Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I Had No Idea

Musikmeister Gustav Sabac el Cher in 1908
Grenadier-Regiment Kronprinz (1.Ostpreußisches) Nr.1

While searching for paintings and photographs of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, I came across that photo above. At first glance I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Standard German musician's uniform (those things on the shoulders are called "swallows nests"), standard German style mustache for turn of the century Imperial Germany, standard pickelhaube (the spiked helmet), standard...

Wait a minute.

I had to chase the photo down, the soldier in the photo is indeed out of the ordinary. Because he is black, not white. Which is pretty non-standard for Germany back in the day. This website has a number of cool photos of black Germans. Unexpected by me to say the least.

Now I am very familiar with blacks who served in the French Army during World War I. France had a large colonial empire in Africa and in Asia. Many soldiers and laborers were brought to France to fight and to work.

Senegalese Tirailleurs serving side by side with French troops, 1914
There were black soldiers in the British Army as well, though like the German they were few in number.

Lieutenant Walter Tull
The Footballers Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment
Killed in Action, 1918

During the First World War, Tull served in the Footballers' Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, and fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 30 May 1917. Tull fought in Italy in 1917–18, and was mentioned in dispatches for "gallantry and coolness" while leading his company of 26 men on a raiding party into enemy territory. Tull was the first black army officer to lead troops. He returned to France in 1918, and was killed in action on 25 March during the Spring Offensive; his body was never recovered. (Source)
This website details the Asian and black soldiers contributions during WWI.

If you have Netflix, check out the BBC mini-series, The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, which tells the tale of the Africans, Asians, and Indians who fought, suffered, and died in the horror of the trenches.

When WWI is mentioned, most of us picture white faces in all the scenes of the war and the home front. The stories I grew up with, the movies I watched, always showed white soldiers. As if the rest of the human race had nothing to do with the war at all.

But after all, it was a world war. In case you haven't noticed, the skins of our brothers and sisters around the world are of many shades.

We all bleed red.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fourteen Years

Fourteen years ago today I lost my little furry buddy.

We called him Pat, he was born in Germany, he died in Rhode Island.

I can't believe how much the memory of his loss still hurts.

But I can believe how much joy the memory of his life brings.

Life has its ups and downs.

'Tis better to have loved and lost...

I miss you little guy.

I'm What?

Looking out over Torr Head in Ireland, across the North Channel of the Irish Sea, you can see the coast of Scotland. I've always known that Ireland and Scotland are very close culturally and geographically. What I didn't realize, until a few months ago, was just how closely related genetically the Scots and the Irish were. In fact, one could make the argument that in essence, we are the same people.

I use the word "we" somewhat loosely. I am an American by birth and consider myself to be an American through and through. I am not an <insert ethnic group here>-American. I don't tell folks that I'm an Anglo-French-Scottish-American. I was not born "over there" and naturalized as a citizen of this great land. However, I am inordinately proud of who my ancestors were, and where they came from.

I was born and raised in New England, specifically Vermont, I spent 24 years away from my native soil while in the Air Force so I don't really consider myself a Vermonter anymore, especially when I consider the political leanings of my native state.

While I live in Rhode Island, I don't consider myself a Rhode Islander either. Especially considering how the natives around these parts are somewhat clannish and very particular about who calls themselves a Rhode Islander. As if it's an accomplishment to have never left the nest. I'm really just a generic American, who's been around the block a couple of times. Lived here, lived there. Four countries on three continents have been where I called home at one time or another. But I digress.

My paternal great-grandfather hailed from Trois-Rivières in the administrative region of Mauricie in the Canadian province of Quebec. Oui, l'arrière grand-père parlait le français comme sa langue maternelle. My grandfather, born and raised in Vermont, later lived in New Hampshire, had only a few words of his father's native French when I knew him, most of them not used in polite society, at least when the ladies were present. One of his aunts, whom I never met, had no English at all.

Great-grandfather had an interesting life. Emigrated from Canada to the U.S., specifically Vermont, and when the War Between the States started, he enlisted in a New York regiment. Not sure why, there isn't much documentation left concerning the founder of the clan in this country. He married late, my grandfather didn't come along until Great Granddad was in his sixties, as I recall.

Now my paternal grandfather married a lady who drew her first breath along the banks of the River Dee in Scotland, not far from Aberdeen. So the paternal side of the family are relatively new in the United States, but the Canadian parts go back to the days of fur trapping and Montcalm, from what I understand.

The maternal side of the tribe have been here rather a longer time, since before the Revolution. One distant relation was a governor of Connecticut and signed the Declaration. Mostly Scots with the odd English relation thrown in on the maternal side of things.

So for years I've considered myself, at heart, a Scot, with a bit of English and a lot of French thrown in for seasoning.

Now my brother, The Olde Vermonter, went and paid for a DNA test, just for the curiosity and the "why not" that was in it. The results, while somewhat surprising, aren't really that surprising when you look at the relationship between the Scots and the Irish. (See where I'm going with this yet?)

The results of the DNA test show that my brothers' and my ancestors (going back millennia, not centuries) came from:
  • 27% Ireland
  • 24% Great Britain
  • 22% Western Europe
  • 15% Scandinavia and (this next one has a large uncertainty associated with it)
  • 4% West Asian (?!?!?!)
The green stuff, that's West Asia.
Interesting that West Asian bit, uncertain though it be. I guess if you go back far enough? (I have a great great uncle, killed in action in the Great War, buried in Gaza. So there's another connection. Yes, Middle East and West Asia are, as some of my relations might say, "Same same.")

Now historically the area we know as Scotland today was populated originally by the Picts. The west coast of Scotland was settled by the Irish. The Romans called all the folks north of Hadrian's Wall, the Scotti. See where I'm going?

Now the Great Britain part of the ancestry no doubt includes the Picts and the Celts of pre-Roman Britain. Western Europe, well that's the French bit. As to the 15% Scandinavian?

Let's just say that Lindisfarne wasn't the only place in early Britain raided by the Norsemen. Their depredations occurred throughout the British Isles and Ireland. Many Scots clans have a great deal of Viking blood in them. One example springs to mind, the MacIvers have relatives across the North Sea, the Iversons. (Mac or Mc prepended to a name in Scotland or Ireland means "son of." MacIver, Iverson, "Same same GI.")

So a great big chunk of my ancestors hailed from the British Isles.

Does this change anything about me, who I am? No, not really. But guess what?

I'll be celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a bit more enthusiasm than I have in past years. After all...

Just don't expect me to spring for a round, the Scots is still there, muted though it might be. Also, be careful not to rub me the wrong way...

I'm not sure if Onkel Olav has a sense of humor...

Monday, October 16, 2017


So, It's Friday night and the end of a lonnnnnnnngggggg week.  Mrs Juvat and I are settling into our easy chairs after enjoying an excellent steak, baked potato and salad accompanied by a good bottle of Nebbiolo.

BTW, since Sarge has branched out in several different journalistic directions, thereby claiming them as his own, I've decided to capture the foodie vector before he gets that one also.  I got the basic plan for the dinner from here. 
I've tried several of his recipes and they're almost always pretty good. 

Having now captured the foodie vector, where was I. 

Ahh.  Nebbiolo and easy chair.  

I've settled down and am reading "The Last Fighter Pilot" by Don Brown whilst sipping a snooter of rum (strictly for medicinal purposes of course).  The book is about the Fighter Pilot who led the last P-51 combat mission of WWII, Jerry Yellin.  Captain Yellin flew from Iwo Jima, escorting B-29s to attack Japan AFTER Nagasaki.  

(I think that puts paid to the argument that the A Bombs were not needed, that Japan was about to quit.  But, then I read history, not rewrite it.)

Learned quite a few things that I didn't know before reading that book.  Highly recommended.

Now, where was I again?  Oh yeah, reading and rum.

So, I'm winding down the evening when my phone announces that I have a text message.

"juvat, you have a text message from a Tuna."

My wife collapses on the floor, in laughter.  Sometimes Cortana adds a little to the message.

"Read it."

"juvat, I'm in Texas,  if you don't have anything planned, could we meet up tomorrow."

My wife collapses on the floor in laughter, again.

"A Tuna in Texas?  Isn't that a play?"

Why yes it is. And a rather funny one at that.

If given the opportunity to see it, you should.

So....after the paroxysm of laughter ceases from Mrs J, Tuna and I work out a meet for the following morning.

I had a few chores to do in town, to include recycling boxes accumulated in my wife's store.  However, it's Saturday in a Tourist Town.  Parking is sparse, so I'm carrying a load of flattened cardboard down the block to my truck while trying to dodge passers-by.  I successfully maneuver past one guy and am progressing down the street, when my mind clicks.  

I recognize that guy.  That's Tuna!

Drop the cardboard in my truck and return to the store.

Make the introductions and discuss the battle plan for the day.  He's in San Antonio visiting his Dad who's recovering from a fall so he can't stay very long.  I suggest a quick visit to the Nimitz Museum.

And we're off.  

I've been to the Museum several times, but never with a fellow veteran and a Navy dude and an Aviator.  

Suffice it to say, there was a furious exchange of stories and things the other did not know.  One of the things I appreciated hearing about was his family's involvement at Pearl Harbor on that day.  I'll leave that to him to relate should he choose.  

I thought it was interesting however.

The visit was over way too soon as he had familial duties to attend to.  As did I.
No, that's not me, that's the Farrier.  The Paints are getting a pedicure.

 But I had fun.

Now.....Sarge?????  Austin Bergstrom is only 1+15 away.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Déjà Vu

As I'm up in the homeland for the weekend, thought I'd share this post from three years ago, when I was, yup, up in the homeland. Same time of year, same reason. My mom's birthday.

Buck was still around back then. I miss him...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In The Valley of the Connecticut

Memorial to the men of the Great War
It never ceases to amaze me, the memories which come surging forth every time I set a course for the land of my birth. This weekend The Missus Herself and I went up to New Hampshire to see my Mom for her birthday. (Which is still a couple of days away, but the weekend prior to that day worked for us and my brother The MusicianThe Olde Vermonter? Not so much, he was working. There's a lot of projects he and his crew need to complete before the winter sweeps in. It ain't that far off ya know!)

We drove up on Friday after lunch, yes I did take the afternoon off, thank you for asking. Had good weather, noted that the fall foliage was sketchy at best. There are spots where the leaves are all gone, some trees are a riot of color, while others still sport their summer green. Sometimes all within a few hundred yards of each other. Still and all, it was a lovely day for a drive up to the homeland.

Now there's a restaurant we went to on Saturday. Right across the road is that war memorial you see in the opening photo. On one of those stones is engraved the name of my grandfather, Louis. The memories are everywhere.

Just up the hill is where my Father lies.

It's a lovely spot, but my heart is always heavy when I visit there.

For I remember a cold day in March. Myself, my two brothers, my son, my nephew and my parents' dear friend Mike carried Dad's casket from the hearse to the grave. I was offered the lead, I declined. I always followed my Dad's lead, I learned at his feet, I would carry Dad to his final rest, in trail, at his feet.

I have no remembrance of what the minister said by the graveside. While the sun was shining, the snow lay deep on the ground and the wind was bitter cold. I remember coming to attention and raising my hand in salute as taps was played. I jumped a bit at the first volley of the honor guard, but quickly settled in as the rifle shots echoed in the crisp cold air. Everything glittered. I claimed it was the wind causing my eyes to tear, everyone knew that was not the case. There were many wet eyes that day.

Mom took us to the Senior Center near where she lives. There is a memorial garden with benches and a fountain. The benches have plaques, with names. One of the names on those benches there is that of my grandmother, my Mom's Mom.

Entrance to the garden.

Often these trips home are somewhat bittersweet. But with the shadows there is also light. My Mother is still doing well at 84 and has the joie de vivre of a woman half her age. Dinner on Saturday was fun, the time at the Elks Club afterwards even more so.

Oh, once again we also went to the Apple Festival in the home town. Remember last year, I bought a new USAF hat (yeah, yeah, I know, be still my heart, too much excitement) so in order to establish a new tradition, I did the same this year.

Take note Buck, it is an Air Force hat. Pretty fancy I thought. Only ten bucks!


I'm back in Little Rhody and woefully behind in my perusings of other people's blogs.

Also, I am much appreciative of Tuna for his superb post on Saturday. My lads Tuna and Juvat always seem to have my back.

It's back to work tomorrow. Yes, I know it's Columbus Day, that's one of the holidays we don't take off. We get it back between Christmas and New Year's when the whole place shuts down. I'll take it. Ten days (or so) off at Christmas beats the odd Monday here and there.

So, I'm off then.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Красный Октябрь - Weekend Open Thread

Oddly enough, what NATO calls the Typhoon-class is called Акула (Akula, or shark) by the Soviets, er, I mean the Russians. Pretty big freaking shark. (And yes, loved the book and the movie. Read the former at least six times, watched the latter at least four. A single ping Vasily!)

The post title? Ah, the Russians are boosting my stats again, thought I'd throw 'em a bone. Give Ivan something to chortle about.


I'm on the road for Madame Mère's natal festivities. Up to New Hampshire for some leaf-peeping, birthday-celebrating, beer-drinking old timey New England fun.

So, I've got a rerun queued up for Sunday, but today dear readers is Saturday. I leave things up to you. Comment about whatever you want, I'm sure Andrew can think of something. Make it controversial, make it funny, just clean up the mess when you're done.



Friday, October 13, 2017

242 Years

Continental Sloop Providence (1775-1779) - W. Nowland Van Powell
Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence. (Source)
As I am a retired Air Force Master Sergeant I'm sure there were one or two of you wondering why I did not commemorate the Air Force's 70th birthday back in September. Well, there are a number of reasons for that, some of which will no doubt have Buck fuming over his beer and cigar in the afterlife. Sorry my old comrade but our old service has lost its way. Some say that the new kids in charge will make it better. Let's just say, I'll believe it when I see it.

More importantly, I now feel very connected to the Naval Service for any number of reasons.  All three of the progeny wore the uniform of our nation's Navy. My son-in-law is still on active duty (filthy hinge though he be) and The Nuke herself remains in the Navy Reserve. (She's also a lieutenant commander but I won't call her "hinge," truth be told, I'm told that's more of an aviation "term of endearment" than a term used by the shoes, er, I mean Professional Surface Warfare Officers. And she scares me, she's tough as nails and salty as Hell. If'n you get my drift. Why she's scared senior chiefs right off the ship! Yup, I'm awfully proud of her. All of 'em to tell the truth. But, you guessed it, I digress.)

I retired from Uncle Sam's Aerial Forces in 1999, after 24 years of service. Reported for work at the current job two months after I hung up the blues. Now I've been with my current employer (who we affectionately refer to as "Uncle Ray") for a shade over 18 years. Most of that time working on projects for the United States Navy. I work with quite a few veterans, most of whom wore sailor suits for their time in the service.

Uh, no, wrong graphic. (Damn it Schmuckatelli! Where's the picture I asked for?)

Yeah, that one.

I've been to sea on two aircraft carriers and been aboard a bunch of other ships, both old and new. Heck, I even speak a little "Navy" lingo. (Have to in my line of work!) In fact, there are a number of ships I consider "mine." You can read about that here.

The family has been associated with the United States Navy since The Naviguesser received his commission back in '01. (Yes, I would pronounce that "ought one," never as "oh one." Because ought one is a year, oh one is an ensign, or 2nd looey depending on one's service.) So while I am a retired Air Force guy, I'm really a Navy Dad.

And don't you ever forget it!

Happy Birthday Navy!
Non sibi sed patriae.


You can read more about the birth of the Navy here.