Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Than Babysitting - Egypt, Trees, and Birds

Besides babysitting, we did get to stop at the library Saturday morning for a Great Decisions film and speakers on modern Egypt.  A former State Department official moderated and two Egyptian speakers - Marwa Maziad, an Egyptian journalist and fellow at the Middle East Center of the U.W. Jackson School of International Studies.

Marwa Maziad and Tarek Dawoud
Tarek Dawoud is a graduate of Cairo University Computer Engineering department, Tarek came to the United States from Egypt in early 2001 to work in the Software industry.  Tarek currently serves as the president of the Washington state chapter of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) and  as a board member of the Islamic School of Seattle as well as a member of the Interfaith and Outreach Committee at Masjid Ar-Rahmah in Redmond.

Larry Kerr, the moderator,  was a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service for over 25 years after leaving the US military.

Essentially, Marwa and Tarek  both felt that the video made the Mursi government seem much more stable, moderate, and capable than it is.  Both see lots of issues today, but were hopeful for five years from now.

The room was packed - about 60 people [It turns out there were 75 according to Kathleen Thorne who runs the program and supplied me the names and background information on Tarek and James.]  I don’t think there more than a handful (excluding the speakers) under 40.  I’m not sure what that means - I suspect that it has more to do with their time schedules and young families than their interest in the topic. 

We also drove out to Port Gamble.  A town whose architecture was copied from Maine where the settlers came from.  While it had a saw mill once, it seems to be mostly a tourist spot today.  Everything was labeled like this tree. But I see it's still hard to read, so here's what it says:

"It was in 1640 that the "Earl of Camperdown" in Dundee Scotland growing on the floor of his elm forest.  He grafted it to a Scotch Elm and it took hold producing the first Camperdown Elm.  The Scotch Elm is the  only root mass the Camperdown Elm will grow on.  The tree is a mutant and cannot self produce. Every Camperdown Elm tree in the world is part of the original and they must be grafted onto a Scotch Elm tree to get started.  When the graft starts to grow, the Scotch Elm branches are cut off leaving only Camperdown Elm.  This magnificent tree depends on humankind to keep it alive as a species."

A Tree A Day suggests it wasn't the Earl himself who is responsible:
"An astute head-gardener grafted it onto a Wych elm, or Ulmus glabra (there is some controversy involving Ulmus hollandica). What was produced was a sprawling canopy that gave rise to this cultivar's other name, the Umbrella elm."

We've also been seeing some birds we only see in the summer in Anchorage.  A few worth mentioning -  buffleheadsAmerican widgeons, and one of my favorites, the varied thrush.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Legislator Bikes To Work

Alaska's youngest legislator,  newly elected Jonathon Kreiss-Tomkins, is using his new legislative license plate on his alternative-energy vehicle. From his Facebook page comes this picture:

Click to enlarge

Latest Kulluk Update

There was a new Update today.  It's been almost two weeks since the last one.  Here it is:
DATE: January 30, 2013 9:20:00 AM AKST
For more information contact:
Unified Command Joint Information Center at (907) 433-3417
Update #44: Kulluk remains stable – engineering analysis continues
Jan. 30, 2013
Unified Command continues to oversee preparations for the next steps in the Kulluk response. Multiple entities remain involved including: the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, the State of Alaska, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas.
  • Unified Command’s priority continues to be the safety of all personnel and the environment.
  • Tow equipment has been secured and is currently in Kodiak.
  • The Kulluk’s openings on the main deck (i.e., windows and hatches) have been secured and in some cases temporary steel structures have been added to close the openings to make the vessel water- and weather-tight for potential tow operations.  A few remain open to allow for ongoing operations.
  • Close coordination with the communities of Kodiak and Old Harbor is ongoing.
  • Old Harbor Native Corporation, in collaboration with Unified Command, continues to develop plans to access the shoreline and surrounding area to clean up life boat debris.
  • The UC has received confirmation from naval architects that the damage sustained by the grounding poses no threat to the stability or integrity of the Kulluk while anchored in Kiliuda Bay. The next step is an analysis of this data to determine the best course of action to relocate the Kulluk for permanent repairs. The UC will not speculate on this next step until the DNV and USCG give their recommendations for safely relocating the Kulluk.    

Does this debunk Phil's post from yesterday?  I don't know.  What questions does it raise?

  •  The Kulluk’s openings on the main deck (i.e., windows and hatches) have been secured and in some cases temporary steel structures have been added to close the openings to make the vessel water- and weather-tight for potential tow operations.  A few remain open to allow for ongoing operations.
I guess this means that the  "openings on the main deck (i.e. windows and hatches)" were damaged enough that they couldn't just fix them.  They had to add 'temporary steel structures.'   Assuming that their use of 'i.e.' is correct, then windows and hatches are the only openings that have been secured this way.  (See Grammar Monster for difference between i.e. and e.g.)
  • Tow equipment has been secured and is currently in Kodiak.
Is this in addition to all the tow equipment that was already on hand and that got the Kulluk from its original grounding spot to Kiliuda Bay?  
  • Close coordination with the communities of Kodiak and Old Harbor is ongoing.
  • Old Harbor Native Corporation, in collaboration with Unified Command, continues to develop plans to access the shoreline and surrounding area to clean up life boat debris.
Basically this is a "we're doing good things" statement without giving any details.  What have they given Kodiak and Old Harbor in exchange for their cooperation?  We know that the Executive Director of Old Harbor Native Corporation, Carl Marrs, wrote a glowing op ed piece for Shell.  But we don't know what Shell promised in exchange.  I understand that Shell might react to this with frustration.  "We're doing everything that we should be doing and the bloggers still complain."  But since we have no idea what it is you are specifically  doing, we can only speculate.  And if our speculation is on the negative end, it's only because we assume that if you had good things to say, you'd tell us.

You do say that you are collaborating with Old Harbor Native Corporation on clean up plans.  What exactly does 'collaborating' mean?  How many jobs for how many dollars per hour will the Corporation members get?  For how long?  What else have you given or promised to give them?  I realize that you don't plan to tell us.  And so we are left to raise questions and to speculate until we get more specific answers.  If everything you were doing were praiseworthy, you'd tell us.  Like the recent story about your helping the Food Bank on Kodiak.

  • The UC has received confirmation from naval architects that the damage sustained by the grounding poses no threat to the stability or integrity of the Kulluk while anchored in Kiliuda Bay. The next step is an analysis of this data to determine the best course of action to relocate the Kulluk for permanent repairs. The UC will not speculate on this next step until the DNV* and USCG give their recommendations for safely relocating the Kulluk.   
So long as the Kulluk sits anchored in Kiliuda Bay, it will be ok.  What about when it gets moved out of the Bay?

I understand that you are doing analysis, but according to UPDATE #43, you were finished with the data collection at least by January 18, twelve days ago.  I would have assumed that the data analysis would have started then.  Surely, by now you must know what your likely options are.  What are you trying to protect by not sharing what's going on?  Shell stock prices?  Letting your competition know?  (Surely they talk to the salvagers and know what's happening.)  Preventing those with interests and concerns from mobilizing with the information?

Am I being unduly harsh on Shell here?  Look, I'm one little blogger asking questions of one of the largest multi-national corporations in the world.  And Shell isn't being responsive at all, using the Unified Command and the Coast Guard to refuse to answer very reasonable questions about their operations in Alaska.  I know that they did horrendous things in Nigeria in the 1990's.  There's enough evidence that they've gotten some standing - however temporary - in a US Court.   I don't know  what they've learned from that situation.  But my suspicion is that they will do whatever they can get away with - less where laws and the justice system are stricter, more where they are not.  And even where they are good, Shell's enormous wealth can buy them the best lawyers available.  So, no, I don't think I'm being harsh.

*DNV = I gave a little background of Det Norse Veritas here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bloggers, Media Ethics/Standards, And The Kulluk

Bloggers are still writing their own rules about how to go about reporting the news.  Traditional journalists used to have strict rules about confirming what they write. There seems to be a spiraling down of such standards these days though. 

This all comes up because a fellow Alaska blogger posted Monday that Shell's oil rig Kulluk is significantly damaged and may be sent to Asia for repairs.  This would be a pretty big story if it turns out to be true.  There's been no hint of something like this from the Unified Command, which has been silent for over a week now.  I don't have enough knowledge about oil rigs and shipping to read between the lines of their reports that say "the Kulluk is stable and no oil was released."  Nor do I know how significant seawater leakage is.  But the Unified Command's minimalist updates have raised the question: 

What are they hiding?  

So, what should bloggers do when people on the scene give them information that isn't available through the formal channels but hard to verify further?  And what should other bloggers do when they see such stories?

Those aren't rhetorical questions.  I ask questions like that of myself a lot.  Blogs and Twitter and Facebook have tempted traditional media sources into reporting some events without traditional fact checking.  The race to be first to report has a pull, similar to taunts that get teenage boys to do things they oughtn't.

But I've also seen a positive side to alternative media reporting events that haven't been 100% confirmed. 

Individual bloggers don't have the clout or resources that a traditional newsroom has.  (A lot of current traditional newsrooms don't either any more.)  I see a phenomenon happening.  Bloggers each add a little information to the public debate.  Individually, they don't have enough information, but collectively they get important information out into the open.  As long as they give information on how they got the information so others can assess it and they qualify it appropriately, it's ok if it isn't always 100% accurate.  My personal preference is that bloggers consider the impacts of tentative information on the people it's about so they don't unnecessarily do damage.   It's like the traditional newsroom conversations about what to post, except it is publicly available. 

I'm torn about what my proper role is here.  Do I point out Phil's story to others - since it is out there and surely Shell knows about it and - according to Phil's post - wouldn't comment?  Will this needlessly spread rumor that may ultimately prove to be false?  Will it lead others to find other contacts who can help verify what Phil reports?

If it is true, does it matter if it's posted today or waits until Shell is ready to tell the world? I'm guessing that the sooner we know things the more questions there will be and that seeking answers before the corpse is removed will reveal more of what happened.  

A further wrinkle in this for me is that Phil cites this blog's concerns about how sparing Shell and the Unified Command have been with information.  Will pointing out the post be seen as blowing my own horn?  People will see what they want to see, so I can't worry about that.  Phil and I are not working together on this stuff and I didn't know about his post until I saw it posted.

The real questions seem to  me to be:
How newsworthy is this if it's true? 
How well did Phil document the story?

The answer to the first is: very.  To answer the second I asked myself how a traditional newsroom would handle this?  That isn't necessarily the standard that unpaid individual bloggers should have to follow, but it is at least a standard to think about it. 

So I looked up journalistic sourcing online and found that Reuters has an online journalism guide which clearly states that everything must be sourced. 
You must source every statement in every story unless it is an established fact or is information clearly in the public domain, such as court documents or in instances when the reporter, photographer or camera operator was on the scene. Good sources and well-defined sourcing help to protect the integrity of the file from overt outside pressures and manipulation and such hazards as hoaxes.

If an event is not contentious it may be legitimate to begin a story with a paragraph that does not contain a source, as long as the sourcing is clearly given high in the story.
 I take most of this as a given for this blog and Phil does source his allegations.

Reuters goes on to talk about where to place the source.
Newsbreaks should be sourced within the first two paragraphs. You should generally lead your story on the news, not the source, except in the following cases:
  • If a story is inflammatory or is an allegation, give the source first. Write, for example: “Gallic leader Vercingetorix accused Emperor Julius Caesar of genocide”. Do not write: “Roman Emperor Julius Caesar has committed genocide, Gallic leader Vercingetorix said."
  • If the source of a story is a major figure you would also usually put the source at the start. The same is true if the source is a weak one. For example, the secretary of a CEO who confirms that the executive was on his private jet when it crashed. If responsibility for a statement is clear, do not repeat sourcing unnecessarily.
  • If there is an element of doubt in a pick-up, you would normally put the source first e.g. “A leading Manchuk newspaper reported on Friday that the President Mabee Iznogud was on the verge of resigning.”

Phil's post leads with the sources:
"I have now received word from two anonymous sources on Kodiak Island that it appears damage assessment of the Shell Oil drill rig Kulluk is far worse than has been thus far disclosed by the Unified Command."

But when can we use with anonymous sources?   Reuters addresses that:
The weakest sources are those whose names we cannot publish. Reuters uses anonymous sources when we believe they are providing accurate, reliable and newsworthy information that we could not obtain any other way. We should not use anonymous sources when sources we can name are readily available for the same information.
When I first saw Phil's story, I emailed him asking pretty much those questions:  how reliable are these sources?  Phil seems to think they know what they are talking about, but others interested in this aren't ready to go public with it.  He also lists the official sources that he has contacted and who have not responded to his queries. 

I myself contacted the Unified Command a week ago and got a form reply saying that they won't add information to the public updates.  (Someone did manage to let AP know that Shell was helping the Food Bank get food to remote Kodiak villages, so it appears that news that helps Shell's image is shared.  So perhaps news that isn't shared will do them harm.)
Unnamed sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us, or must represent an authority with direct knowledge. Remember that reliability declines the further away the source is from the event, and tougher questions must be asked by reporters and supervisors on the validity of such information.
I don't know if the sources had direct knowledge or not.  But I understood that two separate sources gave him the same information.
Responsibility for reporting what an anonymous source says resides solely with Reuters and the reporter. There is no liability or potential reputational damage to the source, making this the least watertight form of sourcing. We should convey to readers as clearly as possible why we believe the source is reliable, and what steps we have taken to ensure we are not being manipulated. This is done most effectively by the way we describe the source. The more removed the source is from a subject, the less reliable the source is likely to be. Reporters and editors should question the validity of information from a source remote from the action. 
Any media's reputation is based on its credibility.  So to maintain that credibility you want to be sure you report only what you can confirm.  But do you ever take risks because a story is really important to publish?
Be as specific as possible. Negotiate hard with your source to agree a description that is sufficiently precise to enable readers to trust the reliability of our anonymous sourcing.
“A source” or “sources”, “observers” or “quarters” with no further description is vague and unacceptable. So is the use of “informed sources” or “reliable sources”. Would we quote an uninformed or unreliable source?
When reporting a corporate deal, describe the source as specifically as possible. Use “a company executive/banker/lawyer close to the transaction” to convey the fact that your source is directly involved in the deal, but “a source close to the transaction” is also acceptable if the source is unwilling to be identified more specifically. “Banking sources”, “industry sources” and “financial sources” can imply that the source may not have first-hand information and is therefore less authoritative. Always be as specific as possible.
Stories based on anonymous sources require particularly rigorous cross-checking. We should normally have two or three sources for such information.
My sense is that Phil's sources believe they risk retaliation if they are identified which is why they are not named.  He has two different sources.
Stories based on a single, anonymous source should be the exception and require approval by an immediate supervisor – a bureau chief, head of reporting unit in a large centre, or editor in charge.
This is a luxury that bloggers don't have.  And in this case there are two sources.

Bloggers aren't bound by Reuters' rules.  But I do think that Phil has clarified where he's gotten the information.  He used terms like "appears to be"  and "supposedly" to qualify the allegations.  He reports his unsuccessful efforts to get information from Shell and from the Coast Guard. 

I think this story is important enough for other bloggers and for mainstream media to start checking on it and if they find other sources to support Phil's story they should be sharing what they know with the world. 

Shell has assured the US government and the world that they are well experienced in Arctic drilling and that there will be no serious problems that they are unprepared for.  Yet there's been a series of embarrassments with their oil rigs in the last year.  In this case, the rig broke loose from the tug which lost power very close to the last Coast Guard base on the way north.  If they had hit a storm in the Bering Sea and lost the rig there, the story would have been much worse than this will turn out to be.  Shell has been doing its best to minimize the information that gets out to the world.  Journalists have an obligation to get independent information so that Shell isn't in charge of packaging the story of what happened.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How To Cancel An Alaskan Airlines Ticket Without A Fee [NOT]

[UPDATE Feb. 17:  It didn't work.  When I tried to apply my balance to a new ticket, they added the $75 penalty fee I hadn't paid yet.  I knew it was too good to be true.]

[UPDATE June 5, 2015:  Cancellation fees were raised to $125 a while ago. Not all fares have cancellation fees.  My sense is these fees have nothing to do with costs.  It's extortion.  They do it because they can.  Finding this on their website is hard.  However, the Ask Jenn feature did give me the page quickly. ]

[UPDATE Aug 8, 2014:  There is a way - be in the MVP Gold (40,000 or more miles) category.  A table on Elite Status says "Fee Waivers - Call Center Ticketing Fee, Ticket Change/Cancellation Fee, Left on Board Item Return Fee."   Oh dear, I didn't know there was a fee for getting something you left on board.]

When you buy the cheap tickets on Alaska Airlines, the agreement says you have to pay a $75 change fee if you change on line and $100 if you do it by phone or in person.  But a cancelled credit card led me to an option with no fee.  The canceled card kept me from cancelling the ticket on-line, because I couldn't pay the fee with my old card.

[Note:  You can change or cancel an online booked Alaska Airlines ticket within 24 hours for no fee.]

(If you want to skip the background and just find out how to cancel without a fee jump down to 'back to the Alaska Airline ticket.)

So, we have an Alaskan Airlines credit card.  It got rejected back in December when I was trying to pay my way out of the Anchorage Airport parking lot.  That night the operator said it had been cancelled by the cardholder, neither I nor my wife had cancelled it.  And, she noted, people who mess with your card usually do so to use it, not to cancel it.  The next morning when I got the accounting office they said it was cancelled because they didn't have my wife's social security number.  That they'd sent us a letter and we hadn't responded so they cancelled it.  I didn't remember getting a letter when we talked, but since then I remembered.  It was pretty dicey looking - the pages looked xeroxed and the logo was black and white and not in color.  I even called my tax person and asked why my credit card would send a letter asking for my wife's social security number.  We decided it was snail mail spam.

But the operator told me this was required by the Patriot Act and I pointed out it had been passed ten years ago, so it seemed they'd survived all this time . . but she said there were new directives enforcing it and requiring banks to get all the info.  And the reason it said that the customer cancelled the card was to not hurt our credit rating by having something say the bank cancelled our card.  And then she said we had to fax or mail the number in - we couldn't do it by phone.  Not sure what I said in reply (I was polite, but I'm sure I had some smart retort) and she consulted her supervisor and took J's SS# over the phone.

Then, in LA just now, the restaurant said our card was declined.  We called Visa from the restaurant and were assured it was good and transferred to Security, but it disconnected.  So I called again and again was told the card was good and this time he suggested the restaurant's card reader was bad.  We paid cash.

The next day my wife had the card refused somewhere else.  We called again and this time we were told that it was cancelled because one of the vendors we'd used had a security breach and so the cards were cancelled.  They'd sent us a new card.  But we were in LA and the card went to Anchorage.  And we were getting ready to go to Seattle.  They'd fed ex it to Seattle.

Back to the Alaska Airline ticket.  I'd made a reservation to fly to Seattle to Anchorage, but we'd had to go to LA first to check on my mom.  So I wanted to cancel the original ticket.  But when I tried to get the cost of the ticket put into my 'wallet' (Alaska Airline's name for a customer account that can be used to buy tickets or food on a flight) I couldn't because I needed a good credit card to pay the cancellation fee.  (Visa did say I could get a security code for each transaction by calling them when the vendor tried to use the card, but that doesn't work online.) I thought maybe they'd just take the fee out of the money they were putting in the 'wallet' but no, I had to pay that extra.

So I called Alaska to explain my plight:  I can't pay the fee because my Alaska Airlines credit card was cancelled and new one hadn't arrived yet.    That's when Adonica told me to choose the last option - to have them email me my ticket number which I could then apply to another ticket within a year.

"But how do I pay the penalty fee?"

And she said the magic words, "There is no fee if you do it this way." [UPDATE:  Well, there was no fee when I canceled the ticket, but later when I tried to apply the money to another ticket, $75 was added to the fare.]

So, even though you have to pay a change fee of $75 to $100 (online or phone), if you cancel the ticket and apply it to another ticket in a year, there's no fee. [UPDATE:  Again, turns out not to be so.] If I hadn't had my credit card cancelled, I don't think I would have found this out. [But again, this is just a delayed fee, not no fee.]

Keep looking for those silver linings.

Speaking of which, we saw Silver Lining Playbook.  I think if I hadn't heard that it was a good movie and that it was one of the five up for the Academy's best films, I would have liked it much more.  It's good.  Characters are good.  Acting is good.  But it just isn't a heavyweight film in my mind. 

Oh yes.  We got the new cards later that day.  Then the next day I got an email from Visa saying my new credit cards had been sent and should arrive soon.  Sigh. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Another Five Days or More Until Kulluk Can Be Moved

I posted about Shell's pledge to not move Kulluk until after the Tanner Crab Season which was dated January 16.  I haven't gotten an update from the Kulluk Unified Command since January 18. Today is the 26th.  So that's over a week.  And since I'm not in Anchorage, I thought maybe something got by me.  The Tanner Crab season should have been over by now based on what Mark Stichert, the Shellfish Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Conservation, in Kodiak told me.

(Shell had said that they wouldn't move the oil rig until after the Tanner Crab season closed.)

So, I called Mark back on Friday (January 25) to find out if it had closed.

He said the season is still open at Kiliuda Bay.  There'd been some bad weather and the ships crabbing are small (40-60 foot) and go in during bad weather.  He said they were down to about 26 boats from the 44 that started.  There was still 140,000 pounds of crab (of the original 520,000 lbs) to be caught before the season would be closed.  

I asked him about a 660,000 pound figure I'd seen on a couple of websites (Island Seafoods and Deckboss).  Mark responded that there were more than one Tanner fishery and that was the combined target.

He said very clearly where it would be open and closed, but my notes aren't consistent so I'm not 100% sure.  My understanding is that the inshore quota has been reached, but not the offshore quota.  But parts of Kiliuda Bay are still open.

How much longer before the season closes (and Shell can move the Kulluk based on their pledge to not move it until the season closes)?

Could be five more days, could be longer.  They've been getting about 30,000 pounds a day, which would be about five days, but it depends on weather and how many boats keep fishing.

So, if someone wanted to keep the Kulluk there, maybe they could call most of the boats in and not get the quota for a while.  I didn't think of that when I was talking to Mark.  What happens if they don't reach the quota?  Is there a time when he closes it even if the quota isn't met?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Allowing Women In Combat Is Wrong Move

 Instead, we should be banning men from combat.
". . . they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." [Isaiah 2.4]
Now this is a bible passage that I'd like to see more pastors getting fanatical about.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Erik" Eareckson Hero Of Aleutian War - But Was The War Necessary?

"Major William O. Eareckson, forty-one, a raffish aviation pioneer who had been piloting fabric-and wood biplances when some of his squadron's young officers had been in safety pins.  A crack pilot who flew with his fingertips.  Eareckson was headstrong and sometimes arrogant;  he had a contagious drive and a romantic recklessness that infected his young pilots with the notion that pilots were a breed apart, a race of giants." (p. 53)
William "Eric" Eareckson is by far the clearest hero in Brian Garfield's Thousand Mile War about WW II in the Aleutians.  In fact, Part II of the three part book is titled "Eareckson's War."

He was the right person in the right place.  His personal set of skills - an ability to fly any kind of plane in any kind of weather,  an ability to think up new ways to do things when the regular way doesn't work,  a belief in his own immortality, and a drive to be the best - fit perfectly for the job he had to do.  He flew planes in the Aleutians to bomb the Japanese in Attu and Kiska and created a lot of new tactics to overcome the constant fog  (other severe weather conditions) and the Japanese anti-aircraft weapons - like flying in at water level to do the bombing.

He could do crazy things like have his squadron buzz downtown Reno at almost street level for his wedding.  But he also worked his squadron hard, making sure they were as well trained as they could be.  For example:
"Colonel Eareckson put his crews through the daily hurdles of deck-level practice missions at altitudes as low as 75 feet." (pm 112)
But while his squadron idolized him, not all those above him felt the same.
The Army did not like lone wolves;  and Eareckson, in Colonel Lawrence Reineke's words, was "the honest sergeant on the police force.  He bucked the system, and suffered for it."  Lucian Wernick recalls, "Eric was absolutely incapable of bowing and scraping.  He refused to show respect for superiors unless he felt it, and up there he didn't have very many opportunities to feel it."  (p. 156)
His superior in Alaska, General Butler tried to retire him to training status in California.  In a pile of complaints to General Buckner he
". . . suggested that Eareckson had too many missions under his belt, that he was flak-happy, that he had been warned to stop trying to be both commander and crew, and that he needed a rest." (p. 156)
Buckner didn't want to lose Eareckson, so he transferred him to his own staff.

But carrying out your orders well, if the orders aren't good in the first place, raises questions and  I've been wondering throughout the book whether we even needed to be fighting in the Aleutians.  The terrible weather - it's not horribly cold, but has constant rain, wind, snow, and cloud cover - gave the Japanese (and the Americans) enough trouble.  But hindsight is easy.  Just as the Americans - particularly General Buckner - saw the Aleutians as the pathway to invade Japan, they also saw it as a way for Japan to have bases closer to the US.  

You can see in the map how close Attu is to Japan.  (The reddish dot is Attu and the green dot is Anchorage.)

So, bear with me as I try to pull a number of different ideas together here.

In 1943, the US mounted an invasion of Attu, American territory then occupied by the Japanese.  They planned to take over the island in three days.  It took more like 17 days.  It was the first island landing.  It was the second most deadly of the Pacific war.
"In proportion to the numbers of troops engaged, it would rank as the second most costly American battle in the Pacific Theater - second only to Iwo Jima.  Total American casualties amounted to half again the number of Japanese troops on the island; the Japanese force suffered annihilation, almost to the last man.
"Landing force Attu had suffered 3829 casualties;  killed, 549; wounded, 1148;  severe cold injuries, 1200; disease (including exposure), 614;  other casualties (including self-inflicted wounds, psychiatric breakdowns, drownings, and accidents), 318 men." (p. 256)
Heroism is a tricky concept.  Some people fall apart under pressure.  Others firm up.  You don't know how you will react until you're in the situation.  Some people did crazy things and for some it turned out ok, for others not.
Two companies of Buckner's 4th Infantry got pinned down at the base of the ridge by nine Japanese machine-gun nests.  Private Fred M. Barnett remarked to a companion that he was fed up.  He walked up into the snowfall, carrying only his rifle and a string of grenades.  He disappeared, climbing, and his companions heard furious volleys from machine guns, rifles, and grenades.  The racket faded toward the distance, there was a single ragged aftervolley, and then silence.
Private Barnett reappeared and walked unhurriedly downhill.  When he was in full sight he stopped and waved the two companies forward.  The troops stepped from cover and climbed cautiously.  Barnett turned and joined the front rank.  The companies found the Japanese trenches free for the taking - Barnett had charged nine successive Japanese emplacements, wiped them all out and emerged without a scratch.   (p. 244)
Just five pages later we hear a different story.
Private Joe P. Martinez from Taos, New Mexico, was an automatic rifleman in Company K of the 32nd Infantry.  With the company stalled by enemy trenches, Martinez walked into the enemy fire, slaughtered five Japanese soldiers with grenades and his BAR, and reached the crest of the ridge before he collapsed with a mortal wound he had taken fifty yards down the hill.  Northern Force followed him up and took the northwestern razorback of the Fish Hook, which Martinez had cleared:  but it was too late for Martinez, whose posthumous reward was Attu's only Medal of Honor. (p. 249)
But based on this book's account, Eareckson seems to have been a true hero.  A good part of this was having skills and disposition that fit him perfectly into this sitution.

While he irritated his commanders, he also had their begrudging respect.  On May 21, 1943 during the battle of Attu, on a ship, visiting General Buckner got Eareckson to give him a ride over the island to see things first hand.  After they got back the weather was so bad, there was no chance of more flying.  Eareckson went ashore with Buckner.  He hadn't spent any time on the ground and wanted to get a sense of things.
He walked up to the front line, borrowed a rifle and started shooting at Point Able.
He had fired three shots when a Japanese sniper's bullet creased him across the back.  Eareckson emptied his rifle in a furious barrage;  several witnesses claimed he killed the sniper.  His wound was dressed at an aid station, after which Eareckson walked back down to the beach.  Simon Buckner was there, looking after his 4th Infantrymen.  Buckner found a Purple Heart medal, pinned it on Eareckson's chest, and then turned Eareckson around and kicked him with a hard combat boot in the buttocks, "for being where you had no business being." (p. 241)

Eareckson made things work.

Japanese planes were trying to sink US ships at Adak and the American planes coming a distance from Unmak to combat them, didn't have enough fuel capacity to fly around waiting for them and it was hard to find them in the fog anyway.
. . .especially for American fighters which had maneuverability and firepower, but no radar.  Eareckson solved the problem with typical inventiveness.  No one had ever heard of using bombers to escort fighters:  traditional air tactics worked the other way around.  But traditional tactics had not been devised with the Aleutians in mind.  Eareckson's new P-38 "Peashooter Patrol" sent five radar-equipped B-17 bombers out, as mother ships to a pack of Lightning fighters. . .

. . . a B-17's radar flushed the three oncoming enemy bombers.  Fed range and directions by radio, the P-38 fighters dived straight into the soup and broke through shooting.  The . . . chatter of their cannon and machine guns caught the big Kawanishi 97s totally by surprise.   (pp. 111-112)

Their bombing missions faced
"the heaviest flak concentration of any forward Japanese base in the Pacific . . . but  Eareckson seldom lost a plane to enemy flak:  he made it a point to brief every outgoing mission on the exact location of every antiaircraft gun, as determined by weather planes' photoreconnaissance." (p. 113)

But as mentioned above, he had no respect for the official way if it didn't suit the conditions and created his own ways that allowed him to fulfill his mission.
General Butler's staff included a number of paperwork addicts who demanded "certificates of airworthiness" before releasing grounded planes, condemned beat-up engines and tires as "unfit for use," and tried to ensnarl Eareckson's Bomber Command in the kind of red tape loved by all military organizations.  Eareckson bulldozed his way through it all.  In the process he became known as "Commander in Chief, Junkman's Air Corps." because every plane in his command was composed of the cannibalized parts of at least three wrecked bombers.  . . "(p. 113)
The Japanese knew about Eareckson because he
"heckled the Japanese by radio - "How'd you like that bomb, Tojo?  Give Tojo headache maybe?"  It quickly became a daily trademark and before long Tokyo Rose was airing sarcastic remarks aimed at Eareckson by name." (p. 98)
        At Kiska the Japanese order came down:  "Get Eareckson"  (p. 115)

When Eareckson went to California to help plan the invasion of Attu, the Japanese no longer heard his taunts.
"Tokyo Rose announced with grim satisfaction, "Our very good friend, Colonel Eareckson is no more.  He was shot down in the sea on January 13."
"When Eric learned of this,"  recalls Colonel William Alexander, "he said, 'Why, the little bitch, wait till I get back up there!" (p. 157)
From most people that would be seen as just empty boasting, but as Eareckson is portrayed in this book, it's genuine.  

Was the Aleutian War Worth It?

In 1943, Earickson had been pulled off bombing Adak and Attu to go help plan the invasion with the chosen force - made up of Southwesterners headed by a general from South Carolina - in the San Diego area.

Earickson's experience in the Aleutians caused him to question the wisdom of trying to retake Attu.   He penned a limerick (another example of his unique abilities was his ability to question his bosses without penalty):
In viewing Attu's rocky shores
     While planning how to take it,
This thought impresses more and more:
    The Nips should first forsake it.
Since Attu ain't worth a hoot
    For raising crops or cattle,
Let's load with booze and take a cruise
    And just call off the battle. (p.204)
Despite advice from Alaskan-experienced officers like Eareckson, the troops were grossly under equipped for the weather and terrain.  Despite warnings that the trucks would get mired in the wet tundra, large guns and equipment were shipped to Attu only to be left on the beaches.

I was reading the attack on Attu on the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, when the speakers announced that we shouldn't worry that we were being escorted by the Coast Guard, that this was a routine Homeland Security activity.  Which got me thinking about the Coast Guard working closely with Shell right now near Kodiak.

And I thought about the Kulluk again when I read about the lack of news coverage of Attu.  Despite the importance of the operation there was very little publicity about it, especially compared to other Pacific battles.
Attu veteran George F. Noland recalls wryly:  "No Marines - other wise it would have been world history."  Attu did receive some press coverage, provided by the nine American war correspondents on the scene, the belated and superficial announcements of the Navy in Washington, and the daily accounts broadcast by Radio Tokyo on short-wave.  But the battle was soon eclipsed by developments in other theaters.
And here's where I perked up:
Meanwhile Washington's official information offices, embarrassed by the mistakes and failures of Attu, were not eager to encourage the public to ask questions. 
Sounds a little like the Kulluk Unified Command, apparently led by Shell, the company that has said how prepared they are for anything that could come at them in the Arctic, also limiting information about what is happening in the rescue of the Kulluk.  Their current embarrassment is at the eastern end of the Aleutian Chain.  
In part, the higher ups wanted to retake Attu because it was US territory.  And its possession gave the Japanese a base from which to protect their North Pacific Fleet and potentially attack the US mainland.  The American repossession would put the US within air striking distance of Japan.  In hindsight, neither of these scenarios happened.  The daily US bombing of Attu and Kiska when they were occupied by the Japanese prevented any offensive action by the Japanese.  Would it have been different without the bombing?  We don't know.

But the cost of retaking Attu and Kiska in lives and equipment lost, not to mention the pulling away of troops from other theaters, was high.

In Attu it was high because the Japanese soldiers stranded there fought to the death and the invading American troops were not prepared for the conditions they faced.

In Kiska, the Japanese had managed to sneak all their men off the island before the attack, but the US didn't know this, though the lack of movement on the island as observed by pilots raised this possibility.  This meant the Japanese soldiers didn't have to die in battle or through suicide.  But it didn't prevent American casualties:
"Twenty-four men were shot to death by their own comrades in the fog.  Booby-traps and mines killed four others.  Fifty were wounded - booby-trapped or shot by mistake.  One hundred and thirty men got trenchfoot.
Patrolling destroyer Abner Read  struck a Japanese mine moored in a Kiska cove.  It crushed her stern plates and filled her hold with asphyxiating smoke - several men died there, and then the ship's stern broke off and sank, carrying men down.  The final toll from Abner Read was seventy-one dead, thirty-four injured." (p. 288)
Garfield writes:
The outcome [the retaking of Kiska] was satisfactory, but nothing could disguise the fact that for more than two weeks the Allies had bombarded an abandoned island, and that for a week thereafter they had deployed 35,000 combat soldiers - 313 of whom became casualties - across the deserted island.   .  .  The Kiska operation reddened faces from Anchorage to Ottawa to Washington.
The positive outcomes, aside from getting the Japanese out of US territory, according to Garfield were the lessons that were learned in Attu and Kiska that would be applied elsewhere in the war. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grandpa Meets Granddaughter

My family prefers not to appear on the blog and I mention them, usually, only in passing to give regular readers some context for my comings and goings.  But there are some events that demand more than the cryptic message I posted when she was born last week.  Meeting and greeting my new granddaughter is one of them.

There is no shortage of new children arriving into the world every day.  According to the BabyCenter a little over 4 million are born each year in the US alone, which comes to about 11,000 each day.  Vizwiz tells me that her birthday ranks 337 out of the 366 possible birthdays.  Christmas ranks 365 and February 29, leap year day, ranks 366. 

Yet each birth is an amazing event.  Connecting us to our pasts and our futures and stirring mystical bonds and giddy expectations that the world can be a better place.  What an honor and treat to hold this precious child. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Hipsters" (Stilyagi) DVD Coming Out With English Subtitles

The 2009 Anchorage International Film Festival winning feature - Hipsters - is coming out in DVD with English subtitles!  This was a wonderful giant Russian musical a about hipsters in Moscow in the 1950's.  In the drab Soviet Union, these kids with their wild suits and big hair and rock and roll music really stand out.  This is a fun and lively musical with big sweeping musical scenes and great music.

Chris left me a comment on one of the older posts about the movie when it was at the festival.
Hipsters is finally being released on DVD with english subs! Hipsters DVD release with english subtitles from amazon
[UPDATE November 16, 2014:  Unfortunately the link goes to a Go Daddy ad for the url.  Not sure where this movie is available with English subtitles today.  Anyone know?  Leave a comment and link.]
Do share as I know alot of people have been waiting for this one!

It appears that Chris works for the company that did the subtitles - Subtitlemeplease - where the link takes you.

This is a feel good movie and the music will grow on you.  (I got to see it three times at the festival.)  It beat out some really strong competition that year.  Here's the subtitled preview:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Unified Command Totally Unresponse To My Query

In a post Sunday, I went  went line-by-line through two Kulluk Unified Command Updates (#s 42 and 43) pointing out the ambiguities, the self-congratulations, the repetitions,  and general lack of forthcomingness.

But I held up posting it.  I decided I should at least submit some questions and give them a chance to answer.   I went to their page and filled out their comment/question form. (There's no phone number or email address on the Kulluk Unified Command page.)  After I got their response, I posted the previous post.

So, here's what I asked:
"Following up on Update #43.

You write:  "The damage discovered on the Kulluk is consistent with what is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground."

Can you tell me:
1.  What do you include in "vessel of this type"?  I assume off shore oil rigs.  Is that correct?
2.  How many vessels of this type have been 'on hard ground'?
3.  Can you give me the vessel names and dates?
4.  Specifically what damage "is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground"?
5.  You say the damage on the Kulluk is what is to be expected.  If you know that, then you must know what damage the Kulluk has.  Can you please detail that damage?


And here is the speedy answer back:
The following inquiry was submitted to Kulluk Tow Incident | Coast Guard,
Shell, Kodiak Borough, Alaska DEC, Noble on 01/19/13 08:49 (1117123):
From : Deb Sawyer
Date : 01/19/13 10:45

Thank you for contacting Unified Command. The information provided in the
most recent update includes all the details that have been released to
date. The report continues to be reviewed. Unified Command will not
comment on the damage assessment until the report is finalized. 

Deb Sawyer

 If you read my questions carefully, you'll see that four out of five of them have nothing to do with the results of the report or the damages of the Kulluk.  They are about past events about other incidents that have nothing to do with the Kulluk, except the previous update referenced them.

It's not just me thinking this.  Here are some other responses:
  • Salvagers tight-lipped on recovery of Kulluk drilling rig that ran aground - Associated Press Headline at  The Oregonian  (Variations on this picked up at various others like The SeattlePI ,    The Olympian and the Albany, NY TimesUnion.)
  • Unified Command Mum About Kulluk's Future   - Headline from KUCB Unalaska
  • 'Unified Command' Tight-Lipped About Kulluk - Headline KMXT Kodiak
  • After Kulluk Hull Damage Assessment, Shell Mum on Damage Extent – State of Alaska Could Care Less - Alaska blogger "Edward Teller" at Firedoglake 
But they aren't just mum about damage extent.  They are mum about everything.  At least at the news briefings there was a chance to ask questions to real people.  But the last one, to my knowledge, was January 5.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Famous People Born 1913 Part III: Albert Camus To William Casey

The first post gives background on the year 1913, including a link to an interesting video with a panel talking about the cultural situation of 1913.  It was very much a time of change.  

The second post has video of the two that appear to still be alive (both opera singers), Risë Stevns and Licia Albanese.   It also has the list of all 44 that I chose in birth order.  So the 'oldest' born January 4, 1913, Rosa Parks, starts the list.

This is the third post - and I'll probably have two more -  with bios of the people where you can learn more about them.  Since these are so long, I'll divide them up into shorter posts.  And I still have bios to finish. 

The people in this post are listed by death date.  The first (and thus youngest) of the 2013 cohort to die - Albert Camus - comes first.  And reflecting culturally who had most access to power and fame in the 20th Century, most are white males. 

Albert Camus, 46 (1913 - 1960 ) Nobel Prize in Literature 1957

Image from Tigerloaf

was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five. The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L'Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose "collective creation" Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.

The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds Camus's notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with "the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction". Meursault, central character of L'Étranger (The Stranger), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later - when the young killer faces execution - tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste (The Plague), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus's words: "We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them". Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L'Exil et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.

Alan Ladd, 50 (1913-1964)  Actor
Photo for sale at leadinglightsautographs

Alan Ladd was born on September 3, 1913, to the American-born Alan Ladd Sr., a freelance accountant who traveled frequently, and the petite Selina Rowley Ladd (stage name Ina Raleigh), who was born in County Durham, England, in 1888 and came to the United States in 1907. They married in Hot Springs in 1912, but it is not known how the couple met or came to settle in Arkansas.

In 1917, when young Ladd was four, he saw his father fall over and die from a heart attack. While there was a small amount of insurance money to tide them over, the poverty-stricken mother and son lived in a rundown apartment building in Hot Springs, while Ina, without family or close friends, tried to decide what to do. On July 3, 1918, four-year-old Alan found a box of matches to play with and burned down the shabby apartment building the Ladds lived in.
Without furniture or possessions, Ina took what little money she had and moved with Alan to Oklahoma City. Alan was a frail child, and when he entered school, he was the smallest in his grade and was subjected to relentless teasing about his tiny size. Ina remarried to a frequently unemployed house painter named Jim Beavers. Unable to find work to support the family in Oklahoma City, they decided to move to California in 1920. Ladd later said it was like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, taking them four months to make the journey in a broken-down Model T. He also remembers constantly being hungry, as the family was too poor to buy food. Beavers was forced to sell his paint brushes to pay for the frequent car repairs. Reaching California, they moved from a transient camp in Pasadena to Hollywood, where Beavers found a short-lived job painting movie sets for a soon-to-be defunct studio. Ladd remembers the family subsisting on potato soup for weeks on end.  . .
Initially turned down as an actor by motion picture studios because of his light skin and blond hair (which was felt not to photograph well), as well as his short stature (at this time 5' 6"), he played small parts in local radio productions, working to improve his voice until he progressed to national presentations broadcast from Hollywood, such as “Lux Radio Theater.” Talent agent and former starlet Sue Carol heard him on the radio, liked what she heard, and offered to sign him to a contract. Ten years older than Ladd, she later said, “He came into my office wearing a long white trench coat. His blond hair was bleached by the sun. He looked like a young Greek god and he was unforgettable.” Through her efforts, he was cast in an uncredited role as a reporter in the 1941 movie Citizen Kane. His role as the hired killer Raven in the film This Gun for Hire (for which his hair was dyed black) won him instant fame in 1942. That same year, he divorced his wife Midge and married his agent Sue Carol a week later. They had two children, Alana (born 1943) and David (born 1947). . .
He starred in the movies Two Years Before the Mast, The Blue Dahlia, O.S.S. (all in 1946), and The Great Gatsby in 1949. His starring role in 1953’s Shane was said in The New York Times to be “one of the best performances ever given in a Western movie.” He received the Photoplay Gold Medal for the most popular performance of 1953 for Shane (along with Marilyn Monroe for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). His handprints and footprints were added to Graumann’s Chinese Theatre in 1954. 
On November 2, 1962, he was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his chest, which he said was accidental. On January 29, 1964, at age fifty, Alan Ladd was found dead at his Palm Springs home of an overdose of sedatives and alcohol.  .  . (From The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture)
Image from Findagrave
Delmore Schwartz, 52 (1913-1966 ) Writer

Delmore Schwartz was born December 8, 1913, in Brooklyn. The marriage of his parents Harry and Rose, both Roumanian immigrants, was doomed to fail. Sadly, this misfortune with relationships was also a theme in Schwartz's life. His alcoholism, frequent use of barbiturates and amphetamines, and battles with various mental diseases, proved adverse in his relationships with women. His first marriage to Gertrude Buckman lasted six years; his second, to the young novelist Elizabeth Pollett, ended after his ceaseless paranoid accusations of adultery led him to attack an art critic with whom he believed Elizabeth was having an affair.

Despite his turbulent and unsettling home life as a child, Schwartz was a gifted and intellectual young student. He enrolled early at Columbia University, and also studied at the University of Wisconsin, eventually receiving his bachelor's degree in 1935 in philosophy from New York University. In 1936 he won the Bowdoin Prize in the Humanities for his essay "Poetry as Imitation." In 1937 his short story "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" (successfully written in one month during the summer of 1935 after he locked himself in his Greenwich Village apartment) was published in Partisan Review, a left-wing magazine of American politics and culture; the following year this short story would be published by New Directions with other poetry and prose in his first book-length work, also titled In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. It was praised by many, including T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Robert Lowell, and Vladimir Nabokov. . .
The last years of his life Schwartz was a solitary, disheveled figure in New York. He drank frequently at the White Horse Tavern, and spent his time sitting in parks and collecting bits of work, quotes, and translations in his journal. Finding himself penniless and virtually friendless, in the summer of 1966 Schwartz checked into the Times Squares hotel, perhaps to focus on his writing. Unfortunately by this time his body had been taxed by years of drug and alcohol abuse. He worked continuously until a heart attack on July 11 seized him in the lobby of the hotel.  [From]
For a more literary view of Schwartz see The Poetry Foundation.

Image from Dr. Marco's
Vivien Leigh, 53  (1913 - 1967 ) Scarlett O'Hara
 Actress Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India. From the ages of six to 15 she was educated in English convent schools, where she showed aptitude for the performing arts; then her education was polished off in European finishing schools. (According to Mia Farrow, 7-year-old Vivian told Farrow's mother Maureen O'Sullivan, who was a schoolmate, that she "was going to be famous.") At 18 she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and at 19 she married barrister Leigh Holman, whose name she used to create her stage name, Vivien Leigh. A year later, still studying acting, she had a daughter, Suzanne.
In the mid-1930s Vivien met and began a passionate pursuit of Laurence Olivier, who was then married to Jill Esmond. Leigh and Olivier soon began a very public affair, and after appearing together on both stage and screen, including Fire Over England, they each left their spouses. When Olivier signed to play Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, which was being filmed in Hollywood, Vivien asked to be cast as Heathcliff's Cathy, but was turned down because she was an unknown in America at the time. It was then the ultimate irony that she won the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, which came out in the same year as Wuthering Heights and completely eclipsed the latter film at the Academy Awards for 1939. Vivien Leigh, the unknown, won Best Actress.
Leigh and Olivier were married at last in 1940. During the war years, Vivien worked mostly on stage in and around London. Speaking of this period, stepson Tarquin Olivier, said, "She was an insomniac always, and he had to sit up with her, and he was not an insomniac. She only needed about three or four hours a night. It was very hard." In 1944, while filming Caesar and Cleopatra, Leigh discovered she was pregnant, but a fall on the set caused her to miscarry. It was Tarquin's opinion that losing this baby "caused her manic depression to come forward" (Biography, 2000). Additionally, in 1945 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Bipolar disorder was little understood at that time. Lithium was not yet in use, and the only treatment she received was shock therapy, which was not then administered with the same level of care as today. Tarquin Olivier saw burns on his stepmother's temples at times from her shock treatments. Her ill health, physical and mental, began to strain the Leigh-Olivier marriage. Leigh was drinking heavily at times, culminating in a breakdown during the filming of Elephant Walk (she was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor).

In spite of her illnesses, she continued to work in a handful of films and on stage, winning a second Oscar for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. Olivier finally divorced her in 1960 to marry actress Joan Plowright. Though Leigh lived for the rest of her life with a younger actor by the name of Jack Merivale, friends agree that Olivier was her great love. She died of tuberculosis in 1967. [From Bi Polar]

Image from Hartford Courant
Vince Lombardi, 57 (June 6, 1913-September 3, 1970 )  Football Coach

One of the most successful coaches in football history, Vince Lombardi transformed the Green Bay Packers into a dominating force in the National Football League in the 1960s, winning five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowl crowns. Off the field, Lombardi became known for his coaching philosophy and motivational skills, demanding dedication and obedience from his team and promising championships in return.

Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of five children. Raised Catholic, Lombardi studied for the priesthood for two years before transferring to St. Francis Preparatory High School, where he became a star fullback on the football team. Accepted at Fordham University in 1933, Lombardi spent his first year on the freshman team before being promoted to offensive guard on the varsity team. He graduated with a degree in business in 1937.

After college Lombardi worked for a finance company while taking night classes at Fordham's law school and playing semi-professional football with the Wilmington Clippers. In 1939 Lombardi took a teaching and coaching job at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey, where he taught Latin, algebra, physics and chemistry. He also coached the football, basketball and baseball teams. He married Marie Planitz in 1940.

Lombardi left St. Cecilia in 1947 to accept a coaching position at Fordham. Two years later he was hired to coach the varsity defensive line at the United States Military Academy. Under Earl Blaik, who was widely considered the best coach in the country at the time, Lombardi honed the leadership and coaching skills that would become a hallmark of his later coaching success.

Lombardi's professional football career began in 1954 when he became the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Working closely with defensive coordinator Tom Landry and head coach Jim Lee Howell, Lombardi helped to turn the Giants into a championship team in only three years. During Lombardi's five years with the team, the Giants did not have a losing season.

Tired of being an assistant coach, Lombardi accepted a five-year contract as general manager and head coach of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers had won only one game the previous season but Lombardi believed himself up to the challenge. He immediately began cementing his reputation as a demanding coach, creating punishing training regimens and expecting 100-percent dedication from his players. His unrelenting style paid off as Lombardi's Packers defeated the Giants for the National Football League championship on December 31, 1961. For the next eight years the Packers stood alone in the field, winning six divisional titles, five NFL championships, and the first two wins in Super Bowls I and II.

Lombardi retired as head coach in 1968, but retained his position as general manager. Bored without his coaching duties, though, Lombardi became head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1969. He led the Redskins to their first winning record in 14 years. In 1970 the NFL named him its "1960s Man of the Decade."

Diagnosed with intestinal cancer, Lombardi died on September 3, 1970. The following year Lombardi was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame and the Super Bowl trophy was renamed in his honor. ESPN named Lombardi "Coach of the Century" in 2000.  [From Wisconsin History website.]

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William Inge, 60  (May 3, 1913 - June 10, 1973 ) Pulitzer Winning Playwright

William Inge’s Kansas boyhood is reflected in many of his works. Born in Independence on May 3, 1913, he was the second son of Luther Clay Inge and Maude Sarah Gibson-Inge and the youngest of five children. His boyhood home at 514 N. 4th Street in Independence still stands.  . . 
Independence, Kansas in the 1920’s was a wealthy white-collar town and the home of Alf Landon, Harry Sinclair, and Martin Johnson. Until the depression, Independence was said to have had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country.

Inge’s fascination for the theatre began early. In the 1920’s Independence had many cultural events as top artists and shows stopped over for one night stands between performances in Kansas City, Missouri, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Although Inge was not from a well-to-do family, he did get to see many shows as a member of a local Boy Scout Troop. The troop met in the Civic Center, a ground floor meeting room of Memorial Hall, a large 2,000 seat theater where these shows were held. The scouts were regularly invited to sit in the balcony after their meetings to watch the performances.

The small town of Independence had a profound influence on the young Inge and he would later attribute his understanding of human behavior to growing up in this small town environment.  “I’ve often wondered how people raised in our great cities ever develop any knowledge of humankind.  People who grow up in small towns get to know each other so much more closely than they do in cities,” said Inge.  Inge would later use this knowledge of small town life in many of his plays, most of which revolve around characters who are clearly products of small towns like Independence.
In 1943, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as the drama and music critic for the St. Louis Times. It was while he worked as a drama critic that Inge became acquainted with Tennessee Williams. He accompanied Williams to a performance of his play THE GLASS MENAGERIE in Chicago. "I was terrifically moved by the play," said Inge. "I thought it was the finest (play) I had seen in many years. I went back to St. Louis and felt, ‘Well, I’ve got to write a play.’" Within three months he had completed FARTHER OFF FROM HEAVEN, which was produced by Margo Jones in Dallas. Inge returned to a teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis and began serious work on turning a fragmentary short story into a one act play. This work evolved into a play that earned Inge the title of most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway season. The play was COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA.

In 1953, PICNIC opened at The Music Box Theatre in New York City.  .  . PICNIC won Inge a Pulitzer Prize, The Drama Critic Circle Award, The Outer Circle Award, and The Theatre Club Award.

It was in 1952 that Paramount Pictures released the film version of COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA directed by Daniel Mann and starring Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster. Shortly after, in 1956, Columbia Pictures released the film version of PICNIC directed by Joshua Logan and starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell.

Inge’s next success came in 1955 when BUS STOP opened at The Music Box Theatre in New York City. Directed by Joshua Logan, the film version of BUS STOP was released by Fox in 1956 with Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray and Eileen Heckart in starring roles.

Inge’s fame continued to grow as THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, a reworking of his first play FARTHER OFF FROM HEAVEN opened on Broadway in 1957. DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, considered to be Inge’s finest play, is one in which he draws most directly from his own past. He confessed the play was his "first cautious attempt to look at the past, with an effort to find order and meaning in experiences that were once too close to be seen clearly." It was released as a film starring Dorothy McGuire, Robert Preston, Shirley Knight, Eve Arden, and Angela Lansbury in 1960. . .
Inge committed suicide on June 10, 1973 at his home in Hollywood, where he lived with his sister, Helene.  He was 60 years old.   (From The Inge Center.)

Image from Michael Barrier
Walt Kelly, 60 (August 8, 1913 - October 18, 1973 )  Cartoonist - Pogo
 "We have met the enemy and he is us,"
Walter Crawford Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 25, 1913, to Walter Crawford Kelly and Genevieve MacAnnula At the age of two, his family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In high school Kelly recognized his calling when he began drawing cartoons for the high school magazine and a local newspaper, The Bridgeport Post. It was not until many years later in his book, Ten Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo, that Kelly paid homage to his memories in this Connecticut town, saying “my thanks to Bridgeport, which was more a flower pot than a melting pot, more by-way than highway, maybe even more end than beginning.” After graduating high school, he decided to take his talents to New York City. He worked for the embryonic comic book industry and soon decided to move to Los Angeles where his Bridgeport sweetheart, Helen Delacy, had relocated..

In January of 1936, Kelly got one of the biggest breaks of his career. He became part of the staff at Walt Disney Studios, first in the story department and then into animation, which is where he contributed to works such as Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. A year later, in 1937, Kelly solidified his long-lasting relationship with Delacy, and they were married in September. By 1941, Kelly realized that he had seen his share of the West Coast and decided to return to Connecticut. While in Darien, Connecticut, Kelly made frequent trips to New York City to look for work. Finally, in 1941, Kelly was hired by Animal Comics, which would become the birthplace of his ever beloved Pogo. First appearing in Kelly’s “Bumbazine and Albert the Alligator” in October, the little grey opossum with big eyes and his signature red and black striped sweater would not resurface until seven years later when Kelly was hired as the art director of the New York Star. From this point, Pogo’s popularity grew enormously. The comic strip was picked up by the Post-Hall Syndicate after the New York Star folded in January of 1949. Kelly’s so-called “swampland characters” became well known for their witty human ventures, which consequently lacked any sort of rationale. The beginning of Pogo as a political element began in 1952 when Kelly began including social insinuations and an array of new characters that ironically resembled many different political figures. Such figures as Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and J. Edgar Hoover have appeared in Kelly’s comics as a pig, a goat, and a bulldog.

The year of 1951 was a bitter-sweet one for Kelly. In that same year he was given the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society, and he divorced Delacy after three children and fourteen years of marriage. Kelly married a second time to Stephanie Waggony and, later, married third wife, Shelby Daley. The final tribute to Pogo that Kelly had the opportunity to experience was the creation of a Pogo animated cartoon that appeared on television in 1969. Walter Crawford Kelly died in Woodland Hills, California, on October 18, 1973, due to difficulties from diabetes. Kelly will forever be remembered not only for his masterpiece, Pogo, but for also setting the foundation for political and satirical comic strips everywhere. (From Pennsylvania Center for the Book.)

image from Esquire
Jimmy Hoffa, 62 (February 14, 1913 - 1975 )

 Jimmy Hoffa was born February 14, 1913, in Brazil, Indiana. He became a labor organizer in the 1930s, rising in the Teamsters Union during the next two decades. He played a key role in forging the first national freight-hauling agreement. He was sent to prison in 1967 for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy. In 1975 he disappeared; he is believed to have been murdered.

Still missing and presumed dead, Jimmy Hoffa was one of the most famous labor leaders in American history. He saw the challenges and hardships American workers faced firsthand growing up. His father was a coal miner who died when he was still young. His mother went to work to support Hoffa and his three siblings, eventually moving the family to Detroit.

Hoffa only had a limited education. Before the ninth grade, he dropped out of school to go to work to help his family. Hoffa eventually went to work on a loading dock for a grocery store chain in Detroit. There he orchestrated his first labor strike, helping his co-workers land a better contract. He used a newly arrived shipment of strawberries as a bargain chip. The workers wouldn't unload until they had a new deal.

Union Leader

In the 1930s, Hoffa joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He eventually became the president of the union's Detroit chapter. Ambitious and aggressive, Hoffa worked hard to expand the union's membership and negotiate better contracts for his constituents by any means necessary. His extensive efforts paid off in 1952 when he became the vice president of the entire union.

Five years later, Hoffa won the presidency of the Teamsters, replacing Dave Beck. Beck was tried and convicted on charges related to his union activities. Hoffa himself was the subject of numerous investigations but managed to avoid prosecution for many years. In 1961, he scored one of his decisive victories as union president. Hoffa brought together almost all of the trucker drivers in North America under one contract. Both the FBI and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy kept a close eye on Hoffa, believing that he advanced himself and his union with assistance from organized crime. The Justice Department indicted Hoffa several times, but they failed to win their cases against the popular labor leader. In March 1964, however, the prosecution scored a victory against Hoffa. He was found guilty of bribery and jury tampering in connection with his 1962 federal trial for conspiracy. That July, Hoffa suffered another blow. He was convicted of misusing funds from the union's pension plan.

Hoffa spent three years appealing his convictions, but these efforts proved fruitless. He began serving a possible 13-year prison sentence in 1967, but he received a pardon from President Richard Nixon in 1971. Nixon also banned Hoffa from holding a leadership position in the union until 1980. But Hoffa wasted no time trying to fight that ban in court and working behind the scenes to regain control over the Teamsters. [From Biography.]

Image from Philharmonia Chorus
Benjamin Britten, 63 (November 22, 1913 - December 4, 1976 )  Composer
'I write music for human beings'

Benjamin Britten wrote some of the most appealing classical music of the twentieth century. As a boy he began by setting favourite poems to be sung by family and friends. Later, his life partner, Peter Pears, was a singer who provided inspiration for almost four decades.

So it is not surprising that Britten is best known for his music for the voice: choral works, songs and song cycles, and – above all - a series of operas among the most engaging ever written. His first success in this genre, Peter Grimes, revived opera in English.

Britten was also a master of orchestral writing, as his two most familiar works, the Four Sea Interludes and Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, make clear. He was equally committed to writing music for children and amateur performers as he was for leading soloists of the day such as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

From the outset, Britten was the modern composer who did not want modern music to be just for ‘the cultured few’, and aimed always to be ‘listenable- to’.  [BrittenPearsFoundation]

From Jessie Owens Park
Jesse Owens, 66 (September 12, 1913-March 31, 1980 ) Olympic Track Champion

Jesse Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, achieved what no Olympian before him had accomplished. His stunning achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin has made him the best remembered athlete in Olympic history.

The seventh child of Henry and Emma Alexander Owens was named James Cleveland when he was born in Alabama on September 12, 1913. "J.C.", as he was called, was nine when the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his new schoolteacher gave him the name that was to become known around the world. The teacher was told "J.C." when she asked his name to enter in her roll book, but she thought he said "Jesse". The name stuck and he would be known as Jesse Owens for the rest of his life. . .

 Owens chose the Ohio State University, even though OSU could not offer a track scholarship at the time. He worked a number of jobs to support himself and his young wife, Ruth. He worked as a night elevator operator, a waiter, he pumped gas, worked in the library stacks, and served a stint as a page in the Ohio Statehouse, all of this in between practice and record setting on the field in intercollegiate competition. . .

His success at the 1935 Big Ten Championships gave him the confidence that he was ready to excel at the highest level. Jesse entered the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Nazi Germany amidst the belief by Hitler that the Games would support his belief that the German "Aryan" people were the dominant race. Jesse had different plans, as he became the first American track & field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. This remarkable achievement stood unequaled until the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, when American Carl Lewis matched Jesse's feat. Although others have gone on to win more gold medals than Jesse, he remains the best remembered Olympic athlete because he achieved what no Olympian before or since has accomplished. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler's master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another.

Jesse Owens proved in Berlin and thereafter that he was a dreamer who could make the dreams of others come true, a speaker who could make the world listen and a man who held out hope to millions of young people. Throughout his life, he worked with youths, sharing of himself and the little material wealth that he had. In this way, Jesse Owens was equally the champion on the playground of the poorest neighborhoods as he was on the oval of the Olympic games. . .

A complete list of the many awards and honors presented to Jesse Owens by groups around the world would fill dozens of pages. In 1976, Jesse was awarded the highest civilian honor in the United States when President Gerald Ford presented him with the Medal of Freedom in front of the members of the U.S. Montreal Olympic team in attendance. In February, 1979, he returned to the White House, where President Carter presented him with the Living Legend Award. On that occasion, President Carter said this about Jesse, "A young man who possibly didn't even realize the superb nature of his own capabilities went to the Olympics and performed in a way that I don't believe has ever been equaled since...and since this superb achievement, he has continued in his own dedicated but modest way to inspire others to reach for greatness".

Jesse Owens died from complications due to lung cancer on March 31, 1980 in Tucson, Arizona. Although words of sorrow, sympathy and admiration poured in from all over the world, perhaps President Carter said it best when he stated: "Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry. His personal triumphs as a world-class athlete and record holder were the prelude to a career devoted to helping others. His work with young athletes, as an unofficial ambassador overseas, and a spokesman for freedom are a rich legacy to his fellow Americans."[From Jessie Owens Olympic Legends]

Bear Bryant, 69 (September 11, 1913 – January 26, 1983 ) Football Coach

Paul William Bryant was born to William Monroe and Ida Kilgore Bryant September 11, 1913, in rural Cleveland County, Arkansas. His birth certificate lists Kingsland as the place of birth as it was the nearest town. Moro Creek was the nearest geographic landmark. The local farmers identified with the creek's bottom land as home, hence the references to Bryant being from "Moro Bottom." He was the 11th of 12 children born to the couple; three others had died in infancy. Bryant was raised in the poor rural South. His father was disabled much of his life, forcing Bryant and his siblings to work on the family farm.

As Bryant neared his teens, the family moved to the nearby town of Fordyce, where the large-framed boy (six feet one and 180 pounds at age 13, according to some sources) played football and basketball for Fordyce High School. A visit from a traveling circus resulted in the teenage Bryant earning the nickname that became permanently associated with his name.

While attending a sideshow at the Lyric Theater, Bryant was unable to resist the offer of a dollar-a-minute to wrestle a bear. During the match the bear's muzzle came off and Bryant jumped out of the ring and did not get paid in the confusion. Bryant, in his senior year in high school, was a member of the 1930 Arkansas state football champion "Red Bugs."

Bryant was recruited by the University of Alabama's football team but had to take additional classes at the local high school to meet the university's admission requirements because he had not graduated from high school. . .

Bryant was stationed in North Africa. Near the war's end Bryant was assigned to a Carolina pre-flight school, again as a coach. He received an honorable discharge as a lieutenant commander on September 23, 1945. Days before his military service ended, Bryant signed a contract to be the head football coach of the University of Maryland, at age 32. After a 6-2-1 season and a disagreement with the university president, who reinstated a player Bryant had suspended, Bryant resigned. . .
In his 25 years Alabama compiled a 232-46-9 record on its way to six national championships (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979) and 14 SEC titles. His teams participated in 24 consecutive bowl games, including the Sugar, Orange, Liberty, Cotton, Bluebonnet, and Gator bowls. He was national coach of the year three times and SEC coach of the year 10 times while his players received 67 All-America honors. Numerous players went on to distinguished NFL careers, including Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Ozzie Newsome, and Lee Roy Jordan. . . [Encyclopedia of Alabama]

Danny Kaye, 74 (January 18, 1913 - March 3, 1987 ) Comedian

Entertainer, Humanitarian, Renaissance Man

"If Danny Kaye had not been born," a Hollywood writer once observed, "no one could possibly have invented him. It would have been stretching credibility far past the breaking point".
A virtuoso entertainer, UNICEF's first Goodwill Ambassador to the world's children (1954), a Renaissance man who was a jet pilot, baseball owner, master Chinese chef, symphony orchestra conductor, a performer honored with Oscars, Emmys, Peabodys, Golden Globes, the French Legion of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Danny Kaye was one of a kind. There was no one like him. If versatility, skill, passion and joy are necessary elements of genius, then Danny Kaye deservedly ranks among that elite class.
Unique among show business headliners, he starred on Broadway and made such film classics as White Christmas, Hans Christian Andersen, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Court Jester. He appeared on television and radio. He was a box-office magnet on the one-man concert stage. Life magazine called his reception at the London Palladium "worshipful hysteria".  [This is just the beginning of the UNICEF bio.]
The bio also has this tidbit that I'm not quite sure what to do with:
Danny Kaye was born David Daniel Kaminsky on January 18, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York (his actual year of birth was 1911, but the birthday he celebrated was 1913) 
I probably should stick him into the 1911 post.  Weird.

Woody Hayes, 74 (February 14, 1913 - March 12, 1987 ) Football Coach

Images from The Cleveland
Another coach.  I'm not in a good mood.  I was looking at William Casey just before this.  Woody Hayes was a football coach at Ohio State.  He won a lot of games.  But is this the kind of guy we want leading our kids?
Hayes's career at The Ohio State University ended in 1978. This year the Buckeyes were playing Clemson University in the Gator Bowl. As the game was drawing to a conclusion, Hayes punched a player from Clemson after the player intercepted a pass, securing the victory for Clemson. Because of Hayes's action, Ohio State terminated him. [From Ohio Central History]
OK. Everyone is more complex than one day.  Here's from Buckeye Fans Only:

He was as complex as he was successful, leaving behind a legacy as stark in contrast as his personality traits. Throughout Ohio, he is revered for his graciousness and his charity work. The football facility is named in his honor, as is the street outside Ohio Stadium.

Throughout the rest of the country, though, he is reviled for his temper and for punching Clemson's Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
"The truth is, his legacy is always going to start with the fact he slugged Charlie Bauman," said Bruce Hooley, a Columbus sports talk show host who spent 18 years as a beat writer covering the Buckeyes. "I don't think Ohio State fans think of that within the first five things when they think of Woody. They think of the Super Sophomores, Hop Cassady, 'The 10-Year War' with Bo and the recruiting of Art Schlichter. You could talk to an Ohio State fan for five minutes before they ever got to the Gator Bowl. "If you talk to someone outside of Ohio, the first thing they mention is the Gator Bowl."

Image from Wikipedia
William Casey, 74 (March 13, 1913 - May 6, 1987 )
The material on Casey online offers little about his life before graduating from college.  It also suggests - but doesn't prove - Casey could have been involved in some of the more corrupt actions in American history.  These include working with the Iranians to postpone release of the American Embassy hostages until after the 1980 election to help Reagan's victory. We do know the hostages were released within an hour of Reagan's inauguration.
He was also involved with the - not unrelated - Iran-Contra affair.
The scandal began as an operation to free seven American hostages being held by a group with Iranian ties connected to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel and receive the Israeli payment. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the U.S. hostages. The plan deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages scheme, in which members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages.[2][3] Large modifications to the plan were devised by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985, in which a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua. [From Wikipedia]
There's nothing clear cut about the most disturbing parts of Casey's life.  There's lots out there so if you want more you can check these sites:
New York Times obituary
A short review of Woodward's book on Casey by right-wing columnist William Safire - here's the end:
Did our master spy know of the diversion of Iran money to the contras? Of course he did; knowledge was power, and the resolute denial of guilty knowledge was quintessential Casey. But if, on his deathbed, this murky man suddenly became lucid, confessed his congressional sins to the nearest reporter and sought absolution from his dovish critics, I would say: Wait a minute, that`s not Casey; why is he conning us?
A biography at Spartacus Educational that has Casey meeting in Madrid with Iranians to work out the deal to postpone the hostage release. 

A review of evidence from Robert Parry's Trick or Treason:  October Surprise Mystery which looked into the details of the Madrid meeting and the Bohemian Grove alibi the House investigation accepted. 

Even if only half of the accusations are true, it paints an evil picture of the men in power and how they've wreaked havoc in the world, made a mockery of democracy, and gotten away with it.  Will Americans ever get to learn the truth of this?  If Tea Party types want to be outraged, the Reagan administration gives them plenty of legitimate fodder.

The next post will start with Woody Herman and end with Red Skelton.  The last post will go from Loretta Young and finish with Risë Stevens and Licia Albanese, both of whom, as far as I can tell, are still alive.