Friday, October 07, 2011

"JEREMY KANE" now on Kindle.

'Pleased to say, another of my printed books has now been also published in a Kindle edition.
"JEREMY KANE: A Canadian historical adventure novel of the 1837 Mackenzie Rebellion and its brutal aftermath in the Australian penal colonies."
See it


The late great, Steve Jobs left many a thoughtful observation, but perhaps his most universal piece of invaluable advice to each of us is this:
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
-- Steve Jobs.

Feeling sorry for yourself?

If you think your life is tough
-- read some history books.
                          -- Bill Maher.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Sobering View Of Democracy

According to Alexander Fraser Tyler,
a British contemporary of George Washington:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.
It can exist only until the voters discover they can vote themselves

largesse (defined as a liberal gift) out of the public treasury. From that
moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most
benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always
collapses over loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Attack on America: The Day the Twin Towers Collapsed (American Disasters)

102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers


Two months before September 11, 2001, when Islamic terrorist attacks destroyed New York City's Twin Towers, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in Phoenix, Arizona, named Kenneth Williams sent a memorandum to senior FBI officials in New York and Washington, DC.
The agent warned about an unusually large number of Muslims taking training at American flight schools.
He wrote: "This is to advise the Bureau and New York authorities of the possibility of a coordinated effort by [UBL] Usama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universiities.
The Phoenix office has observed an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest who are attending or have attended civil aviation colleges in the state of Arizona.
The large number of such individuals attending these types of of schools, and fatwas issued by UBL, gives reason to believe that a coordinated effort is underway to establish a cadre of individuals who will one day be working in the civil aviation community around the world. These individuals will be in a position in future to conduct terror activity against civil aviation targets ..."
Agent Williams' warning was ignored at the highest levels of the American intelligence community and government; possibly as consequence of arrogant belief that Moslems were incapable of launching a sophisticated form of attack.
Today, on this sad 10th. anniversary of destruction of the Twin Towers and horrific murder of 2,752 innocent men, women, and children, we can only hope there will never be a repeat of this official failure to respond preventively against the enemies still among us. 

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pleased to say, Canadian troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, as of today -- July 8, 2011. After 10 years of service there, and suffering 157 dead Canadian soldiers, our part in that lousy, stupid, futile war is at an end. Complete waste of good lives, waste of good money, and absolute waste of time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Was Hiram Maxim's invention of the
machine-gun sparked by a boyhood accident caused to his mother?

Countless millions of people have been killed by the machine-gun since its design by the American inventor, Hiram Maxin, in 1884. Improbable as it may seem, his idea for the weapon was literally sparked by an accident during his childhood. Late in life, Maxim reminisced about the incident: "When I was quite a small boy, my mother wanted to shoot an owl she saw in a tree in the garden. So she got a gun from the house, an old flint-lock musket and loaded it, but it would not go off. I was siezed with the idea of applying a hot coal to the powder while my mother aimed the gun. So I rushed into the house, returning triumphantly with a piece of hot cinder in a pair of tongs. This I held to the gun, and as I did so, the owl flew off and the red-hot cinder fell and set fire to my mother's dress, burning her badly. This so upset me that I vowed I would invent an automatic gun which would fire itself."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The spin doctors view of WW II
Recently, I watched a re-run of a National Geographic TV documentary called The Bombing Of Germany. While emphasising the Allied aerial bombing campaign against Germany in WWII, the programme completely omits the context of it – the Nazi’s preceding merciless air-attacks against Warsaw, Belgrade, London, and virtually every other European country.
It reminded me of the controversial "official" history of the RCAF - The Crucible of War, 1939-1945. Written by Brereton Greenhous and a gaggle of other trendy historians linked with Canada’s Department of National Defence, it included the assertion that Royal Canadian Air Force flyers in WWII were “terrorists.”
The book re-awoke bitter controversy over a CBC-TV series, The Valor and the Horror. All three of these revisionist viewpoints claimed that Allied bombing of Germany in the latter stages of the war was "terror" bombing designed to break civilian morale. The obvious anti-British bias of the V&H series by Brian and Terry McKenna left the impression that there wasn't much difference between how our side and Germany waged war. They claimed that massive air raids ordered by Air Marshal "Bomber" Harris (whom the McKennas renamed "Butcher" Harris) had little effect on German war production and was mostly aimed at civilians.
At the time, many veterans and others took exception to the McKennas' view. Unquestionably there was an aspect of revenge in the RAF bombing raids -- getting even for the indiscriminate bombing blitz on London and Coventry and many other British cities, aimed at crushing the British will to resist -- part of Adolf Hitler’s spoken promise of waging “total war.” Luftwaffe attacks killed 65,000 British civilians, but only strengthened British resolve and morale.
Revisionists’ favourite resentment against Allied bombing of Germany focuses on the RAF/USAAF bombing of Dresden on Feb. 13-15, 1945, which killed approx. 25,000 Germans. This figure was concluded after a five-year research study conducted by the (German) Dresden Historians Commission, and confirmed the estimated casualty report by Dresden’s chief of police in 1945. This figure is far less than the 500,000 death-toll often claimed by far-left groups and sensationalist writers to this day.
The fact is that British and German people share certain valiant characteristics, including that neither nationality collapses easily under pressure or adversity. So it should have been predictable that bombing German cities and inflicting an horrendous 600,000 civilian casualties would not completely break Germany's spirit to continue fighting on, even after it was obvious their defeat was inevitable.

But as Hitler's minister of War Production, Albert Speer later pointed out that, while bombing didn't prevent German factories from producing guns and tanks, it reduced their numbers.  Air-raids also resulted in over 19,000 awesome 88-mm. flak-guns produced in 1942-44 being allocated for anti-aircraft defence of the Fatherland, instead of being used on the battle-fronts. And the need to defend cities against air-raids absorbed a million troops who would otherwise have been fighting at the front.

The Allied bombing war on Germany in World War Two cost the lives of 50,000 Royal Air Force crew-members (including 10,000 Canadians) and 50,000 American flyers. A terrible toll, but it did save the lives of countless American, British, Canadian, Russian, and other Allied soldiers. No amount of attempts to re-write history can ever diminish their sacrifice and the rightness of the cause in which they died.
The proliferation of e-mail that has almost done away with hand-written letters could have a harmful effect on the future of military history records. Newspaper columnist Naomi Lakritz makes a thoughtful comment on this:

A couple of years ago, while wandering through a military museum, I stopped to chat with a soldier who was working on renovations to a gallery. He said the biggest problem museums face is being caused by new technology. Vast archives of private letters and photos will not exist for future displays, because these days nobody saves digital photos and e-mails. This will leave a huge gap in knowledge for future researchers and historians.”

A sobering and disturbing thought.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


On June 13 and June 17, 1942, two groups of German sabotage agents landed from U-boats on shores of Long Island and Florida, as part of a German Abwehr mission, codenamed Operation Pastorius. The mission was named by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of Abwehr, the German military intelligence organization, a sardonic reference to Francis Daniel Pastorius, leader of the first organized settlement of German immigrants to America.

Subsequent events of the sabotage attempt were summarized later in a 1943 report written by British Secret Service agent Victor Rothschild who was sent to United States to be briefed on the incident. His report covered the Nazi mission's objectives; The German personnel sent on the mission; information about the training the German agents received at sabotage school; and the equipment to be used during the operation.

During the first few months after the United States officially entered World War II, America's major contribution to the war was industrial. America was able to produce and supply weapons, ammunition, equipment, and supplies to Britain and other nations already fighting against Germany. This infusion of U.S. arms production so stung the Nazi war machine, that the German high command ordered direct aggressive action to reduce American war supply output. However, with the Atlantic Ocean separating Germany from U.S. facilities, the enemy's ability to use conventional military tactics was limited. So German Intelligence decided that sabotage would be the most effective means available to interrupt American production.

"The task of the saboteurs was to slow down production at certain factories concerned with the American war effort," Rothschild wrote in his report. "The sabotage was not to be done in such a way that it appeared accidental," he noted. "The saboteurs were however told that they must avoid killing or injuring people as this would not benefit Germany."

The saboteurs selected for the mission were eight Germans who had spent time in the United States, and two were American citizens. They were trained at a sabotage school near Berlin, where they studied chemistry, incendiaries, explosives, timing devices, secret writing, and concealment of identity. The U.S. targets planned for their mission included: hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls, Aluminum Company of America's plants, Ohio River locks, the Horseshoe Curve railroad pass near Altoona, PA, Pennsylvania Railroad's rail yards, a cryolite plant in Philadelphia, Hell Gate Bridge in New York; and Pennsylvania Station in Newark, New Jersey.

The first batch of saboteurs arrived by U-Boat U-202, at Amagansett, Long Island, New York. They wore German military uniforms, so that if caught they would be handled as POWs and not as spies. The second batch came aboard U-boat U-584 and landed at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The first group included George John Dasch. Victor Rothschild perceptively wrote in his report, "It is abundantly evident that the leader of the first group of saboteurs, George John Dasch, had every intention of giving himself up to the American authorities and compromising the whole expedition, probably from the moment it was suggested to him in Germany that he should go to the USA on a sabotage assignment."

Dasch did exactly as predicted, promptly going to Washington, DC, to turn himself in to FBI headquarters. He simply telephoned FBI headquarters from his Washington hotel room and waited for Federal agents arrived to take him into custody. The FBI at first treated Dasch as if he was mentally unstable, until he showed them $84,000 he was given to fund the operation. His co-operation helped lead to the other seven saboteurs being taken into custody over the next two weeks.

They were put on trial before a secret military tribunal comprised of seven U.S. Army officers appointed by President Roosevelt. The trial was held in the Department of Justice building in Washington. The prosecution team was lead by Attorney General Frances Biddle and the Army Judge Advocate General, Major General Myron C. Cramer. The Defense team was lead by Colonel Kenneth C. Royall, who later became Secretary of War under President Truman, and Major Lausen H. Stone, the son of Harlan Fiske Stone, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

All eight would-be sabotage agents were found guilty of espionage and sentenced to death. However, because of their cooperation, President Roosevelt commuted the sentences of Peter Burger to life in prison and George Dasch to 30 years in prison. On August 8, 1942, the other six were executed in an electric chair on the third floor of the District of Columbia jail. Their bodies were buried in a cemetery potter's field called Blue Plains in the Anacostia region of Washington.

In 1948, President Truman granted Burger and Dasch executive clemency, and they were deported to the American Zone of then still-occupied Germany.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


My favorite incidence of historical ignorance was told by my late friend, ex-Chief Master Sergeant Lucien Thomas DFM, (ex-RAF, USAAF, USAF)
Lucien had treated his two daughters to expensive university educations (including -- alas -- Berkeley, London School of Economics, and the Sorbonne.)
One of his daughters and another mid-20s young woman came into the room while Lucien was watching a TV movie about the bombing of Nagasaki.
"Who would do such a horrible thing?" his daughter asked.

Though stunned by her ignorance, Lucien said calmly, "America, of course."
"But why? she squealed. "What did the Japanese ever do to us?"
I would have given $50 to see Lucien's face that day ....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

                KRUGER'S GOLD:
A novel of the Anglo-Boer War
by Sidney Allinson.

Reader's review, by Renee Cox:

Sidney Allinson's books are always surprises. They can start off unassumingly and build up to rip-snorting sagas of ceaseless adventure. In his finest work yet, Allinson doesn't even start off slowly. Kruger's Gold grips the reader at once and the pace never slows. As I read this action tale of the struggle a century ago between South Africa's Boers, and England and her "colonials," I was repeatedly struck with the idea this would be and should be a wonderful movie. Allinson's experience as a television producer may have given him that hot-shot cameraman's "eye" or it could simply be that any good yarn so stirringly told lends itself to theatre in the best sense.
On these pages, a segment of history that was soon obscured by two ensuing, bloodier world wars leaps to life. It is really the twilight of an era, with Europeans jostling for power and position and, in this case in particular, South African gold. Allinson fills in the historical perspective while following a Canadian soldier and his colonial troops who, late in the war, have been assigned to find the legendary government cache of gold that departing Prime Minister Paul Kruger was said to have stashed before leaving in 1900 for exile in Europe.
Allinson writes sympathetically of the brilliant Boer commandos fighting to retain their homeland and their way of life. His story is not overly revisionist: the Boers have seized this land from the native tribes, after all, and even the most principled among them want to keep the blacks and "coloureds" in their place, lest their
vast numbers overwhelm the white settlers. Even through a more politically correct prism, we must admire the self reliance of these men whose surprise tactics and talented marksmanship enabled them to strike at the enemy, melt away into the bush, and return to attack another day. Many if not most of the men have lost wives and children to the war; yet, while they can be ruthless, they treat surrendered prisoners with a decency and respect that arouses a sense of nostalgia in the reader. Their English counterparts do as well with their own prisoners, for the most part.
The story he includes of the concentration camps where stranded Boer families and prisoners were placed to wait out the war is not as happy a one. (Those places were not "concentration camps" in today's Nazi sense of death-camps. Rather the British camps were set up to litrally "concentrate" Boer civilians who had been forced off their farms.)
However, Allinson paints a grim picture of the horrors where women and children and some men languished in filthy conditions with poor diets and disease and death dogging every step. A few selfless medical workers do their best, but there are no facilities and their supplies are woefully inadequate. The camps were not England's finest legacy to the history texts.
The romances in the book provide a lusty and pleasing counterpoint. Even the horses get to play a heart-warming role. His thorough grasp of military affairs, cavalry warfare, and soldierly detail adds to the feeling of authenticity. And throughout the book, Allinson has peppered the story with fascinating historical minutiae, such as the Boer heroine not being allowed to play ragtime music, then the rage, because it was produced by black performers.
Read this book. It is a treat.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Soldiers don't start wars. Politicians start wars.
                              --- William Westmoreland

Friday, March 25, 2011


True, I included sex scenes in three of my military-themed novels, but without lingering on the obvious bodily details. I like to think my readers have sufficient imagination to understand what is going on.
However, some new, younger, literary agents seem convinced that no manuscript is acceptable unless it is slathered with numerous sex scenes described in excruciatingly gross detail. Typically, such “agents” are gormless, gauche, and quite unsuited to their job.
I treasure the memory of one such poor soul (female), who suggested that I change a WWII manuscript of mine to include a scene in which the soldier hero copulated with a woman war-correspondent aboard a landing-barge speeding through shot and shell while approaching an enemy shore fortress.
Evidently, the agent lacked my experience that when you are under fire, sex tends to be rather the last thing on your mind.
-- Sidney Allinson.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Writers of military history and historical novels in general have a personal interest in encouraging public knowledge of history – and in rectifying the deplorably high level of historical ignorance. Fashionable anti-war posturing may lend social cachet in liberal circles, but nevertheless some knowledge of the history of warfare is essential to a broader understanding of all human history.
See here why the widespread extent of the problem is inexcusable, and some suggestions how knowledge of history could be made more appealing:
-- Sidney Allinson.

‘Turbulent world, lately, isn’t it? (2011)

To people my age, it seems quite like old times to see Libya in the news again. Benghazi, Tripoli, Tobruk ... Familiar scenes of WWII ding-dong battles back and forth between the British Army and the German Afrika Korps in 1941/42.
Interesting to see how the Allied forces' attack on Gadhaffi’s Libya is seen in Britain today:


Here we go again --- Western nations are once more allies in a thankless war. As we speak (March 20, 2010) a squadron of Canadian fighter planes is about to fly into harm’s way in Libya, alongside USAF, RAF, and French Airforce fighter-planes and naval ships that are already attacking Gadhaffi's forces.
I fear we have possibly just stumbled into yet another cataclysmic war. They all start with us busy-body-ing into “saving” a small nation -- Belgium, Poland, Iraq. Pray, Libya does not widen to pitchfork us into war with a resentful united Moslem world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

By Don Butler, Postmedia News March 14, 2011.

Most young Canadians know little or nothing about most of the wars and peacekeeping missions their countrymen have served in, according to a survey done one year ago for Veterans Affairs Canada.
While a bare majority of the 13-to-17-year-olds surveyed claimed to know at least a moderate amount about the Second World War, their knowledge fell off rapidly beyond that.
More than two-thirds said they knew very little or nothing at all about the First World War, and nearly as many were equally unaware of Canadian peacekeeping efforts since 1960.Their ignorance peaked with the Korean War, about which 82 per cent said they knew nothing or very little. Even for the best-known conflict, the Second World War, 37 per cent of the youth said they knew very little, and nine per cent knew nothing at all.
The 514 youth were surveyed last March by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives as part of a $47,600 project for Veterans Affairs designed to assess Canadians' awareness, engagement, and satisfaction with Remembrance Day programming.
"It's discouraging that young people don't know a lot about the events of our past," said Jeremy Diamond, director of development and programs with the Historica-Dominion Institute. But he said there's a real opportunity to use technology to bring these events back to life.
"We can do a lot more now, sharing those stories, than we could a generation ago. I think we're going to see that tide turn a little bit with young people's knowledge of Canadian history."
In the past 18 months, the Historica-Dominion Institute has recorded the stories of more than 2,000 Second World War veterans, Diamond said. It's the largest oral history project of its kind ever in Canada.
Students and others can listen to podcasts of the interviews at, Diamond said.He added they can also invite veterans to speak at their schools, which provides a personal connection between veterans and young people.
As well, the approach of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, in 2014, provides a "great opportunity" to help young people learn — perhaps for the first time — about that conflict's important events and individuals, Diamond said.
The Phoenix survey found about eight in 10 of the youth participants expressed at least some interest in learning more about Canada's veterans, though their interest was likelier to be moderate than strong.
About 80 per cent said websites were a good way for them to get information about Canada's military history. Significant numbers also mentioned books, libraries, talking to people, newspapers or magazines, television or radio and social-media sites.
While the survey therefore cannot be considered representative of the youth population, Phoenix tried to ensure that the sample mirrored the regional, linguistic and gender characteristics of Canadian youth.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Max Brand [Frederick Schiller Faust] probably was the most prolific American novelist ever; author of 500 novels -- 30 Million words. A highly popular writer of westerns, his
books were also turned into movie-scripts, including the character of "Doctor Kildare."
In the Second World War, Brand became a war correspondent for Harper's Magazine, assigned to Italy. Within just a couple of weeks of arrival, he insisted on accompanying a platoon of American infantry going into an attack on the village of Santa
Maria Infante, because "I want to study men under fire." He was wounded in the chest by German shrapnel, and died before he could receive medical aid. Max Brand is buried in the American War Cemetery, Netuno, Italy.

Search for Max Brand  



Several American novelists who had served in WWII wrote only a single book, usually based on their war experiences. Van van Praag is a particularly good example. His 1949 novel "Day Without End" [retitled "Combat" in 1951] is an authentically-written story that follows a US Army platoon in Normandy, 1944. Its accuracy and characterizations are spot-on, unmistakeably a soldier's tale, more than likely based on actual incidents during the war.
Born in New York City in 1920, van Praag was a truck salesman, a World's Fair lecturer, before he volunteered for miltary service. Van van Praag spent five years in the United States Army, was promoted up through the ranks, and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He fought in France as a platoon leader, was severley wounded, and returned home a
I read "Combat" many years ago, and I still remember it vividly. It sold 500,000 copies, but far as I know, it was the only book van Praage ever wrote.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Hachiko" Bronze Statue, Tokyo, Japan.
There are many accounts of the fidelity of dogs for their owners in peace and war, and sometimes their loyalty strikes a particular chord in its community. One poignant example began  in Tokyo, Japan, in 1924, when a stray Akita breed street-dog was adopted by university professor Hidesaburo Ueno, who commuted by train to his job. He named the dog "Hachiko" and it would would meet the professor at the end of his commute every day and walk him home.
The dog met the professor at the same Shibuya Train Station exit every weekday evening, and continued greeting him until a day in 1925, when the owner did not arrive back at his usual time.
The reason was that Ueno had died suddenly at work that day, though the dog obviously did not know. For the next nine years, Hachikō patiently met the same train, at the same station, at the same time, in the vain hope that his master would arrive to walk him home.
Soon, commuters who remembered seeing the professor and the dog walking together began to feed and care for Hachikō at his habitual place on the platform. When one of the professor’s students found out about the dog, he brought it to the attention of a local newspaper, which published the story.
The dog became a national sensation and symbolized the embodiment of Japan's cherished attribute of family loyalty. In 1934, a bronze statue in the dog's likeness was erected at Hachikō-guchi (as the Shibuya Station Exit was renamed in his honor) with Hachikō present at its unveiling.
The loyal dog's vigil ended in March, 1935, when he passed away in the street near the station exit, still awaiting his master. Such was his fame, that Hachiko was stuffed and mounted on display at Japan's National Museum of Nature & Science. The still-famous Akita's monument remains to this day as a reminder of the faithful love given by man's best friend.

[For centuries, the Akita was considered to be Japan's national dog. However, the breed was almost eradicated during World War Two, when they were officially ordered to be slaughtered to provide fur linings for military officers' coats. Only the efforts of one man, Morie Sawataishi, rescued the Akita from extinction, which is now a widely available prized dog again.]
Tragic loss: Liam Tasker was on patrol with his dog Theo at the time of the attack in Nahr-e-Saraj, Afghanistan


In life, this brave British soldier, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker,
and his devoted dog "Theo" were inseparable.
Now, in death, they will rest by each other’s side always.

Serving in Afghanistan, the intepid pair uncovered 14 IUD's [Improvised Explosive Devices] and numerous hidden enemy weapons in just five months – a record total for an Army explosives-sniffer dog and his handler. It is deeply moving that they died within hours of each other and made their final journey home together in March, 2011. Theo, a springer spaniel cross, suffered a fatal seizure shortly after his master, L/Cpl Tasker, was shot dead by a Taliban sniper. The 22-month-old dog was said to have died of a broken heart after his Arms & Explosives Search soldier comrade was killed.
During only five months in combat, the pair detected more concealed weaponry than any other dog and handler team during the war. The pair are hailed for saving the lives of countless British soldiers in Afghanistan. And when L/Cpl Tasker, 26, were flown home to Britain,Theo’s ashes were alongside his body in a casket on the RAF Hercules carrying the coffin. The casket containing Theo’s ashes will be handed over to their unit, the 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, then given to L/Cpl Tasker’s grieving family.

L/Cpl Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, was the 358th member of the British armed forces to die since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001. He was killed taking part in a mission in the Nahr-e-Saraj district in Helmand. The pair served in Afghanistan as part of the Theatre Military Working Dogs Support Unit based at Camp Bastion. Theo was the ‘front man’ of a patrol, sniffing out IEDs, weapons, and bomb-making equipment hidden by the Taliban. Consideration is being made to honour Theo with the award of a Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Dog handler: Liam was a member of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Theo also died after the attack

Dickin medal
Dickin Medal For Brave Animals

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Famed WWII poet Pilot Officer John Magee (far right) with his
fellow pilot trainees: l-r: Fred Heather, Tom Gain, Duncan
Fowler, at #9 Elementary Flying Training School, Royal
Canadian Air Force Station St. Catharines, Ontario,
Canada, Feb. 5, 1941.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high un-trespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

HIGH FLIGHT remains the most evocative poem of the
Second World War, which has become the most famous
flying poem of all time. It was written by John Magee
in 1943, during his service as a Pilot Officer, Royal
Canadian Air Force
The son of an American father and an English mother,
Anglican missionaries, Magee was born in China in 1921,
and was educated in Britain and the USA. Though he
earned a scholarship to Yale University, Magee chose
instead to volunteer for service with the Royal
Canadian Air Force in September, 1940.
After training as a fighter-pilot, he was posted to
Britain, where he joined a Spitfire squadron.
The exhilaration of flying an aircraft inspired him to
write "High Flight" on September 3, 1941. Only three
months later, at the age of 19, John Magee was killed
when his Spitfire collided with a training aircraft. 
His grave is in Holy Cross Cemetery, Scopwick,
Lincolnshire, England.  

Lee Harvey Oswald, lone assassin of US President John F. Kennedy.


Writing about historical events often requires keen vigilance to record the actual truth of events.  All too often, the determination to present interpretations which conflict with current popular acceptances is the most critical issue connected with historical research -- the problem of revisionism. Revisionism is a deadly and contagious condition which afflicts some researchers, and its chief characteristic is the need to "reveal" something extraordinary and new to the public. It particulary appeals to credulous folk eager for dramatic revelations, and self-consciously egalitarian youth. These interpetations often cause researchers to radically change their opinion about how and why certain events occurred. Revisionism is not to be confused with research which truthfully enlarges our knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of history. Legitimate historical research can occasionally discover new evidence that overturns accepted beliefs, and the distinction between that and sensationalism can sometimes be subtle. True revisionism, however, can be clearly identified because its thesis is always shocking in quality and turns an accepted historical happening upside down; black becomes white, and vice versa.

Have you ever noticed the prevalent view that nothing of consequence ever happened the way it was originally explained? Lee HarveyOswald did not kill JFK -- the CIA did. Sirhan did not alone kill RFK; he was a planted 'Manchurian Candidate'. Amelia Earhart did not simply crash her aircraft into the ocean and die; she was shot as a spy by the Japanese. Rudolf Hess was not the person tried at Nuremberg or the one who committed suicide at Spandau in 1987; it was a substitute double, and he was murdered, not a suicide. Napoleon Buonaparte did not die of stomache cancer, he was "murdered by the British."
James Earl Ray did not alone kill Martin Luther King; he was the patsy for some unnamed national conservative conspiracy. Marilyn Monroe did not die of a drug overdose; (you supply the name) murdered her. The same for Elvis; he is now doing undercover work for the DEA.
Although most of these examples are from the 20th Century, wise men throughout the ages have been well aware of this tendency by some to disbelieve the obvious.
Why is this belief in hidden contrarian truths so pervasive? For many members of the public, there seem to be many reasons -- an underlying distrust of anything said by authorities; a need to believe that bad things just do not happen to people in a simple or random manner; and finally, there may just be delight in gossip or sensationalism.
For historians, it is even more complicated. As human beings, they are subject to the other motives, but additionally, the very validity of their field of study rests on their ability to revise. There is a fundamental presumption by some academics and media persons that what is known to have happened did not happen in the generally accepted manner or for the generally accepted reasons. Furthermore, their professional reputations and individual egos are based on their revisions. For instance, any journalist who puts the blame solely on Lee Harvey Oswald for shooting Pres. Kennedy is considered to be hopelessly naive, and any historian who teaches the French Revolution exactly as described in history books is professionally dead.
This drive to radically alter the accepted truth is not the only reason many historians change history. For the most part, revisionism changes facts for cultural or national self-interests.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Why Americans Can't Help But Keep
Playing Britain’s National Anthem
Americans are thoroughly familiar with the melody of God Save The King – though they sing the words of My Country 'Tis Of Thee to it. US citizens listening always feel their patriotic juices flow as they sing the moving stanzas of the song, also known as America. Few of them know the tune was written by an Englishman, in honour of the British monarch.

Few still Americans realize the melody was written by Dr. John Bull, son of a London goldsmith. He began as -a choir boy in Queen Elizabeth Chapel in 1572. Ten years later, he was appointed organist at Hereford Cathedral. By 1589, he had earned a doctorate of music at Cambridge University and became one of the most famous keyboard musicians and composers in England.

Bull wrote God Save The King in 1619, the same year English settlers arrived in America with an order from King James to celebrate their arrival with a day of thanks, leading the Jamestown colony to celebrate America's first Thanksgiving Day.

John Bull later moved to Belgium, where he became organist at Antwerp Cathedral. He died in 1628, and it was said the piece of music that become God Save The King was found among his papers. It would be over 100 years before his tune was published, in the 1744 English tune book “Thesaurus Musicus.”

In Sept. 1745, the leader of the band at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal arranged for a performance of God Save The King at the end of a play. It was a great success and was repeated nightly. The practice soon spread to other theatres and the custom of honouring the monarch with a finale of what evolved as Britain’s national anthem was born.

Even today, it is played and sung in the United Kingdom as a matter of tradition, though it has never been proclaimed so by any act of parliament or royal proclamation.

Brahms used parts of the tune in some of his own compositions. After hearing it in England, Haydn was moved to write Austria's national anthem. Even Beethoven liked the melody. In his journal, he referred to one of his own compositions in which he used the tune. He wrote, "I must show the English what a blessing they have in God Save The King."

As the song's popularity grew, it spread to the European continent, where it was picked up and used in a German song-book.

A Baptist clergyman from Boston, the Reverend Samuel Francis Smith, was given the book by a friend. In humming some of the tunes, he was struck by the melody of one (guess which). He thought it had a quality appropriate for a song of hope and inspiration. He sat down and put words to it and called it America (though more Americans probably know it best now as My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.)

The first time God Save The King was sung as My Country `Tis Of Thee was on July 4th, 1832, in Boston at the American Independence Day service at Park Street Baptist Church.

The song America made the Reverend Smith famous in his lifetime, but he seems sadly forgotten now. It is doubtful that he knew the tune was the National anthem off the British Empire. Most Americans still don't. Some remain convinced that the British stole it from them, but in all truth, it is the other way around. Regardless of its origin, the stirring melody continues to echo the two nations’ origins and shared values.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


"If you who call yourselves men of peace, I say:
You are not safe unless you have men of
action on your side." 
-- Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC).

Monday, February 28, 2011

It is heartening to see that Britain's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy has been so active in effectively rescuing civilians from Libya. In sharp contrast, it seems there is something of national outrage in the USA today, many folk there being indignant at the American government for its failure to send in the US Air Force on similar rescue missions to Libya.

USAF is the largest and best-equipped air force in the world, so its curious failure to lend a hand in the evacuation of its citizens from Libya clearly must have been caused by lack of decision right at the top – the White House. Observers can only suspect either that Pres. Obama tends to favour the Moslem world, or he is simply too timid to intervene for fear of alienating his US political support base.

As an aside, don’t even mention Canada’s craven lack of assistance for Canadians trapped in Libya. Thousands of Canucks were caught in the uprising there, and those who did manage to get out on their own have nothing but contempt for the utter lack of help by Canadian officials on the scene. None of Canada's military aircraft planes have been sent there to help with evacuation either.

Having said that, I am filled with dread at today’s hints by Britain and America they may send a military intervention force into Libya. No! No! No! Any Western troops sent into north Africa, no matter how laudable their intentions to "preserve human rights" by using military might against Gadhafi, will surely unite the entire Arab world in resentment against the West, and could provoke a Jihad holy war against us all.

We must keep our armed forces out of that hell-hole, or we risk Armageddon, a hopless quagmire far worse than even Afghanistan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The wave of Middle Eastern anti-government rioting that has now rippled into Bahrain could lead to serious problems for the United States Navy's strategic presence in the region. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is stationed there, which provides a powerful military base of operations against the Taliban and other potential adversaries.

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Bahrain's current uprising is largely a sectarian religious struggle between two Islamic sects -- the Sunni-controlled autocratic government of King Hamad, and the largely Shiite population with strong popular links to Iran. If the rebellion does lead to a radical shift in political control, it could include demands for the USN to quit its base there, a potential threat to America's ability to support military efforts by Coalition forces in the region.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


United States Air Force Convair B-36 bomber
that crashed into the Canadian wilderness.

With the approaching 66th. anniversary of the WWII detonation of two atomic bombs on Japan, it is timely to recall that Canada also experienced the dropping of a similar US weapon, though inadvertently. This now largely-forgotten incident happened on February 13, 1950, five years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. In 1950, a fearful world was caught in the Cold War, a tense military stand-off between the Soviet Union and the United States, then the world’s most powerful rivals.

Late in the afternoon of that day, a Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” heavy bomber aircraft of the United States Strategic Air Command took off from Eileson Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska, during a bitterly cold blizzard. Its high-altitude flight-path would pass over British Columbia en route to California on a simulated combat mission to test San Francisco’s defences against possible future Soviet attack. The plane’s mission was typical of that era’s airborne practice exercises by U.S. and Canadian air forces, which closely co-operated to defend North America against possible incursions by Soviet bombers.

The six-engined giant B-36 had a wingspan of 70 metres (230 feet), making it the largest bomber ever built by the U.S. It cost $6 million and carried 17 crewmen. Also aboard was an inert atomic bomb much like the 19-kiloton weapon - dubbed “Fatman” – that had been dropped on Nagasaki in the Second World War. Though the practice bomb aboard the B-36 was a fully-functioning weapon, it contained lead for the core instead of plutonium, and so was not capable of creating a devastating thermonuclear blast. Still, it was armed lethally enough, packing several thousand pounds of conventional TNT high explosive for emergency use in vaporizing the shell of IA-grade uranium (which itself did not present any radiation danger.)

"Fatman" atomic bomb similar to the
weapon detonated over Canada in 1950.

 The B-36's routine training mission turned into a nightmare for the crew and even threatened British Columbians as they slept innocently below its droning passage through the black winter night.

Six hours into the flight, the huge plane encountered an increasingly violent winter storm that rapidly built up heavy icing on the wings and pusher-propeller engines. The aircraft’s pilot, Capt. H.L. Barry, said afterwards, “We were at about forty-thousand feet when iced-up carburetors caused three engines to burst into flames, the aircraft became very difficult to control, and we started to lose altitude"

Down to 14.000 feet, he radioed an urgent distress call for assistance at 11:25 p.m. "Engines on fire. Contemplate ditching on Queen Charlotte Sound. Keep lookout for flares or wreckage.” Lt. Paul Gerhart was the plane’s radar officer; if required, he was also responsible for dropping and detonating the bomb so as to avoid it falling into the hands of possible enemies. There was always anxiety in Washington that Soviet intelligence agents might try to retrieve a U.S. atomic weapon if one ever went down intact, to examine its secrets. With the plane obviously about to go down, there was urgent need to neutralize its deadly cargo.

“It was about midnight when I salvoed the bomb,” Gerhart recalled, “It detonated about 4,000 feet above the Pacific. There was a tremendous flash in the sky somewhere near Hectate Strait, apparently not witnessed by anyone below.”

The massive B-36 was falling 300 feet per minute when Capt. Barry set the automatic pilot to fly southwest, and ordered his crew to bail out immediately. Radio Sgt. Vitale Trippoldi’s last act was to tie down his Morse key so it would keep transmitting a steady location-fix for rescuers. Then the 17 crewmen parachuted out in rapid succession, and as they floated down caught sight of their blazing bomber still flying in a slanting course.

The first response to the distress call came from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 123 Search & Rescue Squadron based at Sea Island, Vancouver, BC. There was quick follow-up by the destroyer HMCS Cayuga, then ships from Victoria, and various vessels and planes from RCAF Base Pat Bay. All of them sped northward along Vancouver Island.

Soon, they were joined by an armada of two dozen American ships and 70 aircraft that converged in a large-scale effort to locate the missing aircrew. Because their exact whereabouts were unknown, the search covered an area about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long, stretching along the coast of British Columbia.

Weather had turned nasty, with low temperatures, high waves, driving rain, and thick fog that made poor visibility. As there was scant chance of the downed flyers surviving long in the freezing-cold Pacific, search efforts concentrated first on the ocean waters.

The crash caused great interest in the city of Victoria, where people followed the details and anxiously waited for any news of survivors. But hope faded after 48 hours, when no trace of the airmen could be found at sea despite the massive search efforts. Teams of U.S. and Canadian service personnel, together with local On land, First Nations people, turned to scouring the wooded ravines of islands in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Then glad news came with a radio call from Vince King, captain of the B.C. fishing-boat Port Perry, who said he was bringing in nine survivors of the B-36 crew. Soon afterwards, HMCS Cayuga announced the rescue of another two USAF men from Price Island. Eventually, 12 of the missing airmen were rescued from various locations on rugged Princess Royal Island.

Sad to say, the first five men to evacuate the aircraft were never seen again after they parachuted into the darkness. Apparently, they drowned in the cold Pacific waters. Three others who fell into the sea were able to inflate their small life-rafts and survive long enough to be found by searchers. Most of the rest had been fortunate enough to fall on land, although they were widely separated from each other, lost in the densely-wooded rough terrain of the sparsely inhabited islands.

A few airmen were critically injured when they hit the ground, particularly Sgt. Trippoldi. His parachute snagged in a tree, injuring his shoulder and leaving him hanging upside-down by an ankle for 12 hours before being found by two of his crew-mates. Other airmen suffered broken bones or frostbite, but all were safely hospitalized or returned to their thankful families within hours.

American officials were fulsome in their gratitude to the Canadian rescuers, but they made it clear that the accident was classified as top secret. For months after, USAF insisted on carrying out its own search for the missing aircraft – and any of its atomic weaponry that might be recovered. However, no trace of the wreck could be found, and location efforts were finally abandoned.

The mystery of the missing bomber was finally solved three years later. In June, 1953, people searching for a downed Canadian civilian aircraft instead came across the B-36’s remains strewn along a high ridge on Kaloget Mountain beside Kispiok Valley, 360 metres from where its crew bailed out. The investigators retrieved a few bits of radar equipment, the used explosives to demolish the airframe fragments.

Today, the resting-place of the first plane to lose an American atomic bomb is designated a “heritage wreck-site” protected forever by the B.C. Archeology Branch.