Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The smell of a good man

After reading a story in an Irish newspaper this morning I'm next door to being in a state of shock. Men, it says, spend more time in front of a mirror than women. They have hair removed from their chests and legs by laser. They get nose jobs. They have their bodies waxed. They use a wide selection of creams and lotions. They not only wear perfume but have several varieties because who would want to smell the same at a football game and a dance?
They don't say perfume, they say scent, but a rose by any other name . . .
It seems I'm even more outdated than I thought. In my heyday back in the 20th century men weren't supposed to smell at all and certainly not like they just stepped out of a Parisian bordello. The fragrance of sweat after a hard day's work was acceptable until there was time for a shower. Hair on your chest and legs were symbols of pride, of masculinity. Tilting a burning candle was the only way you might get waxed.
The Irish Independent is one of the best newspapers from around the world that I read on a regular if not daily basis but this time I hope it missed the mark. That's possible because all the men quoted were either male models or American movie actors. Somehow I don't believe the average Irishman goes around smelling like a Dublin streetwalker and I seriously doubt that he has his chest and legs lasered. Most of them, I'll wager, are quite content with their own nose. As for a wax job, the mind revolts.
But I wonder how women feel about all this? When they get together for a hot date do they sometimes say, "Oh, Dah-ling, you'll have to go home and shower because our perfumes clash?" Do they compare shaved and lasered legs?
If someone asks me, which they probably won't, I will tell them I hate perfume on both males and females. There used to be a woman in our building who apparently bathed in Eau de Swampwater because an elevator ride with her left me gasping for breath. As bad as that was, being close to a perfumed man is worse. Maybe American men are lagging behind the trend because I seldom smell anything when I'm near one. But if wearing perfume is the wave of the future for guys, I'm glad I'm not young anymore.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We Have Joined the Cell Phone World

I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later and yesterday Jackie's granddaughter gave her a cell phone. Now we have four telephones in a three room plus bath and kitchenette apartment.
Two of them are the old-fashioned kind that connect to a line somewhere outside the building. Actually they aren't genuine old-fashioned phones because they have push buttons instead of a dial and they don't even come close to the kind that hung on the wall and had to be cranked before you could join the conversation on the party line and on rare occasions find no one there ahead of you so you could tell the operator, "Number 726, please." Then the operator would say, "Is that you, Dick? Did you hear that old Ed Jones slipped on the ice and broke his leg? I think it was his left one because it's not the same one he broke when he slipped on the ice last year."
The frightening thing is that young people have no idea what I'm talking about. I guess that doesn't matter because they'd be too busy sending text messages to be reading this.
Jackie's phone has all the up to date stuff like bluetooth. One of these days I'm going to read her instruction book to find out exactly what bluetooth is because in my day it would have meant calling the dentist for an emergency appointment provided no one else was using the party line at the time.
Now along with those two regular phones we have one that doesn't have a cord so Jackie can carry it around with her so she never has to hurry from one room to the next when somebody calls. This is very useful because I think it was just last July that she actually got to answer it although it turned out to be a wrong number as I recall.
Jackie says she will never use the new cell phone and she stuck to that way of thinking even after I showed her how I had entered next month's appointment with the doctor and did it in no more than half an hour. She mentioned something about having put it on the calendar in the kitchen in ten seconds.
She wasn't too impressed, either, when the granddaughter went out to her car for something and called on the cell phone to say, "I'm on my way back."
I said, "Are you in the building yet?"
"Yes, I'm in the building."
"Have you gotten to the elevator?"
"Yes, I'm in the elevator."
"Then you'll be getting out of the elevator in a minute."
"I'm out of the elevator."
Now from overhearing a great many cell phone conversations I'd say that's pretty much the way most of them go, but Jackie still was unimpressed.
It did get her attention, though, when a few minutes later the regular phone and the cell phone rang at the same time. This created the kind of confusion that used to be expressed by saying, "I didn't know whether to (expletive deleted) or go blind."

Monday, December 24, 2007

The True Spirit of Christmas in 1945

This morning I received a Merry Christmas email from Peter Puhl in Nordenham, Germany. I was there at Christmas of 1945, the first after World War II ended. There was nothing at all for the residents of the town to buy for gifts but they were enjoying the fact that the men - those who had survived - were home after six years of war.
I was a military policeman at a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory that now was a U.S. ordnance depot. We made hourly Jeep patrols into town and I happened to be there when they turned on the lights on the big Christmas tree at the town square. It was a tremendous thrill for the young children who had never seen anything like it because of six years of blackout. It seemed everyone in town was there, even the basketman who had lost both arms, both legs and was blind as a result of battle. The young woman who pushed him around the streets in a wheelchair seemed to have wanted him to share the experience.
Something about that Christmas was very special. For me, none since then has even come close to expressing the true meaning of the season. No frenzied shopping, no urging people to spend, just pure joy that at least for a while there truly was peace on earth. Those of us who seven months earlier had been trying to kill each other had learned that language was the only difference between us. It was genuine, that spirit of Christmas in 1945, but so much since then has seemed otherwise.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Political Correctness? Forget it!

Political Correctness deserves a Bronx Cheer and a Bah, Humbug! People who go in for that nonsense have too much time on their hands. I'm no expert on religion but I have been around long enough to wonder how a Christmas display on the courthouse lawn can possibly offend anyone. Only those people in need of more chores to occupy their mind and keep them busy, at least that's the way I see it.
Saying, "Happy holidays" is a cop out for namby-pamby people and businesses that insist their employees say it and use it in their advertising. What sort of weirdo is offended if someone says, "Merry Christmas" regardless of their own religious beliefs or lack of them? All it takes is a smile and a "You too" in reply.
Here's an example. A card arrived yesterday from my World War II platoon sergeant, Eddie Wolfe. I have written many things about him because he was the bravest man and best combat soldier I have known. Eddie didn't have much use for the Army "book" so when he saw an injustice being committed he spoke his mind. This got him in hot water at times because Eddie didn't care if the offender was a lieutenant who had just finished Officer Candidate School or a general who graduated from West Point.
Eddie is 88 or 89 now but he hasn't changed. The card from him and his wife Rosemarie was more attractive than most. After a short message on the inside he wrote, "Merry Christmas."
What's so unusual about that? Nothing, since it came from him, but those who worry about political correctness might think so because Eddie is a Jew.
I'm sure the idea that he shouldn't send a message outside his own faith never crossed his mind. He is and always has been too big a man to dwell on such a triviality. If someone were to tell him he should have written "Happy Holidays" he would have given them a dressing down. No one was ever better at doing so.
Being politically correct is for lesser people than Eddie Wolfe. Unfortunately there are far too many of them around and in their insecure little worlds they allow such things as political correctness to exist. They deserve pity. Along with the self-doubt they may not recognize in themselves they lack an important ingredient for a worthwhile life, common sense

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Who believes that winter begins today?

Is anyone so naive as to believe that this is the first day of winter? If so I invite them to visit me with checkbook in hand because I have a few business proposals that should interest them.
There are people who live in that land of dreams, of course, people who really believe that the semi-annual solstice means the beginning of winter. In some cultures they celebrate this day as Midwinter. They seem to be a bit wiser although they may be dancing around in the snow about three weeks ahead of schedule.
Radio and television news readers help perpetuate the beginning of winter myth, as do some school teachers. In practical terms either solstice means only that the days will begin getting longer or shorter, not the change of seasons. A weatherman who has been at the same Cleveland station since the 1960s frequently points out that to meteorologists winter is December, January and February. Makes sense, doesn't it? Dick Goddard says summer is June, July and August and that, too, makes sense. Some of the hottest weather of the season often comes during the first few weeks of June so it's ridiculous to contend that summer begins on June 21 or 22.
Those who insist this is the first day of winter must have pulled a Rip Van Winkle for the past few weeks. How else could they have missed the snow and ice storms earlier this month? So for once and for all why don't we act like we have a collective brain and see the weather as it really is? To those who dig in their heels and won't budge in their thinking I can only say enjoy the celebration of Midwinter today.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Hoosier Hot Shots Now Available

When Ken Trietsch first turned to his brother and said, "Are you ready, Hezzie?" he didn't realize the words would become part of the American lexicon for decades.
While Ken's question introduced many of the records by the Hoosier Hot Shots, the story actually began on an October morning in 1923 when the members of a band walked into the high school in Elwood, Indiana. Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band was slated to do a series of weekend shows at the theater in Elwood but on Friday morning the clarinet player broke his arm. After talking to administrators, the group left again with a student named Otto Ward in tow.
He never returned to a classroom. His weekend performances on clarinet were such a success that when the band left town Otto, soon to be known as Gabe, went along. It began six years of touring the nation on the vaudeville circuits. During that exciting time he became a close friend of the Trietsch brothers from tiny Cowan, Indiana. So close a friend that when the Wall Street crash of 1929 sounded the death knell for vaudeville the trio went to work for Montgomery Ward. At the same time they worked up a routine of their own and soon were doing personal appearances for $15 a night. Then came an opportunity for a radio show on WOWO in Fort Wayne. They weren't paid for their radio work but it proved so popular that it gained them many bookings for those $15 nighttime shows and then led to their big break, a chance to perform on the National Barn Dance in Chicago, a program broadcast coast to coast.
They added a string bass player to the act and were on their way. Before it came to an end they had made several hundred records and transcriptions, appeared in 22 movies and had their own nationwide radio show. So popular were the Hoosier Hot Shots that President Roosevelt began scheduling
his fireside chats immediately after their program because it ensured a huge audience.
During the 1980s I became a good friend of Gabe Ward. He sent dozens of letters and audio tapes to me and they became the backbone of the book "The Hoosier Hot Shots - And My Friend Gabe." Many of the letters are included in the book along with newspaper columns I wrote about the Hot Shots, a listing of their charted hits and movies, a discography, a chapter on the causes of the Great Depression, a rundown of the Dillinger Gang's activities and dozen of photos. It also corrects some common mistakes in the Hot Shot legend and reveals the identity of this handsome cowboy movie actor,
a close friend of Gabe. Here's a hint: he appeared in 239 episodes of television's long running "Gunsmoke" series.
To learn more about the book, or to order it for $14.95, call up my website:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Military Suicides in Iraq Bring Thougts of a Troubled Man

An Associated Press story detailing the suicide of a young 3rd Infantry Division soldier in Iraq revived memories of a man in my unit during the Korean War. The man who killed himself was a very troubled individual and both a psychiatrist and chaplain pointed this out to the company officers. The psychiatrist, however, said he was fit for duty. Chalk up one more score against psychiatry. Now the man is an Army statistic, one of more than 150 who have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His eccentric behavior placed his platoon sergeant and squad leader in difficult positions. They lacked authority to relieve him of duty and their concern for him had to take second place to their responsibility for the other men in the platoon and squad. Nearly all sergeants are willing to help those in their unit through a difficult period. It's part of the job, but a sergeant can't play nanny to one man at the expense of the others.
During the Korean War the 37th Infantry Division had finished up one training cycle at Camp Polk, many men had shipped out for Korea and replacements arrived to begin their training. Among the half dozen or so assigned to the mortar section in my company was an 18-year-old man named Eisenberg. While the others were quickly assimilated into the section, he refused to make any effort to become part of the group. In the barracks he would sit off by himself, refusing even to speak to anyone and frequently crying. He wouldn't even go to the mess hall to eat.
As section sergeant it was my job to work with him, try to help him adjust. It proved hopeless. He'd barely acknowledge my presence when I'd talk to him. After two or three days I forced him to go to the mess hall, almost having to frog march him there. He wouldn't use the utensils, instead just dipped his hands into the food so that most of it ended up smeared on his face or dripping from his chin. After the first day I was the only one who would sit at the same table with him and I was there only because it was my job.
I tried encouraging him and when that didn't work I attempted to shame him. Neither tactic proved successful. When it became obvious that I was starting to neglect more important duties in order to babysit him, I went to the company commander and explained the situation. Apparently he was a better officer than those in the unit of the man who killed himself in Iraq because a day or two later Eisenberg was shipped out. A couple of other men had to pack his duffel bag because he just sat staring at it. I had no idea where he went or what became of him and I didn't care. All that mattered was that he was gone and morale instantly improved in the mortar section.
The infantry isn't Sunday school or summer camp for misfits. Had better officers been in charge, that man in Iraq would have been long gone before the day he stuck a rifle in his mouth and squeezed the trigger. Goofing off when the opportunity arises is one thing and I did my share of it during both of my tours of duty in the Army. Being a dedicated malingerer is a far different story. Recruiting ads refer to "an Army of one." There is no such thing, of course. An army is a unit right down to squad level. The individual comes second and there is no other way an army can possibly be effective.
It is unfortunate when a man chooses to kill himself. The choice is his, however, so when it happens in the military it would be a mistake to focus on it or spend time probing the incident. Such efforts should be devoted to the well-being of those who make the best of what may be a less than pleasant situation. Like everything else in life, it does pass by.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What to expect in 2008

The Old Hoosier Philosopher’s Forecast for 2008

Dick Cheney goes rabbit hunting with an AK-47 and wipes out the entire population of Big Springs, Texas. The White House press secretary smiles and says, “Accidents will happen.”

The Super Bowl game is cancelled after it is determined that television viewers tune in only to see the halftime show and the commercials, which will be aired as scheduled. A panel of leading academics say this offers final proof that civilization as we have known it has come to an end in America.

Oprah Winfrey’s show is cancelled after she announces she has changed her mind and is now supporting Dennis Kucinich for president.

Shortly after a hitherto unknown country is discovered in darkest Africa, George W. Bush goes on television to say that reliable intelligence reports reveal they not only possess weapons of mass destruction but have nuclear energy capabilities.

Led Zeppelin cancels the remainder of its nationwide comeback tour after three members of the group die of old age during a concert at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

Immediately after announcing that global warming remains a myth, Dick Cheney is swept away by a tidal wave that roars up the Potomac and wipes out the Rose Garden.

Four Border Patrol agents are handed life sentences for interfering with international commerce after confiscating a shipment of drugs and shooting a smuggler in the leg. George W. Bush names Johnny Sutton the new attorney general for his role in the case.

Hillary Clinton withdraws from the Democratic race after doing a minstrel show in blackface that causes rioting in all major American cities.

Barack Obama withdraws from the Democratic race after an attempt to attain the Michael Jackson look proves a complete failure.

Rudy Giuliani withdraws from the Republican race after it comes to light that he has a new mistress and is escorted to her condo by Secret Service agents posing as New York City policemen.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich win their respective party nominations for president and agree to nightly debates beginning in July after their initial meeting resulted in huge accolades and a near-unanimous decision that this is the most entertaining duo since Laurel and Hardy.

George W. Bush declares a state of national emergency, cancels the presidential election and proclaims himself King of North America and Emperor of El Salvador.

George Mitchell is lynched by an angry mob of 50,000 rabid baseball fans. Commissioner Bud Selig rules that all records held by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and other pre-1990 players must contain an asterisk because of their failure to comply with the standards of the game.

The NFL goes baseball one better and rules that anyone who has ever used steroids or any growth enhancement concoction is banned for life. The rule is rescinded a day later after discovering it strips all but one team of its entire roster. The NCAA adopts a similar rule but cancels it immediately upon finding that Wabash and DePauw are the only colleges in the country still able to field a football team.

Bowing to pressure, congress declares Spanish the official language of the United States.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Do You Spend Sunday Morning?

It's Sunday morning again and everybody knows what that means. For the lucky ones it's a chance to sleep in. Others have to go to work just like any other day and when you think about all the stores, restaurants and so forth that are open you have to wonder who gets to sleep in. Some folks go to church, of course, but for me it's a major event - pillbox-filling-day.
That's somewhat strange because when the 20th century ended I didn't take a single pill. Medical people thought that was remarkable for a guy my age. I had a sneaking suspicion, though, that the new century was going to be a bummer and so far I've been 100 per cent correct.
Aside from all that's been happening in the world, the new century didn't even have time to draw a deep breath before the medics said all my hormones were at base level and I'd have to take a pill. That wasn't asking too much but then they stuck me in the hospital and said I had ulcerative colitis. This, they said, meant I was in excruciating pain and they were highly indignant when I told them I didn't feel a thing. One doctor, the forceful type, said I had to be in pain and stalked out of the room when I said no. A minute later he poked his head in the door and said, "You're in pain, aren't you?"
So that meant I had to take another kind of pill, four of them a day. As might be expected I was allergic to them, itched all over, couldn't sleep and couldn't eat. The VA, which does things better, fixed me up with different pills and they work just fine. All four of them a day.
Then they installed a new elevator in our building and hard as it may be to believe it took them six weeks to do the job. Hell, in 1969 they put up the whole building in less time than that. Living on the sixth floor, this presented a problem as we had to climb five flights of stairs every time we went out. In retaliation I had a heart attack. As heart attacks go it didn't amount to much but it meant taking more pills. It was upsetting to our hamster Sadie, however, when all those EMS people came barging in at three o'clock in the morning.
Since then I've had a gadget with seven blue boxes, one for each day of the week. Each blue box has four compartments labeled morn, noon, eve and bed. You can pop each blue box out of the gadget for carrying around if you so desire, which I do not. So on Sunday morning I have to fill all 28 compartments. Starting with morning the number of pills are six, three, two and two. That comes to 13 pills a day. I have no idea what most of them are for but they said take 'em so I take 'em.
They do have interesting names, though. There's chopthedogup, lowpressuresystem, oldsalami and a few I don't recall offhand. Oh, and I almost forgot I have to carry nitroglycerin pills around with me. So far I have only taken them a few times when I had what turned out to be heartburn and one day when a cop punched me on the chest.
I thought it was kind of strange about the heartburn so I asked the docs and they said the symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack are the same unless you happen to fall over dead. I suppose that's why they call it heartburn. Kind of makes you wonder, though, about the people who pop pills for heartburn. Are they really certain that's the problem?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


It would be an exciting day for Roy and his buddies, that December 15 at a place called the Schnee Eiffel. They had just arrived on the continent, had never fired a shot or had one fired at them, yet this was their big moment because somewhere beyond the forest ahead lay the enemy. Now all their training would be put into practice even though the outfit they had replaced had spent a quiet month totally lacking in action.
Roy was in a reconnaissance unit of the 106th Infantry Division. They were about to make their first foray beyond their lines and it didn't matter that there was little chance of encountering trouble. That might be true but even so it would be an adventure.
The air was frigid as they started out. The stillness, the complete silence of the forest in winter, was broken only by the sound of their own vehicles as they moved steadily ahead among the mist-shrouded trees. They were near the limit of their advance when they first became aware of sound in the distance. They stopped, shut off their motors, and listened in wonder and surprise to the unmistakable roar of dozens of large engines. Tanks. German Tigers and Panthers and Mark IVs, there was nothing else it could possibly be.
They returned to their own lines as quickly as possible and reported to Intelligence. They were laughed at. Called greenhorns who probably heard a dispatch rider starting his BMW motorcycle and believed they were hearing an entire panzer division ahead. Chastised and embarrassed, they returned to their position and settled in for the rest of the day and the approaching night.
Sometime after midnight the engines they had heard in the distance were fired up again. Along a wide front the tanks of Liebstandarte Adolph Hitler, Das Reich, Panzer Lehr and other armored divisions began a relentless advance. What would become known as the Battle of the Bulge was underway. By noon somewhere between 9,000 and 11,000 men of the 106th Division had been overrun and captured. Roy Bigger and his friends were among them. The 28th Division also collapsed and soon the entire American front in Belgium and Luxembourg was either broken or besieged.
There had been time to at least warn the front line divisions, to quickly move a few units to more advantageous positions. Intelligence chose not to.
Months earlier a battalion of the 4th Infantry Division hiked to a position bordering a forest in a valley. They had been cleaning out pockets of Germans left behind following the St-Lo Breakthrough. Intelligence said their was another squad-strength pocket in the valley. There were nine men in a German squad, twelve in an American. Fifteen men were sent into the valley. Soon they were surrounded. Then the rest of their company, battalion and entire regiment. That squad-strength pocket near the town of Percy contained 15,000 Germans.
They called it Intelligence. They still do today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Who's Worse, the Black Sox or the Steroid Gang?

Remember Chick Gandil? Probably not unless you know your baseball history. Gandil was first baseman for the Chicago White Sox when the team gained immortality in 1919 as the Black Sox. Gandil and shortstop Swede Risberg, a pair of rough customers in an era of tough guys, were ringleaders in the plot to throw the World Series.
Gandil later said, "I did it for the wife and kids." Ring Lardner, the leading sportswriter of the day, wrote that those were the most disgusting words he ever heard.
I doubt that Lardner would feel that way this week. Why? Because the Black Sox admitted what they had done. All but Buck Weaver, the team's third baseman. He wasn't part of the conspiracy, did his best to win every game, but was barred from baseball for life because he knew what was going on and didn't pass the information along to team officials.
The men now accused of using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are uttering plaintiff cries of innocence. All but a couple who had the guts to admit it. Ring Lardner, I think, would find the whimpering far more reprehensible than Gandil's statement.
How do players of today differ from those of 1919? Back then they all came up the hard way. They were farm boys accustomed to hard work and city boys who grew up playing stickball on the streets and using their fists to settle disputes. An entire major league team didn't earn as much money in a season as many single bench warmers make today. They took long road trips by train and slept in hotels without air conditioning. They played in the afternoon sun while wearing heavy cricket cloth uniforms that were washed once a week if they were lucky. During the off season they worked on the farms or in the steel mills or sold cars if they wanted to eat. There were more differences, many more, and none favored the players of yesteryear.
Today's players, at least the majority of them, grew up being told they were something special from the time they played their first Little League game at the age of nine or ten. Most of them have never done an honest day's work in their lives. From February to October they are pampered and spoiled and catered to and when something doesn't go their way they always find someone else to blame. Few among them could be called admirable characters.
In my opinion, for what it's worth, they are far worse than the Black Sox. Today's fans are a different breed, too, so many will back the Steroid Gang. When Joe DiMaggio held out for a $25,000 yearly salary, fans booed him. Like I said, they were a different breed.
Back when I was covering the Cincinnati Reds during the 1970s I spent a couple of hours talking with a man who played in that 1919 World Series. Edd Roush was the center fielder for the Reds and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. A rugged man with a vocabulary that would melt frozen butter, Roush never minced a word in his entire life. He had great stories to tell about that Series and about the men he played with and against. Of the Black Sox he said, "Hell, we wouldda beat 'em anyway."
One of these days I'll write more about this farmer from Oakland City, Indiana. And about Bench and Rose and the Big Red Machine. And about watching Ruth and Gehrig and Foxx and the Gas House Gang when I was just a kid. Talk about a different breed of men.
I remember one year when I covered 180 baseball games. Reds, Indianapolis Indians, high school - if there was a game somewhere around I was there.
This year I didn't see a single game. Not in person, not on TV. I still love the game, though. It's the greatest ever devised. I just don't care much for the people who play it today and sometimes I don't much care for the way they play it. In 1930 or 1976 it just wasn't the same at all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Horrific Price of Torture

At the height of a fierce battle in North Africa many years ago a man called Red and half a dozen of his comrades fell into the hands of the enemy. This is always a time of great peril. Regardless of an enemy's official stance on the treatment of prisoners, in the heat of the moment it all depends upon the nature and mood of the men on the scene. Red was captured by the Herman Goering Division, a German Luftwaffe unit that fought as infantry and was comprised of warriors loyal to their leaders.
The Germans were being forced to fall back so their captors gave the Americans a choice: go with us and be sent to a prisoner of war camp or stay here and await the arrival of your own troops. They chose to remain where they were. The Germans herded them into a cave and then piled large rocks in front of the entrance. This was to protect them from their own artillery fire, advancing tanks and infantry. Then they wished them luck. Red and the others were forever grateful.
But suppose those tough, battle-hardened men of the Herman Goering Division had been aware that Americans torture prisoners. Suppose they had seen pictures of other men being treated as the prisoners were treated at Abu Ghraib. Suppose they knew that Americans waterboard those they capture and employ other means of what is euphemistically called enhanced interrogation.
Any person who has ever been engaged in ground combat could give the answer in an instant. Red and his friends would have died. More than likely in as unpleasant a manner as their captors could devise.
For the sake of those who do the fighting, hope and pray America never is involved in another war in which the enemy has planes, tanks, massed artillery and infantry. In such wars many men in both armies are captured. Those who are can only hope for humane treatment.
In the past the majority of captured American lived to tell the tale. Not all, of course. The Japanese and North Vietnamese were particularly brutal in their treatment of prisoners. In all wars it has depended to a great extent upon the type of men who did the capturing and the immediately preceding events. But overall, Americans stood a good chance of survival.
No more. Our reputation has been tarnished, perhaps beyond repair. At best it will take many years, even decades, to be looked upon by the rest of the world as we once were.
Was it worth it, this inhumane treatment of prisoners in violation of not only the Geneva Convention but of common decency? No, of course it was not.
Apologists say it saved American lives. They never specify just what lives. Nor do they point to a particular place or time when these lives would have been lost. But even if they are correct, was it worth the price we have paid, the soiling of America's reputation?
No matter how brutal an enemy may be, stooping to the same level means you are no better as individuals or as a nation. You have forfeited moral superiority. Who among us may suffer as a result? Those charged with the job of fighting our wars on the ground. We claim that we support our troops but those at the highest level have let them down. Not just for today but for many years to come.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why I haven't been around for a while.

I've been sick. I know, nobody cares. Even Mr. Zip-Zip, our hamster, didn't care. Well, actually he did care because I got up so late one morning he didn't get to roll around in his plastic ball. So he didn't really care that I was sick but he was quite put out over having been confined to his cage for 48 straight hours.
I won't say much about Jackie's caring or not caring because by the time a man gets to be my age he knows when it's best to keep his mouth shut. I think she did care but having me moping around feeling sorry for myself isn't exactly something new. I won't say she has become hardened to my suffering but she has learned to take it in stride.
Perhaps suffering is too strong a word. Feeling lousy might be more accurate. Call it what you will, I have never believed a man should suffer or feel lousy in silence. Others should frequently be made aware of the fact that all is not as it should be in your world, at least that's my opinion. Jackie does not necessarily concur. Mr. Zip-Zip just folds his ears down and doesn't hear a single, moan, groan or heartfelt sigh.
I don't believe there was anything wrong with me aside from having been extremely active last week. I left the building three times and overdoing it like that is bound to cause problems for a man.
Tuesday I had to go to the doctor for a monthly shot. His office is in the hospital so we had lunch there in the cafeteria.
Wednesday Jackie had her annual mammogram so I went along and read in the waiting room. After that we picked up several things at the grocery.
Friday I needed a few supplies, Avery labels and stuff like that, so we went to Staples. Then we had lunch at a nearby restaurant.
So I ask you, isn't that enough to put a man flat on his back?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rather Be an Iron Pig or a Pork Chop?

Just when I think political correctness can't possibly get any more ridiculous something new comes along to prove me wrong. The latest bit of nonsense concerns a professional baseball team, a Philadelphia Phillies minor league club based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The largest cities in the Lehigh Valley, Allentown and Bethlehem, were once noted for steel mills so the team is known as the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The mascot was called Pork Chop because those succulent morsels have a close relationship with pigs.
But no more. Why? Because a few Hispanics complained that it was a derogatory name sometimes applied to them. Having grown up in an industrial city where every imaginable ethnic group could be found, I naively believed I was acquainted with every possible term that could be applied to the Irish, Italians, Hungarians and so on. Again I was wrong. Not once over the years did I ever hear a Latino referred to as a pork chop.
So the baseball team changed the name of the mascot from Pork Chop to Ferrous. How innocuous can you get? Maybe I'm not as politically correct as I could be because I would have had one word for the complainers: Tough.
Those who protested did accomplish one thing more than that name change. They have provided those who enjoy applying derogatory names to ethnic groups one more to use for Hispanics.
Here's something to think about. During the past year people using Yahoo! to cruise around the Internet called up Britney Spears more than anyone or anything else. Second came professional wresting, the WWE.
No need for further talk of the dumbing down of Americans. Rock bottom has been reached.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Humans are the smartest creatures, aren't they?

For no particular reason I was thinking about men and animals and how much smarter humans are than other creatures. This was determined many years ago as just about everybody knows. It was determined by humans, of course, not wolves or bears or even hamsters. Had they been consulted, a different conclusion might have been reached.
For one thing – two, actually – wolves and bears and hamsters don’t get together and form organizations such as Rotary or religions and they don’t start wars, although they do squabble occasionally and might even eat each other up when hungry or provoked.

Now some folks will say that religion is a great thing, but just so long as it is their own particular religion you are talking about. When they encounter someone who believes a different religion is better, well down through the ages that has been when the trouble started. That hasn’t changed even in this era of enlightenment.
Or take war. For those who actively participate in war there are times when it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. According to Jackie the prime example of that came in a story I told her about a lot of people going at it hot and heavy in the middle of a forest. There didn’t seem to be any special reason for choosing that particular place because there wasn’t anything of great value nearby, just a lot of trees and big rocks. Very likely it was one of those I-don’t-want-it-but-you-can’t-have-it situations. So anyway, all these rifles and machine guns were making a terrific racket and the birds and little animals living there probably weren’t a bit happy about it.
Now anybody with a grain of sense knows that when something like that is going on it is best to let those taking part settle the matter on their own. With men in different uniforms only twenty or thirty yards apart and tall trees everywhere it would be downright foolish for someone a little way off to start dropping mortar shells on them. After all, shells and bombs and rockets don’t really care what uniform a man might be wearing or even if he’s wearing one at all. You might say they are equal opportunity killers.
So naturally some officer safely removed from the scene decided to fire a few mortar shells right in the middle of things and just to make sure they caused the most possible trouble he made them white phosphorous shells. That’s really nasty stuff that can cause a pinhead size burn that in a few minutes is as big as a quarter. And it can set fire to things, which it did.
So there everybody was trying to shoot somebody else they had never seen before when suddenly there were flames all around because the forest had caught fire. Hard as it might be to believe, common sense set in. It was like everybody at the same instant decided the hell with the war, let’s put out the damn fire. If they didn't nobody was going to get out alive and that didn’t seem like too sensible a solution to war or anything else. So Germans leaped up and took off their tunics and began beating at the flames. Americans leaped up and took off their fatigue jackets and began beating at the flames. Surprisingly, it worked.
With only an occasional wisp of smoke curling up here and there it dawned on people that the fellow standing nearby was from a different army. This was sort of embarrassing so men began smiling and nodding, even saying a few words that half of those present didn’t understand. So for a minute or two everybody was friendly as could be and if there had been a few cases of beer handy it would have continued that way for quite some time.

When all the pleasantries had been exchanged and tunics and jackets were in place again, people wandered back to where they had been before the excitement started. Once everybody was settled in and ready, those present began shooting at each other again.
Now doesn’t that make you wonder if it’s true that humans are smarter than other forms of life? It has always made me wonder.