Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 -- December 31, 2016

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year.

In January a group of heavily armed clowns occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State. Late in the month, most of them were arrested and one was killed.  Somehow the survivors were acquitted in October.

In January David Bowie died.  This was the beginning of what people felt was an unusual number of celebrity deaths throughout the year.  Part of it must be that rock'n'rollers from the 1950s and 1960s are reaching the ages where people usually die.  Monte Irvin, one of the first two African-American players on the Giants, died.  Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship died. 

We marked the 50th anniversary of the Trips Festival.  They shut down Market east of Beale to erect a Super Bowl Village.  This was Super Bowl 50 rather than Super Bowl L for some reason.   We marked Gelett Burgess' 150th birthday.

In February, Maurice White, lead singer of Earth, Wind and Fire, died.  Dan Hicks of the Charlatans and the Hot Licks died.  Bob Elliot of Bob and Ray and Captain Eric Brown, the greatest test pilot ever, died.  Author Umberto Eco died. 

We marked the 100th anniversary of Dadaism.  We marked the 100th birthday of San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto.  Author Harper Lee and great San Francisco Giant Jim Davenport died.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. We marked the 100th anniversary of the death of author Henry James. 

I was interviewed for an article cable cars on San Francisco neighborhood news site Hoodline. 

In March, I decided to cut on my posts again.  I stopped several monthly series.  We attended the sixth annual San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint.The ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) train derailed in Niles Canyon and 14 people were hurt. 

Record producer Sir George Martin died.  

We marked the 100th anniversary of Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico.   We marked the 100th anniversary of the mass lynching of Italians in New Orleans.  We observed the 100th birthday of trumpeter Harry James.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the US Army Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa.  We observed the 100th anniversary of the death of Ishi.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. 

In April, on April Fool's Day, the idiot Governor of Mississippi proclaimed Confederate Heritage Month.

Merle Haggard died.   Prince died.  He was far too young. 

We marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of newspaper columnist Herb Caen.  We marked the 75th birthday of disgraced baseball player Pete Rose.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille.  We marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. 

I was interviewed for an article the 75th annivesary of the end of the Castro Street cable car line on San Francisco neighborhood news site Hoodline.

In May we celebrated the 150th anniversary of gymnopedist and phonometrician Erik Satie.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. 

In May we marked the 100th anniversary of Sholem Aleichem's death.  We also marked the 75th anniversary of the beginning of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak.

In May I reached the of the News of the Week as Shown in Films series, which stopped running in Motography magazine in May, 1916. 

In June we visited Westlake Joe's for the first time since its long closure.  The people of Great Britain voted for BrExit.  Representative John Lewis led other Democratic members of Congress in a citizen to try to inspire their useless Republican counterparts to something about mass shootings and other gun violence. Two BNSF freight trains collided and caught fire in Texas and 3 crew members died. 

The Greatest of All Time, Muhammed Ali died. 

We marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener.  We marked composer Cole Porter's 125th birthday.  We observed the 100th anniversary of the death of German aviator Max Immelmann, the Eagle of Lille.  We marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Victor Chapman, the first American aviator to be killed in action.  We marked the 50th anniversary of the Sutro Baths fire. 

In July I attended the Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest.  We visited the California State Railroad Museum. 

Elie Wiesel died.

I missed the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.  We marked the 100th anniversary of Eugene Ely making the first launch of an airplane from a ship that was underway. We observed the 100th anniversary of the Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco.  Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated as a major party's candidate for President.

In August we got to play tourist and visit Fisherman's Wharf for the first time in years.  We rode the Niles Canyon Railway.  I finally mentioned Donald Trump and his revolting behavior.  We enjoyed the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.   We went to our only Giants game of the season. 

Bobby McFerrin died.

In September we marked the 100th anniversary of the hanging of Mary the Elephant.  We celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.  I spoke to kids at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica about the current DAR essay contest, which was inspired by the anniversary.  A commuter train smashed into the barriers at Hoboken Terminal, killing a woman on the platform. 

I made only eight posts in August and seven in September, so I decided to revive some of my monthly series.  In fact, I started in September with autos from the Blackhawk Museum.

In October Vin Scully retired after broadcasting Dodgers games for 68 seasons.  We took the cat to get blessed.

We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

I revived the series of posts of airplanes from the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

In November, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.  Father Lu, who had been the administrator at Good Shepherd, was installed as our pastor.  Despite being entirely unfit for the job, Donald Trump won the Presidency.  Incidents of racist, misogynistic  and xenophobic violence have been rising.

Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell died.  Soon after, Mose Allison and Sharon Jones died.  She was too young.  Ralph Branca died.  Fidel Castro died. 

We marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Jack London. 

I revived the series of posts on aviation history. 

In December, a fire killed at least 36 people at the Oakland Ghost Ship, an artists' collective.

In December, we marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

John Glenn and George Michael died.

Since I missed the start of the Battle of the Somme and I was reading a book about the first day, I started a series on poets who were killed on the first day of the battle. 

We had a fair amount of rain throughout the year, but not enough to make up for the five year drought.
Black Lives Matter protests continued during the year.  Right wing nut jobs took great offense.

During most of the year, Native Americans and their allies tried to block the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  The Standing Rock Sioux are concerned that the oil pipeline will contaminate their water supply.  So far they have managed to stop the pipeline. 

The US Congress, under the inspired leadership of a bunch of Republican jerks, did almost nothing.  They Senate under Mitch McConnell broke more than 200 years of precedent by flatly refusing to consider President Obama's nomination for an open position in the Supreme Court.  Sadly, this gross dereliction of duty did not hurt them in the election.

Da'ish is still murdering people in Syria and Iraq. Russia and the Syrian government are indiscriminately killing civilians, most recently in Aleppo. 

The image shows actress Monica Bannister, who appeared in the chorus of many Busby Berkeley movies. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Over the Top -- Chapter XXIII -- December 30, 2016

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright. 

Auto manufacturer Henry Ford was a pacifist.  He organized a group of fellow pacifists to sail to Oslo, Norway on the Peace Ship to seek a negotiated end to the war.  It didn't work.   

Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff was a very popular American comic strip.  Mutt was very tall and Jeff was very short.  It started in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1907 and was one of the earliest daily comic strips.   

"Qui vive" is French for "Who lives?"  It was a common challenge from a sentry.  In English it became a synonym for "on the alert."  

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:   
R. A. M. C. Royal Army Medical Corps. Tommy says it means "Rob All My Comrades."

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 

CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts



THREE days after we had silenced Fritz, the Germans sent over gas. It did not catch us unawares, because the wind had been made to order, that is, it was blowing from the German trenches towards ours at the rate of about five miles per hour.

Warnings had been passed down the trench to keep a sharp lookout for gas.

We had a new man at the periscope, on this afternoon in question; I was sitting on the fire step, cleaning my rifle, when he called out to me:

"There's a sort of greenish, yellow cloud rolling along the ground out in front, it's coming ----"

But I waited for no more, grabbing my bayonet, which was detached from the rifle, I gave the alarm by banging an empty shell case, which was hanging near the periscope. At the same instant, gongs started ringing down the trench, the signal for Tommy to don his respirator, or smoke helmet, as we call it.

Gas travels quickly, so you must not lose any time; you generally have about eighteen or twenty seconds in which to adjust your gas helmet.

A gas helmet is made of cloth, treated with chemicals. There are two windows, or glass eyes, in it, through which you can see. Inside there is a rubber-covered tube, which goes in the mouth. You breathe through your nose; the gas, passing through the cloth helmet, is neutralized by the action of the chemicals. The foul air is exhaled through the tube in the mouth, this tube being so constructed that it prevents the inhaling of the outside air or gas. One helmet is good for five hours of the strongest gas. Each Tommy carries two of them slung around his shoulder in a waterproof canvas bag. He must wear this bag at all times, even while sleeping. To change a defective helmet, you take out the new one, hold your breath, pull the old one off, placing the new one over your head, tucking in the loose ends under the collar of your tunic.\

For a minute, pandemonium reigned in our trench,—Tommies adjusting their helmets, bombers running here and there, and men turning out of the dugouts with fixed bayonets, to man the fire step.

Re-inforcements were pouring out of the communication trenches.

Our gun's crew were busy mounting the machine gun on the parapet and bringing up extra ammunition from the dugout.

German gas is heavier than air and soon fills the trenches and dugouts, where it has been known to lurk for two or three days, until the air is purified by means of large chemical sprayers.

We had to work quickly, as Fritz generally follows the gas with an infantry attack.\

A company man on our right was too slow in getting on his helmet; he sank to the ground, clutching at his throat, and after a few spasmodic twistings, went West (died). It was horrible to see him die, but we were powerless to help him. In the corner of a traverse, a little, muddy cur dog, one of the company's pets, was lying dead, with his two paws over his nose.

It's the animals that suffer the most, the horses, mules, cattle, dogs, cats, and rats, they having no helmets to save them. Tommy does not sympathize with rats in a gas attack.

At times, gas has been known to travel, with dire results, fifteen miles behind the lines.

A gas, or smoke helmet, as it is called, at the best is a vile-smelling thing, and it is not long before one gets a violent headache from wearing it.

Our eighteen-pounders were bursting in No Man's Land, in an effort, by the artillery, to disperse the gas clouds.\

The fire step was lined with crouching men, bayonets fixed, and bombs near at hand to repel the expected attack.

Our artillery had put a barrage of curtain fire on the German lines, to try and break up their attack and keep back re-inforcements.

I trained my machine gun on their trench and its bullets were raking the parapet.

Then over they came, bayonets glistening. In their respirators, which have a large snout in front, they looked like some horrible nightmare.

All along our trench, rifles and machine guns spoke, our shrapnel was bursting over their heads. They went down in heaps, but new ones took the place of the fallen. Nothing could stop that mad rush. The Germans reached our barbed wire, which had previously been demolished by their shells, then it was bomb against bomb, and the devil for all.\

Suddenly, my head seemed to burst from a loud "crack" in my ear. Then my head began to swim, throat got dry, and a heavy pressure on the lungs warned me that my helmet was leaking. Turning my gun over to No. 2, I changed helmets.

The trench started to wind like a snake, and sandbags appeared to be floating in the air. The noise was horrible; I sank onto the fire step, needles seemed to be pricking my flesh, then blackness.

I was awakened by one of my mates removing my smoke helmet. How delicious that cool, fresh air felt in my lungs.

A strong wind had arisen and dispersed the gas.

They told me that I had been "out" for three hours; they thought I was dead.\

The attack had been repulsed after a hard fight. Twice the Germans had gained a foothold in our trench, but had been driven out by counterattacks. The trench was filled with their dead and ours. Through a periscope, I counted eighteen dead Germans in our wire; they were a ghastly sight in their horrible-looking respirators.

I examined my first smoke helmet, a bullet had gone through it on the left side, just grazing my ear, the gas had penetrated through the hole made in the cloth.

Out of our crew of six, we lost two killed and two wounded.

That night we buried all of the dead, excepting those in No Man's Land. In death there is not much distinction, friend and foe are treated alike.

After the wind had dispersed the gas, the R. A. M. C. got busy with their chemical sprayers, spraying out the dugouts and low parts of the trenches to dissipate any fumes of the German gas which may have been lurking in same.

Two days after the gas attack, I was sent to Division Headquarters, in answer to an order requesting that captains of units should detail a man whom they thought capable of passing an examination for the Divisional Intelligence Department.

Before leaving for this assignment I went along the front-line trench saying good-bye to my mates and lording it over them, telling them that I had clicked a cushy job behind the lines, and how sorry I felt that they had to stay in the front line and argue out the war with Fritz. They were envious but still good natured, and as I left the trench to go to the rear they shouted after me:

"Good luck, Yank, old boy, don't forget to send up a few fags to your old mates."

I promised to do this and left.

I reported at Headquarters with sixteen others and passed the required examination. Out of the sixteen applicants four were selected.

I was highly elated because I was, as I thought, in for a cushy job back at the base.

The next morning the four reported to Division Headquarters for instructions. Two of the men were sent to large towns in the rear of the lines with an easy job. When it came our turn, the officer told us we were good men and had passed a very creditable examination.

My tin hat began to get too small for me, and I noted that the other man, Atwell, by name, was sticking his chest out more than usual.

The officer continued: "I think I can use you two men to great advantage in the front line. Here are your orders and instructions, also the pass which gives you full authority as special M. P. detailed on intelligence work. Report at the front line according to your instructions. It is risky work and I wish you both the best of luck."

My heart dropped to zero and Atwell's face was a study. We saluted and left.

That wishing us the "best of luck" sounded very ominous in our ears; if he had said "I wish you both a swift and painless death" it would have been more to the point.

When we had read our instructions we knew we were in for it good and plenty.

What Atwell said is not fit for publication, but I strongly seconded his opinion of the War, Army, and Divisional Headquarters in general.

After a bit our spirits rose. We were full-fledged spy-catchers, because our instructions and orders said so.

We immediately reported to the nearest French estaminet and had several glasses of muddy water, which they called beer. After drinking our beer we left the estaminet and hailed an empty ambulance.

After showing the driver our passes we got in. The driver was going to the part of the line where we had to report.

The ambulance was a Ford and lived up to its reputation.

How the wounded ever survived a ride in it was inexplicable to me. It was worse than riding on a gun carriage over a rocky road.

The driver of the ambulance was a corporal of the R. A. M. C, and he had the "wind up," that is, he had an aversion to being under fire.

I was riding on the seat with him while Atwell was sitting in the ambulance, with his legs hanging out of the back.

As we passed through a shell-destroyed village a mounted military policeman stopped us and informed the driver to be very careful when we got out on the open road, as it was very dangerous, because the Germans lately had acquired the habit of shelling it. The Corporal asked the trooper if there was any other way around, and was informed that there was not. Upon this he got very nervous, and wanted to turn back, but we insisted that he proceed and explained to him that he would get into serious trouble with his commanding officer if he returned without orders; we wanted to ride, not walk.

From his conversation we learned that he had recently come from England with a draft and had never been under fire, hence, his nervousness.

We convinced him that there was not much danger, and he appeared greatly relieved.

When we at last turned into the open road, we were not so confident. On each side there had been a line of trees, but now, all that was left of them were torn and battered stumps. The fields on each side of the road were dotted with recent shell holes, and we passed several in the road itself. We had gone about half a mile when a shell came whistling through the air, and burst in a field about three hundred yards to our right. Another soon followed this one, and burst on the edge of the road about four hundred yards in front of us.

I told the driver to throw in his speed clutch, as we must be in sight of the Germans. I knew the signs; that battery was ranging for us, and the quicker we got out of its zone of fire the better. The driver was trembling like a leaf, and every minute I expected him to pile us up in the ditch. I preferred the German fire.

In the back, Atwell was holding onto the straps for dear life, and was singing at the top of his voice,

We beat you at the Marne,
We beat you at the Aisne,
We gave you hell at Neuve Chapelle,
And here we are again.

Just then we hit a small shell hole and nearly capsized. Upon a loud yell from the rear I looked behind, and there was Atwell sitting in the middle of the road, shaking his fist at us. His equipment, which he had taken off upon getting into the ambulance, was strung out on the ground, and his rifle was in the ditch.

I shouted to the driver to stop, and in his nervousness he put on the brakes. We nearly pitched out head first. But the applying of those brakes saved our lives. The next instant there was a blinding flash and a deafening report. All that I remember is that I was flying through the air, and wondering if I would land in a soft spot. Then the lights went out.

When I came to, Atwell was pouring water on my head out of his bottle. On the other side of the road, the Corporal was sitting, rubbing a lump on his forehead with his left hand, while his right arm was bound up in a blood-soaked bandage. He was moaning very loudly. I had an awful headache, and the skin on the left side of my face was full of gravel, and the blood was trickling from my nose.

But that ambulance was turned over in the ditch, and was perforated with holes from fragments of the shell. One of the front wheels was slowly revolving, so I could not have been "out" for a long period.

If Mr. Ford could have seen that car, his "Peace at Any Price" conviction would have been materially strengthened, and he would have immediately fitted out another "peace ship."

The shells were still screaming overhead, but the battery had raised its fire, and they were bursting in a little wood, about half a mile from us.

Atwell spoke up, "I wish that officer hadn't wished us the best o' luck." Then he commenced swearing. I couldn't help laughing, though my head was nigh to bursting.

Slowly rising to my feet I felt myself all over to make sure that there were no broken bones. But outside of a few bruises and scratches, I was all right. The Corporal was still moaning, but more from shock than pain. A shell splinter had gone through the flesh of his right forearm. Atwell and I, from our first-aid pouches, put a tourniquet on his arm to stop the bleeding, and then gathered up our equipment.

We realized that we were in a dangerous spot. At any minute a shell might drop on the road and finish us off. The village we had left was not very far, so we told the Corporal he had better go back to it and get his arm dressed, and then report the fact of the destruction of the ambulance to the military police. He was well able to walk, so he set off in the direction of the village, while Atwell and I continued our way on foot.

Without further mishap we arrived at our destination, and reported to Brigade Headquarters for rations and billets.

That night we slept in the Battalion Sergeant-Major's dugout. The next morning I went to a first-aid post and had the gravel picked out of my face.

The instructions we received from Division Headquarters read that we were out to catch spies, patrol trenches, search German dead, reconnoiter in No Man's Land, and take part in trench raids, and prevent the robbing of the dead.

I had a pass which would allow me to go anywhere at any time in the sector of the line held by our division. It also gave me authority to stop and search ambulances, motor lorries, wagons, and even officers and soldiers, whenever my suspicions deemed it necessary. Atwell and I were allowed to work together or singly,—it was left to our judgment. We decided to team up.

Atwell was a good companion and very entertaining. He had an utter contempt for danger, but was not foolhardy. At swearing he was a wonder. A cavalry regiment would have been proud of him. Though born in England, he had spent several years in New York. He was about six feet one, and as strong as an ox. I am five feet five in height, so we looked like "Bud" Fisher's "Mutt and Jeff" when together.

We took up our quarters in a large dugout of the Royal Engineers, and mapped. out our future actions. This dugout was on the edge of a large cemetery, and several times at night in returning to it, we got many a fall stumbling over the graves of English, French, and Germans. Atwell on these occasions never indulged in swearing, though at any other time, at the least stumble, he would turn the air blue.

A certain section of our trenches was held by the Royal Irish Rifles. For several days a very strong rumor went the rounds that a German spy was in our midst. This spy was supposed to be dressed in the uniform of a British Staff Officer. Several stories had been told about an officer wearing a red band around his cap, who patrolled the front-line and communication trenches asking suspicious questions as to location of batteries, machine-gun emplacements, and trench mortars. If a shell dropped in a battery, on a machine gun, or even near a dugout, this spy was blamed.

The rumor gained such strength that an order was issued for all troops to immediately place under arrest anyone answering to the description of the spy.

Atwell and I were on the qui vive. We constantly patrolled the trenches at night, and even in the day, but the spy always eluded us.

One day, while in a communication trench, we were horrified to see our Brigadier-General, Old Pepper, being brought down it by a big private of the Royal Irish Rifles. The General was walking in front, and the private with fixed bayonet was following him in the rear.

We saluted as the General passed us. The Irishman had a broad grin on his face and we could scarcely believe our eyes—the General was under arrest. After passing a few feet beyond us, the General turned, and said in a wrathful voice to Atwell:

"Tell this d—n fool who I am. He's arrested me as a spy."

Atwell was speechless. The sentry butted in with:

"None o' that gassin' out o' you. Back to Headquarters you goes, Mr. Fritz. Open that face o' yours again, an' I'll dent in your napper with the butt o' me rifle."

The General's face was a sight to behold. He was fairly boiling over with rage, but he shut up.

Atwell tried to get in front of the sentry to explain to him that it really was the General he had under arrest, but the sentry threatened to run his bayonet through him, and would have done it, too. So Atwell stepped aside, and remained silent. I was nearly bursting with suppressed laughter. One word, and I would have exploded. It is not exactly diplomatic to laugh at your General in such a predicament.

The sentry and his prisoner arrived at Brigade Headquarters with disastrous results to the sentry.

The joke was that the General had personally issued the order for the spy's arrest. It was a habit of the General to walk through the trenches on rounds of inspection, unattended by any of his staff. The Irishman, being new in the regiment, had never seen the General before, so when he came across him alone in a communication trench, he promptly put him under arrest. Brigadier-generals wear a red band around their caps.

Next day we passed the Irishman tied to the wheel of a limber, the beginning of his sentence of twenty-one days, Field Punishment No. I. Never before have I seen such a woebegone expression on a man's face.

For several days, Atwell and I made ourselves scarce around Brigade Headquarters. We did not want to meet the General.

The spy was never caught.

Next: CHAPTER XXIV -- The Firing Squad

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

George Michael, RIP -- December 28, 2016

Another pop singer, George Michael, has died.  Even though their music was catchy, I didn't like Wham.  He had a wonderful voice and he did some nice solo singles.  I remember his lawsuit against Sony.  He was far too young. 

He died on Christmas Day, which is going to be hard for his family and friends.

New Cat #38 -- December 27, 2016

I took this photo on 21-December-2016.  She likes the Christmas pillow. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, 2016 -- December 25, 2016

New York Tribune, 25-December-1915

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men (women, and children).

A cartoon from the 25-December-1916 New York Tribune shows soldiers in a trench giving homage to the Holy Family, who are sheltering in a dugout. 

New York Tribune, 25-December-1915
A cartoon I missed last year from the 25-December-1915 New York Tribune shows people paying more attention to the war news than to the Christmas tree. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Number, 1904 -- December 24, 2016

The original Life Magazine was a humorous weekly that was published from 1883 to 1936.  Here is the cover of their 1904 Christmas Number.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Embarcadero Walking Tour -- December 18, 2016

Saturday I gave a walking tour along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to Fisherman's Whart to two people who won me in the community support auction at work.  We talked about how last week's king tide had lapped over the seawall.  We had lunch at Castagnola's.  The weather was cold but very clear.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fokker D.VII -- December 15, 2016

When I was a kid, someone gave me a book about World War One airplanes.  I virtually memorized it. The coffin-nosed Fokker D.VII was one of the greatest fighters of the war.  Fokker engineer Reinhold Platz designed it.  In the Armistice, Germany was specifically ordered to surrender all D.VIIs.

In July, 2010, we visited the Museum of Flight near Seattle.   I took this photo in the Personal Courage Wing, which features airplanes, mostly fighters, from World War One and World War Two.  The museum's D.VII is a replica with an original engine and machine guns.  It is painted in the colors of ace Rudolf Berthold. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

35th Annual Senior Holiday Luncheon -- December 12, 2016

Today I visited the 35th Annual Senior Holiday Luncheon, put together by the hard work of the gentlemen and ladies of the Cable Car Division.  The 200 seniors had a good time and enjoyed the food.  The choir from Notre Dame Des Victoires School sang energetically.  Val Lupiz and the other people from the Cable Car Division did a great job.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

1959 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 9 (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica) -- December 10, 2016

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos. The 1959 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 9 (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica).  The B.A.T. 9, an aerodynamic concept car, premiered at the 1955 Turino Auto Show.  It was designed and built by Franco Scaglione.  It was built on the chassis of the popular Alfa Romeo 1900. Despite the number 9, it was the third of the B.A.T. series.  There are more to come.  (051/dsc_0118-0119)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

John Glenn, RIP -- December 8, 2016

When a television channel recently showed The Right Stuff, I thought "John Glenn is still alive."  I was sad to learn that he has passed on.

He served as a Marine fighter pilot in both World War II and the Korean War.  When NASA looked for the first group of astronauts for the Mercury program, he was almost too old and lacked the required degree in science, but made the cut.  On 20-January-1962, in Friendship 7, he became the first American to make an orbital space flight.

When I was growing up, we heard a lot more about John Glenn than Alan Shepard or Gus Grissom, who flew before him.  We had a Time Life book and record set about the space program and Glenn was heavily featured.

In 1974 he ran for the US Senate as a Democrat and won.  He ran for President in 1984, and got a boost from his portrayal in The Right Stuff.

I remember how excited he was to fly on the Space Shuttle in 1998,.

Godspeed, John Glenn. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day, 2016 -- December 7, 2016

75 years ago a sneak attack by forces of the Japanese Empire sank or damaged much of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in the territory of Hawaii. The Japanese Empire came to regret doing this.

Dreadnought USS Arizona (BB-39) was commissioned in 1916.  During the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was bombed and a powder magazine exploded.  She sank and 1,177 members of her crew died.  She was too damaged to raise, so she remains at the bottom of the harbor.  The memorial opened in 1962.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Killed the First Day of the Somme -- WN Hodgson -- December 6, 2016

On 01-July-2016, I missed the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  More British soldiers died on that day than on any other day in history.  I thought to make up for it, I would write about some of the poets who died that day.  There were a lot.

WN Hodgson published under the pen name Edward Melbourne.  He wrote "Before Action" on 30-June-1916, one day before he died.

The image is from the movie The Battle of the Somme

By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening's benison
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills when day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a soldier, Lord.

By all of all man's hopes and fears
 And all the wonders poets sing,
 The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavour that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this;
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Sopwith Aeroplanes, Part I -- December 5, 2016

The 15-September-1919 issue of Aerial Age Weekly featured the first of two parts of "The Sopwith Aeroplanes," an article about the products of the Sopwith Aviation Company.  Part two is here:


The Sopwith "Tabloid" biplane although built in 1913, has had such an extraordinary effect on aeroplane design in general, and in particular was certainly the beginning of the greatness of the House of Sopwith, that it undoubtedly merits inclusion in this series of article reproduced through the courtesy of "Flight."

The Sopwith "Tabloid"
In its original form the Sopwith "Tabloid" was built as a side-by-side two-seater, with an 80 h.p. Gnome engine. It was built for Mr. Hawker, the famous Sopwith pilot, to be taken out to Australia in 1914, but very soon after its triumphant appearance a number of single-seaters of similar type were ordered by and built for the Army. This machine, as shown in the accompanying illustrations, had a skid type under carriage and a balanced rudder, while there was no fixed vertical fin. The pilot and passenger sat side by side, the pilot on the left. Lateral control was by means of wing warping. When this machine paid its first visit to Hendon it left everyone agape, as such speed as it developed had certainly never been seen, nor probably been believed possible, with a biplane type of machine. In those days the general opinion was that for speed one must have a monoplane, and it was not until the advent of the "Tabloid" that this fallacy was effectively cleared up. After that the small fast single-seater biplane received a great impetus, and the type began to become general all over the world. It will, therefore, be seen that the world at large, and British aviation in particular, owes a debt of gratitude to the Sopwith firm for having demonstrated the possibilities of the small biplane. In addition to its great maximum speed--92 m.p.h.--the "Tabloid" was remarkable in those days for its great speed range, as it would fly as slowly as 36 m.p.h. This was a range of speeds which none of the contemporary monoplanes were capable of.

In its single-seater form the "Tabloid" underwent various minor alterations. Thus one form was with skid undercarriage, but with the front struts slightly more raked than they were in the original machine. Another slight alteration was the addition of a vertical fin in front of the rudder, which latter was not balanced. The next step in the evolution of the "Tabloid" was seen when the late Mr. Harold Barnwell flew a "Tabloid" in the aerial Derby. This machine, although similar to its prototype, was fitted with a Vee-type undercarriage. Finally, the "Tabloid" entered the last stage of its development by being fitted with ailerons instead of warping wings, and in this form it was a most successful single-seater scout.

The Gun 'Bus

As a result of their experience with Sopwith school pushers, the Sopwith firm were given an order by the Greek Government for a number of somewhat similar machines, carrying a pilot and gunner, but not fitted with dual controls. A gun was mounted in the nose of the nacelle. This order was nearing completion when war broke out, and the machines were commandeered by the Admiralty. From August, 1914, they were immediately put into service, being among the first aeroplanes to be armed, and were equipped with land undercarriages instead of the original float chassis. The earlier batches were equipped with 100 h.p. Gnomes, but later water-cooled Sunbeams were fitted. The scale drawings and photograph show one of these machines fitted with a 150 h.p. Sunbeam.

The Torpedo Seaplane

In 1915 the Sopwith Co. built for the Admiralty a torpedo-carrying aeroplane. This machine was of an experimental character, but is notable as having been the forerunner of the famous Sopwith "Cuckoo." It was fitted with a 200 h.p. Canton-Unne engine.

The Tractor Seaplane

In the matter of tractor seaplanes the Sopwith Co. had already done good work in connection with, for instance, the circuit of Britain, and they were therefore in a position to undertake the design and construction of machines of this type when, early in the War, the Admiralty ordered some seaplanes. It was designed for reconnaissance work and was unarmed. The engine fitted was a 100 h.p. Gnome monosoupape. From the illustration it will be seen that this machine was fitted with folding wings. A somewhat similar machine of the land type was built also. The land machine differed, however, in several respects from the seaplane, apart from the difference in undercarriage. Thus the span of the two planes was equal. Machines of this type caused curiosity briefly on account of the bomb racks fitted on the struts of the undercarriage, a feature that was somewhat unusual in those days.

The Sopwith Bat Boat

Although not included in the drawings, the Sopwith Bat Boat merits brief mention here on account of the good work done by this type of machine before the War. Thus it may be remembered that the Sopwith Bat Boat, which was first exhibited at the Olympia Aero Show of 1913 and which had a 100 h.p. Green engine, won the Mortimer Singer Trophy by starting off the sea, coming down on land, and starting from the land alighting on the sea again. This was accomplished by fitting it, in addition to the boat, with a collapsible wheel undercarriage. Probably this was the first flying boat to be built in Great Britain. A later type of bat boat was fitted with a 200 h.p. Salmson engine and differed from the previous type in various details. Thus, for instance, it had a straight top plane, while the bottom plane had a pronounced dihedral. Also it had a single rudder instead of the twin rudders of the previous model. Also the tail booms were so arranged as to form a Vee when seen in plan view. Boats of this type were ordered by Germany before the War, and from photographs later published in German aviation papers it would appear that the Germans made several copies of this machine, imitating the original down to the smallest details.

The Baby Seaplane

The Baby Seaplane was an immediate development of the "Tabloid," from which it differed principally in the fitting of floats instead of wheels. One of these machines made history by winning the Schneider Trophy at Monaco, and the Baby Seaplane is very similar to the famous Sopwith "Schneider." In this machine wing warping had given way to ailerons. The floats were of the plain, non-stepped type, and a tail float of considerable size was fitted under the stern. The engine originally fitted was a 100 h.p. Gnome monosoupape, but later on 110 and 130 h.p. Clergets were also used.

It is of interest to note that, although this seaplane performed highly successfully at its first appearance, it was more or less put on one side at the outbreak of the War, and it was not until November, 1914, that the demand arose for a fast single-seater seaplane. It was then immediately put into production, and from that distant date until the signing of the Armistice the Sopwith Baby Seaplane has been continually in service.

The 1 1/2-Strutters

The Sopwith 1 1/2-Strutter has claims to great historical distinction, not only for its great capabilities for use as a fighter, but because, indirectly, it set a new fashion in aerial fighting, being the first British aeroplane to carry a synchronized gun firing through the propeller. The Sopwith-Kauper synchronization gear which made this possible was developed at the Sopwith works, and was as much a product of this firm as was the machine in which it was installed. It was also fitted with the Scarfe gun ring for the gunner, which has since become such a well-established feature on all fighters. The 1 1/2-Strutter was originally designed as a high-performance two-seater fighter, with a 100 h.p. Clerget engine. At the time of its introduction it was justly regarded as an extraordinarily good 'bus, having an excellent performance and a good manoeuvrability. Incidentally it established a world's altitude record for an altitude of 23,980 ft. In view of its good performance, coupled with its (for the times) excellent armament, the 1 1/2-Strutter had a tremendous success, and it is not surprising that many machines were built to the order of the Governments of Roumania, Russia, America and Belgium. In addition, it might be mentioned that the French Government has manufactured under license no less than 4,500 machines of this model. In addition to the novel points connected with the mounting and firing of the guns carried, the 1 1/2-Strutter was interesting in several other respects. Thus the wing bracing—which gave it its name —was very unusual, and in a modified form set a new fashion, so to speak. The top plane was in two halves, bolted to the top of a central cabane, while the spars were provided with an extra support in the shape of shorter struts running from the top longerons to the top plane spars some distance out. In the single-seaters to follow this bracing of the top plane was generally adopted, with the exception that the central cabane was done away with, the outer struts of the W formation having a slightly less pronounced slope, and supporting a separate top plane centre section. Aerodynamically the l/2-Strutter is of interest in being fitted with an air brake in the form of adjustable flaps in the trailing edge of the lower plane adjacent to the fuselage. These flaps could be rotated by the pilot until they were normal to the wind, thus helping to pull the machine up when about to land.

A more successful innovation incorporated in this machine was the trimming gear, by means of which the angle of incidence of the tail plane could be altered during flight. In this manner the difference in weight of the passenger carried could be counteracted by the tail setting, and also the tail could be adjusted for high speed, climbing, etc. This feature has since become universal practice on passenger-carrying machines.

The 1 1/2-Strutter Bomber

Originally designed as a two-seater fighter, the l 1/2-Strutter was later adopted as a single-seater bomber, and it is the machine which has been so successful in bombing, with good results, such towns as Essen, Munich and Frankfort. For bombing work the 1 1/2-Strutter was equipped with a 130 h.p. Clerget, which afterwards took the place of the 110 h.p. Clerget in the standard two-seater fighter model. It might also be mentioned that fairly recently the French Government converted a large number of two-seaters into school machines with dual controls. These machines are fitted with 80 h.p. Le Rhone engines.

The Sopwith "Pup"
The famous single-seater scout bears a strong family resemblance to the Sopwith "family," being reminiscent of both the 1 1/2-Strutter and of the original "Tabloid." The "Pup" was brought into existence principally with the object of tackling the Fokker monoplanes that were at one time doing far too well on the Western Front. In this object it succeeded admirably, and although judged by present standards it is of very low power—it was fitted with an 80 h.p. Le Rhone engine—its performance and ease of handling endeared it so much to its pilots that its merits are spoken of with much affection, tinged with a little regret that it has had to give way for higher-powered machines. A feature of the "Pup" are the window panels in the upper plane. The windows were rendered necessary by the fact that the pilot sat with his head below the level of the plane. A single machine gun firing through the propeller is mounted above the fuselage.

The "Pup" (Sea Type)

When starting from and alighting on the deck of a ship became the fashion, the Sopwith "Pup" was modified slightly for this purpose, and good work was done by this type on the North Sea patrols, for which work it proved very suitable. The "Pup" machine did not differ greatly from the standard type.

The Sopwith Triplane

Amongst all the Sopwith productions, nearly all of which have attained great fame, none is more characteristic than the triplane, affectionately known as the "Tripe" or "Tripehound." This machine was fitted with 130 h.p. Clerget engines. The principal objects aimed at in this notable design were, first, the attainment of a high degree of visibility, or, rather, the reduction to a minimum of the pilot's blind angle. With his head on a level with the intermediate plane, he enjoys a practically unrestricted arc of vision through about 120°, whilst sections cut out of the centre of the intermediate plane enable him to have a good view of the ground when landing, the position of the cockpit being such that the bottom plane has no restricting influence on the view. The narrowness of the chord made available by the use of three main planes also allowed the pilot an exceptional view upwards and to either side, an important consideration in a purely offensive machine. The second object aimed at was an increase in maneuverability, and the triplane principle was adopted to secure this purpose in consequence of the fact that, owing to the narrow chord, the shift of the center of pressure with varying angles of incidence is relatively smaller than in a biplane, and consequently demands a shorter length of fuselage to carry the tail. At the same time the small span reduces the moments of inertia in the horizontal plane, and a machine is thus obtained which is highly responsive to its controls and which can add the important ability to dodge to its other strategic advantages. The consideration of movement of the centre of pressure enabled single I-struts to be adopted in place of the usual pairs springing one from each spar. This construction also leads to a sensible simplification of the wiring system. Ailerons of the unbalanced type are fitted to all three planes.

The Sopwith "Camel"

Few aeroplanes have done more to repulse German attempts at aerial supremacy than the famous "Camel," so called from the hump which it carries on the forward top side of its fuselage by virtue of the fitting of two fixed machine guns, both firing through the propeller. Furnished with a 130 h.p. Clerget, and designed to achieve a very high performance both in climb and speed, the "Camel" showed itself a redoubtable fighter against antagonistic scouts, and also performed extraordinarily well as a Zeppelin catcher, in which latter connection its ability to climb with great rapidity was extremely valuable. A good angle of vision was obtained by keeping the pilot fairly well forward, and also by the positive stagger of the planes. In place of the large transparent panels fitted in the middle of the top plane in the "Pup," that of the "Camel" was provided with a faired-off slot. The remainder of the designed followed "Pup" lines pretty closely, but it is of interest to note that this machine was the first to be fitted with two machine guns, a practice that has since been extensively adopted in both Allied and enemy aeroplanes of a similar type.

The Sopwith "Camel" (Sea Type)

This design was almost identical with the above, except that the fuselage was made detachable at the rear of the pilot's seat, enabling the machine to be conveniently stowed aboard ship. It was used for flying from the deck of seaplane carriers, and, in addition to this, was also carried on some of our fast cruisers. The method of launching was off the Barbet guns. It will be appreciated that it required a machine of considerable efficiency to get off with certainty and satisfaction with so short a run.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Over the Top -- Chapter XXII -- November 30, 2016

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright. 

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:   
Elephant Dugout. A large, safe, and roomy dugout, braced by heavy steel ribs or girders.

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 

CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"



SOON after my arrival in France, in fact from my enlistment, I had found that in the British Army discipline is very strict. One has to be very careful in order to stay on the narrow path of government virtue.

There are about seven million ways of breaking the King's Regulations; to keep one you have to break another.

The worst punishment is death by a firing squad or "up against the wall" as Tommy calls it.

This is for desertion, cowardice, mutiny, giving information to the enemy, destroying or willfully wasting ammunition, looting, rape, robbing the dead, forcing a safeguard, striking a superior, etc.

Then comes the punishment of sixty-four days in the front-line trench without relief. During this time you have to engage in all raids, working parties in No Man's Land, and every hazardous undertaking that comes along. If you live through the sixty-four days you are indeed lucky.

This punishment is awarded where there is a doubt as to the willful guilt of a man who has committed an offence punishable by death.

Then comes the famous Field Punishment No. I. Tommy has nicknamed it "crucifixion." It means that a man is spread-eagled on a limber wheel, two hours a day for twenty-one days. During this time he only gets water, bully beef, and biscuits for his chow. You get "crucified" for repeated minor offences.

Next in order is Field Punishment No. 2.

This is confinement in the "Clink," without blankets, getting water, bully beef, and biscuits for rations and doing all the dirty work that can be found. This may be for twenty-four hours or twenty days, according to the gravity of the offence.

Then comes "Pack Drill" or Defaulters' Parade. This consists of drilling, mostly at the double, for two hours with full equipment. Tommy hates this, because it is hard work. Sometimes he fills his pack with straw to lighten it, and sometimes he gets caught. If he gets caught, he grouses at everything in general for twenty-one days, from the vantage point of a limber wheel.

Next comes "C. B." meaning "Confined to Barracks." This consists of staying in billets or barracks for twenty-four hours to seven days. You also get an occasional Defaulters' Parade and dirty jobs around the quarters.

The Sergeant-Major keeps what is known as the Crime Sheet. When a man commits an offence, he is "Crimed," that is, his name, number, and offence is entered on the Crime Sheet. Next day at 9 A.m. he goes to the "Orderly Room" before the Captain, who either punishes him with "C. B." or sends him before the O. C. (Officer Commanding Battalion). The Captain of the Company can only award "C. B."

Tommy many a time has thanked the King for making that provision in his regulations.

To gain the title of a "smart soldier," Tommy has to keep clear of the Crime Sheet, and you have to be darned smart to do it.

I have been on it a few times, mostly for "Yankee impudence."

During our stay of two weeks in rest billets our Captain put us through a course of machine-gun drills, trying out new stunts and theories.

After parades were over, our guns' crews got together and also tried out some theories of their own in reference to handling guns. These courses had nothing to do with the advancement of the war, consisted mostly of causing tricky jams in the gun, and then the rest of the crew would endeavor to locate as quickly as possible the cause of the stoppage. This amused them for a few days and then things came to a standstill.

One of the boys on my gun claimed that he could play a tune while the gun was actually firing, and demonstrated this fact one day on the target range. We were very enthusiastic and decided to become musicians.

After constant practice I became quite expert in the tune entitled All Conductors Have Big Feet.

When I had mastered this tune, our two weeks' rest came to an end, and once again we went up the line and took over the sector in front of G---- Wood.

At this point the German trenches ran around the base of a hill, on the top of which was a dense wood. This wood was infested with machine guns, which used to traverse our lines at will, and sweep the streets of a little village, where we were billeted while in reserve.

There was one gun in particular which used to get our goats, it had the exact range of our "elephant" dugout entrance, and every evening, about the time rations were being brought up, its bullets would knock up the dust on the road; more than one Tommy went West or to Blighty by running into them.

This gun got our nerves on edge, and Fritz seemed to know it, because he never gave us an hour's rest. Our reputation as machine gunners was at stake; we tried various ruses to locate and put this gun out of action, but each one proved to be a failure, and Fritz became a worse nuisance than ever. He was getting fresher and more careless every day, took all kinds of liberties, with us,—thought he was invincible.

Then one of our crew got a brilliant idea and we were all enthusiastic to put it to the test.

Here was his scheme:

When firing my gun, I was to play my tune, and Fritz, no doubt, would fall for it, try to imitate me as an added insult. This gunner and two others would try, by the sound, to locate Fritz and his gun. After having got the location, they would mount two machine guns in trees, in a little clump of woods, to the left of our cemetery, and while Fritz was in the middle of his lesson, would open up and trust to luck. By our calculations, it would take at least a week to pull off the stunt.

If Fritz refused to swallow our bait, it would be impossible to locate his special gun, and that's the one we were after, because they all sound alike, a slow pup-pup-pup. Our prestige was hanging by a thread. In the battalion we had to endure all kinds of insults and fresh remarks as to our ability in silencing Fritz. Even to the battalion that German gun was a sore spot.

Next day, Fritz opened up as usual. I let him fire away for a while and then butted in with my "pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup." I kept this up quite a while, used two belts of ammunition. Fritz had stopped firing to listen. Then he started in; sure enough, he had fallen for our game, his gun was trying to imitate mine, but, at first he made a horrible mess of that tune. Again I butted in with a few bars and stopped. Then he tried to copy what I had played. He was a good sport all right, because his bullets were going away over our heads, must have been firing into the air. I commenced to feel friendly toward him.

This duet went on for five days. Fritz was a good pupil and learned rapidly, in fact, got better than his teacher. I commenced to feel jealous. When he had completely mastered the tune, he started sweeping the road again and we clicked it worse than ever. But he signed his death warrant by doing so, because my friendship turned to hate. Every time he fired he played that tune and we danced.

The boys in the battalion gave us the "Ha! Ha!" They weren't in on our little frame-up.

The originator of the ruse and the other two gunners had Fritz's location taped to the minute; they mounted their two guns, and also gave me the range. The next afternoon was set for the grand finale.

Our three guns, with different elevations, had their fire so arranged, that, opening up together, their bullets would suddenly drop on Fritz like a hailstorm.

About three the next day, Fritz started "pup-pupping" that tune. I blew a sharp blast on a whistle, it was the signal agreed upon; we turned loose and Fritz's gun suddenly stopped in the middle of a bar. We had cooked his goose, and our ruse had worked. After firing two belts each, to make sure of our job, we hurriedly dismounted our guns and took cover in the dugout. We knew what to expect soon. We didn't have to wait long, three salvos of "whizz-bangs" came over from Fritz's artillery, a further confirmation that we had sent that musical machine-gunner on his westward bound journey.

That gun never bothered us again. We were the heroes of the battalion, our Captain congratulated us, said it was a neat piece of work, and, consequently, we were all puffed up over the stunt.

There are several ways Tommy uses to disguise the location of his machine gun and get his range. Some of the most commonly used stunts are as follows:

At night, when he mounts his gun over the top of his trench and wants to get the range of Fritz's trench he adopts the method of what he terms "getting the sparks." This consists of firing bursts from his gun until the bullets hit the German barbed wire. He can tell when they are cutting the wire, because a bullet when it hits a wire throws out a blue electric spark. Machine-gun fire is very damaging to wire and causes many a wiring party to go out at night when it is quiet to repair the damage.

To disguise the flare of his gun at night when firing, Tommy uses what is called a flare protector. This is a stove-pipe arrangement which fits over the barrel casing of the gun and screens the sparks from the right and left, but not from the front. So Tommy, always resourceful, adopts this scheme. About three feet or less in front of the gun he drives two stakes into the ground, about five feet apart. Across these stakes he stretches a curtain made out of empty sandbags ripped open. He soaks this curtain in water and fires through it. The water prevents it catching fire and effectively screens the flare of the firing gun from the enemy.

Sound is a valuable asset in locating a machine gun, but Tommy surmounts this obstacle by placing two machine guns about one hundred to one hundred fifty yards apart. The gun on the right to cover with its fire the sector of the left gun and the gun on the left to cover that of the right gun. This makes their fire cross; they are fired simultaneously.

By this method it sounds like one gun firing and gives the Germans the impression that the gun is firing from a point midway between the guns which are actually firing, and they accordingly shell that particular spot. The machine gunners chuckle and say, "Fritz is a brainy boy, not 'alf he ain't."

But the men in our lines at the spot being shelled curse Fritz for his ignorance and pass a few pert remarks down the line in reference to the machine gunners being "windy" and afraid to take their medicine.

Next: CHAPTER XXIII --Gas Attacks and Spies

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro -- November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead.  I have always had mixed feelings about him.  Cuba has universal health care, near-universal literacy and very good levels of infant survival.  On the other hand, he imposed a rigid authoritarian regime with little or no regard for human life.  The United States of America has supported many repressive regimes which have done worse than Cuba.  I remember stories that the Giants had offered him a contract as a pitcher, but it probably did not happen.  The world might have been a different place if it had...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 -- November 24, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I'm grateful for health and life, my family, and my coworkers.

The 26-November-1943 cover of The Saturday Evening Post features a painting by Joseph Christian Leyendecker.Note that the bald displayed on the Great Seal of the United States is replaced by a plucked turkey.  While the eagle holds an olive branch and a bundle of arrows, the turkey carries a carving knife and fork. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ralph Branca, RIP -- November 23, 2016

On 03-October-1951, at the Polo Grounds in New York City, Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World to beat the Dodgers and complete the Miracle at Coogan's Bluff.  Ralph Branca, who delivered the pitch, has died.  “A guy commits murder and he gets pardoned after 20 years. I didn’t get pardoned.” 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Death Ends All" for Jack London, Daring Novelist -- November 22, 2016

Seattle Star, 23-November-1916

100 years ago today, on 22-November-1916, writer Jack London died at his ranch in Glen Ellen, California.  For many years, people said his death was a suicide because of ill-health, but it was probably a result of sickness, alcoholism and an accidental overdose of morphine.  His was the first case I can remember reading of someone who died as an atheist.  I spent a lot of time thinking about it, especially when we visited his resting place, under a big rock at Glen Ellen.  The two finished novels would have been Jerry of the Islands and Michael, Brother of Jerry.  Two unfinished novels printed after London died are Hearts of Three and The Assassination Bureau, Ltd, but neither is set in Hawaii.  In any event, he wrote a lot and did a lot in his life.  This article is from the 23-November-1916 Seattle Star.  


Body of Writer, Who Die. Suddenly, Will Be Cremated, According to Wish, Without Prayers or Ceremony of Any Kind.

SANTA ROSA. Nov, 21.— Without ceremony of any kind, the body of Jack London, novelist and adventurer, who died at his Glen Ellen ranch suddenly last night, will be cremated at noon tomorrow at the Oakland crematory.

No minister or priest will pronounce a benediction, no prayers will be said, no choir will sing a requiem.

Believing that death ends all and that there is no hereafter, London often said that when he died he wished to be cremated and buried without ostentation His wishes will be carried out.

Only his wife. daughter and sister will accompany the body to the crematory.  His mother. Mrs Flora
London is seriously ill in her Oakland home and has not yet been informed of her son's death

London's secretary estimated that the novelist's income from his writings at the time of his death averaged about 20 cents a word.  He habitually wrote 1,000 words a day and this would make his annual income about $73,000 a year from new literary work alone.

So far as the secretary knows, the only finished work by London which has not been published are two full novels, two short dog stories and several Hawaiian stories.  Arrangements for publication of these had been concluded at the time of bis death.  London was working on a novel of Hawaiian life, called "Cherry," which was well advanced.  It is understood Mrs. London either will complete the novel herself or will engage some other writer to complete it.

How much other unfinished work London had started is not known.  The novelist's five-year contract with Eastern publishers would have expired nest year.  Recently a representative of an Eastern company was at Glen Ellen to induce London to renew his contract and had purchased railroad tickets and arranged to leave San Francisco next Wednesday for New York to discuss the matter.

He expected to return to Glen Ellen in February, when he hoped to be able to visit either Japan or Norway -- he was undecided which.

London's death was sudden.  Wednesday morning when his Japanese valet went to waken his master be found London unconscious in bed at his Glen Ellen estate near here.  Physicians were summoned who declared London was suffering from a touch of ptomaine poisoning or acute indigestion. London was roused with difficulty but recovered consciousness and then appeared to be recovering rapidly.
This was only a temporary strength, however, and London soon lost consciousness again, never reviving before death, which occurred at 7:45 last night. Attending physicians say he died from gastro-intestinal type of uraemia.

Was 40 Years Old
When London retired Tuesday night he complained of a pain in his stomach but thought it no more than indigestion.

Jack London, who wrote so many tales of adventure, himself had a life story that rivalled that of any of his heroes. Born in San Francisco 40 years ago, as a child he roamed the streets of this city. For several years, up to the age of 10, he lived on ranches. His people moved to Oakland where was educated in the public schools.

He graduated from a grammar school at the age of 15 and immediately entered on a life of wild adventure. Successively he became a salmon fisherman, an oyster pirate and longshoreman and then shipped before the mast. The seven seas he sailed for two years.

Tramps Land as "Hobo"
Returning to San Francisco he began a series of land adventures, tramping the whole country over as a vagabond and "hobo." Many times he was jailed as a "vag," but he saw all of the United States and Canada and even roamed about England.

In 1897 he entered Oakland high school but quit "by request," he said, and scenting new adventures in the recently discovered Klondike, went there. His year of life in the Arctic crystallized his literary ideas and furnished the impetus that made his success as a writer sure.

He had written half a dozen books before that but none had attracted attention. Returning from the Arctic he began to pen a series of tales of the Alaskan trails.

Then came "The Call of the Wild," and Jack London leaped into literary fame at a bound. He had found himself and from that time forward he advanced rapidly.

He wrote prolifically, having made it a habit for years to to 1,000 words a day -- no more, no less.

Became Gentleman Farmer
Several Years ago London became a "gentleman farmer." He purchased a large estate, Glen Ellen, and there presided over a wonderful ranch. He labeled the valley in which his place was located "The Valley of the Moon," and frequently wrote about it. Recently he spent considerable time in Hawaii where he meant to live part of each year but death interfered with his plans.

London was married twice. His first wife, who was the mother of his two daughters, Bess and Joan, was divorced ten years ago. She was greatly shocked today when informed of her former husband's deth. Several years ago London married again, his wife being the "Charmion" (Charmian - JT) of his books.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mose Allison and Sharon Jones, RIP -- November 22, 2016

It has been another rough week. First Mose Allison, then Sharon Jones, who was only 60 years old.  I always enjoy hearing Mose Allison on KCSM or anywhere else.

I have not known about Sharon Jones (and the Dap-Kings) for as long as I have known Mose Allison, but I like their stuff.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen, RIP -- November 14, 2016

It has been a rough week.  Last Tuesday I was looking forward to having our first woman President.  In addition to that, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen died.

I loved listening to Leon Russell's music on KFRC.
I didn't know who Leonard Cohen was until much later, even though I heard many of his songs over the years.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

At the Circus Blogathon -- November 12, 2016

Washington DC Evening Star, 02-August-1913

Lê at Crítica Retrô and Summer from Serendipitous Anachronisms are hosting the At the Circus Blogathon.  It has been a rough week, so our hosts have decided to extend the time of the blogathon.

I decided to write about "Charlie Chaplin and the Flea Circus," based on an unfinished film that he made.  I spent some time explaining flea circuses for the benefit of people who don't know:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veterans Day, 2016 -- November 11, 2016

Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans out there. Thank you for your service to your country.

This is the 98th anniversary of Armistice Day.  I am trying to pay attention to the Centennial of World War One in this blog.  All the men and women who fought in the war are gone, but we can still remember their sacrifices.