Memorial Day 2017: Remembering A Solemn Duty

Thinking in retrospect the other day about my remarks to family members at Wednesday’s B Company Memorial Dedication, the below photograph came to mind.  Showing Marines in a makeshift chapel service in late February 1969 at a northern firebase—C-ration and ammunition boxes serving as pews and pulpit and a CH-53 making a delivery in the background—the photograph is a powerful statement in its own right.

But something more specific caught my eye as I stared at the image in the Navy Times I had been leafing through  late one afternoon that February. I was relaxing with the latest issue in my apartment after a day of language school classes at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.

I realized that the figure nearest the camera, in the first occupied “pew,” was Lt. Lee Roy Herron, a Marine I had met at DLI.  Unlike me, Lee Roy had left Basic School for six months of Vietnamese language training at Monterey before going to join the war. I’d had my 13 months in Vietnam and was enjoying the challenge of learning a new language (Chinese Mandarin) and loving the Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur territory of California.

Lee Roy (a graduate of Texas Tech in Lubbock) and his wife Danielle and I had become friends. They were a deeply religious, relatively newly wed couple. He was a determined Marine, anxious to get to Vietnam, but also eager to learn whatever this veteran of the theater might have been able to teach him.

As I marveled at the image, the telephone rang.  The voice at the other end identified himself as a Marine captain calling from Texas. He said he was calling to tell me that 1st Lt. Lee Roy Herron had been killed and that Danielle had asked to have me bring him home to Lubbock from Travis Air Force Base (north of San Francisco).  Awed by the timing of the call (I still am), I, of course, could only say “Yes.”  But I managed to keep my composure long enough to suggest to the captain that he attempt to acquire the image for the family. This he did, and it would be present at Lee Roy’s funeral. It would again be present at a dedication of a memorial at Texas Tech for Lee Roy about 15 years later.  (The photo was apparently taken by PFC C. E. Sickler, Jr., USMC, on January 26, 1969. It appeared in the Navy Times on March 5th. It now also is present at an exhibit at the National Museum of the Marine Corps dedicated to chaplains who had served Marines over the years)

Anyone who has seen the 2009 made-for-tv movie Taking Chance will understand my role in “taking” Lee Roy home. Every stage of the flight, plane change between San Francisco and Lubbock, ground transportation to a funeral home and handover of Lee Roy’s body to a funeral director was orchestrated to convey respect and honor.

And, of course, there was the family. Seeing Danielle and Lee Roy’s family was as heart wrenching as can be imagined.  And yet, in the end, I think I received more comfort from them than I was able to offer.* I would see them at the dedication of Lee Roy’s Texas Tech memorial because they had thought to invite me (though they only remembered me as the “nice, young Marine who had brought  Lee Roy home.”)  Happily for me, Lee Roy’s best friend, another Marine officer from Tech, David Nelson, had known how to track me down.  And at that ceremony I had the opportunity to tell the story of the image.  And more importantly, to again understand, appreciate, and remember the families of those we have “taken” home.  All the more so on Memorial Day.***

So, today, with respect to B Company, I offer my greatest admiration for the way in which Bob Lange labored to bring families into the creation of the B Company 50-year Cruise Book—a forthcoming profile of B Company and its members—and to give families opportunity to participate in the dedication of the memorial to their B Company loved ones. Those able to come were genuinely touched.***

——————————-

* At least two B Company members served as Casualty Reporting Officers in their careers, Dick Hulslander (Birmingham, AL) and Rob Hill (Pittsburgh, PA).  Each had to oversee the funerals and interments of more than 60 Marines who lost their lives during the war.  They have each addressed more than their fair share of grief and faced the full range of emotion, from grace to anger to bitterness.  In addition to me, at least two members of B Company have taken Marines home to their families.

** David Nelson would go on to write about his friendship with Lee Roy (“In my experience, never has a photograph captured the spirituality of men at war as well as this one. That Lee should last be photographed in that way speaks more about him than I could possibly offer.”  In 2015, he wrote about the photo for the Saturday Evening Post. In it, he quoted me as saying, ““In my experience, never has a photograph captured the spirituality of men at war as well as this one. That Lee should last be photographed in that way speaks more about him than I could possibly offer.” I believe it still.

*** Family members of all of B Company’s deceased that Bob was able to reach will receive gift copies of the Cruise Book when it is printed in June.

Memorial Day 2017–Paying Homage to Marine Classmates of 50 Years Ago

My Memorial Day fifty years ago was spent in South Vietnam, in the company of my Marine rifle platoon—First Platoon, Lima Company, Third Battalion, First Marines. I had graduated from the Marine Corps’ Basic School for officers seven months before.  The 185 members of our class—B Company, TBS 1-67—had gone their many ways just before Thanksgiving.  One third of us went into the infantry and onward to units in the First or Third Marine Divisions. We almost completely lost touch with one another after our assignments to Vietnam, especially so for those who, like me, left the Corps after four years of service.

Incredibly, through the efforts of a couple of mates who, in the early 1990s, began to wonder what happened to us all, we began to meet and communicate regularly. We have met in reunion every five years since 1996, and just last October we had our most recent, marking 50 years since our experience together in The Basic School. (The story is pretty well told in a multitude of notes and bulletins in the B Company website one of those mates established years ago: TBS167.com.)

At our reunions, we had always paid homage to those we had lost during the conflict: seventeen were killed in action—including one who died of wounds years later—and four died in the line of duty.  However, beyond donating commemorative bricks that line the walks of museum paths, we had never established a formal memorial in remembrance of them. Through the leadership of one of our classmates (Col. Hays Parks-Ret.), we at last did so on Wednesday, the 24th. Through the efforts of another class leader (Col. Bob Lange-Ret.), we had invited as many family members of our lost mates as we could find. A good number came, as seen above. (More about this in another post.)

It was all done the Marine Corps way, with a chaplain (Fr. John Cregan, Lt.Col. USMC, Ret.) on hand, a color guard, and a bugler to play taps. The plaque along with its dedication wreath is situated on one of several memorial walls the USMC Heritage Foundation has built along a beautiful memorial trail that winds through the grounds of the National Museum of the Marine Corps . A 30 minute video of the event (including my own brief contribution directed to family members) can be reached on the B Company website.  Attached is the program with a close up o f the plaque DedicationProgram-web.

While thinking this day of those whose names appear on this plaque and on the  Vietnam War Memorial and memorials around the country, I think too about the names that don’t appear. These include the names of beloved family members and friends, that I imagine to be invisibly filling the spaces surrounding the engraved names.  Also absent, but in need of remembrance, are the many, many more names of those who suffered wounds, visible and invisible, many felt to this day.

Semper Fi

 

A Miracle Delivered to Our Doorstep

As an Estonian-American (some would say a lapsed one), I am a small contributor to the Estonian American National Council, which represents the interests and heritage of Estonians and their offspring living in the United States. Its most recent mailing urging renewed contributions contained a spot announcing the availability of its recently published book, “Exiles in a Land of Promise: Estonians in America, 1945–1995. ($90 plus shipping.)

The book arrived yesterday—the miracle of the subject line. It is a professionally done masterwork, one that should interest—actually enthrall—those still-living emigres in that community of exiles and their descendants.  Indeed, the inside title page, with its image of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia,  taken from the harbor on September 22, 1944, set my heart a pounding. I immediately imagined my mother, with her two-month old son (me) in October 1944, taking in that same view as the ship on which we were embarked pulled away for its voyage to Germany—and away from a Soviet army soon to occupy all of Estonia.

Although written and published well before November 2016, the book’s first chapter speaks directly to today’s climate surrounding refugees and their immigration into the United States. “Who knew?” is the question that explodes from the book’s first chapter, “Arrival of the Viking Boats.” It recounts, based on solid research, the voyages and arrival in the late 1940s in the United States (all illegal) of Estonians and other Balts on sail boats that took weeks to cross the Atlantic. Rudimentary instruments and elementary maps and courageous pilots (and passengers) brought most across the wide Atlantic. Though the numbers researchers offer vary, one cited in the book says “46 boats left Sweden before 1949; seventeen landed in the US; and ten reached Canada. Six ended up in South Africa and five in Argentina. Three stopped in England, and one headed south to Brazil. Two others were lost without a trace. Perhaps 250 Estonians reached American shores after grueling, storm-lashed voyages.”  Images accompanying this chapter suggest that calling these vessels “Viking Boats” grossly overstates their size.

But never mind, the most salient points of this chapter are that the passengers of this little collection of boats became illegal aliens in the United States and their arrival sparked a mixed, though ultimately favorable, reception. Some saw an invasion of potential Marxist subversives. Others saw the Estonian displaced persons (DPs) as “Delayed Pilgrims,” the narrative that won the day and became a key factor, the book argues,  in opening the doors to legal immigration by an act of Congress that President Truman signed in 1948.  As a beneficiary in 1950 with my mother (and a year later my father) of that act, I find this story both eye-opening and breath-taking.

From that beginning, the book settles into a well thought-out rhythm (beautifully illustrated and laid out over more than 550 pages) that addresses the political context in which the emigre populations lived in their various communities around the United States and the political movements within which its hopes evolved and were pronounced and ultimately realized with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the restoration of independence.

As a New York City-centric Estonian-American who empty-headedly figured all Estonian Americans existed within sight of the Empire State Building and who met to eat and drink at the Estonian House on 34th Street, I now beg forgiveness  for my lack of awareness of communities of Estonians from Alaska to Cucamonga, California, to Fresno to Minnesota to Chicago and to Alabama and to Connecticut and places in between, which are described in this culmination of twenty years of work.

In addition, the book provides a wealth of material on Estonian-American organizations of all sorts, religious, musical, military, Scouts, and more. It contains reference material and extremely well done graphics displaying the distribution and number of Estonian-Americans and more.

Much more could be said, but let me end here with the most hearty congratulations to all involved in this work, including the leaders of the Council and the crew led by Editor Priit Vesilind.

And, most of all, a sincerely heartfelt Thank You!!

For information on the Council and the book, go to: http://www.estosite.org/

 

 

 

Thinking About Lyndon Johnson Inauguration, January 1965

One of those moments from my University of Rochester life comes to mind as we approach inauguration day 2017.

Many, if not most, members of the NROTC unit of the University of Rochester were given the opportunity to march in Lyndon Johnson’s Inauguration Day Parade on 20 January 1965. Given the passage of 50 plus years since then, my memory is hazy, perhaps even invented in some ways.

I remember our unit being among three NROTC units invited to participate in that parade.  The others were, I think, Ohio State and Penn State. I think we marched near the end of the parade. It seemed we had lots of horse poop along Pennsylvania Avenue to avoid. But it was a seriously memorable event.

As I thought about it in recent days, I looked at CBS coverage of the event, posted to YouTube by the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, but I couldn’t spot our unit, let alone me. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVCfRm-0_DM). Lots of grainy footage in black and white, with, early on, brigades of cadets from West Point and then the Naval Academy. Maybe we trailed behind the Mids from Annapolis.

The event was, in any event, a proud moment, a once in a lifetime moment.  At the same time, in January 1965, the moment was unlikely to have spoken to our futures as participants in the war in Vietnam–at least for this marcher.

But the memory has led me to look at New York Times coverage of the event. The Times banner headline of the 21st read: “JOHNSON, TAKING OATH, PLEDGES EFFORTS TO BRING AN END TO TYRANNY AND MISERY; BOTH PARTIES’ LEADERS ACCLAIM ADDRESS.”  (Need I say in this age that the phrase “Both Parties’ Leaders Acclaim” is unlikely to appear in print any time soon?)

And then there was James Reston’s commentary on the speech.  I have attached it. JamesRestononJohnsonInauguralSpeech.

I think Reston’s column was prescient and nuanced, identifying the tensions of our time–beginning with the idea that we, the United States, was a beacon and symbol for good, one that nations of the world would see as such.

It was the idea those of us in uniform took into the war zone in those years., rightly or wrongly.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Treat—2016

This is not a difficult rummaging act. The following pictures were taken Friday and today at the US Botanic Garden located at the foot of the US Capitol.

Tracy and I are fortunate to have been named honorary grandparents (though we go by Uncle Andy and Aunt Tracy) of the son of friends. His name is Henry and he is six–as of this writing. In our capacity, we get to take him places from time to time. We’ve been to Christmas Lights at the National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, football with his parents, etc.

This Christmas–last Friday, the 23rd–we took him to Botanic Garden, a wonderful indoor, heated conservatory, which is decked out with a Christmas special each year. This year, the garden featured national parks and historic places, with models of the places made of all natural materials and with toy trains chugging through most of them.

Following is a collection of images from Friday’s visit and a return visit I made early this morning, before the crowds arrived. Although the order of the displays seemed fairly random in the garden, the images below track from east to west. The work people have done on this project is pretty amazing. I hope you can see that through this selection of images.

And please take this posting as a Christmas greeting from Tracy and from me, Merry Christmas.

The view from the garden. The Capitol christmas tree is always more attractive than the White House tree. But in this case, the view is affected by preparation of viewing stands for the presidential inauguration on January 20.

Before entry into the train exhibit, visitors are treated to views of US government institutions, the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

The budding photographer captures a typical scene, this of the Capitol building and a detail below.

The United States Supreme Court
The Gateway Arch–essentially entering in the middle of the country, but hey. It was welcoming.
Henry marveling at the views early on.
Three guesses!
Mount Vernon.
Monticello, Virginia
The Martin Luther King home.

 

  • Freedom House in Florida

 

Freedom Tower in Florida–had been used in helping escaping Cuban refugees.
A detail of the tower’s peak.
Both Tracy and I totally missed this one with Henry. All we saw was him going inside this tunnel. Today, I saw what it was, a car loaded up with luggage heading, I presume, west. Such was this exhibit, impossible to see all in one passage. From here, we move to Western scenes!
Mount something or other.
A view of the Grand Canyon, a genuine work of art in bark. (added in second edition of this post).

About the below three scenes, my Marine Corps friend—and Vietnam War company commander—Joe, who lives in Colorado and travels to see family in the region modeled in the below, offered the following amplification: 1st photo: amazingly these dwellings still exist throughout the SW generally running from Chaco Canyon, NM, to SW Colorado to central west Utah (Freemont west of Richfield). Next two are common dwellings of Hopi in central Arizona that are occupied homes.

Cliff Dwelling monument.
Cliff Dwelling detail, one.
Cliff dwelling detail two.
The Old Faithful Inn in Yosemite. I waited and waited for the geyser to pop (it does) but I felt I’d lingered too long.
Percy–Henry identified this particular pal of Thomas the Tank Engine–in Alaska
Percy enters Totem Park in Sitka
Totems in Sitka National Historical Park
Top of a totem

Off to Hawaii and the Iolani Palace and the detail that follows.

And a last treat: who knew? Banana trees have most spectacular blossoms.
Merry Christmas! From Tracy and Henry and me!

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Reflections on Marine Corps Time and Leadership

Just thought I would share with my handful of readers something I might call “A Season of Marines.” It is something I shared with others at work in November.

For me, this fall has been a kind of season for Marines, which typically is highlighted only by the marking of the Marine Corps birthday on November 10th, when Marines (present and past) wish one another “Happy Birthday” as though all Marines were actually born that day. Email rings light up everywhere, and Marines look out for other Marines with whom to exchange greetings.  So it was on the birthday and again during a Veteran’s Day celebration I attended a couple of days after.  During that day, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps spoke of his rebirth into the Marine Corps after having failed in college and lost a full scholarship in the bargain. Sgt Major Green expressed his gratitude for the service of those, including past and present Marines, who continue to serve the nation in other ways around the world.

In addition, I was closely involved with the reunion of Marines who together attended basic Marine officer training in 1966 in Quantico, Virginia. 184 of us attended that five-month program, which taught us to be Marine leaders and infantry officers, although the majority of us went into other assignments.  Some of us, like me, would go directly into infantry assignments and service in Vietnam. Others would go to specialized schools, artillery, armor, and air–and eventually Vietnam.

Our gathering–there were about 50 attendees–were honored to have as a keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, the heroic leader of a company of Marines in the battle to retake Hue in 1968 and the force behind the establishment of the Marine Corps Heritage Museum in Quantico.

General Christmas decided to tell us of how he now teaches leadership at that course we all attended 50 years ago. He offered a simple list of attributes of effective leadership, easy to capture and, in typical Marine fashion, equipped with a simple mnemonic, “The six Cs of Leadership.” One need not be a Marine leader to apply these because I think they apply in all relationships at all times and for all generations.

Competence–become the very best at your craft while understanding we all have capabilities and limitations and that some limitations we cannot overcome; we must get help with those and ensure those limitations never hurt those we are blessed to lead.

Candor–be totally honest with yourself, those we lead, our superiors, our contemporaries, and, most importantly, the American people. Marines need not be “politically correct,” but they must be correct.

Courage–two types: physical and moral. The latter is the most difficult and challenging. It comes down to integrity–doing what is right in the face of pressure to do what is wrong or to do nothing when one sees wrong being done.

Compassion–honestly caring for those you lead. Discipline is the exercise of compassion based on caring.

Consistency–be consistent in leadership style. Those you lead should not have to guess who you will be one day to the next or from one person to another.

Commitment–define in the Marine Corps by its motto, “Semper Fidelis.” Being always faithful to your God, your country, your Corps, and most especially to your fellow Marines.

These may be easy to read and easy to remember, but of course, they are not that easy to live.  But the effort is well worth it.  The loyalty of those one leads will be forever returned.

 

Save

Reflections on Films during Years at University of Rochester, 1962–1966

So, as I was reminded today of the announcement of the Academy Awards, I got to thinking of the movies that were in contention and won during our time at the U of R (and one year before and one year after). I’ll list the material that appears in http://www.filmsite.org/oscars60.html–first, the best pictures, and then a fuller list of the top five awards. I am no film scholar, but some reflections appear at the end of these lists. (copied from my-moderated University of Rochester Facebook site–open only to members of the class of 1966)

Short List
The best pictures (1962-1967) were Lawrence of Arabia (’62); Tom Jones (’63); My Fair Lady (’64); The Sound of Music (’65); A Man for All Seasons (’66); and In the Heat of the Night (’67).

Long List:
1962
Movie
Lawrence of Arabia
Actor:
GREGORY PECK for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Burt Lancaster in “Birdman of Alcatraz”, Jack Lemmon in “Days of Wine and Roses”, Marcello Mastroianni in “Divorce – Italian Style”, Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia”
Actress:
ANNE BANCROFT in “The Miracle Worker”, Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, Katharine Hepburn in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, Geraldine Page in “Sweet Bird of Youth,” Lee Remick in “Days of Wine and Roses”
Supporting Actor:
ED BEGLEY in “Sweet Bird of Youth”, Victor Buono in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, Telly Savalas in “Birdman of Alcatraz”, Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia”, Terence Stamp in “Billy Budd”
Supporting Actress:
PATTY DUKE in “The Miracle Worker”, Mary Badham in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Shirley Knight in “Sweet Bird of Youth”, Angela Lansbury in “The Manchurian Candidate”, Thelma Ritter in “Birdman of Alcatraz”
Director:
DAVID LEAN for “Lawrence of Arabia”, Pietro Germi for “Divorce – Italian Style”, Robert Mulligan for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Arthur Penn for “The Miracle Worker”, Frank Perry for “David and Lisa”

1963
Movie
Tom Jones
Actor:
SIDNEY POITIER in “Lilies of the Field”, Albert Finney in “Tom Jones”, Richard Harris in “This Sporting Life”, Rex Harrison in “Cleopatra”, Paul Newman in “Hud”
Actress:
PATRICIA NEAL in “Hud”, Leslie Caron in “The L-Shaped Room”, Shirley MacLaine in “Irma La Douce”, Rachel Roberts in “This Sporting Life”, Natalie Wood in “Love with the Proper Stranger”
Supporting Actor:
MELVYN DOUGLAS in “Hud”, Nick Adams in “Twilight of Honor”, Bobby Darin in “Captain Newman, M.D.”, Hugh Griffith in “Tom Jones”, John Huston in “The Cardinal”
Supporting Actress:
MARGARET RUTHERFORD in “The V.I.P.s”, Diane Cilento in “Tom Jones”, Edith Evans in “Tom Jones”, Joyce Redman in “Tom Jones”, Lilia Skala in “Lilies of the Field”
Director:
TONY RICHARDSON for “Tom Jones”, Federico Fellini for “8 1/2”, Elia Kazan for “America, America”, Otto Preminger for “The Cardinal”, Martin Ritt for “Hud”

1964
Movie
My Fair Lady
Actor:
REX HARRISON in “My Fair Lady”, Richard Burton in “Becket”, Peter O’Toole in “Becket”, Anthony Quinn in “Zorba the Greek”, Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying…”
Actress:
JULIE ANDREWS in “Mary Poppins”, Anne Bancroft in “The Pumpkin Eater”, Sophia Loren in “Marriage Italian Style”, Debbie Reynolds in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, Kim Stanley in “Seance on a Wet Afternoon”
Supporting Actor:
PETER USTINOV in “Topkapi”, John Gielgud in “Becket”, Stanley Holloway in “My Fair Lady”, Edmond O’Brien in “Seven Days in May”, Lee Tracy in “The Best Man”
Supporting Actress:
LILA KEDROVA in “Zorba the Greek”, Gladys Cooper in “My Fair Lady”, Edith Evans in “The Chalk Garden”, Grayson Hall in “The Night of the Iguana”, Agnes Moorehead in “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
Director:
GEORGE CUKOR for “My Fair Lady”, Michael Cacoyannis for “Zorba the Greek”, Peter Glenville for “Becket”, Stanley Kubrick for “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying…”, Robert Stevenson for “Mary Poppins”

1965
Movie
The Sound of Music
Actor:
LEE MARVIN in “Cat Ballou”, Richard Burton in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold”, Laurence Olivier in “Othello”, Rod Steiger in “The Pawnbroker”, Oskar Werner in “Ship of Fools”
Actress:
JULIE CHRISTIE in “Darling”, Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”, Samantha Eggar in “The Collector”, Elizabeth Hartman in “A Patch of Blue”, Simone Signoret in “Ship of Fools”
Supporting Actor:
MARTIN BALSAM in “A Thousand Clowns”, Ian Bannen in “The Flight of the Phoenix”, Tom Courtenay in “Doctor Zhivago”, Michael Dunn in “Ship of Fools”, Frank Finlay in “Othello”
Supporting Actress:
SHELLEY WINTERS in “A Patch of Blue”, Ruth Gordon in “Inside Daisy Clover”, Joyce Redman in “Othello”, Maggie Smith in “Othello”, Peggy Wood in “The Sound of Music”
Director:
ROBERT WISE for “The Sound of Music”, David Lean for “Doctor Zhivago”, John Schlesinger for “Darling”, Hiroshi Teshigahara for “Woman in the Dunes”, William Wyler for “The Collector”

1966
Movie
A Man for all Seasons
Actor:
PAUL SCOFIELD in “A Man for All Seasons”, Alan Arkin in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, Richard Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Michael Caine in “Alfie”, Steve McQueen in “The Sand Pebbles”
Actress:
ELIZABETH TAYLOR in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Anouk Aimee in “A Man and a Woman”, Ida Kaminska in “The Shop on Main Street”, Lynn Redgrave in “Georgy Girl”, Vanessa Redgrave in “Morgan!”
Supporting Actor:
WALTER MATTHAU in “The Fortune Cookie”, Mako in “The Sand Pebbles”, James Mason in “Georgy Girl”, George Segal in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Robert Shaw in “A Man for All Seasons”
Supporting Actress:
SANDY DENNIS in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Wendy Hiller in “A Man for All Seasons”, Jocelyn Lagarde in “Hawaii”, Vivien Merchant in “Alfie”, Geraldine Page in “You’re a Big Boy Now”
Director:
FRED ZINNEMANN for “A Man for All Seasons”, Michelangelo Antonioni for “Blow-up”, Richard Brooks for “The Professionals”, Claude Lelouch for “A Man and a Woman”, Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

1967
Movie
In the Heat of the Night
Actor:
ROD STEIGER in “In the Heat of the Night”, Warren Beatty in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”, Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”, Spencer Tracy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
Actress:
KATHARINE HEPBURN in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Anne Bancroft in “The Graduate”, Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Edith Evans in “The Whisperers”, Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark”
Supporting Actor:
GEORGE KENNEDY in “Cool Hand Luke”, John Cassavetes in “The Dirty Dozen”, Gene Hackman in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Cecil Kellaway in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Michael J. Pollard in “Bonnie And Clyde”
Supporting Actress:
ESTELLE PARSONS in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Carol Channing in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, Mildred Natwick in “Barefoot in the Park”, Beah Richards in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Katharine Ross in “The Graduate”
Director:
MIKE NICHOLS for “The Graduate”, Richard Brooks for “In Cold Blood”, Norman Jewison for “In the Heat of the Night”, Stanley Kramer for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Arthur Penn for “Bonnie And Clyde”

Quick Reflections:

I do remember seeing many of these movies! But I don’t remember where I saw them or who I saw them with! Sorry!!!

I can’t help but think that, in a sense, these movies collectively capture a sense of a changing time–invoking a surfing image, a wave that we the members of the class of ’66 as a group gradually mounted and rode over the years that would follow!

Think of it: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night,” — two films that get at the state of race relations in our time (still unsettled, regrettably) (As a midshipman on the cruise, between our freshmen and sophomore years, this denizen of New York City discovered the ugly reality of Jim Crowe in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. I had made friends with a black sailor on the USS Beatty and suggested we run into town for dinner. He knew better. I had no clue.

“Seven Days in May,” which told of a plot to overthrow the president because he was supporting a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets–c.f. the comment of former CIA director Michael Hayden, who said military leaders would disobey orders from Trump to do some of the things he is saying he would order. Then there was, in a similar vein, “Dr. Strangelove.” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “In Cold Blood,” looks at violence in our society, without exactly glorifying it.

And who knew–until very, very recent years that the novel “Dr. Zhivago,” included in this collection of films, only existed because of CIA machinations to get it published. And in this group, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” would define spycraft and its dark tensions, which I came to learn about in my career. People still see it as the ultimate definition of the business of espionage.

And at the same time, the cotton candy of ” The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Tom Jones.”

 

Reflecting on Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

All the hoohah surrounding yesterday’s playing of the 50th Super Bowl game led me to think a bit about the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967.

First, I have no memory of that game. I was six months into service as a US Marine 2nd Lieutenant after graduation in June 1966 from the University of Rochester and on my way across the Pacific to join Marines in the Vietnam War. I had been a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship student at the U of R, en route to an AB  degree in English, fully paid for by Uncle Sam in exchange for four years of service as an officer in either the Navy or the Marine Corps. I choose the latter, as earlier posts on this blog explain.

Today, en route to 50th anniversary reunions of the U of R class of 1966 and the Marine Corps officer Basic School training class I attended with nearly 200 other newly commissioned Marine Corps officers during the second half of 1966–including three from the U of R–Dick Hulslander, Tom King, and Bob Rivers–I have come to think of those days relative to yesterday’s event.

First, and most strikingly different from that day in January 1967, is the place of the military in the opening ceremony. It featured a large mixed service chorus of uniformed military personnel singing “America the Beautiful.” That was followed by Lady Gaga (I held my breath to see what ludicrous thing she wore–not as ludicrous as my worst fears offered), with her rendering of the National Anthem. She has a magnificent voice, and any objection to her performance would be quibbling, in my view.  Striking, I’d say in contrast to 1967, was the tribute she offered to the military people surrounding the stage and the flag behind her–gesturing toward the chorus and other uniformed people and the flag around her stage as she closed with “home of the Brave.” No viewable video exists of the opening of Super Bowl I. Does any one remember who sang the National Anthem and who carried the flag and so forth?

So I turned to the New York TimesMachine (which reproduces issues of the paper from the past– (http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/01/16/issue.html)) to get a sense of the nation’s and the world’s doings the day after the game.  Prescient some items were, in retrospect of course. The front page carried only a photo of Vince Lombardi accepting the winner’s trophy.

Then, I turned to a characterization of the event in the sports section by Bernard Weintraub:

“Husbands Stare—and Wives Glare (City’s Males Spend Day at TV Sets at Home, in Bars)”

“New York was gripped by a giddy fever yesterday that began rising at 4 pm, reached a peak at dusk and began dropping at nightfall.

“Before the fever finally broke, a vague madness swept the city: little boys refused to go to the movies, big boys refused to speak, girls—little and big—stormed into kitchens, slammed the door and waited. And waited.

“It’s impossible,” cried Mrs. Lucrecia Amari of Brooklyn, while her husband, Dr. S. N. Amari, stared at the Super Bowl football game on television. “He’s obsessed with watching all those big lugs on the idiot box, and I’m obsessed in the exact opposite way. Blah.”

“If the women of the city shrieked “Blah,” the men simply sat hypnotically and watched the Green Bay Packers tangle with the Kansas City Chiefs. …”

Guess that was a pretty good portent of the game’s future.

The day’s news was more telling of the times:

-“Hanoi says it doesn’t want to annex the south.”

“Marines kill 61 VC after defector tip.” The article begins with a comparison of the cost of the war relative to the gains that were being touted at the time (body counts): It pointed out that it was costing $250 thousand dollars to kill one Viet Cong [based on budget figures for the conduct of the war], though the 61 killed in the action referred to in the article were made possible by a “turncoat” who had been paid $44 a month.

–462 on Yale faculty urge halt to bombing of North Vietnam.

–Perhaps most telling, in the Books of the Times: Arthur Schlesinger on Vietnam By Eliot Fremont-Smith, “The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy, 1941-1966.” By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. 128 pages. Houghton Miflin, $3.95.  According to the reviewer, Schlesinger challenged the use of history to justify action in Vietnam. In particular, in Fremont-Smith’s words:

Mr. Schlesinger clearly believes that the historical analogies—principally that of Munich—invoked on behalf of our Vietnam policy are faulty and fraudulent rationalizations that have acquired a life of their own, grossly distorting our perception of the realities of our past and present involvement in Vietnam, and estranging us from our allies, from each other and, perhaps worst of all, from the future—the young, “who watch our course in Vietnam with perplexity, loathing and despair.” [emphasis added, AV]

  Signs of the last sentence existed in some abundance on our campus during 1966, and we all know how that played out in years to come. I know for many who served in Vietnam, there is bitterness. For me, on reflection, there is none, only the wish that anger had not been directed at people who were doing their duty as honorably as they could.

P.S. I did not see Super Bowl II either. Along with a few hundred thousand others, I was in-country at the time, with no access to television. And the Tet Offensive of 1968 was only two weeks away–the event that completely turned attitudes about the war.

A Change of Pace: A Place for Reflection

Tracy treated me this weekend to a couple of days on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, spending nights in a quality hotel in Cambridge, Md.  Her goal was to deliver a belated birthday present (from August) and get me out of the office and into my kayak and onto some water, where thoughts of my office would not intrude. (It seems such thoughts cannot swim.)

BlackwaterPanorama-Web The panorama here (a melding of nine images over a span of about 130 degrees) suggests a fairly bland, uninteresting view, a great deal of marsh grass and this and that.

Life may feel like this in its broad sweep, looking very similar with a few objects/moments that stand out.  But, each of us live our days and minutes in the details. And so a scene like this panorama, begins to take on clarity with its minute parts–or so I think.

Close-Trees

 

The collection of trees, otherwise  indifferent at a distance, speak to me of life, its emergence, growth, and ending.

 

 

 

 

 

Blackwater-Pier-CrowdThe wildlife of the marsh. Familiar yet particular. We have all seen the dudes in this image (gulls, terns, cormorants) in many places.

 

The-Good-Citizens-Marsh-Grass

 

 

 

The minute parts of this marsh, among it the marsh grass, in its millions of stems, speak for themselves.

 

 

20151010-IMG_0240

 

 

The patch of growth apart from all else. Who would imagine a thistle plant here? Miracles abound.

The-Web

And last,  at a another level of detail, the questions remains, “Where is Charlotte?”

 

 

Ema’s (mother’s) Documents

My mother’s (Ema’s) documents are more spare. These documents from Clem suggest an evolution in thinking about the realities of my mother’s life and what was needed to make an emigration possible and a reunion possible  (eventually) with my father, who “officially” was not at all my father.

Looking at these documents now, it seems clear to me that in the time between October or November 1944, when my Ema carried her new-born (me) onto a ship in Tallinn harbor bound for Germany and the time she began to prepare for emigration to the United States some five years later,  all official documents from life in Estonia were gone. She had no birth, citizenship, or travel documentation of her own. She had no certificate of birth for me.

Since Ema and I never really talked about all this–at least that I now remember–I can only guess at the reasons. My guesses follow:

-She left her documents behind in the rush to leave Tallinn in October 1944 as Soviet forces were closing in on the city.

–The documents were destroyed or confiscated by some authority.

–She  purposely destroyed or disposed of them during the effort to move from the Soviet side of occupation to the west side of occupation after the war.  I favor this explanation because Ema told me of having to lie about her destination so that she would be instructed to return to the West, where she said she had come from because migrants were prohibited from moving from one side of the nascent Iron Curtain to the other. Documents establishing her as a resident of the new Soviet side would have  kept her there–that is, made it harder for her to lie about where she was coming from.

Hedvig-Steinberg-IdentityPaper-Full-webWithout official documents of any kind to establish her identity, place of residence in Estonia, and connections in Estonia, Ema was required to depend on the testimony of others to substantiate her claims. These claims she recorded in the long document on the left in English, which was attested to by friends and sealed by a designated Estonian official of the displaced persons camp in which she was located.

There was also the matter of Ema’s marriage to August Steinberg in 1937. Before seeing these documents I knew nothing other than Steinberg’s surname–it was Ema’s and mine when we arrived in the United States, and I knew that he had been her first marriage.  She told me August Steinberg disappeared early in the war, perhaps with the Soviet occupation in 1940. Several things might have explained this disappearance. The most common was Soviet practice of arresting and shipping to Siberia people who posed threats to its rule.  He might also have been lost in some combat action. Or he might have left Estonia and disappeared for other, perhaps political or personal reasons.

In any event, by 1943, when Ema had entered into a romantic relationship with my father, there was almost no chance that Steinberg would reemerge and even less chance that any authority would officially declare him dead and thus terminate the marriage.

Hedvig-Steinberg-Divorce-Decree-WebThis Ema attended to by filing for and receiving a divorce in Germany in 1949. (The document to the left).

Emotionally, this cannot have been easy for Ema in an age when illegitimate children took considerable explaining or serious efforts at concealment of truth.

So, at least, Ema had attended to her identity and had officially ended her first marriage, sufficient to gain a slot for emigration to the United States in 1950 (25 June arrival), with the sponsorship of an Estonian friend who had reached the United States a couple of years before. I can’t be sure who this friend was, but two candidates come to mind. One was Helga Rohtla, who was close to us–and who I think helped us to our first apartment in New York City in the Washington Heights part of the city. The other was Magda, who lived in Long Island City. She was unmarried then, but she was would eventually marry an Estonian emigre who lost this wife and two children in the Soviet bombing of refugee ships in the Baltic in 1944. (I think we were in another ship in that convoy that was attacked.)

There remained the matter of my father. Who sponsored him (was it Ema or someone else) I do not know.  My father arrived a year to the day after we arrived–25 June 1951.

In my mind, this is an extraordinary story of  love and loyalty. What bond kept my father to Ema and me after my conception in 1943? How many opportunities did my father have to abandon us before he arrived in the United States nearly seven years after I was born–and as far as I knew, seldom, if ever,  meeting over those years. How many excuses to ignore us could he have manufactured?

MarriageCertificate-1952-WebSo my father came and within six months (on Ema’s 39th birthday) had formally knotted their matrimonial ties, with Magda’s signature on the church wedding certificate (above).

HedvigVaart-Citizenship-Certificate-webLooking back at this post, I realize I missed a rather large point. In addition to the reunion of 1951 and the marriage of 1952, US citizenship was an undoubted goal. There was no chance of ever returning to Estonia, and we all knew it keenly.  The result, formal citizenship for Ema and Isa in 1957. (I would follow a few years later.) Ema’s certificate on the left.

What more can I say about this relationship, which lasted until February 1980, when Ema fell to a stroke?