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November 2005

Godspeed Alfred Anderson

On December 25th, 1914, Germans and British troops emerged from their trenches to celebrate Christmas.  Swapping food, cigarettes, and other items, the short peace came to be known as the Christmas Truce.

The last survivor of WWI to partake in the Christmas Truce has died - Alfred Anderson.  From the Times UK:

...When the First World War broke out in October 1914, Mr Anderson's unit, the 5th Battalion of the Black Watch, had been among the first to be deployed to France, promised a quick campaign to give the Kaiser a bloody nose.

As December 25 arrived he was billeted in a dilapidated farmhouse behind the trenches and never joined in the famous game of football. But only last year, the old soldier recalled: "All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machine-gun fire and distant German voices.

"But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war."

Mr Anderson was born in Dundee on June 25, 1896 and and grew up in Newtyle, Angus, where he signed up for the Territorial Army as a teenager. He was invalided out in 1916 by a shell explosion which killed several of his comrades and left him with serious shrapnel wounds.

After his return from the front he met and fell in love with Susan Iddison, a nanny from Ripon, North Yorkshire, while stationed with his regiment at nearby Catterick. They were married in June 1917 and moved to Scotland where Mr Anderson took over his father’s building and joinery business in Newtyle. They brought up a family of six children and celebrated a diamond wedding anniversary before Mrs Anderson died of a stroke, aged 83, in 1979...

Roachman sends this note from his brother, Ted, about Anderson:


Take a moment from your busy days to remember Alfred Anderson. The last allied survivor of the Christmas truce of 1914. During the Savgage fighting on the Marne River, German and British troops spontaneously stopped fighting, wandered into no mans land, exchanged goodies from home, sang songs, and even played a bit of Footie (Germans 2 Brits 1). The higher ups heard of this and ordered the troops to cease (at gunpoint in some cases) and the killing resumed. Lord Kitchener actually believed the British army was on the verge of mutiny. There had been over a million German and British causalties since August!!!

Mr Anderson was 109, the oldest man in Scotland and a veteran of the famed Black Watch Regiment. There are now only 3 or 4 living vetrans of the trench fighting on the western front in Britain. Several noncombat veterans also survive. The last WWI era veterans in Australia and Canada pasted away this month, neither had seen combat, still it marks quite a passing. Mr. Anderson saw some of the most intense combat of the war. Fittingly he died quietly in his sleep, far removed (hopefully) from the roar of the shells, and the screams of the dying.

We are witnessing the passing of the final few who participated in the greatest organized slaughter in human history. A time of mind numbing carnage, yet witness to some of the most monumental acts of heroism and courage imaginable. Sadly, some 80% of the dead on both sides are buried in unmarked graves if they even got that final tribute, the vast majority were simply buried again and again by shell fire. Mr. Anderson will be laid to rest in his parish churchyard in rural Scotland.

Rest in Peace Alfred

Amen to that.  Godspeed Alfred.

Miltiary Lists

I found this list amusing...H/T to Risawn.

Here's a taste:

5. Personal accomplishments:
-In the real world, being able to do pushups will not make you good at your job.
-Most people will be slightly disturbed by you if you tell them about people you have killed or seen die.
-How much pain you can take is not a personal accomplishment.
-The time you got really drunk and passed the sobriety test anyway is also not a personal accomplishment.

Soldiers always make lists.  My pals and I must have submitted over 100 top ten lists to Letterman.

Here's some other humorous military lists:  How to pepare to deploy to Iraq and Skippy's list of things you can't do in the Army.

The 2005 MilBloggies

Milblogging.com is hosting the voting for the 2005 MilBloggy Awards.  There are many categories - by service, overall best, etc. - and there might be prizes associated with an award.  Go register and vote.  Plus, you might find a few MilBlogs that you haven't seen before.  I just read five that were new to me.

If Blackfive.net wins a prize, I'll ask that it be donated to Soldiers' Angels.

Help Grey Eagle

Send Grey Eagle some support.  Anti-military hackers have made it difficult for her to maintain her blog from Iraq:

...When I add a new soldier to the tributes script/program it prints to the website "you have been hacked....Bush lied..." no matter what I type. So while it does not seem to have affected what I previously did, I cannot add anymore soldiers to my tribute...

Is Zarqawi Dead?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

There are all kinds of reports about the US checking the DNA of the bodies of seven or eight terrorists killed in a raid in northern Mosul.

Pure speculation:  Zarqawi's latest attack on Jordan created a difficult situation for him.  After the attack, his family and tribe denounced him and sent a call for all in the tribe to withdraw support for him.

It's quite possible that his attack on the hotels in Amman led to his own people informing on his whereabouts.  His own zealous rage against the royal family of Jordan might have been his undoing.

One can hope.

And the air and ground resources used to take down (only) 8 bastards also indicates that the target was thought to be very, very important.  And these particular terrorists decided to kill themselves to avoid capture.  Not your run of the mill Sunni insurgents - definitely more Al Qaeda like.

The 101st Airborne has smoked a lot of terrorists (and they were the ones that cooked Uday and Qusay with the extra crispy recipe).  They're in the area.  I'd be very happy with the fact that they took down some more terrorist bastards...

No proof of that, yet, but one can hope.

Update:  Receiving information that it appears that he's alive.  More to follow.

Update 2:  Nothing concrete, yet.  CounterTerrorism Blog is very skeptical and says wait for forensic evidence. Sound advice.

Murtha not Swiftboated, just wrong

Uncle Jimbo sends:

Let's be clear about Rep. Murtha, the latest darling of the antiwar crowd and it's media allies, he has been against the war since 2002, prior to it's beginning. He is not a recent convert because of the horrors he has heard visiting troops in the hospital. He declared this war unwinnable more than a year ago. He has not been personally attacked as far too many on the left are howling, the only slur was from a silly congresswoman and she was reading a letter from a Marine Colonel, who reminded Murtha that run away is not in the USMC playbook.

Now we hear from F John Kerry and others that Murtha is being swiftboated, a word the press has accepted as an unfair attack on someone's military service. First of all I would alter the definition to mean the exposure of a poseur by the vast majority of those who served with him. Kerry's Vietnam service was a straightforward attempt to punch his ticket on his JFK II tour to the White House. 20 of the officers who served with Kerry question almost all of his heroic actions and the scrapes he gathered Purple Hearts and a ticket home in four months from. One supports him, along with some of the enlisted folks who reported to him. He has yet to release his actual military records, although he has done some stunts to pretend he did. He promised to do so several years ago, I wonder why he hasn't? Kerry swiftboated himself.

Rep. Murtha doesn't need to embellish his military service, he served long and honorably. He is not being attacked personally and certainly not swiftboated, he is being opposed because he is wrong. He made a poorly reasoned suggestion that we abandon a fight in Iraq that we have won and are in the process of finishing properly. Even worse was his statement that it was the suffering of our troops in the hospital that touched his heart. The problem is that Bin Laden and the jihadis consistently point to our lack of will when confronted by casualties as a sign of our weakness and inability to finish a fight. Sadly they are correct. We left Lebanon after 240+ Marines were killed in a bombing, we bailed from Somalia after a horrible fight that cost several dozen of our finest troops, and we failed to finish the job in Desert Storm. All of these are trumpeted in the jihadi statements as proof of our lack of will for casualties. The worst thing we could do is to take this win and allow the press and the anti-war left to declare victory for the jihadis in their zeal to hang a defeat on the President.

Continue reading "Murtha not Swiftboated, just wrong" »

MilBloggers on NPR's "This American Life"

Military bloggers from Iraq will be featured this weekend on NPR's "This American Life".  The lineup's not fully set yet, but TAL has recorded:

TAL says that it may not be possible to include all of the bloggers that they've recorded.

The Military Blogger program will air throughout the country this weekend, November 18-20th, and will be posted on TAL's website www.thislife.org on Tuesday, November 22.

Marine Sergeant James "Eddie" Wright - Someone You Should Know - Follow Up

Marine Sergeant James "Eddie" Wright has been featured here before as Someone You Should Know.  If you are unfamiliar with Sergeant Wright, please read the link.

Thanks to Seamus, we have an update.  You can read about Sergeant Wright in his own words from the December issue of Sea Power magazine.  Seamus asks one thing of you, "When you read this account by Sgt Wright, think of those politicians in Washington and how some of them treat our brave and motivated military."...

In My Own Words

Sgt. James E. Wright, Green Belt Instructor, Marine Martial Arts Center of       Excellence

I was an assistant team leader with Team 1, 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. It was April 7, 2004, and we were on a movement in Al Anbar province, going through a neighborhood that we knew was unfriendly toward Americans. They always had a lot of IED (improvised explosive device) attacks and ambushes in that neighborhood.

EddieWe knew we were going to get ambushed; we could tell by the people and their actions. But we had to go. We had a mission to accomplish. There were about 12 Humvees, and ours was in the lead. We were ambushed by 40 to 60       insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, AK-47s and  mortars.

Our Humvee was in the kill zone, and we were taking a lot of fire. A       rocket-propelled grenade hit the weapon I was holding, an M-249 SAW, and just blew my hands off and blew my leg open. My femur was fractured and sticking out. My artery was hit, too, and bleeding like crazy. One of the Marines was able put the tourniquets on.

I was irritated that I couldn’t pull the trigger. I was thinking, “Damn, I can’t shoot back; what can I do?” What I could do was talk to my Marines and issue orders and supervise. I was still in a leadership position even though I didn’t have my hands. And that probably kept me from going into shock and from sitting there thinking about my hands.

There were five of us in the Humvee and three of us were wounded to the point we were ineffectual as far as being able to pull the trigger. The gunner took a lot of shrapnel in the legs and was laid out on the roof. My team leader sitting in front of me had a big hole blown out of his triceps and [had] shattered his elbow, and he was putting a tourniquet on his right arm. His gun got blown out of his hands, too. So he was firing the driver’s weapon left-handed. The other two guys, the driver and the guy sitting behind him, had shrapnel, but it wasn’t disabling.

We fought our way out of that kill zone and stopped a couple hundred meters up the road. We regrouped and did a little more first aid on me, set out security and got with our signal plan to make comm with our unit. But we were in a bad position. We could see the enemy moving up the road to try to finish us off. We were being separated from the convoy, and it wasn’t good.

So we turned around and linked back up and got some good cover and got a corpsman up. It was probably 45 minutes from the time I got hit to the time the helicopter came. The ambush was still going on that whole time. The helicopter took me to the field hospital, and I asked the doctor to give me something for the pain. He did. And I don’t remember anything until I woke up in Bethesda [Naval Hospital] about 11 days later.

I only spent a month at Bethesda. Since I was an amputee, they sent me to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center], and I was there about a year. I was not an inpatient the whole time. I was at Malone House doing recovery. But pretty soon I wanted to get out of that environment. You just get comfortable; you get stagnant. There’s nothing going on.

You’ve got to find some way to channel your energy, and you can only go out to eat with your buddies so many times before it gets old. Each day, you go to your appointment for an hour or two and then you’re done. You sit around the rest of the day. Once you’ve maximized the benefits of rehab  and occupational therapy and physical therapy, you should move on.

You’d be surprised. There are not a lot of people walking around Walter Reed all bummed out because they’re missing an arm or a leg. They’re young.  They have good attitudes and strong minds, and they don’t see this as the end of their lives. It’s just kind of a speed bump. And they get a lot of support in whatever area they need, so it’s hard to be negative.

The opportunity to work here came up, and I jumped on it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve done yet as far as rehab — getting back into a normal routine and getting a sense of normalcy in my life.

If you’d have asked me before if I would want to be alive had I lost my hands, I would have said no. But now that I’m in those shoes, it’s not so bad. I get frustrated a bit, but I still feel like the same person. The worst part is not missing my hands. The worst part is not being able to do my job that I was doing and be with my buddies as they go back to Iraq and stuff like that.

I  remember always wanting to be a Marine. My father is in the Air Force — active duty. And when I was a little kid, I used to go to PT with him. He’d run, and I’d ride my bike. And I guess I saw some Marines running to cadence one day. He says since that day, I wanted to be a Marine.

That’s the hardest thing that I’m dealing with now — just letting the Marine Corps go. I’m not doing what I joined the Marine Corps to do. So I’m figuring out my next step. I want to find a job that I will enjoy.

I have an opportunity now through the VA, the vocational rehab program, and all the benefits that are offered out there. I can take advantage of it while I’m young — go to school and start another career. But a future occupation, that’s open.

I like history and government, and I’d like to continue working for the government, maybe. I’m looking for something that would be active and have an impact on what’s going on overseas, though I don’t think I have the tact to be a politician. I’m in no rush, I have plenty of time.

If people want to help out injured Marines, there is a good organization called the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. If a Marine gets injured, family members leave their work to take care of the Marine. The bills start piling up, and things get real tight. The Semper Fi Fund is a good organization that helps out, no questions asked.

Editor’s Note: Information about the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is available via e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at (703) 640-0181.

Personally, I think Eddie would make one helluva politician.  Whatever he does, I'm sure he will be an amazing success.

[You can read more about people like Sergeant Eddie Wright in the Someone You Should Know index .]

Sign of Success?

Somebody is running around the blogosphere claiming to be me, leaving comments about me having a change of heart and disappointment with the Bush Administration.

Gotten more than a few emails about it.  Thanks for the head's up, and thanks to some of you with a sense of humor about it.

If I have a complaint about the Bush Admin, it would not be about the President's National Guard time or Dick Cheney's deferments or any of that crap.  Please, all of these people complaining about those things didn't complain when Bill Clinton took charge in 1992.  If there's any criticism that I would level at the administration, it would be because I want to win the war, not cut and run.

Of course, you know that.