Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

TEA WORMS OF DUNE

My daughter has suggested that some of the money spent filming DUNE in Jordan could have been spent learning from locals the correct pronuncialtion of Shai al-Hulud. Pronounced as SHAY Hulud it means "eternal Thing". Pronounced as SHY Hulud, it means "eternal tea." [Think as in Russian 'chai']

Thursday, November 11, 2021

At the Eleventh Hour

... of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns in Europe fell silent at last. The United States built a wall inscribed with the names of 58,220 servicemen killed or missing in the nine years' war in Vietnam, more than twice as many as in three days at Gettysburg. The AEF doughboys engaged the Hun from Oct 21, 1917 to Nov 11, 1918 and suffered 116,516 killed or missing, i.e., about twice as many total as in Vietnam and 13x more on a yearly basis. No wall was ever built for the doughboys and no memorial became official until 2004 -- in Kansas City. A DC memorial was dedicated in 2021, but is not finished yet.

Pfc Harry F Singley,
304th Eng. AEF

Today is the 103rd anniversary of the Armistice, an event nearly forgotten now, blended as it has been with veterans of all wars. Harry Singley, 304th Engineers, describes the day in a letter published in the local paper:

"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 o'clock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill [i.e., Fountain Hill, PA] will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."

Cadet Flynn (seated) Older .
brother James was in the Navy

#

TOF's other grandfather, Francis T Flynn (Sr), at eighteen, was in the cadet corps at Catholic University in Washington DC. As he later recalled,

So while I was working on this piece-work job [making artillery shells for the French Army at Ingersoll-Rand], the principal of the high school, Sr. Felicita, called me on the telephone and told me, she said, "I sent your credits to Catholic University and you can be admitted without a College Board or any sort of examination, provided you are voluntarily inducted.
     So this was in the month of June and away I set sail.  I was down at Catholic University then from June until New Years.  ... [W]e were snowed into taking an ME course, because they were short on officers.  They said, "If you take this ME course, you will get to Camp Meade quicker.  The seniors will go first, then the juniors, then the sophomores, et cetera, y'know.  But if you take the mechanical engineering course, you'll see action quicker than you would if you took any other course.  What I really wanted to take was Philosophy and Letters and there was only one guy who held out for that...  He later became a monsignor. 
Note that "you'll see action sooner" was regarded as an enticement. And also that the Pop-pop of TOF was really into Philosophy and Letters. Then, when the Armistice broke out, his parents begged him to stay in college. "We'll find the money somehow." But he thought he was much smarter than they -- unlike 18/19-year olds today -- and took the train back home. It was, he thought later, the biggest mistake of his life -- except that he married the Girl Next Door (literally) and produced my father, which from TOF's point of view was of considerable importance.

Sgt. Tommy Flynn
###

Since Armastice Day has become Veterans Day, let's scope out the veterans in my family and the Marge's include the following. Not all have been named.

The Vietnam War
Sgt. Tommy Flynn,
CAC team Papa Three, USMC

My father's cousin lived with villagers in the mountains near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ, and was severely wounded.  He later wrote a book about his experience, A Voice of Hope. In a review of this book, Joni Bour wrote:
"The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad.
###

Joe Flynn was discharged as corporal
World War II
Pfc. Joseph Flynn,
5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC

My father served on Iwo Jima and in the Japanese Occupation.  The photo on the left is the only time he ever wore dress blues. It was actually a false-front "uniform" used only for the picture.

On Iwo Jima, he went in with the first wave along with his captain. He was to establish battalion liaison and take the word back to his unit.

During the fighting, he had a number of close shaves. In one case, a Japanese shell hit right in front of him while he was bringing anti-tank grenades from the dump to the front, and the explosion lifted him up and sent him hurtling through the air to land on his back. He was totally numb and deaf and thought he was paralyzed. But gradually feeling and hearing returned and when he checked himself, he had not gotten so much as a scratch. He ought to have gotten a Purple Heart, but this was Iwo Jima, and you had to bleed to get such a medal.

He remembers, too, the moment they unfurled that flag atop Suribachi, from the heights of which Japanese snipers had been shooting them in the back as they pushed north. There had been a smaller flag earlier, but the commanding general ordered a larger one that could be seen from every point on the island. The impact of that flag on morale was incalculable, he said.

During the Occupation, he had the dubious privilege of walking through the middle of Nagasaki not long after it was nuked.

Afterward, on two occasions, he was offered the opportunity to be brevetted to officer and sent to OCS. This was because of the initiative he had shown on several occasions during the battle. However, he was anxious to return home and get on with the urgent business of becoming my father before my mother (a/k/a the Sweetheart of the Seventh Fleet) could be tracked down by the aforesaid admirers of her morale-boosting snapshot.
 ###

The Great War
Pfc. Harry Singley,

304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF

My grandfather on my mother's side went "Over There" and served in the St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  This was the offensive in which the famous Lost Battalion was cut off and surrounded. His narrative appears at the beginning of this post. He was a combat engineer, which means he had to build things in the middle of battle. The Great War was the first "industrial strength" war and nobody at the time thought it was the first of a series. They thought it was the "War to End All Wars," so there was still a touch of innocence and idealism about the whole endeavor. None of us grandkids ever heard him talk about his experiences. Like most of the Silent Generation, he was markedly silent on the whole thing.

###

Earlier military engagements in TOF's family don't count.  Great grandfather, Fernand E. O. Cantrel served as a 2nd Cannon Conductor in the 12th Regt. of Artillery, Tonkin Gulf Expedition, 1884, which participated in the Bac Ninh campaign in the First Brigade (de l'Isle) and the Lang Son and Tuyen Quang campaigns in the Second Brigade (de NĂ©grier).  It's possible other Flynncestors participated in the odd Fenian rising or so in Ireland, or in the 1848 republican revolution in Germany or the earlier resistance to French invasions. Cromwell's Council issued an order to apprehend the person of Fiachra O'Flynn in 1648, describing him as armed and dangerous. But none of these qualify for US Veterans Day.

The Flynns arrived in the US after the Civil War and while the Singleys and Schwars arrived a decade earlier, none of them were in it, so far as I know. Nor do we know of anyone involved in the Indian or Spanish-American Wars, so, at this time we turn to the maternal ancestry of the Incomparable Marge!

US Civil War
Pvt. John H. Hammontree,
Co. H, 5th Tenn. Inf., US Vol.

Evacuation of Cumberland Gap
The great-great grandfather of the Incomparable Marge joined the Union Army when Confederates come into East Tennessee and told the fellas there 'you boys better be a-wearing gray come morning' or y'all be hanged.' Well, them hill people didn't cotton to that at-all, and so they lit out that night acrosst the mountains to sign up with Buell's army of the Ohio.  Nine Hammontree cousins signed up for the same company, as was common in those days.

John fought in the Campaigns of Cumberland Gap, Stones River, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Atlanta. He was shot in the left leg during the attack on Confederate positions at Resaca. He seems to have been returned to duty in time for the Nashville Campaign. After the war, he died of complications stemming from his wound.

Creek War (War of 1812)
Pvt. James Hammontree,
Capt. Duncan's Co. of Col. Bunch's Regiment (2nd Regt., East Tennessee Militia).

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Margie's grandfather's grandfather's grandfather fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek (Red Stick) War.  This was subsumed into the War of 1812.

Andrew Jackson's official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that "a few companies" of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement. The muster rolls list  some casualties from this battle in the companies led by Captains Moses Davis, Joseph Duncan, and John Houk. Other men from this regiment remained at Fort Williams prior to Horseshoe Bend to guard the post -- provision returns indicate that there were 283 men from Bunch's regiment at the fort at the time of the battle. James' brother William was also at the battle, and his brother Jacob had been in a previous militia regiment. There were a variety of more distant Hammontrees in other theaters of the war.


Later, when James had died, his widow Nancy had a heck of a time trying to collect the pension that was owed her. Bureaucracy is not new.

The Revolution
Pvt. John Hammontree,
Capt. John Mountjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.

James Hammontree's great uncle John enlisted in the 10th Virginia at an unknown date and may have seen action with the 10th at Brandywine and Germantown before entering winter quarters at Valley Forge.  In January 1778, he was reported "sick in camp" and he died there on 24 Feb 1778.

Pvt. Harris[on] Hammontree,
Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.

The 1st Virginia has a long ancestry, and exists today as the 276th Eng. Battalion of the Virginia National Guard.  John Hammontree's younger brother Harris Hammontree enlisted in the 1st Virginia on Feb. 12, 1778, after the regiment had gone into encampment at Valley Forge.  In April and June he was reported as "sick," but unlike his older brother, he survived.  He likely participated in the battle of Monmouth in June 1778 after Baron von Steuben had trained them.  Most of the regiment was captured by the British at Charlestown, South Carolina, on May 12, 1780, but Harris may not have been with the regiment at that point.  He was killed by Indians on the Virginia frontier, 25 July 1781.
###

SSgt M Flynn with Sweet Sharon at
the Caisson Ball. Don't ask.



And that  takes us back to as early as any US Veterans Day is likely to cover. The closest TOF himself came was two years of
Army Artillery ROTC, so he knows how to call suppressing fire down on you. However, a wise military classified him 4F. Had they drafted him, two years of ROTC would have made him a corporal.


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