Tag Archives: World War II

Nothing to celebrate

The world changed forever 75 years ago to this very day.

That was when a B-29 bomber took off from Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean and dropped a single explosive device on Hiroshima, Japan. In an instant, tens of thousands of people were vaporized; many thousands more would die from the effects of that nuclear blast.

The nation was involved in a world war with Japan. Another airplane would take off three days later and inflict the same level of destruction on Nagasaki, Japan. A week after that second blast, the Japanese surrendered. World War II was over.

They danced in the streets of this country. A few days after surrendering, Japanese and Allied officials met in Tokyo harbor to sign the documents.

We look back on this day with grimness. It’s not a moment to celebrate. It is an event to commemorate with somber reflection. I am not particularly proud to have been born in the only nation on Earth to have used nuclear weapons in war. Indeed, it is a grim reminder of the path we took to reach that moment.

We had been fighting Japan, Nazi Germany and (until 1943) fascist Italy since 1941. Then in April 1945, our commander in chief, President Roosevelt, died in Georgia and suddenly, a modest man from Missouri, Harry Truman, was thrust into the role of president.

He didn’t know about the atomic weapon being developed in New Mexico until someone from the Joint Chiefs of Staff told him about this new weapon that could end the war quickly. President Truman weighed the cost of unleashing this device against the cost of invading Japan; he chose to use the bomb.

I have long embraced President Truman’s decision. Why? I had skin in that game. You see, my father was in the Philippines when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated. He was a proud Navy sailor who might have taken part in that invasion of Japan had the order been given and, yes, he could have died in that effort. He had survived intense combat in The Med and likely figured he was living on borrowed time.

So, you must understand that President Truman’s decision allowed me to be born into this world.

Do I celebrate those twin events? Do I perform a happy dance just knowing a wartime president’s resolve allowed me to enter this world? I do none of that.

I merely want to echo the refrain we have heard in the decades since that fateful event: Never again.

‘Beautiful’ World War II? Seriously?

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Question of the Moment: Who in their right mind would ever place the adjective “beautiful” in front of the words “World War … “?

Answer: No one in their right mind would ever say that, which leads me to conclude that Donald John “Best Wordsmith in Chief” Trump is out of his mind. He’s gone loony. Bonkers.

He was asked on Fox News Sunday about the issue of renaming U.S. military bases that currently carry the names of Confederate army officers. He then launched into yet another incoherent rant about how those installatons had sent young Americans off to fight in two world wars … which he then described as “beautiful.” 

Yes, he told Chris Wallace that World Wars I and II were “beautiful” conflicts.

They were hideous, ghastly, monumentally tragic at every level imaginable. World War I veterans were subject to mustard gas while dug into trenches along a line facing their enemy.  World War II veterans were sent to battlefields that spanned the globe. The remaining WWII vets are in the 90s now, but ask any of them if they thought that conflict was a “beautiful” endeavor.

Yet the president of the United States, who sought to avoid service during the Vietnam War by claiming to have bone spurs in his feet, now calls the two global conflicts “beautiful.”

Donald J. Trump is batsh** crazy.

Communities honor Audie Murphy, a true-blue NE Texas legend

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR.org, the website for KETR-FM, the public radio station based at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

This much is likely true: When you go off to war and then distinguish yourself by becoming the most highly decorated soldier in your nation’s history, communities are likely to compete for bragging rights to be known as your designated “home town.”

So, it has been with a young Northeast Texan named Audie Murphy.

It is not a fierce battle between communities in Northeast Texas. It’s more of a friendly competition. The competitors are Greenville and Farmersville, occupying neighboring Hunt and Collin counties.

The reality is that Audie Leon Murphy was born June 20, 1925 in Kingston, a Hunt County community about 10 miles north of Greenville. He would be 95 years of age. He didn’t live nearly that long, dying in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 45.

Greenville has a museum that carries Murphy’s name. Farmersville, though, celebrates Audie Murphy Day to commemorate his homecoming from World War II in 1945. Indeed, I have learned that Murphy used his sister Nadene Lokey’s address in Farmersville as his home when he processed out of the Army at the end of World War II.

“We were living in an orphanage” when Murphy came home from the Army, said Lokey, who I visited with briefly at this year’s Audie Murphy Day celebration in Farmersville. Lokey said her brother got “a lot of money through the sale of war bonds” in his honor. “He then bought us a two-story house over on Washington Street (in Farmersville) and he came and got us out of the orphanage and moved us into the house,” Lokey said.

What did Murphy do to earn this competition between two cities? Oh, all he did was seemingly win the European Theater of operations by himself. Indeed, the opening line in Chapter One of the book “Audie Murphy: American Soldier,” by Harold Simpson, describes the diminutive warrior as “the greatest folk hero of Texas since Davy Crockett.” To be mentioned in the same sentence with one of the Alamo heroes, well, let’s just say that Audie Murphy is walking among some mighty tall cotton.

His battlefield exploits earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. The fight for which he received the Medal of Honor resulted in him killing several German soldiers, taking others captive and saving the lives of his comrades in arms. He took control of a German machine gun and, as they say, the rest is history. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the Legion of Honor (France’s highest military honor), the Silver Star, a Presidential Unit Citation … and dozens of other medals.

When someone asked him why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied, “They were killing my friends.” Well… there you have it.

After coming home, Audie Murphy became a film actor, portraying himself in an autobiographical film, “To Hell and Back.” He also struggled with what they called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” He married twice and produced two children, both of whom reportedly live in California. The women he married are deceased, according to Susan Lanning, director of the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville. Murphy also became a singer, a songwriter and a poet.

None of Murphy’s emotional troubles dampened the communities’ efforts to claim him as their own, according to Jim Foy, a semi-retired computer software sales professional who helps keep Murphy’s legacy alive in Farmersville.

“‘Farmersville, Texas’ had been inscribed on his dog tags,” said Foy, adding that was just one indicator that Murphy considered Farmersville to be his hometown.

Farmersville stages an annual Audie Murphy Day every June 15 to commemorate the war hero’s return home from World War II. The city had a “small event” this year under the gazebo on the downtown square, Foy noted, explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city’s usual blowout in Murphy’s memory.

This year’s celebration marked the 75th year since Murphy came home from the war. “Audie landed in Houston in 1945,” Foy explained, “then he flew to San Antonio, where they had the biggest parade they’ve ever had to honor his return. Then he drove to Farmersville, where they had a huge event.”

Foy acknowledges that Greenville has claimed Murphy, too, adding that “they have a real nice museum over there. He was born in Kingston, moved to Celeste for a time. He moved around quite a bit.”

Farmersville also has a small museum full of “World War II memorabilia and other artifacts from Murphy’s life,” said Foy. The museum usually is open the first Saturday each month but has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. “We’re hoping to get it open again soon,” Foy said.

Foy calls the rivalry over Murphy’s legacy as “friendly. We haven’t had any fist fights … yet.”

Lanning sees the “rivalry,” such as it is, a bit differently from Foy … no surprise there. Lanning said Murphy lived briefly in Kingston, briefly in Greenville but spent most of his formative years in Celeste. “His parents were sharecroppers,” Lanning said, “and they were quite poor. They moved around a lot.”

Lanning also noted that Murphy hated his first name and went by his middle name, Leon, as a boy. His military service more or less forced him to use his first name, Lanning said, which would draw puzzled looks from his friends back home, she said, many of whom had never heard the name “Audie” when referring to their old pal.

She said that Murphy “didn’t live in Farmersville but would visit his sister (Nadene) there. So, my guess is that Celeste can make more of a claim to Audie than either Farmersville or Greenville.”

Lanning prefers to suggest that since Murphy was born and came of age in Hunt County, that he is a Hunt County favorite son and doesn’t just belong to one community. She did note that Greenville had a “big parade for him when he came home” from World War II, just as Farmersville did.

Murphy’s schooling ended in the fifth grade, Lanning said. His lack of formal education did not deter Murphy from developing a significant social conscience. Lanning said that Murphy’s struggle with PTSD after World War II prompted him to talk openly about it. “He was one of the first GIs to talk about” the stress of combat, she said. Lanning said Murphy often spoke to veterans’ groups and visited vets in Veterans Administration hospitals to talk about what was known then as “battle fatigue,” Lanning said.

Even though he appeared in about 40 films, mostly under contract with Universal Studios, Murphy’s fortunes “went up and down,” Lanning said. “They even made a ‘GI Joe’ doll” in Murphy’s likeness, according to Lanning.

And so … Audie Leon Murphy’s legacy and memory live on, likely for at least as long as there are those around who honor the exploits of a hero who – just as heroes tend to do – dismisses what he did as heroic. As Murphy himself once said, “The true heroes, the real heroes, are the boys who fought and died, and never will come home.”

Audie Murphy’s fellow Northeast Texans surely would disagree.

The love lives on for Audie Murphy

How proud are they of Audie Leon Murphy in Farmersville, Texas?

They are so proud of their favorite son that they wouldn’t dare let an international medical pandemic — which has shut down ceremonies and outdoor events around the world — stop them from honoring the most decorated soldier to serve during World War II.

They cut the ceremony short, but it took place today as scheduled on the 75th anniversary of the day he returned home to Farmersville after receiving the Medal of Honor and 32 other medals on battlefields in Africa and Europe. When he arrived in Farmersville for a major homecoming, he was asked to speak to the crowd of about 5,000 that had gathered to cheer their hero. He told a reporter that he’d rather face an “enemy machine gun nest” than speak before a crowd. Indeed, he did wipe out an enemy machine emplacement, an action that brought him the Medal of Honor in 1945.

Audie Murphy Day occurs every June 15 in Farmersville, where Murphy had listed as his hometown when he entered the Army during the height of World War II. It’s usually a big blowout of an affair, but the pandemic forced the city to scale it back.

Still, a crowd of about 200 residents gathered in the downtown square next to the gazebo that sits just west of the Freedom Plaza Memorial.

I caught up with Murphy’s sister, Nadine Murphy Lokey, who now lives in Princeton, but who is a fixture at the annual Audie Murphy Day event.

“We were living in an orphanage when Audie went into the Army,” Lokey told me, “but he wanted to be a soldier his whole life. But, oh boy, he was scared to death over there.”

Lokey said her brother “had a lot of people praying for him. I was one of them who prayed every day and every night for him. It was a miracle that he survived the war.”

Speakers at the gazebo told of how Murphy wore dog tags with his uniform inscribed with “Farmersville, Texas.” They noted that a section of U.S. Highway 380 that runs through Farmersville is named the Audie Murphy Parkway and that the Northeast Texas Trail that begins in Farmersville is designated as the Audie Murphy Trailhead.

Yes, he was a key member of this community. Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 45. He wasn’t able to grow old, unlike his baby sister, Nadine.

The memory of his battlefield exploits live on forever … as does the love expressed today for this American hero.

You want major national change? Try this!

Mom and Dad saw the world change in front of them when we went to war against international tyranny. We emerged victorious from that world war and took our place as the world’s colossus … and the world changed forever.

Then came 9/11, when those terrorists flew jetliners into office towers and into the Pentagon. The nation went to war again against the monsters who sponsored those madmen. The nation is still fighting that war … and, yes, the world changed once again forever.

The world went through fundamental change in the 20th and 21st centuries because of senseless acts of violence brought to us.

Now we’re entering another fundamental change brought to the world by an “enemy” no one saw coming until it was too late. The world likely is going to change in ways we cannot even foretell now as we seek to stem the attack brought to us by the coronavirus pandemic.

Our world will change culturally, with no arena sports to cheer from grandstands packed with fans like you and me. Our interpersonal behavior will change. We’ll be far more cognizant of personal hygiene.

Think of this for a just a brief moment. Our government has enacted certain restrictions on our behavior. We must not gather in large crowds. We dare not venture into public places without wearing face masks. We pack sanitized wipes, little bottles of alcohol-based cleanser. We maintain what we now know colloquially as “social distancing” from those we meet.

We shouldn’t shake a stranger’s hand. We shouldn’t even embrace friends we haven’t seen in good while. Oh, sure, we aren’t prohibited by law from doing these things. It just is patently unwise given the nature of the COVID-19 virus that attacks even the heretofore perfectly healthy among us.

Therein lies the change that awaits us as we continue this struggle against the pandemic. My rumbling gut tells me we’re likely going to change forever … yet again.

The world changed 75 years ago

What a difference a head of state can make

I could not help but draw the immediate comparison to another head of state when I heard Queen Elizabeth II speaking Sunday to her subjects about the coronavirus pandemic.

You know how it goes, my fellow Americans, when we hear constantly from our head of state, Donald Trump, who has the capacity to say so little with so much useless verbiage.

Then in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty the Queen addressed her subjects for only the fourth time in the more than 60 years of her rule.

The queen was, shall we say, majestic. She spoke for only a few moments. She said with absolute calm that the UK will get through the pandemic. The UK will emerge strong and she implored Brits, Welsh, Scots and Irish to pull together as one family.

She spoke of the horror she endured during World War II as a youngster living through the Battle of Britain, as Nazi warplanes bombed and strafed the cities. She said our current war is every bit as deadly as that earlier conflict.

Then she ended it.

National Public Radio reported this morning that the Queen’s remarks were so profound, so rare and so well-aimed that she moved many of her listeners to tears.

Imagine, if you can, that kind of reaction on this side of The Pond to the sound of our own head of state. You can stop laughing now.

Here is Her Majesty’s speech:

You will not hear a single, solitary self-serving boast from this magnificent monarch.

Wow.

This crisis seems vastly different from previous crises

I’ve been around awhile, a bit more than 70 years.

In my lifetime I have endured a presidential assassination, global warfare. I have witnessed a volcano erupt in real time. And yes, I have lived through health crises of all sorts.

None of those events has delivered quite the impact on our lives as the one that’s evolving at this moment. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a temporary (I hope) collapse of our national culture.

Think of this: Professional basketball, hockey and baseball have suspended their seasons; college basketball has canceled its men’s and women’s tournaments; Disneyland and Walt Disney World have closed; public schools are closing or are delaying their reopening after spring break; pro golf tournaments have been canceled or postponed; late-night comedians have suspended production of their shows, given that they cannot welcome audiences into their studios.

The president has declared a national emergency. Governors around the country are declaring disasters are at hand. Cities are banning events that bring crowds of assorted sizes.

Our popular culture is being affected in a major way by this coronavirus.

I am trying to remember a single event bringing this kind of disruption to our lives. I can’t remember it.

When the Japanese navy and air force attacked us at Pearl Harbor, the nation mobilized immediately but went about its life as we prepared to go to war. Our nation’s commercial air traffic was suspended for a time after 9/11, but yet we went to work the next day and our children went to school.

Yes, this one feels different. Our media are covering the ramifications of this crisis 24/7. They are far from exhausting every possible angle on this still-developing story.

As a former colleague of mine wondered on social media, he now will get to experience what he’s pondered over the years: How do people cope without being able to watch any sporting activity? I guess I can expand that to include going to any sort of event that brings crowds that get to laugh and cheer.

I long have called for patience and perseverance when government undertakes a project. My reference usually is of road projects or any sort of infrastructure capital construction.

We’ll need patience and perseverance in spades as we work our way through this health crisis. I also must add prudence.

Stars and Stripes falls victim to changing media climate?

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute.

Donald John Trump keeps yammering about how much he cares about the men and women who serve in the military, doing duty that he couldn’t fit into his own life when he was of the age to fight for his country.

Why, then, is the Pentagon — under the current president’s watch — stripping Stars and Stripes of the government subsidy on which it relies to provide news and other information to our military personnel?

Stars and Stripes, which has been published regularly since World War II, is losing its $8 million annual subsidy, ostensibly so the Pentagon can spend that money (which amounts to chump change in the total spending accrued by the agency) on other projects.

As Stars and Stripes reported: “Every day in my office as commander of U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes,” said retired Adm. James Stravidis, who served as EUCOM chief and NATO Supreme Allied Command from 2009 to 2013. “It was an invaluable unbiased and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe.”

Allow me to join Adm. Stravidis in declaring my own intense interest in Stars and Stripes. Many of us serving in Vietnam came to rely on the newspaper to tell us of what was happening back home. We also had Armed Forces Radio, but to those of us who preferred to read the printed word, Stars and Stripes served as a sort of lifeline to the “The World.”

Are we now being led to believe that our young men and women no longer get to read the news that Adm. Stravidis said kept him informed just a few years ago?

This is an absolute shame.

USS Doris Miller: What a marvelous honor for a Pearl Harbor hero

Doris Miller was in the right place at the wrong time, I suppose one could say.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was working in the laundry room on the USS West Virginia, a battleship that was moored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Then all hell broke loose.

Japanese warplanes swooped in over the harbor and hit the West Virginia, along with many other ships and planes. Miller jumped into action. He tended to his mortally wounded ship captain, helped other wounded sailors. Then he strapped himself into a deck gun — a weapon on which he was not qualified — and began firing at enemy aircraft.

He survived that terrifying event. He received a medal from Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. Miller would die in action in 1943.

But here we are today. The U.S. Navy has announced that it will name a future Gerald R. Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier in honor of Doris Miller.

Yes, the USS Doris Miller will carry the name of the first African-American so honored. It will carry honor a young man who was thrust into a hero’s role in a time of immense national peril and tragedy.

Doris Miller was a native of Waco. I am pleased to see the picture above of Miller receiving a medal from another native Texan: Nimitz hailed from Fredericksburg. Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart and received a commendation from the Navy secretary at the time for the actions he took on that “date which will live in infamy.” 

The Navy Department chose to make the announcement today to coincide with the nation’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day, a holiday set aside to honor the memory and the work of our great nation’s greatest civil rights champion.

“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.

May they “continue the watch” with the pride and courage exhibited by the young man under whose name they will set sail.

Trump’s belittling of brass simply stinks beyond belief

The history of Donald Trump’s pre-business history is well-known.

He sought to avoid service in the military during the height of the Vietnam War. He received dubious medical deferments citing bone spurs or some such ailment that kept him out of being eligible for military service.

He went into business. Made a lot of money. Lost a lot of money. Had mixed success as a business mogul. Then he went into politics. He ran for president of the United States. He won!

So for this current president to dress down men who have served their country honorably, in combat, thrust themselves into harm’s way is insulting, degrading and astonishingly unpatriotic.

Two reporters for the Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, have written a book that tells just how disgraceful Trump’s conduct has gotten with regard to the military high command. An excerpt from that book tells of a meeting in a Pentagon room called The Tank. The brass sought to explain the nuts and bolts of military matters to the commander in chief. He was having none of it.

He called the generals “babies and dopes.” He has told them they are “losers” and said he wouldn’t “go into battle” with them.

I am trying imagine, were I one of those decorated combat veterans, hearing such denigration coming from the commander in chief. The entire world knows this man’s history. We all know that, when he had the opportunity to serve his country, he chose another path.

Don’t misunderstand me on this score. I do not begrudge a president who’s never worn the nation’s military uniform. Two recent presidents did not serve: Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Neither did Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, both of whom led this country through two world wars.

What is so objectionable is the snarky attitude this president demonstrates to individuals who have done what he sought to avoid doing. That he would speak to these patriots in such a manner is disgraceful on its face.