Archive for the ‘Heroism’ Category

Obit watch: June 17, 2017.

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

Helmut Kohl, former German chancellor.

John G. Avildsen, noted film director. Among his credits were “The Karate Kid” and “Rocky”, the movie that shouldn’t have won Best Picture in 1977, but beat out the far superior “Network”.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anita Pallenberg, sometime actress:

In quick succession, she was cast in “Candy” (1968), based on Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s erotic novel, as a sexy nurse; in “Barbarella” (1968), Roger Vadim’s futuristic space fantasy, as a cruel brunette dictator who dresses in black lace and sparkles and calls Jane Fonda’s character “pretty-pretty”; and “Dillinger Is Dead” (1969), as a woman whose husband (Michel Piccoli) is inspired by a newspaper headline to shoot her.

She may, perhaps, have been better known for her relationships with Brian Jones (“who was reported to have physically abused her”) and after him, Keith Richards. (“She lived with Mr. Richards from 1967 through 1980, and had three children with him.”)

In 1977, Mr. Richards was arrested and charged with heroin possession in Toronto, and as a couple the two entered rehab.

Finally, there’s an interesting obit for Marine Corps Capt. Arthur J. Jackson, who passed away at 92 last Sunday.

During WwII, Jackson (at the time a private first class) committed serious acts of badassery during the invasion of Peleliu:

Loaded up with grenades, he charged the pillbox, raking it with automatic fire while discharging white phosphorus grenades and other explosives. He was credited with killing all 35 occupants.
Continuing alone and again at tremendous peril, he repeated the same maneuver at 11 smaller pillboxes that contained another 15 Japanese soldiers.

He received the Medal of Honor for his actions. After the war, he became a commissioned officer in the Army and then in the Marines.

On the night of September 30, 1961, as a company commander at Guantanamo Bay, he discovered a Cuban who worked as a bus driver (“even though he expressed openly pro-Fidel Castro sympathies and was under surveillance by naval intelligence”) in a restricted area of the base. Jackson and his executive officer decided to escort the Cuban, Ruben Lopez, off the base. But the gate they were using was locked: Jackson sent his XO to get something to break the lock with. And while the XO was gone, Jackson claimed that Lopez “lunged at him” so he shot and killed Lopez with his sidearm.

Jackson and some other Marines buried Lopez in a shallow grave on base. Cutting to the chase, the truth eventually came out, and Jackson was allegedly “thrown out” of the Marines.

Capt. Jackson, who said he long felt “ashamed” of his Guantanamo killing, did not speak publicly about the incident until an Idaho Statesman reporter interviewed him in 2013.
He said his key concern was his “understanding” of a treaty between the United States and Cuba that could have resulted in his detention in a notorious Cuban prison.
“I hoped no one would find out,” he told the newspaper. “The world found out.”

Welles. Welles Welles Welles. Welles.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Netflix has signed on to help complete and release “The Other Side of the Wind”, Orson Welles’ legendary last and unfinished film.

I do want to see this, even though I don’t have Netflix (and won’t pay for it just for this). I have a pretty strong suspicion that this is…not going to be good. But hey, Welles! (What I’m really hoping for is a Criterion package like they did for “F Is For Fake”.)

(And can someone explain to me why I keep confusing “The Other Side of the Wind” with The Wind Done Gone?)

Other unrelated stuff:

By way of Lawrence, follow-up on Captain Bill Dowling and his funeral. (Previously.)

“He was a mean son-of-a-buck, but very tender-hearted … and very competitive,” John Dowling said Tuesday of his older brother. “He made the best out of it. He didn’t get sour, he didn’t get upset. The life lesson he could teach the world – no matter what your situation, you can choose to be happy.”

From the WP: a summary of the players in the “Fat Leonard” scandal, including the eight recent indictments.

Edited to add: One other minor follow-up that I forgot to add: the NYT obit for Mother Divine. I don’t think it adds much over the WP obit, but I did want to note it for the historical record.

Obit watch part 2.

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Captain William Dowling of the Houston Fire Department passed away on Tuesday.

Captain Dowling was fighting a fire at a restaurant/motel in Houston when the roof collapsed. Four other firefighters were killed: Captain Dowling survived the collapse, but was left badly injured.

…doctors had to amputate both his legs during his six-month hospital stay. When he was released, he had lost his ability to talk and sustained brain damage.

According to the department, Captain Dowling’s death is considered to have been in the line of duty, and he will be honored appropriately.

Obit watch: January 17, 2017.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Eugene Cernan, Gemini 9, Apollo 10, and Apollo 17 astronaut. NYT. NASA.

Hans Berliner, master chess player and prominent developer of early game playing computers (such as HiTech and BKG 9.8.)

Mr. Berliner was an expert at correspondence chess, in which moves can be sent by postcard or, more recently, over the internet. Players have days to think about each move, and games usually last months or even years. When Mr. Berliner won the Fifth World Correspondence Chess Championship, the final began on April Fools’ Day in 1965 and did not end until three years later.

Obit watch: December 9, 2016.

Friday, December 9th, 2016

John Glenn roundup: NYT. Lawrence. WP. Sweet story about Mrs. Glenn: they were married for 73 years. LAT. NASA Glenn Research Center.

(My dad worked at the Glenn Research Center a long time ago; so long ago, it wasn’t called the Glenn Research Center back then.)

Edited to add: Borepatch on Glenn. NYT obit for Greg Lake.

Historical note, suitable for use in schools.

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Fifty years ago today, on October 17, 1966, members of the New York Fire Department responded to a fire at East 22nd Street in Manhattan.

The firefighters didn’t know where the fire was burning (though the smoke was obvious) so some of them went into the building at 23rd Street. The idea was to bring hoses in and hit the fire from behind.

What was burning in the 22nd Street building, a subsequent investigation showed, was paint and lacquer that had been stored in the basement by an art dealer. What the firefighters who went into Wonder Drug & Cosmetics, at 6 East 23rd Street, across from Madison Square Park, had no way of knowing was that the store and the 22nd Street building shared a basement, and that an interior basement wall had recently been moved to give the 22nd Street building more underground storage space.
That meant that the drugstore’s thick floor was poorly supported, and as the fire burned below it collapsed, sending 10 firefighters plunging into the basement. Two others were caught by the flames that quickly roared up to the first floor through the huge hole left by the collapse.

12 firefighters were killed that day. At the time, it was the worst loss of life in the history of the NYFD.

I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but there’s a short documentary (produced by the department) about the fire on the NYFD Foundation website.

From Wikipedia, the names of the dead:

Deputy Chief Thomas A. Reilly, FDNY 3rd Division
Battalion Chief Walter J. Higgins, FDNY 7th Battalion
Lt. John J. Finley, FDNY Ladder Co. 7
Lt. Joseph Priore, FDNY Engine Co. 18
Firefighter John G. Berry, FDNY Ladder Co. 7
Firefighter James V. Galanaugh, FDNY Engine Co. 18
Firefighter Rudolph F. Kaminsky, FDNY Ladder Co. 7
Firefighter Joseph Kelly, FDNY Engine Co. 18
Firefighter Carl Lee, FDNY Ladder Co. 7
Firefighter William F. McCarron, FDNY 3rd Division
Firefighter Daniel L. Rey, FDNY Engine Co. 18
Firefighter Bernard A. Tepper, FDNY Engine Co. 18

(I can’t find an official NYFD memorial page. There’s a unofficial historical site, NYFD.com, that does have a memorial page.)

(Does anyone remember being in elementary school and having to watch fire safety films? You know, how to behave when the fire alarm goes off and your school is burning to the ground? Was that only a thing in the mid-1970s? Or even just in certain parts of the country? It seems to me in the distant mists of memory that we were always watching one fire safety film or another when I was in elementary school.)

Obit watch: September 1, 2016.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

There’s a nice obituary in today’s Statesman for Tom Anderson, who passed away a few weeks ago.

Mr. Anderson was the carillon player at the University of Texas since…well, since Jesus was a private:

He played from 1952 until 1956 while a graduate student. In 1967, a year after he returned to UT to work in the international office, where he was assistant director, UT President Harry Ransom asked him to serve as carillonneur, and he continued to play until about three years ago.

I never met Mr. Anderson, but I remember when we toured the Tower some years back, he came up in conversation: the tour guide told us that he always said he was going to keep playing until he could no longer physically make the climb.

He was 93 when he died.

Marvin Kaplan has also passed away. He is perhaps best remembered as Henry Beesmeyer on “Alice”. though he was also in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “The Great Race”.

Finally, I intended to note this one earlier in the week, but the past few days have been hard. Jeremiah J. O’Keefe passed away on Tuesday. He was 93.

Mr. O’Keefe was a Corsair pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the “Death Rattlers”. During the course of his first combat mission, on April 22, 1945, he shot down six enemy planes.

The squadron claimed 23 of the 54 Japanese planes downed that day. Two other Death Rattlers also scored five or more kills. Maj. Jefferson D. Dorroh Jr., the squadron’s executive officer, downed six planes. Maj. George C. Axtell Jr., the commanding officer, scored five. An article on the battle in Time magazine carried the headline “One Deal, Three Aces.”

Obit watch: June 23, 2016.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

David Thatcher has passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Thatcher was the tail gunner in the “Ruptured Duck”, one of the 16 B-25s in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.

After the raid, the Duck crash-landed and several of the crew were injured. Mr. Thatcher tended their injuries.

Corporal Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland, carrying them on stretchers and sedan chairs and managing to evade Japanese troops.

All of the crew evaded capture and eventually made it home, though the pilot (Ted Lawson, who also wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book I remember reading when I was very young) lost a leg.

As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”
Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Mr. Thatcher’s death leaves one surviving crew member from the raid, Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s co-pilot.

Obit watch: December 24, 2015.

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Eden Pearl.

Pearl joined the Marine Corps in July 1994 from the town of Monroe, N.Y., before turning 19. After graduating from recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., he became an infantry rifleman, and then completed virtually every difficult form of training the service had, becoming a scout sniper, reconnaissance Marine, combat diver and critical skills operator in MARSOC. His training left him capable of performing anything — from free-fall aerial dives from airplanes to close-quarters combat after breaking down a door.

Sgt. Pearl was critically injured by an IED in 2009, and died on Sunday as a result of his injuries.

Fernande Grudet, aka “Madame Claude”. I note this here for two reasons:

1) Hookersnblow.org.
2) In one of my favorite Ross Thomas books, The Seersucker Whipsaw, there’s a character named “Madame Claude”. I’m wondering if this was a very subtle reference on the part of Thomas…

Obit watch and other random notes: November 11, 2015.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Helmut Schmidt, former chancellor of West Germany.

Allen Toussaint, noted New Orleans musician.

In 1964, trumpet maestro Al Hirt covered Toussaint’s jaunty instrumental “Java,” which became a No. 1 hit. In 1965, Mr. Toussaint’s “Whipped Cream” not only became the title track on a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album, it later became the bachelorettes theme of the television game show “The Dating Game.”

Vito J. Lopez, former New York assemblyman who resigned due to a sexual harassment scandal.

Non-obit, but interesting:

The police in Northern Ireland arrested a 66-year-old man on Tuesday in connection with Bloody Sunday, the infamous massacre of unarmed civilian marchers by British soldiers in Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972. It was the first time anyone has been arrested in the massacre, for which the British government formally apologized in 2010.

The individual is not named, but is described as a “former lance corporal”.

“Former fugitive fish smuggler pleads guilty, prosecutors say”. Somebody at the LAT was having a bit of fun…

Second day coverage of the Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow trial. Doesn’t seem like much here: one of “Shrimp Boy”‘s confederates claims he ordered a hit, but he never explicitly said anything beyond “take care of this”.

The patrol reached a small bridge over a canal and was approached by men on motorcycles coming from the opposite direction — possibly members of the Taliban. They began crossing the bridge but stopped partway and retreated in the opposite direction. The suicide bomber appeared on foot to the left of the patrol after coming out of a building. Groberg ran at him and threw him to the ground with the help of another soldier, Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, who would later receive the Silver Star for his valor.

Where do we get such men?

Obit watch: October 16, 2015.

Friday, October 16th, 2015

There’s a really nice obituary in today’s NYT (written by Bruce Weber, one of the paper’s best obit writers) for Sybil Stockdale.

Mrs. Stockdale was the wife of James B. Stockdale. You may remember him as Ross Perot’s vice presidential candidate in 1992. But before that:

A captain when he was shot down over North Vietnam on Sept. 9, 1965, Admiral Stockdale was listed for several months as missing in action before the Pentagon learned he was being held in Hanoi at Hoa Lo prison (the so-called Hanoi Hilton). He survived seven and a half years there, subject to torture and held in leg irons and solitary confinement for long periods, before he was released, returning home in February 1973.

During his captivity, Mrs. Stockdale became a leading advocate for the POW/MIA cause. She also worked with the CIA to gather information. This story brings a smile to my face:

In one [letter -DB], she sent a cheery note about his mother along with a picture of a woman bathing in the Pacific Ocean. Admiral Stockdale’s mother loathed swimming, however, and the picture was not of her; the note said she had come to visit because she wanted to have a good “soak,” a code word that instructed him to soak the photograph in urine. When he did so, he discovered, hidden behind the backing of the photograph, a small swath of special carbon paper that could be used to press messages in invisible ink into his own letters home.

Speaking of the CIA and other bits of history, Ken Taylor has also passed away. Mr. Taylor was the Canadian ambassador to Iran during the hostage crisis:

When the U.S. embassy in Tehran was stormed by Islamist students and militants, six American diplomats escaped and found sanctuary in the homes of Taylor and his first secretary John Sheardown. In addition to shielding the Americans from Iranian capture, Taylor also played a crucial role in plotting their escape.
Working with CIA officials and Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, Taylor obtained for the Americans six Canadian passports containing forged Iranian visas that ultimately allowed them to board a flight to Switzerland. He undertook all these covert actions at a high personal risk, as he and his team would have been taken hostage themselves in the case of discovery by the Islamist militants.

Last, but by no means least: “fresh-faced ingénue” of the 1940s, Joan Leslie.

At 9, touring with her sisters, she played Toronto. Their act included her impression of Durante.
One night after the show, her dressing room door opened to reveal a man armed with nothing but criticism. Her Durante was all wrong, he told her. Unbidden, he showed her the right way to do it.

Read the obit for the punchline, if you haven’t already guessed it.

Obit watch: March 31, 2015.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Robert L. Hite passed away on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Hite was one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was captured by the Japanese after his plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over China.

Mr. Hite was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.