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Interesting facts about Railroad Tracks & space shuttle

Railroad Tracks

The U.S. Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the U.S. Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tram ways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So, who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Therefore, the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

In other words, bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or process, and wonder, 'What horse's ass came up with this?', you may be exactly right.

Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.

Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.

These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit larger, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.

The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important!

Now you know, Horses' Asses control almost everything.

Explains a whole lot of stuff, doesn't it??!!


Leslie Townes "Bob" Hope
May 29, 1903 - July 27, 2003

On his deathbed they asked him where he wanted to be buried. Bob Hope replied: "Surprise me."

BOB HOPE IN HEAVEN

For those of you too young to remember Bob Hope, ask your grandparents and thanks for the memories.

I HOPE THIS WILL PUT A SMILE ON YOUR FACE AND IN YOUR HEART.

This is a tribute to a man who DID make a difference

ON TURNING 70 - "I still chase women, but only downhill."

ON TURNING 80 - "That's the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs pressing."

ON TURNING 90 - "You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake."

ON TURNING 100 - " I don't feel old. In fact, I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap."

ON GIVING UP HIS EARLY CAREER (BOXING) - "I ruined my hands in the ring. The referee kept stepping on them."

ON GOLF - "Golf is my profession. Show business is just to pay the green fees."

ON PRESIDENTS - "I have performed for 12 presidents but entertained only six."

ON WHY HE CHOOSE SHOWBIZ FOR HIS CAREER - "When I was born, the doctor said to my mother, congratulations, you have an eight-pound ham."

ON RECEIVING THE CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL - "I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it."

ON HIS FAMILY'S EARLY POVERTY - "Four of us slept in the one bed. When it got cold, mother threw on another brother."

ON HIS SIX BROTHERS - "That's how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom."

ON HIS EARLY FAILURES - "I would not have had anything to eat if it wasn't for the stuff the audience threw at me."

ON GOING TO HEAVEN - "I have done benefits for ALL religions. I would hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality."

Dear Lord -
Please give me a sense of humor,
give me the grace to see a joke,
to get some humor out of life,
and pass it on to other folk.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, keep one hand on your wallet and don't worry about tomorrow.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God

Interesting Facts

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one-gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1

3. Why are his gloves wet?

His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?

He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed?

Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30." Other requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

Follow this link for more information https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier


Why Mr. Rogers Wears a Sweater

Captain Kangaroo passed away on January 23, 2004 at age 76, which is odd, because he always looked to be 76. (DOB: 6/27/27)

His death reminded me of the following story.

Some people have been a bit offended that the actor, Lee Marvin, is buried in a grave alongside 3 and 4-star generals at Arlington National Cemetery. His marker gives his name, rank (PVT) and service (USMC). Nothing else.

Here's a guy who was only a famous movie star who served his time, why the heck does he rate burial with these guys? Well, following is the amazing answer:

I always liked Lee Marvin but didn't know the extent of his Marine Corps experiences.

In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces often in rear echelon posts where they were carefully protected, only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions, Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima.

There is only one higher Naval award... the Medal of Honor!

If that is a surprising comment on the true character of the man, he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery.

Dialog from "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson": His guest was Lee Marvin...

Johnny said, "Lee, I'll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded."

"Yeah, yeah... I got shot square in the bottom and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi. Bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys getting shot hauling you down. But, Johnny, at Iwo Jima, I served under the bravest man I ever knew... We both got the Cross the same day, but what he did for his Cross made mine look cheap in comparison.

That dumb guy actually stood up on Red beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the beach.

Bullets flying by, with mortar rounds landing everywhere and he stood there as the main target of gunfire so that he could get his men to safety. He did this on more than one occasion because his men's safety was more important than his own life.

That Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends. When they brought me off Suribachi we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me, lying on my belly on the litter and said, "Where'd they get you Lee?" "Well Bob.... if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse!"

Johnny, I'm not lying, Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew. The Sergeant's name is Bob Keeshan. You and the world know him as Captain Kangaroo."

On another note, there was this wimpy little man on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth.

But Mr. Rogers was a U.S. Navy Seal, combat-proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long-sleeved sweater on TV to cover the many tattoos on his forearm and biceps. He was a master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat.

After the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and therefore, a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human, he also dedicated the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on the right path in life. He hid away the tattoos and his past life and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm.

America's real heroes don't flaunt what they did. They quietly go about their day-to-day lives, doing what they do best. They earned our respect and the freedoms that we all enjoy. Look around and see if you can find one of those heroes in your midst. Often, they are the ones you'd least suspect, but would most like to have on your side if anything ever happened.

Take the time to thank anyone that has fought for our freedom. With encouragement, they could be the next Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers.


LAUS DEO

One detail that is seldom mentioned is that in Washington, D.C. there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument.

On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C, are displayed two words:  Laus Deo.

No one can see these words.

In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there.

These words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia, capital of the United States of America.

Laus Deo!  Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words.

Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.

So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean?

Very simply, they say 'Praise be to God!'

Though construction of this giant obelisk began in1848, when James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public.

It took twenty-five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, Laus Deo, 'Praise be to God!'

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments.

From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles L'Enfant ..... a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north, The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

A cross you ask?  Why a cross?

What about separation of church and state?

Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was NOT, is NOT, in the Constitution.

How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who bother to notice.

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society.  Praise be to God!  Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy 'One Nation, Under God.'

I am awed by George Washington's prayer for America .... Have you ever read it?  Well, now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

"Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.

And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love MERCY, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen."

Laus Deo!

A-10 Thunderbolt, aka, the Wart Hog

First there was this gun...

It was developed by General Electric, the "We bring good things to life" people.

It's one of the modern-day Gatling guns.

It shoots very big bullets...

It shoots them very quickly...

Someone said, "Let's put it in an airplane."

Someone else said, "Better still, let's build an airplane around it."

So they did. And "they" were the Fairchild Republic airplane people.

And they had done such a good job with an airplane they developed back in WWII .....called the P-47 Thunderbolt!

They decided to call it the A10 Thunderbolt.

They made it so it was very good at flying low and slow and shooting things with that fabulous gun.

But since it did fly low and slow, they made it bulletproof, or almost so.

A lot of bad guys have found you can shoot an A10 with anything from a pistol to a 23mm Soviet cannon and it just keeps on flying and shooting.

When they got through, it looked like this.

 

It's not sleek and sexy like an F18 or the stealthy Raptors and such, but I think it's such a great airplane because it does what it does better than any other plane in the world.

It kills tanks.

Not only tanks, as Sadam Hussein's boys found out to their horror, but armored personnel carriers, radar stations, locomotives, bunkers, fuel depots... just about anything the bad guys thought was bulletproof turned out to be easy pickings for this beast.

See those engines. One of them alone will fly this plane.

The pilot sits in a very thick titanium alloy "bathtub."

That's typical of the design.

They were smart enough to make every part the same whether mounted on the left side or right side of the plane, like landing gear, for instance.

Because the engines are mounted so high (away from ground debris) and the landing gear uses such low pressure tires, it can operate from a damaged airport, interstate highway, plowed field, or dirt road.

Everything is redundant.

They have two of almost everything.

Sometimes they have three of something.

Like flight controls, there's triple redundancy of those, and even if there is a total failure of the double hydraulic system, there is a set of manual flying controls.

Capt. Kim Campbell sustained this damage over Bagdad and flew for another hour before returning to base.

But, back to that gun.

It's so hard to grasp just how powerful it is.

This is the closest I could find to showing you just what this cartridge is all about.

What the guy is holding is NOT the 30mm round, but a"little" 50 Browning machine gun round and the 20mm cannon round which has been around for a long time.

The 30mm is MUCH bigger.

Down at the bottom are the .50 BMG and 20x102 Vulcan the fellow was holding.

At the bottom right is the bad boy we're discussing.

Let's get some perspective here: The .223 Rem (M16 rifle round) is fast.

It shoots a 55 or so grain bullet at about 3300 feet/sec, give or take.

It's the fastest of all those rounds shown (except one).

When you move up to the ..30 caliber rounds, the bullets jump up in weight to 160-200 grains. Speeds run from about 2600 to 3000 fps or so.

The .338 Lapua is the king of the sniper rifles these days and shoots a 350 grain bullet at 2800 fps or so.

They kill bad guys at over a mile with that one.

The 50 BMG is really big. I have one on my desk.

Everyone who picks it up thinks it's some sort of fake, unless they know big ammo.

It's really huge with a bullet that weighs 750 grains and goes as fast the Lapua.

I don't have data on the Vulcan, but hang on to your hat.

The bullet for the 30x173 Avenger has an aluminum jacket around a spent uranium core and weighs 6560 grains (yes, over 100 times as heavy as the M16 bullet, and flies through the air at 3500 fps (which is faster than the M16 as well).

The gun shoots at a rate of 4200 rounds per minute, Yes, four thousand.

Pilots typically shoot either one- or two-second burst which set loose 70 to 150 rounds.

The system is optimized for shooting at 4,000 feet.

OK, the best for last.

You've got a pretty good idea of how big that cartridge is, but I'll bet you're like me and you don't fully appreciate how big the GA GAU-8 Avenger really is.

Take a look.

Each of those seven barrels is 112" long.

That's almost ten feet.

The entire gun is 19-1/2 feet long.

Think how impressive it would look set up in your living room.

Oh, by the way, it doesn't eject the empty shells but runs them back into the storage drum. There's just so dang many flying out, they felt it might damage the aircraft.

Oh yeah, I forgot, they can hang those bomb and rocket things on 'em too, just in case.

After all, it is an "airplane"!

Like I said, this is a beautiful design.

I'm glad it's ours.

I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

Tom Kubiak
Colonel, USAF (Retired)


We'll Never Forget

Click on this link to view a Budweiser Commercial that was aired only once


God Bless America

A meaningful and beautiful short video presentation of God Bless America.
You may have to play this a couple of times in order to identify everyone. The video is special because so many of the people in the video are gone now and the younger generation probably won't even appreciate all that talent in one place.

John Wayne 1970 Variety Show Celebrating American History


Private First Class Charles N. DeGlopper

Congressional Medal of Honor Recipiant

A Grand Island, New York native, DeGlopper was the only soldier from the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment to receive the Medal of Honor. He was also the only World War II soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to receive the award for action during the Normandy Campaign. His Citation reads:

He was a member of Company C, 325th Glider Infantry, on 9 June 1944 advancing with the forward platoon to secure a bridgehead across the Merderet River at La Fiere, France. At dawn the platoon had penetrated an outer line of machineguns and riflemen, but in so doing had become cut off from the rest of the company. Vastly superior forces began a decimation of the stricken unit and put in motion a flanking maneuver which would have completely exposed the American platoon in a shallow roadside ditch where it had taken cover. Detecting this danger, Pfc. DeGlopper volunteered to support his comrades by fire from his automatic rifle while they attempted a withdrawal through a break in a hedgerow 40 yards to the rear. Scorning a concentration of enemy automatic weapons and rifle fire, he walked from the ditch onto the road in full view of the Germans, and sprayed the hostile positions with assault fire. He was wounded, but he continued firing. Struck again, he started to fall; and yet his grim determination and valiant fighting spirit could not be broken. Kneeling in the roadway, weakened by his grievous wounds, he leveled his heavy weapon against the enemy and fired burst after burst until killed outright. He was successful in drawing the enemy action away from his fellow soldiers, who continued the fight from a more advantageous position and established the first bridgehead over the Merderet. In the area where he made his intrepid stand his comrades later found the ground strewn with dead Germans and many machineguns and automatic weapons which he had knocked out of action. Pfc. DeGlopper's gallant sacrifice and unflinching heroism while facing unsurmountable odds were in great measure responsible for a highly important tactical victory in the Normandy Campaign.

Go to http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2711/deglopper-charles-n.php and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_N._DeGlopper for additional information.


Old Man and a Bucket of Shrimp

It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier.  Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp.  Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself.  The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now

Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach.  Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts . . . and his bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone.  Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly.  Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds.  As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.'

In a few short minutes the bucket is empty.  But Ed doesn't leave.  He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or, to onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant . . .   maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.

Most of them would probably write Old Ed off . . . That's too bad.  They'd do well to know him better.

His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero in World War I, and then he was in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific.  They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were alive.

Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.

The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle.

They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft . . . suddenly Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull!

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal of it -- a very slight meal for eight men. Then they used the intestines for bait.  With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait. and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after 24 days at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull . . . And he never stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

PS: Eddie Rickenbacker was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he was race car driver. In WWI he was a pilot and became America's first ace. In WWII he was an instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions with the combat pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero. And now you know another story about the trials and sacrifices that brave men have endured for your freedom.

It is a great story that many don't know . . . You've got to be careful with old guys; you just never know what they have done during their lifetime. I met Capt. Eddie in 1964 at Selfridge AFB MI.  We had just built a WWI Spad aircraft and he flew it for us off the grass infield at Selfridge.  He was visiting his old squadron the 94th “Hat in the Ring” squadron based out of Selfridge at that time.  He also flew in the backseat of one of the squadrons F106B. I later asked him what he thought of the difference between the two aircraft, he smiled and said, “a little difference in the speed” the only answer a true fighter pilot would ever give.


God Bless America

Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time, and said that when he and a million other guys first heard her sing "God Bless America" on the radio, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away a tear or two.

Here are the facts; The link at the bottom will take you to a video showing the very first public singing of "God Bless America. " But before you watch it you should know the story behind the first public showing of the song.

The time was 1940 America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we'd have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

This was the era just before TV when radio shows were HUGE and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers and no entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith.

Kate was also large; plus size as we now say and the popular phrase still used today is in deference to her; "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."

Kate Smith might not have made it big in the age of TV but with her voice coming over the radio, she was the biggest star of her time.

Kate was also patriotic. It hurt her to see Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring She had hope for America, and faith in her fellow Americans. She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she went to the famous American song-writer Irving Berlin (who also wrote White Christmas) and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country. When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her. He went to his files and found a song that he had written but never published, 22 years before - in 1917. He gave it to her and she worked on it with her studio orchestra. She and Irving Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from God Bless America. Any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from this song.

This video starts out with Kate Smith coming into the radio studio with the orchestra and an audience. She introduces the new song for the very first time and starts singing. After the first couple verses, with her voice in the background, scenes are shown from the 1940 movie, You're In The Army Now. At the 4:20 mark of the video you see a young actor in the movie, sitting in an office, reading a paper; it's Ronald Reagan. You will recognize other old stars but have forgotten their names. You may remember George Murphy near the end, though.

To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt whether she realized just how successful the results would be for her fellow Americans during those years of hardship and worry... and for many generations of Americans to follow.

Now that you know the story of the song, I hope you'll enjoy it.

Many people don't know there's a lead in to the song since it usually starts with God Bless America ... So, here's the entire song as originally sung. Enjoy it! Click below:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/TnQDW-NMaRs?rel=0


Six Boys and Thirteen Hands

Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth-grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capital, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer, he asked, 'Where are you guys from?'

I told him that we were from Wisconsin. 'Hey, I'm a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.'

(It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, DC, but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.)

When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night.)

'My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin My dad is on that statue, and I wrote a book called 'Flags of Our Fathers'. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me.

'Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called 'War.' But it didn’t turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old - and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it.

(He pointed to the statue) 'You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph...a photograph of his girlfriend Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

'The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the 'old man' because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country' He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.'

'The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero' He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?'

So, you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken).

'The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.' Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

'The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press.

'You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain.

'When I was a little boy, my third-grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.'

'So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.'

Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.

One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is. that if you look at the statue very closely and count the number of 'hands' raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God.


June 1944 Revisited

Directions: 
Just click on each 1944 photo anywhere and it will fade into the same view from 2014. 
Click again and it will go back to 1944.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2014/apr/image-opacity-slider-master/index.html?ww2-dday


Memorial Day History

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. Gen. Logan ordered his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” and urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns. Small flags were placed on the graves.

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. The site was chosen as a ceremony was held on May 5, 1866, to honor local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.


The Story of Taps

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than the call Taps. The 24-note melody is both eloquent and haunting.

The word taps is thought to originate from the Dutch taptoe, meaning "close the (beer) taps (and send the troops back to camp)". An alternative explanation, however, is that it carried over from a term already in use before the American Civil War. Three single, slow drum beats were struck after the sounding of the Tattoo or "Extinguish Lights". This signal was known as the "Drum Taps", "The Taps", or simply as "Taps" in soldier's slang.

The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the "Scott Tattoo", which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860. It was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Virginia. As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights, feeling that the call was too formal to signal the day’s end. One day in July 1862, he recalled the tattoo music and hummed a version of it to an aide, who wrote it down. Butterfield then asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes and, after listening, lengthened and shortened them while keeping his original melody.

He ordered Norton to play this new call at the end of each day thereafter, instead of the regulation call. The new call soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was also used by the Confederates.

Union Captain John Tidball started the custom of playing “Taps” at military funerals soon after Butterfield composed it. Captain Tidball, head of an artillery battery, ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the battery’s position in the woods to the enemy nearby, Tidball substituted “Taps” for the traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave. “Taps” was reportedly played at the funeral of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson 10 months later.

This music was made an official Army bugle call after the war, but not given the name “Taps” until 1874. In 1891 Army infantry regulations required it to be played at military funeral ceremonies.

Taps now is played by the military at burial and memorial services, during each of the military wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to accompany the lowering of the flag and to signal the “lights out” command at day’s end, and often by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to mark the end of an evening event.

Click on the above image to play "Taps"


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