Two Little-Known WW2 Stories You Should Know

With the upcoming Memorial Day weekend here in the US, a pair of little-known, but highly significant stories have popped up on the news (and the Net) that should be common knowledge the world over.

The first is rather near and dear to my Chicago heart. As the American war effort geared up in 1942, and as aircraft carriers were shown to be the weapon of choice in the Pacific naval war, a truly bizarre experiment bore phenomenal fruit. Two Great Lakes passenger ships, both of them side-wheel paddle steamers, were converted to aircraft carriers and used to train fledgling pilots and crews in the vagaries of carrier operations. Yes, folks, Lake Michigan and the Chicago lakefront (including the now-defunct Glenview Naval Air Station) played host to the only paddle-wheel, freshwater aircraft carriers in the world. I won’t ruin the story for you – you can find the TV show “Heroes on Deck” running on PBS this weekend, or go to and download the hour-long show or buy a DVD copy of the show. And please – do so. Learn and remember this story. Thousands of Navy men lived and learned aboard and around these ships, and as in all things war, some made the ultimate sacrifice. You can even see two of the planes that served on these carriers – an F4F Wildcat at O’Hare Airport, and an SBD Dauntless at Midway Airport, also in my hometown.

The second story is a bit farther from home for me, but no less important. The BBC has briefly told the story of a certain Japanese gentleman, Shigeaki Mori. A survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, he spent decades of his life searching for the relatives of a group of US POWs who died in the bombing. In the years before the Internet, Google, and other such conveniences, Mr. Mori-san used a Japanese-American dictionary to write out English phrases, then called to the United States to EVERY person in the hometown in question with a matching surname, or wrote letters blindly addressed to town halls asking if there were relatives – all at his own expense. He has also authored a book on the subject, A Secret History of U.S. Servicemembers Who Died in Atomic Bomb, and his story has also been covered by filmmaker Barry Frechette in the film Paper Lanterns. He is now trying to do the same for Dutch POWs, captured in the Dutch East Indies, who died in the bombing of Nagasaki.

So as we head into this Memorial Day weekend, remember those who gave their lives so that the rest of us could live in peace. And remember the ongoing efforts by people such as the group at Heroes On Deck and Shigeaki Mori, who have dedicated their lives to making sure that those who died are never forgotten.

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Happy Star Wars Day!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Put batteries in your lightsaber, dust off your stormtrooper armour, and have your wookie groomed – time to get your Star Wars groove on. (Why today, I hear some of you saying? Think about a phrase that’s in every Star Wars movie – “May the Fourth be with you!”😀 )

And never forget what Obi-Wan’s spirit told Skywalker when he went to cut the post-Death-Star-destruction cake and couldn’t find a knife. “Use the fork, Luke. Use the fork!”

Beam me up, Scotty, they’re lighting torches down here!

Posted in Current Events, Humor, Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Where I Get It From.

As you well know, I have a rather twisted love affair with really bad humour. And the WORST humour possible is puns. Ever wonder how I got to be so dang punny? Well, it goes back over 32 years, as I found proof of earlier today.

Back in the 1980s, one f my favourite shows (and still is) was the A-Team. Action, adventure, lotsa gunplay (with accuracy of gunfire only outdone by a WW2 re-enactment), and great interplay between characters. In the episode I was watching, “Face Man” (Dirk Benedict, formerly Starbuck in the REAL Battlestar Galactica), is questioning a con man who has set up a Wild West show, and asks about an Indian (sorry, Native American) chief persona. The con man admits the Chief isn’t even an Indian, and that he picked up the Chef as a hitchhiker outside Cleveland. To which Face replies, ” I can’t believe I fell for a Cleveland Indian.”

(Insert rimshots or groans here.)

Now I know this went over my head at the time, because I knew scant little about baseball. But as you can see, the seeds were planted early, and not just compliments of the Three Stooges. So as the Nevadan said during a California earthquake, “Why am I suffering? It ain’t my fault.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality, already in progress.😀

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Of Queens and Princes

Did you ever have one of those days, when life seems to reach out to hug you, but when you go in for the clinch, it knees you right in the family jewels?

Today in spades, kiddies. In bloody spades.

A wonderful morning spent enjoying the festivities celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. All the pomp, ceremony, and warm moments a raging Anglophile could want. I never fail to be amazed at this wonderful lady, someone who dedicated herself to public service a decade before I was born, and is still going strong. I not only enjoy seeing her, but watching Prince Phillip in the background. You want an example of a cum laude graduate of being a husband? Watch him. He dotes on the Queen, he guards her (even though he’s 5 years her senior and recently had bouts of ill health), and overall is just  quiet pillar of strength – one with an absolutely devastating wry sense of humour. (No wonder I’m such a fan!😀 ) And if you were paying REALLY close attention to the footage of the band playing “Happy Birthday” for Her Majesty, you’ll notice the band is from my second-favourite adoptive military unit, the Coldstream Guards. Nulli secundis, boys!

A terrible afternoon, whacked with the announcement of the death of Prince. I was never a huge fan, but enjoyed some of his earlier stuff from the 1980s. I am in awe, though, of how many careers he touched or launched. He worked with one of my all-time favourites, Sheena Easton. He created the celebrity of Sheila E. and Vanity (okay, maybe not superstars, but both talented ladies in an era when women were just supposed to sing and look pretty, not write music of – Heaven Forbid! – be a rock/funk drummer). He wrote tons of songs for others, played the vast majority of the instruments on his albums, and always performed with power and verve. Love him, like him, or hate him, he was a monster talent, and one gone way too soon.

Oh, and as for me, I’ve gone through two laptops and three hard drives in the past 4 months, not to mention three rounds of killer migraine periods each about a week long, and a couple bouts of flu (one of which I’m still trying to get rid of.) So, with any luck, maybe you won’t have to wait another 4 months to hear from me!

Posted in Current Events, Obituary | Tagged , | 6 Comments

By Grabthar’s Hammer, By The Suns of Worvan,…

You shall be … remembered.

If you haven’t heard, Alan Rickman has died. A true loss for the entertainment community, and for everyone who loves good movies and good plays. From his early, dripping-with-elegance-and-venom Hans Gruber in “Die Hard”, to his turns in the Harry Potter films, to his delightfully over-the-top Sheriff of Nottingham that completely eclipsed Kevin Costner in “Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves”, Rickman  was perhaps the finest villian ever to grace the screen. He was also a prolific stage actor, appearing in numerous plays. But he’ll always have a special place in my heart for his turn in the film “Galaxy Quest”. His turn as actor Alan Dane, a Shakespearean trained actor (much like Patrick Stewart) forced to continually reprise his role as the Spock-like Dr. Lazarus in the fictional series “Galaxy Quest” (convenient, having the TV series in the film with the same name as the movie itself), allowed him to show off a wide range of emotion both in and out of character. The movie is a must-see for everyone, but particularly delightful for us Trekkies (and you trying-to-be-respectable Trekkers) who have seen our favourites from the original series fight the same battle against typecasting. (Sadly, none of the original series cast has ever admitted to me if they had been abducted by aliens. Though I’ve always wondered about Walter Koenig – a great guy and funny as all get-out, but with a strange thing about cheesecake…..😉 )

So tonight, if your skies are clear, go out and look up. We’ve lost a great talent down here on Earth, but there’s a new star in the heavens. Farewell, and RIP, Alan Rickman. You shall be remembered – and mourned.

Posted in Current Events, Obituary, Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Day to Remember.

Today has been an odd day. one of those days that leave me sad and happy, fearful and yet fearless for the future. Two notable events stand out.

First, it has been a year since the Charlie Hebdo magazine shootings in Paris. Though hardly an event to remember with joy, the strong outpouring of support following the terrible event can still warm even the most fear-frozen heart. A great retrospective of both photos and editorial cartoons has been posted on the site of the UK’s newspaper “The Independent”. Go to – there’s a link on the main page on the left-hand side, down about 3/4 of a scroll. While some of the cartoons aren’t exactly PG-rated, all of them evoke a sense of hope out of the tragic event.

Second, last night was the Peoples’ Choice Award. While I don’t care for awards shows, there was a truly touching event. You may not know the “Fast and Furious” franchise, nor know who Vin Diesel or Paul Walker are. Paul died before the 7th and latest installment was finished, but despite this severe handicap, the film was finished, and last night won two awards. Vin Diesel accepted the awards, and that’s all I’m going to tell you. Just Google “Vin Diesel PCA Speech”, and watch the video. Even if you don’t know the actors or the characters they portray, you’ll see something truly wonderful. And if you are a fan of the series and the two men, as I am, grab a towel. You don’t have enough Kleenexes on hand, trust me – I bawled like a two-year-old, and I’ll admit that openly. And Vin does make a hint about at least three more films – the hope for us fans. For the rest of you, well, deal with it. (And please, PLEASE get a copy of the movie “Eight Below” with Paul Walker. If you subscribe to the theory that dogs are the best judges of character, then Paul Walker earned his halo and harp with zero effort.)

That’s it for now. Maybe when I get over the last month-long bout of killer migraines, I’ll give you my colour commentary from my first-row seats at an honest-to-God eviction. Yep, the rednecks across the drive are outta there, 5th group in 8-plus years. (Well, except for hubby, who’s been cooling his heels in jail since 1:30 a.m. on December 24th. Alcoholic wife-beater with a single digit IQ, his second trip to the slammer in 3 months. Who says country living is boring?😀 )

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What do Arizona, Oklahoma, And Utah Have In Common?

As US battleships, they were all lost 74 years ago today. Yes, it’s Pearl Harbor Day, that day of infamy when the US Pacific fleet was bombed at its’ anchorage in Pearl Horbor, Hawaii. Through a lucky chance, the three aircraft carriers that would stop the Japanese advance through the Pacific were not in port and thus survived, as did the vast fuel oil reserves that the Japanese ignored, much to their later peril.

Ironically, it was the mighty battleships that suffered the worst fates. Cruisers, destroyers, and auxiliary ships were hit but none sunk. Most of the casualties came from the two battleships Arizona and Oklahoma, and the poor forgotten naval gunnery training ship Utah (who, numbered as AG-17, still continued to bear her commissioned name from her days as a WW1 battleship). The Army Air Corps suffered losses as well, over 200 aircraft and dozens of crews. Even civilian aircraft were not safe – three were shot down by Japanese fighters. Yet the United States’ great manufacturing capability would make these losses good – and then some – in less than 16 months.

So remember, remember, the Seventh of December. Remember the day that pushed the US from (technically) neutrality into war. Remember all those lost on that infamous day. And, as a favor to me, remember poor Utah, decommissioned by treaties from her status as a battleship to a gunnery school, robbed of her mighty guns yet still serving her country proudly. And know that even 74 years later, men from a mass grave of those lost on the Oklahoma are being identified and individually interred in proper single graves. A final farewell to brave souls lost, but never forgotten.

Posted in Military, Military History | Tagged , , | 4 Comments