November 30, 2007

It's that time of year, as the song goes, for fireplaces, even the virtual kind. If you've ever built a fire in a fireplace you would be happy to have one as nice as this. Our nights are getting cold now and we expect to wake up to snow pretty soon, so this is an inviting scene. Enjoy. If you turn on sound you will hear the fire crackle from time to time.

November 8, 2007

A few words about Paul W. Tibbets.

Is there anyone in the civilized world who doesn't know who Paul Tibbets was? For the one who doesn't, he was the pilot of the Enola Gay, a B29 bomber which flew over Japan on August 6, 1945 and dropped an atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima killing 140,000 people.

This did not end the war. The fire bombings commanded by General Curtis Lemay over Tokyo and other cities killed between 150,000-200,000 people in two days.

Paul Tibbets was a colonel and command pilot of the Enola Gay.

I met Paul Tibbets at a book signing years ago and had an opportunity to chat with him briefly.

Paul Tibbets recently died and requested that his body be cremated and his ashes spread so his grave would not become a place of demonstrations. Tibbets never considered himself political, and justification, if needed should be from the politicians, not him. I find this sad. I am not a fan of war, I find it repugnant but to blame the military man for doing his job too well is not right. Paul Tibbets was not the father of the atom bomb. Blame Robert Oppenheimer who headed the making of the bomb; Blame General Groves who headed up the production of the bomb; Blame Franklin Roosevelt for okaying the building of the bomb; Blame Harry Truman for the final okay to drop the bomb. Blame Albert Einstein for inspiring the development of a bomb that would end all wars.

Blaming anyone for a project this immense cannot be done. Instead perhaps 500,000 to one million families can be grateful that they have kept their loved ones with them for these last fifty years, that may be the amount of lives saved by all these people.

Tibbets was a soldier, an airmen to be more precise, and a colonel under arms subject to following orders as are all combatants. He did and he excelled in his job. It was thought that Japan would not surrender and was prepared to fight down to the last woman and child. The combination of the fire bombing of Tokyo, Nagoya and other cities, and the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally forced Japan to surrender, thus saving, it was estimated, up to a half to one million people, Americans and Japanese. It was a combination of both that stopped the war.

I'm sorry that Paul W. Tibbets was forced to live the remainder of his life subject to ridicule, and condemnation. He did not deserve that fate.


I am a member of the Silent Generation, which means I was born in the 1930's, after world war one and before world war two, bracketed on one side by the Greatest Generation and on the other by the Baby Boomers. We were born to parents who endured the worst of the great depression and whose traits and attitudes were formed, which doesn't seem a word quite strong enough, galvanized might be a better word, for evermore by having done so.

I, on the other hand, was the beneficiary of a time when not having the money necessary to sustain ones self, and provide necessities such as enough food, decent housing and/or medical care was the norm. I was the son of survivors of that greatest of all economic disasters, the depression, and perhaps the greatest armed conflict ever, the second world war. They were determined that they would never be that needful ever again. But along with their survival of that time, they forfeited some of the joy of life, certainly they lost trust in their government as the answer to their everyday problems. The survivors came out of that time sadder, but harder, more self-sufficient, and more determined to shield their off spring from a life of want.

Enter me upon the scene, a member of the Silent Generation and one of the beneficiaries of the bad times. Although when I was born, the depression which did not end until world war two began, still had more than four years to run. I, of course, was too young to take much notice of my country of origin's economic woes.

My parents were not great storytellers and that in turn squelched my curiosity. I, like most kids I think, believed that our parents had no previous life before we arrived and turned their life into a joy on earth like no other gift of God. The stories I did enjoy were the recollections of my father growing up in a family of Germanic immigrants with three sisters and him.

The stories were usually told over a table at my grandparents home filled with homemade everything, from the main dish to the desserts, all homemade, when home made meant made out in the kitchen just a few steps away. If one of the entree's was noodle soup then the noodles were made from scratch by my grandmother who was a classic example of the term major-domo. She ran her kitchen and indeed the whole house and all who resided there as a major general major domo could and would. One of the shocks of my young life was watching my little, in stature, not in anyones eyes, go out and fetch a live chicken from her chicken coop and from out of no where a butcher knife, and in a flash severing the unsuspecting animals head, tying it on the clothesline to drain out the blood and moving back into the kitchen all in, it seemed, one motion.

She used one special knife, with a wooden handle that I thought came with her at birth like a third hand. She wielded that knife with dexterity, and recklessness. I was told that she on many occasions would whack my father to stress some point on his rudeness with the flat side of the instrument. My father it seemed to me, after hearing many stories such as this one, may have been the bane of my grandmothers existence. She also hit him on the head and dented a huge soup kettle during one of their un-father knows best moments. My little grandmother was not a practitioner of the 'lets talk' or 'time-out' school of child rearing. A lot of whatever wisdom she was trying to impart to him was lost because she would accompany her physical actions with a non-stop string of German sentences, un-translatable in actuality or by choice by my father.

The Silent Generation, of which I am a prime example, in my particular case may be further exemplified as a Non-curious generation, to my everlasting regret. My mother on her death bed, knowing she was close to the end, told my wife to tell me if there was anything I wanted to know or to ask, please do it soon. Well I may have been a lot of things, but I could not bring myself to start quizzing my mother at that particular time to fill in gaps on family history, although I certainly in hindsight would like to know, and the answer to many questions will now go unanswered probably to no ones regret but mine.

So in semi-conclusion, I will probably not conclude until I cannot type anymore, I behoove one and all to not emulate the Silent generation and remain silent. I am sure the Baby-boomers and beyond have questions and blank spots in their personal history that they would like to know something about. The only way is by asking those questions that are seemingly unimportant except to you to fill in facts and more importantly perhaps why parents do or did what they did while we are still here and of rational (well as rational as we get) mind.