Saturday, May 27, 2006

Honoring "Mike" from the 'purple heart battalion' on Memorial Day:

Another example of American soldiers serving their country despite the added hardships of prejudice and racism is the story of the Nisei soldiers of the 447 RCT and the 100th Battalion. My girlfriend's grandfather ---we'll call him "Mike" because the family is still paranoid about the whole thing --- served in Italy during WWII from 1944 until 1946.

In 1942 at the age of 17 he, along with his mother, father and five siblings, were taken from their home in Fullerton California by the military and put into a concentration camp in Hila River, Arizona.

At the time, he was attending Fullerton High School and was on the football team. Neither he nor his still surviving sister will talk about the experience, but from what I've been able to find through government records online and from talking to him is this:

At some point in 1943 he and his brother Yo Yo were offered work outside the camp picking vegetables in Colorado. After some period of time he wound up in Kansas City working as a welder.

In January of 1944 he was drafted and inducted at Fort Leavenworth. (His brother was also drafted around the same time and served in the Navy.) Shortly afterwards he was sent to boot camp at Fort Shelby, Mississippi, where he said some of his fellow draftees did guard duty at a German POW camp.

He related the story to me of the SS prisoners there telling their captures that it was just a matter of time before Hitler sent their new "super bombers" over the Atlantic to flatten New York. (He still chuckles about that.)

After completing basic training in April he was shipped to Camp Patrick Henry Va. and spent his leave in Washington DC where, apparently. all he can remember is doing a lot of bar hopping and strip clubbing.

In the summer of '44 he and his unit were shipped out to Italy where he served with Company D of the 447 RCT (later merged into the 100th battalion.) He hasn't gone too much into what he did there but I know he saw some tough combat. I made the mistake of asking him once what he did, thinking that maybe he was in logistics or something, at which point he said, "No, man, I was in combat."

His Unit consisted of three men teams that operated mortars which each man carried a piece of, that they then assembled and fired. He said the SS units he fought against were the worst to fight -- which I can imagine.

I asked him if he had any problems with the white soldiers, assuming that looking Japanese might have got him into some trouble. He said, no, they never had any trouble because they were always sent in as the shock troops and that if they weren't able to get the job done the white guys would have to go in after them. 'No, they treated us real well," he said with a big smile on his face.

After the war was over, he signed on to the motor pool, because he said he wanted to see the sights; "I got to see all of Italy, and it was free." (That's always a recurring refrain from him, the importance of things being free.) Later on, the next year, he met his future wife, my girl-friend’s Nona, a cute little Italian girl who suffered through the Nazi occupation and one time was hidden by Nuns. He loved her so much he learned how to speak Italian fluently so her parents would let him marry her. They married in 1949 and he brought her back to the US in 1950.

They had two daughters, and Mike and his Italian wife are still alive and kicking today. Recently, he went out to California to see his daughter who lives out there and before he left I was able to give him a map of the 100th Battalion 'Go for broke' monument so he find his name on it.

He was pretty proud to have his name on the monument, from what I hear. And he should be very proud. He is a man who was ripped from his life and his home and put into a camp and he still went and fought for a country that did such a terrible thing to him and his family. Regardless of what they might have been thinking in Washington, the Nisei were red blooded Americans just like rest of America and they did their duty and fought with distinction for this country.

In fact, the 447th and the 100th are still the most highly decorated military units in the history of the United States Army. They took tons of casualties and brought home more unit citations and medals of honor than anybody else.

On this Memorial Day weekend I want to honor all the Nisei that fought so bravely and suffered such injustice, but especially, Mike for bringing me his beautiful grand-daughter.

In honor of the 54th Massachusetts:

On this Memorial Day weekend I thought it might be appropriate to mention some of the brave soldiers that have served their country with distinction despite the shoddy treatment some of them have received over the years from their own government. In addition to the day to day travails of being a soldier on the battle line, long hours of monotony punctuated by a few seconds of sheer terror, there have been men who have had to endure discrimination and ill treatment by their superior officers in some cases and the complete abandonment of their leaders in Washington. The fact that such adversity never caused them to leave their post and to keep fighting is a testament to all American fighting men and women and should never be forgotten because this is what has made our fighting people the best in the world.

Such a case is the story of the 54th Massachusetts, the colored regiment made again famous a few years ago in the movie "Glory." The Boston regiment fought with bravery and distinction in the Deep South from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. They are most remembered for their legendary failed storming of Battery Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863 that caused the death of their white commanding officer Col. Robert Gould Shaw along with eleven other officers, 135 men wounded and almost a hundred missing or captured.

What is even more amazing about this group of black American soldiers was their refusal to except any pay until they should be paid the same rate as white soldiers. When the government finally decided to allow blacks to fight in the US army in late 1862 the thinking was that these new volunteers weren't intelligent or brave enough to fight like their white counterparts. Initially they were only to be used as laborers (treated as "contraband") and thus they were to be paid $10 a month minus three dollars for supplies and one ration a day. White soldiers on the other hand made $13 minus $3 for supplies and one ration a day.

Col. Shaw wrote to Massachusetts Governor Andrew on July 2nd 1963 about this problem:

"You have probably seen the order from Washington which cuts down the pay of colored troops from $13 to $10. Of course if this effects Massachusetts regiments, it will be a great piece of injustice to them, as they were enlisted on the express understanding that they were to be on precisely the same footing as all other Massachusetts troops. In my opinion they should be mustered out of service or receive full pay which was promised them. The paymaster here is inclined to class us as contraband regiments, and pay the men only $10. If he does not change his mind, I shall refuse to have the regiment paid until I hear from you on the subject...for every pay-day we shall the same trouble unless there is a special order to prevent it."

What became clear shortly after Shaw's death, 16 days later, was that blacks would be in combat and not only were they just as susceptible to death and injury as their white comrades, but if they were captured by Confederate soldiers, as happened after the failed attempt at Battery Wagner, they were either killed on the spot after surrendering or sold into slavery, something their the better paid white soldiers didn't have to worry about.

As the months went on this stubborn refusal to be paid was becoming an embarrassment to commanders higher up the chain of command in the army and came to a head later on in the year on September 30, 1963 when, Col. James Montgomery, an abolitionist from the Bloody Kansas days, came to force the troops to take their pay.

An excerpt from 'A Brave Black Regiment: the official history of the 54th Massachusetts 1863-1865:

"The paymaster came again on the 30th to renew his offer. It was on this date that Colonel Montgomery appeared and made the men a remarkable and characteristic address, which Sergeant Stephens of Company B has given in substance as follows:

'Men: the paymaster is here to pay you. You must remember you have not proved yourselves soldiers. You must take notice that the Government has virtually paid you a thousand dollars a piece for setting you free. Nor should you expect to be placed on the same footing with white men. Anyone listening to your shouting and singing can see how grotesquely ignorant you are. I am you friend and the friend of the Negro. I was the first person in the country to employ Negro soldiers in the United States Army. I was out in Kansas. I was short of men. I had a lot of niggers and a lot of mules; and you know a nigger and a mule go very well together. I therefore enlisted niggers, and made teamsters of them. In refusing to take the pay offered you, and what you are only legally entitled to, you are guilty of insubordination and mutiny, and can be tried and shot by court-martial.'

Montgomery besides made some gross and invidious insinuations and reflections because 54th men were so light-colored, which is would be improper to repeat. The colonel seemed unaware that his remarks were insulting, and most of the men addressed born free."

The fight for fair pay and the resistance to accepting the lower wage went on into November when Massachusetts governor John Andrew still being unable to convince the War Department to pay the soldiers of the 54th the same pay as whites had the Massachusetts legislature pass a bill to make up the difference. The commander of the 54th Colonel E. N. Hallowell wrote to the Governor that regardless of the generous action of the legislature the troops the 54th would serve without pay until mustered out rather than accept less than what they were owed.

On December 12, 1863 an extraordinary article appeared in the Boston Journal written by "a Massachusetts soldier in the 54th:"

"A strange misapprehension exists as to the matter of pay, and it pains us deeply. We came forward at the call of Governor Andrew, in which call he distinctly told us that we were to be subsisted, clothed, paid and treated in all respects the same as other Massachusetts soldiers. Again, on the presentation of flags to the regiment at Camp Miegs, the Governor reiterated this promise, on the strength of which we marched through Boston, holding our heads high as men and soldiers. Nor did we grumble because we were not paid the portion the United States bounty paid to other volunteer regiments in advance. Now that we have gained some reputation, we claim the right to be heard.

Three times have we been mustered in for pay. Twice have we swallowed the insult offered to us by the United States paymaster, contenting ourselves with a simple refusal to acknowledge ourselves different from other Massachusetts soldiers. Once in the face of insult and intimidation such as no body of men were ever subjected to before, we quietly refused and continued to do our duty. For four months we have been steadily working night and day under fire. And such work! Up to our knees in mud half the time, causing the tearing and wearing out of more than a yearly allowance of clothing, denied time to repair and wash (what we might have by means have saved ), denied time to drill and prefect ourselves in soldierly qualities, denied the privilege of burying our dead decently. All this we've borne patiently, waiting for justice.

Imagine our surprise and disappointment on the receipt by last mail of the Governor's address to the General Court, to find him making a proposition to them to pay this regiment the difference between what the United States Government offers us and what they are legally bound to pay us, which, in effect, advertises us to the world as holding out for money and not from principle, --- that we sink our manhood in consideration of a few more dollars. How has this come about? What false friend has been misrepresenting us to the Governor, to make him think that our necessities outweigh our self-respect? I am sure no representation of ours [itlcs] every impelled him to such action

Finally on September 28 1865 the government finally gave the men their due and they were paid in full. The official history of the regiment says it was 'a red letter day for the 54th.'

"We had been eighteen months waiting, and a kaleidoscope was turned, --- nine hundred men received their money; nine hundred stories rested on the faces of those men, as they passed in one door and out the other. Two days have changed the face of things, and now a petty carnival prevails. The fiddle and other music long neglected enlivens the tents day and night. Songs burst out everywhere; dancing is incessant."

The 54th was paid $170,000 owed to them. Many donated liberally, over a thousand dollars, to the building of the famous monument in Boston to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th. Such a fine example of American soldiery, principle and bravery should not be forgotten this memorial day. Not only were they fighting and dying to preserve the Union and end slavery, they were also fighting to be treated like men, a struggle that goes on sadly to this day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chavez resorts to old school smearing:

Linda Chavez, W.'s former Labor Secretary, writes in an Op-ED that Jean Sara Rohe's impromptu speech at the New School's commencement ceremony denouncing John McCain's politics was a "self-indulgent little tirade." In her own self-indulgent and dishonest tirade Chavez writes that she's outraged that these "spoiled kids" would dare take McCain to task for his support of the Iraq war --- outraged! Doesn't Rohe know that McCain spent five years in a North Vietnamese POW camp and was tortured and beaten repeatedly to ensure that Rohe and her fellow protesters "might enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?"

I find it interesting that Chavez conveniently forgot about her former boss' dirty tricks in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary. If I remember correctly, George Bush's operatives orchestrated a very nasty whispering campaign against McCain hinting that he was possibly insane and also had a black baby out of wedlock. Now that's the real way to honor a war hero!

Chavez' concern to protect the feelings of war heroes against the onslaught of 21-year olds hurling "leftist chestnuts," is touching, but rings slightly insincere as I don't recall her coming to the defense of John Kerry whose distinguished war record was savaged by the president's attack dogs in the 2004 presidential race. And where was the outrage when Max Cleland, a triple amputee and decorated Vietnam hero and former Senator, was accused of being a supporter of Osama Bin Laden in his re-election campaign in 2002? He too was a victim of her party's shameless campaign tactics that have brought political discourse in this country to a new low.

What really is inexcusable about Chavez' screed against Jean Sara Rohe is that she's exploiting the sacrifice of great men like John McCain and others as a stick to beat up a group of 20 somethings who have every right to express their political views, especially in a setting that was intended to honor them. As hard as it may be for Chavez to fathom, the students at New College do deserve honor for graduating, that's the whole point of commencement. It was John McCain who decided accept the invitation to speak and use it as a political platform to further his presidential ambitions, therefore he deserves what he gets. He's a big boy, Linda, he can handle it, spare me your sanctimonious crocodile tears.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

To Hell with Hillary, Al Gore for president!

Al Gore is in the news again with his new movie on global warming called "An Inconvenient Truth" and the right wing smear machine is out in full force. Gore has really stirred up a hornet's nest going after big oil and downing the administration's lack of a policy on the issue, but I don't know if that is necessarily enough to get the jackals going for his jugular the way they are. No, what I think has the Republicans really spooked is that he might actually run in '08: Judging by the vitriol being spewed by the right, maybe that might not be such a bad thing. If they're so terrified of Gore, he's got my vote. (Anyone but Hillary!)

What has really got me on the Gore '08 bandwagon is John Tierney's Op-ED in the NYT on Tuesday, which pretty much encapsulates all the arguments being used to tear down Gore and his movie. Now, I haven't seen the movie yet, of course, but I doubt it's quite as bad as Tierney is making it out to be. He claims it's sure to win an Oscar because, "getting anyone to voluntarily endure 100 minutes of Al Gore and his slides is a historic cinematic achievement." [Thanks True Blue Liberal]

I can see why the defenders of the big oil might be threatened by someone spending a little time to explain all the intricacies of such a complicated issue, because then people might start to understand that there really is no debate to the debate. The only people still questioning the validity of the science are the scientists who are getting a monthly check from Exxon/Mobil and the media who just can't present any story without giving the other side equal time; even if the facts coming from the other side are completely manufactured on K Street.

But, let's not burden ourselves with all that hard to understand science; let's make fun of Al's wooden delivery instead. Unfortunately for Tierney and his oily masters this time around, it's not going to work. From what I've heard and read of the film, it's hardly Al Gore sitting in front of a slide machine. In fact, the first thing everyone who has seen it says is that they're surprised that Gore is so animated and entertaining.

If anything, many are wondering why this Al Gore didn't appear during the 2000 election ---so am I. After seeing him on Saturday Night a few years back when everyone at the bar I was at in DC stopped dead in their tracks and watched the whole thing and LAUGHED, I've been mad that him. Imagine Al Gore acting like a human being and being funny, too. My God, if had only done that before the election!

The real trust of Tierney’s article, though, is to push the nuclear agenda. He's a reasonable guy who can understand that steps could be taken to deal with the climate change problem ---steps that don't cost big oil anything --- and he does thank Gore for making us all aware that "global warming is a problem worth worrying about," but he takes Gore to task for not telling his viewers the truth about the new green technology that is nuclear power.

He writes that, "a few environmentalists, like Patrick Moore, a founder of Green Peace, have recognized that their movement is making a mistake in continuing to demonize nuclear power," and he says Gore should have dared to challenge his audience with "an inconvenient truth or two" about all the benefits of nuclear power. ( I love how the right wingers are now embracing the founder of a group that they think is a terrorist organization!)

It doesn't produce greenhouse gases, it makes power cheaply --- with billions in taxpayer subsidies --- but there is the little problem of what to do with all the waste, which we haven't quite figured out yet. Oh, and then there's the danger of an accident, but that's never going to happen again. Human error has been completely eliminated in the nuclear industry, read the memo. Even as I write this W. is here in Philly causing massive traffic jams at rush hour to promote the wonders of nuclear power for everyone---except Iran --- why can't Al Gore get on board? (Common', everyone is doing it, even the French!)

I say, give 'em hell Al and don't back down. One thing is for certain, if Al Gore becomes the next president, you won't have to worry about global warming being ignored any more and you won't have to fret about the government spending what little money it has left propping up the nuclear industry. He's been a good friend to the environment for decades and a good democrat. I don't know what the hell Hillary is.

Despite the WaPo reporting today that Hillary was "was notably cool to increased use of nuclear power" in her new energy plan, I'm not convinced she can separate her political convictions from her lust for power and money anymore than she can figure out whether she roots for the Cubs or the Yankees!

I say, dump Hillary! Gore for president---again!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Condi Rice has some nerve!

This is rich, Condi Rice gave the commencement speech at Boston College yesterday and, surprise surprise, drew protests. The NYT reports that she told the students that they ought to be more open minded to other points of view. Imagine that!

She said "There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately. But at those times you're absolutely sure that you are right go find somebody who disagrees. Don't allow yourself the easy course of the constant 'Amen' to everything you say."

Is she kidding???? Man, she's got some nerve! It would have been nice is she had taken her own advice before the she and W. decided to invade Iraq. Maybe if she had actually bothered to find a few of the folks in the intelligence community that disagreed with her dire predictions of imminent "mushroom clowds" instead of smearing them and having them drummed out of the service, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. But, I guess, in that case W. had been talking to his Heavenly Father so she didn't need to stop giving him constant 'Amens.'

Monday, May 22, 2006

Give me a break William Jefferson.

'The WaPo reports:

"Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), the target of a 14-month public corruption probe, was videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from a Northern Virginia investor who was wearing an FBI wire, according to a search warrant affidavit released yesterday."

And I say, big freakin' deal. Who cares? I know all the right wingers are frothing at the mouth over they finally have something to say after all these months of being bashed over the heads about:

Jack Abramoff; Karl Rove; Scooter Libby; Duke Cunningham; Claude A. Allen; Brian J. Doyle; Bob Ney and Rush the pill popping freak, but is anyone really surprised that a politician from Louisiana is involved in corruption? Next they'll be exhuming the KIngfish as evidence that the dems are as crooked as the Republicans are.

I mean, common! Yes, a politician getting caught putting wads of cash into a freezer is a very sexy story and all, and him being a democrat is all well and fine, but this doesn't mean that the Republicans suddenly get a pass.

Despite the media's typical 'he said/she said' approach to reporting this story, Jack Abramoff makes William Jefferson look like got caught robbing a 7/11. This story has less relevence to anything really important than Barbaro does.

[My God! Stop with the Barbaro coverage!!!!! Who gives a rat's ass?????]

Remember, Abramoff still never gave a democrat a single penny! He still said, "It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently."

Doesn't sound very bi-partisan to me.
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