Tag Archives: Eisenhower

Taking a Step. Okay, a Small Step…

Revolutions need a spark to begin.

Tonight, I take one revolutionary step.

For several decades, I’ve collected volumes of historic coins and stamps. Especially coins.

I was honored to receive the Abraham Lincoln coin. And the F.D.R. coin, too. Those people were giants. We were blessed to have them occupy The White House at a critical time in our nation’s history.

I was delighted with the shipments that brought me gold coins commemorating the terms of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. That Washington refused the opportunity to become our first king — and Jefferson’s poetry inspired humanity to champion our cause — must balance out their antebellum slave-holding sins.

Opening the packages that contained the coins honoring Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Obama filled me with pride and patriotism. Promise, intelligence, optimism, compassion and forward thinking were the hallmarks of their terms. I smiled as I slid each of them into their plastic page covers and snapped them into my binder.

Along the way, I endured drunken, racist Andrew Johnson, hapless Herbert Hoover, and Dick Cheney/George W. Bush. I had no problem with my Ronald Reagan coin, even though I believe he was a malevolent influence on our body politic.

Then – today – a package arrived with a Donald J. Trump Presidential coin.

No way. I can’t accept a Trump presidential coin.

I didn’t vote for him – and I don’t want him. He’s a menace to the nation we all profess to love.

So, I sent this note to the coin folks…

It made me feel better. And it may affect someone on the other end.

As I said — a revolution needs a spark to begin.

6 Comments

Filed under Comedy, History, Politics, Polls, Uncategorized

My Book Report: “The Day of Battle”

daybanner1day banner 2Later this week I’ll be traveling with my family to Italy. We’ll stay in Tuscany near Florence for a week and then head southward in Tuscany, close to Umbria and the ancient town of Amelia – the place my grandparents left when they came to America in the early 1910’s.

pic_03Amelia grew up around an ancient hill fort known to the Romans and some scholars consider Amelia the oldest town in Umbria. Whether that’s true isn’t certain, but it is clear that over the centuries, Amelia has seen its share of war. Occupied by the Etruscans and then the Romans, the town’s ancient hilltop fortress was a strategic point in the Second Latin War (remember that one?) way, way back in 340-338 BC. In World War Two, Umbria became a battlefield as retreating Nazi troops, hounded by an inexorable American and Allied advance, slowly withdrew from Italy under fire.

00087703-451287_catl_500Knowing I was going to be exploring Tuscany and Umbria, a good friend gave me The Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson’s excellent history of the Italian Campaign in World War Two. It’s one of the best-written, most thoroughly researched and yet completely readable books on military history that I’ve ever read.

Atkinson knows that all good storytelling is anchored in compelling characters, and he presents a great dramatic cast in The Day of Battle – from icons like Ike and Patton to lesser-known generals like Mark Clark and Lucian Truscott, common soldiers like Audie Murphy and Bill Mauldin, and the writers and reporters who followed them into battle, including Ernie Pyle and Eric Sevareid.

combat

Lt. Hanley and Sgt. Saunders. My childhood heroes on “Combat”.

Atkinson recently released The Guns at Last Light: The War in Europe, 1944-1945 — the last volume in his Liberation Trilogy which began with the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. Most guys my age were introduced to the war in Africa by watching The Rat Patrol. And the movie The Longest Day fixed the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944 in our memories and imaginations. Besides, Sergeant Saunders and the rest of his squad on Combat landed on D-Day!

However, how many of us know that the U.S. 5th Army liberated Rome on June 4, 1944 – just two days before the Allies assaulted the beaches of Normandy on D-Day?

height.290.width.427The second volume of Atkinson’s trilogy, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, filled in the Italian gap in my World War Two consciousness vividly and profoundly.

dob-photosnotinbook-23

Eisenhower and 5th Army Commander, General Mark Clark, study maps of Italy after the conquest of Sicily.

Atkinson deftly portrays the colorful personalities and political pressures behind the decision to undertake the Italian campaign: the machinations of Winston Churchill, the diplomacy and determination of Franklin Roosevelt, and the taxed patience of a chain-smoking General Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in the Mediterranean during the first stages of the invasion.

Atkinson lays out the three basic reasons that the Allies fought in Italy: to knock fascist Italy out of the war and to engage as many German divisions as possible, thus taking pressure off the Soviets on the Eastern Front and keeping Hitler from reinforcing his Atlantic defenses before the planned invasion of Normandy.

dob-photosnotinbook-25Atkinson points out that military historians have debated whether the Italian campaign was a sideshow and whether or not all the strategic objectives were met – but, as The Day of Battle makes grimly clear, the savagery of the relentless combat for every inch of Italian soil was no sideshow for the cold, wet and dirty soldiers who fought across the beaches, rivers and mountain ridges of Sicily and the Italian peninsula.

article-0-0850C347000005DC-407_634x454As an American with deep Italian roots, I’m almost shamed to admit how little I knew about the Allied invasion of Sicily, the horrors of the Salerno and Anzio landings, and the slugging, slogging war of attrition waged against desperate German defenders dug into heavily fortified mountain strongholds like San Pietro and Monte Cassino.

Cassino-mapAfter the hard-won Allied breakthrough at Monte Cassino, and the link-up with American troops that finally broke out of the misery and butchery of the Anzio beachhead, the road to Rome was open.dob-photosnotinbook-51

holl190After General Mark Clark’s columns rode into Rome along the same route taken by Caesar’s victorious legions, the Germans fought a long delaying action up the Italian boot.

While Umbria and Tuscany were spared the annihilation visited upon southern Italy — from Sicily to Naples to Monte Cassino — there was still a lot of hard fighting in the towns that I’ll be visiting on my family vacation.

Picture 1The evidence of that hard fighting is marked by the thousands of graves at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. Most of these soldiers died in the battles and skirmishes that took place in the 11 very long months after the capture of Rome and before the Germans in Italy finally surrendered on May 2, 1945. My family will be sure to visit this honored place to pay our respects to the men who liberated my grandparents’ homeland from Nazi tyranny.882906c0

cisterna-may44-1The son of a U.S. Army officer Rick Atkinson grew up on military posts, holds a Master of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Chicago, and has been a reporter, foreign correspondent, and senior editor for 25 years at the Washington Post. All of this has made him a well-rounded and knowledgeable storyteller with a military man’s intimate appreciation of war and soldiering combined with a reporter’s objectivity and a literary flair that makes his work special. Wherever the troops are fighting in The Day Of Battle, Atkinson finds connections to Greek and Roman myth and history that help to make his account transcendent.

The Day Of Battle is historical writing at its very best.

booksThe only drawback is that now I’ve got to read the other two volumes in Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy.

Alas. So many good books, so little time.

Forward, march!

4 Comments

Filed under Adventure, History

Vic & Paul & Obama & Mother Mary — Blog 2012: The Third Year In Review.

ClevelandObama bannerMom bannerDays after the year 2012 ended, I was delighted to join with my wife, daughters and Cleveland relations to celebrate the 80th birthday of my wonderful mother, Mary Barrosse. I knew I was tardy in posting my blog’s 2012 year-end review — but honoring my mom in the grand style she deserves came first.

img_04992012 was a very busy year on this blog — dominated by the “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour and the momentous Presidential election. Vaudevillians Vic & Paul traveled to Chicago, Cleveland, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles — and President Obama covered even more ground than that (often in one day). We both emerged victorious — and when all was was said and done, Victoria and I might have come out slightly ahead because we don’t have to deal with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

2012 was also the third year for this blog. And it was a very good year.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 129,900 views in 2012 — nearly doubling the number of visitors that dropped by during this blog’s first two years. (There were 62,900 visits in 2012.) I’ve posted 255 articles since this blog began and you folks have contributed 1,231 comments. Politics and history remain among the most popular topics.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I continue to be honored that 118 subscribers have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 31 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

Most of my posts focus on the main topics I established at the outset of this blog: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll — plus relentless promotion of The Practical Theatre, my band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, and The Vic & Paul Show. But what posts were readers of this blog most attracted to this year?

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower. Can we say that we’re a better nation after 9-11?

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become one of the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

The bold, brave and vital Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011 – but this post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of cowardly anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response?

4. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day.

5. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan.

7. A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ikeike

Even if Los Angeles Times editor Jim Newton weren’t my good friend, I still would have written this September 28, 2011 post extolling the virtues of his excellent biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

9. 150 Years Ago Today150 years

Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been in the midst of the American Civil War sesquicentennial: the war’s 150th anniversary. Between now and April 2015, there’s an opportunity every day to write the kind of post that I wrote on March 13, 2012.

10. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

So, that’s the best of 2012. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2013!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 23 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

6. Growing Up in the Space Age

7. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

8. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. (What about that bounty scandal?) So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

9. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Commentary

A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ike.

On October 4th, Jim Newton’s Presidential biography, Eisenhower: The White House Years arrives in bookstores.

This is exciting news. Not just because the author is a very dear friend of mine – but because I can’t think of a more apropos time since his Presidency ended in 1960 for us to look back on Ike’s two terms in the Oval Office.

My buddy Jim Newton is a veteran newspaperman who began his career at the New York Times. Since I’ve known him, he’s been an editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he’s now the editor-at-large. In 2006, Jim wrote a definitive biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren entitled, Justice for All.

Now, he’s focused his brilliance and talent on the man who put Earl Warren on the court.

Hold on. It was Republican who put the classic “activist judge” Earl Warren on the Supreme Court?

Indeed. And that’s just one of the reasons it’s a good time to revisit the Eisenhower Presidency.

More than a half-century after Dwight D. Eisenhower left office, his old campaign slogan “I like Ike” has become a cliché. But, in this era of Tea Party Republicans and Ronald Reagan worship, it’s nostalgic to recall a Republican President who would never have said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

That kind of simplistic, anti-government demagoguery would not have appealed to the complex man who built our interstate highway system and sent Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation.

In a move that would be anathema to today’s dogmatic GOP states’ rights defenders, Ike ordered units from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock on September 24, 1957. The next day, those soldiers escorted nine black students through the front door of Central High and into its formerly all-white classrooms. Of course, Ike had some previous experience with the paratroopers of the 101st. 13 years earlier in a little dustup called D-Day on June 6th, 1944. The Screaming Eagles followed Ike’s orders into their drop zones behind the beaches at Normandy – and into the hallways of a Little Rock high school.

But Jim’s book is not about General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander who led his forces to victory in World War Two. It’s about the Eisenhower, who, like George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, went from the highest-ranking military leader in an epochal war to Commander in Chief as the thirty-fourth President of the United States.

I was born in 1958 during Ike’s second term, but John F. Kennedy was the first President that I was aware of – and my first clear memory of Kennedy was watching his funeral on TV.

During my boyhood, President Eisenhower was a distant figure: even more dimly remembered than General Eisenhower, the hero of D-Day and all those World War Two movies I loved and re-created in my backyard.

Comedians made jokes about Ike playing golf and how homely his wife Mamie was. After the glorious Jackie Kennedy enchanted The White House, dowdy Mamie didn’t have a chance.

By the time I was in high school, my sense was that Eisenhower’s Presidency, if I thought of it at all, didn’t amount to much. He was a dull President in a dull time. Thank goodness, 16-year old Paul didn’t write the book on Ike.

I certainly wasn’t alone in thinking of Eisenhower as little more than the Caretaker-in-Chief, hitting the links with Bob Hope and presiding over an easygoing, black & white, “Leave It To Beaver” American society. Long after I graduated from college in 1980 that was still the prevailing attitude about Ike’s time in the Oval Office. There was, however, residual gratitude on the Democratic Left for Eisenhower’s lukewarm endorsement of Vice President Dick Nixon in the 1960 race against Kennedy.

The laugh was on Dick. Dick got the last laugh.

Pressed by reporters to give an example of Nixon making a key contribution to his administration, Ike said, “Give me a week and I’ll think of one!” Priceless. Nixon went on to lose to Kennedy in one of the tightest Presidential races in American history. Nixon got the last laugh, though. Not only did Tricky Dick win the White House eight years later – that same year, 1968, Nixon’s daughter Julie won the hand of Ike’s grandson David in marriage.

But, looking back at Ike’s Presidency, it’s hard to imagine why, as a callow youth, I thought his time in office so inconsequential. Eisenhower was the second President to have an atomic bomb in his arsenal — and he refused to use it. He kept radical anti-Communist McCarthyism at arm’s length until it became, as he called it, “McCarthywasm.”

And, after lifting the nation out of its post World War Two debt, he was the last president until Democrat Bill Clinton to leave office with a budget surplus. The top marginal tax rate under Eisenhower was 91%. George W. Bush slashed that rate to 35%. Ike paid for WWII and built our highway system. George W. Bush built nothing and left us in debt to China.

For these, and many more reasons, this lifelong Democrat likes Ike. And I like Jim’s book. But you don’t have to depend upon my endorsement (which is so much more enthusiastic than Ike’s backing of Nixon) – you can just check out these amazing reviews…

“A truly great book, spirited, balanced, and not just the story of President Eisenhower but of an era.”
 Bob Woodward

Jim Newton does a masterful job illustrating the forces that confronted Dwight Eisenhower during his years in the White House, from nuclear politics to race relations to the federal debt and deficit. He paints a vivid portrait of a president struggling to find middle ground—sometimes successfully, sometimes not — but always with the good of the country in mind.” 
Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator

”

“Newton’s contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower’s White House years as I’ve ever read… This is a book for all who are interested in a better understanding of how America and the World were shaped post–WWII and for those who aspire to lead: Read Newton’s book first.”
 Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator (1997–2009)

“Ike’s wisdom, born of experience and intellect, is on display in this important book, which heightens appreciation for his leadership. Newton reveals, for instance, that after the Korean War, only one American soldier was killed in combat during Eisenhower’s presidency. This volume contributes to our understanding of an outstanding human being.”
 George P. Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State

“Jim Newton’s ‘Eisenhower, The White House Years’, simply and eloquently, delivers the man, his Presidency and, if America is paying attention, the life lessons that are his legacy.”
 Norman Lear

“Jim Newton’s brilliant reassessment of Eisenhower’s presidency is long overdue, and his book makes it clear that Ike was indeed a great president. Ike’s insistence on always doing the right thing for the country despite party pressure and personal predilection serves as a valuable model for politicians in all three branches of government.” Former FBI Director, William S. Sessions.

Buy my friend Jim Newton’s book today — and learn what a principled, heroic Republican used to be. And, alas, you’ll know why bipartisanship is a thing of the past.

I still like Ike.

Now more than ever.*

* With apologies to Nixon’s 1972 campaign.

3 Comments

Filed under History, Politics