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Saturday, May 18, 2013

This week I wanted to spotlight authors who have served in the armed forces. I thoroughly enjoyed their stories.

SAT &BAF! Tales of a Tower Rat
Since I read both of his books, we start with Doug Depew. He was in the army during the turbulent 80’s. His job: security at a Pershing Site. For those of you in Germany, it is a great tale with no fluff or imaginary stories. According to Doug , the town the site was stationed at was very excited to here he’d written a memoir for not just his comrades, but also of the wonderful people he met during his stay.

Recall: Return of the IRR
His second work takes on a whole different flavor. After serving his tour, he hoped he wouldn’t have to go back. Not the case. The papers he signed with Uncle Sam stated, “if we need you again, we’ll come a calling.” And that is what they did. Imagine starting a career, ready to join the world of commerce and then get a call that all of your plans have changed. Needless to say, he wasn’t really excited about not being able to finish his training in the recording business, getting in shape and having to go through all the fun of boot camp again. Despite his life being put on hold and severely disrupted, in the end, the path he ventured on turned out to be a godsend. We never know what doors will open until we walk through them.

Bringing the Thunder
Our second author is Mr. Gordon Bennett Robertson Jr. He recounts his days of training and flying the largest bomber of his day: The B-29 Superfort. This is a nonsensical story of all thirty-five missions he flew. Some are exciting while others are not. That is the beauty of the story. Just the facts. I can not imagine being in a bomber for sixteen hours at a stretch.

Blood on Red Dirt
Do you have an interest in Vietnam memoirs? If so, Gary Cowarts’s recollections of those difficult days in the war that should have never happened is a compelling recount of his adventures. Unlike Mr. Mason’s “Chicken Hawk,” this is an upfront personal account. Mr. Cowart is inducted and assigned to an artillery battery. He finds the work exciting and challenging. He respects the grunts on the frontline, but has no problem with his position in the rear. If he can make their lives easier by wiping out the enemy with 105’s , life is good. But fate has a funny way of throwing him into the front lines on a clean-up mission with dire consequences. An excellent story!

Siegfried Knappe is our guest author this week. He provides the insight of a German soldier thrown into the depths of mother Russia as a tank driver. He holds nothing back in describing the failed attack at Sevastapol and the fear of being overrun by Rokossovky’s T-34’s during Operation Uranus. Excellent insight from a soldier called to perform his duty. 

After reading the above works, one will appreciate that no matter what army you served with, there is a common thread between men who serve. They weren’t mired down in politics or the ideals of the country they fought for, they were concerned with the men standing to their left or right: their comrades in arms.

One final note, a good friend of mine lost a close family member. Wallace Russell passed on 5-13-2013. While I didn’t know him long, his take on the war and life will leave a lasting impression. The following is my tribute to him and the millions of men who fought in WWII.


Her steel decks glistened,
In the Virginia sunlight.
The call to arms,
Was a distant sound.
She patrolled the Atlantic,
Dodging U-boats and planes.
She moved through the canal,
Scraping paint and steel.
The mighty Pacific would be her home.
December 7, she rested no more.
Wally answered the call,
Like many of his day.

They boarded the decks,
Prepared to fight the Japs.

The captain said, “American Samoa.”
American what? Where? When?
“And then the Gilberts and Marshalls.”
Gilbert—Sullivan? Glenn—Miller?
“Guys, sounds like a grand time.”

The claxon sounds disrupting the boredom,
“Man battle stations,
Enemy aircraft approaching.”
We ask no questions,
we answer the call.
“All hands to battle stations,
This is not a drill!”

The smoke cleared,
The danger passed.
We breathe a sigh of relief.
Back to Pearl for replenishment.

“Men, next stop Coral Sea.”
Coral what? Where? Why?
“All hands to battle stations.”
She dances on the calm sea,
Avoiding the white tails of death.

We fire fast and furious.
One by one the planes fall.
“Be careful of the boys flying CAP!”
We aim straighter and tighter,
Splash one, splash two, splash…
Thunder and smoke drown our voices.
“Damage control to lower decks!”

Sixty-six dead,
Scores wounded.
A dreadful baptism of fire.
The day was ours,
But the cost?

Back to Pearl,
Replacements, supplies, repairs,
And a needed leave.

“All hands back on board.
Midway is in peril.”
We know the score,
We know the cost,
We know we must fight!

The air fills of tension,
They’re coming, we’re ready.
Despite our efforts,
The battle is shifting,
Scratch three Jap flattops.

The victory is short lived.
She takes one in the stack.
The smell, the carnage of,
diesel, flesh and death.

Boilers down,
Flight deck smashed.
Fragments of comrades stuck on bulkheads,
Planes smoldering, ammunition exploding.
Chaos should reign,
But calm and resolve fill us.
“We will go down fighting!”

The end is near. The day is won,
But the loss is high.
She was my home,
She was my piece of the war,
 As the sun fades, the mighty lady,
succumbs to the sea.
I salute her, one final time.

Closing my eyes for the final salute,
  I join the minds of my comrades,
   submitting my soul to God.

Wallace Russell.
RIP 5-12-2013
                                                    Jeff Dawson @2013 LDDJ ENTERPRISES PUBLISHING

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