Tag Archives: The Battle of Midway

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.

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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

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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.

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My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”

Let’s be honest. Book reports are one of the scourges of youth.

Even if you enjoyed reading the book that you were assigned in grade school, or that you read in some summer reading program, the book report was always hanging over you. You had to write them. Teachers had to grade them. Nobody was really happy about it.

Now that I’m out of school and read mostly for pleasure, I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for books I’ve read. And since I’m in no longer in danger of being graded by Sister Philomena, it’s time to rehabilitate the book report.

When I read a good book this year, I’ll post a book report on this blog — and The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds is a very good book.

I confess that most of my recreational reading time is spent devouring history, especially military history: tales of Lord Nelson’s navy, the American Civil War, World War One aviation, and the great battles of World War Two. So, “The Battle of Midway” is right up my alley.

Having read a lot of history books, I’m not easy to please. Too often, history is written in a dry and academic way. I dare you to hack your way through Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World by Paul Cartledge. The legendary last-stand heroism of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans deserved more than a repetitive, impenetrable compendium of scholarly knowledge with no regard to dramatic storytelling.

Ever since I read the great Civil War histories of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, I’ve come to appreciate that the best, most readable history books address their subjects with a novelist’s gift for character and story. And that’s what Craig Symonds brings to his stirring account of the Battle of Midway: a game-changing confrontation that was essentially the Gettysburg of World War Two in the Pacific.

As the sun rose on June 4, 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy was supreme in the Pacific. Before the day was over, the U.S. Navy had turned the tide. Like the Confederacy after Gettysburg, the Japanese would continue to fight – and the bloodiest years of the war lay ahead – but the Japanese could no longer win the war.

I’ve enjoyed Craig Symonds’ work before. A retired professor and chairman of the history department at the U.S. Naval Academy, Symonds wrote A Battlefield Atlas of the Civil War (1983) and Gettysburg: A Battlefield Atlas (1992), both of which I’m proud to have on my groaning history bookshelf. Those two books, with their easy-to-read maps and clear, concise copy make the great Civil War battles easy to comprehend. With no less clarity, Symonds goes deeper into the personalities and drama in The Battle of Midway.

Symonds begins by painting a bleak picture of American naval power after the disastrous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. But, as dire as the situation was, with a seemingly unstoppable Japanese aircraft carrier force (the Kido Butai) imposing it’s will across the Pacific, the U.S. Navy’s own carriers had been absent from Pearl Harbor – and, within six months, would provide the platform for a counterstrike that would lay waste to the Kido Butai.

Symonds draws all the main characters with the skill of a novelist: Admirals Nimitz, “Bull” Halsey and Spruance as well as the poker-loving gambler, Admiral Yamamoto. But Symonds doesn’t dwell solely on the brass – he also gives us a chance to meet the pantheon of heroes who flew the torpedo bombers, dive-bombers, and fighter planes, as well as the seamen who manned the guns on the ships, fought the fires on their decks, and patched up the holes to keep them afloat.

By the time Symonds gets to the fateful, pivotal and incredible five-minute period in which American dive-bombers mortally wounded three of the four Japanese carriers in the Kido Butai – and thus changed the course of the war in 300 seconds — it’s clear how it happened, why it happened, and who was responsible.

“What I tried to do is put together the oral histories to recreate a moment” to make readers feel like they’re there, Symonds has said. “It allows us to put ourselves in their place.”

Particularly compelling in Symonds’ account is the story of the American carrier, USS Yorktown. The Yorktown had been badly damaged by a Japanese bomb on May 8, 1942 in The Battle of the Coral Sea. The crippled Yorktown limped into Pearl Harbor on May 27. It was expected that repairs would take three months. But Admiral Nimitz needed the Yorktown for his planned attack on the Kido Butai at Midway – so the repair crews at Pearl Harbor fixed her up and sent her back out to sea in just three days. Four days later, the Yorktown was fighting the Battle of Midway. Alas, the Yorktown did not survive Midway, but before she went down, her dive-bombers had sunk the Japanese carrier Soryu.

The Battle of Midway is part of Oxford’s Pivotal Moments in American History series — and in the introduction to his book, Symonds writes: “there are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and dramatically as it did on June 4, 1942. At ten o’clock that morning, the Axis powers were winning the Second World War… An hour later, the balance had shifted the other way. By 11:00 a.m., three Japanese aircraft carriers were on fire and sinking. A fourth was launching a counterstrike, yet before the day was over, it too would be located and mortally wounded. The Japanese thrust was turned back. Though the war had three more years to run, the Imperial Japanese Navy would never again initiate a strategic offensive…”

The Battle of Midway is a great read. The resolute self-sacrifice of the doomed Navy torpedo bombers will bring you to tears. The courage, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the fire suppression and repair crews on the Yorktown will amaze you.

And, among other vastly interesting things, you’ll find out how Chicago’s O’Hare Airport got its name.

If you think you don’t like military history books, give this one a try.

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