I hurled a rock towards the plate glass window of the office building, followed in quick succession by two more.
Alarms sounded, but nobody came running. First, it was before dawn a Sunday morning, and the place was closed. Second, it was surrounded by no residential buildings whatsoever. It rose like an island in a sea in this part of town.
Yeah that’s me, rowdy Tony, I thought as I left the lottery office building behind.
My fury at losing the 700 million jackpot that had been split three ways earlier that night had made me do it, and I am damn proud of it.
This place sure is popular with the high school crowd, Tom thought as a gaggle of male high school jocks flocked into the pool area, headed over to the sauna kibitzing and laughing about this and that. The very sight of them made him feel so old, he sometimes felt like moving into a retirement home. The first well-preserved 33 year-old to do so, Tom joked to himself at times.
His own teenage years had roared by and had left a sense of incompletion in their wake; that he had not gotten out of them all of what he wanted. All Tom could do now was look at all the youths who hung out at the Lifetime Fitness he frequented and wonder if what might have been.
Here is what the “About” page for this latest screed posted on Facebook claims about the general:
“Left his men for dead while he ran for safety in Australia.”
Described in history books as a great American Icon, military historians and those who served under him paint a different picture. Douglas Macarthur failed both our country and his men during both WWII and Korea. This page is for those who don’t believe the hype about Macarthur the hero and know him as Macarthur the coward…”
And so General MacArthur bashing arrived on Facebook back in 2010 (which is the year this page was created.)
The accusation that reads “Left his men for dead while he ran for safety in Australia” is a barb which lacerates the memory of his escape from the Philippines during the dark days of March, 1942, as the battle (aka siege) of Bataan ground on at the hands of the Japanese Army, Air Force, and Navy. It is an old one which has hung over MacArthur’s head practically since he left his Philippine command post on the island of Corregidor aboard a PT boat.
Louis Morton’s comprehensive history about the fall of the Philippines during World War Two (reproduced in full online here) reveals the truth, one that stands in stark contrast to the ranting’s of that Facebook poster: MacArthur was ordered to leave by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Morton writes: ‘…on 22 February  the President had directed MacArthur to leave the Philippines. His intention to do so had been made clear on the 21st when the Chief of Staff had told the Far East commander that the President was considering the advisability of ordering him to Mindanao to conduct the defense of the Philippines from there.There were numerous advantages to such a move. MacArthur himself had repeatedly pointed out the possibility of continuing resistance from Mindanao by means of guerrilla warfare and had already taken measures to strengthen Brig. Gen. William F. Sharp’s command. If the Allies mounted an air and naval counterattack through the Netherlands Indies, as MacArthur had urged, Mindanao would be the first objective in the Philippines and the base for an invasion of Luzon. Communication with other areas in the Far East would also be more practical from Mindanao than Corregidor. “The foregoing considerations underlie the tentative decision of the President,” Marshall told MacArthur, “but we are not sufficiently informed as to the situation and circumstances to be certain that the proposal meets the actual situation.”
The next day, without waiting for a reply from Corregidor, the President made up his mind about MacArthur’s evacuation. The USAFFE commander was to leave Fort Mills as quickly as possible and proceed to Mindanao where he would remain long enough “to insure a prolonged defense.” From there he was to go on to Australia.’ (Read Morton’s full account here.)
But account’s like Morton’s mattered little to this Facebook user who, for some reason, has a grudge against Douglas MacArthur.What about the Facebook poster’s accusation against MacArthur about Korea? That is in relation to how -admittedly- MacArthur (and others, including President Harry S Truman) under-estimated the threat Mao Zedong’s Communist forces massed on the China-Korea border posed to MacArthur’s forces as they neared the border late in 1950 after driving the North Korean People’s Army out of South Korea. Historian (and MacArthur biographer) D. Clayton James in this article carefully sifts through the facts about this thorny matter. But -again- accounts like James’ did not matter a whit to this brain-dead, Douglas MacArthur hater who has found a home for his anti-MacArthur screed’s in the overrated social network Mark Zuckerberg became (in)famous for.’Nuff said.
The photograph above is the ex-Milwaukee Road route through Chamberlain, South Dakota, that is now owned by the state and operated by short line Dakota Southern. This is how it looks on the west side of town as the line heads for the Missouri River and the majestic bridge that carries the line over it.
These rails do not look passable, do they?
Believe it or not, some intrepid speeder (aka track inspection) owners took a ride on this line recently as documented in this You Tube video. The only worrisome thing about the rails I saw was that a few seemed to be trying to get out of gauge on the line on the east side of the wide Missouri.
However, this line is slated for upgrading and further use. Speeders will not be the only thing you see on this line in the near future!
What is the story behind my recently published WWII short story “A Memory at Midway“? Here it is:
Back in the fall of 2001, I was stuck in Rochester, Minnesota, due to events worthy of stories all their own. “Escape” reading was the norm for me down there courtesy of books from the Rochester Public Library. One of those books was John Toland’s masterful But Not In Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Harbor. A non-fiction narrative that spanned the war in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway.
The following passages in his Midway chapter caught my eye:
“[Earl] Gallaher sighted on the flaming Rising Sun at the forward edge of the flight deck. From the day he saw the Arizona lying at her berth in Pearl Harbor, smoldering and smashed, he had dreamed of making a dive-bombing attack on a Japanese carrier. There was little anti-aircraft fire and no fighter resistance as he swept low. At about 1800 feet he released his bomb, then pulled up into a steep climb and kicked his plane around so he could watch the progress of the bomb…A moment later he saw it explode in the middle of planes parked on the after part of Akagi’s [actually Kaga’s] flight deck. It was a moment of exultation. He thought, “Arizona, I remember you!” 1.
Powerful stuff; made doubly so by the fact that the USS Arizona is the historic ship closest to my heart thanks to a childhood friend ship with one of her survivors, Guy S. Flanagan Jr.
Fast-forward to 2011; with the 70th anniversaries of Pearl Harbor and Midway fast approaching, I decided to dramatically depict this incredible “little story” from WWII in the form of a short story; one whose tone and feel was best described as The Killer Angels Pacific. After two years of writing, submitting, re-writing, and re-submitting, it is finally published on the eve of Midway’s 71st anniversary.
What is fact?
Further research eventually revealed that Gallaher’s feelings about the Arizona‘s loss were not idle ones: he had reported aboard her in the early 1930s fresh out of Annapolis. That is real; all his actions during the battle are real; the fact the Enterprise dive bomber squadrons followed a Japanese ship to Admrial Chuichi Nagumo’s carrier task force is real (it was a destroyer named the Arashi, incidentally); his radioman in his SBD was even a real person, Tom Merritt. However, I did not mention his name because all I needed Merritt to be in my story was Gallaher’s radioman; naming him would have been a tad cloying. However, his exclamation to Gallaher after Kaga suffers a direct hit from Gallaher’s bomb comes right from a postwar interview with Gallaher. 2. And of course Gallaher’s closing thought comes right from Toland’s book.
I also took pains to make sure that the technical details were as right as possible. SBD pilots really did seek a “sweet spot” where G-forces did not pin themselves into their seat nor left them dangling forward in their cockpit; SBD pilots really did yank the manual release after punching the automatic; and they really did keep their cockpits open. If they did not, their bomb sights would fog up and spoil their aim. 3.
The general description of the Kaga is also accurate, derived from artwork which depicts how she looked at Midway contained in an appendix to Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully’s book about the battle. 4.
What is fiction?
Very little. Frankly, I despise people like Michael Bay and James Cameron who mangle historical fact in brain-dead “historical” movies claiming historical accuracy is impossible; an argument that is pure nonsense.
It is true I ran into one semi-gray area and one definitely gray area in writing “A Memory at Midway.” The semi-one involves a confusing factual detail that I ultimately left out pending further research: apparently Gallaher’s Scouting Squadron Six got mixed-up with planes from Lt. Dick Bests’ Bombing Squadron Six due to a snafu in communications between Group Commander Wade McClusky and Best. 5. Instead, I went with how Gallaher laid out the sequence of events in his after action report, which does not mention this. 6. Perhaps Gallaher did not see this as he made his run on Kaga?
The completely gray area I ran into during the research for this story involves the state of the flight deck on Kaga when Gallaher attacked it. For decades, most historians agreed that the Japanese flight decks were packed with aircraft awaiting takeoff against the American carriers. However, recent historians such as Parshall and Tully argue such was not the case, that only combat air patrol fighters were on the decks of the carriers Kaga, Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu at the time three of the four carriers under Admiral Nagumo’s command were knocked out by American dive bombers at the climax of the morning phase of the battle. 7. I hedged in this depiction by going with the theory that the Kaga hand landed all her CAP fighters and was beginning the process of spotting planes for the attack on the US Navy flattops when calamity struck.
The only “fiction” in this story is the reconstructed conversations between Gallaher and Merritt; along with a reconstructed order given by Enterprise carrier air group skipper Wade McClusky to Best and Gallaher before the attack is launched. Finally, most of Gallaher’s thoughts and feelings are reconstructed from the mentions he made of them in the interview I consulted while researching this story.
The latter are a literary technique I learned from Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angelsand all of his son Jeff’s historical novels. They may be permanently in a gray area as to whether or not they are literally true, but I believe they are emotionally true. What is more, they also teach readers that those who were at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and other clashes of arms throughout history were human beings. People like you or me who found their lives caught up in momentous events.
1. John Toland, But Not In Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Harbor (Random House, 1961), 389-390.
For the past two years, I have written, submitted, re-edited, and re-submitted a WWII short story that takes place at the battle of Midway featuring a historical character: a dive bomber pilot from the USS Enterprise (CV-6) named Earl Gallaher. This short story -ultimately entitled “A Memory at Midway”- depicts one of the best “little stories” of WWII. And so, without further ado, you can read “A Memory at Midway” here at The Fresh Pen.ca. It is just over 1,000 words; action-packed; and even contains a surprise-twist; and all of it is as historically accurate as I could make it.
Despite how “Band of Brothers” was a tough act to follow, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ 2010 follow-up “The Pacific” did get one thing incredibly right: how hellish combat in the Pacific Theater of Operations was; especially the battle that occupies the most screen time in “The Pacific”: Peleliu.
Peleliu was hardly the idyllic island you could find in Rogers and Hammerstein’s languid musical South Pacific. In fact, had that musical dynamic duo set foot on there during the battle I doubt they would have even wanted to do South Pacific. On this island, the First Marine Division shed its blood to the point it’s rifle regiments needed major reconstitution afterward. The deadly new tactics first adopted by the Japanese at Peleliu of forcing the Allies to come to them as opposed to wasting their lives in suicidal mass attacks was to thank for the carnage there.
Thank you, Steven and Tom, for showing us what combat in the Pacific Theater of Operations was truly like at hellish places such as Peleliu.
In the famous footage of the fatal bomb hit to the USS Arizona, the camera jerks up into the air as the photographer is struck by the shockwave that burst forth at that instant. Apparently, the cameraman was knocked to his feet, for we next see the Arizona burning fiercely around her forward superstructure.
In that instant, over a thousand lives were either lost or destined to be lost due to severe injuries that mighty blast and inferno inflicted.
The deaths of so many of her crew sent out shockwaves all their own.
One of the victims was a 21 year-old Pennsylvanian named John Peter Rutkowski, a Seaman First Class who hailed from the town of Nanticoke. 1 When the news of his death reached his mother, the shock was so severe, it lead to her premature death shortly thereafter.
This writer first learned of this USS Arizona crewman from an newspaper article that appeared during the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. 2. A query to the article’s author revealed that Rutkowski was his mom’s favorite son. A few weeks before the attack, he had contacted his mother and promised to bring her to Hawaii for a visit. Rutkowski loved Hawaii; it was a stark contrast to his drab, almost always financially depressed hometown thanks to Nanticoke’s dependence on the unstable coal market as it’s main industry. At the time of Rutkowski’s death, his father had preceded him, dying during John’s childhood. 2 It is little surprise that John’s death struck his mom so hard; her untimely death is also stunning evidence of how the Pearl Harbor attack impacted so many people in so many ways it is staggering.