Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Continuing to respond in summary to the thousands of questions I have received.

The thrill of being asked so many fascinating questions encourages me to keep going (and that can be interpreted in a number of ways, I realize).  I make no claims for being an expert, but I have had some rather broad experiences, and I believe I bring common sense to my remembrances.  And if folks are going to read my rants in greater numbers than they did before, I will feel challenged to use this vehicle to answer questions.  Although I have already responded to questions about WWII, there were so many expressing a curiosity about how life was different in that period,  I'll share a few personal experiences..

I well remember the division in our country before Pearl Harbor. Certainly there was great hostility to the leadership of FDR, and I recall that the people next door who had a son of draft age were vehemently against getting involved in "foreign entanglements". Homes and cars had signs reading, "Keep U. S. Out of War - Be Neutral"!  We could, however, hear the shrill voice of Adolf Hitler on one of our three major radio stations. (Note that having fewer trusted media was one of the things that united us that we don't have today.)

One of the other sources of news occurred when we went to the theater (for about $.35).  San Antonio, with a population of 250,000, had three major theaters downtown and they were truly enormous, very ornate movie palaces. Rather than having advertisements and trailers advertising forthcoming movies, THE PATHE NEWS gave us glimpses of what was occurring in Europe. After the movie was over, if one wanted to stay to see it again, one was entertained by musical groups. I well remember the nationally known PHIL SPITALNE AND HIS ALL GIRL ORCHESTRA playing the top tunes  that were on the radio's LUCKY STRIKE HIT PARADE.  However Lucky Strike had to change the color of their pack because the green dye was needed in the war effort.  Thus their slogan was, LUCKY STRIKE GREEN HAS GONE TO WAR!  But men (and women for the first time in the service) were given all the cigarettes they wanted to smoke.  Straight arrow me never did!

But the attack on Pearl Harbor united the nation. Ths common enemy united the country with everyone seeming to want to do their part.  We collected scrap metal and tin foil that wrapped our candy bars.  Most consumer products were rationed and we had stamps noting our allotment.  At 16 was I just so I'll informed or have I sublimated the terrible things we did to those citizens of Japanese heritage on the West Coast?  We of German descent faced no such trauma!!!!

There are of course books on this topic, but there are many experiences not recorded about the war.  I'll close my thoughts on this topic with an email I received from a close friend:

 "It's ancient history to so many, but my father was captured on Corridor with Gen. Wainwright, and spent the rest of the War (and even 2 weeks after the Japanese surrendered) in prison camps in the Philippines and in the camps in northern Japan. I doubt he would have survived for much longer if he and the others hadn't been found. And a few years later, when I was in high school on Guam where he was stationed, there were Japanese soldiers still hiding in the boondocks, holding out to the bitter end for the Emperor. My friends and I got in trouble from our parents for exploring and hunting for souvenirs, but we found some. I just kept a couple of records from a camp we found, but they wouldn't play on my phonograph and besides, they were in Japanese, so I didn't keep them!"

I hope others of you will get to other WWII veterans before it is too late.

Next week I'll respond to the provocative question< "What is one trend or devise from your generation that you would bring back?  I hope you'll add your insight as a comment below, and I'll share the way I answered the question.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wow! Such interest in "The Bomb"

I was amazed! It was a simple question to which I gave a brief, personal answer about whether I thought the dropping of the bomb was necessary to end the war with Japan. But it elicited over 100 very thoughtfully considered comments. I was immediately hooked by Reddit's ability for me to converse with thoughtful (probably young) people.

Along with many of you, I learned so much. Anyone interested in this topic can find a wealth of information from studies like Operation Coronet reported on my AMA site,

But to summarize the responses.  Filmmaker Ken Burns' personal observation after his series on WWII is quoted as concluding that casualties on both sides would have been significantly worse had the bomb not been dropped. While I was most overwhelmed by the interest and knowledge about the topic.  Most striking to me was this reply:

"I actually live in Yokohama - and when you study the war from the Japanese side, the destruction in the firebombing of Tokyo/Yokohama was equally destructive. In some ways (including the casualties) it was substantially worse. Had the Americans invaded, Japan could have expected relentless, non-stop firebombing of this type, more or less completely unopposed, as the Japanese were incapable at this point of mounting any serious air defense. And that would have been before the invasion. It's highly likely that the destruction to Japanese civilians without the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been much, much worse.  Interesting point - most Japanese I speak to blame all of this squarely on the Japanese government, not the Americans."

So what's my personal take-away from the discussion?  I was of course gratified that my own (selfish) position on the wisdom of dropping the bomb was substantiated by respondents. And I had two further reactions:
  • At first I felt that readers had a knee-jerk reaction to the first comment on my bio - that I was a veteran of WWII. 
  • As a former high school "Social Studies" teacher, I was delighted with the interest in History and a recognition that knowledge of history is important to help us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
And now it is time answer more questions that I can report on next week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An unexpected turn of events

Before closing out my ranting and raving, I thought I would give it one more shot.  Reddit's, "Ask Me Anything" seemed like a good vehicle to reach young people to see if an old man with 90 years of experiencing a "good life" might have anything to say to the youth who so extensively use the social media.

While I was delighted at the initial response of over 12,000 hits and 2,000 questions, I was totally blown away by the topics a great many wanted me to consider. The first concerned the issue of the necessity of using the atomic bomb in World War II (stemming from my having been a Marine in WWII perhaps) and the second related to their views on religion (perhaps stemming from my statement of being a church- going agnostic atheist)

I'll  plan to say more about these topics the next few Wednesdays, and I hope some of you may want to put in your 2 cents wor4th below.  But I also invite you to go to Reddit's

for your own assessment.

However, I want to share one thought about the nature of the responses.  This too I thought was most surprising

So many of the responders seemed in disbelief – that an aged person would be so honest, so direct, so forthright in responding – coupled with a desire for more intergenerational contact.

And in briefly pondering
why this would be true
I came to a few
tentative conclusions:
skepticism of government born of conflict with Vietnam
leaders with massive egos promising much but delivering so little
hypocrisy in and skepticism of religion

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reflections on my 90 years of life

Reddit AMA going on now!

  I find it hard to believe that I am experiencing one of the best years of my life as I celebrate my 90th birthday. And it's not because the previous 89 years have been dull are depressing in any way. Raised in the pre-depression middle-class, I've lived through some fascinating times. I've been extremely fortunate and as a lifelong educator I feel driven to share some of my insights with anyone interested.
I've given quite a bit of thought to how life can be so good for a 90year older and thought that sharing them with you might serve to stimulate questions.

  • Good genes. Although there is no longevity in my family, somehow my life was put together so that I have always had good health.
  • A wonderful childhood. Raised in a lower middle class family I didn't realize that we were poor and I grew up in a wonderful city with family and friends without undue stress. While there was surprisingly little overt expression of love, I was not unduly pushed or ignored and though neither of my parents graduated from high school, they provided a warm home experience with broad life enhancing opportunities
  • being around young people. I'm fortunate that my vocation is been public school work the challenge of nurturing young people coupled with and enjoyment of their enthusiasm and creative approach to life is something that seems to have carried over to me
  • a caring government. I resonate to Pres. Obama's statement that quote I did not build (my life) alone public schools started my academic learning the military continued my education and I completed three college degrees through the G.I. Bill. The life of my wife and two of my four children have been extended because the government provides kidney transplants for those in need and my state has provided a pension for my years of work in education which is made it possible for me to enjoy my senior years
  • monetary security has helped free me from undue anxiety and concern. Although I have not been blessed with great wealth, I've been very comfortable and not worried about basic needs something that brings undue anxiety and concern to many. I employment not only provided financial security but also a recognition of my talents.
  • I've had the lifelong support of a loving partner family and friends and being a part of the faith community that focused on the meaning and purpose of life.