prisoners. Having fought in the worst of the Wehrmacht battles and watched the destruction of entire fighting units toward the satisfaction of Hitler’s fetish for conquest, he resolved to end the killing before his country lost its soul. He was recuperating from the most recent of his many battle wounds in Wörgl when Wimmer tapped him to succeed at Schloss Itter.

Wimmer’s departure coincided with that of prisoner Zvonko Čučković. Wimmer sent the handyman on an errand and never saw him again. Instead of going to install some lights for Wimmer, Zvonko pedaled his bicycle through no-man’s land between German and American lines and encountered Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe’s 103rd Infantry Division, freshly arrived in Innsbruck.

German Wehrmacht Major Josef “Sepp” Gangl was another unlikely ally of the prisoners. He had previously thrown in his lot with the local resistance while maintaining his position in the German Army. With their guards AWOL, the French sent Czech prisoner-cook Andreas Krobot on yet another bicycle mission. Krobot was able to contact Major Gangl in Wörgl. On nothing but bluff and nerve, Gangl was able to penetrate the frontier and reach the American 23rd Tank Battalion, of the U.S. 12th Armored Division, in Kufstein.

It was ultimately Captain John C. “Jack” Lee Jr., commander of the 23rd, who was to be the first to reach the Frenchies’ prison, already festooned with defecting German soldiers. Captain Lee was able to bring only a single Sherman M4 tank and a fraction of his troops to the castle. It was with this that the American Army fought the last European battle of World War Two.

A time line:

  • 30 April 1945: Adolf Hitler and his bride, Eva Braun, killed themselves in the Berlin bunker.
  • 3 May (Wednesday): Wimmer sent Čučković on his bicycle errand.
  • 3 May: (late) Wimmer slipped away.
  • 3 May: Captain Lee crossed into Austria.
  • 4 May: The prisoners realized the guards had left. They began their plans for battle.
  • 4 May: Captain Lee arrived at Schloss Itter.
  • 5 May: The battle
  • 7 May: The German High Command signed the surrender documents in Reims, France.
  • 8 May: The war in Europe officially ended.

Probing through enemy lines was no day trip, even with the Wehrmacht in the final stages of disintegration. Captain Lee initially reconnoitered the route to Schloss Itter in a German vehicle:

In his response to Jack Lee’s radio message regarding Sepp Gangl’s appearance in Kufstein, 23rd TB commander Kelso Clow had directed Lee to deal with the situations in Wörgl and at Schloss Itter as he saw fit. Apparently not wanting to put the bulk of his task force in danger until it became absolutely necessary, Lee made what can only be described as a characteristically gutsy decision: He told Gangl that he wouldn’t move the column into Wörgl or mount a full-blown rescue mission to Schloss Itter until he’d undertaken a personal reconnaissance to both places. And Lee, in an obvious test of Gangl’s good faith and veracity, said they’d make the trip together in the major’s kübelwagen. We don’t know how Gangl felt about Lee’s ultimatum, but we can be fairly certain that the GI whom Lee tapped to join him on the jaunt behind enemy lines— his twenty-nine-year-old gunner Corporal Edward J. “Stinky” Szymczyk— probably wasn’t too pleased to be “volunteered” for the mission.

After passing temporary command of the task force to his executive officer, Lee wedged himself into the kübelwagen’s cramped rear seat, with Szymczyk beside him and Gangl in the front passenger seat. As Corporal Keblitsch put the vehicle in motion, the two Americans settled back, their helmets most probably on the floor so as not to attract undue attention and their M3 submachine guns almost certainly laying cocked and ready on their laps. The party didn’t encounter any hostile troops on the road to Wörgl, and the Wehrmacht soldiers they did meet were all loyal to Gangl. Lee checked several small bridges for demolition charges, and those he found Gangl ordered his men to remove. The kübelwagen rolled into Wörgl at approximately four thirty in the afternoon, and within minutes Lee had formally accepted Gangl’s surrender of the town and its remaining garrison. In what can only have been both an obvious gesture of trust and a pragmatic acknowledgment that Gangl and his men were the only force capable of fighting off Waffen-SS units that might assault the town, the American tanker allowed the Germans to keep their weapons.

Harding, Stephen. The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe (pp. 121-122). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.

One of the French prisoners was Tennis star-turned political activist Jean Borotra. When ammunition ran low during the fight at the castle, the now middle-aged athlete volunteered to trek through enemy lines for help.

After disguising himself as an Austrian refugee— complete with ragged bedroll and gnarled walking stick— Borotra waited for a brief lull in the firing and then clambered over one of the low parapet walls on the castle’s north side. He dropped some fifteen feet to the ground, rolled easily, and in seconds was back on his feet. His daily training runs stood him in good stead, for he dashed quickly across forty yards of open ground, made it into the woods that bordered the castle’s northwest side, and started down the steep slope toward the river. After carefully eluding several groups of SS men, some of whom were firing upslope at the castle, Borotra burst from the trees at the bottom of the hill and came face to face with two soldiers manning an MG-42 machine gun sited so it could fire at both the castle and at any Americans approaching from the direction of Söll-Leukental.

No doubt equally as startled by Borotra’s sudden appearance as the Frenchman was by theirs, the Waffen-SS men nonetheless held their fire, apparently taken in by the tennis star’s “harmless refugee” disguise. He reinforced their first impression by calmly bending down to gather some herbs and then relieving himself against a nearby tree. When it was clear that the soldiers had dismissed him as a possible threat, he sauntered to the bank of a large stream and, holding his bedroll and walking stick over his head, waded into the swift-flowing, waist-deep water. Though he slipped once or twice, he kept his footing and made it to the other side. Climbing to the top of the bank he looked back at the soldiers, tossed them a friendly wave, and started toward Söll-Leukental. As soon as he thought it safe, he began the slow and steady jog that ultimately led him to Reinhard and Lévesque.

Harding, Stephen. The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe (p. 158). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.

Borotra used the knowledge gained from his outward trip, and, leading American troops back the same way, one of the first obstacles they eliminated was the German machine gun post.

Waffen-SS forces assaulted the castle on the night of 4 May, initially to probe its defenses. They followed up in the morning with a full scale attack, and the fire fight was intense. The tank, left parked in front of the prison gate, was destroyed by a round from a German gun, and shells from 88mm AA guns plus a 20mm gun stitched the castle walls. Small arms fire shredded the interior of the lavish living area.

The French prisoners were ordered to remain in the cellar, or at least out of range of the cross fire. This did not work for the former French officers, who had seen combat in the previous war. These elderly elites of French society picked up weapons and blazed away from the castle parapets. Some claimed they may have scored hits.

Sepp Gangl was the sole Allied fatality, felled by a sniper during an intense exchange. The day was saved by the arrival of American reinforcements, and the SS men, with possible exceptions, melted away into the woods.

Jack Lee earned the Distinguished Cross for his actions, but his life following the war was all down hill. He died at the age of 54. War criminal Wimmer was never tried in for his atrocities against prisoners and civilians, but it was not necessary. He killed himself in 1952.

For the German soldiers who assisted the reward was an end to the killing of innocents. Following the Schloss Itter action they headed off to POW camps.

The Frenchies returned to politics and activism following the war, some regaining high political office.

Harding has provided an eight-page bibliography and 22 pages of reference notes. The research shows admirable diligence. And this Kindle copy is clean as far as I can tell, absent transcription errors, possibly indicating the original was crafted on a keyboard. It’s an easy read, sending me only rarely to a dictionary, broken up into eight cohesive chapters.


Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

Something from Skip

Did You Know ?
1. Your shoes are the first thing people subconsciously notice about you. Wear nice shoes.
2. If you sit for more than 11 hours a day, there’s a 50% chance you’ll die within the next 3 years.
3. There are at least 6 people in the world who look exactly like you. There’s a 9% chance that you’ll meet one of them in your lifetime.
4. Sleeping without a pillow reduces back pain and keeps your spine stronger.
5. A person’s height is determined by their father, and their weight is determined by their mother.
6. If a part of your body “falls asleep”, You can almost always “wake it up” by shaking your head.
7. There are three things the human brain cannot resist noticing, food, attractive people and danger.
8. Right-handed people tend to chew food on their right side.
9. Putting dry tea bags in gym bags or smelly shoes will absorb the unpleasant odor.
10. According to Albert Einstein, if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within 4 years.
11. There are so many kinds of apples, that if you ate a new one everyday, it would take over 20 years to try them all.
12. You can survive without eating for weeks, but you will only live 11 days without sleeping.
13. People who laugh a lot are healthier than those who don’t.
14. Laziness and inactivity kills just as many people as smoking.
15. A human brain has a capacity to store 5 times as much information as Wikipedia.
16. Our brain uses the same amount of power as a 10-watt light bulb!!
17. Our body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to boil 1.5 liters of water!!
18. The ovum is the largest cell and the sperm is the smallest cell !!
19. Stomach acid (concentrated HCl) is strong enough to dissolve razor blades!! Don’t try it.
20. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day and while you walk, SMILE. It is the ultimate antidepressant.
21. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
22. When you wake up in the morning, pray to ask God’s guidance for your purpose, today. Other than that, don’t talk to imaginary beings.
23. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is
manufactured in factories.
24. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, broccoli, and almonds.
25. Try to make at least three people smile each day, but don’t put yourself out.
26. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
27. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
28. Life isn’t fair, but it’s better than a few other things.
29. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Forgive them for everything and hire a hit man.
30. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
31. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree and hire a hit man.
32. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
33. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
34. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
35. Frame every so-called disaster with these words:  ‘In five years, will this matter?’
36. Help the needy, Be generous! Be a ‘Giver’ not a ‘Taker’.
37. What other people think of you is none of your business.
38. Time heals everything.
39. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
40. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. Each night before you go to bed, pray to God and be thankful for what you’ve accomplished today. Other than that, don’t get caught talking to imaginary people.
43. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
44. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Friday Funny

One of a series


Now this is funny:

Frank Amedia, together with his wife, Lorilee, are cofounders of Touch Heaven Ministries (THM). THM is an international ministry with daughter and covering churches, as well as sponsored ministries in several countries in Africa and Asia. They also serve as Senior Pastors of Touch Heaven Church in Canfield, Ohio. Pastor Frank’s call is to “prepare the way for the coming of the Lord”. This involves a three-fold mission: to the nations, to the Body of Christ, and to Israel. Pastor Frank is the host of the Daystar program: “Deep Calls To Deep”.

No, that’s not the funny part. I haven’t gotten to it yet. However, the term Daystar should ring a bell:

Early in April NTS advisor Joe Barnhart and I received an invite to debate creationist Ralph Muncaster on TV. The venue was the Joni Lamb show on the Daystar Television Network. Daystar is devoted completely to religious programming, and you can catch Joni and the rest of the crew on Channel 2 in the DFW area.

Ralph Muncaster is a young Earth creationist (YEC) who’s been running a crusade against evolution for several years. His Web site explains it:

Is there evidence of God’s existence? Is the Bible really true? A former atheist and hardcore Bible skeptic, Ralph Muncaster spent 15 years conducting research to dispute the Bible. To Ralph, it seemed that the Bible could not possibly be consistent with such sciences as anthropology, molecular biology and physics. Armed with an engineering education and a critical, questioning mind, to his surprise the more he searched, the more evidence he found—evidence that supports the Bible’s claims. In 1986, Ralph became aware of the prophetic accuracy of the Bible. He recognized that such precision is “statistically impossible”. Investigating the scientific and historical documentation and its consistency with the Bible, he was startled by his findings: manuscripts written thousands of years ago contain information that could not possibly have been known at that time . . . without divine intervention.

As I explained elsewhere, a few years later Joe Barnhart retired from teaching, went back to Tennessee, went to church, and got shot.

But here comes the funny part:

Like other self-proclaimed apostles and prophets, Amedia claims to be able to control natural events. On Maldonado’s TBN program in 2012, Amedia claimed to have single-handedly stopped waves from the 2011 tsunami in Japan from hitting a Hawaiian island where his daughter was at the time. He boasted that the waves instead moved on to devastate another island:

I stood at the edge of my bed and I said, ‘In the name of Jesus, I declare that tsunami to stop now.’ And I specifically said, ‘I declare those waters to recede,’ and I said, ‘Father, that is my child, I am your child, I’m coming to you now and asking you to preserve her.’ Apostle, it was seen by 400 people on a cliff. It was on YouTube, it was actually on the news that that tsunami stopped 200 feet off of shore. Even after having sucked the waters in, it churned and it went on and did devastation in the next island.


Amedia has some additional ideas on the nature of human disease:

He went on to discuss how AIDS is the result of “unnatural sex” and can be avoided by practicing a “wholesome life”:

We know that many of the diseases today are avoidable if only we practiced a wholesome life. AIDS is a disease that comes because of unnatural sex. We understand that many of the diseases that we receive is because of exposure that we have to things that we should not be exposed to, lifestyles that are unhealthy or things in our spirit that cause us to become bitter.


According to Right Wing Watch, Amedia is chronically delusional:

Later in the program, Amedia doled out some faith healings, healing a viewer with “cancer in your tongue” and another who had chapped lips.

If that’s not funny, then I don’t know what is.

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series


Is this the list to be on or what?

(CNN)—The new Afghan Taliban leader has told commanders and the group’s supreme leadership council that there will be no peace talks with the Afghan government, a source in the group reached through an intermediary said Wednesday.

The source said that Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, newly appointed to lead the terror group after a U.S. drone strike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, will follow the militant policies espoused by founder Mullah Omar, who was killed in Pakistan in 2013.
The source said that the appointment of Akhundzada “will bring back the era of Mullah Mohammad Omar,” referring to the one-eyed mujahedeen commander who led the group from its inception in 1994, with “a simple life, loyalty, and terror on enemies.”

The report from CNN also points out that Taliban forces have recently made inroads against the United States-supported Afghanistan government, including driving Afghan forces and inflicting bombing attacks in Kabul.

The Taliban claim Mr. Akhundzada is 47 years old, although official sources put his age closer to 60. He is said to be a uniter and a strong leader. Beyond that not much else is known about him, including his cell phone number, his ZIP code, and his plans for next weekend.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

It’s time for patriots to take a stand for freedom:

SALINA – Law enforcement authorities in Saline County have closed an investigation into a Sunday morning shooting death.

An investigation has determined the shooting was accidental, according to Salina Police Captain Chris Trocheck.

Just after 6:30 a.m., Bryant Sanchez, 28, was showing a .40 caliber handgun he had recently acquired other individuals in the driveway of a home in the 1900 block of Dover Drive in Salina.

The gun discharged and struck Sanchez in the head. He was transported to Salina Regional Health Center where he died.

We must never underestimate the cost of protecting our freedoms.

The Face of God

It’s possible we’ve been here before.


This time it’s coming from a higher source:

Cardinal Robert Sarah urged American Catholics to resist “ideological colonialism,” in his address delivered yesterday to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.

“Nowhere is [religious persecution] clearer than in the threat that societies are visiting on the family through a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism,” Cardinal Sarah said at the annual gathering, which this year also included addresses from Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and from Sister Constance Veit of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Guinean cardinal serves as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

So, that’s interesting. Elsewhere in his delivery Cardinal Sarah makes himself clear:

The rupture of the foundational relationships of someone’s life – through separation, divorce or distorted impositions of the family, such as cohabitation and same sex unions – is a deep wound that closes the heart to self-giving love unto death, and even leads to cynicism and despair.

These situations cause damage to little children through inflicting upon them a deep existential doubt about love. They are a scandal – a stumbling block – that prevents the most vulnerable from believing in such love, and a crushing burden that can prevent them from opening to the healing power of the Gospel.

Advanced societies, including – I regret – this nation have done and continue to do everything possible to legalize such situations. But this can never be a truthful solution. It is like putting bandages on an infected wound. It will continue to poison the body until antibiotics are taken.

Ouch! Did President Obama ever screw up! He should have discussed matters with the Cardinal before he jumped the gun and insisted that all people be given equality in the face of the law. How derelict of him. I’m beginning to wonder why I ever voted for Barack Obama. Twice.

But then, where was Cardinal Sarah decades ago when I was figuring out how I was going to live my life? I had in mind an existence based on truth, openness, fairness—any number of outworn concepts. I guess that tells me what I may expect when I die. I can expect to burn for all eternity in a lake of fire, my testicles being chewed upon by rabid rats. Or perhaps sitting still for 30 minutes while enduring the wisdom of Cardinal Sarah.

Sanity Attack

Your state of mind at risk


I need to alert readers to a recent and dangerous attack of sanity. This occurred in my home state of Texas. However, there is a potential this can spread to other regions, so people should be on the lookout for signs of sanity creeping into their neighborhoods. From The Texas Tribune:

In a stunning comeback, State Board of Education hopeful Keven Ellis won Tuesday’s District 9 Republican primary runoff over Mary Lou Bruner, who drew national attention for social media posts touting far-right conspiracy theories and other fringe views.

The East Texas Tea Party activist and former schoolteacher had been favored to succeed in the race after nearly winning the March 1 primary outright and accumulating heavy support from influential conservative groups that typically hold big sway in low-turnout runoff elections. But Ellis, a Lufkin chiropractor who presides over the local school board, maintained a double-digit lead over Bruner throughout Tuesday night, and that lead widened as vote returns rolled in. He ended the night about 18 points ahead of Bruner.

I know this may be distressing to some readers, but people need to know that sanity can attack at any moment without warning. The signs are there, and people should know how to recognize them:

  • Obama did not work as a male prostitute.
  • The United States should not ban Islam.
  • The Democratic Party did not kill President Kennedy.
  • Anthropogenic global warming is real.
  • Biological evolution is valid science.
  • The Earth is not flat.

If you notice your child, other family member, even a close friend, voicing such thoughts, notify authorities. This person is afflicted with sanity. Exercise extreme caution. It may already be too late to help the victim. Take immediate steps to protect yourself. Tune in to Fox News for additional details.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is another of the John Wayne productions from the 1970s. Wayne had his own production company, Batjac Productions, then and made a number of these during the last years of his life. He died in 1979 at the age of 72. His son Michael Wayne is listed as a co-producer, as with a film previously reviewed.

This is McQ, and it also features Eddie Albert and Diana Muldaur. It was released in 1974 and distributed by Warner Brothers. I recorded the DVD from Turner classic movies. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is in Seattle. We see a hit man wearing dark glasses and wielding a semi-automatic pistol with a silencer shoot two police officers at separate locations. He turns out to be Police Detective Sergeant Stan Boyle (William Bryant), and before the bodies have a chance to cool, he takes a shotgun blast to the back.


He was the partner of  Police Detective Lieutenant Lon “McQ” McHugh (John Wayne). McQ gets the news while still in bed on his boat Apparently a lot of people in Seattle live on boats. He goes topside just in time to scare off some dude breaking into his car, a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that goes by the name “Green Hornet.” A couple of off shots from a feckless hit man on the pier next gets his attention, and he levels the miscreant at a range of about 75 yards. McQ is not the guy you ever want to mess with.


Something is afoot, and we haven’t figured it out yet. McQ consoles the (soon to be) widow Boyle (Muldaur).


There’s a bunch of give and take between McQ and his boss, Captain Edward Kosterman (Eddie Albert). The captain thinks the killings are due to reactionary gangs, popular on the streets in those days. McQ thinks otherwise, and he goes after drug king pin Manny Santiago (Al Lettieri), roughing him up in the back restroom of an eatery.


This doesn’t go well with the captain, and McQ turns in his badge and his gun. Looking on is Detective Franklyn Toms (Clu Gulager), soon to become more prominent in the plot.


McQ goes private and continues to work the case on his own nickel. Word on the street is that a huge drug heist is in the works, and Santiago is behind it. A drug boss looking to steal drugs? From whom? Only the police have any quantity of drugs. They’re going to steal the evidence stash. What a caper!

McQ figures the caper will go down when the load is taken to be incinerated. He follows the transport van to the (supposedly) undisclosed combustion site and gets there in time to give chase to a trio disguised as laundry workers. They have cold-cocked the four cops and made off in a laundry van. McQ loses the van in traffic.


But he figures Santiago has the loot. And he has, and is he pissed. It’s not dope, it’s sugar. The drugs were stolen by cops long ago, which begins to explain a lot.

Yes, Sergeant Boyle was in on it. Likewise the now widow Boyle. Likewise Detective Toms. McQ catches a ride out of town with the widow Boyle, suspected to have the real stash in her baggage. She does, and Detective Toms wants it. But McQ puts the unfortunate Toms down in a shootout along the way.

Enter Santiago and his cronies. They want what McQ and the widow have. There is a car chase, involving three vehicles, a chase that ends up on a Pacific beach. McQ has “borrowed” a mean piece of hardware from a gun dealer, and he wipes out one of the pursuing cars on the run. That’s what’s left of it in the background. Here we see McQ finishing off Santiago and the remaining henchman.


The movie ends with Mrs. Boyle getting a ride into town in a sheriff’s car. The police captain gives McQ his badge back, and they all head to  a beach bar for a drink.

Ben Mankiewicz introduced the movie on TCM and explained the circumstances behind the stunt involving that car in the background:

Hal Needham, the legendary maverick stunt car driver, performed the very first car stunt utilizing a black powder cannon charge to help flip the car without ramps in this film. The climatic car chase seen on the beach, near the end of the movie, was first practiced on the back lots of LA, and on the 2nd practice run, that was unknowingly overcharged, Needham was nearly killed. Gary McLarty then performed the dynamic stunt flawlessly (and injury free) for the film.

Mankiewicz remarked that Needham was paid $30,000 for the job. He suffered a broken back and a punctured lung. Great work when you can get it.

What’s wrong with this is the story? A cop goes around shooting other cops in plain sight of anybody who might be looking on. And it’s expected nobody is going to notice and drop a dime on him?

Cops have this conspiracy to steal dope from the evidence room, and they cap it off by eliminating three of their number involved. Does this sound limber-brained or what?

The drug gang brings in three outsiders to do some dirty work, including rubbing out McQ. Subsequently Santiago’s guys hold up a squad of cops and take the drugs, but they don’t kill them, leaving witnesses. Why the change of heart?

McQ’s buddy is stealing drugs, and he has hidden a stash in the “Green Hornet.” Why? Subsequently there is an attempt to retrieve the drugs from the car by ramming it with a couple of huge trucks. Unless I lost count, by now the scheme is down to just Mrs. Boyle and Detective Toms. Who was driving the second big truck? If there was a third conspirator involved, what happened to him?

Santiago figures the widow Boyle has the drugs, and he and his entire crew go after the car. There follows a big chase and shootout on the beach. With one car wrecked and four gunnies dead, he still wants to deal with McQ for the drugs. Is he out of his blinking mind? Any sane person would cut his loses and skedaddle. He and his lone remaining gunman figure to shoot it out on the beach and still come out ahead. With likely the world looking on. What is Santiago’s plan B? With all vehicles destroyed, is he going to escape by swimming to Tahiti?

It’s possible I’ve become spoiled by watching too many upscale productions recently, but the second tier talent in this production is right out of summer stock. They’re reading their lines from cue cards.

Wayne made three more films after this one, and I have two of them. Stand by for reviews.

Death Spiral

A Sorry Chapter in American Politics


Repeating myself:

Time to confess up. I have been wrong before. Saying I have been wrong before is not the same as saying I am wrong right now. Anyhow, I once got it very wrong. OK, maybe other times, as well, but very wrong this time.

It was 40 years ago. Today. Look it up on your calendar.

It was Saturday, and I was leaving my contract work in Austin, in my Dodge pickup with the radio on. The man doing the news was telling me that some men had been arrested overnight for burglary. They had been caught breaking into the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Building in Washington, DC. The implication was obvious, even to me.

“That’s it,” I proclaimed loudly and with self-assurance, only to myself. “Now he’s gone too far. There goes the election.”

Richard Nixon was running for a second term as president, and it was looking as though his second term was going to be a lot like his first. Maybe not to some, but to me it seemed that Mr. Nixon was the person always ready to take a short cut, to tweak the rules when they became inconvenient. There was a history.

Imagine, if you will, how short-lived my glee was. There did not go the election. The debacle was to play out for another two years before the inevitable.  For nearly 26 more months America, and the rest of the world, watched in fascination as a corrupt administration crumbled under the weight of its institutional debauchery. We watched, and while we watched, two reporters for the Washington Post, dug at the facts and presented them relentlessly to the public in the face of horrific counter slashes by the President and his men.

And there’s the title:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Only it was All the President’s Men who could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. Richard Nixon, who had built his political career on cutting corners and devious measures, was Humpty Dumpty, and for a while in 1972 it appeared that Humpty Dumpty was cruising to an easy victory over Democratic Party challenger George McGovern. A little history will show why.

About a month prior to the Watergate break-in, Democratic candidate for the nomination George Wallace was gunned down in parking lot in Maryland. That left McGovern, a seemingly feckless liberal candidate, the only remaining opposition. Prior to that, the strongest Democratic candidate had been Senator Edmond Muskie, of Maine. However, a series of apparently contrived scandals, and Muskie’s inept responses, had knocked him out of the running. When it later emerged the political chicanery of the Nixon campaign had been behind these plots, the stories being published in The Washington Post by writers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, took on added significance.

The saga begins:

JUNE 17, 1972. Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone. Woodward fumbled for the receiver and snapped awake. The city editor of the Washington Post was on the line. Five men had been arrested earlier that morning in a burglary at Democratic headquarters, carrying photographic equipment and electronic gear. Could he come in?

Woodward had worked for the Post for only nine months and was always looking for a good Saturday assignment, but this didn’t sound like one. A burglary at the local Democratic headquarters was too much like most of what he had been doing— investigative pieces on unsanitary restaurants and small-time police corruption. Woodward had hoped he had broken out of that; he had just finished a series of stories on the attempted assassination of Alabama Governor George Wallace. Now, it seemed, he was back in the same old slot.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 140-147). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

All through the summer of 1972 and well into the second year of Richard Nixon’s second term, we watched the drama unfold on television news. In Austin, Texas, where I lived at the time, The Washington Post was not the home-town newspaper, but Bernstein and Woodward’s reporting filtered out into the evening news, and longtime Nixon critics bathed in the flow, exchanging taunts with supporters and apologists. And finally, on the ninth of August in 1974, by which time I was living in another city, the drama crashed to a close, and former President Richard Nixon boarded an Air Force helicopter, out of American political life for good.

The book recaptures those dramatic times, and I’m going to post very few comments along with some pertinent excerpts. This should capture the flavor.

The five men arrested at 2: 30 A.M. had been dressed in business suits and all had worn Playtex rubber surgical gloves. Police had seized a walkie-talkie, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-size tear-gas guns, and bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations.

“One of the men had $ 814, one $ 800, one $ 215, one $ 234, one $ 230,” Lewis had dictated. “Most of it was in $ 100 bills, in sequence. . . . They seemed to know their way around; at least one of them must have been familiar with the layout. They had rooms on the second and third floors of the hotel. The men ate lobster in the restaurant there, all at the same table that night. One wore a suit bought in Raleigh’s. Somebody got a look at the breast pocket.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 185-191). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Sturgis, an American soldier-of-fortune and the only non-Cuban among them, had been recruiting militant Cubans to demonstrate at the Democratic national convention, according to several persons. One Cuban leader told Bernstein that Sturgis and others whom he described as “former CIA types” intended to use paid provocateurs to fight anti-war demonstrators in the streets during the national political conventions.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 254-257). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward called the Mullen public-relations firm and asked for Howard Hunt. “Howard Hunt here,” the voice said. Woodward identified himself. “Yes? What is it?” Hunt sounded impatient. Woodward asked Hunt why his name and phone number were in the address books of two of the men arrested at the Watergate.

“Good God!” Howard Hunt said. Then he quickly added, “In view that the matter is under adjudication, I have no comment,” and slammed down the phone.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 331-335). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward called Ken W. Clawson, the deputy director of White House communications, who had been a Post reporter until the previous January. He told Clawson what was in the address books and police inventory, then asked what Hunt’s duties at the White House were. Clawson said that he would check.

An hour later, Clawson called back to say that Hunt had worked as a White House consultant on declassification of the Pentagon Papers and, more recently, on a narcotics intelligence project. Hunt had last been paid as a consultant on March 29, he said, and had not done any work for the White House since. “I’ve looked into the matter very thoroughly, and I am convinced that neither Mr. Colson nor anyone else at the White House had any knowledge of, or participation in, this deplorable incident at the Democratic National Committee,” Clawson said.

The comment was unsolicited.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 338-344). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward had merely asked what Hunt was doing for the White House. Clawson, on his own, jumped to denial of White House involvement in the burglary. The political turnstile began to swing.

The next day, Democratic Party chairman O’Brien filed a $ 1 million civil damage suit against the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Citing the “potential involvement” of Colson in the break-in, O’Brien charged that the facts were “developing a clear line to the White House” and added: “We learned of this bugging attempt only because it was bungled. How many other attempts have there been and just who was involved? I believe we are about to witness the ultimate test of this administration that so piously committed itself to a new era of law and order just four years ago.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 355-359). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

If you were like me in those days, you marveled at the likes of Attorney General John Mitchell. The Republican Party came into power in 1968 and campaigned again in 1972 on a platform of “Law and Order.” With ensuing proposals for the likes of “preventive detention” we began to wonder whose law and what order.

An attorney in Washington had said he could positively identify Frank Sturgis as one of the several men who had attacked Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg outside a memorial service for the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in May. One suspect’s address book contained a rough sketch of hotel rooms that were to be used as headquarters by Senator McGovern at the Democratic convention. An architect in Miami had said that Bernard Barker had tried to get the blueprints of the convention hall and its air-conditioning system. Hunt’s boss at the Mullen firm, Robert Bennett, had been the organizer of about 100 dummy campaign committees used to funnel millions of dollars in secret contributions to the President’s re-election campaign. McCord had been carrying an application for college press credentials for the Democratic convention when he was arrested. He had recently traveled to Miami Beach. Some of the accused burglars from Miami had been in Washington three weeks before their arrest, when the offices of some prominent Democratic lawyers in the Watergate office building were burglarized.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 406-414). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Pieces began to fall into place. A pattern of statements followed by denials began to emerge. It was a pattern that was to continue almost to the end.

Woodward called Ken Clawson and told him about Bernstein’s conversation with the librarian. When Clawson called back, he said he had talked with Mrs. Schleicher. “She denies that the conversation [with Bernstein] took place. She said she referred you to the press office both times.” Hunt, he said, had never received any White House assignment dealing with Senator Kennedy. “He could have been doing research on his own,” said Clawson. “You know, he wrote forty-five books.” Howard Hunt wrote spy novels.

Bernstein called the former administration official and was told, “The White House is absolutely paranoid about Kennedy.” The President, White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman and Colson had been “obsessed” with the idea of obtaining information that could damage a Kennedy candidacy.

Bernstein and Woodward wrote a story reporting that Hunt had been investigating Kennedy while employed at the White House. The importance of the story, the reporters were thinking, was that Hunt was no ordinary consultant to the White House, but a political operative.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 454-462). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The money trail began to unravel.

The Mexican checks were exactly as the Times had described them— each was drawn on a different American bank and endorsed on the reverse side with an illegible signature, directly above a typed notation: “Sr. Manuel Ogarrio D. 99-026-10.”

But there was a fifth check, for $ 25,000. It was slightly wider than the others, and was dated April 10. Bernstein copied it, as he had the other four, just as if he were drawing a facsimile. It was a cashier’s check, drawn on the First Bank and Trust Co. of Boca Raton, Florida, No. 131138, payable to the order of Kenneth H. Dahlberg. Dardis returned to the room as Bernstein finished copying. The $ 25,000 had been deposited on April 20, along with the four Mexican checks, making a total deposit of $ 114,000. Four days later, Barker had withdrawn $ 25,000. The remaining $ 89,000 had been withdrawn separately.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 597-603). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The theme that ran the length of the scandal was the large amount of money involved, often in cash, untraceable. It was to be the key to the administration’s involvement at the highest level.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted cash,” the GAO man said one day. “A slush fund of cash,” he said the next. “A rat’s nest behind the surface efficiency of computerized financial reporting,” the third. With each day that Woodward did not write a story, the investigator felt freer to talk to him. Fitting these remarks together with another investigator’s, Woodward was becoming convinced that the cash “slush fund” was the same “convention security money” Bernstein had heard about early in July. The fund, which totaled at least $ 100,000, included the money from Barker’s bank account obtained from cashing Dahlberg’s check, according to the investigator.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 699-704). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

“It’s called ‘laundering,’” Dardis began. “You set up a money chain that makes it impossible to trace the source. The Mafia does it all the time. So does Nixon, or at least that’s what this guy who’s the lawyer for Robert Allen says. This guy says Stans set up the whole thing. It was Stans’ idea. He says they were doing it elsewhere too, that Stans didn’t want any way they could trace where the money was coming from.”

Dardis said he had learned the whole story from Richard Haynes, a Texas lawyer who represented Allen. Haynes had outlined the Mexican laundry operation to Dardis this way:

Shortly before April 7, the effective date of the new campaign finance law, and the last day anonymous contributions could be legally accepted, Stans had gone on a final fund-raising swing across the Southwest. If Democrats were reluctant to contribute to the campaign of a Republican presidential candidate, Stans assured them that their anonymity could be absolutely ensured, if necessary by moving their contributions through a Mexican middleman whose bank records were not subject to subpoena by U.S. investigators. The protection would also allow CRP to receive donations from corporations, which were forbidden by campaign laws to contribute to political candidates; from business executives and labor leaders having difficulties with government regulatory agencies; and from special-interest groups and such underground sources of income as the big Las Vegas gambling casinos and mob-dominated unions. To guarantee anonymity, the “gifts,” whether checks, security notes or stock certificates, would be taken across the border to Mexico, converted to cash in Mexico City through deposit in a bank account established by a Mexican national with no known ties to the Nixon campaign, and only then sent on to Washington. The only record would be jealously guarded in Washington by Stans, kept simply to make sure the contributor would not be forgotten in his time of need.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 835-849). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

That’s how the story gets started. I will pass through a lot of the drama and touch on some climactic events.

In defense, the administration went on the offense. The point man was press secretary Ron Ziegler:

While they walked, Ron Ziegler was beginning his regular daily press briefing in the Executive Mansion. It began at 11: 48 A.M. After 10 minutes or so of discussion and announcements about the President’s campaign and speech schedule, a reporter asked: “Ron, has the FBI talked to Bob Haldeman about his part in allegedly managing a secret slush fund for political sabotage?” That began 30 minutes of denunciation of the Post.

ZIEGLER: “The answer to your question is no, they have not. . . . I personally feel that this is shabby journalism by the Washington Post. . . . I think this effort on the part of the Post is getting to the point, really, of absurdity. . . .

“The story and headline [“ Testimony Ties Top Nixon Aide to Secret Fund”] refers to a secret fund, a term developed exclusively, virtually exclusively, by the Washington Post, based again on hearsay and based again on information obtained from an individual that they again refuse to identify, anonymous sources. I am told [by John W. Dean III] that there is no such secret fund. . . . this story was denied, and yet they ran it as their lead story this morning, with a distorted headline that was based totally on hearsay and innuendo. . . .

“. . . it is a blatant effort at character assassination that I do not think has been witnessed in the political process in some time. . . .

“. . . I am not attacking the press at all. I have never done that in this position, but I am making some very direct observations about the Washington Post and suggesting that this is a political— and saying that this is a political effort by the Washington Post, well conceived and coordinated, to discredit this Administration and individuals in it.

“. . . Now, we have had a long run of these types of stories presented by this particular newspaper, a newspaper once referred to as a great newspaper, but I would, as I said before, suggest that the journalistic tactic being used here is shoddy and shabby and is a vicious abuse of the journalistic process.

“. . . I do not intend to in any way respond to these types of stories other than the way I have responded up to this point, and that is an unequivocal denial of the allegations put forth. . . .”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3048-3067). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The administration, taking Nixon’s lead, waged a continual war with the news media. News was often bad news for the administration, and the solution was not to fix problems, but to subvert the source. All this was old hat for Nixon:

A final “One last thing.” Glaring at the reporters, he spoke with tight lips and a fearsome scowl. “I leave you gentlemen now and you will now write it. You will interpret it. That’s your right. But as I leave you I want you to know—just think how much you’re going to be missing.” Now he brightened up, extended an open hand, and tried to smile. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you.” Actually, he had given the press no opportunity to ask questions. Instead, he said, “I hope that what I have said today will at least make television, radio, the press . . . recognize that they have a right and a responsibility, if they’re against a candidate, give him the shaft, but also recognize if they give him the shaft put one lonely reporter on the campaign who will report what the candidate says now and then.” Finally it was over. He gave an awkward wave, attempted another smile, and stalked out.

Mary McGrory of the Washington Star called it “exit snarling.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 13885-13893). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

That was at the conclusion of Nixon’s unsuccessful run for governor of California. From 1962 onward we all knew, or should have known, what to expect.

One of the saddest tragedies was the story of Donald Segretti:

He holds a B.S. in finance from the University of Southern California (1963) and a J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (1966). While at USC he became associated with Dwight L. Chapin, Tim Elbourne, Ron Ziegler, Herbert Porter and Gordon C. Strachan, all of whom joined the “Trojans for Representative Government” group.

Dwight Chapin recruited Segretti to engage in acts of sabotage and harassment against political opponents in the 1972 election. He crisscrossed the country, spreading wads of cash from Nixon campaign coffers set aside for such purposes. At the height of the scandal he remained confused at the enormity of what he was engaged in.

Segretti was, by his own account, confused, scared, angry, and without friends. Bernstein found him likable, and his situation pathetic.

“I really want to tell the whole story and get this thing over with,” Segretti said. “I don’t understand how I got in over my head. I didn’t know what it was all about. They never told me anything except my own role. I had to read the papers to find out.”


“The White House.”

Segretti was agitated about the inquiries made to his family, friends and acquaintances by the press, and by the investigators from Senator Edward Kennedy’s subcommittee.II “Kennedy is out for blood and I’m the one treading water and bleeding,” Segretti said. “Kennedy will tear me to shreds. Some people even asked my friends if I knew Arthur Bremer.”

Segretti’s eyes filled with tears. “How could anybody even ask something like that? It’s terrible. It’s horrible. I didn’t do anything to deserve that. What do people think I am? If that’s the kind of thing Kennedy gets into, that might just be the point where I say ‘Fuck the whole thing’ and get up and walk out and let them put me in jail. . . . I’ve been dragged through the mud, maligned— you’d think I was making bombs or something. I haven’t done anything illegal, or even that bad. My friends have been harassed, my parents, my girlfriends; my privacy has been invaded; my phone is tapped, it clicks all the time; people have been following me; everybody I ever telephoned has been bothered.”

Segretti’s naïveté was compelling. He traced most of his difficulties to the press. He was particularly angry with the New York Times and Newsweek for getting his phone records and badgering his family. So Meyers and Bernstein calculatedly dumped on the opposition.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3362-3376). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Yes, you have that right. Donald Segretti, who made it his job to play dirty tricks on people, harass them, embarrass them—this Donald Segretti could now not understand that people were getting his phone records and badgering his family. His involvement with the Nixon administration effectively ended his future as a successful attorney. “In 2000, Segretti served as co-chair of John McCain‘s presidential campaign in Orange County.”

Arthur Bremer was the man who attempted to murder George Wallace.

How about some irony?

The same afternoon, Spiro Agnew, on ABC’s Issues and Answers, offered a different opinion: “Journalistically reprehensible,” he said of the Post’s coverage in general, and described the Haldeman account as “a contrived story constructed out of two untruths attempting to tie this to the President.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3274-3277). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Vice President Agnew was famous for attacks on liberals, and especially the liberal press:

Agnew was known for his scathing criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-war activists. Agnew would attack his adversaries with relish, hurling unusual, often alliterative epithets, some of which were coined by White House speech writers William Safire and Pat Buchanan, including “pusillanimous pussyfooters,” “nattering nabobs of negativism” (written by Safire) and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”[23] In a speech denouncing the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, he characterized the war’s opponents as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

And Agnew was the first to go. In 1973 it became known that, as governor of Maryland, he had sold his office, often to what seemed to be the lowest bidders. In the midst of the Watergate scandal he accepted a plea bargain that include his resignation from the office of Vice President, the first such under duress.

The revelation by White House internal security chief Alexander Butterfield that President Nixon had arranged to have all discussions in the Oval Office recorded on tape hit like a bomb going off in a wedding cake. When the tapes were obtained by prosecutors and played, they revealed a side of the President that upset the staunchest of Republicans.

An early assignment was to destroy the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg, who had provided the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War, to the news media in 1971. Publication of the documents in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and eventually other newspapers had sent Nixon into rants and rages, recorded on his tapes, about Ellsberg, the antiwar movement, the press, Jews, the American left, and liberals in Congress— all of whom he conflated. Though Ellsberg was already under indictment and charged with espionage, the team headed by Hunt and Liddy broke into the office of his psychiatrist, seeking information that might smear Ellsberg and undermine his credibility in the antiwar movement.

“You can’t drop it, Bob,” Nixon told Haldeman on June 29, 1971. “You can’t let the Jew steal that stuff and get away with it. You understand?”

He went on: “People don’t trust these Eastern establishment people. He’s Harvard. He’s a Jew. You know, and he’s an arrogant intellectual.”

Nixon’s anti-Semitic rages were well known to those who worked most closely with him, including some aides who were Jewish. As we reported in our 1976 book, The Final Days, he would tell his deputies, including Kissinger, that “the Jewish cabal is out to get me.” In a July 3, 1971, conversation with Haldeman, he said: “The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean? You have a Garment [White House counsel Leonard Garment] and a Kissinger and, frankly, a Safire [presidential speechwriter William Safire], and, by God, they’re exceptions. But Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”

Ellsberg’s leak seemed to feed his prejudice and paranoia.

In response to suspected leaks to the press about Vietnam, Kissinger had ordered FBI wiretaps in 1969 on the telephones of 17 journalists and White House aides, without court approval. Many news stories based on the purported leaks questioned progress in the American war effort, further fueling the antiwar movement. In a tape from the Oval Office on February 22, 1971, Nixon said, “In the short run, it would be so much easier, wouldn’t it, to run this war in a dictatorial way, kill all the reporters and carry on the war.”

“The press is your enemy,” Nixon explained five days later in a meeting with Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to another tape. “Enemies. Understand that? . . . Now, never act that way . . . give them a drink, you know, treat them nice, you just love it, you’re trying to be helpful. But don’t help the bastards. Ever. Because they’re trying to stick the knife right in our groin.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 5744-5764). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

And shortly it was all over.

Another sad figure in this debacle was press secretary Ron Ziegler. He had to get up every day and face hostile reporters, denying what was known to be true to everybody else in the room. When the truth became unavoidable he personally apologized to Bernstein and Woodward, but not before an excruciating stretch of humiliation he endured to serve his worthless boss. Who can ever forget the scene on television news as reporters pursued the President, who instructed Ziegler to turn back, face them, provide an explanation, hold them off. Then the President of the United States gave Ziegler a little shove, a little push, as one would a recalcitrant puppy.

A few years later I ran into Ziegler when I was at the Astrodome in Houston covering a motorcycle race. I got the idea he was there in some capacity of handling publicity for the event. He was introduced in the press room, and I had my camera. I could not bring myself to take a photo. He died in 2003.

The book was the inspiration for a movie of the same name that came out two years later, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series


Well, this is distressing news. First some background.

The United States government has been working with the Taliban since 30 years ago, finding them to be of great assistance in killing and otherwise demoralizing Soviet troops in Afghanistan at the time. The problem was that once the Soviets withdrew, the Taliban got the crazy notion that Afghanistan was somehow their country now. They proceeded to take over, killing and otherwise running all opposition out. But nobody on the street here paid much attention.

Until 2001, when the Taliban made world headlines by vandalizing-demolishing two giant statues of Buddha carved into the side of a stone cliff. The statues, prior to their destruction, had been considered to be world heritage sites. Not so much the Taliban.

A few weeks later renegade religious fanatic Osama bin Laden, making good on a number of such promises, pulled off the most devastating military attack on the United States homeland since December of 1941. Bin Laden and his cohorts were at the time training and taking refuge in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. The United States politely asked the the Taliban to turn over bin Laden so he could face justice at the hands of a detachment of Navy SEALs. The Taliban not so politely told the United States to stick it.

The United States was neither polite in response, quickly assaulting Taliban forces with everything from throwing smoke grenades to carpet bombing with B-52 bombers. The Taliban, minus a few thousand of their troops, quickly withdrew into the mountainous regions in southeastern Afghanistan and also into neighboring Pakistan. Relations between the United States and the Taliban have been mostly sour ever since.

More recently the United States and the Taliban have been in talks to bring this misunderstanding to a close so that a capitalistic and religiously moderate regime can carry out business in Afghanistan. The negotiations dragged on for weeks. Months. Apparently too long. The United States grew impatient, as it is wont to do:

Washington (CNN)Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in an airstrike Saturday in Pakistan, the White House confirmed Monday.

A U.S. official said the drone strike occurred around 6 a.m. ET Saturday in a remote area of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal.
President Barack Obama said during his visit to Vietnam that the death of Mansour marks an “important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.”

That’s one way of bringing a recalcitrant negotiator back to the table. In a box. It was not stated whether Mr. Mansour had life insurance. I am guessing not.

This marks only the most recent instance the United States has employed this method to move negotiations along. Seven decades previous Nazi leader Adolf Hitler found fit to rebuff our offer that he surrender unconditionally and march himself to the gallows. We, and our allies, bombed his country into rubble and commenced a search for his charred body. It was much the same a few months later with Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was deemed to slow to the conference table. He let it be known he would prefer to die. Our response was to embark on a campaign to kill every Japanese on the Empire’s home islands, including two entire cities obliterated by atomic bombs. The world was getting the idea that we are not nice people.

President Barack Obama has, in the past week, reaffirmed this fact. People who oppose the United States and muse that they are dealing with a fair deck eventually come up against a hard fact. And it often comes in the form of the Whispering Death.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


I once took this course in Mathematical Analysis. The text was called Advanced Calculus, but it wasn’t all about differential and integral calculus. It had a bunch of other stuff. I still have the book, but I didn’t need to go back to it to do this week’s Quiz Question. I am posting it from memory.

Look at the diagram above. There is a game that involves a large circle. Maybe the circle is on a board and has a rim around it to keep players from encroaching outside the circle. Two players play, and because this is math and not mechanical engineering, their play is perfect. Play is perfect in that players can place tokens within the circle with ultimate precision. Player A has a sufficient supply of yellow tokens, and so does player B. All tokens are perfect circles (mathematics, remember), and all are the same size. The object of the game is to be the last to place a token within the circle. Once you place a token in the circle it cannot be moved, and of course, tokens are allowed to touch but not to overlap.

And here is this week’s Quiz Question: Is there a winning strategy? If so, who owns the winning strategy, and what is that strategy?

Post your answer as a comment below.

Update and hint

Nobody has attempted a solution, so here’s a hint: The first player places his token in the center of the circle and now has a winning strategy. What is the winning strategy?

Update and solution

Greg has provided the correct solution. See his comment below.

The first player should play the very center of the circle. From that point on he should play the radial opposite of the second player’s move. That way the first player will always be able to maintain symmetry. Ultimately the second player will be unable to break the symmetry—unable to play.

There is another winning strategy. What is it?

Myopia Writ Large

Reposted from The North Texas Skeptics

A review of the video Remote Viewing.

I’m going to recommend all skeptics watch this. It dates from 2009 and is only 20 minutes. I was able to watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video. Of course you have to have an Amazon Prime subscription, however you can watch it on YouTube by paying $1.99. Call it $2.00. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rlgcSCLzaA

You’re going to see some people you recognize, so I will start out with a cast of characters:






Charles Tart you are going to know for sure. He’s been familiar to the NTS for decades:

Charles Tart was a “parapsychologist” doing research at the University of California at Davis. He used a machine called a “Ten-Choice Trainer” (TCT) to help people with psychic ability improve their scores on tests for same. The test worked like this:

A sender in one room viewed a panel with ten playing cards, ace through ten. A randomizing mechanism would select one of the ten cards and would activate a light next to the card. The sender would then push a button, causing a signal to be sent to the receiver. This told the receiver that the sender was now looking at the selected card. The receiver would then turn a dial to select the correct card. The dial position was fed back to the sender in real time, allowing the sender to mentally direct the receiver to the correct card. Finally the receiver would select a card by pushing a button next to the card. If the receiver’s choice was correct, a chime would sound. This would provide positive reinforcement and would help the receiver to learn and to sharpen his extrasensory perception (ESP) skills.

Tart wrote a book describing his work, Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception, published by Chicago Press in 1976. In the book he claimed scores considerably better than could be expected by chance. He heralded his results a “breakthrough” in ESP research.

Came time for Gardner to review the book in 1977 for NYR, and he, as was his practice, went beyond checking for spelling and grammar. As Gardner reports, three of Tart’s colleagues at UC Davis wrote a critique of Tart’s experimental method. They had read Tart’s book and asked to see the raw data. Reviewing the data they realized, for one, the randomizer was not exactly random. They likened Tart’s protocol to a chemist using a dirty test tube and obtaining anomalous results, and they suggested that Tart repeat his experiments after fixing the problem of the non-random random number device.

Gardner saw an additional flaw in Tart’s technique. If the sender, subconsciously or deliberately, delayed sending his signal to the receiver, the receiver might pick up on this idiosyncrasy, and this could become a signaling path from the sender to the receiver. The receiver could pick cards depending on the amount of delay and could improve his score above chance.

Gardner also points out a finding by the mathematicians who examined the data. There is an unexplained absence of doublets. Not so many 2, 2 and 7, 7 sequences, for example, as one should expect. The TCT recorded only the receiver’s score, not the entire sequence of random numbers. This led to the possibility that the sender was hitting the send button a second time whenever the new number was the same as the previous number. The receiver could significantly increase his score by never choosing the same card twice in a row.

Wait, there’s more. The sender and receiver were in nearby office cubicles, and one sender, Gaines Thomas, revealed he would sometimes orally coax his own display of the receiver’s actions as he monitored them on his display. He would curse when the sender appeared about to stop on the wrong card. Whether the receiver was ever cued by these sounds coming from the sender’s cube is not known.

In response to the criticism, Tart revised his technique and repeated his experiments. He published his results as “Effects of Immediate Feedback on ESP Performance: A Second Study” in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.1 Gardner tellingly quotes a significant statement in the paper: “There is no evidence that more percipients scored significantly above chance than would be expected if no ESP were operating.”

Rather than admit the initial results were due to his own faulty technique, Tart, as Gardner reports, attempted to explain away this lack of success. Principally, there was a lack of ESP talent for the follow-up experiment. “In the last year or two, students have become more serious, more competitive, more achievement-oriented than they were at the time of the first experiment.” And more.

Tart asserted the results of the first experiment were so significant they could not be ignored. As Gardner comments, Tart could not reconcile that the first experiment demonstrated his failure as a scientist. Rather, his earlier results put the results of the second experiment into doubt. Gardner, and the reader, are dumfounded at the audacity. Not speaking for Gardner, I would add I am not in the least surprised by Tart’s reasoning.

The information I have on Lyn Buchanan may be stale:

Leonard (Lyn) Buchanan is the Executive Director of Problems>Solutions>Innovations(P>S>I) which started as a small data analysis company in the Washington, D.C. area in 1992 after Lyn’s retirement from the military.

In late 1995, when the US government declassified their Remote Viewing project, information became public about Lyn’s prior involvement with that project as one of the unit’s Remote Viewers, Database Manager, Property Book Officer and as the unit’s Trainer. Public demands for training and applications became great, and P>S>I moved into the remote viewing field full time, bringing with it Lyn’s extensive databasing capabilities. At the present time, P>S>I possesses the most complete body of data on the applications of remote viewing in real-world applications.

Major Ed Dames:

The world’s foremost remote viewing teacher, and creator of Technical Remote Viewing, Major Edward A. Dames, United States Army (ret.), is a thrice decorated military intelligence officer and an original member of the U.S. Army prototype remote viewing training program. He served as both training and operations officer for the U.S. government’s TOP SECRET psychic espionage unit.

Edward Dames is a ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Between 1979 and 1983, Major Dames served as an electronic warfare officer and scientific and technical intelligence officer.

In 1982, Ingo Swann, under the direction of Dr. Harold Puthoff, head of the Remote Viewing Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, realized a breakthrough. Swann developed a working model for how the unconscious mind communicates information to conscious awareness. To test the model, the Army sent Major Dames and five others to Swann as a prototype trainee group.

The results exceeded all expectations – even those of Swann. In six months, Major Dames’ teammates were producing psychically-derived data with more consistency and accuracy than had ever been seen in similar intelligence projects using even the best ‘natural’ psychics. In late 1983, the team parted company with Swann. As the new operations and training officer for the unit, Dames took this breakthrough skill, dubbed ‘Coordinate Remote Viewing,’ and began a new phase of research, testing, and evaluation in order to both uncover its true capabilities, and to perfect its application to fit crucial intelligence collection needs.

Dr. Dean Radin:

Dean Radin, PhD, is Chief Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS) and since 2001 has periodically lectured at Sonoma State University and served on doctoral dissertation committees at Saybrook University and the California Institute for Integral Studies. His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For three decades he has been engaged in frontiers research on the nature of consciousness. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International.

He is author or coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed scientific and popular articles, three dozen book chapters, and three popular books including the award-winning and bestselling The Conscious Universe(HarperOne, 1997), Entangled Minds(Simon & Schuster, 2006), and a 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award, SUPERNORMAL (Random House, 2013). These books have been translated into 14 foreign languages, so far. His technical articles have appeared in journals ranging fromFoundations of Physics and Physics Essays to Psychological Bulletinand Journal of Consciousness Studies; he was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE; and he has appeared on dozens of television shows ranging from the BBC’sHorizon and PBS’s Closer to Truth toOprah and Larry King Live. He has given over 350 interviews and talks, including invited presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, and the Sorbonne, for industries including GOOGLE and Johnson & Johnson, and for various US government organizations including the US Navy and DARPA.

Dr. Jessica Utts:

Jessica Utts (born 1952) is a parapsychologist and statistics professor at the University of California, Irvine. She is known for her textbooks onstatistics and her investigation into remote viewing.

In 2003, Utts published an article in American Statistician, a journal published by the American Statistical Association, calling for significant changes to collegiate levelstatistics education.[3] In the article she argued that curricula do a fine job of covering the mathematical side of statistics, but do a poor job of teaching students the skills necessary to properly interpret statistical results in scientific studies. The argument continues that common errors found in news articles, such as the common misinterpretation that correlative studies show causation, would be reduced if there were significant changes made to standard statistics courses.

Utts was elected to serve as the 111th president of the American Statistical Association, with her term as President-Elect to commence in January 2015, followed by her term as president in 2016.

Up front be prepared to be impressed by the power of the mind and the remarkable phenomenon known as remote viewing. Lyn Buchanan asks, “Do you want the party line history, or do you want the real history?” Of course, we want the real history. And it is remarkable.

Being able to pinpoint a target anywhere on the globe within 35 feet. Locate terrorists, their hostages… We’ve been finding information that saved lives.

Folks, this is good stuff.


It was necessary for our government to engage in this research, because the Soviets were making great strides. They may have possessed the ability to beam some sort of energy at President Reagan during his participation in the SALT negotiations, thereby clouding his mind and putting the United States at a disadvantage.

Stop for a moment at this thought. There are many of the opinion that President Reagan’s mind did not require additional clouding, but that’s beside the point. We were concerned the Soviets were taking the lead.


This is not woo-woo stuff. The video shows actual hardware. We see what may be two large electrolytic capacitors, and if you have ever dealt with those, you know how dangerous they can be, what with their ability to store large amounts of electric charge at high voltage.


Proof of the ability of the human mind to work miracles is also demonstrated. Here are two shots from the video in sequence. Please observe the salt shaker has definitely moved.



Additional benefit was derived from this research when participants were asked to review satellite imagery from a site in Siberia. The remote viewer said there was a very large shed there, and the Soviets were building a huge submarine vessel. Officials scoffed until such day as the end of the shed was opened and the submarine was rolled out. The Soviets thereupon constructed a canal and floated the boat to the “North Sea.” I regret that my search of the Internet has failed to learn anything regarding a large Soviet submarine constructed in Siberia. I’m also having difficulty with this geography, because my impression has always been that no part of the North Sea touches Siberia.


There have been scoffers. A book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, pokes fun at this kind of nonsense. That was in 2004. A subsequent film came out in 2009, staring George Clooney.


And all that is just a preamble to the real substance: What is the truth behind remote viewing and the research that purports to support it? Some discussion:


Start with the ganzfeld effect:

The ganzfeld effect (from German for “complete field”) or perceptual deprivation, is a phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field.[1] The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals.[2] The noise is interpreted in the highervisual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.[3]

It has been most studied with vision by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of colour. The visual effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is “seeing black”,[4] an apparent sense of blindness. A flickering ganzfeld causes geometrical patterns and colors to appear, and this is the working principle for mind machines and the Dreamachine.[5] The ganzfeld effect can also elicit hallucinatory percepts in many people, in addition to an altered state of consciousness.

Ganzfeld induction in multiple senses is called multi-modal ganzfeld. This is usually done by wearing ganzfeld goggles in addition to headphones with a uniform stimulus.

A related effect is sensory deprivation, although in this case a stimulus is minimized rather than unstructured. Hallucinations that appear under prolonged sensory deprivation are similar to elementary percepts caused by luminous ganzfeld, and include transient sensations of light flashes or colours. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation can, like ganzfeld-induced hallucinations, turn into complex scenes.[5]

The effect is a component of a Ganzfeld experiment, a technique used in the field of parapsychology.

Remote viewing is often associated with the ganzfeld effect. The viewer is subjected to sensory deprivation, typically by having halves of ping-pong balls taped over his eyes to completely obscure vision without blocking ambient light. White noise is played into headphones the subject wears.

Next, an agent goes to a remote place and at a specified time views the surroundings. And takes a photo. The subject—the viewer—is then asked to make a drawing of what the agent sees. Next, an independent referee is shown photos of what the remote agent saw and compares these photos with what the viewer drew. Also shown are photos from disparate scenes. The referee is required to pick the photo what most closely resembles what the viewer drew.

While some experimenters have claimed remarkable success, my own observation of these experiments leaves me unsatisfied. A healthy degree of rigor seems to be lacking. We at the North Texas Skeptics have engaged in what we consider to be more controlled studies, one of which was related to our Paranormal Challenge.

A few years back Rechey Davidson contacted us:

Thanks for your response. Sorry for having a “bad” subject line. I was just told to contact you. Mr. Kramer has my application and letter of explanation of what ability I have. His letter said the application was accepted for preliminary testing. His letter seemed to indicate he was forwarding you the necessary information. Am I just needed to contact you to arrange for testing. What is the next step now? Do we meet or what? From the Challenge Instructions, it sounds like you want me to resubmit my description to you. If so, do I just e-mail you or mail you a letter? Do I tell you what I can do and you draft something back?

Briefly, I have been able to dowse maps of people’s homes (Or other locations) where they have lost specific items and have been able to tell them where the item is. They have, so far, been able to verify they found the item where I said it was. This has happened even if I have never been to their home. Do I just need to submit more detail and suggest how to test this or what? Thanks. Rechey Davidson

This is not exactly remote viewing, but it illustrates the methods we employ:

I scanned in the builder’s floor plan for my house and labeled the major rooms with capital letters. I sent Mr. Davidson a link to the scanned image, and he printed it out. He said he was satisfied with that, and we got started.

The object of our affection was my Nikon digital camera. I chose that because I only have one like it, so Mr. Davidson would not have the problem of dowsing for one of several identical objects.

We got started in early September and finished up two weeks later. Each day or so Mr. Davidson would send me an e-mail telling me in which room the camera was placed, and I would record his score and move, or not move, the camera to a different room. Here is the result:

  • Test 01: 7 September 2004, Camera placed in B, Davidson called E
  • Test 02: 8 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called G
  • Test 03: 13 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called L
  • Test 04: 14 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called F
  • Test 05: 15 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called H
  • Test 06: 16 September 2004, Camera placed in J, Davidson called E
  • Test 07: 17 September 2004, Camera placed in G, Davidson called B
  • Test 08: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called B
  • Test 09: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called E
  • Test 10: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called J
  • Test 11: 19 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called B
  • Test 12: 20 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called D

We all found it remarkable, but not impossible, that Mr. Davidson scored absolutely zero in twelve trials.

I have long considered how we would do a remote viewing experiment. It would go something like this:

  • Start off as before, sensory deprivation or whatever the remote viewer claims to require. The onus is on the remote viewer to perform.
  • Completely isolate the remote viewer from the remote agent. The agent is expected to be at a site of his choosing, unknown to anybody else conducting the experiment, at a given time.
  • At the given time a phone call verifies the agent is at the site, and is taking the photo.
  • The remote viewer is told to visualize what the agent sees and to make the drawing.
  • The agent produces additional photos of disparate sites.
  • The agent brings a collection of images, five or more, back to the location of the experiment. The photos are given to a referee with no evidence of when the photos were taken. The referee is given the drawing.
  • The referee must pick exactly one of the photos that best matches the drawing. All other photos are discarded.
  • If the chosen photo is not the one associated with the drawing, the test results are determined to be negative. There is no second guessing.

This latter point is something I find missing in descriptions of remote viewing experiments that show positive results. There is typically such language as, “This one was my second choice, and it’s the one taken when the viewer had the vision.” Or, “The referee chose this one, but it also resembles this one.” It’s this kind of stuff that points out the bad experimental procedure associated with remote viewing research.

The Jon Ronson book would make for a good review. I will obtain a copy and do a review. Watch for it in the next few months. The movie, as well.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I must have seen this one when I was a kid, but that would have been as a re-run, since it came out in 1943. I watched it just now on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s Gung Ho!, with the exclamation point, and it’s one of many morale-stirring clips put out during the war to juice up patriotism. It’s the straight war film formula of the time—America has been attacked. Americans respond to the call to arms. American troops engage the enemy, who is always depicted as savage and wicked, besides. American force of arms prevails. America is going to win this war.

This is based on an actual combat engagement that was launched in conjunction with the Guadalcanal Campaign, the first land offensive executed by the United States in the war. The raid was on Makin Island, part of the Gilbert Islands group. In real life Evans Fordyce Carlson was a Marine officer who rose through the ranks and later went to China as a civilian to observe combat against the Japanese invaders. Back in the Corps, he commanded the Second Marine Raider Battalion and led the Makin raid.

When the Marines solicit volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission, they are naturally overwhelmed with applicants. Here an applicant is being grilled to make sure he is not completely off his rocker.


I’m not going to detail the plot, which does not follow the actual events. Here the men undergo intense physical training. They especially receive training in close combat. They are expected to go hand-to-hand with the Japanese.


As in the actual raid, the better part of a Marine company is landed at night by two submarine craft. There follows the standard formula of these island campaign movies. It takes a few Marines getting shot before they realize there are snipers in the tops of all those palm trees.


And it does get hand-to-hand. No quarter is given. It’s knives and bayonets and gun butts. And, yes, the Japanese are exposed as unscrupulous. There is the stock scene, true to life, of Japanese soldiers pretending to surrender in order to take a few more of the enemy with them before they die. After the first few days of land warfare with the Japanese Army in 1942 American soldiers quit taking prisoners.


Definitely not out of real life, the Marines paint a giant American flag on top of a building. Later, when Japanese attack planes approach, the Marines pull back into the jungle and let the Japanese forces move into the area. You guessed it. The Japanese planes bomb and strafe their own troops.


All accounts of the actual raid paint it as a total failure, with many of the attacking force killed in fighting, many more unable to evacuate, later captured and executed by the Japanese. However, the movie finishes with Randolph Scott telling the survivors what a great thing they accomplished.


Carlson’s name was not used in the movie, but he did come back to California to advise in the production, this after finishing up with additional heroics on Guadalcanal. Filming took place in San Diego and at nearby Camp Pendleton with Marines, including some from the actual raid, working as extras. One of the participants was James Roosevelt, son of the president. He was Carlson’s executive officer.

Robert Mitchum’s career was just getting started when he portrayed a Marine private in this film. The following year he was a bomber crewman in Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and in 1945 he got killed as Captain Bill Walker in The Story of G.I. Joe.

Noah Beery, nephew of Wallace Beery, played a Marine corporal here. You previously saw him in Rocketship X-M, and later in life he featured in The Rockford Files. I recall him as the father of Little Fauss in Little Fauss and Big Halsy. I really need to get a copy of that and review it.

I watched this for free on Amazon, but I still have to complain about the quality of this print. It’s possible the original was pristine but has not been well preserved. Thank God (what am I saying?) for the digital age, which now allows cinematic works of art—not that this is one—to be kept for as long as civilization perseveres.

Carlson survived the war, but died in 1947. There is one thing that will live on, and that’s “gung ho.” In Chinese it roughly translates as “work in harmony,” but its popular usage translates to “overly enthusiastic,” possibly due to films like this one.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

A guy goes into a supermarket and notices a beautiful blonde who waves at him and says hello.

He’s rather taken back because he doesn’t recognize her and asks. “Do you know me?”

To which she replies. “I think you are the father of one of my kids.”

He panics. and thinks of the only time he was unfaithful to his wife and says, “OMG!! Are you the stripper that was at my bachelor party that I put on the pool table while all of my buddies watched and then you and your friend covered me in whip cream and licked it all off?

The woman looks at him, eyes wide and responds. “No. I’m your son’s math teacher.”

Nixon Ascending


I tell people there are ways you know you’re getting old. One way is when you find yourself in a history book—in Chapter 3. That’s about the way I feel regarding this historical account of Richard Nixon. I have personal memories of many of the events in the book.

Stephen E. Ambrose wrote a number of popular historical works, and I have reviewed a few of them:

This is Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962, the Kindle edition.

It took me several days to wade through this meticulous work, and I’m going to give it just a brief overview. It’s an introduction of the making of the politician Nixon we of the late 20th century came to know so well, and it’s his early life, before most of us were born, that is most informative. The remainder is, as I have noted, fresh memories from TV news.

Nixon came to my attention when I was a grade schooler in a small Texas town. He was making news, in the newspapers and also on that new-fangled television contraption. He was railing against communism and playing second fiddle to Joseph McCarthy, who was doing it better than all the rest.

Then came the elections of 1952, and General Eisenhower, hero of World War Two, was a candidate. Small town Texas in those days defined conservationism, and in those days it was the Democratic Party in the south that embodied conservatism. Eisenhower was running as a Republican, and I caught flak from my school chums for my I Like Ike button.


Richard Nixon was Ike’s running mate, and things were going swimmingly, for a few days. Then the business about the Nixon slush fund hit the headlines, and Nixon was forced to salvage his candidacy by going on TV to explain. It came to be called The Checkers Speech. Nixon saved the day, garnering sympathy from voters and the opportunity to do Eisenhower’s dirty work for the following eight years. And he was forever stamped in our minds by the Checkers speech.

Years later, when I was out of the Navy and out of college and working at the University of Texas at Austin, Nixon was running for President. The work force in the Astronomy Department was fairly evenly split between political conservatives and liberals. The Ph.D. faculty tended to be very liberal, and the engineering staff, where I worked, represented conservative politics. Myself not included.

Amazingly, President John Kennedy, who has just a few years previously been murdered in Texas, was not thought of highly by the conservatives. He had beaten Nixon most narrowly just eight years before, and Nixon was now the conservative standard bearer of the nation. One middle-age woman, wife of a retired Air Force Fighter pilot, considered that in the war Kennedy used his family position to obtain a cushy position commanding a torpedo boat, which job grade got him and his crew run over in the dark by a Japanese destroyer. That was the mind set. She, and others, were aghast when I pointed out Nixon’s status as a Quaker, which earned him deferment from combat as a conscientious objector. Stephen Ambrose’s history of early Nixon sets the record straight.

As it turned out, Nixon, a lawyer recently graduated from college, volunteered for active duty and requested a ship assignment. Instead, he was given command of a quartermaster operation on a Pacific island, where he served with distinction, even enduring enemy action when Japanese warplanes attacked his base.

The Nixon family was Quaker, to be sure, and a more industrious and harder working American background would be difficult to find. Frank and Hannah Nixon settled in Orange County, California, in a solidly Quaker community. Hard work was not sufficient for a prosperous result. Frank executed a succession of poor business decisions that guaranteed the Nixon kids would recall a life of drudgery. Richard made it a springboard and rose above it. He early distinguished himself as mentally sharp, almost a legend. Later, in political life, his ability to store and recall facts and to see through complex matters propelled him upward, ultimately beyond the reach of his personal integrity.

Something about Richard Nixon’s dance with self-reliance cast him into a consummate loner. Without exception his acquaintances remarked that he was almost without personal friends:

He was conscientious about his schoolwork. Classmate Raymond Burbank remembered that even on Saturday afternoons, “Dick very seldom came out and played. He was usually studying, and there were remarks and cracks made about it.” As a consequence of his bookworm habits, the long hours he spent at work, and his shyness and sense of unease when with a friend or a small group, he was not popular. “He was a little different from the rest of us,” another classmate recalled. “He was a kid you respected. He knew everyone, he was very good in class, and when you talked to him you always had his full attention. He was friendly, but not a guy you’d put on a backpack and go fishing with.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 663-668). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

What was sad was the repeated pattern of Nixon’s inability or unwillingness to keep a friendship alive after the original reason for it came to an end. He would not carry any excess baggage into his postwar career; in his world, he had time only for men who could help him get ahead. Trapped in the Navy, with no opportunity for advancement, he could afford to be Mr. Roberts, but back in the real world he suppressed that side of himself. He could talk eloquently about Red, but he never wrote him, never looked him up, never tried to contact him in any way. It is noteworthy that in his spectacularly successful postwar career, no one from the Navy, nor from Duke Law School, none of his classmates from Whittier High School or Whittier College, not even any member of his family, save only Pat, played a significant role, in public or private.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 2322-2328). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Nixon knew better. As he put it in Six Crises, Eisenhower “was a far more complex and devious man than most people realized”59 . . . Despite Nixon’s great success in handling his biggest challenge to date—getting through the President’s heart attack and recovery without a crisis—at the end of 1955 the Vice-President was even more insecure than he had been after the 1954 campaign. He was sure he was being “set up” by the White House staff, and that he had no friends at all in Eisenhower’s inner circle (he was right about the first point, wrong on the second, because Hagerty remained steadfast for another Ike-Dick ticket). Given Nixon’s vivid imagination, his ability to see in advance every possible outcome, just thinking about the future must have been near torture. He might end up like John Nance Garner, FDR’s first Vice-President, long since forgotten, or at the other extreme, like Harry Truman. There were innumerable possibilities in between the extremes. And not only did Nixon have to live with these uncertainties in his future, he had in addition to live with the fact that there was almost nothing he could do about it. Everything depended on Eisenhower.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 7925-7933). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Nixons’ hard scrabble life in Orange county required success for survival. Possibly as a result, Richard Nixon became the Vince Lombardi of American Politics: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

He took daily piano lessons, and violin lessons from another teacher. His cousin Sheldon Beeson was also taking lessons. “I tried to encourage them to have a little competition,” Jane Beeson remembered. “I told them that the one who would get in the most practice would get a prize. Of course, Richard got it. Any kind of a game, why, he would just go all out to win. He was just that nature.”18

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 699-702). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It’s a characteristic that was early noted by the public. It mattered not what you stood for and how enlightened your ultimate goal. If you don’t win it is all for naught. Typical was Nixon’s campaign Against Helen Douglas in 1950 defined the public view of his style:

There were no Nixon-Douglas debates, but the two candidates did appear on the same platform once, at the San Francisco Press Club. Douglas spoke first and, among other things, mentioned her lack of campaign funds. When Nixon’s turn came, he said he sympathized deeply with her problem, which was one that he shared. However, he told the audience, grinning, he was making progress. With that, he drew a letter from his pocket and read from it: “. . . I am enclosing a small contribution to your campaign for the Senate. I only wish it could be ten times as much. Best wishes to you and Mrs. Nixon.” It was signed, Nixon announced, “Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Douglas—and everyone else—gasped. When the excitement simmered down a bit, Nixon continued in deadpan fashion: “I, too, was amazed with this contribution—amazed, that is, until I saw the postmark: Oyster Bay, New York.” The contributor was not the former First Lady, but the widow of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

By far the most famous broadside of the campaign was issued by Nixon headquarters in mid-September. It was the notorious “pink sheet,” printed on pink paper. The first printing was fifty thousand copies, but it was so popular that within a week Chotiner had a half million printed.

It was headlined “Douglas-Marcantonio Voting Record.” It appeared to be a carefully researched leaflet, filled with dates, reference data, and lawyerlike analogies. It charged that on 354 occasions Douglas and Marcantonio had voted alike. It contained a pious statement: “While it should not be expected that a member of the House should always vote in opposition to Marcantonio, it is significant to note . . . the issues on which almost without exception they always saw eye-to-eye, to wit: Un-American Activities and Internal Security.” Nixon, the pink sheet noted, had voted “exactly opposite to the Douglas-Marcantonio axis.”

The broadside used a technique Nixon was beginning to perfect. The first sentence began, “Many persons have requested a comparison of the voting records of Congresswoman Helen Douglas and the notorious Communist party-liner, Congressman Vito Marcantonio of New York.” Who those “many persons” were, no one could tell. That even one person would have thought to ask the question is doubtful, had not Mrs. Douglas charged the existence of a Nixon-Marcantonio axis.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 4391-4410). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Douglas got back at Nixon, branding him for life:

Catchy characterizations became one of the hallmarks of the campaign. Chotiner came up with a beauty—in an [August] 30 statement, the Nixon headquarters asked, “How can Helen Douglas, capable actress that she is, take up so strange a role as a foe of communism? And why does she when she has so deservedly earned the title of ‘the pink lady’?” Douglas came up with a characterization of her own, one that was to plague Nixon throughout his career. She called him “Tricky Dick.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 4387-4391). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

If Nixon had few personal friends, his family life was spotless. He was not much of a romancer, and he failed to impress an early flame of his life. Then the very attractive Pat Ryan made a career of rebuffing his advances, and he made a better career of pursuit. Once married, they were a loving and faithful couple, a family that would rival the radio and television Nelsons.

As a First Lady, Pat Nixon stands out. Hillary Clinton may have once claimed to have dodge sniper fire, but Pat stood with her husband at the Caracas airport and endured the most atrocious assault imaginable:

As the Nixons approached the terminal door, directly under the observation balcony, which was packed with howling demonstrators, the army band struck up the Venezuelan national anthem. The Nixons came to attention. Then the unbelievable happened. A shower of spit began to rain down upon them. A torrent of the stuff, much of it brown, from the tobacco chewers. Pat’s new red suit was covered with it. It was running down her face. Still Nixon stood, although he admitted that no one could hear the anthem anyway, due to the noise.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 9803-9806). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The mob was communist-inspired, a prominent issue in South America in those days. Nixon became noted for his encounters with communist leaders, most prominently Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The rise of his political career was marked by his exposure of American diplomat Alger Hiss. Hiss had been associated with the communist movement in the United States prior to World War Two, and subsequently he was a critical advisor at the Yalta Conference, during which Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin agreed how to divide up a conquered European Continent. When Hiss denied his communist involvement, Nixon located Whittaker Chambers, who offered proof that Hiss had committed perjury. Anti-communism from then forward became Nixon’s political spear point, unfortunately to the detriment of political sobriety.

Nixon’s private life was always above board. If ever there was a fugitive in the spotlight it was politician Richard Nixon. All the hired guns of both political parties were unable to find a speck of lint in his darkest closet. The infamous slush fund affair was strictly above board and only served to demonstrate Eisenhower’s forever tendency to be as wishy as he was washy.

Ambrose was no fan, but he took the assignment to write Nixon’s biography from Simon and Schuster editor Alice Mayhew. He has done a fair and truthful account of this complex political icon, and even Nixon advocates are not going to find anything amiss with this work.

1983 harks back to the days before manuscripts were routinely crafted at computer keyboards, so the Kindle edition is likely the product of mechanical transcription from the hard copy. As such, this edition suffers from many afflictions due to the failure of the OCR process. Some parts just did not translate. For example:

  • Fuller- ton
  • For Dick, coining from the small East Whittier grammar school,
  • al- ready
  • Jorgen-sen
  • Thur-ston
  • Schwel-lenbach
  • Whit-taker
  • Know-land
  • in an Ausut 30 statement, the Nixon headquarters asked

Plus a few more.

Volumes Two and Three recount Nixon’s presidency and his final fall from grace. I will not be reviewing those. Next up, a book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the Watergate affair.

Friday Funny

One of a series


I just caught this. Apparently Deepak Chopra will be in Melbourne next month giving us the lowdown on Super Genes. He has to be the go-to guy on this topic. For example (you have to scan to the second page):

Either disingenuous or ignorant of these facts, frequent criticism doesn’t seem to deter Chopra from spouting microbiome misinformation. While discussing yoga during his interview with Chopra, Mark Hyman gushed, “I love yoga, and I do it, and I always feel transformed, and it’s amazing that not only your genes are listening to your thoughts, but your microbiome, the bacteria are listening to your thoughts.” Yoga can be a great form of exercise, but this is a bit of a stretch.

But Chopra agreed with Hyman: “Yeah, the bacterial genes are listening to your thoughts.”

You think that’s funny? Then how come nobody’s laughing?

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.


The world is a scary place. You can’t be too careful:

(CNN)The handgun was under a pillow in her grandmother’s Detroit bedroom when the 5-year-old girl came upon it, police said Wednesday.

The girl, who was with two younger children about midnight, was playing with the weapon when it discharged, police said. She was fatally wounded, the latest casualty from shootings by children across the nation.
Her grandmother, who was cooking downstairs at the time of the shooting, was questioned by police and released, said Detroit Police Officer Jennifer Moreno. The investigation into the tragedy continues and no charges have been filed.

The victim, identified by CNN affiliate WXYZ as Mariah Davis, was pronounced dead on arrival at a Detroit hospital.