On to Berlin: Battles of an Airborne Commander 1943-1946 by General James M. Gavin


General James M. Gavin tells the story of the 82d Airborne Division during World War II. Gavin began training at the Airborne School in Fort Benning in July 1941 and graduated in August 1941. After graduating, he served in an experimental unit. His first command was Commanding Officer of C Company of the newly established 503rd Parachute Infantry Battalion. Gavin’s friends William Ryder — Commander of Airborne training – and William Yarborough – Communications officer of the Provisional Airborne Group – convinced General William C. Lee to let Gavin develop the tactics and basic rules of Airborne combat. Lee followed up on this recommendation and made Gavin his Operations and Training Officer (S-3). On October 16, 1941, he was promoted to Major.

One of his first priorities was determining how airborne troops could be used most effectively. His first action was writing FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of Air-Borne Troops. He used information about Soviet and German experiences with Paratroopers and Glider troops, and also used his own experience about tactics and warfare. The manual contained information about tactics, but also about the organization of the paratroopers, what kind of operations they could execute, and what they would need to perform their task efficiently.

Gavin is best suited to provide this history since he served with the Division during its entire participation in the European Campaign, starting as a Regimental Commander with the 505th to eventually command the division.

General Gavin gives a detailed description of all the operations the 82d participated in during World War II. He adds his analysis of why certain things went well for his unit, while other things were a struggle. He provides insight into the Allied command structure and the challenges it faced.

This is an enjoyable and informative book that provides a unique perspective of the war, much different than other general officers. Gavin personally experienced the harshness and challenges of WWII combat because of the nature of airborne operations. Gavin, also he participated in numerous high-level planning sessions with other well-known leaders of the Allied Command. This participation allows him to connect the planning and the execution of how strategic decisions influenced the actual combat operations in the European Theater of Operations.

For me, the most insightful and entertaining part of the book was General Gavin’s analysis of General Eisenhower’s decision to concede Berlin to the Russians. The last chapter reflects back on the war and Berlin question with a discussion of the decisions made and their impact and implications thirty years later. It is kind of interesting stuff, especially given the long-term implications that these decisions had on world events.

I strongly recommend this book. For those wanting to learn more about the 82d or airborne operations, this is required reading. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve was originally published: Kepler, Jimmie A. “New Year’s Eve,” Poetry & Prose Magazine, January 2012. Volume 3, Issue 15, Moonchild Designs, page 20. http://en.calameo.com/read/000339139f8d88e795466 (January 2012).

New Years Eve


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is an award-winning short story writer, poet, and indie author. He is the creator of the science fiction with faith series, The Liberator’s Helper.

Jimmie is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with minors in English and military science where he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army upon graduation. He served as a commissioned officer on active duty for three years and then five years in the US Army Reserves. He earned Master of Religious Education and Master of Arts degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also holds a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration. He sold his first magazine article over 35 years ago and has been writing professionally since then. He lives in a north Dallas Texas suburb with his wife and very demanding cat.

Tumbleweed Forts & Snow Forts

Snow Fort in New Hampshire
Snow Fort in New Hampshire

In January 1966, I was digging foxholes and building forts in the desert near the military quarters my family lived in on Biggs Air Force Base located in El Paso, Texas. My friends and I would dig big holes in the sand and surround our fort with tumbleweeds and other desert vegetation.  Nature camouflaged the fort’s site from prying eyes.

While we were building our prized base, another group of kids would do the same thing building their fortress several hundred yards away in another part the desert. One team would be the American soldiers.

A second team would be the German Soldiers. Pretending it was 1942 and 1943 we would play a dismounted game of “Rat Patrol” where we chased each other around the desert. The goal was to surprise and defeat the bad guys and their leader, General Erwin Rommel.

It would be hot, sandy and lots of fun as we played Army. Many times we took home huge amounts of sand home with us in the cuffs of our turned up blue jeans and in the blue jean pockets. Sometimes we added intrigue using water balloons as hand grenades.

Just a few weeks later in February 1966 my family relocated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Pease Air Force Base. There my role-playing and mischief continued with a new group of friends. Instead of sand, tumbleweeds, and water balloons we graduated to snow forts and an endless supply of snowballs. We would sneak up and destroy the enemy’s creation.

It would be cold, damp and lots of fun as we again played Army. This time we played pretending we were German troops on the Russian front facing the Red Army. It was sometimes confusing as we had trouble understanding how the Russians could be the good guys in this scenario. After all, this was in the middle of the Cold War, and the Russians were the Evil Soviet Empire.

Nevertheless, the fun was endless as we would dash in running and throwing snowballs. Sometimes we would ride our sleds and swoosh into action. Growing up a military brat was endless fun. The never-ending supply of kids your age made the fun that much greater.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is an award-winning short story writer, poet, and indie author. He is the creator of the science fiction with faith series, The Liberator’s Helper.

Jimmie is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with minors in English and military science where he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army upon graduation. He served as a commissioned officer on active duty for three years and then five years in the US Army Reserves. He earned Master of Religious Education and Master of Arts degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also holds a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration. He sold his first magazine article over 35 years ago and has been writing professionally since then. He lives in a north Dallas Texas suburb with his wife and very demanding cat.

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Tumbleweed Snowman

Tumbleweed Snowman

I lived in two desert communities when growing up. The locations were Phoenix, Arizona and El Paso, Texas.

In the 1950s and 1960s, both areas had little snow and lots of tumbleweeds. The residents tired of the same old snowless Christmas. There was almost no hope of snowfall. Without the snow, there would be no snowman.

Some creative person came up with the idea of building a snowman from tumbleweeds. It was simple. You obtained three. They were abundant in the desert. You placed the largest on the bottom. The middle-sized one went in the middle. The small one made the head. Some people spray painted them white.

Adding a hat, eyes, and mouth to the creation gave it personality. Sometimes we even added an old scarf as well.

A tumbleweed snowman can become a fun holiday tradition for your family. It is easy to create one of these eye-catching figures on your lawn.

My family did this when we lived on Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas.

Growing up as a military brat allowed me unusual experiences like a tumbleweed snowman.

If you were a military brat, what holiday traditions did you have?

Devotional: Christmas Bells

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

About “Christmas Bells”

“Christmas Bells” is a minor, yet well known, poem written by a very melancholy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas morning in 1863 during the midst of the Civil War. It is anti-slavery poem as well as a seasonal favorite.

The poem was written six months after the battle of Gettysburg where 40,000 soldiers lost their life. In addition to despairing over the bloody war, Henry was also mourning the death of his beloved wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow. Fanny died in a tragic fire the same year that the Civil War broke out. In November of 1862 another personal tragedy added to his pain. His son, Union Lieutenant Charles Appleton, was wounded in the Army of the Potomac.

On Christmas morning in 1863, while sitting at his desk at the Craigie House in Cambridge, MA, Henry was inspired to write a poem as he listened to the church bells pealing. Their constancy and joyous ringing inspired him to write “Christmas Bells.” In spite of his sadness, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate optimism that indeed:

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep
The Wrong shall fail;
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Sometime after 1872 Longfellow’s poem was adapted into a Christmas Carol. John B. Caulkin (1827-1905) was a famous English composer who set the lyrics to a gentle, melodic tune which is reminiscent of bells ringing. The carol is entitled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Alternative tunes have been written for the lyrics but Caulkin’s melody remains predominant.

I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1966 – 1967. I was in the seventh and eighth grade. My father was in the United States Air Force at the time. As a student at Portsmouth Junior High School I took field trips to both Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was a Bowdoin College graduate and was a faculty member before moving to Cambridge to teach at Harvard. We placed great emphasis when I was in junior high school on a classical education with understanding and appreciation of the arts including poetry.

One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir by Robert Dole


I found “One Soldier’s Story” by Robert Dole in the new book section of The Colony Public Library. The book tells the story of former US Senator and Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole, of Kansas. It shares tales of his growing up in Russell, Kansas. We learn of his running track, attending high school, working as a soda jerk, and attending Kansas University (KU). He opens the window to his experiences at KU where we see him running track, joining a fraternity, working odd jobs to help pay for his college, buying a phonograph, and experiencing the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

His story continues where he struggles with the choice of joining the US Army Air Corps or the US Army infantry. He joins the Army, goes to Officer Candidate School, and ultimately becomes an infantry officer. His tour of duty in World War II takes him to the Italian theater of the war. In Italy, his life is forever altered. He receives a critical wound while on a combat mission.

The remainder of “One Soldier’s Story” tells of his struggles through hospitalization, evacuation, and transport to the USA, rehabilitation, depression, learning to walk again, falling in love and his first marriage, return to Russell, Kansas and his daily challenges. We follow Bob Dole through his return to complete his college degree and his decision to attend law school. We experience his building a career as a young lawyer, the decision to run for political office, and his service as a US Senator, and being both a vice presidential candidate (1976) and presidential candidate (1996).

Whether you like Bob Dole’s conservative politics or not, you will find his story very inspirational. This extremely well-written memoir is hard to put down.

Books

A_tower_of_used_books_-_8446Books

Books take you places
You hope someday to go
They transport you to times
In the future or long, long ago

The words paint the pictures
The author’s canvas is your mind
Surreal images greet you
Where people are not always kind

You do not have to dress up to read one
They have a special texture, smell, and feel
Some tales make you laugh
While others make you squeal

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
May 7, 2009

Photo Source: 
© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.arCC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons