Saturday, April 09, 2016

Steinbergen

Steinbergen, Germany,  9 April 2016

I spent a long weekend in Steinbergen, Germany, where my father-in-law, Aarol “Bud” Irish, was ambushed by Nazi SS troopers while on a reconnaissance patrol on April 9th, 1945. Three members of his five-man patrol were killed, his driver was wounded, and he was clubbed over the head and left for dead by the Germans. He later received the Silver Star for his heroism after he insisted on returning to the scene guiding an ambulance to rescue his driver and the wounded tankers who had been sent in after his patrol and had their tanks destroyed.

I spent Friday and Saturday (8-9 April) riding my bicycle all around the area, using Bud's letters and a variety of military history references to understand the battle for the Wesergebirge and to try to find the location where the ambush took place. I learned a lot about what happened here from 8-11 April 1945.

















This trip was important to me for several reasons.  For one, I am very interested in military history.  I also love to hike and bike, and a chance to combine military history, hiking and biking in Germany is irresistible.  This place also has a great significance to my family. The events of that day had a profound effect on Bud Irish, and impacted the way he lived his life after the war:

“I can’t explain it, but when you know that because someone else took all the bullets that might otherwise have gotten you, a person feels he just can never do enough to make up for them.”
– Corporal Bud Irish, April 1945

Before I describe my trip, here is a little background: 

The events I was researching here took place from 8-11 April, 1945, in an area known as the “Wesergebirge”, or Weser Hills.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesergebirge ) This is a long, steep, heavily-wooded chain of hills that runs east-west for about 15 miles or so from the Weser River.  It is steep and impassable except at certain passes or gaps in the hills.  If you look at the satellite view on Google Maps you can see it stands out from the more open country to the north and south, effectively dividing the area in two.  On the Google map below, Steinbergen is to the east of where the pointer defaults to, just northeast of the town of Rinteln, and south of where B83 crosses under A2. 

Google Map of Wesergebirge 



The references I started out with were Bud’s letters (published in the book “A Thousand Letters Home” by Bud’s daughter and my wife, Teresa Irish (www.AThousandLettersHome.com ).  He was a corporal in the 102d Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the 102d Infantry Division.  He and his men led the way as the 102d fought their way across Germany.  Bud wrote very detailed descriptions of where he’d been and what he saw, which gave me a good idea where to start.



Bud's recon team in his jeep "Why Worry", April 1944
















I also had excerpts from the book “102d Through Germany”, the divisional history published shortly after the war.  It gave valuable information about the division’s campaigns, including a map of the division’s movements during this time.


Map of the Wesergebirge campaign from "102d Through Germany"














Finally, I had read some local German history on the area that I found on the internet, which made me very optimistic that I could find the spot he wrote about in his letters.  They are in German, but I’ll include the links here just for completeness:

http://www.52gradnord.de/Steinbergen_geschichtl.html

By April, 1945, the Allied armies were driving rapidly through Germany.  German resistance was scattered, but strong in places.  Many thousands of German soldiers were surrendering, but there was still a lot of very tough fighting going on as they hit areas where the Germans had been able to organize a defense. The 102d crossed the Weser River on 9 April 1945 and drove to the east, splitting up and moving on both the north and south sides of the Wesergebirge.  This was some of the toughest country to fight in because of the steep, heavily-wooded hills.

From “102d Through Germany”, 9 April 1945: 

“…a two jeep patrol was ferreting out strong points for CT 406. As Sergeant John H. Davis, Erie Penn, and Corporal Aarol W. Irish, Hemlock, Mich, cautiously headed up the road towards Steinbergen, heavy machine gun fire raked the road from hidden positions…”

From Bud’s letter to his parents dated 12 April 1945:

"It all seems like a bad dream now and the time that went by seemed like years…We had to jump from our jeep when the Germans started shooting with everything they had, and it so happened that right where we stopped were a few rocks to give us protection. The fellows with armored cars did all they could to get us under cover, but no one could move an inch from cover without getting it. My buddy and I laid behind the rocks while bullets hit so close that pieces of stone would hit us and a small piece even hit my cheek. There aren’t words to say how scared we were and how hard we prayed. The only satisfaction I’ve got is to know I hit two of them with bullets from my rifle and saw them fall. Two days later found them still there, dead…”

From Bud’s letter to his fellow veteran Lowell Adelson in 2002: 

“The S.S. must have sighted in on our jeep right away as one of the first bullets hit the front tire and another went thru the steering wheel and Cliff’s right wrist. He jumped out on the left side, I jumped out on the right, and Eldon Case jumped over the back (planned in advance if we were ever hit)… Where I jumped out by the road was a large stone or marker, I’m not sure which, about six inches high and a yard wide. The shooting had stopped and Case crawled over and lay beside me. We hoped Cliff had jumped in the ditch and escaped on the other side. It was all quiet, we had no time to make radio contact. The horror had been over in seconds, and then we looked up over the stone and saw probably 50 - 100 S.S. storm troopers coming down the road toward us. There was an officer in front with a small machine gun. About 25 yards away they spotted us and Eldon Case said, “My God, they’re going to get us” or “they’re going to get me,” I never really knew which. The S.S. officer emptied his machine gun at us and every bullet went into the ground and into Case. We were so close together I could feel them hit. I either buried my face into the dirt, or my guardian angel pushed it there. They slammed Case over the head with a gun butt and then me.”

“From that time on things were a little foggy for me. I sort of remember them searching my pockets and taking the only thing I carried on missions, a folder with the picture of my girl I hoped to marry with my serial number on the back. All was silent. They must have returned to the mountains. Later two 701st buttoned down tanks went by somewhere near. I heard big gunfire in front but didn’t know whose it was, and then all was silent again. Time passed by and I realized the S.S. must have taken my wristwatch. Next that I remember was a sorrowful call for help! I didn’t answer, for sometimes the enemy was known to do that, and when the soldier answered they put a bullet through his head. I finally decided it was real and asked, “Who are you?” He replied, “I’m from the 701st. They blew up our tank, the others are dead and I crawled back here. I’m shot through the belly and bleeding to death.” I told him, “Lie close to the ground, take off your belt, put it over the wound and shut off the blood. Is there anyone else?” Another voice said, “Yes, and I am shot thru the thigh.” I said, “Do what I told the other fellow. I can really run and if I can escape, I promise you, I will come back with an ambulance if I have to steal one.”…

“I don’t know how much time had passed. I started to run, zigzagging like we were taught to do. About half way back to the village and houses, I remember crossing a small bridge over a creek. I jumped from the road landing with a splash. Someone shouted, “Irish.” It was Cliff Vohrer lying in the water with blood flowing from his wrist and coloring the water. I used his belt to stop the blood flow and he wanted to go with me. I told him two of us would never make it, but I would get an ambulance and come back for him and the two other fellows. I had my breath back and took off again on a dead run. Reaching the houses I saw one of our men standing in the doorway. For some reason I didn’t stop running ‘til troops stopped me three or four houses later where we were out of view. Captain Shanks from the 701st listened while I told him all that had happened. Also, more of our recon were there and called up the medics. There was some discussion about sending in an ambulance as it was reported the Germans had killed seven medics in the past 10 days as I recall it. I told them I had made a promise to three wounded men that I would be back with an ambulance if I had to steal one. Some person then asked if I would be willing to go back with them, standing on the running board, waving a medic flag and show them where the wounded men were. I agreed and without a shot being fired by the Germans, we picked up the three men. Then, I don’t remember for sure, but I believe someone shoved a needle in me, loaded me in an ambulance and I woke up sometime at daylight the next morning in the hospital tent…”

“The next days were a blur at best, ‘til I remember Sergeant Erickson telling me I had to get dressed up. He helped me shine my shoes and said the general was coming for inspection the next morning and 100% of the troop had to be there. When they called my name, “Will Corporal Irish please step forward?” I thought they were going to court martial me for something that must have happened that I couldn’t remember. Instead, they pinned a Silver Star on my chest and my living buddies had their picture taken with me.” 



Corporal Aarol "Bud" Irish receiving the Silver Star























“Bill King, Georgia; Aarol Irish, Mich;
Irve Hayes, Mich; Warren Cooley, Mich.
 Buddies throughout WWII. Taken day
Irish received Silver Star for gallantry in action.”
























These letters gave me several clues to finding the location of the ambush.  I needed a place where the road passed by a mountainside headed for Steinbergen.  It needed to be within running/walking distance of another village where the HQ was set up, and should have a little river with a bridge in between. In comparing the descriptions in Bud’s letters with maps of the area, I had narrowed the possibilities down to about three or four places I thought I should look. 

Then I read the German history sites, and my search narrowed dramatically.  They described the defense of Steinbergen in some detail.  To the west of town, the defensive positions were manned by Volksturm troops (Home Guard). According to this account, they were forced to dig fighting positions and were given Panzerfausts (anti-tank rockets), but they all disappeared before the Americans arrived. To the north of the town, the Arensburger pass was defended by “fanatical SS officer candidates from the nearby SS academy at Braunschweig”.  Bingo!  This had to be the place.  The websites even had photos showing the hillside where the defense was set up – a place called the “Hirschkuppe”. B83 runs south past the mountain through the Arensburger Pass  toward the town of Steinbergen.  About 300 meters  south of the Autobahn on B83, on the eastern wide of the mountain, west of the road, is the spot where the SS set up their ambush.

Description in German:

"Die alten Männer Steinbergens, die nicht zur Wehrmacht eingezogen waren, mußten unter Leitung des Steinberger Försters Reinhard, Anfang 1945 am Westhang der Hirschkuppe viele Fichten fällen und diese zu über 2 m langen Stücken zersägen. Daraus wurden drei massive Panzersperren gebaut, eine im Fuchsort an der alten B 238 Richtung Rinteln, eine zweite im Arensburger Paß an der B 83 Richtung Bückeburg (ca. 300 m von der Autobahnbrücke in Richtung Steinbergen der B 83) und eine an der Straße nach Obernkirchen und ins Auetal..."

"...Bei der anderen Panzersperre, die im Arensburger Pass, wurden mehrere amerikanische Panzer durch fanatische junge SS-Soldaten mit Panzerfäusten abgeschossen. Dieser Paß durch das Wesergebirge sollte mit aller Macht verteidigt werden. Dort wurde noch gekämpft, während Bad Eilsen schon längst durch die Amerikaner besetzt war. Am Hang der Hirschkuppe gab es schwere Kämpfe und viele tote deutsche -  25 sind bekannt  -  und eine unbekannte Zahl tote amerikanische Soldaten.“

Translation:  

"At the beginning of 1945, the old men of Steinbergen who hadn't been drafted into the Army had to cut down many trees on the west side of the Hirschkuppe and saw them into pieces over 2 meters long under the direction of Forester Reinhard. From these, three massive roadblocks were built, one in Fuchsort on the old B238 in the direction of Rinteln, a second in the Arensburger Pass on B83 in the direction of Bückeburg (about 300 meters from the Autobahn bridge in the direction of Steinbergen) and one on the road to Obernkirchen and in Auetal..."
 
“...At the other roadblock, the one in Arensburger Pass, several American tanks were destroyed by fanatical young  SS-soldiers with Panzerfausts. This pass through the Wesergebirge was to be defended with all possible strength. There was still fighting there, when Bad Eilsen had already been occupied by American troops.  On the slopes of the Hirschkuppe there was heavy fighting and many dead Germans – 25 are known – and an unknown total of American Soldiers.”

Link to the photos:

http://www.52gradnord.de/hirschkuppe.html#Kaempfe1945

That was the extent of my knowledge when I went to go see what it all looked like on the ground.

I drove up on Thursday (it’s about six hours north of Stuttgart).  My route coincidentally took me to the west, so that I approached the Wesergebirge moving west to east, the same way the 102d would have done.  I passed through the Teutoberger Wald (Forest), another historical place I wish I had time to explore. This was the place where three Roman legions had advanced into Germanic territory in AD 9 to chastise the barbarians.  Instead, they were completely destroyed, and Rome more or less left the Germans alone after that.  Passing through there kind of set the stage for my weekend.

I crossed the Weser River and drove east along the Autobahn, turning off on B83 to go south into Steinbergen.  This was exactly the location that my research indicated the ambush had taken place, so it was a really interesting way to drive into the town for the first time!

I stayed in Steinbergen in the hotel “Steinberger Hof”.  It was very conveniently located just down the road from where I wanted to look.  Fortunately, the food is excellent, as it also seems to be the only restaurant in town!  I got up on Friday morning, had breakfast, and headed up the road toward the Arensburger pass and the Hirschkuppe, hoping to find the spot. 

My bike is a hybrid “Trekker” type bike – kind of a cross between a road/commuter bike and a mountain bike.  It has some mountain bike features like a shock absorber in the front fork and 27-speeds with good low gears, but it definitely does not have mountain bike tires.  German bike paths are mostly paved or gravel, but the footpaths can be muddy, and here I even got off of those.  So it wasn’t too long before the bike was locked to a tree and I was climbing around the hillside on foot.

The area I was looking was on the west side of B83, about 300m south of the Autobahn bridge, as described in the German descriptions of where the SS set up their defenses.  The hillside is very steep in that area, and flattens out a little as you go further south towards town.  I got to the area on the hillside where I thought it was likely that the SS had their positions, then I climbed down to the road to see if I could find a “large stone or marker… about six inches high and a yard wide.”  The road has been widened since 1945 into a four-lane highway, so there was very little chance of finding it.  But I thought it was worth a look. 

I didn't find the stone, but examining the road made it clear why.  The east side of the road (on the left heading into town) drops off quite steeply into low, swampy ground with several ponds.  The former two-lane road most likely followed what are now the northbound lanes. When they widened it to create two new southbound lanes, they would have cut into the hill on the west side, changing the lay of the land significantly.  It now slopes up very steeply from the southbound lanes, and the shoulder of the old two-lane road where Bud and Don Case would have jumped out and crawled behind the rocks is completely paved over.

While I was down on the road looking around at all this, I got an unexpected bonus. There was a road crew doing street repairs right across from where I was standing.  As I stood studying the terrain, looking up and down the road, and consulting my map, one of the workers came over and asked me if I was lost and if he could help.  He thought I was a hiker, and wanted to tell me that it was dangerous to walk on that stretch of road.  When I told him what I was doing there, his face lit up.  He told me that he is interested in the military history of the area, knows a lot about the battles, and has several relevant books in his library at home.  We discussed the details some more, until his coworkers called him back to work. We traded phone numbers and agreed to meet later that evening for a beer.

I looked up and down the road some more, then went back to my bike and rode up the other road that goes under the Autobahn bridge (Arensburger Strasse, L442).  It turns out there is a large house/mansion there (a “Schloss”, which can be anything from a large house up to a real palace).  This one looks abandoned or at least unoccupied, and all the property east of B83 between the two roads south of the Autobahn bridge is part of the grounds and posted no trespassing, so I couldn’t go in.  This was a shame, because there are some ponds and streams in there, and I suspect that the bridge that Bud saw his wounded driver Cliff Vohrer sitting under is probably in there – it would be the logical place to run after getting ambushed from the west side of the road.

One aspect of my morning exploration really pointed up the value of walking the terrain.  Studying the maps and written accounts beforehand, I had been confused about how and where Bud could have run back to the village, if this was in fact the place.  This would have required him to cross the Autobahn, which would be difficult anywhere except where the roads crossed it.  But when I saw it in person, I realized that the entire stretch of Autobahn from just west of B83 to just east of Arensburger Strasse (the road to the east that makes a kind of triangle with the Autobahn) is a huge, high bridge with multiple arches. It would have been very easy to run through the swampy woods around the Schloss and cross under the Autobahn anywhere along this stretch.  I had missed this when looking at the map, although the bridge symbols are there when you look very carefully.  The aerial photo below (from the German website) shows the whole area. I just hadn't made the connection until I saw it in person.  This shows the value of direct reconnaissance, and the importance of what Bud's team was doing.  You can look at maps all day long, but until you go there and see it, you don't really know.

The Autobahn bridge, looking south. Schloss Arensburg is at
 left center, with the Hirschkuppe on the right. The lighter
areas are the cliffs and high ground that were defended by the SS.


















All this only took part of the morning, so I decided to wait to look around anymore until after I’d met with my prospective new  friend.  I rode my bike over to Rinteln, a historic old fortess town on the Weser southwest of Steinbergen.  It was really cool – nearly every building in the old town was several hundred years old, with Fachwerk (exposed wood frame) construction.  It’s what every town in Germany probably looked like before they got plastered by bombs and artillery in WWII and had to be rebuilt.  I had a nice afternoon there, and then rode back to my hotel to meet with my new friend.

He came at about 6:00 PM, and we spent a couple of hours talking about the WWII history and a lot of other stuff.  (Of course, to answer the questions Teresa will undoubtedly ask me, I had to learn his marital status, number of kids, their ages, etc.  Sorry, I didn’t get their names so don’t ask).  ;)   we looked at the books he had brought along, as well as my maps.  He told me a lot of the history of the area and pointed out some things to see, many of which were already on my list.

When it was time for him to go, I offered him the copy of “A Thousand Letters Home” that I had brought along, as a “thank you” for spending the time with me.  He accepted it, but insisted on giving me one of his books in return.  I had already written down the title and author, intending to buy it, but this was even better!  We wrote inside the covers to commemorate the occasion, and he went home to his farm where he collects tractors and works on restoring the Fachwerk house (See, Teresa, I did pay attention to something besides guns and military history!).  J

The book is called “Damals” (“Back Then”), a history of the Second World War between Teutoburger Forest, Weser River, and Leine.  It is perfect – very specific to this area, and to the period in question. 




















I look forward to reading the whole thing, but I zeroed in on those passages that directly relate to my quest, and learned something very interesting that cleared up a point that I had found confusing.  The 102d Division map shows an axis of advance moving eastward directly down the spine of the Wesergebirge.  On 9 April  It stops at the Arensburger pass, then shows further progress east on 10-11 April.  But for the other descriptions to make sense, Bud’s patrol had to be coming in from the north, meaning they’d advanced on the terrain north of the Autobahn or perhaps on the Autobahn itself.  I finally decided that the arrows on the map were not exactly accurate, but showed the general direction of movement.

What the book “Damals” made clear to me was something I didn’t know before – the 102d Infantry was *not* the first U.S. division to fight through this area.  The 84th Division had already passed by on the north, and had then moved on as the 102d moved in.  From pp 137-138:

“Der Arensburger Pass blieb noch weitere Tage uneinnehmbar. Die 84. US-Inf.-Div., war nach Hanover weitergezogen. Einheiten der mit Sauberungen des Hinterlandes bauftragten 102. US-Inf.-Div. sollten sich mit dieser “harten Nuss” weiterbeschaeftigen. In der Nacht von 10. Zum 11. April wurde Artillerie eingesetzt….”

Translation: “The Arensburger pass couldn’t be taken for several more days. The 84th US Infantry Division was ordered on toward Hanover. The 102d US Infantry Division, charged with cleaning out the rear areas, had to take over cracking this “tough nut”. In the night from 10-11 April, artillery was brought into action…”

So - The U.S. 5th Armored Division and 84th Infantry Division had crossed the Weser River on 7 April and begun fighting their way east.  They had moved quickly, bypassing strong points of enemy resistance.  The 102d came in behind and had the unenviable job of finding and clearing these out.  Sometimes euphemistically called “mopping up”, this is actually very dangerous work.  This is exactly what the division history said Bud’s patrol was doing as they approached the still-defended Arensburger pass.  They found the strong point the hard way, and the next couple of days saw heavy combat in the area as American artillery pounded the town and surrounding hills, and the infantry and armor pushed through.

The book has a lot of photos, and these two were especially interesting and relevant:

"This Ami (American) quickly reads a letter from
home, to raise his morale at the last minute. Two
hours later he crossed the Weser River with his unit."

















This photo shows vehicles crossing the Weser River
on a pontoon bridge.



















Friday had been a very interesting day!  I went to bed with big plans for Saturday.

On Saturday 9 April (today), I got up and took an ambitious (for me, anyway) bike ride east along the Wesergebirge toward a local castle called the “Schaumburg”.  According to my new German friend, “there is a town in Illinois that was founded by people from this town”.  I confirmed that I knew the town, and told him that my friends and I used to go there and hang out in Woodfield Mall (when it was just about the *only* mall around – Hawthorne hadn’t been built yet and Old Orchard was boring – Woodfield was the place to go).

So I visited the castle at Schaumburg, which was interesting, and then continued on down onto the flat countryside south of the Wesergebirge to the town of Hessisch Oldendorf.  This town was also an older town with a lot of Fachwerk buildings, although substantial numbers of newer buildings told me it probably was heavily damaged in the war.  It was doubly interesting from a military history standpoint.  First, when the 102d Infantry took Hessisch Oldendorf on 11 April, that was considered the end of the battle for the Wesergebirge.  They then moved on to other areas, and eventually to occupation duty.  Oldendorf, like Rinteln, was planned and built as a fortified city by the Counts of Schaumburg in the 13th century.  It holds the distinction of having been the first town in history to have to have been taken in a battle in which artillery was the deciding factor (28 June, 1633, during the 30 Years War).

I rode back to Steinbergen across the low country by the Weser River, enjoying the beautiful sunny April weather.  It was cool enough to be very comfortable riding, but with plenty of green, lots of buds on the trees, and birds singing, it really felt like Spring.

When I got back to Steinbergen, I decided to visit the cemetery, as I understood that some of the German soldiers who had died defending the pass were buried there.  My friend said he thought maybe there were also Amerians there. There were a number of graves, some with names and several that said “Unbekannte Deutsche Soldat” (Unknown German Soldier).  Most had dates of April 1945. I didn’t see any American graves, though. I sat there for awhile in their silent presence, reflecting.



















After visiting the cemetery, I rode back to the Arensburger Pass and walked the terrain again, partly just to be there on 9 April, and partly because I wasn’t satisfied with the photos I’d taken on Friday.  I took some photos and a video of the area.


 
This the site where I believe the SS had their ambush
position set up.  You can just see the Autobahn bridge
 in the background, looking north on B83.
 
This is the view looking south down the road towards
Steinbergen. There could have been more defensive positions
anywhere on the right side of the road all the way to town.




360 degree panoramic video of the ambush site. (YouTube link)

(Note: In the video narration, I mentioned that I thought I was about 200 meters south of the Autobahn.  Looking at the map and aerial photos afterwards, I believe it was closer to 300).

After making the video, I made a stunning discovery.  On the ground very close to where I was standing, I found a small stone marker about four inches square, with a cross carved in the top.  It is a different type of stone than that which naturally occurs in the area – it actually looks like rough, unpolished marble.  It is also completely immovable – it only sticks up a couple inches above the ground but feels as if it’s very deeply buried.  It is definitely a deliberate marker – almost certainly marking the place where a German soldier (or soldiers) died.





































This confirmed to me beyond a doubt that I had found the spot where the German defenders had set up their positions.  (You can actually see this marker just left of center in the second photo above, but I had not yet noticed it). Who knows – this could even be for the German soldiers that Bud wrote about having killed before he and Don Case ran out of ammunition and were overrun.  In any case, this one simple stone affected me as much or more than anything else I had seen all weekend.

It was a very eerie feeling to stand on that spot and imagine the hell that had taken place there 71 years earlier between the young men of two opposing armies.  It’s one thing to read books and look at maps, but there’s something about actually walking the ground and knowing “this is where it happened” that makes you really pause and think.  It’s one of the reasons I like to visit historic places. 

I’m glad I came here.  I never got to meet Teresa’s dad, but this makes me feel a little closer to him somehow.  RIP, Bud Irish, and thank you to the Greatest Generation.















Mood:  Thoughtful
Music:  Silence

Sunday, February 07, 2016

REFORGER

In my own private version of REFORGER ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_Reforger ), I have returned to Germany one last time before I retire from the Army.  I am working at USEUCOM in Stuttgart, and enjoying Germany as much as I can during my time off. Since I returned in October, I’ve thought from time to time about making blog entries, but never seemed to find the time.  I’ve felt the urge more and more lately, and so here I am, to make another effort.

One thing that I think seems to mitigate against taking the time to compose blog entries is Facebook.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time on it, sometimes several times a day.  It is very easy to enter quick comments and to share articles and links, which seems to satisfy some of the urge to be “out there” saying something.  But when you get down to it, it is fairly superficial, and does not really permit the development of more complete trains of thought.  While I value the newsfeed aspect of FB, and enjoy reading and sharing articles written by others, I also enjoy writing my own.  So I’m going to try to maintain a better balance between the two, and start writing again a bit more regularly.

Germany is an interesting place.  In many ways, of course, it’s still the same country I came to know and love in my youth in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but it’s also changing rapidly.  The most immediately noticeable change is the much wider inclusion of English words in everyday life.  I noticed this when I was here in 2010, and it’s even more pronounced (no pun intended) now. 

Another big change I’ve noticed this time is the very high prevalence of foreigners here.  Unlike when I’ve lived here previously, I have found that it is almost unheard-of to be served at a restaurant by a native German.  I speak German fluently, and can spot accents well.  There are people here from all over Europe, particularly eastern Europe and the Balkans, and they seem to have taken over most of the service jobs.  I guess this is not unlike the situation at home in the USA, but it means I have even fewer opportunities to speak with actual Germans.  When I was here in the 1980’s I made friends with some people through the Wirtin at the local bar where I spent a lot of time after work.  But here, at least so far, my only encounters with Germans have been short casual conversations in passing.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to change that or not in the short time I’ll be here.  But in any case, I plan to travel around and see and do as much as I can while I’m here.  And when it seems as if I have something interesting to say, I’ll do my best to write about it.

Mood:  Happy
Music:  BAP, Lebenslänglich

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Ancient Wisdom

"Si vis Pacem, para Bellum"

    - Vegetius


"It is most meet we arm us 'gainst the foe;
For peace itself should not so dull a kingdom,
Though war nor no known quarrel were in question,
But that defences, musters, preparations,
Should be maintain'd, assembled and collected,
As were a war in expectation."

      - William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 2 Scene IV

Saturday, June 07, 2014

D-Day at the Range

I commemorated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day by going to the range and shooting two of my WWII firearms - an M1 carbine and an M1911A1 pistol.  It seemed a fitting tribute, and it was fun as well.  I was kind of surprised to be alone at the range - I expected at least a few people to be there.  But I had the place to myself. 

First I shot the M1 carbine.  This one is the first one I ever bought - picked up at a gun show in Michigan for about $120 sometime in the 1980's (they go for many hundreds or thousands of dollars today, depending on the variety).  It's a "mixmaster", meaning that it has parts from a variety of manufacturers - it's far from factory original.  It's also my "beater" carbine - I used to carry it in my Jeep and keep it in the campsite when I'd take the kids camping.  It's not pretty, but it's a good shooter and a credible defensive weapon.


M1 carbine.  This one was manufactured by the Inland Division of General Motors in November 1943
 

The M1 carbine has gotten a bad rap over the years - it has been denigrated as being inaccurate and having poor stopping power.  I think this is because it can't compare to the M1 Garand in accuracy, range, or stopping power.  But it was never intended to replace the battle rifle.  It was intended to replace or supplement the pistol for officers and support troops who didn't need to lug around the full-size M1 Garand.  As a truck driver in an Engineer Battalion, my Uncle Roy most likely carried one of these carbines.  It is well-suited for its intended purpose. 

The .30 Carbine is a hot cartridge - it has more energy at 100 yards than a .357 Magnum has at the muzzle.  The typical round-nose full metal jacket bullet is not the most effective man-stopper, although it's adequate.  With soft-point or hollow-point bullets it's very effective out to 200 yards or more. It's also accurate, although the bullet doesn't buck the wind very well.  I've shot a carbine in highpower rifle matches at 200 yards and turned in respectable scores. 

Today I shot it offhand at 100 yards on both a standard service rifle target (SR-1) and also against a B-27 silhouette (normally used for pistol shooting, but it's a life-size target and thus good for any range).

I shot a total of 60 rounds of surplus Lake City .30 Carbine ammo (headstamped LC-71), loading ten rounds per 15-round magazine. After some warming up on the service rifle target, I fired at the silhouettes.  With a low center-mass hold, I turned in an 89 on the first ten shot string (89%) and a 251-1X (83.6%) on a 30-shot rapid fire string that included three magazine changes.  Not spectacular, but respectable (and fun).  I'd have shot it more (I took 200 rounds with me) but I wanted to make sure I got to shoot my pistol as well, so I called it a day for rifle shooting.

All in all, I feel well-armed with an M1 carbine.  It's no wonder to me that LTC John George called it an "ace weapon of the war" in his book "Shots Fired in Anger".

On the pistol range, I fired my standard-issue 1943-vintage Colt 1911A1, using a B-27 silhouette target at a range of ten yards.   I used standard .45 ACP ("Automatic Colt Pistol") 230 gr. round nose full metal jacket ("hardball") ammunition, identical to military issue.  This is the same kind of pistol I was issued when I was on active duty in the 1980's (although I never had a Colt - mine were Remington-Rands and an Ithaca).  I even broke out my old pistol belt/holster rig to carry it in.

The model 1911 .45 also got a bad rap in some circles.  When I was at U.S. Army Officer Candidate School in 1981, we fired the 1911A1 for "familiarization".  After a (very) brief class on the operation, disassembly and assembly of the pistol (and no marksmanship training whatsoever), they walked us up to a firing point, gave us a box of 50 rounds of ammo, and had us fire at a silhouette about seven yards away.  I remember them saying "we bet you can't hit it very many times".  Their objective seemed to be to convince us that the pistol was useless.  Given the dismal non-training they provided, it was.  I wasn't impressed at the time, but later I taught myself to shoot a pistol by reading books and magazine articles and shooting thousands of rounds in practice.  Not surprisingly, I found that the 1911 is very capable in trained hands.

In today's session I fired two rapid fire strings of 21 shots each (three 7-round magazines).  On one string I scored 196-4X (93.3%) and on the other I scored 200-8X (95.2%).  I was impressed with the handling and accuracy of the as-issued military pistol. 

1943-vintage Colt M1911A1
 

The .45 ACP is a handful, but with good technique (including a firm grip and solid follow-through) it will do the job.  There's a good reason it was our standard service pistol from 1911 until the mid-1980's!

I love to shoot, and will use just about any occasion as a reason to go to the range.  But today's trip really was intended to commemorate and honor those who staked their lives on these weapons 70 years ago.  As I walked back to the firing line from scoring my targets, I found myself trying to imagine what it must have been like to have to advance over those beaches in the face of enemy fire.  Although I have been a soldier for over 30 years, I have to admit that I don't know what gives men the ability to do that. I have been fortunate never to have had to actually enter combat, but I have the deepest respect for those who have, under whatever circumstances. 

Today's experience handling and firing the same weapons that American soldiers used in Normandy helped me to feel a little closer to them and their experience.  I am privileged to be the temporary caretaker of these historic firearms.  Someday they will pass on to other hands, carrying with them the memory of those who fought to preserve our freedom.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Remembering D-Day

30 years ago today I was in Normandy observing the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, after a three-week bicycle ride across France from the German border. Today after work I'll be at the Cross Creek Rifle and Pistol Club shooting an M1 Carbine and Colt M1911A1, in honor of those who staked their lives upon these weapons 70 years ago.

I remember my uncle, Private Roy Jennings, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He would never talk about the war, but years after his death my aunt sent me a list of dates and places he had been during his service. The entry for 6 June, 1944 was Colville-sur-Mer, France, i.e. Omaha Beach.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/37th_Engineer_Battalion_(United_States)

Wherever you are and whatever you do today, please remember those who risked everything to defeat tyranny and defend freedom.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Warrior Passes

I just learned today that another of my heroes has passed away.  Major R.O. "Dick" Culver, USMC (Ret.) was well-known in the military shooting community.  For many years, he and his wife Gloria have maintained a website that became a vibrant community and a valuable source of information on military firearms.  I found it to be indispensable when I was new to the world of military arms shooting and collecting.  I had always hoped to meet the major someday, but it was not to be.  He was a true American Patriot who served his country and his community faithfully and well. Thank you for your service, Major Culver.  R.I.P.

Here is Major Culver's obituary, with links to his web page and permanent online memorial at the bottom:

A Warrior Passes

Major Richard O. Culver, Jr. USMC (Ret)
April 9th, 1936--February 24th, 2014

Major Richard O. Culver, Jr., USMC, (Ret) known to all as “Dick”, passed on to Sky Six on Monday evening, February 24th, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Dick was often known as “the Jouster” because he fearlessly addressed any topic, whether military or political, with gusto. He and his wife, Gloria, hosted the website “Culver’s Shooting Page--Gun Talk”, and served as the Sniping/Countersniping contributing editor to Soldier of Fortune.

Dick had the distinction of being the first child born on Alcatraz Island (4-9-1936). His father was a lieutenant in the guard section, and he and his wife lived in the family quarters on the island. His father, LtCol. Richard O. Culver, USMC (Ret), was also a Marine, and fought in the “Banana Wars” and served in China. Dick enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and after his enlistment attended college at Virginia Military Institute (1954-58) majoring in physics. After graduation he received a commission in the Marine Corps. A Force Recon Marine, his later combat experience occurred in Vietnam where he served as a company commander in an infantry battalion. While serving as skipper of H Co., 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines in Vietnam, Dick was awarded the Silver Star for actions that occurred on July 21st, 1967 during a firefight with a North Vietnamese Army company. Dick exposed himself to fire several times, rallied his Marines, coordinated fire and medevacs, called in artillery and air support, and forced the enemy to break contact after suffering numerous casualties.

After Vietnam, it was decided to form a permanent Scout/Sniper program in the Marine Corps instead of losing the skills as had happened after past wars when sniper programs were disbanded as soon as the war ended. Major Culver helped form, and commanded, the first USMC Scout-Sniper Instructor School, formed at Quantico. His senior NCO was famed Marine Corps sniper GySgt Carlos Hathcock. Also playing a key part in the organization and logistics of the school was Major E. James Land, who is now Executive Secretary of the NRA, and served as Hathcock’s commander in Vietnam when Land established the 1st Marine Division Sniper School near Da Nang.

Major Culver is survived by his wife, Gloria, of Cour d’Alene, and his son James R. Culver of Dothan, Alabama. Dick will be sorely missed by all.

Internment will be at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

Culver's Shooting Page

Permanent Online Memorial and Life Legacy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is the All-Volunteer Force worth?

The following article was published on the website "War on the Rocks".  It is a very thoughtful and cogent article on the future of the All-Volunteer Force in an era of fiscal austerity.

http://warontherocks.com/2013/11/thoughts-on-the-all-volunteer-force-from-section-60-of-arlington-national-cemetery/

War on the Rocks is a platform for analysis, commentary, and debate on foreign policy and national security issues through a realist lens. It features articles and podcasts produced by an array of writers with deep experience in these matters: top notch scholars who study war, those who have served or worked in war zones, and more than a few who have done it all.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Back to School


The U.S. Army War College
Saturday 16 February 2013
0830

Last summer I started posting to my blog again after a long hiatus, and then stopped as abruptly as I had started.  What happened?

The answer is that I went back to school, specifically the U.S. Army War College.

In October of 2011, I had the opportunity to apply for admission to a senior service college (SSC).  The SSC system includes the four service war colleges, the National War College, the Joint Advanced Warfighting School, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Attendance at one of these colleges is the culminating professional military education (PME) experience for a military officer. Admission is determined by a competitive board selection process, and frankly I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to study at one.  But I decided to apply, and in late January of 2012 the board results were published and I received an acceptance notice to the U.S. Army War College Distance Education Program. 

One year ago today, on 16 February 2012, I sent in my acceptance.  My life was about to change substantially, although at the time I really didn’t appreciate the magnitude of what I had gotten myself into.

The U.S. Army War College is located at Carlisle Barracks near Harrisburg, PA. They have a ten month resident program and a two year distance education program. Completion of either of these programs results in the award of a Master of Strategic Studies degree.

U.S. Army War College Website: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/about/aboutUs.cfm

The distance education program is organized into a series of discrete courses, each of which has a specific theme. Most are presented online, and last approximately two months.  There are also two summer resident courses, each of which lasts two weeks.  Our class will graduate after the second resident course in July 2014.

The first year courses are:

     Introduction to Strategic Leadership Education
     Strategic Leadership
     National Security Policy & Strategy
     War & Military Strategy
     Regional Issues & Interests
     Strategic Leadership in a Global Environment

The school uses a variety of instructional methods, although it is primarily based on directed reading. Each course has some sort of participatory online graded exercise as well as one or more papers or exams by which we are evaluated. 

We had an orientation weekend in May, and the first course started in July.  So right about the same time that I was feeling energetic and optimistic about being able to maintain my blog again, I started into a rigorous and time-consuming academic program.

When I signed up, I had already had substantial experience with the Army’s online distance education, as that is how I completed the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Intermediate Level Education (ILE) in 2006-2008.  I thought this would be a similar experience, but I was very wrong!

Whereas ILE was completely self-paced, the War College is highly structured and run on a tight schedule. The course opens (online materials become available) on a certain date, and there are published dates for submitting assignments and for mandatory participation in online forums. The reading lists are extensive, and consist of a variety of articles from contemporary journals, public documents, military manuals, selections from textbooks, and classic books on military history and strategy.  Because I have a fairly extensive personal library, some of these books were already on my shelves, but most of the material has been new to me.  The program is very interesting and challenging, but it has completely changed the rhythm and structure of my life.  In order to stay on top of the work, I have to spend 2-3 hours per night as well as substantial time during most weekends either reading or working on the assignments.  The rest of my life has been relegated to the sidelines. It has, quite literally, turned my life upside-down.

I still manage to squeeze in some shooting now and again, but there’s been almost no time at all to develop match loads for my rifle shooting or to practice as much as I’d like.  I’m lucky to be able to make it to our monthly vintage rifle match or perhaps an NRA match, and I hardly ever go out to shoot just for fun.  Not quite what I expected when I joined the Cross Creek Rifle & Pistol Club last year!

Teresa has been very understanding and supportive, but of course it’s impacted us as well. Our long-distance relationship had been sustained by long hours on the telephone talking and working together on book-related projects.  Now I’m an absentee husband, not only physically but to a great extent mentally as well.  I’ve almost completely abdicated my ATLH business manager responsibilities with the exception of periodic website updates, and instead of long hours on the phone, we talk while I’m on my daily drive home from work and to say a quick “good night” before bed.  We’re still trying to see each other every 4-6 weeks, but now the visits have to be timed to take War College assignments and due dates into account. This is a four-day weekend for me, but as I have three papers due next week it’s hardly a holiday, and she won’t be coming here until next week after I’ve turned them in.

If the material was less interesting or the program less well run, I probably would not have stayed enrolled this long. But it is fascinating and intellectually challenging, and the quality of the instruction is first-rate. The faculty and my fellow students are very impressive, and interacting with them keeps me on my toes.  Additionally, I am finally beginning to feel like I’ve got a handle on how to manage the workload, and am feeling somewhat less stressed than I have felt for most of the past seven months.

So as I close in on the end of my first year as a War College student, I am glad I chose to do it, and I’m beginning to believe my own constantly-repeated mantra that “it will be worth it when I’m done”.

Meanwhile, for those few people out there who might occasionally look at my blog and wonder where I went – now you know.  I’m still here, but I am otherwise occupied.  Perhaps now that I’ve broken the ice (again) I’ll find the time to write about something here now and then.  Or maybe I’m just being overly optimistic (again)…

Mood:  Optimistic  J
Music:  Georg Phillip Telemann – Concerto for Oboe, Strings, & Harpsichord Continuo in D Major

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Home on the Range

Saturday 23 June 2012
0600
I love to shoot rifles and pistols. I collect them for reasons of technical and historical interest, and I love to shoot them for fun and relaxation.  Since I was mobilized in September of 2006, I have had very limited opportunities to get out and pursue this passion.  One of the attractions of coming back the United States was that I would once again have the chance to shoot regularly.
While stationed at Fort McPherson, GA for three months at the beginning of last year, I found a local range and did a small amount of pistol shooting. It was expensive and inconvenient, however, and because I was living in a hotel I only had a couple of my firearms and very little equipment. I was really looking forward to moving here to Fort Bragg, because I thought there would be ample opportunities to shoot right on post – ranges, rifle and pistol leagues, etc. It turned out not to be nearly as convenient as I had thought it would be, but since arriving here in April 2011 I have managed to get out a few times – certainly much more than I was able to do previously.
The only range on Fort Bragg that is open to privately-owned firearms is not very convenient to use.  It’s only open until 1700 daily.  I’ve gone out there on work days during lunch a couple of times, but it takes 30 minutes to drive there and set up, and the same amount of time to break down and get back to the office.  So the only way it works at all is if I’m willing and able to take an extra-long long lunch break.  I went out once on a Saturday, and there were 15 people waiting in line for an open firing point.  Since they only have a 100-yard rifle range, and don’t even allow shooting from the prone position, this was decidedly non-optimal.
I did find a local rifle and pistol club that has regular matches that are open to the public, and I started going to rifle matches there last year.  It’s called the Cross Creek Rifle and Pistol club:
Located about ten miles south of Fayetteville, it’s 17 ½ miles by road from where I live. They have several covered outdoor ranges for rifle and pistol, with rifle firing points out to 300 yards.  Most importantly to me, their matches are open to the public and posted on their website so I was able to go shoot there.  I started going to as many matches as I could get to last year, although it was challenging because due to our work on “A Thousand Letters Home” I had very little free time at all. Every moment doing anything other than working on the book sort of felt like it was stolen time, and like it was putting us in danger of missing our self-imposed deadline.  Nonetheless, even during that intense period of focused activity, I managed to get out and shoot a few times and to get to know some club members who run the matches.

This year I made a concerted effort to get out to their matches, especially the Vintage Rifle matches, and actually got out there a few more times than I did last year – enough to be able to talk to someone there about sponsoring me for membership.

This club is organized very similarly to other clubs of which I’ve been a member – in order to become a member you have to be invited and sponsored by an existing member. First you have to go shoot with that member so they can observe that you know what you’re doing and have safe shooting habits. Then you have to attend a safety class and range orientation. You have to be nominated for membership, go to a club meeting, introduce yourself, and be voted in by the existing members. I was finally able to pass all these hurdles and join the club last week.

This is HUGE for me, because now I am no longer limited to attending the scheduled matches or arranging to shoot with a club member when he happens to be out on the range.  I can go there anytime during the club’s open shooting hours, let myself in, set up my targets, and shoot to my heart’s content at my own pace.  And the shooting hours are by far the most liberal of any club of which I’ve ever been a member - they are open for shooting every day from 30 minutes prior to sunrise until 30 minutes after sundown, with the exception of Sundays, when there is no shooting permitted until 11 AM. 
The membership meeting was interesting. They meet once a month on Tuesday night.  They have dinner at 6:00 PM (fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, biscuits, corn, pudding, and sweet tea), which is a very nice touch. They start the business meeting at 7:00.  There is no clubhouse at their club, so they borrow the use of a building at a local conservation club.  I don’t remember the name of this other club (which is just as well). 
When I entered the clubhouse, the first thing I saw was a pair of stuffed animals, which is pretty typical for a conservation club.  Then I saw the Confederate battle flag draped along the wall.  Since I’m in the South, this is not in itself unusual.  Turning around, however, I saw that on another wall was a prominently-displayed picture of General Robert E. Lee.  “Prominently displayed” in this case is a bit of an understatement – it might not be too much of an overstatement to call it a “shrine”. Hanging at intervals around the room were the various national flags of the Confederate States of America, and also the 1861-1865 version of the state flag of North Carolina.  The dais had a sign reading “Sons of Confederate Veterans”. I felt a little bit like I had felt when I visited the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond back in the 1980’s, and I kept hearing the song “I’m a Good Old Rebel” playing in my mind. In any case, I definitely knew I was in the South, with a capital “S”. 
Now, I don’t suppose there’s anything really wrong with nor sinister about this, in itself  – I don’t know the people whose clubhouse it is, and they could be perfectly nice folks who just keep the historical memories of their heritage alive. But the symbols of the Confederacy have become so associated with racial hatred in many people’s minds that it was a little difficult not to feel out of place, despite the fact that the people I was actually there meeting with had nothing to do with it and went out of their way to say that this was “not them”.  The funny part was that I had come very close to wearing my “Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners” shirt from Camp Perry 2003, which has a prominent depiction of the State of Michigan on the back.  If any of the members of the conservation club that owns the building had been there, they might have run me off their property as a “damn Yankee”.  J 
Seriously, though, the Cross Creek Rifle and Pistol Club members could not have been more gracious and welcoming.  A friend of mine from work was also being sponsored for membership the same evening. We each got up and introduced ourselves, and told a little about our backgrounds. Then they voted to admit us to the club. They proceeded with the club business, and broke up around 9 PM or so. 
Last Sunday I went out to the club on my own for the first time, and I have to say that it was really awesome finally to be able to just go out, set up, and shoot at my own pace, on my own terms.  I have had so many things I need to do and no real opportunity to do them.  I spent the day determining the zero settings for the new barrel on my M1 Garand in the various shooting positions, so that I’ll be prepared for the next match. (different post, if I can get the time).
So, I am “finally* a member of a shooting club again.  It makes me feel that much more settled and at home here.  I look forward to taking advantage of the opportunity simply to head out and shoot casually for a couple hours after work or on the weekend when I have time. It is very relaxing for me, and will serve as a very effective venue for regular “mental health breaks”. 
Mood: Happy
Music: Silence (maybe I should have played “Home on the Range”).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fast Forward

Fast Forward
Friday, 11 May 2012
2030

Recently I’ve been getting a number of positive comments on my blog posts about Kuwait, Qatar and the deployment/redeployment process.  It’s nice to know that some of the information is still useful to other people as they go through the experience themselves. This blog has been moribund since I returned from overseas, but more and more often recently I’ve had the thought “I should make a blog entry about that”, so I think it’s time to start posting again.  I probably won’t be posting as often as I did when I was deployed, for a variety of reasons.  But my life is still an excellent adventure, and there are parts of it I’d like to share.

How do you “catch up” on a blog that hasn’t had a new post in over a year?  I think the answer is: you don’t, not really.  But so much has happened in the past year that I have to say at least something before I start in again. There are a few things in particular that I want to cover, at least one of which deserves to be treated in some detail. So where to start?  It’s probably best to start right where I left off, after a little detour into the past from before my last post in April 2011.

When I wrote about demobilizing at the CRC in late 2010, I mentioned my girlfriend.  Well, now she’s my wife. When we first started dating, she made me promise not to talk about her in my blog, as she is a very private person and was apprehensive about how open and public it was. Now, for reasons I will go into a bit further down, her life is more public than mine ever was, so I think it’s OK to write about us here. 

I met Teresa Irish on June 9th, 2009 on a Delta flight from Detroit to Atlanta when I was returning to Qatar after R&R leave. She was a corporate executive who travelled nearly every week for work, and on this flight we were seated across the aisle from each other.  I was in uniform, and she was feeling sentimental about the soldiers going off to war. She is a very caring, empathetic person, but she was especially sensitive to seeing soldiers going to war because her father had been a veteran of World War II.  After his death, she had discovered a trunk full of his war memorabilia, including nearly a thousand letters that he had written home to his fiancée and family during the war.  She had been so moved by the letters that she decided to publish them in a book, and was working on it at the time we met on the plane. She started the conversation by asking me “So, are you headed home or headed out?”  I told her I was headed back to the Middle East to finish my tour. We talked for the entire flight, exchanged email addresses, and kept up a correspondence while I was deployed. 

When I came home from that deployment, we started dating.  We continued to date while I was stationed in Germany. She visited me there, and we travelled around Germany as well as to Switzerland and the Czech Republic.  It was pretty cool – how many people get to conduct their courtship while traveling through Europe?  I asked her to marry me a bunch of times, but she didn’t seem to think I was serious.  Finally on New Year’s Eve 2011, I convinced her to say “yes”.   J

In March 2011, someone asked her about her progress on the book.  After giving her usual answer of “Well, it’s coming along but I don’t know when it will be done”, I was struck by how stressed she got whenever someone asked her about it.  It had been such a happy subject before, and was in fact the reason we had met and “clicked” in the first place. It seemed a shame that it had become such a burden to her.  I suggested, and (after some persuasion) she agreed that we would finish it together and surprise her family with it at our wedding in October.

So that’s what I did last year.  After I got to Fort Bragg in April, nearly every free moment we had was spent working to finish the book.  We learned a lot in six months!  She had spent a lot of time and effort trying to get publishers interested in the manuscript, with no success (which is completely the norm in that industry). We decided “to heck with them” and started her own publishing company, ATLH Publications. 

The amount of work involved in publishing a book is staggering – I have a whole new respect for writers and editors now.  While she finished writing the introduction and closing chapters, I worked on the technical details and learning the mechanics of getting the book published.  We edited the text together. We chose about a hundred photographs from the several hundred that she had found in the trunk and from other sources. We had them scanned, cropped and formatted them, and developed captions from the information on the back of each photo. We collected historical information for contextual notes from a variety of sources.  We developed several appendices as well as a glossary of military terms. We spent countless hours going over the layout of each page to make sure they looked right. We worked with a graphic designer to create the cover. We started a website to publicize and sell the book. And finally, we printed pre-publication proofreading copies just in time to unveil the book at our wedding in October. We presented the first copy to her mother.  J



The Cover of "A Thousand Letters Home"


We went to Idaho on our honeymoon, and spent much of our time proofreading the book and planning for the future. Over the next couple of months we finished editing and arranging for the production of the first print run.  We really wanted the book to be available in time for Christmas, and it was delivered just in time for us to get the pre-ordered copies in the mail by mid-December.

You can read more about the book (and buy a copy) at the website:

www.AThousandLettersHome.com

Since publication, we have both been very busy with our regular work and with managing the book activities. Teresa has found that she really enjoys speaking to groups about “the journey of the letters”. It is such a compelling story of love, faith, and perseverance in the face of adversity that people respond to it very emotionally. She has now retired from her corporate career and will be spending her time on speaking engagements and other outreach activities, developing the themes in the book and sharing its inspiring, life-affirming message with a variety of audiences.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. The events of the past year have changed my life, and we’re just getting started.   It’s truly an excellent adventure!

Mood: Happy
Music: Nena, “(Du Bist Mein) Geheimnis”
http://www.nena.de/musikvideo/videos
http://www.nena.de/musikvideo/lyrics/lyrics/1881