Memorial Day, 2017

Best remembered for me personally, I submit, with a remembrance of “A letter to my father, from his.”

A letter from my grandfather to my father, in 1941.

My Dad flew for the United States Air Corps in WWII. He took his primary flight training at Stockton Field, California, and graduated in 1941. My father, Richard, apparently received a letter from his father, Verto, before Dad was off “for points West” in 1941.
I found this letter amongst my Dad’s things, buried in his desk, in an envelope bearing the return address of a law firm in Dallas, Texas, postmarked 1979. It was addressed to my grandmother, his mother, likewise in Dallas. Because of this circumstance, I wondered: Why was it sent from a law firm to his mother? Did my father ever see this letter when it was meant to be seen? When his father was still alive? Or did he only see it when his mother’s estate closed, after his father passed away?
I’ll never know.

Typewritten on onion-skin, the words within are poignant, sage, prescient. They moved me. I think they’ll speak to you as well.

Dear Son:

I hope that I can finish this letter so that it can be mailed in sufficient time to reach you before you board the rattler for points West and your next experience in training for an eaglet in the Air Service of Uncle Sam.

I have learned that the very cheapest thing one will ever run across in this life is advice because everyone wants to give it away and so few will ever accept it. So I have been several hours in completing these paragraphs, blue penciling here and there lest I make my epistle a treatise on the “more abundant life” of New Deal parentage rather than a few timely remarks covering the fundamentals which do provide and form the background as happiness and success as America measures them.

And, I might add here, that I fervently hope that this same American measurement as applied to happiness and success will continue to be the yardstick for many years, so work hard and be ready to do your part if necessary to annihilate any and all of the cockeyed Fascist or Communist interpretations of what is best for mankind and its soul.

I shouldn’t be a bit surprised that the first week or two after you leave home, that you will be amazed at the really remarkable memory you possess and in your particular case, it will be a pleasant memory. This is what is commonly called “Homesickness” but when it is stripped right down to the chassis it is merely an association of pleasant thoughts, pleasant surroundings and pleasant people who are vitally interested in you, plus an overwhelming sense of a loss of security. Doctors sometimes use what they call a counter irritant to take the mind off the chief pain or trouble of their patient and the best counter irritant to an acute attack of “pleasing memories” is deep concentration on your work.

You should be extremely grateful in that you have been a fairly regular attendant at Sunday School, of a splendid common sense religion and, without even dwelling on the manifold advantages of a good Sunday School background, one of the most practical benefits it will give you is that it will help you to see things in their true proportion.

Jesus once had something to say about people who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, and one of the chief causes of much unhappiness in life is our confusion as to the relative importance of things.

So many trifles seem to big and important; we indulge ourselves so much in fretting and rebelling against the minor things, we can endure a severe physical pain with genuine stoicism, but the bark of a dog or the crunch of crackers upsets us tremendously.


Whenever you feel that you are beset with many troubles, take a little time off and look into the Bible, particularly the New Testament; it will do you a lot of good, and you will be amazed how your troubles will disappear. The Bible does teach you to see the big things of life in a big way and the minor things as minor ones; it will give anybody true perspective.

As you go through life, you will learn that the simple life is the most effective one and also the happiest. Regardless of anyone’s argument to the contrary, you will always find that the really big successful people in America today, regardless of simple pleasures, have simple taste, are very modest and usually have a deep religious character. McKinley, a great President, put corned beef and cabbage on the White House menu, and I expect, if you knew the real “low down” on that commanding officer of yours, you would find that perhaps he has a secret yen for growing nasturtiums.

The more successful they come the more big people are interested in getting information; they never hesitate to learn from anyone. Only small potatoes with warped mentalities are showy or pretentious, and those with an obnoxious abundance of conversation about themselves generally are using their long winded gyrations to cover up their deficiencies. Always remember that egotism is the cause of more conversation than learning or wit.

My experiences and observations have taught me that honesty is not only the best policy but it is the only policy, because dishonesty is its own downfall, sooner or later. It has been said that many wealthy people have obtained their money or their power by dishonest means and perhaps that is so. But you will always find that sooner or later either their conscience or the law catches up with them and the fellow with the big stick ends up either with a shiny seat in his pants or a hard cell in the hoosegow. Dishonesty is like that queer implement that Australians use, the “boomerang”: it always makes the circuit and always comes back and smacks you in the face when you aren’t looking.

Dishonesty never paid dividends to anyone. It is just about as dangerous as an elephant hanging over the edge of a cliff with his tail tied to a daisy.

And now to an element a little less mental than some I have mentioned, but none the less important and that is WORK. Work is essential to success in any line of endeavor and don’t let any of the textbooks tell you differently. Some people have said that worry kills more men than work, and that is true because more men worry than work. So far as I know no one ever died from work in this country, but thousands may die in this country if we don’t settle down to work soon.

Truly work is the most fascinating thing in the world. It rests the soul, it feeds the brain, and it gives a sense of security that is really marvelous. Never envy those who have apparently nothing on their hands but time and nothing on the brains but hair. You will get more downright thrill in the simplest job well done than


they will ever get in a lifetime. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished except by work and any success you ever heard of was the result of one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

As a matter of fact, you will find the economic progress of any nation is generally measured by its working hour. The real fortunes and the real industries of this nation were the result not of the 40 five day week, but a working day of dawn to dusk with Wednesday off for prayer meeting. The calamity howlers have spread their gospel that America is in terrible condition, but let me assure you that there is nothing whosoever wrong with America that work won’t cure.

I must bring this letter to a close. I have merely scratched the surface of a few important things it will pay you to remember. I do hope you ahve not been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age and don’t let the doleful howls of a few hair-brained spell-binders upset you.

You shall soon be in the greatest service of the greatest and finest nation in recorded history; its principles of free speech and free enterprise shall exist. You have lived as a youngster in a period when economic and social upheavals have caused a temporary distortion in the American manner of progress, but mind you, this is only temporary and America will come out of it, for faith and freedom and security are just as near at hand today as ever before.

You are indeed a fortunate individual in that you are on the threshold of the new America that will arm itself to insure the retention of its principles of freedom, and by the very reason of your being a part of this greater respect and a deeper love of those principles for which America stands.

So in the realization of a real success in the job you have ahead of you and I have complete confidence that you will be a success which can be measured only in terms of Honesty, Simplicity, Tolerance and Respectability — there can be no greater honor or reward that could possibly come to me than in being —

Your Dad,


P. S. I am enclosing a check in case you might need a little cash before your first pay-day. Remember, never open a pot with two pair when the deuces are wild.

At one point, transcribing this, the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. The words are ever so valid now as then. Words of wisdom. Common words of sense and insight. Words I wish to share with you. And words I need to embrace and remember. Words this country needs to hear and see.

Let freedom ring, brothers and sisters. We cannot, we must not, let this country fall.

Our fathers tell us so.


Last crewman of the Enola Gay passes:

Theodore VanKirk, Navigator On Enola GayFrom

Theodore VanKirk, last survivor of Enola Gay crew, dies

ATLANTA – The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died in Georgia.

Theodore VanKirk, also known as “Dutch,” died Monday of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his son Tom VanKirk said. He was 93.

VanKirk was the navigator of the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress aircraft that dropped “Little Boy” – the world’s first atomic bomb – over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki three days later. VanKirk was 24 years old at the time.

A funeral service was scheduled for VanKirk on Aug. 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania. He will be buried in Northumberland next to his wife, who died in 1975. The burial will be private.

Crew of the B-29 "Enola Gay"Like the bulk of The Greatest Generation, these men wanted no spotlights on themselves and rarely spoke of their exploits and conditions in WWII.  That is simply how they acted and existed, as issued from the factory.  Humble and quiet and efficient and patriotic.

The Enola Gay was recognized as the Silverplate Boeing B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” on Hiroshima — August 6th of 1945.

Theodore VanKirk was a member of that crew.  In his dotage, he spoke to UK media here in 2010.

But what he said deserves to be reproduced here for the sake of historical posterity:

He is now a frail old man who spends his days tending his roses. Yet 65 years ago this Friday Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk took part in a mission which changed the world forever.

Dutch was the navigator on Enola Gay, guiding the B-29 Superfortress bomber to a point 31,000ft above Hiroshima to deliver the deadliest weapon man had ever built.

More than 200,00 people were killed when the world’s first atomic bomb exploded. Yet 89-year-old Dutch, the last remaining survivor of Enola Gay’s flight crew, has never had any doubts that it was the right thing to do.

“Do I regret what we did that day? No, sir, I do not,” he says. “I have never apologised for what we did to Hiroshima and I never will. Our mission was to end the Second World War, simple as that.

“If we had not dropped that bomb, there is no way the Japanese would have surrendered. We would have had to invade the country and the death toll would have been truly unimaginable.

“They had been taught to fight to the last man and they would have fought us with sticks and stones. We did what we had to do. Not only to save American lives, but Japanese lives as well.”

Boeing B-29 "Enola Gay"We did what we needed to do when we needed to do it.  He said: I would do it again.

VanKirk confirms it.

The Bockscar and its crew applied the second atomic weapon to Nagasaki on August 9th, via “Fat Man.”

BocksCar B-29Truth and in full.

God bless you for your service, sir.



A WWII sailor’s dying wish:


After signing my Pop, EM2 Bud Cloud (circa Pearl Harbor) up for hospice care, the consolation prize I’d given him (for agreeing it was OK to die) was a trip to “visit the Navy in San Diego.”

Bud Cloud, USNI emailed my friend and former Marine sergeant, Mrs. Mandy McCammon, who’s currently serving as a Navy Public Affairs Officer, at midnight on 28 May. I asked Mandy if she had enough pull on any of the bases in San Diego to get me access for the day so I could give Bud, who served on USS Dewey (DD-349), a windshield tour.

And from there, the reality occurred.

The next day she sent me an email from the current USS Dewey (DDG 105)’s XO, CDR Mikael Rockstad, inviting us down to the ship two days later.

We linked up with Mandy outside Naval Base San Diego and carpooled to the pier where we were greeted by CMDCM Joe Grgetich and a squad-sized group of Sailors. Bud started to cry before the doors of the van opened. He’d been oohing and pointing at the cyclic rate as we approached the pier, but when we slowed down and Mandy said, “They’re all here for you, Bud,” he was overwhelmed.

The USS Dewey site is here.

After we were all out of the van directly in front of the Dewey, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, Petty Officer Simon introduced himself and said as the ship’s Sailor of the Year he had the honor of pushing Bud’s wheelchair for the day. Unbeknownst to us, they’d decided to host Bud aboard the Dewey, not at the Dewey. And so they carried him aboard. None of us expected him to go aboard the ship. I’d told him we were going down to the base and would have the chance to meet and greet a few of the Sailors from the new Dewey. He was ecstatic. The day before, he asked every few hours if we were “still going down to visit the boys from the Dewey,” and “do they know I was on the Dewey, too?”

If this isn’t bringing a tear to your eye right now, then I submit that you aren’t quite human.

Saluting BudOnce aboard, we were greeted by the CO, CDR Jake Douglas, the XO and a reinforced platoon-sized group of Sailors. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. These men and women waited in line to introduce themselves to Bud. They shook his hand, asked for photos with him, and swapped stories. It was simply amazing.

They didn’t just talk to him, they listened.

And listening isn’t just suggestive, it’s mandatory.  If you wish to actually immure and archive history.

Bud’s voice was little more than a weak whisper at this point and he’d tell a story and then GMC Eisman or GSCS Whynot would repeat it so all of the Sailors on deck could hear. In the midst of the conversations, Petty Officer Flores broke contact with the group. Bud was telling a story and CMDCM Grgetich was repeating the details when Flores walked back into view holding a huge photo of the original USS Dewey. That moment was priceless. Bud stopped mid-sentence and yelled, “There she is!” They patiently stood there holding the photo while he told them about her armament, described the way it listed after it was hit, and shared other details about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Bud finally admitted how tired he was after more than an hour on deck. While they were finishing up goodbyes and taking last minute photographs, GMC Eisman asked if it’d be OK to bring Sailors up to visit Bud in a few months after a Chief’s board. I hadn’t said it yet because I didn’t want it to dampen the spirit of the day, but I quietly explained to GMC Eisman the reason we’d asked for the visit was simple: Bud was dying.

Yes he was.

I told him they were welcome to come up any time they wanted, but I suspected Bud had about a month left to live. Almost without hesitation, he asked if the crew could provide the burial honors when the time came. I assured him that’d be an honor we’d welcome.

Leaving the ship was possibly more emotional than boarding.

They piped him ashore.

CMDCM Grgetich leaned in and quietly told me how significant that honor was and who it’s usually reserved for as we headed towards the gangplank. Hearing “Electrician’s Mate Second Class William Bud Cloud, Pearl Harbor Survivor, departing” announced over the 1MC was surreal.

But no less deserved.

He died 13 days later. For 12 of those 13 days he talked about the Dewey, her Sailors and his visit to San Diego. Everyone who came to the house had to hear the story, see the photos, hold the coins, read the plaques.

There you go.  A real American.

True to his word, GMC Eisman arranged the details for a full honors burial. The ceremony was simple yet magnificent. And a perfect sendoff for an ornery old guy who never, ever stopped being proud to be a Sailor. After the funeral, the Sailors came back to the house for the reception and spent an hour with the family. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s another example of them going above and beyond the call of duty, and it meant more to the family than I can explain.

William Cloud said: “This is the best day of my life, daughter. I never in my whole life dreamed I’d step foot on the Dewey again or shake the hand of a real life Sailor.”

Please check the iDriveWarships site here.

Fair winds and following seas, sir.


Bud Cloud Departing