Sunday, November 22, 2009

Inoue’s Flag

I really don't recall when I first started collecting militery items. Relics of past conflicts were all around me. The canteen I carried as a Boy Scout was marked 1918 and the canteen cup that came with it was marked 1945. Even some of our pack and cots were army surplus. I didn't think of them as artifacts until I was grown. While living in Houston I aquired a Japanese flag.

This flag was never intended to fly on a flag poll, it wouldn't have lasted a day in a good wind even when it was new. It also had writing all over it. I had seen flags like this in war time photos of Japanese soldiers cheering. Often they would tie them to their rifles.

I have no idea who to credit for this and the next photograph. If anyone knows, or if the owners object to the use, let me know.

I learned that these were flags given to a young man by friends and family prior to entering military service. Not unlike a high school yearbook, well wishers would write their names on the flag. Sometimes they would add words of encouragement. To my knowledge these flage were unique to enlisted men. If anyone knows different please let me know.

A great number of these flags were battle field “pick-ups” carried home by American GI’s after the war.

For years I have done history programs at schools, civic clubs and writer’s conferences. This flag was a useful prop when displaying and talking about Japanese equipment. It always bothered me that I couldn’t read what it said. Finding someone who could translate it proved elusive…until earlier this year.
Many of the folks Helene and I know from Brazos Writers are associated with A&M University in one manner of another. I asked some of them if they could put me in touch with someone who read Japanese.

One of our friends, Jean Marie, had a friend who had moved here from Japan. Jean Marie arranged a dinner party at her home where we could get together and let her friend (I will call her K as I have not ask if it’s alright to use her name) look at the flag. There were a number of folks in attendance who thought this sounded interesting.

I am put in mind of two sayings.
First - the more you learn, the more you find out you don’t know.
Second - be careful what you ask for.

When K first saw the flag she seemed to pale a bit, she knew exactly what it was. She asked where it came from. I couldn’t tell her beyond I got it in a trade from someone who bought it at a Gun Show. There was no way of telling where it was acquired.

“Most of the writing is names”, she said. “That isn’t uncommon.” Working clockwise she began to translate.

The large lettering across the top is a prayer. “Eternal Long Fortune Fight Prayer”, Good luck in the fight so to speak.

Part of this section contains another prayer. “I Pray That You Will Fight Bravely”.

One of these is the Soldiers last name – Inoue. I don’t think we ever found the first name.

Sasaki Kojiro wrote “Win by Death”Sasaki Kojiro wrote “Win by Death”

Neiko Masao wrote "In the final battle shoot Roosevelt".

I have to admit this one surprised me a bit, but it shouldn't have. How many times have we seen posters, post cards and war planes with despairing images and remarks about Hitler, Tojo and the epmeror? I know intellectually axis soldiers did the same thing but this was the first time I have encountered it.

This section reads "Shoot Americans and English" Understandable.

A girl named Keiko said "If you fall down 7 times you must get up 8 times

K was visibly disturbed. "What are you going to do with this," She asked?
I explained it had always been used in my history programs but this answer didn't please her. She insisted I didn't understand. To the Japanese this was like the soul of the soldier or the ashes of the deceased.

Now that I thought about it, I understood better than she thought. Countless Japanese Soldiers lay in mass graves. Others mangled or lost in the debris of the battle field were never buried at all. Every year bones are still being found in jungles and caves all over the Pacific. Thousands were never reported dead. Their records showed they were ordered to a ship or island. After that they ceased to exist. I know because there are still huge numbers of American MIA's from World War Two alone.
"This should be returned to his family," K insisted.

I know people who have returned Japanese Swords to the families in Japan. Robert Adams, the late science fiction writer who wrote the 'Horse Clan Novels' was one of them. I am not opposed to returning the flag but if I give it up I want it to go to Inoue's family. The problem is I have no idea how to locate them.

Any Suggestions?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day in Fall County, Texas

For the better part of 10 years I have taken part in the Falls County Historic Commission's observation of Veterans Day at the County Court House in Marlin.

Since Helene retired from teaching a year and a half ago she has been able to take part as well.

Last year it rained cats and dogs and all outdoor services were canceled. This year we made up for it.

We do this for the Veterans but it is not a one was street. We have the opportunity to meet a few of these wonder people and thank them in person. For history buffs like myself I can talk to individuals who participated in events I have read about and hear as much of their story as they are comfortable sharing.
We thank our Veterans and active duty men and women for thier service and sacrifice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deer Hunting with the HomePlace Touch

Several weeks ago Matt arrived with the deer stand he wanted to put up here at HomePlace.

We aren't talking about a one man blind or mini tree house.

Oh no! You must remember this is Matt's deer stand.

Some assembly was required.

I told him that was no problem. I was going to use it for guest quarters in the off season.

O' Dark early the first day of deer season Matt and his six year old son, Spud, made their way out to the Bambi Hilton. By sun up Spud was board and preparing to perform Sponge Bob's greatest hits. In interest of sanity (his) and survival (Spud's) Matt brought him to us at the house...bless his heart!

While walking back to the Bambi Hilton he spotted an eight point buck staring at the thing trying to figure out what it was. He droppeed the distracted beast from less than 50 yards.

Matt dragged the beastie back to the house and he was showing me where he had first seen it. A moment later I realized he was handing me his rifle and whispering "This one is yours." Halfway between us and The Bambi Hilton a second smaller buck had wandered to the edge of the electricity right of way. He was quartering us facing away and never knew what happened.

This one was not as large as the first, but still respectable. It just barely made seven points. We had taken two in less than 30 minutes. Of course that's when the real work started. We had to hurry because the marauders were gathering. Don't laugh; these thugs haven't let me keep a single squirrel I've shot for the last two years.

I would be all day trying to list the things we have learned from my best friend, Hangman, over the years but key for the moment was to bleed the deer (or anything else) and have the meat on ice as soon as possible. It was my job to hoist the deer to be skinned, bled and dressed.

If you have a Dodge M-37 with an 8,000 Lb. winch it would be foolish not to use it. Matt got started on the first deer while Helene and I went to town for salt, baggies and ice.
In about three hours both animals were in Matt's big cooler with lots of ice and salt water to help draw out the blood. About seven last night I dumped the water, rinsed the meat and repacked it in ice for the rest of the night.
This afternoon Matt, Helene, Matt's wife Stacy and our Grand Daughter Ali processed the meat and packed it for freezing. I thought when hauling it around last night there must have been 100 Lbs. worth of meat. Matt estimated after boning there was closer to 125 Lbs. Either way it's a lot. With the way beef prices are soaring that will go a long way toward feeding our extended family in the coming months.

As the Mackenzie say in S. M. Sterling's Change novels, "We take in need and not in wantonness." That's a thought even a Presbyterian can get behind.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The WASP guest star on Cold Case

I don't often watch Cold Case these days but Sunday was an exception. I enjoy the cases where the crime is decades old and this one delivered. It featured a P-51 Mustang, like this one, found under water with remains of the pilot still on board. They were of a WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) that disappeared in 1944. Examination of the aircraft showed two of the fluid lines had been switched causing it to crash, and launching a murder investigation that blended historic facts with plot devisees.

This is not the sort of story I would have preferred to feature the WASP. Sadly Hollywood doesn't think their real story was excition enough to keep us slobs glued to the TV or in line at the theater. Movies and TV feature a never ending array of fantastic advnetures they never had while ignoring their real accomplishments.

There are holes in the Cold Case story line to be sure. Personally, I don't see a Mustang even getting off the ground with the sort of sabotage they suggested let alone covering any distance. The characters were also blends of the real, good and bad.

I was an undistinguished first year college student in the fall of 1972. One of the social studies class discussions centered on the proposal of expanding the draft to include women. The attitudes toward war and the military at the time, even at our little Texas junior college, led to a lively and barely civil debate. The instructor mentioned the women who chose to serve but it was a hard sell. In response to the suggestion women had only been placed in safe positions I asked "What about the WASP?"

"Exactly," the instructor said. "Mrs. Watson, in the business department, flewing everything from trainers to fighters and heavy bombers during the War"

I nearly fell out of my seat, and when class was overI cornered the poor man with more enthusiasm than he was accustomed to. With in the hour I had found the office of Mrs. Watson, head of the business department, and checked her scedule. I was waiting when she arrived for office hours. For the rest of that year and all of the next I spent more time there than her students.

During the War her name was Florene Miller. She had been one of the orginal 25 women to form the WAFS under Nancy Love. I am embarrassed to admit I didn't understand the significants of that at the time. (See end of post.)

Pilots in the Ferry Command would take one of two paths. One was to graduate from Advanced Trainers to the heavy, high performance Pursuit Planes, read fighters. The other was to study in Multi Engine Trainers and then go up the latter to Transports and Bombers. Mrs. Watson put in the extra time and work to do both.

I can still recall the stories she would share. Women tend to need more clothes than men. When delivering a Transport, Bomber or Trainer there was plenty of room for a bag, but fighters weren't designed to carry luggage. The solution was a collaspsible canvas suitcase. Shoes, makeup, and extra clothing would be tucked iont the wing boxes intended for machine gun ammunition. The problem was remembering where you had stashed everything once you landed.

A lead pilot was always listed when a number of planes were being delivered to the same place. These coveted assignments went to the most experienced pilots who were usually the best navigators. This was before a lot of the navigation aids we take for granted today. That didn't stop egos from being bruised when hot shot guys were expected to follow a girl cross country. Sometimes Florene would let one of the guys lead the formation. If they stayed on course there wasn't a problem. Other times she had to keep track of where they actually were when the formation drifted off course. When the time came she would bank away on a new heading to their destination. One by one the other pilots in the formation would join up on her. Once on the ground the 'lead' would drift over and just say "thanks." The planes were delivered in good working order, mission accomplished. Nothing else need be said.

The stories I heard from Mrs. Watson and the other ladies I have been fortunate enough to interview don't bear much resemblance to the atmosphere shown on Cold Case. To be sure there are detractors who didn't believe women could actually fly such planes. There still are, which puzzles me.

An airplane is a machine and the pilot is its brain. The airplane doses not know, and could care less, the sex, or skin color or religion of its pilot. Some of the hottest combat pilots the Russians had during World War Two were women.

As for the WASP getting a cool, or hostile reception from some of their male counterparts, it happened but they were in the minority. These were kids, boy and girl type kids that had one big thing in common. They all loved airplanes. Many who weren't already married met their future spouses while with the WASP. They all made life long friends.

Please don't assume from this they lived lives of steamy romance. Were there one night stands? Frankly it's none of my business, or yours! Again those ladies would have been in the minority. They were serving their country and living the great adventure to boot. They flew all over the country in brand new, expensive, state of the art, high performance aircraft. And the Army bought the gas! There was just too much to loose.

But loose they did. Out of the blue word came that the WASP would be disbanded December 20, 1944. I won't go into the details but they are well worth looking into. "This should give the girls time to get home for Christmas." They had joined the WASP to "free a man to fight." Now they were to get back to their choirs. For years the WASP remained the best kept secret of World War Two, be it unintentional.

I'm happy that Cold Case had an epsoide featuring the WASP even thou it doesn't sound it. Perhaps that will send a few more kids to the library, or these days the internet, to learn more about their real history. A one paragrapy filler in my hometown paper when I was 13 had that effect on me.

All three photograpys feature Florene Miller Watson, my good friend

x x x

There were two groups of Women pilots formed in 1942. The WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron was 25 experienced and high time female pilots recruited by Nancy Love to work with the Ferry Command delivering planes where needed. It was never intended to be a large unit and took only women already trained and ready to work.
The WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) was a much larger group under Jacqueline Cochran. The WASP still insisted its recruits be licensed pilots in the beginning but did not require the standards of training set by the WAFS.
Two entirely different units commanded by very different women. I won’t get into “Saints and Villains” here. I will say that Nancy Love was interested in allowing qualified women to serve the War Effort where they could do the most good. The Ferry Command was begging for pilots and these ladies would already have been in uniform had they not been…ladies.
By the time the WASP disbanded on December 20, 1944 Jacqueline Cochran had over 1800 women in her command. They served not just the Ferry Command but also as flight instructors, towed targets, at least one was a test pilot, and numerous other flying jobs. But Cochran was also into self promotion in the extreme. Read up on the various “promises” she extracted from General Hap Arnold early in the war, as well as events that led to the sudden end of the WASP program and make your own conclusions.