Thursday, September 27, 2007

Father Vincent R. Capodanno awarded the Medal of Honor
The US Navy provides medical and chaplain service for the United States Marine Corps. This service can be found at all Marine Corps Base's and while in the field, including combat. The Navy Corpsmen attached to Marines during World War II were not allowed to have a weapon. They wore a red cross on their helmet which became a target for the Japanese solders. This is a touching story of a Navy chaplain during the Vietnam War.

Father Vincent R. Capodanno, a Maryknoll missionary and U.S. Navy chaplain, was killed by a sniper on Sept. 4, 1967, as he ministered to a Marine on the battlefield in Qui Son Valley, Vietnam. The "grunt padre" was hit 27 times in the back, neck and head.

Though 40 years have passed, Father Capodanno's legacy lives on through the countless lives he touched during his 38 years.

According to Marine Cliff McKenzie's eyewitness account, Father Capodanno arrived on the scene that Labor Day as 500 Marines battled 2,500 North Vietnamese troops.

Father Capodanno was shot in the right hand and was patched up by a corpsman who tried to evacuate him to the rear, but the priest insisted on remaining. A few hours later, a mortar shell landed near him and his right arm was badly damaged. He was patched up again -- and again refused evacuation. At the time, Father Capodanno already had three Purple Hearts. There's a rule in the Marines: After three, you go home within 48 hours.

McKenzie adds that Father Capodanno began moving from wounded to dead to wounded, using his left arm to support his right as he gave absolution, when he suddenly spied a corpsman who had been knocked down by a burst from an automatic weapon. The man was hit in the leg and couldn't move. Father Capodanno positioned himself between the injured Marine and the sniper -- that's when he was raked by gunfire. And, said McKenzie, "with his third Purple Heart, Father Capodanno went home."

Sunday's mass will be concelebrated by Monsignor James Dorney, pastor of St. Peter's R.C. Church, New Brighton, who says mass each Sunday at 9 a.m. in the Rev. Vincent Capodanno Chapel at Fort Wadsworth; Maryknoll Chaplain Dan Dolan; the Rev. Philip Blaine, a Franciscan priest from the St. Francis Friary and Center for Spirituality on Todt Hill, and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien from the Military Archdiocese in Washington, D.C.

Also present will be Rear Admiral Alan T. Baker, chaplain of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps; Capt. William Cuddy, chaplain of the Coast Guard; Capt. Robert O'Brien, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard sector, New York; Rear Adm. William Cloner, Jewish Chaplain of the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector, New York, and Cmdr. Michael E. Hall, chaplain of the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector New York.
Preceding the Mass, the Marine Corps League Color Guard will make a presentation. The Father Vincent Capodanno Chapter, Military Order of the Purple Heart, will lay a wreath at the chapel monument, which depicts Father Capodanno giving Last Rites to a soldier.
The Marine Corps color guard and the Vietnam Veterans Color Guard, the Catholic War Veterans, the Father Capodanno Purple Hearts, the Jewish War Veterans and the Father Capodanno Sea Cadets will lay a wreath.

Joanne Nuzzo, director of special events at Borough Hall, and Lee Covino, who heads veterans' and military affairs at Borough Hall, also will attend.

Father Capodanno, who was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his sacrifice, recently was acknowledged as a Servant of God -- the first step on the road to sainthood.
Navy Chaplain Died for His Men
May 25, 2001 / Fairfax, Va: The whole world seems to be noticing him now, but Jim Hamfeldt remembers the last time he saw Father Vincent Capodanno. It was on the Vietnam battlefield where the priest died.

EWTN will honor Father Capodanno with a special show this Memorial Day; next month a Boston homeless shelter for veterans will be named after him. Gaeta, Italy, the hometown of the priest's grandfather, will soon dedicate a naval hospital and a statue in the town square to the priest-hero. There's even talk that the Vatican may begin the process for his canonization.

Hamfeldt says he knows why - firsthand. "I judge everyone I know by this guy," said Hamfeldt, who served with Father Capodanno in Vietnam. "He's the most influential person in my life and that´s saying a lot."

Marines affectionately called Father Capodanno the "grunt padre" for his ability to relate well with soldiers and his willingness to risk his life to minister to the men.

It was during heavy fighting outside the village of Chau Lam on Sept. 4, 1967, that Father Capodanno died. Arriving with ammunition, Father Vincent's chopper had to land in the middle of the battlefield.

First, part of the priest's hand was shot off. Then a mortar shredded his arm. "Most guys would stop with one wound," said Hamfeldt. "He kept going. He was willing to risk his life to save ours." He received the wound that killed him after he administered the sacrament of the sick to a wounded soldier. Hamfeldt said he wishes he could have taken that bullet for Father Vincent.

"But I would have had to stand in line for the chance," he said, "because so many guys would have done the same thing." That kind of affection is spreading today as more people learn about the heroism of the "grunt padre."

New Fame
All of the attention to Father Capodanno is no surprise to Father Daniel Mode, who wrote a biography about the priest last year. "Every month I get another story about some miracle that has occurred from knowing Father Capodanno," said Father Mode. "There's a lot of healing related to Father Capodanno."
Men usually prefer not to talk about their war experiences, he said. But Marines were excited to share their stories for his book,
The Grunt Padre.

"He radiated Christ," said Father Mode. "He was always with people at their time of need."

Father Mode said that Bob Stagnold, president of the American Legion, became interested in the "grunt padre" after listening to the author. Now, a new effort is underway to reach veterans with Father Capodanno´s story.

A screenwriter has even inked a deal with the Father Vincent Capodanno Foundation to develop a script for a major motion picture, said Father Mode.

Family Hero
All this attention to Father Vincent Capodanno makes his older brother Jim very proud.

"He served and helped the young grunts and now they are helping homeless veterans. It ties together well," Capodanno said about the dedication of the homeless shelter in Boston. "Thirty-four years later and he's still being honored and I pray that people will always remember him."

Marines, like Hamfeldt, continue to call Jim to tell him how much his younger brother affected their lives.

"They can't talk enough good about him," said Capodanno. "They felt at the heart of the battle that they would have rather been killed than Father Vincent."
And days like Memorial Day are when Capodanno reflects on the brave men, like his brother, who died in battle.

"I think of all the fellas that fought in all the battles for our country," said Capodanno. "Their bodies are all over the world. You have to pray for the dead. And of course, I think of my brother."
Beyond the Call of Duty
by John Horvat
Americans love heroes. Something about them grips the American soul.Perhaps the attraction lies precisely in going against the zeitgeist of this hedonistic age. Heroes are outside the box.They do not fare well in a culture where real living has been reduced to pre-packaged experiences and media-generated events. They get lost in consumer mazes where they are constantly told to enjoy life. Heroes do not sign multi-million dollar sports or advertising contracts.Heroes rise above mass-markets and mass media and quench the thirst of postmodern man by speaking of honor, courage and sacrifice. Above all, heroes, especially those in combat, rise above complacency, self-interest and comfort. They completely mobilize all their resources, with the highest degree of dedication for a determined ideal. And that is why they are held in awe.

A Catholic Hero
While American heroes somehow still sprout from the sterile soil of a hostile culture, it is not often that one finds a Catholic hero. That is why the recently-published book The Grunt Padre is a pleasant surprise. It is the thrilling narrative of American Catholic heroism without Hollywood embellishment or sentimentality.The story could not be more American. Vincent Capodanno grew up in the thirties and forties in a large Italian-American family on Staten Island. His was a typical education of an ordinary American of his time. He responded to the call of his vocation and joined the Maryknoll missionary order. Upon ordination in 1958, he served in Taiwan and later Hong Kong.His life might well have ended in the quiet dedication required of missionary life in faraway lands. However, in the mid-60's, the direction of his life abruptly changed when he volunteered to serve as a Naval/Marine Corps chaplain in Vietnam. While studying history at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in the nineties, author Fr. Daniel Mode unexpectedly uncovered the deeds of the remarkable Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno.

The Grunt Padre
In his new assignment as a Navy/Marine Chaplin, Fr. Capodanno found a parish among the "needy." He sought the lonely Marines, the "grunts" who were exposed to death, suffering and sacrifice. He felt a compelling desire to be with these forgotten parishioners in their greatest hours of need.On April 30, 1966 Fr. Capodanno began a sixteen-month tour with the 7th and 5th Marine Regiments where he became "the best known and sought after chaplain in the Marine Corps.""What set Father Vincent apart was the way he lived his ministry with the Marines," writes Fr. Mode. "He was not a religious leader who did his job and then returned to the comfort of his own circle. He lived as a Grunt Marine. Wherever they went, he went. Whatever burdens they had to carry, he shared the load. No problem was too large or too small to take to Father Vincent - he was available to them day and night."The soldiers responded to his devotion and soon he became affectionately known to his Marines as "the Grunt Padre."

Beyond Duty
Thus began an active life of dedication and service that went beyond the call of duty. He became a true father to young boys on the front lines.He was "out there" with his men where he lived, ate, and slept as they did. To the young recruits thrust into the terrifying reality of battle, he was always available in his tent where anyone could drop in for comfort and guidance.He shared his salary, rations and cigarettes with anyone in need. He could always be counted upon for a cold soda or a book from his reading library. When Christmas came around and soldiers felt forgotten, Fr. Vincent saw to it that no Marine was without gifts which he obtained through a relentless campaign from friends and organizations all over the world.More importantly, he heard confessions for hours on end, instructed converts, and administered the sacraments. His granting of General Absolution before battle unburdened the consciences of the Marines and instilled in them to fight with courage. His mere presence in a unit was enough to lift the morale of all on patrol.When men died, he was at their side so they would not die alone. He gave them Last Rites encouraging them to repent and persevere. In addition, he wrote countless letters of personal condolence to parents of wounded and dead Marines and offered solid grounding and hope to fellow Marines who lost friends.When the pseudo-peace movement began to oppose the war, Fr. Vincent raised the spirits of demoralized soldiers in the field. He encouraged his men to oppose that same brutal communist system, which still oppresses Vietnam today.

Battle Missions
However, it was in battle where Fr. Capodanno excelled and inspired. He would find out from friends in military intelligence which unit was most likely to encounter the heaviest contact and volunteer for those assignments.Marines would find him walking dangerous perimeters and keeping company with them in distant jungle outposts. The Grunt Padre could be seen leaping out of a helicopter in the midst of battle. He would care for the wounded, bless troops, and give communion to Catholics, before taking off for another battle zone.Fr. Mode's book is full of stories from veterans who recount his exploits. He collected and still receives inspiring eyewitness reports that testify to his zeal for souls.When his tour of duty came to an end, he obtained an extension. Despite the prosaic conditions of battle and an ecumenical chaplain corps, nothing could deviate him from his burning desire to give everything in the service of God, the Church and his men.

Faithful to the End
On September 4, 1967, the helicopter carrying him to the site of battle crashed during a large-scale offensive named Operation Swift. The 5th Marines found themselves in dire straights, outnumbered 5-to-1 by 2500 North Vietnamese regular troops.Although wounded three times in the course of the battle, Fr. Capodanno refused to be medi-vacked. Like a ray of hope in the midst of the storm, he went up and down the line caring for the wounded and anointing the dying.During the fierce fighting, the chaplain spotted a wounded corpsman hit by a burst of automatic fire and unable to move. Fr. Capodanno ran to his aid and began to care for his wounds. A Viet Cong machine gunner opened fire. With 27 bullet wounds in his spine, neck, and head, the Grunt Padre fell in battle, serving his men to the end.All over Vietnam, the Marines mourned their Padre.

Beyond Death
The memory of Fr. Capodanno's sacrifice went beyond his death. His actions on the field of battle that day won him the nation's highest honor-The Congressional Medal of Honor.Despite the pacifist objections of 73 Maryknoll priests, brothers and seminarians, the Navy commissioned a destroyer escort in 1973: the U.S.S. Capodanno. Numerous other memorials and statues have gone up in his memory.The recently published book, The Grunt Padre has served to inspire many Catholics who hunger for stories of Catholic heroism. His memory pierces through the cynical protests of the sixties and seventies that together with defeatist politicians consigned Vietnam to its present fate.Above all, the story of Fr. Capodanno is a striking reminder that the time of the Catholic hero is not over. When imbued with total dedication, each and every Catholic can have an enormous value in the life of the Church. Modest though they may be, men like Fr. Capodanno can obtain the fire, integrity, dedication and conviction whereby they want their ideal, want it entirely, seek nothing else but their ideal and do everything to obtain it. Men like these move history. They strike that deep chord that awakens admiration and awe.Those are the souls that have always characterized the Church. They reserve nothing for themselves, and give everything to God

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's almost time to party. If you have never attended an Oktoberfest, it is time you should do it. Each year on the last week in October, I head for Helen, Georgia. It's about a hundred miles north of Atlanta. If you have plans to go this year, you need to get booked in lodging today. You will enjoy the German music, food and dancing
OKTOBERFEST! It's the German word for fun! Well, that may not be the actual translation, but to the folks attending Helen's Oktoberfest every year it may as well be.

Oktoberfest in Helen may have started out small in the 70's, but over the years, and through word of mouth, it has grown into the biggest party in the Southeast. And this, is not one of those one-week festivals; this celebration lasts 2 months! The north Georgia mountains make a great vacation spot year-round, because of the unparalleled beauty and mild weather; however, during Oktoberfest Mother Nature kicks it up a notch. Deep azure skies and color splashed mountains surround a picturesque "alpine" village, making the days as inviting as the nights.

During the day, you may decide to browse the shops, relax in a beer-garden, or simply enjoy Helen's perfect weather and beautiful scenery. At night, however, all paths lead to Helen's massive Festhalle. Located within walking distance of most hotels, the Festhalle is the spot for authentic German bands, food, beer, and fun. You can either spend the evening dancing the Polka and the chicken dance, or you can relax in the adjacent beer garden and enjoy the crisp night air.

Whichever section of the huge Festhalle you like best, be sure to sample the fresh cooked wursts, and large variety of German beers. So, if you've never been to Helen, or just never been to an Oktoberfest, be sure to book your hotel room early and plan to be at Helen's Oktoberfest. We're sure you'll want to come back year after year. Prost!!

The first "Oktoberfest" took place on October 12, 1810: For the commemoration of their marriage, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (namesake of the Theresienwiese festival grounds) organized a great horse race (the marriage took place on October 12, the horse race on October 17, therefore there are different dates named as being the first Oktoberfest).

The first 100 years
In the year 1813, the Oktoberfest was called off as Bavaria was involved in the Napoleonic war. In 1816, carnival booths appeared. The main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. In 1819, The town fathers of Munich took over festival management. They decided that the Oktoberfest should be celebrated every year without exception. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward. The reason being that the end of September in Bavaria often has very good weather. The high temperature in the first week of Oktoberfest nears 30 °C which stimulates the thirst of the visitors. However, today the last week of Oktoberfest is still in October.

To honor the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, a parade took place for the first time in 1835. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people ? mostly from Bavaria ? in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the center of Munich, to the Oktoberfest. The march is led by the Mьnchner Kindl .

Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.
In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was finished.

In 1854, 3,000 residents of Munich succumbed to an epidemic of cholera, so the festival was cancelled. Also, in the year 1866, there was no Oktoberfest as Bavaria fought in the Austro-Prussian War. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war was the reason for cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was once more cancelled due to a cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated over 400 booths and tents. In 1881, booths selling bratwursts opened. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892. At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. They wanted more room for guests and musicians. The booths became beer halls.

In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration

In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Brдurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests (today, the biggest tent is the Hofbrдu-Festhalle, which holds 10,000).

The war years
From 1914 through 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.
In 1933, the Bavarian white and blue flag was replaced with the standard swastika flag. From 1939 to 1945, due to World War II, no Oktoberfest took place. From 1946 to 1948, after the war, Munich once again celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer was not permitted; the guests had to make do with beer that had an alcohol content under 2%.
Since its beginnings the Oktoberfest has thus been canceled 24 times due to war, disease and other emergencies.

The modern festival
Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the current Mayor of Munich with the cry "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian dialect) opens the Oktoberfest. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.

By 1960, the Oktoberfest had turned into an enormous world-famous festival. The first Australians, Japanese, Americans, and New Zealanders discovered the festival and stumbled with beer mugs alongside Bavarians. They spread the word of Munich worldwide. After this foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl. Horse races ended in 1960.

There are many problems every year with young people, who overestimate their ability to handle large amounts of alcohol. Many pass out due to drunkenness. These especially drunk patrons are often called "Bierleichen" (German for "beercorpses"). They are brought by staff to a medical tent where drunks as well as sick people are treated.

To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the "quiet Oktoberfest" was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 PM, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager, and pop music be played, which has led to more violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these measures, the organizers of the Oktoberfest hope to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

US Marine Corps Base - Camp Pendleton
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Camp Pentleton on Sept. 25, 1942.

Of all the Marine Corps bases throughout the world, Camp Pendleton has one of the most intriguing pasts, filled with historical charm and vibrancy. Spanish explorers, colorful politicians, herds of thundering cattle, skillful vaqueros and tough Marines have all contributed to the history of this land.

In 1769, a Spaniard by the name of Capt. Gaspar de Portola led an expeditionary force northward from lower California, seeking to establish Franciscan missions throughout California. On July 20 of that same year, the expedition arrived at a location now known as Camp Pendleton, and as it was the holy day St. Margaret, they baptized the land in the name of Santa Margarita.

During the next 30 years, 21 missions were established, the most productive one being Mission San Luis Rey, just south of the present-day Camp Pendleton. At that time, San Luis Rey Mission had control over the Santa Margarita area.

In 1821, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Californios became the new ruling class of California, and many were the first generation descendants of the Portola expedition. The Mexican governor was awarding land grants and ranchos to prominent businessmen, officials and military leaders. In 1841, two brothers by the name of Pio and Andres Pico became the first private owners of Rancho Santa Margarita. More land was later added to the grant, making the name Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and that name stayed with the ranch until the Marine Corps acquired it in 1942.

In 1863, a dashing Englishman named John Forster (Pio Pico’s brother-in-law) paid off Pico’s gambling debts in return for the deed to the ranch. During his tenure as owner of the ranch, he expanded the ranch house, which was first built in 1827, and developed the rancho into a thriving cattle industry.

Forster’s heirs, however, were forced to sell the ranch in 1882 because of a string of bad luck, which included a series of droughts and a fence law that forced Forster to construct fencing around the extensive rancho lands. It was purchased by wealthy cattleman James Flood and managed by Irishman Richard O’Neill who was eventually rewarded for his faithful service with half ownership. Under the guidance of O’Neill’s son, Jerome, the ranch began to net a profit of nearly half a million dollars annually, and the house was modernized and furnished to its present form.

In the early 1940s, both the Army and the Marine Corps were looking for land for a large training base. The Army lost interest in the project, but in April of 1942 it was announced that the rancho was about to be transformed into the largest Marine Corps base in the country. The Marine Corps paid $4,239,062 for the rancho and it was named for Major General Joseph H. Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base.

On the eve of World War II, the Marine training bases were limited to Quantico, Va., Parris Island, S.C., and San Diego. When expansion of all U.S. armed forces was authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proclamation of an unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941, an immediate need for additional amphibious force training facilities led to the construction of Camp Pendleton.

After five months of construction, ranches at Santa Margarita, Las Flores and San Onofre became the West Coast's largest military camp. The first troops to occupy the new Base were the 9th Marine Regiment, who marched from Camp Elliot in San Diego to Camp Pendleton. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Base on Sept. 25, 1942, and named it in honor of World War I Marine Maj.Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton.

By 1943, the first women Marine reservists arrived to help keep Base administration running smoothly. The Ranch House chapel was restored and opened primarily for their use.

By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a "permanent installation" and by 1946, became the home of the 1st Marine Division.

During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. When Camp Pendleton trained the country's fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the Base on their way to the Far East.

The Corps broadened its capabilities during the 1980's from "amphibious" to "expeditionary" by combining infantry, armor, supply and air power. Troops and equipment could now be deployed halfway around the world in only days as part of a self-sustaining air-ground team. This successful use of military power has been demonstrated through Marine Corps operations in Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti Afghanistan and Iraq.

Camp Pendleton has continued to grow through renovations, replacing its original tent camps with more than 2,600 buildings and 500 miles of roads.

Efforts today continue to preserve the rich heritage of Camp Pendleton's founders and the Marine Corps' 231 years of history. The original ranch house is now the home for the Commanding General of the First Marine Expeditionary Force and has been declared a National Historic Site.

Some of the Base's streets and sites have been named in honor of military war heroes and battles. The geographic locations formally christened by Spanish explorers and missionaries continue that heritage. A ranch cattle brand, Pendleton's logo, can be seen throughout the Base.

Monday, September 17, 2007

We need to know the players
(Stupid me! I recently purchased a three-year subscription for Gulf Breeze News newspaper in Gulf Breeze, Fla. I sent this piece to the Editor/Publisher, Gulf Breeze News - Letters to Editor section, requesting publication. It did not receive the red carpet treatment. It's not my nature to be stopped by this weekly newspaper and now I will publisher it myself so the world can read it through my World Wide Web.)

Republican candidates for Presidential nomination for 2008:
Sen. Samuel D. "Sam" Brownback, Kansas; Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. "Rudy" Giuliani, New York; Former Governor Michael D. "Mike" Huchabee, Arkansas; US Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, California; US Senator John S. McCain III, Arizona; US Congressman Ron Paul, Texas; Former Governor W. Mitt Romney, Massachusetts; US Congressman Thomas G. "Tom" Tancredo, Colorado; Former Tennessee US Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, Virginia.

Democratic candidates for Presidential nomination for 2008:
US Senator Joe Biden, Delaware; US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York; US Senator Christopher Dodd, Connecticut; Former US Senator John Edwards, North Carolina; Former US Senator Mike Gravel, Alaska; US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ohio; US Senator Barack Obama, Illinois; Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico.

All of the above candidates are great Americans with leadership ability and any one of them would be better than George W. Bush. Some are conservatives and some are liberals. Yes, some are "Liberal Democrats." I hear some birdbrains referring to democrat as liberal democrat, when the same person was once one of them a few years back. I refer to him as a turncoat, a person that is untrustworthy.

Do you think you are better off today than what your were when the United States Supreme Court appointed Bush president? Do you think Iraq would have been invaded if Al Gore was president? Wouldn't it be great if 3,780 Americans killed in Iraq would still be living. And the 27, 848 Americans who have been wounded - many with no arms, legs and eye sight would still be healthy? This would not have happened if Gore was president.

President Bill Clinton left Bush with a balanced budget, tons of surplus money and no war. It required Bush only a very short time to blow it and wrongly invade Iraq.

After I viewed the past records of the Republican candidates, they are far behind the candidates in the Democratic Party. I have always been a registered democrat and that will never change. Even though I am pleased to be considered a Liberal Democrat, I have voted many times for Republicans in the past. For those of you who don't like the democrats, give back all your benefits that you are receiving. The average American would be in deep trouble if it was not for the Democratic Party.

Conclusion: My vote is for Senator Clinton and I have asked her to select a General as her Vice President. His name is Wesley Clark, General, US Army, Retired. The 4-star General was NATO commander when he retired, and he ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States four years ago.

It will not be easy for President Hillary Clinton and Vice President Wesley Clark, when they take over on Jan. 20, 2009. Bush will hand them the baton and tell them to find a way to get out of Iraq. It sad for the American people that we will not have a Commander in Chief of the American Armed Forces for the next 15 months, but what else is new? We have not had one in the last seven years.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

D-Day on Peleliu
Sept. 15, 1944

(Noah was there) On that day, the Marines of the 1st Marine Division planned to land on thewestern beaches of Peleliu three regiments abreast. 1st Marines were to assault the beaches on the left, which were designated White 1 and White 2, and push through the enemy toward the northwestern peninsula of the island.

In the center, the 5th Marines were to land on Orange beaches 1 and 2 and drive across to the island's eastern shore. They would be responsible for securing the island's airfield before moving to seize the northeastern part of the island.

The 7th Marines on the right were to assault Orange Beach 3 and move to take the southern tip of the island.

The U.S. Navy demonstrated the value of sea power by blocking the Japanese access to sea lanes that would have enabled them to reinforce and resupply their men on Peleliu.

Three days of naval gunfire had preceded the Marines' landing, but it proved inadequate against the type of Japanese defenses created on the island. The Japanese took advantage of the rugged, ridged terrain around Umurbrogol Mountain (unreported by American reconnaissance units) to construct a series of interlocking underground shelters and well-concealed concrete bunkers. As the troops came ashore, they faced enfilading fire from these bunkers and from the high ground above the beaches.

The enemy fought tenaciously to prevent the Marines from securing a beachhead. The first night ashore was grueling: small infiltration parties hit the Marine lines repeatedly. The cruiser Honolulu and three destroyers provided star shell illumination to help the Marines turn the infiltrators back, but the rest of the fleet withdrew toavoid enemy submarines. The Marines fought the night away, well dug in, in their foxholes. In the south, the foxholes filled with stinking swamp water. By the morning of the 16th, the Marines were, according to one observer, mean and thirsty. That day, the 5th and 7th Marines advanced relentlessly; the 1st Marines more slowly, encountering fierce resistance from the northernridges they were assigned to take.

Brigadier General O.P. Smith, assistant division commander, said of the first week of fighting, "Seven days after the landing, all of the southern end of Peleliu was in our possession, as well as the high ground immediately dominating the airfield. All the beaches that were ever used were in use. There was room for the proper deployment of all the artillery, including the Corps artillery. Unloading was unhampered except by the weather and hydrographic conditions. The airfield was available and essential base development work was underway.

"Temperatures on Peleliu rose as high as 115 degrees, and drinking water was scarce during the initial combat. Marines on the front lines were parched, pleading for water. Hearing this, the crews of some of the ships offshore, to the surprise and delight of many Marines, sent cases of fruit and tomato juice ashore for distribution among the front line troops.

The battle for Peleliu provided an opportunity for Marines to practice and perfect their skills in close air support. Marine aviators demonstrated ingenuity and courage, but their efforts would have little effect on the underground fortresses built by the Japanese. Following the fighting, one report estimated the existence of more than 500 caves. Long-range flame throwers mounted on amphibian tractors, employed for the first time on Peleliu, proved to be the most effective weapon against thesewell-fortified caves.

In later phases of the operation, the seizure of Umurbrogol Mountain and the northern area of Peleliu was among the most difficult assignments faced by the Marines. This move was tactically important as a means to bypass and isolate enemy pockets of resistance. The northern ground was also to be used as a platform to attack the neighboring small island of Ngesebus. Ngesebus, connected to Peleliu by causeway, was an original campaign objective because of its unfinished fighter air strip.

The seizure of Umurbrogol Mountain took five regiments close to two months of battle to accomplish. The 1st Marine Divisionhad suffered so many casualties as it fought to achieve the objectives that the Army's 81st Infantry Division, known as the"Wildcats," was called in to relieve the diminished 1st Marines. The Wildcats' initial mission to seize Angaur had been accomplished on Oct. 21 when the division over ran Angaur's remaining resistance and the island was declared secure.

The Wildcats then began the tough job of relieving the 1st Marines and isolating the enemy pockets of resistance on Umurbrogol Mountain. Over the next weeks, the Wildcats would advance slowly around the Umurbrogol pocket, gradually eliminating all enemy resistance. Unlike earlier battles, the Japanese defenders did not attempt banzai charges. Despite their declining numbers, they fought on to take as many Americans with them as possible. On Sept. 27, Major General Geiger declared the island secure and raised the American flag over the battlefield. Before it was all over, Operation Stalemate II had become the Pacific's largest amphibious operation thus far, involving more than 800 vessels and 1,600 aircraft.

Campaign Results
Throughout the battle naval forces had prevented the Japanese from reinforcing, allowing ground troops a victory over thewell-entrenched Japanese force. That victory denied the Japanese a staging area for attacks on the U.S. fleet in the South Pacific and denied the Japanese the ability to communicate with their forces in the Philippines.

The cost of the battle was high. On Peleliu, Marine casualties were 1,336 killed and 5,450 wounded. The 81st Infantry Division suffered 1,393 casualties including 208 killed in action. On Angaur, the 81st Infantry Division had 1,676 casualties, including 196 killed in action. The Japanese lost an estimated 10,695 men. An additional 301 became prisoners of war.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Burning of Washington
On Sept. 20, 1814, US Marines protected members of Congress in a hotel while the British was burning the U.S. Capitol building.

The Burning of Washington is the name given to the burning of Washington, D.C., by British forces in 1814, during the War of 1812. Strict discipline and the British commander's orders to burn only public buildings are credited with preserving most residences, and as a result the facilities of the U.S. government, including the White House, were largely destroyed. The attack was in retaliation for the U.S. invasion of York, Upper Canada (now Toronto, Ontario, Canada), at the Battle of York in 1813, in which U.S. forces looted and burned the city, including the Parliament Buildings of Upper Canada.

Only the exterior walls remained, and they had to be torn down and mostly reconstructed due to weakening from the fire and subsequent exposure to the elements, except for portions of the south wall. A legend emerged that during the rebuilding of the structure white paint was applied to mask the burn damage it had suffered, giving the building its namesake hue. This is unfounded as the building had been painted white since its construction in 1798. Of the numerous spoils taken from the White House when it was ransacked by British troops, only two have been recovered — a painting of George Washington, rescued by then-first lady Dolley Madison, and a jewelry box returned to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 by a Canadian man who said his grandfather had taken it from Washington. Most of the spoils were lost when a convoy of British ships led by HMS Fantome sank en route to Halifax off Prospect during a storm on the night of November 24, 1814.

On August 24, 1814, the advance guard of British troops marched to Capitol Hill; they were too few in number to occupy the city, so Ross intended to destroy as much of it as possible. He sent a party under a flag of truce to agree to terms, but they were attacked by partisans from a house at the corner of Maryland Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and Second Street NE. This was to be the only resistance the soldiers met. The house was burned, and the Union Flag was raised above Washington.

The buildings housing the Senate and House of Representatives — construction on the trademark central rotunda of the Capitol had not yet begun — were set ablaze not long after. The interiors of both buildings, including the Library of Congress, were destroyed, although the thick walls and a torrential rainfall preserved their exteriors. (Thomas Jefferson later sold his library to the government to restock the Library of Congress. British Prime Minister Tony Blair officially apologized for the burning of the Library of Congress 189 years later on July 17, 2003. The next day Admiral Cockburn entered the building of the D.C newspaper, National Intelligencer, intending to burn it down; however, a group of neighborhood women persuaded him not to because they were afraid the fire would spread to their neighboring houses. Cockburn wanted to destroy the newspaper because they had written so many negative items about him, branding him as "The Ruffian." Instead he ordered his troops to tear the building down brick by brick making sure that they destroyed all the "C" type so that no more pieces mentioning his name could be printed.

The troops then turned north down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. First Lady Dolley Madison remained there after many of the government officials — and her own bodyguard — had already fled, gathering valuables, documents and other items of importance, notably the Lansdowne Portrait, a full-length painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. She was finally persuaded to leave moments before British soldiers entered the building. Once inside, the soldiers found the dining hall set for a dinner for 40 people. After eating all the food they took souvenirs then set the building on fire.

Fuel was added to the fires that night to ensure they would continue burning into the next day; the flames were reportedly visible as far away as Baltimore and the Patuxent River.

The British also burned the United States Treasury building and other public buildings. The historic Washington Navy Yard, founded by Thomas Jefferson and the first federal installation in the United States, was burned by the Americans to prevent capture of stores and ammunition, as well as the 44-gun frigate Columbia which was then being built. The United States Patent Office building was saved by the efforts of William Thornton—architect of the Capitol and then superintendent of patents—who convinced the British of the importance of its preservation.

Less than a day after the attack began, a hurricane which included a tornado passed through, damaging the invaders and putting out the fires. This forced the British troops to return to their ships, many of which were badly damaged by the storm, and so the actual occupation of Washington lasted about 26 hours. President Madison and the rest of the government quickly returned to the city.

The thick sandstone walls of the White House survived, although scarred with smoke and scorch marks. Reconstruction of the Capitol did not begin until 1815, and it was completed in 1864. Of Britain's four objectives in its retaliatory invasion of the United States—Lake Champlain, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.—this was the only successful attack. The British had successfully diverted the attention of Washington away from the war and prevented further American incursions into Canada, and had landed a humiliating blow to the Americans. The attack was not as demoralizing as Cockburn intended, but it did contribute to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent next year.