Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Leap Year Post

I don't have that much to say today, but February 29th. comes along once every four years. I wasn't about to pass up the chance to make a 'Leap Year' post.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Blinding Flashback!

Facebook offered up an unexpected treasure today. My little friend Scottie (6'4" and at the time I knew him you wouldn't believe the weight) was one of those rare companions who could be depended on to encourage bad ideas, support a reckless course of action and carry secrets to the grave. We have enough dirt on each other to assure there will be no survivors if it either of us starts talking.

Scott left Texas a few years ago and we had lost touch until Facebook. Today I found this:

I am pleased to report that the bean has been successfully extracted from X ear. It will, of course, be saved and produced at inopportune moments throughout the remainder of his life. :)

I have with held the lad's name as I am a firm believer that it is the parent's duty to embarrass their children. For other adults to do it feels like bullying. Still, this simple statement triggered a flood of memories.

I was already familur with the Winnemucca Nevada emergency room. I still sported the walking cast from my first (and thankfully only) adventure in broken bones. I had the names of friends and family spread across it's surface.

Since I wasn't able to move around as much as usual Mom had brought me some supplies to help pass the time. There were comic books, a new coloring book and crayons, and a pea shooter.

You need to understand I was never one of those punks that sat in class shooting spit wads at their classmates in the front of the room. I was the hapless kid that got caught the first time I chunked my eraser back at them after half a day of being the target.

I had the better part of a week with the pea shooter before the horrible accident. My little brother and I had gone to bed and I was doing the fiddeling kids do prior to drooping off to sleep. In my case, I was playing with a pea shooter pea.

Inquiring minds want to know. Will the pea shooter pea fit into a seven year olds ear? Yes it will. Will it come back out? I'm sure it will come back out. It's got to come out.


I tried everything my desperate seven year old mind could think of. Nothing. So what happened if it stayed there? I had it on good authority it would take root and grow. That couldn't be good. And what if it took roots and my Dad had to pull it out? I was sure he could, he was really big! I was also sure it would hurt!

My Grand Parents could fix this. Problem, how could they get to Winnemucca from the Texas Panhandle before my folks woke up in the morning? Then I remembered I didn't know how to dial a long distance telephone number. Well, there was only one thing to do. I had to tell my Mom and Dad. They would know what to do, they knew everything.

Problem, telling my folks I had done something stupid. Worst problem, everyone was in bed. I would have to wake them up to tell them I did something stupid. With my life flashing before my eyes I clumped down the hall with my walking cast to face my doom.

I don't recall either of my parents laughing. Both got miles of amusment out of it later but that night they kept strait faces - after a fashion. They had more ideas about how to get the pea out than I had. My Dad had all kinds of ideas involving power tools that mom promptly shot down. I'm about half convinced that he was kidding, and Mom wouldn't let him do it.

At long last Dad called the emergency room and was told to bring me in. Mom stayed with the other kids while Dad took me to the Doctor that had set my leg.

Once we reached the emergence room things were anti-climatic. We were in the exam room less than a minute when the Doc. popped the pea out of my ear. I learned that day having the right tool is everything. The doctor told me not to go sticking things in my ear - I could break my ear drum. I never told anyone until tonight that I already did and thought I had.

There was no school the next day so the other kids were up when we got back home and Mom had hot chocolate ready. The night ended better than I would have thought possible. I was even allowed to keep the pea shooter.

I have written this for three reasons.

First, I was not the first kid in Winnemucca, Nevada to stick a pea shooter pea in my ear. The doctor told my Dad they averaged one child a day in the week the things had been on sale at TG&Y.

Second, I want Scott's son - known here as "X" - to know he was not the first kid to ever do that. I did it before his father was ever born.

Third, at some point in the future "X" will hear of this happening to another kid. It will be his turn to let that boy or girl know they are not the first to stick a pea shooter pea in their ear, and they will not be the last.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Sedgley Glove

Looking back it seem a fair number of my blogs of late have started off by referencing
something I saw at hellinahandbasket. This is another one. There was an article discussing gimmick weapons or systems. This odd ball came up in the comments.

The curious device above is known far and wide as a Glove Gun. More properly it is a Sedgley Glove or Sedgley Glove Gun if you prefer. For years they have appeared in books or articles about the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) with a one paragraph description. As the name suggest the implement attached to the back of a standard cowhide work glove is a fire arm. To be exact it is a single shot .38 caliber fire arm. The plunger extending past the barrel is the triggering device. To discharge it, you punch the dude where you want the bullet to go – can’t miss!
Sources differ as to whether these are chambered in .38 Special or .38 S&W. I know the part of the block containing the barrel would rotate up for loading and unloading. I have no idea how it is cocked. Is there a safety? I can see arguments for and against it. One would assume there is a manual on this beastie somewhere but I have never encountered either the manual or the weapon it’s self in the ‘flesh’. In the day it would most certainly have been classified. If anyone out there can address any of these points I would love to hear from you.

My best information is that the weapon was designed by the Office of Naval
Intelligence. There are several theories about how it was employed.

One is that Sedgley Gloves were provided to heavy equipment operators with the Sea Bees. Reason being that bulldozer operators were unarmed due to the requirements of their jobs. The story goes that Sedgley Gloves came in right and left hand pairs. In case of a surprise attack by the Japanese this gave the Sea Bees a way to defend themselves.

With all due respect, I wouldn’t even have mentioned this one if I hadn’t encountered it several times in my research. Japanese soldiers tended to lead with their bayonets during an attack on what they thought to be an unarmed opponent. A glove, even a Sedgley Glove, against a bayonet looses. I have talked to a lot of Sea Bees. Some of them have mentioned side arms, others spoke about finding a way to keep a rifle or shotgun handy if they felt the need. Sedgley Gloves never came up.

I would offer two other arguments against this practice. First, in all my years of research I have only seen pictures of Sedgley Gloves made for the right hand, never the left. Second, if they had been issued in quantity to the Sea Bees we would be seeing a lot of them at gun shows. This is not to say the idea wasn’t suggested, maybe tested, but there has to be a reason Naval Intelligence designed them and the OSS ended up with them.

The Sedgley Glove pictured above is from the World War Two Museum in New Orleans. It was the property of Lawrence Ney Hanna. Lt. Hanna had been an officer with a unit called the Beach Jumpers and is the only case I know of where a Sedgley Glove was carried in combat.

The Beach Jumpers were the brain child of none other than Douglas Fairbanks
Jr. Fairbanks was that rare Hollywood type that existed outside officers clubs and PR appearances. His like traveled to dangerous places and made them more dangerous when they got there.

The job of the Beach Jumpers was to convince the enemy that a major force was attacking an all but empty beach. Their ride was a 63-foot double-hulled plywood air-sea rescue fast boat. Each boat was crewed by an officer and six enlisted men. The boats were equipped with twin 50 caliber machine guns, 3.5 inch window rockets, smoke pots and generators, and floating time-delay explosive packs. They also carried the unit’s specialized deception equipment: the multi-component "heater," consisting of a wire recorder; 5-phase amplifier, and 1000 watt, 12 horn speaker; and ZKM and MK-6 Naval balloons to which strips of radar reflective window had been attached. The latter could be towed behind the boats to enhance their radar cross-section.

This boat could convince the enemy a task force was landing in their back yard. By the time the defenders responded they were long gone – they hoped!

The glove had been issued to Lt. Hanna in case his boat was ever boarded. He was to hold his hands up as if surrendering until someone got close. With the fire arm component on the back of the glove it would not be seen by anyone in front of him. Once a boarder was close enough Lt. Hanna would punch them with the Sedgley Glove. The theory being that the punch and unexpected weapon report would take the man out and could create enough of a diversion for the crew to take back the boat.

So what are the chances of surviving such a stunt? Slim, but considering the kind of interrogation these folks could expect, being taken alive wasn’t an option. Luckily for Lt. Hanna he never had to use the Sedgley Glove.

In the half century plus since World War Two the only time Sedgley Gloves have been used in a movie was INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. I am pretty sure these were re-pops.

The Sedgley Glove reminds me of a saying my Grandmother used to have, “Book smart
and horse stupid!” Someone put a great deal of thought into this beastie, but never stopped to ask themselves if it was worth the effort to build it. This is the kind of thing I would expect a street thug to cobble up, not Military Intelligence.

I would love to have one for my collection, but would never fire it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This is the DUKW

A couple of days ago James at hellinahandbasket talked about always wanting an amphibious vehicle. He had photos of several military and civilian examples, including some from comics and movies. I was surprised to see he had left out my all time favorite, the DUKW.

This is not an example of my lousy spelling. In military nomenclature of World War Two the letters stand for;

D - 1942, the first year of manufacture

U - Amphibious

K - Drive to all wheels

W- Dual rear axles

Today, the picture above is the DUKW most folks know. A number of companies around the country operate "Duck Rides" for tourist. A 31 foot, street legal party barge!

This is the DUKW of World War Two, a versatile workhorse that made a lasting impression on everyone who encountered it.

The DUKW had its roots in the much more common GMC CCKW, the "duce and a half" that saw service all over the world.

The CCKW drive train was fitted with a water tight hull and an extra drive shaft for a propeller. So, you might ask, what was the point of a truck that could run on water?

The DUKW had a generous cargo bay that allowed for twenty armed troops or a couple of tons of whatever the military might think to load on board. Dangerous ground that.

Folks who have taken "Duck Rides" might think they were used a landing craft. Indeed they were used to ferry troops to shore, but usually after a beach head had been established. The DUKW had other jobs.

The beastie was able to pull up next to a ship and have cargo nets of goods dropped directly into her cargo bay. Once loaded she could head to shore.

Unlike a boat DUKW's didn't need a dock, but could drive out of the water and take it cargo strait to where it was needed. This eliminated two steps of the cargo process, unloading at the dock and transfering to a truck for transport. Unloading the ducks by hand slowed things down, but when there was a crane on shore to unload the nets, turn around was pretty quick.
The drivers compartment of the DUKW was familur to anyone who had ever driven a truck.
There were some additional bells and whistles, but once the driver learned their functions the beast became much more versatile.
One feature well known to military personal today is the ability to control the airpressure of the tires from the drivers compartment. This way the pressure could be reduced for operating in sand and incressed for roads. The crew didn't have to leave the vehicle and expose themselves to hostile fire to do so.

The read deck of the DUKW held a 10,000 or 12,000 pound winch depending on what was available that day. In addition to towing the DUKW off sand bars, and assisting other vehicles it acted as a light duty crane.

It can be argued that the DUKW was neither truck or boat, half doing two jobs. I am already on record as liking the beast, but there is some truth to that. For one, it had only one propeller which limited it's maneuverability on water. As my boating experience is with canoe's I can't really address that.
One problem the DUKWs had was the narrow streets in European towns and villages. They would take up the whole thing; there was no two way traffic.

DUKWs had to be loaded and unloaded over the side rather than with a tailgate. With light weight items its not a problem. Something that took a crane to get it there was going to need a crane to get it off.

Take this one this one transporting a field piece. I have seen a number of photos showing DUKWs carrying field pieces like this. I have no knowledge of anyone firing a field piece while mounted on a DUKW. Then again, it would only take one fresh new lieutenant no knowledge of artillery and visions of glory to try it. It's the sort of thing that leads to never ending, sometimes posthumous, fame.
I know this looks like the sort of project a couple of drunks would undertake on a bet, but the platform between the DUKWs was worked out by a couple of engineers. It allows the DUKWs to ferry heavier loads to shore than one could handle.

This last photo combines two of my favorite things, DUKWs and a P-38 lighting. I can't help but think, if they had mounted it pointed the other way, they could have gotten to shore much faster.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winchester 1887 - 1901

I had no idea what kind shotgun the old man had for the longest time. Dad had seen a notice posted at a little general store on the road between Winnemucca and Battle Mountain, Nevada: SHOTGUN FOR SALE - $50.00. Now, Dad wasn’t really looking for another shotgun, but then he was ‘never not’ looking for a shotgun. A trait my Wife insists I inherited from him.

After getting directions from the store/bar keeper we followed what claimed to be a road to a shack in the desert. It was like something out of a movie. The owner, a slender stooped old man, heard us coming and was waiting in the door as we pulled up.

When Dad told him why we had come the little old man looked my Father up and down then said, “Well, you might be able to handle my shotgun,” and disappeared inside the shack.

This galled my father; he was over six feet and had done hard physical labor every day of his life. The man reappeared in the door with a huge lever action shotgun and a handful of BIG brass shotgun shells. He showed Dad how to load it through the open breach and pointed out a gas can several yards away that had outlived its usefulness.

Dad cycled the lever and took the first shot. I’m guessing these must have been black powder cartridges, based on the roar, smoke and fire that erupted from the weapon. I had never heard anything like it. Dad rocked back from the unexpected recoil.“Had enough?” the Desert Rat asked from his doorway of his shack. With a grim set to his jaw Dad cycled the action and fired off the next three rounds. After the second shot there really wasn’t much left of what had been the old gas can!

Dad handed the shotgun back to the old man saying he didn’t really think he was interested. He seemed to favor his right shoulder for the next couple of days. For the rest of his too short life Dad told the story about the big old lever action shotgun that kicked like a mule.

Today I know the old man’s shotgun was probably a Winchester 1887, perhaps a 1901, but definitely a 10 Gauge. I didn't see a weapon like this again (to recognize it) for the better part of ten years. It was on a short lived TV show called Dundee and the Culhne. I didn't realize what the scary on man on the show (he looked A Lot like the guy I met in Nevad) had until he fired and cycled the lever for a second shot.

In years since I had seen a number of these fine old shotguns. I even had a chance to fire one in twelve gauge belonging to a friend. When I would see them at gun shows I wanted to sit down in the isle and bawl, remembering Dad could have gotten one for $50.00.

For years the 1887 had been on the wish list under "It would be nice someday." Then out of the blue some years back Helene, my wonderful wife, presented me with a Winchester 1901 shotgun for Christmas.

For those not in the know it’s a version of the Winchester 1887 that started production in 1901. I believe the primary difference was the 1901 had some stamped parts and was only available in 10 Gauge. The big lever action shotgun never fails to draw interest when we are displaying Western Firearms, or lecturing on the subject. I have always treasured it, not just because it is such a wonderful addition to my collection, but because it brought back a shadow from my past.

Of course most folks today know the Winchester 1887 not from its Old West or long sporting history, but from the 1991 movie TERMINATOR 2 – JUDGEMENT DAY. The fact is, my 1901 narrowly escaped the ‘Terminator Chop’.
It was at one of our favorite gun stores in Houston when Helene and another customer found it at the same time. This 1901 had been marked down because it had been re-blued.

Helene knew I couldn’t care less about re-buling, we have a teaching and shooting collection. The other guy was delighted he had “one of these things” cheap enough to convert to the “Terminator Gun”. Both were going to have to put the weapon on lay-away. Helene (and I) got it because she wasn’t going to cut it up.
With the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting the Winchester 1887 is back in production by a couple of companies, notably Chiappa Firearms. Folks have rediscovered its fine handling, and there is a supply of weapons available for the ‘Terminator Treatment’ without cutting up the old timers. The fact is, cut down 1887s go back a lot further than the Terminator movies. A number of them turned up in shootouts and raids during the roaring twenties. Even police found it handy to have such a lethal weapon that could be hidden under a coat.

Not too long ago Steve at THE FIREARMS BLOG announced Chiappa is coming to the aid of those needing to channel their “inner Arnold” with the T-Series 1887 shotgun. In some news releases this has been described as “Shotgun Pistol” but the 18.5 inch barrel makes it a shotgun and spares buyers the hassle of Class 3 or AOW paperwork.

The forearm is wood, but the grip is rubberized to aid in recoil issues. I had read somewhere (and now can’t find it to reference) that they were also planning a version called the “Bootlegger” that would have all wood furniture.
I’m delighted that my 1901 was spared the chop and wouldn’t change it. Still, I wouldn’t mind having one of the T-Series in my collection. As I said, cut down 1887s were quite popular in times past. A bootlegger T series would fit some of my programs nicely – not to mention being all kinds of fun!

UPDATE - My thanks to a reader who sent me a link to a photo of the "Bootlegger".

Also, my friend Hangman reminded me on facebook that the 1901 was stressed to handle smokless powder. I can't believe I forgot to mention that.

Folks like these make this Blog much more special than I could alone.