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The House

 

On the plans, it’s called the “Twenty-four Hundred Series Four Bedroom Trilevel”, built on Lot 10, Block 7 of the Town and Country Subdivision. It was completed in the summer of 1958.

My parents bought it in September 1968, just as I was starting first grade. A nice big corner lot, and lots of room for a family with five kids. A creek ran between the boulevards on the east side of the yard. The neighborhood was filled with kids our age. The grade school was a long block away, with woods behind it to explore.

Things changed. Not long after we moved in, the wooden fence along the front sidewalk came down. In the ’70s there was green shag carpet in the living room, and a wallpaper photo mural of a mountain scene on the living room wall made a backdrop for high school prom pictures (when I showed some of the pictures to a friend the week after, he asked me if I took my date to West Virginia for the pictures). A few days after Christmas in 1976, we started a project to finish the basement. That very night my dad had his first heart attack, and had to spend the next several weeks getting updates from his hospital bed on the progress as my brother-in-law continued putting up the dark wood paneling.

From the day we bought it until I moved out on my own for good in 1987 it was “our house”. Then until 1995, it was “Mom and Dad’s house”. It took a couple of months after Dad died before I stopped calling it that and it just became “Mom’s house”. My little brother was the last of the kids to move out, when he got married in 1998.

The family scattered. Three of us stayed in more or less the immediate area, one moved to Alaska, and one took a job that sent him and his family to four continents over 30 years.

The neighborhood slowly changed. Houses started turning over to new owners as kids moved away, and parents retired or died. Part of the woods behind the school was cleared, and new houses built. As more years passed, some of the houses that had already changed hands once changed hands again as those new families aged out.  When I would visit, mom would fill me in on what was happening, or tell me who of my old friends families she’d heard from (or about).

But mom stayed, and her house remained the focal point for family get-togethers. Whenever any of my siblings came to town, there would be a dinner or two, and we’d all hang around as much as we could for those few days. Christmas remained a big event, with extended family and eventually 13 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild packing the rooms.

Changes continued. New trees were planted, and some of the old ones came down – I particularly miss the willow tree that was next to the driveway. It was a great climbing tree during my childhood, although I hated mowing the lawn around its exposed roots. The spreading evergreen bushes on the corner of the lot were removed about 10 years ago – and we found some ancient lost baseballs in the depths as the branches got hacked away. But the mulberry tree next to the front door was there when we moved in and is still there today, staining the concrete stoop every year as the birds attack the berries.

Mom stayed in her house. She liked being independent. After an almost 50-year career as a nurse, she had no desire to wind up in a nursing home, and had a dread fear of being kept alive on machines. I asked her one time about when she was going to sell it and move into a smaller place. She said she liked it there, having the spare bedrooms for those times when family came to visit. But she did make a conscious effort to start clearing it out. Over the years our old school papers, photos and other belongings we had left behind were delivered to us in envelopes and boxes when we came to visit. But even as that stuff left, the living room tables accumulated more pictures of grandchildren, the upstairs hallway was covered with more and more frames filled with pictures of family, friends, cousins, cousins kids, friends kids.

The pandemic hit mom hard. She was involved in so many activities – from book groups at the library, to her church, to Yoga classes at the Y. Being trapped in the house and having to participate in things via Zoom just wasn’t the same. She was reaching her mid-’90s, and was aware of her limitations. When I’d invite her to my kids’ birthday dinners at our house, I’d have to drive out and pick her up, then drive her home afterward because she wouldn’t drive after dark anymore. But she signed a new three-year lease on a car in May of this year, and still made frequent trips to the local dump to dispose of the debris she’d clean up in the gardens.

She turned 94 in June, and I really thought she had a good shot at making it to 100.

Then on the afternoon of August 18th, I was at work when I got a call from my brother, in tears. “Moms been in a terrible car accident. They took her to the hospital, but she’s unresponsive.” She was leaving the grocery store and got T-boned at 55 miles per hour trying to make a left turn across a four-lane highway. Her fault – we assume she just didn’t see the pickup truck coming. She died just after 8 that night without ever regaining consciousness. We tell ourselves she never knew what hit her. The other driver wasn’t hurt. My sister found a receipt timestamped around 12:30 from the grocery store. Ingredients for tacos, and some ice cream.

Once again Mom’s house became the center for the family. My brothers and their families flew in and stayed there for a week. The day of the funeral, we had one last “Christmas in August” gathering at the house after the service, 34 people packed into the house, looking at pictures, reading letters, telling stories.

Then, time to move on. Mom’s house had to be cleaned out and prepared for sale. Closets emptied out and the contents donated to Goodwill. A realtor was consulted about how to maximize the value – clear the house, paint it, replace all the flooring. Some landscaping.  One of my brothers, retired, was able to stay around and coordinate all the work. All the carpet in the upstairs hallways and bedrooms was pulled up, and surprise, oak flooring under it all, untouched for 50 years. A dumpster was brought in, and left a few weeks later with almost four tons of stuff in it. The furniture was distributed to whoever wanted it – the living room sofa is in my basement, the bedroom sets went to a cousin for his rental properties.

Barely two months later, the work is done. We got lucky and were able to get a lot of people in to work on it on short notice.  The house is clean, updated- but sterile. The oak floors upstairs have been refinished and are gleaming and clean. There’s new carpet in the living room, new laminate flooring in the family room and basement. The bathrooms have new fixtures. New appliances in the kitchen. It’s beautiful.

But there are no pictures on the walls, no dining room table, no plastic plants in the living room. It’s just a house, not a home.
The house has been sold to the son of a friend of my brother. The closing is tomorrow. The new owner is in his twenties. He, his brother, and a roommate will be living there. It’s a nice setup for them, but I’m a little sad that at least for now there won’t be a family with kids.

My sister, my brother and I had a last get together at the house today, to say goodbye one more time. We Facetimed in the brothers who were out of state, so they could participate too. A couple of the kids threw a football around in the yard, and played with our dog in the leaves. One last picture of the kids on the stairs.  It was hard to leave. It’s been more than half a century, but after tomorrow, it won’t be “our house”, or “moms’ House”.  It will just be “the house”.

Kodachrome

 

There are only two things I know for sure about this picture.  According to the calendar on the wall, it was taken in December of 1957.  And I found it in the collection of Kodachrome slides that I scanned after my Aunt died a few years ago.

I have one educated guess – it was taken during a hunting trip in northern (?) Wisconsin, presumably by my uncle who died more than 25 years ago.

I have one piece of negative information.  I showed it to my cousins the other day and they don’t recognize anyone in it.  Also, I didn’t find any obviously related images in the collection.  It’s literally a one-off snapshot of a moment in time.

But I think it’s a fascinating photograph. The color pops out at you. It’s almost 64 years old, but the detail is so clear it’s almost like standing in the corner of the bar. There are shots and beers, a couple of dollar bills, and silver coins scattered on the bar. A hamburger costs 25 cents, but there’s no food around.  Everybody is smiling, some more broadly than others – maybe a couple of locals joining the city folk after the hunt?

There are stories to be told here.

Do you have any pictures like this in your own collections?

My 2020 Reading List

 

A few years ago my brothers and I started keeping lists of all the books we read during the year and sharing them with each other at year’s end.

Since I’m unlikely to start and finish a book before midnight, here’s this year’s list:

Brad Thor The Lions of Lucerne
Brad Thor Path of the Assassin
Brad Thor State of the Union
Brad Thor Blowback
Brad Thor Take Down
Brad Thor The First Commandment
Brad Thor The Last Patriot
Brad Thor The Apostle
Brad Thor Foreign Influence
Brad Thor The Athena Project
Brad Thor Full Black
Brad Thor The Black List

Dave Barry Lessons From Lucy

Herman Wouk Winds of War
Herman Wouk War and Remembrance

Hugh Lofting Dr. Doolittle’s Zoo

Ian Toll Pacific Crucible: War at sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (Vol 1)
Ian Toll The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 (Vol 2)
Ian Toll Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 (Vol 3)

Jim Geraghty Hunting Four Horsemen

PG Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves
PG Wodehouse The Inimitable Jeeves 
PG Wodehouse Something Fresh
PG Wodehouse Leave it to Psmith
PG Wodehouse Very Good Jeeves 
PG Wodehouse Thank You Jeeves 
PG Wodehouse The Code of the Woosters 
PG Wodehouse Joy In The Morning 

Robert Heinlein The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers

Stephan Pastis Timmy Failure: Zero to Hero (Book 0)

Tom Clancy/Marc Cameron Code of Honor
Tom Clancy/Marc Cameron Shadow of the Dragon
Tom Clancy/Mike Maden Firing Point

Tom Wolfe Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Victor Mattus Vodka

William Craig The Fall of Japan: The Final weeks of WWII in the Pacific

William Shirer Berlin Diary

Zane Grey Riders of the Purple Sage

Whistling Past the Graveyard

 

Is it possible this election result is exactly what we need to get past some of the divisiveness in our politics?

Work with me here. As things stand right now, it appears we’ll have a President Biden/Harris, with a Republican Senate and a narrower margin in the Democratic House (and a hopefully reliable Supreme Court).

It’s a very different situation than if Biden had swept in with coattails in the House and Senate, or if Trump had expanded on his Electoral College vote from 2016. Neither party can claim a mandate for, well, anything really. With Congress divided, neither party will be able to push through anything too stupid. The situation will almost demand compromise and working with the opposite party.

Maybe if we can get a year or two of the Congress actually working as a legislative body to do the dirty political work of compromise instead of just demonizing each other and screaming “racist” and “extremist” at the other side, we can drain some of the poison from the system.

Yes, I know, I’m a naïve Pollyanna.

But maybe this is really one last golden chance to save the American Experiment from flushing itself down the drain.

QOTD: Rugged Individualism

 

Holman Jenkins, in the Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2020 

None of us likes to think we aren’t brave, but journalists and motorcycle gang members are perhaps unique in interpreting their own slavish conformity as rugged individualism.

 

Yes, we have an competitive press in this country. But how independent is it really? You can get exact same take on the news from dozens of different sources. Or, on occasion you can fail to get any take on a story at all because the media has all joined in a mad rush to not cover it.

 

 

 

Adventures in ‘Journalism’

 

Here is the opening sentence of a story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Wednesday. (The paper is owned by and the story is sourced from USA Today, but still…)

Bucks forward Kyle Korver discussed the backstory and emotional locker room prior to his team’s decision to boycott a playoff game in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting in Milwaukee in late August. [emphasis added]

You’d think at least one editor at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel would have noticed a problem with that lead sentence.

Hint: Milwaukee and Kenosha are at least 40 miles apart. They’re not even in adjoining counties.

“Journalism.”


Update: They apparently don’t read their own stories, but they do read the comments on the stories. About two hours after I left a comment, they now have a correction in place at the top of the story:

Correction/clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the city where Jacob Blake was shot. He was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

“Gee, I’m Really Sorry Your Mom Blew Up, Ricky”

 

Better Off Dead was released 35 years ago tomorrow, on August 23rd, 1985.

I love this movie so much! It has everything — John Cusack before he became annoying, Diane Franklin at peak cuteness, a psychotic paper boy, Curtis “Booger” Armstrong, an antagonist named Stalin, Asian drag-racing brothers who talk like Howard Cosell, a claymation hamburger performing Van Halen, an appearance by Barney Rubble, homages to Rocky, Harold & Maude, The Graduate, and several other films that I’ve probably missed.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s the (more than slightly) surreal story of Lane Meyer, a severe underachiever of a high school student. His girlfriend of six months dumps him “Because I really think it’d be better for me if I went out with someone more popular — better looking, who drives a nicer car.” He stages multiple half-hearted attempts at suicide, and gets involved with the french foreign exchange student [Franklin] living with the family across the street.

It’s not quite the “Throw every gag we can think of at the screen and see what sticks” approach to comedy that Airplane or The Naked Gun series is, but it’s a similar sensibility. I rewatched Airplane a few months ago, and didn’t laugh nearly as much as I did at Better Off Dead this afternoon.

It’s a film that needs multiple viewings to really appreciate. There are so many little moments – the little hop that Ricky does while chasing a balloon, Curtis Armstrong mouthing “wake up” at the fetal pig during his geometry class.

Finally, this is one of the more quotable of the cult films of the ’80s.

“That’s a real shame, when people be throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that.”

“I want my two dollars!”

“Go that way, very fast. If something gets in your way, turn!”

“I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

So, for fans of the film, find some time to watch it this weekend.  For those who haven’t seen it, give it a shot.

CNN’s Tendentious Trump Coverage

 

This headline story on CNN.com is not labeled as “analysis.” It appears to be a “news” story. Here are the opening paragraphs, with emphasis added.

President Donald Trump on Friday made an impassioned appeal to his base while in the shadow of Mount Rushmore instead of striking a unifying tone, railing against what he called a “merciless campaign” by his political foes to erase history by removing monuments some say are symbols of racial oppression.

“As we meet here tonight there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for,” Trump warned.

He added, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”

It was the kind of dark message the President has turned to often in recent weeks to incite his most loyal supporters as he attempts to ignore a pandemic in the face of skyrocketing coronavirus cases. While a more traditional president may have used an event at a national landmark to bring the country together, Trump once again looked to divide the nation in an attempt to fire up his most loyal supporters.

The official White House event bore all the hallmarks of a Trump campaign rally, with the added displays of American military might as the South Dakota Army and Air National Guards joined the US Air Force in conducting flyovers — the kind of highly produced stagecraft befitting a former reality television star. The 40-minute speech saw the President name drop many American heroes — and almost as many perceived political foes, including the schools in the nation’s cities, which he claimed without evidence teach students “to hate their own country.”

1984 Was Supposed to be a Warning, Not a How-to Manual.

 

The following is a quote from 1984 by George Orwell:

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

Remember the Good Old Days, Way Back in March 2020?

 

From an editorial in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. Emphasis added.

The latest data from a monthly survey of small businesses comes as a jarring reminder of what life was like back in the halcyon days of … March. On Thursday the National Federation of Independent Business will release last month’s polling of 627 of its members. A majority of the responses, the NFIB says, arrived before the coronavirus clampdown.

Fifty-four percent of the surveyed companies said they were hiring, or trying to hire, and 24% said their No. 1 problem was finding qualified workers. Overall, 35% of the businesses said they had job openings that they were unable to fill. The labor pinch was especially sharp in the construction industry, with unfilled jobs at 56% of companies…

A net 31% of the businesses reported giving workers a raise, with a net 16% intending to do so in coming months. A net 9%, seasonally adjusted, planned to create new jobs. That’s a reasonably good number, though it’s down 12 points from February, perhaps reflecting hesitation as the coronavirus spread. Now many of those employers will have to cut pay or lay off workers. The latest monthly report from the payroll processor ADP, which covers the period through March 12, shows a drop in private nonfarm employment of 27,000.

A Child Finds Out About Santa Claus

 

My ten-year-old son figured it out this week. The Easter Bunny too. At our house, we do family Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, then Santa delivers overnight. And on Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny hides a basket for each kid. That Bunny is sneaky too – I think last Easter it took about 30 minutes of looking before one of the kids found theirs.

He’s been suspicious for a while, but we’ve held him off by saying, “C’mon, do you really think Dad would spend that much on Christmas presents?” – which is a pretty convincing argument in our house.

But my wife was driving him to school the other day, and the following conversation took place:

Jason was talking about us buying him an oboe and said that we bought Michael a sax. I said, “No we rent the Sax. We bought Michael a guitar.” Jason’s eyes got really big, and he sucked in his breath and said “You’re Santa Claus!”
We were both silent for awhile and I said “Would we buy you a 60-gallon fish tank?” and he said “probably not.”

And then this morning:

This morning in the car we had a conversation about Santa, and the Easter Bunny,  and he figured out that both of them are us. About 10 mins go by and he yells…”You knew where the Easter baskets were?!”

So, childhood ends.

I’m a little sad and a little relieved. It was a real pain getting that 60-gallon aquarium up out of the basement Christmas Eve without waking the kids.

Visiting Bastogne – Battle of the Bulge

 

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.

In October of 2015 two of my brothers and I traveled through parts of Europe retracing WWI and WWII battlefields, including two nights in the Bastogne area. The following are some pictures from what we saw in that part of the trip.

The current downtown area, radiating off of McAuliffe Square.

 

Wandering the streets, you pass markers like this:

The highlight of the visit was the half-day spent touring the Barracks, and the multiple museum and artifact displays on the site.

 

The pictures (below) mounted on the walls of the buildings are mounted in the same windows shown in the background of each picture. While it doesn’t really show up in these photographs, you can identify bullets holes in the bricks and see the same bullet hole in the mounted picture.

 

Pictures of veterans of the 101st and other units, on returning visits a few years earlier. Several names you would recognize from Band of Brothers.

 

Compton and Marlarkey are the two lower pictures on the left side of this frame (the two not wearing hats):

 

The barracks has a very impressive collection/museum of restored armored vehicles, from both sides of the conflict. 

This is a partial view

 

The outskirts of the nearby town of Malmedy was the site of the Malmedy Massacre, where 84 American POWs were murdered by SS troops. 

This is a diorama from the museum across the street from the site.

And this is the field where it happened:

Across the other side of the street is a memorial.

 

The American Cemetery where many of those killed in the battle were buried is outside of Luxembourg City. Like all ABMC sites, it is a amazing place to visit. General Patton is buried there, “at the head of his troops”.

 

The chapel

Just a few minutes away from the Luxembourg cemetery is a German Military cemetery. The German cemeteries we visited have a very different feel from the American ones:

 

Baseball Needs a Pitch Clock. Change My Mind.

 

Baseball is going to die a rapid death if they don’t do something drastic about the pace of play.

I’ve had full season tickets to the Milwaukee Brewers for 25 seasons. Before I got married and had kids I always went to 70-plus games a season. I’d even take half-day vacation time to go to the weekday day games. My best season in 2001 I attended a total of 85 games (two pre-season, two road games, and all 81 home games), and I only left one game early, it was a weeknight that it went into extra innings and I was the ride for a friend who couldn’t stay any longer.

I’ve sat through to the end of 16-1 blow-out losses (“Hey, three or four grand slams, we’re right back in this one”). One of my favorite baseball memories is attending double-headers on consecutive days in July 1997 – in the first game, Steve Woodard made his major league debut against Roger Clemens, gave up a lead-off double to Otis Nixon, then proceeded to strike out the side, set a league record by striking out 11 (or was it 12?) in his debut, and won the game 1-0. In the second game of that doubleheader, the Brewers turned their first Triple play in something like 17 years.

So I take a backseat to no one claiming to be a fan of the game.

But it’s getting downright unwatchable. In 1982, the average time of a nine-inning MLB game was 2:35. In 2019 (so far), it’s 3:04.

Yes, there are more pitching changes (pitchers/game has increased from 2.62 to 4.27). But that’s not what appears to be driving the time difference.

On April 13, 1984, the Mets played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 270 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 74 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.

On April 17, 2014, the Brewers played the Pirates at PNC Park. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 268 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 75 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.

The game from 1984 lasted two hours and 31 minutes.

The game from 2014 lasted three hours and six minutes.

Our goal is to figure out where the extra 35 minutes came from.

Read the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:

It took nine seconds longer for a pitcher to get rid of the ball in 2014.

In the 1984 game, there were 70 inaction pitches that were returned to the pitcher and thrown back to the plate within 15 seconds.

In the 2014 game, there were 10.

In the 1984 game, there were 32 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches

In 2014, there were 87 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches.

Baseball needs a pitch clock. And it needs to be an aggressive one. They also need to keep the batter in the box between pitches.

I like that baseball isn’t ruled by the clock. But there’s too much standing around doing nothing.

You take a nine-inning game and play it in two hours and 35 minutes, it’s a thing of beauty. You take the exact same game and stretch it out over an extra 30 minutes, it’s an unwatchable snooze-fest.

Baseball has taken some steps to speed play, but it hasn’t helped. The limit on mound visits is completely ineffectual. It’s been in place for two seasons, I can remember exactly one time when I’ve seen a team use them all (or even get down to one left).

Get the ball, throw the ball. That solves most of the problem.

Yes, Homeruns and strikeouts are up and lead to a lot of unexciting “action.” Yes, in a game last week I watched as the visiting pitcher, down 6-0 in the 8th inning, with two outs and the pitcher at-bat, threw over to 1st base five or six times in a row. Yes, the replay is a botched nightmare, and the umpires can’t call consistent balls and strikes.

None of that will matter if they can just get the game time back down to 2:45 or less.

As it is, I have a hard time getting my pre-teen kids to go to games with me. Baseball is losing a generation of fans. They don’t have much time to save the game.

Edit:  As usual, the commentary clarified my thoughts a bit. So allow me to adapt one of my later comments on this thread here in the main post: I don’t want a pitch clock. I want the batter to stay in the box, and I want the pitcher to get the ball and throw the ball. But for whatever reason, they seem disinclined in recent years to do so.

What I object to is taking three hours to play a game that should only take two and a half hours.

And I’m not talking “action.” I get that baseball is about the pauses, and the four foul balls on a 3-2 count. Just do it a little quicker.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

 

Democrats have been talking about the need for the next Democrat President to expand the size of the Supreme Court in order to counteract the baleful effects of the Trump appointments.

A Proposal: Trump should himself submit a plan to Congress to expand the size of the Supreme Court.  Let’s get the Democrats in Congress on the record as to why expanding the court is a bad idea.

Officer Mathew Rittner

 

Milwaukee Police officer Matthew Rittner was shot and killed last week while serving a search warrant. Today was his 36th birthday. He was a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq before joining the Milwaukee Police force. He was the third MPD officer killed on duty in the last eight months; two were shot, and one in an automobile accident.

There was a procession today from the church in Oak Creek to the funeral home in Brookfield that wound through several parts of the city that were significant to him. I don’t know exactly how many vehicles were in the procession, but it was an amazing site. It was *miles* long, all squad cars and emergency vehicles with their flashing lights on. I passed by the head of the procession on my way home from work just as it was entering the south end of the Hoan bridge on the south side of Milwaukee, and passed the end of the procession near the airport about 20 minutes and three or four miles later – and my route didn’t parallel the route of the procession. Right by where I passed the end of the procession, on a bridge over the freeway the St. Francis Fire Department had a ladder truck with a flag hanging from the extended ladder.

Officer Rittner was a Brewers fan and was married on the field at Miller Park before a game, though inadvertently. The wedding was scheduled at the stadium, and then due to a hurricane, a Brewers series that was supposed to be played in Miami was moved to Milwaukee instead. The team worked around it.

74 Years Ago Today

 

LST-460 at Guadalcanal.

My father lost two first cousins in the Second World War. One was lost in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in July 1945. The other was killed in a Kamikaze attack on his ship, LST-460, 74 years ago today.

His name was Gordon Spredeman. He received a posthumous Silver Star for his actions in the sinking of the ship. Unfortunately, I don’t even have a picture of him. But his Silver Star citation reads as follows:

Ship’s Cook First Class Gordon Spredeman (NSN: 3061034), United States Navy, was awarded the Silver Star (Posthumously) for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as a crewman aboard the U.S.S. LST 460, when his ship was hit by a Kamikaze on 21 December 1944. Ship’s Cook First Class Spredeman aided in combating fire on the blazing ship, then gave his life preserver to a wounded man. His gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

Here is an account of the sinking of the ship.

When he came back, he said they’d found room, and would I go on LST 460. My crew was spread around, too. Needless to say, I would have been better off staying than having to go through what I did, but there were ships in other convoys that were sunk, too.

On the day after the first night at 4:50 p.m., we were having supper when the ship’s loudspeaker announced there were 40 kamikaze planes coming in at us with our air force on their tails. As they approached our planes veered off, as every gun on every ship was blazing away at the Japs. I had just finished eating supper and washed my mess kit and was going to where I slept under a gun tub on a stretcher, I got off a Jeep loaded with medical supplies. I stopped part way under the gun tub and was watching these planes come at us. One LST got hit on the front of the ship with just the wing. I saw where they shoved the wing overboard, so they were okay. Another one missed and fell in the water.

And then we got hit. I didn’t see this plane coming, as the gun tub and the ship’s bridge was between me and the plane, but the next second I was surrounded in flames. I was under the tub enough so that the blast of fire and shrapnel from the explosion of plane and bomb went over and around me. Here I was, standing in the middle of the fire and sort of dazed and my mess kit still in my hands, when I said to myself, “I got to get the hell outa here!” I figured I would burst through the flames and jump overboard. I guessed if I caught on fire the water would put it out. When I burst through the flames, I found no fire next to the railing, only a line of mess kits going from the front of the ship to the cans we washed the kits in. I gently placed mine in line, I looked over the railing, and the water was full of men that jumped overboard when the plane hit us.

The back of the ship wasn’t burning so I walked to an area where there was a life raft on a skid. Another man came from somewhere, and we decided to wait for ‘abandon ship.’ Seems like the ship’s crew had a time finding an official. The plane had hit the bridge and gone down through the mess hall and quarters, all the officers were having supper and were killed or wounded. Our Lt.. Temple was down there and got killed. Finally, an ensign gave the order to abandon ship, so this other guy and I chopped the rope that held the life raft in place, and it slid down. I watched until it floated away from the ship, because if you jump too quickly you might hit the raft and get killed that way. I grabbed my life preserver at the neck and jumped feet first overboard. The life preserver can break your neck when you hit the water, especially at 40 feet, if you don’t hold it tight. I don’t know how far down I went, but I started paddling my arms, and I popped up, to my amazement.

The raft was moving away at a good clip, and I started swimming toward it, but couldn’t catch up. I stopped and took off my shoes, and then I caught it. When I got there, it was loaded down with men that jumped over when the plane hit. They had loaded the raft with so many men that it was a couple feet under the water. I couldn’t see anyone there with a rating higher than mine, so I ordered them to get off and hang on the outside like I was doing. They obeyed real well, as they were afraid of sharks, so we got the raft above water. We had two wounded on board, blood was spurting out of one man’s arm. I had a guy take off his belt, and they put a tourniquet on his arm and stopped the flow of blood. The other guy wasn’t bleeding.

While in the water, planes were still dive-bombing us, and they had a two-motored fighter escort them to their target. It had its bombs left, and it made a pass at a liberty ship. It dropped two bombs, and we all cheered as it missed. One liberty ship got hit, but the plane landed in one hold, and it was loaded with timber and lumber, and it didn’t go through the bottom. We watched from in the water as the crew put the fire out. The Jap plane that dropped the two bombs was flying low, and for a minute I thought it was going to get away. One of our Destroyer escorts finally hit it, and it hit the ocean and sank. I can still see it doing cartwheels in the water. We cheered then also.

We were in the water until 7:00 o’clock when an LSM small boat came over and started to pick us up. The seas were rough, and we jumped two by two when the raft and boat met. We finally got everybody picked up out of that area in two hours. It was just getting dark. I could see LST 460 burning fiercely as I was picked up. They took us to another LST, and after climbing up a rope ladder, I was given a bunk and shot of some kind and something for my burns. Head gunfire later, and they said they had to sink it so it wouldn’t be a beacon for more attacks. Right after that we started out again for Mindoro. I heard there were over 100 men killed on LST 460. Battery B lost five men.

73 Years Ago Today

 

This is my father (far right in tan overcoat). He was in flight training outside Rapid City, SD, in 1945. He and a few members of his B-17 crew were at Mt. Rushmore when they got word that FDR had died. Dad had turned 19 years old less than two months before this.

Cold, Then and Now

 

My mother is 90 years old. She grew up on a dairy farm in rural Waukesha County, west of Milwaukee. Some time back she told me that they didn’t have indoor plumbing at her house until she was in first grade, and they didn’t have it at her school until second grade.

At Christmas I was talking with her and my (pre-teen) kids about how different things are now, and I brought up the topic. She said, “It wasn’t so bad. I don’t remember ever being cold.”

I just returned from a weekend Cub Scout camping trip in Eagle Cave. The temperature in the cave itself was fine. But the bathroom was about 150 yards away, uphill. It was modern plumbing in a mostly heated cement block building. I don’t believe she was never cold.

Did I mention that the temperature on the car thermostat this morning when we left at 7:30 AM was -12 F?

Trump Didn’t Expect or Want to Win the Election

 

And that’s probably the greatest endorsement I can come up with for why I’m glad he won.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.

There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump.

Several times on different threads I’ve used the Douglas Adams quote about governance:

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

From that point of view, there’s nothing better than to put someone into office who doesn’t really want to be there, and who hasn’t spent their entire life plotting their climb up the greasy pole.

Miffed White Male

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