A feel-good story for Veterans Day

This report brought a smile to my face. A 90-year-old World War II veteran, who described being a Marine as the “high point” of his life, has been reunited with his M1 Garand rifle after 73 years. Resident Dick Cowell was 18 and the war was in full swing when he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was handed a uniform, the rifle and some bullets. The firearm, his sergeant told him, was now his girlfriend, his wife and his friend. He had to take it everywhere with him, he was told. And he should never, ever call it a

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“The last hot battle of the Cold War”

That’s how one author referred to the 1987-88 battles between Cuban and South African forces (with support from, respectively, Angolan and UNITA troops).  I was there, and remember it well. Fred Bridgland wrote a book shortly after the fighting, titled ‘The War for Africa:  Twelve Months that Transformed a Continent‘. I bought it as soon as it was published, and enjoyed it very much.  He was accurate in his facts, incisive in his analysis, and brought together many threads (some of which, as in most wars, many of us ‘on the ground’ had been unaware) to produce a cohesive account

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Sobering memories from World War II

Here’s a long talk (1 hour 25 minutes) from a survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in 1942, followed by over three years in Japanese captivity.  It’s a sobering reminder of a period of history about which far too many are ignorant today. There are very few survivors left among us from World War II.  We need to record their memories like this one, so that future generations won’t forget. Peter

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Bullets, balloons and resistance

Here’s a fun excerpt from a TV program showing how water, so much more dense than air, can slow down a bullet. I used to think that the stories of divers attacking harbors, and swimming safely underneath a hail of bullets fired by sentries on shore, were just that – stories.  However, way back when, I saw some South African divers training at Walvis Bay prior to an operation in Angola. Part of the training was to show them that sufficient depth of water (about 3 meters, or 10 feet) would, indeed, protect them from AK-47 fire.  Sure enough, as

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A reminder from Captain Tightpants

My blogbuddy Captain Tightpants reminds us via a link that we need to welcome home our combat veterans and do all we can to help them fit into society again.  Please read the article at that link before continuing here. I’d like to second the author’s call from my own perspective.  When I came to the USA I was just about burned out after eighteen years of civil unrest, periodic (uniformed) war service, which had its own stresses and memories, and far too much experience of trying to help the victims of violence in South Africa.  I came here because

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Memories of a painful encounter

I was interested to see this footage of a helicopter using an underslung powered saw to trim tree branches near a power line. It reminded me of a painful encounter with a nest of African wasps dislodged by a helicopter doing powerline clearance work in Southern Africa during the 1980’s.  The chopper wasn’t using anything as sophisticated as that powered saw, but rather dragging a sort of grapnel, if I recall correctly – I don’t know precisely why.  Be that as it may, it hacked into a wasp nest, and the angry critters decided that anyone nearby must have had

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Writing about military service, war, and killing

I have a question (or a series of questions) for my readers, particularly those interested in military science fiction and other military fiction, but also to everyone interested in this topic in general. Recently I wrote about the problems of character development, etc. in a guest post over at Sarah Hoyt’s place.  In that article, I mentioned in passing: I’ve been annoyed by a great many military SF books that are quite obviously written by people who have no military background themselves (or, if they have some military background, don’t have combat experience). It shows very clearly. In a comment

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Spitfire 944

This is a remarkable short film from the Sundance Film Festival, one of two temporarily put up on YouTube to mark Memorial Day (I’ll put up the second one tomorrow.)  It’ll only be available for a couple of weeks before being taken down again, so you might want to save a copy.  It’s described as follows: For aviation fans, get ready for a ton of wonderful archival footage coming your way in William Lorton’s Spitfire 944. A true-life story, Lorton has discovered rare 16mm footage of a 1944 spitfire crash and tracks down the pilot, now an 83-year-old World War

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Of pee, pools and purity

It seems swimmer Michael Phelps is making waves by admitting that many competitive swimmers pee in the pool.  The Telegraph reports: It may not be what everybody wants to hear but the swimming star Michael Phelps was right when he said it was OK to relieve yourself in the pool, claim scientists. Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever, caused ripples of concern during London 2012 when he admitted that many swimmers “pee in the pool” especially during long training sessions. But he said that it was OK as the chlorine killed any germs. The revelation may have been slightly distasteful

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