Wednesday, July 16, 2014

69 Years After Trinity

On this date 69 years ago — July 16, 1945 — the world was divided. Half was peaceful, and half was still at war. And an event in New Mexico changed history.

The war in Europe had been over for nine weeks, since the German surrender on May 8th. But the war in Asia and the Pacific continued and appeared likely to keep on for at least another year. Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were meeting at Potsdam, mostly to make plans for post-war Europe. But Truman and Churchill were also outlining surrender terms for Japan.

While there, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson delivered a message to President Truman that said "Operated this morning. Diagnosis not complete but results seem satisfactory and already exceed expectations ... Dr. Groves pleased." This was the message that told Truman that the Trinity Test had taken place in New Mexico earlier in the day, and had been a success. As a result, Truman mentioned having an unspecified "powerful new weapon" to Stalin; presumably Churchill got more details. At the end of the conference, an ultimatum (that did not mention the new weapon) was given to Japan to surrender or meet "prompt and utter destruction".

When the Potsdam Conference began, the Allies were looking at plans for another year or more of war in the Pacific, including invasions of the Japanese home islands that would have made D-Day look small. Because of the Trinity Test (and the resulting operations), Japan surrendered — without an invasion — a little over a month after Trinity.

The Manhattan Project and its Trinity Test changed the course of the Pacific War. Today is the 69th anniversary of that change.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

D-Day 70th Anniversary

Mrs Critter and I recently returned from a tour related to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and other events of the Second World War. Two World War II veterans — one from the 82nd Airborne Division and one from the 9th (and later the 42nd) Infantry Division. Both added a lot to our experience as they had been at a number of the places we visited, though the last time they had been there before now was when they helped capture these places in World War II.

The tour was the proverbial "drink from a firehose" on Normandy as we visited a whole series of D-Day sites on June 5th & 6th before going on to other World War II sites. We had far too little time at every site we visited. But it was enough to make us remember.

70 years ago, 160,000 troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. Along with 24,000 paratroopers dropped into the area a few hours earlier, they began the final invasion of the European continent.

Omaha Beach was the most restricted and most heavily defended of the invasion beaches. One of the units landing on that beach that day was the 29th Infantry Division — the Blue and Gray Division. The division included National Guardsmen from the Virginia and Maryland area, and men who were not yet assigned to the Division when the 29th shipped out to England (including my father).

Maybe this would be a good day for a movie that includes the Normandy invasion. A good one that provides a good sense what the landing felt like (according to one of the men who was there) is Saving Private Ryan. (When the movie ends, consider that all its action took place in just one week.) Another excellent choice would be Band of Brothers — the second episode is all D-Day, though it's focused more on the Airborne rather than the Infantry. Or, for a broader picture, a good choice would be The Longest Day.

The picture below is apparently the picture one of my father's wartime letters referred to, saying this was the beach he landed on.

With all of this, this would be a good time to read the D-Day commemorations at Blackfive, specifically this and this, and to consider how terribly high the stakes were on D-Day in 1944.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Obama's Issues

President Barack Obama is being asked to deal with several issues at the same time lately. Actually, these issues have been there for a long time and just haven't been dealt with effectively.

One such issue is the Veterans Administration and its handling of health care for veterans. President Obama knew about this in his first presidential campaign, and promised to fix the problem. Instead, nothing has been done and the situation has gotten worse during his Administration.

That's bad enough on its own. But the whole country should be concerned about what it means for everyone under the horribly mis-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Part of the problem is that Obamacare does nothing in the field of health care. It is an insurance bill, not a health care bill. It does not create a single additional doctor or nurse or dentist or other health care provider. But its demands will demand more of those still working in the medical care system.

And that's before you add in all the people coming across the border. You know, the ones the Department of Homeland Security is busing (and flying) to relocation centers all over the country, those who are given a court date and released, etc. They're all going to need free lawyers, we're told, and free health care.

That's also before you add in the fact that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) isn't stable — it isn't finished. It's still being changed, both by the Department of Health and Human Services (formerly Kathleen Sebelius) and the White House (Barack Obama).

Of course, a lot of folks insist the President and his Cabinet departments don't have that kind of authority. They aren't allowed to change the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, either by adding provisions to those laws or by declining to enforce those laws. If they do, it comes to this.

There also seem to be other differences in views between those inside the Administration cocoon and those outside it. Some of those differences are rather substantial.

Just one more. And this one may be a little snarky. But it gave me a chuckle, so here it is anyway.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Top 10 Amazing Things About the U.S.

Here (received from a friend in Arizona by e-mail) is a Canadian's version of a David Letterman Top 10 list — of U.S. American stupidities. It just makes you wanna shake your head in disbelief, it's so true.

  • Number 10 — Only in America could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000.00 per plate Obama campaign fund-raising event.
  • Number 9 — Only in America could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 20% of the federal workforce is black while only 14% of the population is black, and more than 40% of all federal entitlements goes to black Americans — 3 times the rate that go to whites, and 5 times the rate that go to Hispanics!
  • Number 8 — Only in America could they have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner (the head of the Treasury Department) and Charles Rangel (who once ran the Ways and Means Committee), BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.
  • Number 7 — Only in America can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.
  • Number 6 — Only in America would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, while they discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just 'magically' become American citizens (this probably should be number one or two).
  • Number 5 — Only in America could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country's Constitution be thought of as EXTREMISTS.
  • Number 4 — Only in America could you need to present a driver's license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but not to vote.
  • Number 3 — Only in America could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. Oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half that of a company making tennis shoes (Nike). This in spite of the fact that, on each gallon, the federal government makes several times as much in taxes as the oil companies make in gross (pre-tax) profits.
  • Number 2 — Only in America could you collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, still spend a trillion dollars more than it has per year (for total spending of $7 million PER MINUTE) and complain that it doesn't have nearly enough money.
  • Number 1 on the list — and this is especially amazing! — Only in America could the richer people, who pay 86% of all income taxes, be accused of not paying their "fair share" by people who don't pay any income taxes at all.
You have to laugh, or you'll cry.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day, 2014

Today commemorates the United States formally becoming a nation.

That was 238 years ago.

And the U.S. is still the beacon of liberty for the whole world.

Happy Independence Day! Happy Fourth of July!