Tag Archives: World War II

‘They didn’t help us’ during World War II

Are you fu**ing kidding me, Mr. President?

You justify abandoning our allies in the fight against the Islamic State because they didn’t “help us” during World War II.” You said, “They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy. With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Oh, brother. The stupidity of your comments simply defies understanding.

Kurdistan is a region that sprawls across several countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Syria. The Kurds comprise about 30 million people. They do not function under a formal government. Kurdistan also is a long way from Normandy, France.

However, Mr. President, they are a proud and sophisticated people. They have been devoted allies of ours in the fight to eliminate the Islamic State. Thousands of them have died fighting ISIS alongside our military personnel.

But you have left them to fight not only ISIS, but apparently the Turks, who have launched attacks in northern Syria. The Turks hate the Kurds. How this tragic circumstance plays out is anyone’s guess.

You have incurred the wrath of politicians in both parties here, Mr. President.

And now you add to it all by speaking stupidly about Kurds’ absence from the beaches at Normandy.

That is idiotic, Mr. President. Oh, wait! I shouldn’t be surprised.

What would Dad think of this charlatan?

My father wasn’t a particularly political person. He didn’t talk much in detail about public policy or those who shape it. He did have opinions about some politicians and when he expressed them to me, they usually were negative.

He was a proud World War II veteran who fought Germans and Italians in the Mediterranean theater of operations. He hated the tyrants he took an oath to defeat when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after Pearl Harbor.

I cannot help but wonder what Dad would think of the individual who was elected in 2016 as president of the United States.

Although Dad wasn’t a keen political observer, I believe he was intuitive enough to know a huckster when he saw or heard one. Dad was among the best sellers of products who ever lived. Thus, I have to believe that Dad would know a huckster, a flim-flam artist, a carnival barker when he saw one.

That is what we have in Donald Trump.

I cannot ask Dad what he would think of this guy. Dad died more than 39 years ago. He was 59 years of age. He would have turned 98 this past May, so it’s entirely possible that Dad would be unable to process much of what the nation has seen unfold since Trump took office.

I wonder how he would react to the way Trump has behaved since becoming our head of state. I ponder how Dad would perceive the pronouncements that come from Trump.

Mostly, I wonder how Dad would react to Trump’s kowtowing to dictators, strong men, murderers, Marxists and assorted tinhorn leaders around the world.

Dad’s service in our nation’s time of terrible peril helped define him. He hated tyrants and the tyranny they sought to advance. How in the world would this proud patriot think of a president who sought to avoid/evade service in the Vietnam War? Hmm.

I have to believe Dad would be aghast, appalled and astonished that Donald Trump even got elected to the nation’s highest and most exalted office.

If only I could ask him.

My favorite veteran’s story has gotten more glorious

VANCOUVER, Wash. — This is a picture of my favorite veteran. He’s my Dad, who died 39 years ago today in a most unexpected and tragic manner.

That is not why I am posting this item about Pete Kanelis. It involves my belief that Dad was my favorite military veteran. I heard something this week from his sole surviving brother that I did not know, but which solidifies my opinion about Dad’s service to the country in a time of great peril.

My wife and I were visiting Uncle Tino and Aunt Claudia the other day. We were reminiscing about family. Then my uncle offered this bit of information that I never knew; if I knew, perhaps I forgot. It’s chilling and heroic at the same time.

Uncle Tino was 9 years of age when the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He told us about how he and the rest of his family were listening to the radio at their home in Portland. They were transfixed by what the news reports were telling the world about what had just happened, which is that the Japanese Empire had just committed a supreme act of war on the United States.

President Roosevelt would stand before Congress the next day to ask for a declaration of war in retaliation for the “dastardly act.” Dad didn’t wait for the president to make his request, according to Uncle Tino.

“Your Dad got up out of his chair and left the room,” Tino told us. He said Dad — who was 20 years of age — went downtown on that Sunday afternoon to enlist in the military. That very day! He was so enraged at what he had heard that he wanted to get into the fight immediately.

Dad did tell me once that his intention was to enlist in the Marine Corps, but that the Marines’ office was closed. So, he walked across the hall and enlisted in the Navy.

I don’t recall Dad telling me that he did all that on the very day of the Pearl Harbor attack. I do recall him saying that he actually reported for duty in January or February 1942. I guess I never pieced together over those many decades that Dad well could have been motivated in the moment to join the fight, but that it took a few weeks for the paperwork to get processed.

Tino told us he remembers the day “vividly.” I believe him. Dad was a red-blooded American patriot. It rings so very true to me that he would act so impulsively.

Dad got into the fight in a big way. He saw combat in the Mediterranean Theater battling the Germans and Italians. He and millions of other young Americans fought hard and saved the world from the tyrants who sought to conquer it.

I am grateful to hear this recollection, as it affirms my view of my favorite veteran.

‘Congratulations,’ Poland … on being invaded and brutalized?

Donald Trump’s lack of historical perspective is astonishing in the extreme, such as what he displayed today when given a chance to comment on the 80th year since the start of World War II.

A reporter asked the president if he had any words to offer to Poland, where he was scheduled to visit this week to commemorate the launch of that massive and bloody conflict. He stayed home to “monitor” the progress of Hurricane Dorian.

Trump mentioned that the vice president, Mike Pence, was going to “represent me” and the United States at event in Poland marking the event.

And then … he offered a word of “congratulations” to Poland. Yes, congratulations. For what? For being invaded and brutalized by the 20th century’s most despicable tyrant, Adolf Hitler? Or, for being attacked as well from the east by the Red Army, which operated under a non-aggression pact signed by Hitler and Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin?

Trump then offered his customary ignorant platitudes about Poland being a “great country” with “great people,” compliments he could apply to virtually any country on Earth — with the exception of the “sh**hole” nations that produce all those immigrants who seek entry into the United States.

The president’s lack of knowledge of — or empathy for — the suffering of others is manifestly evident to me when he makes observations such as what he offered today.

Disgraceful.

Trump’s ‘concern’ about Dorian … is it authentic?

It has come down to this, given Donald Trump’s abject failure to perform one of the unwritten roles of his presidency.

A massive hurricane named Dorian is bearing down on south Florida. Trump was set to fly to Poland this weekend to commemorate the start of World War II. He canceled his trip, citing his need to “monitor” the monstrous hurricane which — by the way — is threatening the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

I believe it is fair to wonder whether the president is authentically concerned about the Floridians threatened by the storm or is he more concerned about whether his glitzy palace survives the impact with minimal damage.

Yes, the cynical side of me is wondering what really is driving this president to forgo a monumental foreign trip. He could “monitor” the storm’s progress from across The Pond. He could be on the phone with FEMA managers, with first responders, with Florida government officials.

He’s staying home, though, to “monitor” the situation.

Hey, at one level I am glad he’s decided to stay home. I just wonder, though, how he’s going to respond publicly when Dorian roars ashore. I wonder whether he’s capable of saying the right things, of responding in the proper manner, of performing as “consoler in chief.”

He hasn’t done it yet, no matter the circumstance.

So, just why is Donald Trump staying home? This individual’s demonstrated lack of compassion and empathy compels me to ask.

Discouragement of youth: an eternal condition

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates

The man who said these things about the youth of his era  lived four centuries before Jesus’ birth.

Socrates was one of those great Greek classical philosophers and thinkers whose words live for eternity. So, too, do his concerns about youth.

I think of these words when I hear people disparage today’s younger generation. I think of them knowing that Socrates felt this way long before the world was introduced to the teachings of those we follow today.

I have begun looking once again at a volume I’ve cherished for many years. “The Greatest Generation,” written by broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, tells of the heroism of those who fought during World War II, returned home build their lives and in the process build the mightiest nation the world has ever seen.

Yes, they were great men and women. But they’ve been followed by other great generations, too. Men and women who sacrificed for their country. Many paid the ultimate price. Others came home and, by golly, built their own lives and continued the work started by many millions of others who came before them.

And all the while they have griped out loud about the youth of their era. They wonder whether civilization as they know it will survive those who “tyrannize their teachers,” or those who “contradict their parents” or “gobble up dainties at the table.”

I am supremely confident civilization as we know it will survive. Indeed, it might even become even better than what we know today.

My sense is that Socrates might have known that to be the case when he offered the quotation attributed to him back in the day.

God bless President Truman

I have commented already on this blog about the significance that Aug. 6 has to the country and to me personally.

On that date in 1945, President Harry Truman issued an order that stands the test of time. He ordered a B-29 crew to take off from Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. It carried a single bomb.

The plane dropped that bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The A-bomb killed about 70,000 people instantly. Three days later, another bomber would fly over Nagasaki, Japan, and would drop another bomb. It killed 50,000 people.

Five days after that, Japan surrendered. World War II had come to an end.

I long have saluted President Truman for having the courage to act as he did to bring that war to an end.

He became president after Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. World War II would rage in Europe until May 8. The Nazis surrendered as the Soviet Red Army marched into Berlin. The Japanese would continue the fight into the summer on the other side of planet. Truman knew a tiny bit about some New Mexico project that was developing a new kind of weapon. Then the Joint Chiefs briefed him, telling him, in effect, “Mr. President, we have this bomb that we believe can end this war quickly.”

My father was part of an occupation force in The Philippines that summer. He was preparing to take part in the invasion of Japan, were that operation were to commence. He had already seen plenty of combat in the Mediterranean Theater. Dad told me once he figured that more combat awaited him once the invasion of Japan commenced. He was a Navy boatswain’s mate. His shipboard duty required him to fire a deck gun in anger at enemy aircraft in the Med. More of that kind of duty likely awaited him.

But then the president ordered the dropping of those atomic bombs. The war ended quickly afterward.

I never have questioned for a moment the wisdom of President Truman’s decision or doubted the courage he demonstrated in issuing the order. Hey, I have some “skin in that game” … you know?

I mean, if Dad hadn’t survived, well, I wouldn’t be here today, writing this blog telling you about how grateful I am to have been given life.

I once told a veterans group in Amarillo about my personal connection to the events of Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. I told those vets, “God bless President Truman.”

They clapped and cheered.

I feel just as strongly today as I always have about the president’s decision to end that terrible conflict in the manner that he did.

In ‘tat world,’ what is with those drawings you can’t read?

Popular culture is an ever-changing world that occasionally boggles the minds of old folks, such as me.

One element of contemporary culture involves the stunning proliferation of tattoos. Yep, damn near everyone seems to have ’em.  I want to discuss briefly an element of “tat world” that baffles me in the extreme.

We attended a Fourth of July party the other evening at Lake Bob Sandlin, a beautiful area about 90 miles east of us in East Texas. There was plenty of food, fun, fellowship — and fireworks.

I also saw my share of tats. Young folks were inked up. Some not-so-young folks were, too. One woman had a tat that caught my attention, and it brings me to the question of the day: Why put something on your body that contains text that you cannot read?

She had inked up the calves of both legs. One of the designs contained some sort of written message. I wanted to read what the message was on her leg, except that I had this problem that got in the way: She is a total stranger; I don’t know her from the woman in the moon. I couldn’t possibly feel comfortable asking this individual, “Pardon me, but what does the message say on the back of your right leg? May I stoop down to read it, or will you just tell me what it says?”

Look, I don’t begrudge those who ink up their bodies with tattoos. That’s their call. To each his/her own … that’s one of my mottos of everyday life.

I made a solemn vow to my late father back in 1968 while I was preparing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Dad implored me, he begged me, to please do not get a tattoo. He wore a tat on one of his arms that he acquired in the Navy during World War II. As I recall his story, he was on liberty in Tunisia and decided to get a tattoo after consuming too many adult beverages one evening.

He regretted it every day of his life. Dad didn’t want me to scar my body. So I agreed then and I will keep that promise to him for as long as I live.

However, were I to get one I would want it to be recognizable from a distance so that I could avoid questions from perfect strangers.

Ahh, that element of pop culture will just have to evolve without me.

My new favorite holiday? Umm, maybe

The older I get the sappier I become.

My wife and I spent a glorious evening with Emma, our 6-year-old granddaughter. We ventured to the other side of Princeton, Texas — which isn’t all that far, to tell you the truth — to enjoy some Independence Day festivities.

The city put on its Fourth of July Spectacular at Caldwell Park, which happens to include a one-time World War II prisoner of war encampment where Nazi soldiers were kept near the end of the war.

Emma enjoyed some rides, sipped and nibbled on a snow cone, then sat with us as we listened to music superstar Lee Ann Womack belt out some country/western tunes before a large crowd gathered in front of the stage.

Then the fun really got started. The fireworks display — which I sought to capture with the photo that accompanies this blog post — was nothing short of spectacular.

I love the pageantry associated with the Fourth of July. The older I become the more I enjoy listening to the patriotic music while the rockets’ red glare lights up the night sky.

Truth be told, I’ve always been a bit of a sap about this particular holiday. My parents imbued it in me as a youngster. Perhaps it has something to do with Dad’s role in ridding the world of tyranny during World War II. He was proud of his Navy service, although he didn’t brag about. The Greatest Generation is not full of braggarts; it is full of heroes who did their job, answered their country’s call to duty, then returned home to start or restart their lives. That was Dad in a nutshell.

Mom, too, told me of how the Port of Portland, Ore., turned into a “liberty ship” assembly line, cranking out cargo vessels at a clip of one per month. You remember these tales of greatness in the face of international crisis.

So we watched the fireworks tonight. We listened to music. It was our way of saluting this great nation of ours.

What’s more, we did it with our precious little girl.

How in the name of all that is good can it possibly get any better than that?

Memo to AOC: Stop using ‘concentration camp’ reference

Read my lips, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: When you use the words “concentration camps,” it is quite easy for others to equate that terminology with what the Nazis did in Europe prior to and during World War II.

I get that you are a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. You represent a constituency that must believe what you say. However, even though you are a raw rookie congresswoman from New York City, your words have this way of resonating around the country.

Thus, I want to caution you about equating our detention of illegal immigrants on our southern border to “concentration camps.”

I understand your reaction to critics who suggest you are equating those detention camps along our Mexico border with “death camps.” I heard you say that death camps aren’t the same as concentration camps.

However, it is dangerously close to making that death camp equation.

There can be no way in the world that we can attach any moral equivalence to what we’re doing to anything approaching what the Nazis did in committing the 20th century’s worst crimes against humanity.

Now, I say this as someone who wants to support you, Rep AOC. However, your meteoric rise to the top of our public visibility is annoying. I prefer member of Congress earn their spurs before they appear before me every single day.

I also get that your ubiquitous presence on TV and in print isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of the media that are looking for stars. They have found one in you.

But take this bit of unsolicited advice: Just because the media are anxious to quote you doesn’t give you license to say things that your elders find offensive.

I don’t like the detention centers on our border any more than you do. However, I bristle at any notion that we are running “concentration camps” that to my eyes and ears reminds me too much of what the Nazis did during that dark and sinister time.

Be circumspect, Rep. AOC.