Tuesday, October 4, 2016


The older you grow, the faster time flies.  But you knew that.

So it’s not surprising that I awoke the first of this month with a dizzying sensation.  My first book, The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II, was published in October 1976, forty years ago!


Where did they go?

Actually, there was some warning since the bow wave had spilled over my literary prow last year, the fiftieth anniversary of my first published article.  I was a sophomore in high school when I began writing a Pacific Northwest column for Drum Corps World, leading to a few contributions in modeling publications.

Now, fifty books and nearly 700 articles later, it’s inevitable to look back and reflect.

I wrote my first six books and perhaps 100 articles on a Royal Standard my father bought before I was born.  I used it so much that some of the vowels started fading from heavy use.  I have no idea how many ribbons I went through in those 14 or 15 years, but I also bought carbon paper by the sheaf.  In those days “cut and paste” involved scissors and paste—or Scotch tape.

The best class I ever took, including all those college journalism courses, was my high-school freshman typing class.  That was in the winter of 1963-64, and it required dedication because Mr. Simpson and Mrs. Gilliland could only manage it before school.  So I dutifully fetched myself to the unheated basement of the Athena First Baptist Church before trudging the remaining five blocks to McEwen High. 

Finally I earned my forty words per minute pin (I was oafishly proud), the same year as my first state rudimental drumming championship. 

As slow and as tedious as the process could be in the seventh and eighth decades of the 20th century, that old Royal made me into more than a fair typist.  It forced me to become a writer.  To avoid repetition, each time I sat in my cushioned chair, I needed to focus not only on what I was going to say, but how I was going to say it.  Otherwise I would have consumed additional dead trees by retyping entire manuscripts.  After awhile I was able to retype pages rather than chapters.  That made a big difference, increasing my productivity.

The concept of the SBD book began several years before publication, when my father and two flying buddies purchased the only flying Dauntless.  It was an Army A-24B (Banshee rather than Dauntless), operated by Multnomah County, essentially metro Portland.  It was getting expensive to operate as a mosquito-control aircraft, modified with a tank and pump in the aft cockpit with spray booms affixed to the permanently closed dive brakes.  Our consortium bought a purpose-built spray plane, a Cessna Ag Wagon, and swapped it for the Dauntless.

Eventually Dad bought out his partners, and we proceeded with a full restoration in Portland and Salem environs in 1971.  At some point in the process, nearly standing on my head in the rear pit with a light in one hand and a pop-rivet gun in the other, I got an Inspiration.

I had missed a lot of school due to childhood asthma.  Never got a perfect attendance pin.  So I became a recreational reader at a tender age.  History interested me and aviation fascinated me.  I realized that although the SBD was a war-winning aircraft against Japan, it had never received a full-length treatment.

And there I was, restoring one. 

The format for my nascent book immediately took shape, and remained constant with subsequent volumes on Hellcats, Corsairs, Wildcats and beyond.  I knew that you could find technical information on almost any WW II aircraft—what I called “rivet counter” texts.  The biggies in the genre had a steady following, including Gordon Swanborough and William Green in the UK and Peter M. Bowers here, among others.  (I got to know Pete pretty well—what a character.)  But I wanted to do more.  I’d begun flying in 1965 and eventually logged hundreds of hours in airplanes older than I was.  Therefore, my SBD book should include both technical and personal/operational coverage, and readers responded well.  I had found my niche.

Meanwhile, we flew the Dauntless until 1974 when Dad sold it to Oklahoma warbird collector Doug Champlin, leading to a cherished friendship.  But during the precious hours I flew with Dad in the Dauntless, restored as a Navy SBD-5, my fascination with the subject increased.  I had begun researching a book in 1971-72, but the Vietnam War and its aftermath put severe dents in the military market.  However, eventually I sold the idea to Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, with publication in October 1976.  The timing seemed worth the wait because at length the Bicentennial celebration overcame much of the anti-military residue from That Crazy Asian War.

Today I’ve adopted an historian’s motto: Do It Now.  None of my WW II books could be written today as they were at the time, owing to accelerating attrition.  Some of the friends I made in writing Dauntless Dive Bomber became lifelines far downstream, especially two USS Enterprise aviators: Dick Best of Midway fame, and Jig Dog Ramage who led Bombing Squadron 10 in 1944.  None of the contributors remain today. 

Many years later I was privileged to know Douglas engineer Ed Heinemann.  His team had modified the Northrop BT-1 into the SBD-1.  The only thing I was able to tell him is that the holes in the dive brakes and landing flaps were exactly the diameter of a tennis ball.  I only learned that esoteric fact because my younger brother dated a high-school player.

The book not only set the format for my other aircraft histories, but gave me an entry into the professional history world.  When I made my first visit to the Navy’s operational archives in D.C., I was probably a 24-year-old Oregon ranch kid with a journalism diploma and fewer than a dozen magazine credits.  Yet Dr. Dean C. Allard treated me as a colleague, based on our previous correspondence.  He could not have been more welcoming or more supportive.

Four decades later, Dauntless Dive Bomber remains in print, both print and electronically.  That’s how much things have changed since 1976.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Conventional wisdom holds that what is past is prologue.  In that regard, the West’s long-running battle with islamo-fascism has a similar clash still in living memory.

The geopolitical clock was running in 1934.  Despite a Europe wracked by the lingering effects of the 1914-1918 Great War, that summer the five-year countdown to another conflagration ran inexorably onward.  The sands of time draining in history’s hourglass were pressed from above by the weight of an emerging political philosophy: fascism.  It was bound to collide with Western democracies.

Fascism is usually seen as an extreme right-wing, one-party state.  However, fascism shared much with communism since both were highly authoritarian philosophies—presumably populist but in fact antidemocratic--in which national priorities prevailed over rights of the individual. 

A chart of the political spectrum frequently portrays fascism on the far right and communism on the far left, but that is a skewed depiction.  In fact, both belong on the left—communism at the far end--with anarchy properly laid on the far right.  Democracies fall somewhere in between.

Historically, both philosophies are outgrowths of 19th century socialism.  A distinguishing feature is that communism is ostensibly international socialism, while fascism is national socialism.  The best example of such philosophical overlap is the Nazis in Germany—the National Socialist Workers’ Party.

The roots of fascism were Italian national “syndicalism,” evolved from a form of French socialism.  In the turbulent political, economic and social aftermath of WW I, fascism gained strength in Europe.  In Italy around 1920, future dictator Benito Mussolini drew upon both sides.  He denigrated the traditional right as backwards and the left as destructive.  In order to avoid constant turmoil, fascists believed in an extremely strong central government, yielding Mussolini’s “century of authority.” 

After fighting among communists, socialists and anarchists, at least nominally fascist movements took power in Mussolin's Italy in 1922, Adolf Hitler's Germany in 1933, and Francisco Franco's Spain in 1939.

Fascism’s appeal was widespread among many nationalist factions: at least ten other nations followed the Italian and German paths by 1939, in Europe, Asia, and South America.  Other countries sprouted significant fascist movements, including much of the British Commonwealth.  Their emergence reflected growing disaffection with the naiveté and pacifism still evident two decades after the armistice of 1918.

The international “peacekeeping” body, the League of Nations established in1920, had no means of enforcing peace, and quickly descended into irrelevancy. Including civil wars and revolts, more than 40 conflicts on four continents arose during the 1930s, though only about a dozen lasted a year or more.  The most significant were the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) with heavy foreign involvement, and Japan-China (1937-45.) 

Other notable conflicts involved Paraguay-Bolivia (1932-35), Italy-Ethiopia (1935-36), Palestinians versus the British (1936-39), and Finland-Russia (1939-40).

Adolf Hitler came to power as chancellor in 1933 and immediately began expanding the armed forces.  In July 1934 parliament passed legislation making the National Socialists the only legal political party, and the next month President Paul Hindenburg died, leaving Chancellor Hitler as head of state.

Hitler wasted little time proceeding with his agenda.  In October 1934, only nine months after becoming chancellor, he withdrew from the League of Nations by demanding military equality with France and Britain.  After secretly forming the Luftwaffe (partly in Russia) Hitler announced its existence in 1935.

Fascism’s advance did not occur in a vacuum.  In 1933 members of the Oxford Union voted that they would “in no circumstances fight for king and country” because presumably nothing was worth another Great War.  The vote came six years after Cambridge students easily passed a resolution for pacifism.

In March 1936 Hitler seized the Rhineland, a demilitarized zone between France and Germany established after World War I. In two days the crisis passed: Germany remained free to pursue its wider goals.  The upshot set a deadly pattern: the democracies’ perennial unwillingness to challenge aggression. 

Thus emboldened, in 1938 Hitler renounced the Versailles Treaty signed after WW I and ordered his general staff to prepare for full-scale war by 1940.

A native Austrian, Hitler wanted his homeland in German Reich, but the Vienna government declined.  Faced with possible invasion in 1938, Austria sought assistance from Britain and France, who refused. Hitler invaded in March.

Next Hitler set his sights on Czechoslovakia.  He insisted that the Sudetenland—heavily ethnic German—join the Reich.  The Czech government was willing to fight, however poor its chances, but again France and Britain opted for “peace,” declining to support the Czechs.  Naïve Europeans believed Hitler’s previous statement that Sudentenland was “the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe.”  The seal was set in September, and in March 1939 Hitler seized the rest of the nation.

Then in August 1939 Hitler and Stalin astonished the world by signing a mutual nonaggression pact, only three years after the anti-Comintern alliance. The path was clear for Germany to direct its attention against traditional enemies: France and Britain.  Neither had demonstrated any willingness to oppose fascist aggression, convincing Adolf Hitler that pacifism had stripped the democracies of their courage.

Unlike Italy and Germany, Japanese fascism did not produce a dominant individual.  But an amalgam of army, government, and industry leaders pushed an anti-democratic agenda that led to a de-facto fascist state from 1931.

Japan had ten prime ministers through the 1930s, only four being elected.  Emperor Hirohito had ascended the throne in 1926 but sat as head of state rather than head of government.  It was a time of extreme unrest, with army and right-wing factions resorting to assassination on occasion.

In 1931 Japanese forces invaded Manchuria and established a puppet state, Manchukuo.  The League of Nations was incapable of resolving the dispute, though held Tokyo responsible.  Consequently, Japan pressed its military advantage while withdrawing from the league. 

Increasingly aggressive in eastern China, Japan pressed ahead with full-scale war from 1937.  Japan seized Shanghai and Nanking, the Nationalist capital.  In December the rape of Nanking began with an estimated 300,000 Chinese killed or raped.

Thus was set the stage for the Second World War, which conceivably could have been averted had the democracies displayed some intestinal fortitude. 

In the 1930s fascism was ascendant in Europe and Asia.  Today, Islamo-fascism continues its march toward the global caliphate.  Yet in the West, even the phrase “radical Islam” draws venomous responses from the American president and a chorus of liberal feel-gooders.  The West lacks a 21st century Churchill, let alone a Charles Martel, the French leader who repelled Islam’s hordes at Tours in 732.

We live in historic times: we are witness to the decline of Western Civilization, a victim of the virus of political correctness.

Monday, June 20, 2016



If facts matter to you, please read on.

Otherwise, turn to Rolling Stone.

The smoke had barely cleared at the Pulse club in Orlando before the predictable yammering began: blame the tool rather than the perpetrator. 

The call to ban “assault weapons” and inflict other restrictions upon people who have broken no laws was absolutely predictable.  Yet every year we incur 30,000 motor vehicle deaths while nobody advocates banning automobiles—except some extreme Greenies.  So what’s the difference?

Well, first things first:

“Assault weapon” is a phrase used by liberals to delegitimize semi-automatic firearms.

Here’s the fact:

The United States Department of Defense has one gadget officially designated an Assault Weapon.  It’s called SMAW, the Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon.

It’s a rocket launcher.  Enough said? 

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone just published an article listing methods of addressing The Assault Weapon Problem.  Two focused on objects rather than human behavior: reinstituting the largely ineffective Clinton semi-auto ban, and prohibiting “high capacity” magazines.

To quote an attorney friend: “I trust that Rolling Stone has done a cost-benefit analysis, calculating how many lives would be saved by confiscating all those magazines versus how many lives would be lost in the attempt.

“I also have to admire the folks at Rolling Stone for believing so strongly in a principle that they are prepared to die for it.”

National schemes to ban or confiscate stuff have a terrible success record, starting with places like Lexington and Concord in 1775.  Few people still living remember Prohibition, which spurred violent crime sprees in the 1930s, but currently we have the 40-year War On Drugs.  How is that working for you?

Fact is: magazines are simple devices: a metal or plastic box with a spring and a follower.  Ignoring the millions already legally owned, the rapidly evolving 3-D printing technology easily could fill the gap.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that the Pulse atrocity is “the worst shooting in U.S. history.”   (That’s a lie—the U.S. Army murdered 297 Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1900, using small arms and artillery.)  Note, however, that Pulse is far from the worst “killing” or the worst “act of terrorism.”

Non-Gun Mass Murders

For readers who still favor facts over rhetoric:

In 1910 a disgruntled union organizer killed 21 and injured 100 by blowing up the Los Angeles Times building with dynamite. 

Ten years later, on Wall Street, suspected anarchists killed 38 and wounded 143 using a horse-drawn wagon loaded with dynamite. 

Then in 1927 the Bath School bombing in Michigan killed 38 children and six adults—a worse toll than the Sandy Hook shooting.

In an incident bearing similarities to Orlando, in 1990 Julio Gonzalez killed 87 people at a club in New York City, mostly Hondurans celebrating Carnival.  Julio Gonzalez used a plastic bucket with $1 worth of gasoline, and a match.

On April 19,1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168  and injuring 680.  The weapon was a truck loaded with diesel fuel and fertilizer.

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing 2,996 and injuring more than 6,000.  No guns were involved; hijackers used boxcutters to seize the planes.

That was not the first attack on the World Trade Center, though.  In 1993, some Islamists tried to blow up the north tower, killing “only” six, but injured more than 1,000.  The weapon was a fertilizer bomb.

In 2013 the Tsarnaev brothers murdered three people in Boston but injured, maimed, or disfigured 264.  Their weapons were two pressure cookers containing homemade “kitchen table” explosives, ball bearings and nails.

We needn’t limit our survey to the United States.  In 1993 radical islamists killed 33 Turkish intellectuals and others by setting fire to a hotel.

During a largely-forgotten atrocity in barely three months of 1994, at least half a million Rwandans were murdered by tribal rivals mostly wielding machetes.

In 2003 an unemployed South Korean taxi driver started a fire in a South Korean subway, killing 198 people with nearly 150 injured.

In 2014, 33 Chinese were knifed to death in a train station.  Last year fifty were killed in a multi-attacker knife incident in a coal mine.

Do you see a pattern?

People who want to ban guns need to be careful what they wish for.  They think that the basic economic Law of Substitution will lead psychos who cannot get guns to use knives or sticks or rocks or something less lethal.  History shows otherwise.  Psychos without guns kill and injure far more people than those who use firearms.  They substitute things that are impossible to regulate, like gasoline, diesel fuel, plant fertilizer, household bleach, nails and pressure cookers.  

Foreign Firearms Mass Murders

After the June 2015 church attack in Charleston, S.C., Barack Obama said that mass shootings “just don’t happen in other countries.”

That’s a lie—not a mistake—it’s a lie.  And he said it in Paris five weeks after the shooting-bombing attacks that killed 130.


Between 2009 and 2013, the U.S. ranked sixth in fatal rampage shootings per million population.

In 2004, Chechen separatists seized a Russian Federation school and killed 375 people with over 700 wounded.

Near Oslo in 2011 an assassin killed eight people by explosives and 67 by gunfire, injuring over 300.

The two Muslim attacks in Paris killed 147 people in 2015.  The combined toll of wounded was 380. 

If, somehow, authoritarians could confiscate every gun and “high-capacity magazine” in the country, mass violence would get worse, not better, because the substitute for guns is fire and explosives.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but when we hear about mass shootings, we probably should be thinking, “Thank God they only used guns; otherwise it would have been much worse.”

And consider this: if even half of gun-owners have a semi-auto firearm, banning "assault weapons" could turn about 35 million law-abiding, tax-paying Americans into criminals overnight.  Are police officers going to enter the homes of suspected illegal gun-owners to arrest them and confiscate their offending firearms?

Assuming that a semi-auto ban were passed, then what?  Consider that Great Britain and Australia are islands, both with strong gun laws.  Yet firearms still are brought ashore.  In the U.S., boatloads of AKs and ammo from around the world would land on remote stretches of Mexican coastline and reach the U.S. through the same methods used by drug smugglers.

We’ll barely mention the systemic problems that plague any government bureaucracy.  Last year in a test of TSA airport security, over 90 percent of imitation guns and bombs got through.  Furthermore, prohibited individuals purchased guns because of faulty paperwork, including the Virginia Tech and the Tucson killers.

So what’s the answer?

It’s the same as always: armed citizens adequately trained in safety and defensive shooting.  Three Saturday Night Specials could have saved nearly 3,000 people on 9-11.  And it doesn’t require armed citizens—it requires people willing to fight.  On the Belgian train in 2015, four unarmed passengers (three Americans) stopped a mass shooting though the islamist had an AK and a pistol.  Apparently there was no such resistance inside Pulse at 2 a.m. on June 16, although a variety of improvised weapons were available, from pool cues to fire extinguishers.

That noted firearms authority Bill Clinton declared that armed citizens would not stop mass shootings because concealed carriers would hit bystanders.  (Incidentally, soldiers state that Clinton expanded Bush 41’s ban on carrying loaded weapons on base—then came Fort Hood.  That policy has not changed.)  Aside from the fact that cops shoot vastly more bystanders than armed citizens do (New York City budgets millions to compensate NYPD victims every year), consider this: the world’s militaries acknowledge that 1 to 15 percent of battlefield casualties are caused by friendly fire.  The official term is “fratricide.”  So if in stopping a mass murder, a responder hits one or more potential victims —SO WHAT?  That’s vastly better than losing 13 at Fort Hood, 23 at Luby’s, 32 at Virginia Tech, or 49 in Orlando.

In nearly every instance, the survivors of mass shootings had one thing in common—they waited for men with guns to come solve the problem.  Think about that.  Twice.

And specifically for the anti-gunners: Imagine a world with no guns.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  The world was like that once.  Physical strength ruled the planet, and women were grapes to be plucked. 

It was called the Dark Ages. 

Be careful what you wish for.