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.