15 April 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Hawaii

Marine Corps Base Hawaii is located near Kāneʻohe and Kailua, on the windward side of Oʻahu. In 1941 it was Naval Air Station Kaneohe; Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John Finn was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions there during the Japanese attack.

Picture taken 17 May 87.

08 April 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Crete

Khania (or Chania), on the north shore near the western end of Crete, is the second-largest city on the island.  It was ruled by Venice from 1252 to 1645 (less a couple of decades in the 16th century when it was under Genovese control), and there are several Venetian buildings still standing.  The lighthouse was built by the Venetians at the end of the 16th century, and took its final form in the 1830s.

Picture taken 28 Jun 03.

01 April 2014

Book list - Jan-Mar 14

Figure Away - mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Old Bones - mystery, by Aaron Elkins *
Spring Harrowing - mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor *
The Danish Scheme - AH, by Herb Sakalaucks
Make No Bones - mystery, by Aaron Elkins *
The Crimson Patch - mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
1636: Seas of Fortune - AH (short stories), by Iver Cooper
Icy Clutches - mystery, by Aaron Elkins *
The Old Powder Line - children's time travel, by Richard Parker
Locomotive - children's railroading, by Brian Floca (Caldecott Medal, 2014)
Curses! - mystery, by Aaron Elkins *
New Amsterdam - AH/fantasy, by Elizabeth Bear
Twenty Blue Devils - mystery, by Aaron Elkins
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - children's, by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Medal, 2014)
The White City - AH/fantasy, by Elizabeth Bear
Night of the Living Deed - mystery, by E J Copperman
The Martian - SF, by Andy Weir (ARC)

Only 17 books this time round, five of them rereads (marked by asterisks). And I'm still at 58 of 74 on the Carnegie Medal winners - really ought to get back to them.

The Martian was one of the ARCs my wife and her mother brought back from the ALA midwinter convention in Philadelphia. Outstanding book - highly recommended.

Travelin' Tuesday: St Croix

The US Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1916, with the formal transfer taking place the following year. Christiansted National Historic Site, located in Christiansted, on the north shore of St Croix, includes several 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including Fort Christiansvaern, built in the 1740s. The fort was named after Christian VI, king of Denmark and Norway from 1730 to 1746.

Picture taken 4 Dec 84.

25 March 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Philippines

Jeepneys are a popular form of public transportation in the Philippines.  This lot are in Olongapo, near Subic Bay; ornate as the one closest to the camera appears, it's actually quite sedate compared to some that I saw.  In Olongapo, at least, they were colour-coded according to the route they followed.  (You can see a red one in the background, next to the third yellow one; there were also blue ones.)

Picture taken 10 Jul 88.

19 March 2014

Medals of Honor awarded

As announced last month, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor yesterday to three Vietnam veterans, as well as to the families of 21 other soldiers who served in Vietnam, Korea or World War II. NPR has the complete list, with links to bios and citations, here. The names, units, and dates of heroism are:
Pvt Pedro Cano - Co C, 8th Inf Regt, 4th Inf Div - 2 Dec 44
Pvt Joe Gandara - Co D, 2nd Bn, 507th Para Inf Regt, 82nd Abn Div - 9 Jun 44
S/Sgt Salvador J Lara - Co L, 180th Inf Regt - 27-28 May 44
Pfc William F Leonard - Co C, 30th Inf Regt - 7 Nov 44
S/Sgt Manuel V Mendoza - Co B, 250th Inf Regt, 88th Inf Div - 4 Oct 44
Sgt Alfred B Nietzel - Co H, 2nd Bn, 16th Inf Regt, 1st Inf Div - 18 Nov 44
1st Lt Donald K Schwab - Co E, 15th Inf Regt - 17 Sep 44

Cpl Joe R Baldonado - Co B, 187th Abn Inf Regt - 25 Nov 50
Cpl Victor H Espinoza - Co A, 1st Bn, 23rd Inf Regt, 2nd Inf Div - 1 Aug 52
Sgt Eduardo C Gomez - Co I, 8th Cav Reg, 1st Cav Div - 3 Sep 50
Pfc Leonard M Kravitz - Co M, 3d Bn, 5th RCT, 24th Inf Div - 6-7 Mar 51
Sgt. Juan E. Negron - 65th Inf Regt - 28 Apr 51
M/Sgt Mike C Pena - Co F, 2nd Bn, 5th Cav Regt (Inf), 1st Cav Div - 4 Sep 50
Pfc Demensio Rivera - Co G, 2nd Bn, 7th Inf Regt, 3rd Inf Div - 22-23 May 51
Pvt Miguel A Vera - Co F, 2nd Bn, 38th Inf Regt, 2nd Inf Div - 21 Sep 52
Sgt Jack Weinstein - Co G, 21st Inf Regt, 24th Inf Div - 19 Oct 51

SP4 Leonard L Alvarado - 1st Cav Div - 12 Aug 69
SSG Felix M Conde-Falcon - Co D, 1st Bn, 505th Inf Regt, 82nd Abn Div - 4 Apr 69
SP4 Ardie R. Copas - 25th Inf Div - 12 May 70
SP4 Jesus S Duran - 1st Cav Div - 10 Apr 69
SP4 Santiago J Erevia - Co C, 1st Bn (AM), 501st Inf Regt, 101st Abn Div (AM) - 21 May 69
SGT Candelario Garcia - Co B, 1st Bn, 2nd Inf Regt, 1st Inf Div - 8 Dec 68
SSG Melvin Morris - Det A-403, Co D, 5th SF Group (Abn) - 17 Sep 69
SFC Jose Rodela - Det B-36, Co A, 5th SF Group (Abn) - 1 Sep 69
The addition of Erevia, Garcia and Rodela brings the number of living Medal of Honor recipients back up to 77.

18 March 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Italy

Capo d'Orso, in northern Sardinia near La Maddalena, gets its name from a rock formation that looks like a giant bear.  It was used as a landmark by ancient sailors, and was mentioned as such by the 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy. A popular tourist destination, la Roccia dell’Orso (Bear Rock) can be reached by heading east down the road from Palau* - not a long walk - and then climbing a path up the hillside.

Picture taken 18 May 03.

* Not to be confused with Palau.

17 March 2014

RIP: Ola Mize

ZUI this article from the Washington Post:
Ola “Lee” Mize received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for valor, for his heroism in the battle in which he defended a strategically important hill and saved the lives of numerous comrades — and in which his superiors thought he had lost his own. He later served three tours of duty in Vietnam and retired as a colonel.

He died March 5 at his home in Gadsden, Ala. He was 82. The cause was cancer, said Rick Vaughan, a family spokesman.

The son of an Alabama sharecropper, Col. Mize left high school and joined the Army to support his family. He was nearing the end of his enlistment when the Korean War began, according to several accounts, and he reupped so that he would not miss the opportunity to serve in combat.


Ola Lee Mize was born Aug. 28, 1931, in Albertville, Ala. He was a butcher before joining the Army and was initially turned down by military recruiters because he weighed only 120 pounds.

After his tour in Korea, Col. Mize served in the Army Special Forces, or Green Berets, including as a camp commander in Vietnam. He helped train local populations to oppose the Viet Cong, according to a biographical sketch in the book “America’s Heroes,”and later was director of the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Col. Mize retired in 1981 but remained involved in military affairs for several decades as a motivational speaker, trainer and consultant, his family’s spokesman said.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Betty Jackson Mize of Gadsden; their daughter, Teresa Peterson of Rainbow City, Ala.; a half-brother; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His daughter Donna Feazell died in 2001.
Mize's death brings the number of surviving Medal of Honor recipients to 74, nine of whom were awarded the medal for heroism in Korea.

************* *** *************


Sergeant, US Army; Company K, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division

Born: 28 August 1931, Marshall County, Alabama
Died: 12 March 2014, Gadsden, Alabama

Citation: M/Sgt. Mize, a member of Company K, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company K was committed to the defense of "Outpost Harry", a strategically valuable position [near Surang-ni, Korea], when the enemy launched a heavy attack [during the night of 10-11 June 1953]. Learning that a comrade on a friendly listening post had been wounded he moved through the intense barrage, accompanied by a medical aid man, and rescued the wounded soldier. On returning to the main position he established an effective defense system and inflicted heavy casualties against attacks from determined enemy assault forces which had penetrated into trenches within the outpost area. During his fearless actions he was blown down by artillery and grenade blasts 3 times but each time he dauntlessly returned to his position, tenaciously fighting and successfully repelling hostile attacks. When enemy onslaughts ceased he took his few men and moved from bunker to bunker, firing through apertures and throwing grenades at the foe, neutralizing their positions. When an enemy soldier stepped out behind a comrade, prepared to fire, M/Sgt. Mize killed him, saving the life of his fellow soldier. After rejoining the platoon, moving from man to man, distributing ammunition, and shouting words of encouragement he observed a friendly machine gun position overrun. He immediately fought his way to the position, killing 10 of the enemy and dispersing the remainder. Fighting back to the command post, and finding several friendly wounded there, he took a position to protect them. Later, securing a radio, he directed friendly artillery fire upon the attacking enemy's routes of approach. At dawn he helped regroup for a counterattack which successfully drove the enemy from the outpost. M/Sgt. Mize's valorous conduct and unflinching courage reflect lasting glory upon himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

11 March 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Norway

Austråttborgen (Austrått Manor) is located some 30 miles to the northwest of Trondheim, overlooking Trondheimsfjord. The manor as laid out today was completed around 1656; it burned in November of 1916, but restoration was completed in 1961. Since 1919 it has been property of the state, and it is open for tours during the summer.

Picture taken Mar 1992.

04 March 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Japan

The Great Buddha of Kamakura, on the grounds of Kōtoku-in, was probably completed in 1252 - that is, a statue of the Buddha was completed there, then, but it's unclear if the extant statue is the same one. Made of bronze, it is almost 44 feet high and weighs over 133 tons. To me, the startling bit was that it is hollow, and even has windows....

Pictures taken 8 Dec 86.

25 February 2014

Medal of Honor to be awarded to 24

ZUI this article from the Washington Post:
President Obama will correct a historical act of discrimination next month when he awards the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest commendation for combat valor, to a group of Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans who were passed over because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.

The unusual presentation will culminate a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks and will hold a particular poignancy when conducted by the nation’s first African-American president.


With the ornate White House East Room as backdrop, the March 18 ceremony will mark another step to revisit a history of discrimination in the armed forces as the nation’s demographics and social values shift rapidly.

The recipients, whom the White House announced Friday afternoon, served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.


Just three of the 24 veterans who will be honored are still alive. All but five of the soldiers are Hispanic, Jewish or African American[.]


Officials from each service branch focused on service members who had been awarded the second-highest medal for gallantry: the Distinguished Service Cross for the Army, the Air Force Cross for that branch, and the Navy Cross for the Navy and Marine Corps.
All 24 recipients served in the Army - seven in World War II (all in the European theatre of operations), nine in Korea, and eight (including the three still living) in Vietnam.

Travelin' Tuesday: Spain

Cartagena (2011 population 218,210) is a city in Murcia, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. "Cartagena" derives from Carthago Nova (New Carthage), its Roman name; the city was founded around 227 BCE by Hasdrubal the Fair, brother-in-law of the great Carthaginian general Hannibal. The city is now the site of an important Spanish navy base. The Gran Hotel, shown here, was built 1907-17; only the facade remains of the original hotel, alas, as the interior was demolished to make an office building.

Picture taken 2 Jun 01.

21 February 2014

RIP: Walter Ehlers

ZUI this post from the Orange County (CA) Register:
Walt Ehlers, who received the Medal of Honor for bravery during the D-Day invasion of Nazi-held France during World War II, died Thursday morning. He was 92.


Ehlers and his older brother, Roland, were Kansas farm boys who joined the Army together during the Depression to help their family. After three years in the peacetime Army, the brothers found themselves headed to Europe after the United States entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The pair fought side-by-side across North Africa and Sicily. Once, in Italy, Walt had to dig Roland out from under a pile of dirt and rocks after an artillery shell exploded near them.
Accorfing to this article from NBC News:
Ehlers also earned three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star during his service with the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Infantry Division.

After the war, Ehlers became an advocate for military veteran benefits and proudly worked as a security guard for Disneyland when it opened in California.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Ehlers; three children; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
There are now 75 surviving Medal of Honor recipients, seven of whom were awarded the medal for heroism in World War II.

************* *** *************


Staff Sergeant, US Army; 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division

Born: 7 May 1921, Junction City, Kansas
Died: 20 February 2014, California

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 9-10 June 1944, near Goville, France. S/Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, S/Sgt. Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally killing 4 of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route. Then crawling forward under withering machinegun fire, he pounced upon the guncrew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2 mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machineguns, S/Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing 3 men himself. After mopping up the mortar positions, he again advanced on a machinegun, his progress effectively covered by his squad. When he was almost on top of the gun he leaped to his feet and, although greatly outnumbered, he knocked out the position single-handed. The next day, having advanced deep into enemy territory, the platoon of which S/Sgt. Ehlers was a member, finding itself in an untenable position as the enemy brought increased mortar, machinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to withdraw. S/Sgt. Ehlers, after his squad had covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, stood up and by continuous fire at the semicircle of enemy placements, diverted the bulk of the heavy hostile fire on himself, thus permitting the members of his own squad to withdraw. At this point, though wounded himself, he carried his wounded automatic rifleman to safety and then returned fearlessly over the shell-swept field to retrieve the automatic rifle which he was unable to carry previously. After having his wound treated, he refused to be evacuated, and returned to lead his squad. The intrepid leadership, indomitable courage, and fearless aggressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve as an inspiration to others.

19 February 2014

Australian VC awarded for Afghanistan

ZUI this article from news.com.au:
THE bravery that earned Australian soldier Cameron Baird a posthumous Victoria Cross was revealed as his parents accepted his award today.

He was the 40th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan, the fourth awarded a VC, and the first to get the award posthumously since Vietnam.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce read an official citation outlining Corporal Baird’s actions as she conferred the award on his parents, Doug and Kaye Baird, during a ceremony at Canberra’s Government House today.
This was the fourth award of the Victoria Cross for Australia, and the 100th award of the VC to an Australian.

The citation for Baird's's VC, along with his official biography, can be found here.

************* *** *************


Corporal, 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando); Special Operations Task Group

Born: 7 June 1981, Burnie, Tasmania, Australia
Died: 22 June 2013, Khod Valley, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan

Citation: For the most conspicuous acts of valour, extreme devotion to duty and ultimate self-sacrifice at Ghawchak village, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan as a Commando Team Commander in Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.
Corporal Cameron Baird enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 2000, was discharged in 2004, and re-enlisted in 2006. In both periods of service, he was assigned to the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). His operational service includes Operations TANAGER, FALCONER, BASTILLE and five tours on Operation SLIPPER. He was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his service in Afghanistan in 2007-08.
On 22 June 2013, a Commando Platoon of the Special Operations Task Group, with partners from the Afghan National Security Forces, conducted a helicopter assault into Ghawchak village, Uruzgan Province, in order to attack an insurgent network deep within enemy-held territory. Shortly after insertion, Corporal Baird’s team was engaged by small arms fire from several enemy positions. Corporal Baird quickly seized the initiative, leading his team to neutralise the positions, killing six enemy combatants and enabling the assault to continue.
Soon afterwards, an adjacent Special Operations Task Group team came under heavy enemy fire, resulting in its commander being seriously wounded. Without hesitation, Corporal Baird led his team to provide support. En route, he and his team were engaged by rifle and machine gun fire from prepared enemy positions. With complete disregard for his own safety, Corporal Baird charged towards the enemy positions, supported by his team. On nearing the positions, he and his team were engaged by additional enemy on their flank. Instinctively, Corporal Baird neutralised the new threat with grenades and rifle fire, enabling his team to close with the prepared position. With the prepared position now isolated, Corporal Baird manoeuvred and was engaged by enemy machine gun fire, the bullets striking the ground around him. Displaying great valour, he drew the fire, moved to cover, and suppressed the enemy machine gun position. This action enabled his team to close on the entrance to the prepared position, thus regaining the initiative.
On three separate occasions Corporal Baird charged an enemy-held building within the prepared compound. On the first occasion he charged the door to the building, followed by another team member. Despite being totally exposed and immediately engaged by enemy fire, Corporal Baird pushed forward while firing into the building. Now in the closest proximity to the enemy, he was forced to withdraw when his rifle ceased to function. On rectifying his rifle stoppage, and reallocating remaining ammunition within his team, Corporal Baird again advanced towards the door of the building, once more under heavy fire. He engaged the enemy through the door but was unable to suppress the position and took cover to reload. For a third time, Corporal Baird selflessly drew enemy fire away from his team and assaulted the doorway. Enemy fire was seen to strike the ground and compound walls around Corporal Baird, before visibility was obscured by dust and smoke. In this third attempt, the enemy was neutralised and the advantage was regained, but Corporal Baird was killed in the effort.
Corporal Baird’s acts of valour and self-sacrifice regained the initiative and preserved the lives of his team members. His actions were of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.