Monday, April 29, 2013

"Doolittle's Raiders"

Although I don't know the exact date this was published, it is timeless.  This piece brought tears to my eyes as I recalled, from my own childhood, those years long ago relegated to the pages of time. I respect the right of everyone to have their own opinions and their own views on life. God knows we all deal with them in very different ways. That is a fact that has been with mankind since time memoriam. Nothing has changed, but the way we address that side of our lives has. People of their generation had a different perspective on virtues such as honesty, honor, valor, courage and basic human decency than we do. Frankly, I believe those who have gone before us had a better view of what was important in life. This article reflects the content of their souls and the style they used to demonstrate them. They were just made of better stuff.

Cowboy Bob
April 29, 2013


Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25
books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and
the Man Who Won the War"; and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North
Platte Canteen."


On Tuesday, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders
will gather publicly for the last time.

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the
United States. There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried
out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military operations in
this nation's history. The mere mention of their unit's name, in those
years, would bring tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.

Now only four survive.

After Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United States reeling
and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort around.
Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the
United States to launch a retaliation, a daring plan was devised. Sixteen
B-25s were modified so that they could take off from the deck of an aircraft
carrier. This had never before been tried -- sending such big, heavy bombers
from a carrier.

The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who
himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be
able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to
make it to China for a safe landing.

But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan.
The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out
in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted on. They were told that because
of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety.

And those men went anyway.

They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes
crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died. Eight
more were captured; three were executed. Another died of starvation in a
Japanese prison camp. One crew made it to Russia.

The Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its enemies, and
to the rest of the world:

We will fight.  And, no matter what it takes, we will win.

Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as national
heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture
based on the raid; "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," starring Spencer Tracy and
Van Johnson, was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase
became part of the national lexicon. In the movie-theater previews for the
film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story "with supreme pride."

Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to
commemorate the mission. The reunion is in a different city each year. In
1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude,
presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet
was engraved with the name of a Raider.

Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is transported to
the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet is turned
upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends bear solemn

Also in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac.
The year is not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy Doolittle was born.

There has always been a plan: When there are only two surviving Raiders,
they would open the bottle, at last drink from it, and toast their comrades
who preceded them in death.

As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February, Tom
Griffin passed away at age 96. 

The name may be familiar to those of you who regularly read this column; in
2011, I wrote about the role Mr. Griffin played at his son's wedding.

What a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese
forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill with malaria, and almost died.
When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions. He was
shot down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts ... there was a passage in the
Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that, on the surface, had
nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of
duty and devotion:

"When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited
her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife
and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and
ironed her clothes. Then he walked them up to her room the next morning. He
did that for three years until her death in 2005."

So now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: Dick Cole
(Doolittle's co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and
David Thatcher. All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too
few of them for the public reunions to continue.

The events in Fort Walton Beach this week will mark the end. It has come
full circle; Florida's nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in
secrecy for the Tokyo mission.

The town is planning to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day
celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save the country
have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don't
talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find yourself
near Fort Walton Beach this week, and if you should encounter any of the
Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from
firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are remembered.

The men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait
until a later date -- some time this year -- to get together once more,
informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle
of brandy. The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to
wait until there are only two of them.

They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.

And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.

I am definitely going to become acquainted with Bob Greene’s books.  I just might go back in time, as well, and revisit “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Here's one for "Doolittle's Raiders."

-- Cowboy Bob

Sunday, April 14, 2013


April 14, 2013

I think many of us have a stash of treasures from various stages in our life, and which we resurrect, from time to time, only to discover that there are gems among them that we have totally forgotten, but which contain profound lessons that have changed the course of our lives. 

Today, I was going through my treasure trove of wisdom I have saved over a great many years.  Following is one of the most profound and moving of my entire lifetime, given to me at a time when I had a pretty good opinion of my abilities.  When it was given to me I was taken aback but, upon  reflection, it was and has remained one of the most profound and valued lessons anyone ever cared enough to share with me.  I would be remiss if I did not pass it on to my readers.


Sometime, when you’re feeling important,
Sometime, when your ego’s in bloom,
Sometime, when you take it for granted,
You’re the best qualified in the room,

Sometime, when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow this simple instruction,
And see how it humbles your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You may splash all you please when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you’ll find in a minute,
That it looks quite the same as before.

The moral in this quaint example,
Is do just the best you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There is no indispensable man.

--- Anonymous

Given to me by Petty Officer First Class, “Shady” Lane
U.S. Submarine Base #128
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
- 1956

A treasured reminder of the value of personal humility in life, and
A cardinal lesson I hope I have never forgotten.
- April 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

“For Whom Does The Bell Toll?”

I vividly recall when Barack Obama gave the Keynote Speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I, like so many, was totally mesmerized by the oratorical ability of this young, charismatic black man. I, too, saw him as the brightest star on the horizon of the Democratic Party for President. I did not hold a shred of doubt that he was destined to become one of the greatest presidents the United States had seen in a very long time.

Then came the declaration of his candidacy and the ensuing campaign leading up to the Democratic National Convention of 2008. His exposure and composure were pause for concern. His appearance in Berlin brought a chill down my spine. I began to ask myself “who is this man and from where did he come?” The ghosts of Nuremberg came to mind. Was Obama more than we had imagined? Who engineered his dramatic rise to political prominence? What was his real mission to be and for whom? Was there more to be feared than celebrated?

When Barack Obama’s election was history and he greeted the massive crowds of adoring admirers in Grant Park in Chicago, the sheer magnitude of the crowd and the adulation gave me pause, once again, for concern as to who this man really was, what was his real mission and, again, for whom?

The staging for his inauguration was hardly dismantled when it became apparent that William Jefferson Clinton was to play a significant role as one of the key players in Barack Obama’s Administration. This was the same Bill Clinton that had conspired with Phil Gramm and a host of Wall Street cronies in the dismantling of Glass-Stiegel and the total deregulation of the financial structure of this country. Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers were just the beginning of a cadre of those to whom our economic future would be entrusted. The spoils were there for the asking, and no time was wasted in making it available to all of the lean and hungry barons of Wall Street who had coveted that economic feast, about to be set before them, for a very long time. They were quickly brought into the fold and occupied every significant position in the new administration. The battle plan was clearly evident to anyone who had a modicum of curiosity, interest and concern about what was in the offing. What was ours was soon to become theirs. The very foundation of our economic system was beginning to crumble. The vision and the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the good men who followed were beginning to fade. The common man was to become the fuel for their engines of avarice.

Those who had been perceived as the complete antithesis of the Middle Class and the working people of the United States where given carte blanche to every influential position in the Obama Administration. Scions of big business, big money, power and influence became an army of “advisors” to the new President. It was becoming patently clear that any semblance of what had been the Democratic Party had been marginalized, and the powerful and influential comprising the oligarchic and plutocratic elite were in the drivers’ seats. The noose was tightening around the necks of all the “true believers” that better days would follow in the footsteps of the new administration. Not to be.

Wise words once echoed by a very astute person to the effect that “You are known by the company you keep,” were given new meaning.

I regard Bill Clinton one of the most compromised and morally bankrupt individuals to have ever sat in the White House. Once his tarnished image was cleansed, he wasted no time in divesting himself of his relationship with all those who helped to burnish his character, he became the great hero of the Democratic Party, and he cast his lot with those who were to become the power house operating in the shadows of the Obama Administration.

The front door of the White House was reserved for every sleazy, corrupt and compromised character wielding wealth, power and influence for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. People of character were no longer welcome. It was to become the renaissance of the huckster, the corporate capitalist, the masters of the financial shell game and a whole host of others who basked in the light of a new emperor reigning over the entire landscape of what was well on its way, and destined to become one of the worst and most corrupt systems of government this country had seen since the days of Calvin Coolidge. The conquest was complete. The spoils were set before them.

Empty rhetoric spewed forth and soon became the means for peddling lies, deception, broken promises, massive secrecy and the abuse of power to the masses who still wanted to believe only the best about the newly crowned Democrats elected or appointed to positions of power.

The wagons were circling and would soon harbor the real power structures of government for those who would benefit most from all the evil they peddled. As much as we might like to think otherwise, it doesn’t take much to conclude that the role of the electorate in the process is nothing more than to elect or re-elect the happy band of thieves to their positions of power, wealth and privilege.

Believe what you will, but none of them does an honest day’s work. They all have part-time jobs, inflated salaries and perquisites that would be the envy of the most privileged of the world, all accorded them by their own actions. Believe what you will, but the phrase, “conflict of interest” in reality means “privilege for the few at the expense of the many.”

We have what I believe to be an Executive Branch that covets the power and privilege of office, operates in secrecy, talks out of both sides of its mouth, and panders to a constituency that could not be further removed from the values of the common man. They could not be any less concerned about the commitments they have made to the electorate. At best, we are a minor annoyance to the real world of politics that we would like to believe is there for all of us, not just for a select few. It may be pretty to think so, but that is as far as it goes.

Where the Executive Branch may be the personification of banditry, it is the Legislative Branch that most personifies the stereotypical ladies of the night. They may profess to be vestal virgins, but it is apparent the pleasures they thrive on couldn’t be further from that reality. Just barely peel away the veneer and there you have it, in all its glory!

Then there is the Judicial Branch. They may look distinguished and foreboding, but they, too, are there to ensure the continued viability of the privileged few they look out for, on and off the golf course. Judicial purity and integrity is the least of their concerns. Citizens United is but one of their most glaring examples of this conclusion.

It was once opined by a wise sage, “People can only do to you what you permit them to do.” That is where we, the people of this country come in. We revel in such a vast state of self-imposed ignorance, the pursuit of affluence and pleasure, and a complete indifference to the plight of the common man, that those who own most of the country have no trouble manipulating them at will. They are secure in the knowledge that they are pliable and will, at the end of the day, do what wealth deigns to be best for them and the most lucrative for their masters.

So long as we attach importance to living in more house than we can comfortably occupy, drive cars that we can ill afford, live on credit we cannot pay and covet the material and hedonistic pleasures that only serve to denigrate and destroy us, we are there for the asking. We will have decayed from within, and those who salivate at our demise know it. They know that we will not take our eyes off Facebook, Twitter, and all the other aspects of the contrived “fun” we see as our inherent right, long enough to question what they are really doing to us.

Sad to say, but I honestly believe that, so long as we are getting what we want, we really don’t give a damn about all those who are living on the edge. As long as we don’t have to look at people who live in abject poverty, who don’t have enough to feed their children and who stand in line for jobs that cannot support the needs of the average person, it is really not my problem. The folly of that mind set is, “what you most fear today may well become your reality of tomorrow.” It has happened before in history and there is no reason to believe it won’t happen again.

When despair morphs into desperation that is when people start asking themselves who and what has brought them to this state of life? That is when people start weighing the alternatives they have at their disposal and assessing the relative efficacy of the means vs. the ends. That is when we start to reach critical mass in our evolution. That is when the kind of change none of us want to see becomes the reality of the day. History has and will repeat itself.

If there is any dictum in the world I believe to be true, it is that “Greed is an insatiable appetite. Those who feed on it never get enough. But, they do so at their own peril.”

Equality is the most basic of human rights. We of these United States had it once in our history and we shall, by the hand of Providence, surely have it once again.

However, if we don’t open our eyes to the urgency of the reality staring us in the face, the wrath of the universe may well become the death knell for us all. No matter how much that may be denied by those who cannot divest themselves of all they covet, it is our common lot. Are we going to sit passively on the sidelines and just let it happen because we did not insist on being key players of our own destiny in this ominous scenario?

Do we have any alternative? I think not.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
April 10, 2013