Saturday, July 13, 2019
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Then we switch again to following a woman who is an industrial chemist checking for pollution in Soviet factories. Just Tolstoy moved from ordinary life to war and back, Grossman draws a panorama of the battle for Stalingrad.
Monday, July 8, 2019
Friday, July 5, 2019
Every time a gunner pulls his trigger in a tank and fires the main gun, the turret is split in half as the gun recoils--stopping just a couple of inches before the rear of the turret.
As the gun snaps back into place, the spent shell pops from the breach, a nearly yard-long cylinder of hot aluminum that bounces from the back of the turret to the turret floor.
I was thinking about that black cannon cutting the turret in half and the clattering cannon shell bouncing in the turret because I am reading "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian. This exciting book about late 18th Century sea battles explains gunnery at sea in considerable detail, including the injuries common when firing a battery of muzzle-loaded cannons on a ship at sea. Crushed feet, burned faces, smashed arms, bodies trapped between guns, all these injuries happen frequently enough for Captain Jack Aubrey to say during a long fight, "The guns are as deadly to the crew as to the enemy."
It reminded me that I could not remember anyone who was injured by our 105mm cannon snapping back in a black blur of recoil then spitting a spent shell as it returned to its lethal place. I am sure many armor crewman have been injured in a tank turret in the hundred years since tanks debuted on the battlefield, but it did not happen in my tank.
I am glad to have dangerous fiction and safe reality.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Trump made the alt-right and white supremacists his base, infamously saying there were “fine people on both sides” at an event with one side waving Nazi flags and chanting “Blood and Soil.” Anti-Semitism in America increased rapidly as Trump ran and won his racism-centered campaign.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
We are moving to a new house next month. Our six kids are in or through college so six bedrooms is more than we need. As we cleaned the garage, I found this in a corner. My now grown sons used it to play in the yard more than a decade ago.
In the 70s when I first enlisted, this basic issue. All of my time in the Cold War Army, I was an Armor Crewman, so I never actually carried my entrenching tool in the field. But it was fun to look at this old pick/shovel and think this simple, effective tool was part of my life from soon after I graduated from high school.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
My grandfather Hyman Gussman dodged the draft. He was 44 years old at the time and in Odessa, a Black Sea port in Tsarist Russia. It was August 1914 and Grandpa had inexplicably visited his former home after emigrating to America in 1900.
When his ship landed at the Odessa docks, the customs officials realized Grandpa was an emigre Jew and sent him to the Army. Hyman managed to escape and started walking north. He kept walking for until February of 1915 when he made it to Finland. On the way he almost died from pneumonia, suffered starvation and terrible Russian winter.
Eventually he got to Portugal and back to Boston. He lived until 1932 and in that time never left Boston again. I wrote more about this story here.
Thinking about Grandpa made me realize that my position on draft dodging has some gray area. Not in the order of Commander-in-Chief: no one should command armies who let another man serve and die in his place. But in Tsarist Russia in World War I, the draft was a death sentence for Jews. I am glad Hyman Gussman disobeyed Russian draft law.
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