I guess I’ve pushed it to far, making fun of North Korea. They’re coming for me, with everything they have. Meanwhile, in the bowels of hell, the old madman is laughing, and I’m just stuck here warily watching the skies.
I know, you’ve missed me–I’ve been buried in real-world work again–but I’m swimming towards the surface. In the meantime, here’s a transcript, with some additions, from a Facebook post that’s making the rounds–a story too fascinating, exciting, and (sadly) unsurprising to not share with you.
Do you know who this is a photo of? Chances are you don’t, but don’t feel bad because probably not one American in one million does, and that is a National tragedy. His name is Eugene Jacques Bullard, and he is the first African-American fighter pilot in history. But he is also much more then that: He’s also a national hero, and his story is so incredible that I bet if you wrote a movie script based on it Hollywood would reject it as being too far-fetched.
Bullard was an expat living in France, and when World War 1 broke out he joined the French Infantry. He was seriously wounded, and France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire. In 1916 he joined the French air service and he first trained as a gunner but later he trained as a pilot. When American pilots volunteered to help France and formed the famous Lafayette Escadrille, he asked to join but by the time he became a qualified pilot they were no longer accepting new recruits, so he joined the Lafayette Flying Corps instead. He served with French flying units and he completed 20 combat missions.
When the United States finally joined the war, Bullard was the only member of the Escadrille or the French Flying Corps who was NOT invited to join the US Air Service. The reason? At that time the Air Service only accepted white men.
Now here is the part that almost sounds like a sequel to ‘Casablanca’: After WWI Bullard became a jazz musician in Paris and he eventually owned a nightclub called ‘L’Escadrille’. When the Germans invaded France and conquered it in WW2, his Club, and Bullard, became hugely popular with German officers, but what they DIDN’T know was that Bullard, who spoke fluent German, was actually working for the Free French as a spy. He eventually joined a French infantry unit, but he was badly wounded and had to leave the service.
By the end of the war, Bullard had become a national hero in France, but he later moved back to the U.S. where he was of course completely unknown. Practically no one in the United States was aware of it when, in 1959, the French government named him a national Chevalier, or Knight.
In 1960, the President of France, Charles DeGaulle, paid a state visit to the United States and when he arrived he said that one of the first things he wanted to do was to meet Bullard. That sent the White House staff scrambling because most of them, of course, had never even heard of him. They finally located him in New York City, and DeGaulle traveled there to meet him personally. At the time, Eugene Bullard was working as … An elevator operator.
Not long after Eugene Bullard met with the President of France, he passed away, and today very, very few Americans, and especially African-Americans, even know who he is. But, now YOU do, don’t you? And I hope you’ll be able to find opportunities to tell other people about this great American hero that probably only 1 American in 1 Million has ever heard of.
Postscript: It’s worth noting that I also discovered this photo of Bullard being beaten by police in the famous anti-black, anti-communist, anti-Semitic Peekskill Riots of 1949. God bless America–the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The italicized text above arrived in my hands attributed to someone named Terry Dunn, via Facebook. I’m unsure of its provenance.
And there is even a book. It is amazing how much there is that we don’t know.
Victory is imminent. Support the troops!
I know it’s tough, taking your teabagger neighbor seriously; you know, the one who spends all those hours alone on the overpass just outside of town, dressed in a colonial costume, flying a Gadsden flag and dangling a homemade banner that reads “Impeach O’Bama” over the interstate. He’s a mad hatter, for sure, but this year, while he’s mumbling about border walls and the citizens of New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks, pay closer attention. This War on Christmas business is absolutely true.
The evidence is everywhere. Not only is the government busily importing millions of covert ISIS agents disguised as Syrian refugees, who want to kill us because they hate freedom., they are also secretly working with a cabal off “terrist” groups like planned parenthood, FEMA, the Pakistani guys who own all those pizza shops and motels, and the the Florida Citrus Growers Association, who are pissed because people just don’t put oranges in Christmas stockings the way they used to.
And they’re taking Santa down like it’s nobody’s business.
I woke up, did some chores, went to the home improvement store to buy some gardening supplies, visited a friend to drop off a box of onion starts I’d grown from seed, ran by the grocery store, went to the feed & supply store to buy some tomato seedlings to replace the few that got frosted the other night, went to my in-laws’ house for burgers and corn on the grill, came home and planted tomatoes with my wife, then chased her around the house a few laps when the kids went off with their friends, then sat down at the computer and thought about Memorial Day a little bit. Invariably, my pondering turned to what might very well be the most memorable and definitive photographic image to emerge from our ongoing, unending 24-year-old middle east war.
If you haven’t seen this picture before, and you live in the USA, then I’m wondering where the heck you’ve been? It certainly haunts me–now more than ever, as the very forces we originally sought to defeat have reared their heads once more in the form of the baathist, Saddamite front known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever the hell it is called today, claws at all that the most optimistic among us hoped to build. It begs the question: how fucked up is this war?
We should never have gone. We should never have left.
When I visit the cemeteries of my ancestors around Westsylvania, I am invariably proud beyond all reason of the “G.A.R.” starts on the graves of men of a certain generation. Likewise the veterans of the war to end all wars,” and the ensuing “war to end all wars.” Both my grandfathers from the verdant Appalachian hills of Bedford and Somerset counties to the seeming wastelands of Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya–one as a heavy maintenance mechanic whose service from 1942 through 1946 would take him from northern Africa to Italy, France, Belgium, and ultimately to Berlin. The other was crewman on a B-25 bomber beginning in the second battle El Alamein through the invasion of Italy. Before the war, he was a farm kid who had never been near an airplane–but within months after volunteering for service he was flying over Egypt dropping bombs on Nazis. How strange is that?
My father and uncles went to Viet Nam–three tours for dad, a navy man who for the rest of his life didn’t like to sit with his back to Asian people in restaurants. He voted republican against the long, pro-union legacy of his family until the infamous “swift boating” of former Presidential candidate John Kerry. It was the only time I ever saw him worked up about politics–“Those boys in the Swifts,” he seethed to me one night, “riding plywood in the rivers and deltas, they were sitting ducks. I knew a lot of ’em, and most didn’t make it home.”
I felt no compulsion to join the volunteer army of the mid-1980s, at a time when the only wars we were fighting were with small pond bullies and narco-despots who, after we put them in power, refused to be our puppets. Despite what you’ll hear from Reaganites, the 80’s weren’t a great time for patriotism–the only other bully on the block was the Soviet Union, and we all knew if we got into it with them it would be “please place your tray in the locked, upright position, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.” We watched movies like “The Day After,” and took strange comfort in the encompassing fatalism of the time. If you’re going to go, go big. Right?
It was about that time that I ask my grandfather, a fiercely republican businessman, if it bothered him that I had no plans to serve, and he told me that under no circumstances was I to even consider volunteering. His exact words, if I recall correctly, were “Unless something bad enough to need fighting comes along you stay the heck away from that monkey actors’s dog and pony show. (an unusual rhetoric flourish I recall with great emotion, as it reflects my own mature writing style with eerie accuracy). I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting a real evil to have my grandson used as cannon fodder in a bunch of penny ante conflicts our idiot-in-chief is using to distract the voters from the worst economic policies since Herbert Hoover.”
My grandfathers’ generation was deified, and rightly so, and my father’s was largely ignored (he said neither he nor any veteran he knew every experienced anger or derogatory treatment from civilians, contrary to the stereotypes of so many Viet Nam Era-themed movies, and he considered himself lucky to be unrecognized–he didn’t want a parade or medals, just to get on with his life–a process that would require roughly 30 years and a lot of unhappiness for all of us).
Today, we do a better job of treating our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the respect and recognition they deserve, but I fear that we let that respect for the men bleed over into the politicians from both parties who have misused these brave and determined young men and women and shortchanged so many of them.
There is a lot for our leaders to answer for–and I’d start with the sneaky policy of drawing down the regular military under the guise of tax reductions, then shunting our endless war onto the shoulders of the men and women of the National Guard. Add to that the despicably low compensation our military receives, and the porous post-service health and wellness care that leaves so many of them broken and lost.
Even as I say this, I know that there are some who would call me unpatriotic, especially on this of all days, but I stand by that–especially on this day. We can think what we want about wars–from the craziest right wing ‘burn down the world” proponent of expressing American Exceptionalism through carpet bombing to the hippiest dippiest sandal-soled anti-war bunny-hugger–but we need to get on the same page, the SPARE NO EXPENSE page, when it comes to taking care of these kids and young people (the use of the National Guard as a sustained combat force has led to a much higher than ideal number of older veterans serving for longer periods and leaving larger families behind) who have left parts of their bodies or, in the case of our epidemic of PTSD casualities, parts of their souls, in the sand and on mountainsides on the other side of the world.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”
—Supreme Court Justice Robert I. Jackson, Chief prosecutor, Nuremberg war crimes tribunal
“A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought, within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
While we’re all sitting about in our mid-Holiday malaise, drunk on sugar and fat, filled with drink and feasting and friendship and song, it should be mandatory to sober up for a moment or two and give some thought to one of the great, horrific, historical moments of our very checkered American past. On a blistering cold South Dakota day, elements of the American 7th Cavalry, still smarting from Custer’s incompetent, buffoonish debacle years before, and under the command of Col. James W. Forsyth, cornered a small band of Lakota and drove them to a forced encampment at Wounded Knee Creek under escort.
This occurred in the waning days of the “Indian Wars.” The native Bison, or Buffalo, upon which plains Indian culture had relied, had been hunted to the brink of extinction, effectively pushing the native communities to the same precipice. Treaties were made and shattered in the insatiable search for fertile land and gold, ever greater numbers of Indians were being forced onto reservations, which were continually made smaller. White settlers were spooked by the emergence of the “Ghost Dances,” a native spiritual movement which, in short, amounted to the Christian Messiah returning to Earth as a Native American, bringing peace and prosperity to all.
On the morning of Dec 29, while the Union forces undertook efforts to disarm the few natives who still possessed weapons, a medicine man began a Ghost Dance, which put the superstitious soldiers on edge. Then, a scuffle broke out when one of the Lakota, a deaf man named Black Coyote, either resisted surrendering his expensive property or didn’t understand the soldiers’ commands. In the struggle, the rifle discharged.
The soldiers killed everyone. The Lakota who were still armed. The women. The children. The aged. Over 150-and as many as 300 Indians died, with another 50 wounded–many of whom also died of their wounds in the ensuing weeks. They were shot, stabbed, bayoneted. In the midst of the horror, zealous artillerymen turned their cannons on the villages, where many of the women, children, and aged were sheltered in tipis–tents. The government reported 25 soldiers dead and 39 wounded–most of whom fell at the hands of friendly fire from both rifles and the enthusiastic cannon crews.
The military left the Indian dead on the field for three days, where they froze in a blizzard, before hiring civilians to bury them in mass graves on the hillside where the cavalry had placed their cannons.
Colonel Forsyth was temporarily removed from command by his superior officer, who always believed that Forsyth engineered the atrocities purposefully, but the War Department reversed the decision, refused to conduct a court martial proceeding, and Forsyth was promoted. The U. S. Government awarded no less than 2o medals of honor to various soldiers for their part in the massacre.
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years!
I found this interesting sign during a recent google adventure, and it led to some interesting research.
Frank Tanaka immigrated to the USA in 1903, when he was 16 years old. Twenty-nine years of hard work later he opened a popular Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon and became a respected businessman. His story, told on the sign he placed in the window of his restaurant after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not an uncommon one.
Not long after this sign went up, Mr Tanaka and his family were forcibly relocated to the Tule Lake concentration camp, along with most ethnic Japanese living in the western United States, regardless of citizenship status. Like all internees, Mr. Tanaka and his family were allowed to take only what they could carry. In some cases, non-Japanese friends were able to protect some of the internees valuables, but many more saw all of their property looted, or sold off illegally–or simply claimed by others. After the war, many of them came home to find other people living in their homes, often still using their furniture, and they had no legal recourse for reclaiming their property.
Most Japanese-Americans lost everything they owned during World War 2, but despite this, despite losing their rights, special volunteer units drawn from the husbands and sons of the 10 concentration camps set up to punish the Japanese for their ancestry, fought tenaciously in some of the fiercest battles in the war.
Over 122,000 people of Japanese extraction were interred during the war–nearly 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Many others had been in this country between 20 and 40 years. No person of Japanese heritage was convicted of sabotage or espionage during the war. None.
As the war progressed, small numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated at Tule Lake. Though segregated from the Japanese Americans, these confirmed enemy combatants were often given much greater freedoms.