Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remembering Neil Armstrong

Who, that was old enough to understand, does not remember exactly where they were the evening of July 20, 1969 when the first man set foot on the moon?  I was 19 years old and flying down I45 headed to Galveston Island.  My friend and I were listening to the radio waiting for the notice that it would be happening soon.  We pulled into a Holiday Inn and ran to the area where they had it on TV for everyone to see.  I still get thrilled remembering that grainy black and white picture on the television.

Neil Armstrong was a one of a kind.  His love for flight began when he was 6 years old and went on his first plane ride.  By the time he was 15 he had saved enough money working at a drug store to begin taking flying lessons.  His first lesson was in a small two-seater Aeronaco Champ.  At 16 he was already starting to be a test pilot, of sorts, earning flight hours by testing airplanes at the airport after the engines had been overhauled by the local mechanic.

Mr. Armstrong graduated from Purdue University and completed his graduate studies at the University of Southern California.  He joined the Navy as an officer and served in the Korean War.  Afterward he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station.

In 1962 he became a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight program.  Later that year he joined the NASA Astronaut Corps, and his first flight was the Gemini 8 mission in 1966.  On this mission he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft with pilot David Scott.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong's second flight was the mission of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  He and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2 1/2 hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the Command Module.  It was on this mission that his famous words were spoken, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."  Armstrong had been instructed by NASA to say, "That's one small step for "a" man; one giant leap for mankind," but to this day the debate continues over if he said the word "a" or not.

Neil Armstrong, along with his crew mates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Mr. Armstrong passed away on August 25, 2012 at the age of 82 and remains a bigger than life icon of the era being remembered for his courage and never-say-die attitude as a pilot and astronaut.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Destiny...Preordained...Fate...Timing...Luck...Irony...All these words came to mind as I was recalling the differences in the lives of  General Jonathan Wainwright and General Douglas MacArthur.

During World War II President Roosevelt made the decision to promote General Wainwright to Commander of All Allied Forces in the Philippines and transfer General MacArthur from his command in the Philippines to Australia.  Up until this point Wainwright had been a lieutenant general under MacArthur's command.

In 1942, General Wainwright's first strategic decision was to move his troops to a fortified garrison in Corregidor.  War was raging in Battan and was taken by the Japanese with their Bataan "Death March" of capturing all Allies.  Corredigor became the next battle ground.  General Wainwright and his 13,000 troops held out for a month despite all the heavy artillery fire.  Finally he and his troops surrendered.  He was captured and became a POW until the end of the war in 1945.

General Wainwright spent three and a half years as a POW in Luzon, Philippines, Formosa (now Taiwan), and Manchuria, China.  He was finally freed when Russian forces liberated the POW camp.  The General was emaciated, his hair had turned white, and his skin was cracked and fragile.  After his return to the United States he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

General MacArthur transferred to Australia where he became Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area.  For his defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor. After more than two years of fighting in the Pacific, he fulfilled a promise to return to the Philippines. He officially accepted Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945, and oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. As the effective ruler of Japan, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes. He led the United Nations Command in the Korean War until he was removed from his duty by President Truman on April 11, 1951.

Was General Wainwright just unlucky in the timing of his promotion?  Was General MacArthur lucky in the timing of his promotion?  Destiny...Preordained...Fate...Timing...Luck...Irony...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Syria: Is History Repeating Itself?

Watching the news on the Syrian Civil War, or Syrian Uprising as they prefer to refer to it, makes me think back to news of World War II and what Hitler did to the Jews and any other class of people he felt were inferior.  All world leaders, religions, and the everyday people on the streets said never would such heinous acts be allowed to be perpetrated on man again.  Then I look at the news and what do I see?  A government slaughtering its own people, men women and children, to the tune of over 10,000 killed, 1.5 million displaced internally, and with several thousand fleeing into neighboring countries.

I would like to pay homage by putting a brief story about Anne Frank on our blog.  We do not have the stories of the innocents being murdered in Syria yet, but one day those stories will come out.   Will we help or once again look back and say, never again?  Is history just going to repeat itself?

-Acting on a tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captured 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man, and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the "secret annex" working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne's older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi "work camp." Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank's business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist, the eighth occupant of the hiding place, joined the group.

For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne's spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne's diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne's diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.