I was out front one morning, enjoying a gorgeous holiday weekend. While pointing in my general direction, Old Man Jack said to me from across the street, “Koji, she needs to come in at night.” My car was in between Jack and me. He loved my car…almost as much as his F4U Corsair.
Why would he tell me to put my Grabber Orange Mustang into the garage? He knows it’s parked outside 24/7 because the aggravating ex took away my garage space without saying a word.
“Say what, Jack?” asked I…
I was humbled shortly thereafter by this exceptional and aging WWII combat vet who went to war as a young boy.
Indeed, I had to park my supercharged, car show winning Grabber Orange Mustang at curbside 24/7. Blistering sun, rain, ashes from wildfires, toxic sea gull poop and dog pee on my chrome wheels, I tell ya. The sea gull poop was the worst: unless you got if off before the desert-like sun microwaved it, it would leave the vinyl graphics underneath stained. Crap.
But I had to park it outside on the street, as I mentioned, as my darned ex decided to secretly take over my man-cave just months before I got the Mustang GT.
If you thought Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, the ex’s takeover of my man-cave was a blitzkrieg. Let’s just say it was a helluva shock to come home from work one day to find an illegal alien well on his way into putting up walls in the garage. She was building a “massage room”. Well, in the end, it was used for much more, unfortunately.
But back to Old Man Jack telling me that “she needs to come in at night”…
“Jack, I can’t put the car in the garage. You know that,” I said.
“No, not the car, you dumb shit. The flag!” he said with his boyish trademark grin and with great fondness.
“Huh? The flag?” I asked.
“Shit, didn’t they teach you anything in school? You gotta put a light on her if she’s staying out at night,” he said.
I then realized he had pointed to the flag behind me and not my car. Duh. I had put the red, white and blue out for the holidays as always and had simply left it out – and yes, for convenience. He must have seen it left out the night before. But then again, he must have been biting his tongue for years as I had left it out before.
As Popeye, the Sailor Man would say, “How embarrassinks.”
Well, Old Man Jack was right; there has to be a light shining on the flag at night. And yes, I had learned that exact flag etiquette as a youngster in school but just plain forgot with time. Heck, me and this other kid had the honor to take down the school’s flag at the end of the day on a regular basis then properly fold her up while in the 6th grade. I can still hear the clamps clanking on the metal flag pole as we lowered her.
Anyways, I had remembered that story with today being Memorial Day. I had the flag out in reverence to our fallen. I even caught the tail end of a flight of four WWII T-6 Texans just north of us in a missing man formation.
It is now dark outside and yes, I brought her in. Can’t upset Old Man Jack, you know.
But it ate my heart out to see it draped over his casket just about three years later.
As I watched “How to Train Your Dragon” on Blu-Ray for the third time with my kids, it became clear that knights in shining armor kill dragons…and only in fairy tales.
A tremendous Einstein moment for this old geezer.
But then I realized that sometimes, what we read about WWII history can be sort of a fairy tale, complete with a knight in shining armor trying to slay a dragon… the dragon being what truly happened in war.
History becomes what the writer – or a leader – wants it to be in the public domain.
Unknown to many is that another battle raged after the surrender of Japan. It was about what was to be recorded as an official history of WWII. It was a battle involving glorification, greed and politics of both the victors and the defeated.
And of course, it involved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
First, a quick opinion and summary of MacArthur from this arm-chair (amateur) historian’s viewpoint.
MacArthur had a helluva an ego as did George Patton and Bernard Montgomery. He was suspicious, short tempered, short on patience and embittered. MacArthur – as did Patton – studied military history extensively; he loved Napoleon. As commander, he failed to appropriately alert the troops under his command in the Philippines immediately prior to Pearl and worse yet, in the hours after. He had to flee the Philippines on a PT boat along with his family to avoid capture leaving behind his troops. However, supported by a brilliant, top notch staff and highly critical intel derived from intercepted then deciphered Japanese transmissions, he was highly successful in winning the war in the Pacific. He was a hero at war’s end to his great gratification. He was so loved by the American public that quite a few babies were named Douglas.
Primarily due to a ridiculously small and inexperienced staff, only a relatively short written history of WWII in the Pacific emerged in late 1946 to the chagrin of MacArthur. He immediately then placed Major General Charles Willoughby in charge of generating an “official” history.
Willoughby was in charge of the US Army’s G-2 (i.e., military intelligence) in the Southwest Pacific theater of war and was trusted by MacArthur. (I briefly reported on Willougby in “Ike, a German-American Soldier”.) Having a heavy German accent, Willoughby was very loyal to MacArthur, pompous and stoutly anti-Communist. He seized the opportunity to “write the history” on victory in the Pacific under MacArthur’s leadership.
Seeking glory in this mission, Willoughby recruited by the end of 1946 top Japanese military officers, spies and even war criminals. Each had their own personal goals and copious amounts of US money flowed into these Japanese hands. One Japanese officer who Willoughby met in Manila was the Imperial Japanese Army’s Lt. General Torashiro Kawabe (photo above). Amazingly, because Kawabe also spoke German very well and was anti-Communist, he and Willoughby struck it off well.
A short time later, still in 1946, Willoughby met Lt. General Seizo Arisue who was the intelligence chief for the Imperial Japanese Army. By sheer luck, Arisue was also fluent in German and a staunch anti-Communist and reported he had the extensive spy network in place mentioned above. A triad had thus formed and the project to document history took off but with a twist: to Willoughby’s credit, he foresaw a “dual” history. As history always gets written by the victor, Willoughby wanted two volumes. One would be the US side of the story, the second volume to be Japan’s.
In early 1947, Willoughby was introduced to a former colonel who served at the Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo during the war. His name was Col. Takuhiro Hattori. Hattori was known to both Kawabe and Arisue as a genius in planning and organizing. Hattori eventually became the person from Japan’s side to determine what went into the war history.
Generous money flowed through Willoughby to Kawabe and Arisue, reportedly to help fund the spy network. Along the way, they brought in an “Issei” (a Japan-born first generation immigrant to the US like my grandfather) plus a university professor named Mitsutaro Araki. He also received education in Germany but no history would be complete without sexual escapades. Professor Araki’s wife was a socialite who used her beauty to charm others, primarily men. Her name was Mitsuko Araki. As a bit of trivia, Mitsuko was the only Japanese who was allowed free, unhindered entry/exit to GHQ. It was believed the CIA concluded she and Willoughby were having an affair.
In his efforts to make his recorded history unique, Willoughby paid Mitsuko to find and compensate artists who could paint battle scenes from Japanese eyes. He felt photos were too ordinary plus many were from US sources.
Good blogger geeez2014 wondered in a comment kiddingly if I had stopped blogging.
Well, no, I haven’t.
But my mind is just discombobulated. It is muddled with all the ugly stuff that’s been going on in the world. It is falling apart. Our leaders have failed the world with the result being the everyday people they are supposedly protecting are the ones being killed. NOT themselves.
I don’t care if its a religious leader of any belief or a leader of a country. THEY are the ones ordering the killings when they make decisions…or shy away from making them.
But most of all, I feel our country is but a wooden ship on the high seas besieged by a mutiny while fires are burning below deck. Grave fires.
But rather than trying to express myself with words, I shall defer to cartoons. They reflect my muddled psyche. They may not parallel yours but these reflect my confused thoughts:
Lastly, a photograph of a BOY at the D-Day Commemoration holding our flag. He stood saluting the incoming waves at Omaha Beach for 90 minutes.
A journey to the Riverside National Cemetery for this Memorial Day weekend was deemed in order.
Just my way of saying “Thank you” to three men… and Marge Johnson as well.
I was told that the Boy Scouts planted over 200,000 flags for this weekend. Well, there’s a few more flags now… albeit just small tokens of appreciation from me, they are recognition of what America deeply owes them.
If you never served (like me), you should be grateful that these men did… instead of you.
In a documentary, a paralyzed Marine who made it back from Iwo Jima said one indescribable smell resonates in him to that day: the sweet, distinct smell of fresh blood squirting out from a wound to the jugular vein. He said if you smelled that, it signaled a dying Marine.
The Riverside National Cemetery is the third-largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. It is also home of the Medal of Honor Memorial and only one of four sites recognized as a National Medal of Honor Memorial Site. The Medal of Honor Memorial’s walls feature the names of all medal recipients.
(Note: By clicking on the images, you should be able to download full rez image files.)
He rests in this peaceful grassy knoll next to our other patriots…
To learn about MSgt. O’Leary’s military service, please click on this link to read one of gpcox’s stories about her uncle: MSgt James O’Leary. You will also learn how gpcox’s family has been serving our country for many decades, including her father “Smitty” who endured combat with the famed 11th Airborne during WWII.
Of course, a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson was in order.
Mr. Johnson was a decorated Marine fighting on board CV-6, the USS Enterprise, during the Battle of Midway and the most brutal Solomon Islands campaign in WWII.
Marge recently passed away; I was unable to fulfill my promise to take her again to visit with her husband… but then again, they are together for eternity now. I felt Marge would like some flowers and took an Old Glory for Mr. Johnson. He loved the Corps. You can read about Mr. Johnson, USMC here: Mr. Johnson, USMC.
Interestingly, I learned something about Mr. Johnson’s service in the US Marine Corps. His enlistment was longer than what I was led to believe. He was but 16 when he “got suckered” into enlisting. I’ll need to write about that later, I guess.
May they both happily rest in peace together.
I have come to know Grace and her husband Bernie though a close knit national Mustang club. No, not the horse. The car.
Her first husband was US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Hartsock. His name is etched into the Medal of Honor Memorial wall. He was killed in action at just 24 years of age in Viet Nam. He was but two months away from ending his tour of duty and left a son, Dion.
Staff Sergeant Hartsock’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Hartsock, distinguished himself in action while serving as section leader with the 44th Infantry Platoon. When the Dau Tieng Base Camp came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, S/Sgt. Hartsock and his platoon commander spotted an enemy sapper squad which had infiltrated the camp undetected. Realizing the enemy squad was heading for the brigade tactical operations center and nearby prisoner compound, they concealed themselves and, although heavily outnumbered, awaited the approach of the hostile soldiers. When the enemy was almost upon them, S/Sgt. Hartsock and his platoon commander opened fire on the squad. As a wounded enemy soldier fell, he managed to detonate a satchel charge he was carrying. S/Sgt. Hartsock, with complete disregard for his life, threw himself on the charge and was gravely wounded. In spite of his wounds, S/Sgt. Hartsock crawled about 5 meters to a ditch and provided heavy suppressive fire, completely pinning down the enemy and allowing his commander to seek shelter. S/Sgt. Hartsock continued his deadly stream of fire until he succumbed to his wounds. S/Sgt. Hartsock’s extraordinary heroism and profound concern for the lives of his fellow soldiers were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
After recovering and meandering next to his plane, he simply let out, “Some of (the pilots) just didn’t come back. I could never stop thinking, ‘Did a Jap get him… or was it me?’”
He said that because as Ground Crew Chief, he was responsible for the airworthiness of the plane a young Navy or Marine pilot would take out on a mission…to shoot at the enemy…or be shot at. These planes had to be in the best fighting condition as lives depended on it. But he frequently said “they had to make do” because they never had enough spare parts… so they HAD to improvise.
One time, he said a bushing had been shot out on a plane that had to go on a mission the next morning. Old Man Jack did what he could. What he must. He soaked two pieces of coconut logs in engine oil overnight. When it came time for the pilot to take off, he clamped the oil soaked wood around the cabling and used baling wire to clamp them together as tightly as he could. The plane left on its mission – with the young pilot behind the stick…in a plane with oil soaked coconut log as a bushing.
Now perhaps you understand the depth of his utterance of, “…or was it me?”
I will never have an answer because the question could never have been asked of him.
But I feel Old Man Jack carried tremendous guilt in his heart about something that happened on those stinkin’ islands.
Not just bad; real bad.
Deep down, my heart tugs at me that someone within Old Man Jack’s reach died that shouldn’t have… and that Old Man Jack feels personally responsible for his death… and he carried that anguish for all these years.
As Old Man Jack said, some of the young pilots didn’t come back.
They were killed or are forever missing in action.
That is for whom Memorial Day is all about.
To remember and honor those that did not come back…and not a Memorial Day sale.