Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TO CZAR OR NOT TO CZAR



Candidates want Development Czar” Underneath this bold Headline which was spread across the top of the front page of Tuesday’s Courier was an article not written by Plainfield’s personal reporter. Mark Spivey, that indicated that all four candidates on November’s ballot recognized the need for an “in charge person” to try to restore Plainfield’s commercial and residential desirability.

There is a Division of Economic Development as a unit of the Department of Public Works and Urban Development. On the City’s site its description reads: “The Economic Development Office's major responsibility is to plan, direct and implement economic development activities within the City of Plainfield. This office provides technical assistance to developers and business owners located or intending to locate in the City of Plainfield.
The Office of Economic Development also administers the City's Enterprise Zone Program.”

The one project featured on the Division’s site is the “Monarch”! Bravo!! What an asset that has been. There is still litigation about costs claimed due on the Senior Citizen's Center, and the status of the Veterans' unit occupancy.

There is no question that after the departure of Pat. Ballard-Fox in the early days of this present administration that Economic Development has been a rudderless ship.

Eight years of nothing may have been the death blow to this community which has had serious changes in its demographics over the past 4 decades. The once substantial affluent white population had given way to an overwhelming African-American majority which has been unwilling to accommodate in its governance the now 40% Hispanic population. There still remains a small core of committed integrated white residents,

It will take a professional similar to Ballard-Fox to revitalize the two potential transit villages, the central business area and the West End Corridor. Separately the Muhlenberg property has to be turned into an asset preferably with a health care core. Hopefully that will include a for profit hospital although that is farfetched; but will never happen in the absence of an aggressive Economic Development Division.

To be successful there will have to be gentrification of the nearby railroad station localities. That will only be possible` if it accompanied with upscale small business and restaurants in the neighborhoods.
The term Czar connotes a person with a free hand. We know that is not possible; however with a go getter in charge and a supportive Council the rebirth is possible long before that one ride to the City becomes a reality.

IS WYNN BACK ?

There is a problem of a balky computer that perhaps did not say its prayers (see yesterday's blog) which has complicated the posting of a blog today. This will have to do.

Perhaps one o the most disturbing blogs that I have read in years was Monday's Dan Damon's Plainfield Today. His report that Wynn the former Superintendent of the Recreation Division was again working for the City is unbelievable.

Once again the Mayor has shown her disdain for the people and for honest government. The history of that division over the years  and her protection of two people in that division is incomprehensible.

Years of suspected mismanagement of funds and suspicion of illegal solicitations have always been given a whitewash. So was her promise of  an investigation of the infamous Scarlet letter which indications suggested that it had come from the Recreation's color computer; one of two in City Hall.

Her favoritism of the upstart Recreation Base Ball league over the established Queen City Baseball League was notorious and repaid by Recreation's employee in charge of that operation public support when she was under investigation be the Council.

We have only her word that things she was suppose to look into involving Recreation ever happened.

Has  Councilor Williams received  all the fiscal accountings she has requested?  to the best of my knowledge she has never reported her findings at the Council meeting.

WhetherWynn officially has been granted access to City Hall facilities, or whether he has been there  illegally  must be made public.

Under any circumstances, the Council  should forget any possible political embarrassment and request a full investigation by the prosecutor and/or State authorities of the Division's fiscal activities over the past few years. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

THAT PRAYER



For years I have expressed my dislike for the Pledge to the Flag; and the Prayer opening the Council meeting. Not only do I feel that there is a too often an element of hypocrisy by those who are most vociferous in their utterance.

However as long as the prayer was not sectarian it could be tolerated by all.  In the greater sphere of Council issues it was really immaterial.

That had not always been true; throughout the 90s and early 2000s that prayer which was offered in rotation by Council members reflected their religion and from some who were overwhelmingly religious it was offensive to those of other denominations.
Fortunately, in the late 2000s the Clerk was reading what seemed to be a non-sectarian acceptable prayer. I firmly believe that everyone on the Council considers it to be so.
I have also paid little attention to it since there I are no specific reference to any religious figures.

However, recently my attention was directed to a You-tube video of the July Council Meeting and I heard several phraseologies that could be consistent with one religion. I am printing the prayer as the Clerk reads it but with the two questionable phrases in bold face.  I will follow with several absolutely non-sectarian prayers that may be considered if desired. The one I like is in boldface:

By the Clerk:”Humbly we ask God the Giver of peace and the lover of charity, to give the entire family of nations true agreement with his will and  to grant the light of his spirit on all who work for justice and peace amen

I offer:
Let us pray silently together, each one of us, according to our individual beliefs.
Let us offer thanks for the blessings of fellowship around us.
Let us give gratitude for our opportunity to serve our fellow citizens
 Let the feelings of love, kindness, and a well directed spirit always be reflected in our actions, amen.
Or;
“Teach us to use our Constitutional freedom to help to preserve and strengthen the freedom of all
By respecting and upholding its laws;
By supporting our law enforcement agencies;
By informing ourselves on current issues;
By voting regularly and wisely; and
By honoring the rights of other people; amen.”

And also:
“Help us to forever remember those guardians who stood in harm’s way to protect our loved ones and us. Bless and keep those guardians of liberty and their loved ones, just as they blessed us and ours with their service in the name of freedom. Amen”

I hope if the Council it is going to retain the present meeting format; it would give some consideration to these prayers. These are only examples for there are others that they may locate.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

17th ABN (an old history)

I just finished posting my chapter on my experiences in the "Bulge" as a Battalion Surgeon with the 17th ABN, and intend to print segments  up to my return to the states. However in March this year I had repeated the story of Varsity so I intend to skip that portion of the story when I resume the tale. Over the years from 2008 I have posted vignettes of "My War" which can be retrieved by searching my blog's archives- on the right side bar of the posting.

In histories of WWII  the  82nd and 101st Airborne have been imortalized and rightly so. However the 17th although it has been overlooked in popular history because of it was only in Europe for just over a year had an equally crucial and meritorious part in the war against Germany. 

I do not remember  the source of the following history which I posted in 2010. 



“Thunder From Heaven”

The 17th Airborne Division was activated in April 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina and trained there and in Camp Forrest, Tennessee before going overseas in August 1944. It was undergoing further intensive airborne training, when at the news of the German breakthrough in the Battle of the Bulge, units of the 17th ABD were rushed into the Rheims area in France by air in spectacular night transport landings. They went into the line on Christmas Day 1944 to relieve the badly battered 11th Armoured Division. General Patton, who had just taken command on the sector, believed that the Germans, once stopped at Bastogne, were in full retreat. Under appalling conditions of snow and fog with poor recon, no air cover and inadequate artillery. Patton ordered the 17th to attack. Hitler on the other hand, furious at the failure to take Bastogne, command two German panzer armies in the north to regroup and attack again. The 17th was among the American Divisions that ran head-on into the superior force. After some initial progress, it received mauling with severe losses. Lightly armed paratroopers and glider men, at time in waist deep snow, were fighting German tanks. When Major General Miley, the division commander indicated that he was taking 40% casualties in some of his battalions (a subsequent historian's estimate put the losses at 1000 a day). Patton discounted the report, convinced that he was dealing with a defeated enemy. Later, however, in his diary he stated: "They ran right into the flank of the German attack". Had this not happened things could have been critical. As it was, we stopped the attack in its tracks. History will claim that perfect timing was a stroke of genius, but I had no idea that the German were attacking". At times using bayonets, the 17th went on to drive the Germans back to their own border. General Miley led the 17th ABD in a daring daylight jump over the Rhine river into the Ruhr heartland of Germany itself, in "Operation Varsity" on March 24, 1945 in a go-for-broke action they and the 6th British ABD, with a combined force of 17000 men, were dropped in just over two hours in a area containing 85000 Germans troops. The Germans knew they were coming. So heavy was the flak they encountered, that an observer (General Gavin) flying above the armada counted 23 aircraft going down at one time. One regiment (513th PIR) was flown in a new, larger C-46s, which with their exposed fuel lines turned out to be fire prone death traps. Earlier, in the planning for Varsity, it became evident that there would not be enough transport planes to tow the required glider elements consisting of 906 WACO's with men, jeeps, artillery and other equipment. A decision was then made to have 578 of these heavily-laden gliders pulled two per plane in a V formation. The result was dread carnage, as gliders crashed on take-off or tow lines fouled during the flight, ripping of wings. Coming so close to the end of the war, little publicity was ever given that operation or its casualties. The worst single day in airborne history was not at Normandy or Arnhem, but at Wesel (Rhine drop) on March 24, 1945 where 1070 members of the 17th ABD and the 6th British ABD were killed and thousands more wounded. Despite the costs, Varsity achieved all its objectives, assisting in the final conquest of Germany. By the time WWII in Europe was over, the 17th ABD had suffered 6292 killed and wounded, almost double the daily combat average of any American airborne division. It also had the most recipient (4) of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sadly what was left of the heroic 17th ABD at the end was largely transferred to other airborne units. The division was deactivated on September 15, 1945, at camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts.

Despite the date and time listed this was originally posted 1/8/2010 at 11am.

Friday, July 26, 2013

MORE BULGE STORIES



One night the troops in the front lines reported cries from a wounded soldier down between the lines. Our litter carriers volunteered to go out in the dark of the night to find and bring him in, even though they could be under fire. 

When he arrived at the aid station on a stretcher he had severe shrapnel wounds to the right leg and the buttocks.  We could not immobilize the leg with a Thomas (metal) splint due to his hip wounds. 
 The buttocks and back wounds prevented us from transferring him on his back. After dressing the wounds, I elected to use the “well leg splint” method, i.e. firmly binding the injured leg to the other leg with bandages and tape.
  
He was then transported face down on the stretcher by our jeep to the collecting company. He had been given additional morphine for his pain. According to regulations he was sent out with the all proper information tags firmly attached to him.

These tags were initiated as soon as the patient was triaged. The tag had all known vital information, including a description of injuries and treatment, and were signed by an officer (me) before the patient left the station.
  
Several weeks later I received an inquiry from division medical command about a complaint from the Inspector General’s office. Apparently, this man had arrived at the field hospital in critical condition without any splint or immobilization.  The only tag with information on him was the one I had initiated.  He had gone from us to a collecting company then by ambulance to a clearing company, all physicians staffed medical units, before ultimately being transported to the field hospital.
Since our tag unaltered, was all that was on him when he reached the hospital, in one or both of these installations no one had apparently examined or treated him. In both of those installations the medics should have added pertinent comments to the existing tag, or initiated a new one.
  
I felt it was unfortunate that I and my aid men should be criticized for their doing a heroic job. Of course, after I responded in triplicate, there were no repercussions.
Strange things do happen in a war.  Once in the middle of combat a soldier came up to me and requested a prophylactic kit. This was an “Argyrol” (organic silver) solution in a disposable syringe that was to be self administered by injection into the penis after intercourse to prevent VD.

Another time we stopped at a farm house that was still intact although twice the war had just  passed by . The farmer’s nubile teen age daughter wanted to show me the space where she had hidden for several days from the Germans. I thought it advisable to decline her offer.

I had gone overseas with two, not my best, briar pipes to smoke. If captured I was not going to let those Nazis have anything of real value. I had broken both earlier in the Bulge and did not smoke or desire cigarettes.

Our men were used to seeing me with a pipe in my mouth.  In one village that we had liberated, my men brought the village mayor to me to give me his well smoked briar pipe. The next day he reappeared and wanted it back since it was his favorite. Instead he offered me a highly colored and smoked ‘clay” pipe. Of course I accepted the exchange and that pipe is still in my possession...

Another night we bivouacked after dark in a house in a small village. A shell landed into the building directly behind the one we occupied, causing several severe casualties. The next morning we discovered that we were on the front side of a hill, facing the Germans.

We had one buck pvt., listed on the T/O as a litter bearer, who was scared to death and was of no value. We finally made him the section “hot chocolate maker”. We needed warm fluids for the wounded   or the aid men when they came in out of the cold. If we halted, even for five minutes when we were moving in column, he dug a personal foxhole.  Since he could dig so fast even though there was knee high snow on top frozen solid ground, and because most of those men had come from around Pittsburgh or West Virginia, I thought he was a coal miner.

Prior to being relieved, we were occupying a house along a main road for our aid station and quarters. This two-story house with the basement was about 50 feet back from the highway. A column of 155 mm heavy artillery canon was passing by. I had never seen anything so massive and was out in the front by the road talking to the one of their officers. 

Suddenly we heard a strange new high pitched noise. I said “Those are rockets aren't they?" "Yes" he replied. I decided it would be prudent to go back into the house if the guns were the target for the “screaming meenies”.  As I entered the front door there was a whirlwind down the steps from the second floor passing me without pausing and into the basement. Our "aid man" had been sleeping upstairs.

The division was sent to an area in Luxembourg overlooking the Our River, and the Sigfried Line. The194th was in reserve in a beautiful intact small hilltop town. Some Italian barbers had set up shop In a nearby school. I decided to have a real shave. The barber stropped his razor, lathered my face and started to shave. He stopped almost immediately and again sharpened the blade first with a stone then the strop. This happened several times. When he was through he shook his wrist up and down, saying that I had the toughest beard he had ever shaved.

I along with several other officers from battalion were allowed to the have a few days R&R.  A personnel carrier took the ten of us to Maastrich in Holland on the Maas River. It was a beautiful and untouched city but pulled in the sidewalks at 8 PM.   

Bored, we decided to go on to Liege. However it was in another Army's area and we had no orders or business to be there. We had to find our own dining and sleeping accommodations.  We found a small private hotel in the center of the city that allowed us to stay for the nights but we had to be out of our rooms by 8:00 am because in the daytime it was used by local business men and their girls. Since we required little sleep, we were really not inconvenienced for the two days spent there, and enjoyed the night life. Incidentally this was the first time any of us had seen much less knew the use of a bidet.

About Feb. 11 the division was relocated for replacements and replenishing to the vicinity of Chalons-sur-Marne. The regiment troops moved by 40 or 8 (Forty men or 8 horses) box cars from Luxembourg to Soissons-le-Petite in France where we encamped in open muddy fields for about 4 weeks, while the allies approached the Rhine. We were now getting real food for our kitchens. Unfortunately, all the good cuts of meat were being siphoned off by outfits in the rear along the supply chain. We received more pork than beef and absolutely no steaks. Since this was champagne country one of our two bottle “monthly” liquor ration was the bubbly. I still am not fond of it.  

This ends the first combat period for the 17th. Some time in the future I will reprint in sequence the invasion into Germany, up to the end of hostilities. I have posted some segments earlier this year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

REAL WAR STORIES.



This portion of the "Real War" and the subsequent over the weekend postings are basically anecdotal and true; not blood and guts.  

The German counter attacks failed, and four days later they began to retreat. We began to move, often cross country, in the knee deep snow. We were now the left flank of the 3rd Army and where wheeling north-east to come in contact with the forces under Montgomery coming from the north. 

Our Division liberated many small towns including  Flamierge, Flamizoule,  Bertogne, and.  Houffalize. I also think Saint Hubert which was on the armies’  borders. For logistical purposes during the later part of the Ardennes campaign, the 193rd, was attached to the 101 Div on our right.

Airborne divisions do not have armored vehicles or even heavy guns other than the 75 mm sawed off or pack canon. Rocket launchers were just beginning to be supplied to us. We were happy to have attached to us the separate 761st tank battalion, a now famous black Afro-American unit.  They were crazy men who would run their tanks full blast down icy hilly village streets and lock the tread on one side to make a 90 degree turn at a corner. Often they had to bounce off a building to make the turn. They were replaced by Co.C 15th Tk Bn (6th Armd.Div).

As we advanced against the Germans we saw great numbers of vehicles and artillery that had been abandoned during the retreat from the initial German attack. Both the 106th and 28th (the Pennsylvania National Guard) divisions had officers with us, reclaiming their abandoned property.

At one point our regimental colonel (known as the Greyhound) appropriated an abandoned armored vehicle. He proudly led the column in it until a land mine blew off a tread. During that time, he had the entire regiment in column following his command vehicle along ridge lines in the deep snow.
Often the column would stop. One time Father Combs a priest from the tri-cities area of New York said to me “Doc, what is that damn fool doing? Trying to get us killed?”

A Southern Baptist minister was also assigned to our regiment. He traveled everywhere in his Jeep with his driver who would play his folding organ at services. During combat he was fearlessly out among the fighting troops comforting the wounded.

Once I was ordered to set up an aid station in a small town (I don’t remember the name) which I was assured, had been secured. Therefore, I moved in with one jeep and a few aid men into a house along the main street.  About an hour later we noticed the point of A company coming down the street. Apparently, we had been the first Americans into the town.  Another time; for several days we had been driving up and down a well traveled snow covered road before a jeep triggered a buried unexploded mine.

The snow was knee deep and the cold so severe during the Bulge that many of the troops suffered from frostbite. The American troops in Europe had not been issued adequate winter equipment, especially snow boots and gloves. Their availability would have prevented the massive amounts of frostbite that we encountered. Indeed we did not get “Artic gear” until we were at the end of the Ardennes campaign. 

Since the manpower in the “trenches” (out in the open or in foxholes) was being drastically depleted, we were finally ordered not to send anybody to the rear who could still function despite potential loss of frost bitten fingers or toes. To this day I am bothered by a large toe that suffered mild frost bite encountered during that period.

 We were issued gloves and scarves knitted by American Red Cross volunteers. I had a scarf that must have been knitted by an enthusiastic volunteer who was so engrossed in her work that she did not know when to stop. I could wrap it around my neck twice and both ends still reached my boots.

 It was so cold that we, like the Germans before us, used every building that we could find as shelters and the rooms for latrines. No one wanted to be caught dead by a sniper with their pants down.

Our rations were cans of C rations, similar to today’s canned Chef Boyardee or Campbell Beans or Meat Stew. Most of the time we ate C rations cold not heated. Very often we ate the K rations. The latter were in small cans and looked like today’s meat pate or cat food. Some of our favorites were the chopped egg and the devilled ham. K rations did not have the laxative effect of the C ration. The other packaged ration, for emergencies use, was D rations, a very highly concentrated chocolate bar that caused diarrhea if too much was eaten.

When we received a hot meal it came up from the rear to each company or platoon after dark. Of course it was served in the dark. By this time most of us had lost at least half of our mess kits and some utensils. The spoon was the most important one not to lose.  I can’t recall many intact kits in our outfit by the end of the campaign. It was not unusual to have mashed potatoes, stew, or gravy and chocolate pudding in one mass. Truly the term mess kit was appropriate 

When we had the opportunity to wash or shave our helmets doubled as wash basins. Despite, the Geneva Convention rules, we Medics quickly covered over the large red crosses painted on our helmets. They made too good an aiming target. Front line officers also hid their rank insignia.(cont.)