Thursday, February 26, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (18): Crashing Through the Saar-Moselle Triangle

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

The Switch Line was an outgrowth of the fortification of the Siegfried Line. It was about two Km wide and consisted of 75 bunkers and over 10 Km of tank barriers like "dragon's teeth. It's purpose was to deny access to the high ground above Trier at the northern end of the Switch.

19-20 February 1945-
The Tenth was marshalled at Perl, about 6 miles south of Nennig on this afternoon. A plan was selected from the three prepared and a sudden directive came down that they were to depart at 0700 the next morning.

The Tenth was not prepared for the suddenness. Large numbers of the Division were on R & R in Paris. But they were located and the Tigers moved out by 1800. They raced 75 miles that night and began the attack at 0700 as scheduled.

21-25 February 1945-
In the course of these few days the 10th Armored would overrun the Saar-Moselle Triangle even through some of the most heavy fortifications in the world. Praise came from many, including General George Patton who termed this battle "one of the war's most audacious operations."

As can be seen in the maps on the left and below, different task forces and Combat Commands carried out the greater plans. In a mere 48 hours, the 10th Armored had blitzed 85 square miles of Germany and working with the 94th Infantry, captured 1200 prisoners and 23 towns. In those 48 hours the stage was set to capture Trier.

The next three days were utilized for that goal.

The successful completion needed a crossing of the Saar. Obstacles were encountered, a new bridgehead had to be established after an earlier one had to be abandoned, apparently due to human error. At 0900 on February 24 the armored infantry battalions assembled at Ayl (lower center of map at left). At 1600 the soldiers, aided by a smokescreen generated by the 81st Chemical Co., began an assault under heavy and continuous fire.

By noon on February 25 all the armored infantry battalions of the Tenth Armored were across the Saar.

Lent Picture A Day (9): Place

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hearing the Changes

I heard the surf shift the other afternoon. I was sitting on the balcony overlooking the beach. I was meditating, practicing some mindfulness, with the surf as the background mantra. The surf had been loud and heavy for the past 24 hours. Even now it was loud, still a roar, the water constantly flowing like a perpetual motion machine. The wind had been a little calmer most of the afternoon. I was thinking how complete silence is not necessary for meditation when the power of moving water is behind us.

Suddenly I became aware that it was quieter; the breakers weren’t sounding as loud or as constant; the roar was more distant, a murmur. My first thought was that I had just gotten used to the sound and I’m focusing elsewhere, though still mindful. Or maybe I was heading into the near sleep neverland.

My wife sneezed and it was at it’s normal sound level. I pondered for a brief second and I realized what was happening. I had just heard the surf calm down. I had heard a transition from one state to another. I had heard the color of the sound of the surf change.

I opened my eyes and looked out at the water. The waves had gotten smaller, the breakers hardly making any noise. It had happened within minutes. As I wrote my thoughts down ten or so minutes later the sound continued to decrease. I checked the beach warning flag and it remained calm. I thought maybe I heard a wind shift but that isn’t what occurred. Or was it?

Over the past few weeks I have been paying a little more attention to the water, wind and weather. I have been seeing how winds from one direction can turn the Gulf into a sheet of glass as it pushes the waves back out to deeper water. Or, like the previous 48 hours, a strong south to southeast wind picks up water and moves it for miles, if not hundreds of miles before crashing ashore. It opened me up to being more aware when today I could hear the changes.

That kind of mindfulness is important to life, I realize. It can mean being aware of a friend’s feelings, the emotion in a situation, the right time to keep quiet. It can help us know when and where we may be getting a direction from a Higher Power. Jazz musicians train to hear chord and key changes so they can be better improvisers.

On the balcony the other day I experienced the wonder of being aware- mindful- of changes. By the time I went inside, it was still calm. There is a slight breeze and it is still from the south. A front will be moving in overnight and that no doubt played into the change I heard. The waves remained but were not as commanding as they had been with the flag barely moving and the palms just rustling silently.

An amazing world we live in.

Lent Picture A Day (8): Remembrance

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (17): Elsewhere in the War

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

I stopped and wondered what else was happening in the war while the Tenth was involved in the Saar-Moselle Triangle, which I will update the beginning of March. So, here's some of the information from February 1945. (From World War II Timeline.)

February 1: The USAAF launches a series of bombing raids on Iwo Jima, softening the island's Japanese defenses in preparation for a U.S. Marine ground assault.

February 4: Allied military leaders announce that they have cleared Belgium of all Axis forces. (The end of the Bulge)

February 4-11: Allied leaders Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin meet at Yalta (on the Crimean Peninsula) to plan the final phase of the war and decide fate of Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe. Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt was exhausted, Joseph Stalin refused to travel any farther west than Yalta. In negotiations for the fate of Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe, Joseph Stalin had the advantage since most of that area was already in Soviet Union hands. He was, therefore, able to violate the promises he made about free elections in Poland and democratic governments in the liberated states of Central and Southeastern Europe. The Soviet Union leader confirmed his prior promise to enter the war against Japan. Joseph Stalin also reduced his demand for all 16 Soviet Union republics to be represented in the United Nations to two: the Ukraine and Belorussia.

February 13-15: Allies firebomb Dresden and kill approximately 30,000 people: The beautiful German city of Dresden was known as the "Florence of the Elbe" before it suffered a series of bombings in 1945. The heaviest of these were conducted by British and American aircraft from February 13 to February 15. These bombings caused firestorms that destroyed much of the city and killed approximately 30,000 people. Outdoor temperatures reached as high as 2,700 °F, making it impossible for people to escape from their doomed homes. The military efficacy of the bombings has been questioned. Dresden was poorly defended from air attack at times, and its industries were mainly on its outskirts.

February 19: One of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war ensues when 30,000 U.S. Marines storm the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima.

February 20: Red Army troops advance on Berlin, Nazi Germany's capital and the heart of the Third Reich.

February 21: The Americans recapture the Philippine province of Bataan, site of the infamous Bataan death march three years earlier.

February 23: The U.S. Marines capture Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi and raise a foreign flag on Japanese soil.

February 26: In a daytime air raid, the USAAF drops 500,000 incendiary bombs on Berlin. British RAF units take over the attack after darkness falls.

U.S. forces capture Corregidor, leaving 5,000 Japanese troops dead and suffering 1,000 casualties.

Lent Picture a Day (7): Path

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ramblin' Bikin'

Yesterday was a great day on the Gulf Coast to do some biking. Didn't plan on a video so didn't have the handlebar connector but I held the iPhone camera for awhile and ended up editing it to 4 minutes. Al Hirt music and You Tube post-processing the wiggling and bouncing helps e keep the day.


Lent Picture a Day (6): Covenant

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A 50-Year Memory: The Death of Malcolm X

May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965

He had quite a journey and was reaching some important new insights at his assassination. Perhaps that is why he died; perhaps not. He was a person of growth, never willing to stay where he was.

Lent Picture a Day (4): Joy

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (16): Replenished, Refreshed and Ready

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

9-10 Feb 1945-
Nichols reports that the 10th received sudden orders to move north to again unite with the XX Corps of the Third Army at Metz. By dusk on he 10th they were there. There was a secretiveness to the move as they removed all identification from vehicles and put away their shoulder patches. Even with that, Nichols says
a French boy of seven bravely approached a Tiger staff officer and in perfect English said, "Welcome back to Metz, Tenth Armored Tigers.
It hadn't been two months since the 10th had been diverted from breaking through defensive Siegfried Line near Saarbrucken. They were now returning to the Saar-Moselle triangle with new strength and refreshed for the job ahead. They were the only division remaining which had participated in the November-December assault. Nichols comments that this time they were
to set a model for tank-infantry teamwork, as the Tigers were to race through an infantry bridgehead to seize important objectives deep in the enemy's rear area.
The Triangle-
The Saar-Moselle Triangle is defined by the Moselle River on the west, the Saar on the east and, across the southern end, a part of the Siegfried Line. From Wikipedia: The whole
Line stretched more than 630 km (390 mi) and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. It went from Kleve on the border with the Netherlands along the western border of the old German Empire as far as the town of Weil am Rhein on the border to Switzerland. It was planned starting in 1936 and built between 1938 and 1940.
The portion of the Line the Tigers were responsible for was a small section, but important to the overall goals to capture the Triangle. For that to be successful they had to capture Metz and then, with that accomplished they could capture Trier. The Germans had fortified the two rivers, the Line as well as a nineteen mile long ridge line that bisected the triangle north and south.

10-18 Feb 1945-
The Tenth began an intensive training program. The Divisions battalions, which had been impacted by the Bulge, were strengthened with experienced replacements. Plans were prepared at headquarters and then translated into field orders, A, B, and C. The Division could then be put into motion at a moment's notice.

In short, the 10th was ready to go. Their movements were mocked by Axis Sally, the radio propagandist, by calling the Tenth- the "Ghost Division." They were not the only division to be so named, but they took it as a mark of honor.

Lent Picture a Day (2): Look

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picture A Day for Lent (1): Ash Wednesday: Announce

Ash Wednesday- Lent Begins

As can be seen from the picture above, I will be doing a daily picture for Lent. The themes come from the United Methodist Church, ReThink Church. Enjoy them, let them spur your spiritual journey this season as we all prepare for new life. May they open new insights as well as rejuvenate older ones.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fastnacht Still Life (AKA Mardi Gras Still Life)

Or perhaps, multi-ethnic Mardi Gras Still Life.

And yes, I know these aren't the real, true Fastnachts. But they accomplish the same thing. FAT Tuesday.

Mardi Gras

Let's bring the season to its end. The good times have been rolling. It will be time to reflect and spend some time in meditation and mindfulness. It doesn't mean the fun is all done. One does not have to be totally somber for the next 40 days. So let's do one last trip along the Mardi Gras (or Fastnacht or Fasching) trail.

(Note: All pictures from Orange Beach, AL, parades.)

Monday, February 16, 2015


Here's Mardi Frog:

Outside the Public Library in Gulf Shores, AL.

Lundi Gras

Fat Monday: Lundi Gras in Alabama. The end of the season is almost upon us. Lent is almost here. But a last couple of days before settling into the days of contemplation, reflection and meditation.

Here's a video I just finished from my first Mardi Gras parade in Fairhope, AL, a week or so ago. Each parade has its own group that puts it on and this one was the Knights of Ecor Rouge. Their theme was A Knight to Marvel- Superheroes. It was simply taken with my iPhone (video) and dSLR (stills.) All the sound is ambient from the crowds and the bands.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mardi Gras Mood

As they say in New Orleans (and southern Alabama)- Laissez les bons temps rouler. (Let the good times roll.) Here we are on the last Sunday of Epiphany (The Transfiguration.) What does that have to do with Mardi Gras? Well, I'm a preacher and I have learned over the years the fine art of the shoe horn. That means I can find a way to make most things fit into what I want to say. So here goes.

  • Seven weeks from today is Easter- the Day of Resurrection.
  • That is the ultimate in transfiguration- or change.
  • It is transformation.
  • It is about Jesus.
  • But it is also about us.
  • Just as Jesus is transformed, so are we.
  • We have these next seven weeks to get ready.
  • We stand on the mountain with Jesus today.
  • We are assured that we will be transformed as well.
  • Before we head into the soulful days of Lent, we party.
  • We party because we know the end of the story.
  • We party to feed the body before we feed the soul.
  • Call it Fastnacht.
  • Call it Mardi Gras.
  • Let the good times roll, they will not be forgotten.
So here's the video I put together last year for Mardi Gras after our visit to New Orleans.

Let the good times roll.

Heron Walk

Just your average Great Blue Heron moving deliberately toward the shore catching fish (didn't get that picture) and trying to get out of the camera's view. No music, just the heron. Taken with a digital SLR and a zoom lens.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine from the Beach

Out for a walk and I came across this heart on the beach. I knew it had to be there for Valentine's Day. So I took the picture, did some manipulating with GIMP and I get a Valentine's Day greeting.

May this be a day of love for all of you!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oh, No- There's Two in a Row

How unlucky can one get- there is a Friday the 13th in February. Arrrrgh! That means, since there are only 28 days in February this year, we will get another one in just four weeks. And for good or bad measure, there will be yet another in November. Fortunately I'm not superstitious. I have my own way of staying safe.

My guard cat won't let anything happen.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Many Grammys on These Sheets

These are the handwritten lyric-sheets from John Hartford's classic, iconic, and unbeatable song- Gentle on My Mind. I have posted performances of it by Hartford before. Glen Campbell made it famous. It won four Grammy's. As Wikipedia describes it:
"Gentle on My Mind" is a song written by John Hartford, which won four 1968 Grammy Awards. Hartford himself won the award for Best Folk Performance and Best Country & Western Song (Songwriter). The other 2 awards Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance, Male and Best Country & Western Recording, went to American country music singer Glen Campbell for his version of Hartford's song
Well, last Sunday it won another, this time for the group The Band Perry. The great songs don't die or lose their power.

Here's the video from The Band Perry.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Day in Nashville- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


Needless to say the musicians who make it into a Hall of Fame have to have done some great stuff. Roger Miller earned 11 Grammy Awards- and they are right there in the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Ricky Skaggs is one of the top country and bluegrass musicians around- and he's been doing it for years. Here's his mandolin he played in January 1962 at age 7 on the Flatt and Scruggs TV show and his CMA Male Vocalist of the year from 1982.
Ralph Stanley- a legend! Here is the display honoring his "retirement". He may have said "Farewell"' but we did see him last year at the Opry.

And Stanley's Grammy for the soundtrack of O Brother Where Are Thou? the movie that gave Bluegrass and country music a real boost that hasn't let up.

One of my musical heroes is John Hartford. Gentle on my mind is only one example of his musicianship. Below are his Grammys and on the right, the shoes he wore to make a percussion accompaniment while onstage.

More to come later. It was quite a place to visit!!!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Happy Birthday, Bob Marley

Today would be Bob Marley's 70th birthday. 
He died in 1981 at age 36.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

At Sunset

I am going to be experimenting more with panoramas on my iPhone since I just did something brave and out of the ordinary- I learned how to do it by Googling it on You Tube, which I think is our 21st Century equivalent of the owner's manual.

Therefore: Two beach panoramas. 
First, when standing close to the water's edge
you get this fun U-shaped bay right in front of me.

And since it is sunset I present a really long shadow. 
It is, naturally, on the far left.

This one's not a panorama. (Duh.)
But it was almost a full moon so I managed to get 
that between the trees. The moon is actually
in the picture above, up to the right of my shadow.
If you click on any of the pictures a larger version will show up.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

First Thoughts

We listened to the remarkable (and very popular) podcast, Serial, last week. It is a milestone in the use of our new media in that the producers took the classic radio documentary style and applied it completely to the series available only through the podcast online. They did not skimp on its style or depth. It was the kind of radio documentary that I would have loved to have been a part of back in the day. Hopefully this is the first major breakthrough of a new way of doing news and media in the 21st Century.

For those who may not have heard about it, here's the synopsis of the 12-week series: Serial tells one story- one true story- over the course of the 12-weeks. It was developed by the creative folks at This American Life. From their home page:

On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she's been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.
It was intriguing, baffling, enticing and addicting. We binge listened over a couple days last week. I have several different thoughts from the series but the first one kind of sets the stage for me.

I realized as I was listening and as Sarah used information and tapes of actual police interviews how in many ways detectives and substance abuse counselors can come at their jobs with a similar approach. One detective basically said that his approach was to believe no one - and everyone. (At least that's how I heard it.) There is always an active suspicion that they live with.

They also face the danger of looking for information to confirm what you think you already know. This "confirmation bias" takes facts, data, bits of information- and, when it supports the hypothesis- accepts it. When it doesn't support - well, let's just ignore it. Part of what Sarah Koenig did in developing the shows was put these bits of information out on the table- conflicting and confirming- and show how the detectives (and we the listeners) react. Fascinating.

That's where I start with this. I will have a couple more posts in the coming weeks. But if you get the chance, listen to the series. Start from the beginning and listen in order. You will be amazed by the skill of the producers.