Above and Beyond (1952) – A Movie Review

“Above and Beyond” is a dramatic portrayal of the Air Force’s project to deliver the first atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan (Hiroshima).  Col. Paul Tibbets, played by Robert Taylor, is selected for the mission because of his combat record and also for his knowledge of the capabilities of the B-29 bomber.  The movie has two aspects.  It documents the difficulty of the mission to combine the scientific, military and logistical requirements while maintaining absolute secrecy.  The second aspect is the toll that this secrecy takes on the marriage and family life of Colonel Tibbets, his wife Lucey and their two young boys.  I watched this movie along with Camera Girl and I made sure I emphasized how truly annoying wives are when husbands are trying to get something really important done.  Like when I have a really important horror movie that I need to watch and she bothers me with unimportant stuff right in the middle of a very important scene.  Very annoying.  But I digress.

Since mission security is one of the crucial aspects of the story they gave the part of security chief, Major Uanna, to James Whitmore whose other credential for atomic energy related movies was his turn as a police officer in “Them,” the story of giant ants created by the original Manhattan Project blast in New Mexico.  And the Air Force general overseeing the project was Major General Curtis E. LeMay who is played by Jim Backus, better known to television audiences as Gilligan’s Island’s very own millionaire, Thurston Howell III.

The melodrama of Col Tibbet’s disrupted family life is reasonably well done.  But the payoff is the bombing mission.  And it is compelling.  The men in the plane other than Tibbets didn’t know about the atomic bomb.  Tibbets reveals this during the flight to Japan.  And he reveals to them that for all anyone knows their plane will be destroyed by the radiation or the subsequent shock wave.  Actual footage of the Hiroshima blast is run during this sequence of the film and the devastating nature of the detonation is conveyed in Tibbets’ reaction to the blast.  Even all these years later and in context of our familiarity with the much more powerful hydrogen bombs that were to follow, the sight of the Hiroshima explosion is still a sobering sight.

I recommend this movie based on its temporal proximity to the events.  It gives us a chance to see the transition from the almost naïve mindset of the WW II Americans to the almost overwhelmed perspective of inhabitants of the new atomic age.  And it gave me new-found admiration for the courage and determination of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations who combined intelligence and hard work to produce the horrible miracle that became the basis for our modern world.  If we still had their clarity, I wonder whether we’d be in the mess we’re in now.

Ronald Reagan Memorial Day Speech Transcript 1982

Here’s the transcript to Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Memorial Day speech.  Reading it is immensely saddening.  What a different world and America it was back then.

 

Mr. President, General, the distinguished guest here with us today, my fellow citizens. In America, cities and towns today flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries, public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania, marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches.

Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion, his remarks commemorating those who gave their last full measure of devotion were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage. Not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words. I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the site before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who in return loved their countrymen enough to die for them. Yet, we must try to honor them, not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions, we must strive to keep faith with them and with a vision that led them to battle and a final sacrifice.

Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough. The United States and freedom for which it stands, the freedom of which they died must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply, it has a cost. It imposes a burden. And just as they, when we commemorate, were willing to sacrifice, so too must we, in a less final, less heroic, way be willing to give of ourselves. It is this beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapon systems that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers.

It’s not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us. Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive to speak of them, not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that’s why we must never failed to note as frequently as necessary the true the wide gulf between our codes of morality. And that’s why we must never hesitate to acknowledge the irreputable difference between our view of man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won.

It is this honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between our nations can stand and last. Treaties that can someday bring about a reduction in the terrible arms of destruction. Arms that threatened us with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the Americans we honor today. In the quest for peace, the United States has proposed to the Soviet Union that we reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by negotiating a stable balance at far lower levels of strategic forces.

This is a fitting occasion to announce that, START, as we call it, strategic arms reductions. The negotiations between our country and the Soviet Union will begin on the 29th of June. As for existing strategic arms agreements, we will refrain from actions which undercut them so long as the Soviet Union shows equal restraint. With goodwill and dedication on both sides, I pray that we will achieve a safer world.

Our goal is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of honest and fruitful negotiation. It is with these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it’s all together fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important, the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here.

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground. And I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, in the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero. And in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GIs of World War II, or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers of above their resting places. All alike in a truly meaningful way.

Winston Churchill’s said of those he knew in World War II, they seem to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, just the best darn kids in the world. Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die, they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be. The values, which make up what we call civilization and how they must have wished in all the ugliness that war brings that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor, shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish, that no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our national anthem, I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other but ends with a question and a challenge as our does. Does that flag still wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must live up to.  Thank you.

King of the Castle

“The house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.”

Edward Coke

Well the Memorial Day Family Barbecue Day dawns wet, freezing cold and gray.

Perfect for New England!  The land of cold and mildew.

But all is well.  I got up and cleaned the grill on the lowest deck and moved it so that the smoke will get blown out to the sky but will leave me under the overhang, snug and dry.  I walked the property in the rain and saw all the flowers and weeds swelling in the rain.  One of the ponds had cold bull frogs and leopard frogs that were too chilled to care that I was walking by.  I dropped the level on the swimming pool and backwashed it to get rid of all the pollen and tree debris that the wind and rain brought down.  We won’t be using it today.  That’s for sure.

23JUN2018 Photo of the Day, Sony A7 III, Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens, flower

The hellebore flowers are fading out now and the rhododendrons are at peak bloom and one of the earlier blooming bushes is already shedding its flowers.  Have to get a few photos soon.  The cone flowers and the roses are starting to bud and the irises are just about done.  Boy they don’t last long.  And miracle of miracles the deer haven’t eaten the daylilies or the hostas like they usually do.  They did pick off one bunch of Solomon’s Seal bunches but I’ve got plenty to spare.  As Camera Girl says everybody’s got to eat.  Well, I wish someone would eat the deer but that another story.

It’s too cold for us to eat outside so I’ve made a big table in the dining room from four folding tables and we’ll all sit together and feast on Camera Girl’s fixings and my barbecue skills.  Today is restricted to burgers, dogs, and sausage on the meat side.  We’ll complement that with homemade potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, washed down with lemonade and followed up with watermelon, Italian cheese cake, apple pie, strawberry shortcake, vanilla ice cream and by popular demand Klondike Bars.  All of that dessert will be washed down with good coffee and lots of good talk and laughter as the grandchildren get spoiled their grandmother and I tell lies about the good old days.

Afterwards we’ll talk about school and what they want to do this summer and their vacation plans.  I’ll make a point of leaving out politics and COVID since that will just upset everyone on a happy day.  We’ll talk about inflation and education costs and whatever else is on their minds.  Maybe we’ll watch some old kids’ movies.  Maybe not.  Maybe I’ll just put on some music.  Should be a lot of fun.

What else can I ask for.  Healthy kids, productive adults and functional families.  That’s as good as it gets.  So at least for this year I’m still king of my castle and the secret police aren’t supposed to make an appearance at the castle gate.  I can make believe that Memorial Day still means we live in the United States of America.  Enjoy your holiday.

The Practical Problem with Alienating the Normal Half of Your Country

In September of 2001 New York City and Washington D.C. were attacked by Arab fanatics who flew jumbo jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and almost got the US Capitol Building too.  Hundreds of New York firemen and dozens of police died attempting to rescue civilians in the chaos of the destruction of the twin towers.  Afterwards the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought, as usual by young men from Middle America.  A few came from New York City.  I know of some.  But most kids from New York City didn’t want to go off to war.  I remember an interview right after the attack when a reporter asked a student at New York University whether he thought he should defend his country after his city had been attacked.  The smart kid said, “Sure somebody should go fight.  But not me, I don’t believe in war.”  And that is the majority opinion in a place like New York City.

So those other somebodies did fight and die in those wars.  And they went on fighting and dying for two decades.  But now the Defense Department is combing through the ranks looking for white supremacists and other deplorables to be kicked out of the military.  And I’m sure eventually they’ll get a different military.  LGBTQ soldiers and especially transgender soldiers are very popular right now not to mention pregnant air force fighter pilots.  It sounds very exciting and vibrant.

But what happens after the next 9-11 type attack?  Let’s say Iran sneaks in a dirty bomb over the Mexican border and sets it off in New York City.  Not a real nuke just a big conventional weapon that’s been peppered with enriched uranium.  Now after the George Floyd riots and the calls to prosecute police for upholding the laws how many cops are going to run into that hell to restore order?  And without the police how many firemen are going to put out those fires?  And how many ambulances will go in to rescue the wounded?

And who is going to volunteer to go to Iran to fight the mullahs on the ground?  I’ll be curious to see just how the LGBTQ brigade will do fighting in the 115 °F middle east heat.  Hot flashes from the hormone therapy must be such a bother at those temperatures.  And I wonder just how sharp those pregnant fighter pilots are going to be battling in the air space with surface to air missiles lighting up their instrument board.  Sounds daunting.

My point is I have a feeling the US military is going to be a lot less impressive pretty soon.  If countries like Iran and China start thinking that we aren’t the military superpower that we used to be then they will start to look for ways to apply pressure on us to get what they want.  China is already doing it.  They are throwing their weight around in their own back yard and scaring their neighbors, Japan and South Korea and Taiwan, with a narrative that says the US is a spent force and that China is the new hegemon.

What happens when China decides that we really are impotent?  Let’s say they sink an aircraft carrier.  And let’s say that Commander in Chief Hair Sniffer puts out the call for volunteers to sign up and defend their country.  Who’s going to show up?  No one.

And after he walks back his banter and kowtows to China and our allies in Asia switch allegiance to the strong horse what kind of foreign policy problems will we be looking at then?  Well, actually things will simplify.  We will resemble Britain as their empire evaporated in the post WW II period.  The Russians and the Chinese and the Iranians and the Turks will carve out spheres of influence in the power vacuum we create and we will recede more and more from the dominant role we had.  Even the position of the US dollar may change radically.  And that will have a devastating effect on the US economy and the federal government.

Of course, some good will come of a scenario like this one.  If America’s status as a military superpower is degraded by a Democrat administration there is a very good chance that a massive shift in political support will occur.  Think back to what happened when Jimmy Carter let the Iranians hold our embassy personnel hostage for over a year and then bungled the military operation to rescue the hostages.  Ronald Reagan beat him in a landslide in the 1980 presidential election.  If it is perceived that the Democrats have endangered the country militarily, they will be removed.  What the Republicans do with such an opportunity is hard to say.  Hopefully they will be less stupid than they have been up until this point.  Hopefully they restore the armed forces to a condition where it consists of normal men led by the best men we’ve got.  If not then I won’t be surprised if this country really does crack up.  If our military is exposed as a spent force then regional groups will become emboldened to defy the federal government even more easily and openly.

Either way things will be getting interesting in the new world we live in.  The woke are going to find out that their new world order requires a little more force than the LGBTQ brigade can muster with or without the pregnant fighter pilots.