History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MAHACA wrestling triumphs vs. Paynesville & Benson

The MAHS gym was showcased for wrestling on Thursday, Jan. 16. The Tigers of MAHACA not only showcased their facility in a classy way, they won. They turned back Paynesville and Benson.
 
Tigers 37, Paynesville 29
Both teams were on a roll entering this dual. Each had won four straight. Something had to give. It was the Tigers coming out on top vs. the Bulldogs. The key individuals were Gage Wevley and Jacob Sperr. Wevley vies at 195 pounds and Sperr at 285. Both won by fall and considerably fueled the winning surge.
Reminder: "MAHACA" stands for "Morris Area Hancock Chokio Alberta." I personally wish the program would just adopt the "Morris" or "Morris Area" name. In the meantime, fans apparently pronounce the acronym phonetically: "ma-HA-ca." OK.
Matt Munstermen vied for "ma-HA-ca" at 106 pounds and he won by fall over Shawn Rue, time of :44. Ben Koehl was on the short end at 113 pounds vs. Eric Slanquist, by decision, 14-8. Jared Rohloff at 120 pounds also found victory elusive as he dropped a hard-fought 9-8 decision to Jared Kunstleben. Mitchel Ascheman at 126 pounds won by major decision over Jonathan Schaeffer, 15-5.
Travis Ostby, the 132-pounder, won by fall over Connor Meagher, time of 1:05. Dillan Johnson of the Tigers, 138 pounds, pinned Nick Gabrielson in a time of :35. Myles Smith vied for the Tigers at 145 and this Tiger decisioned Andrew Kerzman 7-0. Jerid Berning of the Tigers was on the short end via major decision against Devin Meagher, 16-2.
Devin Robertson at 160 lost by fall in 1:17 to Bulldog Jacob Mages. Danny Tracy was on the short end via fall (:43) against Anthony Wendlandt. Jordan Thooft at 182 was decisioned by Michael Ludwig, score of 9-3. Gage Wevley came on strong as the Tigiers' 195-pounder, pinning Cody Hunt in :53.
Alec Gausman was the Tigers' 220-pounder and he bowed in a 14-2 major decision to Derek Ludwig. Jacob Sperr was the MAHACA "big guy" at 285 pounds, and he pinned Mitchell Floura in a time of 1:22.
 
MAHACA 52, Benson 15
The Tigers had an aggressive stance on the mat vs. the Braves of Benson. They won by fall often in this decisive triumph vs. an old rival. They also took charge from the get-go, shooting out to a 31-0 lead. Five Tigers won by fall. There are 14 weight classes.
Matt Munsterman at 106 pounds won by a 5-1 decision over Jared Knutson. Ben Koehl at 113 pounds was one of those fall victors, getting Wyatt McGee's shoulders pinned to the mat in 0:17. Jared Rohloff at 120 pounds won by a 17-3 major decision over Ethan Lagge. Mitchell Ascheman carried the banner at 126 pounds and this Tiger edged Lane Guyer in a 7-6 decision.
Travis Ostby came on strong at 132 pounds, winning by fall over Aaron Zosel in 2:20. It was Dillan Johnson getting the job done at 138 pounds, turning back Brave Grant Ascheman in a 7-6 decision. Myles Smith of the Tigers pinned Dan Lenarz in a swift 0:32. Jerid Berning, 152 pounds, was on the short end by fall against Bryce Goff, time of 1:58.
Danny Tracy (160) tasted defeat against Mitch Koosman of the Braves, via a 10-4 decision. Steven Koehl of the Tigers, 170 pounds, won by fall over Matt Wieber, time of 1:44. Jordan Thooft (182) was a decision winner over Trevor Berreau, 10-5.
At 195 pounds, R.J. Hogrefe of Benson won by forfeit. (I'm a little surprised by this, because people have told me MAHACA is blessed by really good numbers.)
Alec Gausman of the Tigers won by fall over Dakota Watkins at 220 pounds, time of 1:45. Jacob Sperr pinned Ross Grussing at 285 pounds, time of 0:13.
 
Disappointing news
The word is, Trent Oberg is returning to the Morris Area school faculty after an extended leave. I am disappointed to hear that, as I found him to be a rather unpleasant person to work with, when he was the gymnastics coach and I was with the newspaper. I felt he had a sullen personality. The school district had a chance to at least try to terminate him once, and I wish they would have at least tried.
 
Fun news
John Wayne strutted into the saloon as "J.B. Books" and said, "Today is my birthday, give me the best you've got." Well today, January 28, is my birthday. I'm 59 years old. I'm drifting in life and I'm just taking one day at a time.
It's fun to write about Tiger wrestling again. I fondly remember the Al Hendrickson era of the sport here. He took a lot of kids who might be ruffians and shaped them up. (A lot of them were still ruffians.) Dave Holman dutifully took photos for the slide show, back before anyone heard of powerpoint, digital cameras or laptops. No, we didn't wear high-button shoes.
 
Mysterious news
The travails of our high school principal haven't yet made the Star Tribune newspaper. What's up? My theory is that the paper, perhaps as a matter of policy, is waiting for a plea in this legal situation. I have read that the plea was initially deferred.
What an unnecessary crisis to have befallen our local school. If people are going to socialize, why cannot this be done without alcohol? Why not just meet at the Old No. 1, order a nice meal and have a Pepsi? I'm just asking. Maybe I'm a prude. If I was so smart, I'd still be working for the newspaper.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jim Peterson was on LST of destiny at Iwo Jima (WWII)

The National Iwo Jima memorial
I have lunch with a group of people that on many days includes Jim Peterson. This is at the Morris Senior Community Center. The Center sends out lunches to many people where they live. This is a most precious service.
The number of people coming to the Center for their noon meal, for whatever reason has gone down through the years. Jim Peterson is one of those dependable souls. He used to come with his wife Jean. Jean has passed away. My father Ralph, who was another devoted attendee, passed away in February of 2013.
Did you ever see the movie "Flags of our Fathers?" Remember all the military boats scattered about, off the shore of that obscure island called Iwo Jima? Imagine Jim Peterson out there. That's because he was out there.
People with such a background are becoming fewer in our population. My father served in the Pacific Theater like Jim. Our United States had to put down the menacing Empire of Japan. Our resolve was 100 per cent after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The need for war is so forlorn and tragic. The Japanese were maniacally opposed to the U.S. people. Propaganda dispensed by the Japanese leaders largely caused that. The Japanese military men had been persuaded that the American GIs were ruthless animals. This is a reason why many of the Japanese chose ritual suicide over surrender. It was a choice many had to make.
 
Closing vise on Japanese empire
The Japanese had no hope at Iwo Jima. Peterson was part of the massive Allied effort called "Operation Detachment." While success was guaranteed, it was grudging and unspeakably tragic. Peterson was on an LST that departed from Guam on February 12, 1945. "LST" stands for "landing ship/tank."
Peterson and his mates were initially not told the destination or mission. Four days passed. Then the crew learned: "Island of Iwo Jima." They hadn't heard of the place, Jim recalled. His recollections of the experience are in the book put out by our Stevens County Historical Society: "The '40s, a time for war and a time for peace."
Jim's LST carried a Marine artillery company, ammunition and gasoline. Upon arrival, one feature of the island stood out: "Mount Suribachi," a dormant cone-shaped volcano.
"Suribachi was a naturally strong position," Peterson reported in the book, "and the Japanese had made it stronger. The mountain had over 200 gun emplacements and 21 blockhouses."
Peterson's LST was the first to "hit the beach." This was on the day he called "D+1" - military terminology, I gather, and it refers to one day after the start of operations. It's mid-February of 1945 with the Allied vise closing on the Japanese empire. But two atomic bombs were going to be required.
The Japanese were pulling out all stops to resist the inevitable. Thus we had the chapter of World War II called "island-hopping." We read about this in books like it was all quite methodical. Time has created emotional distance for us from WWII. The contemporaneous controversies and disputes can fade. And, there was definitely controversy about island-hopping and specifically in connection to Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima is put forth as a symbol of American triumph. The American flag that became emblematic of that, had been stored on Jim's LST. Remember that famous flag-raising pose? It became part of American propaganda, the benevolent type of propaganda of course, and it's the centerpiece of the Clint Eastwood movie. We might forget that the necessity of the Iwo Jima campaign was in question.
 
Disclosure re. my orientation
It's in my nature to be skeptical about war because I grew up during Viet Nam. Thus I'm intrigued, and quite saddened, to learn that the justification of Iwo Jima was specious. Here was the idea: to capture the whole island, including three airfields, to provide a staging area for attacks on the Japanese main islands.
Here's the rebuttal: Iwo Jima was going to be useless to the Army as a staging base and useless to the Navy as a fleet base. It had limited use to the Army Air Force, only for emergency landings. But other smaller islands could have been used for this. The price paid by our armed forces was so staggering. Indeed we're lucky having Jim with us. Had the feared invasion of the Japanese mainland occurred, who knows? And what of my father Ralph? Would I even be here today?
The fanatically motivated Japanese troops were aligned in a dense network of bunkers on Iwo Jima. They had hidden artillery positions and tunnels. Dug in as they were, they were going to be attacked by enormous U.S. firepower. This was the first attack on the Japanese home territory.
How wicked was the conflict? The flamethrower was a chief U.S. weapon. It was used to kill the Japanese holed into pillboxes, buildings and caves. Jim Peterson's LST opened fire on Suribachi with 40 mm guns, to silence the Japanese gunfire.
"We stayed on the beach until 5 in the morning," Jim recalled. "Then we were shelled pretty heavily, so we pulled off. We went in again at D+3 and finished unloading the powder and ammunition." Marines came aboard Jim's LST to get a flag from the boat's captain, a flag to be hoisted atop that ungodly volcanic piece of rock called "Suribachi."
 
Finding levity from war
I had a friend in high school who did a dandy John Wayne impression, in saying "We're taking Suribachi and I don't want to hear any 'buts' about it!" Bob Foss and Bruce Christiansen were high school friends who could "nail" John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, with Bob specializing in Wayne and Bruce in Stewart, although they could cross over some. The impressions are exaggerated so as to achieve humor. Bruce would stutter for a couple seconds as he began the Jimmy Stewart line: "Saddle up my horse in the morning and ride out when it's clear."
Ironically we'd laugh about the "Suribachi" line uttered with such bravado. It's just another example of how we achieve emotional distance from war. Like with the war toys that boomer males played with when young (e.g. a plastic hand grenade operating with cap gun "caps").
Movies like "the Longest Day," about D-Day, drew throngs of boomer males to the theaters. John Wayne was in that. The script called for him to say "hell" which to us seemed edgy. "Send them to hell!"
Americans have not yet achieved emotional distance from 9/11. This is why we haven't seen movies, yet, that vividly portray what happened on that day. But I assure you, such movies will come along.
"We're taking Suribachi and I don't want to hear any 'buts' about it!"
Should I assume that line was from "Sands of Iwo Jima?" In any case, taking that island was a hellish affair. The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 U.S. casualties including 6,800 dead.
It was Joe Rosenthal who took the famous photo of the flag-raising on top of Suribachi. Three of the six men in the photo didn't survive the battle. Clint Eastwood became focused on that flag which was from Peterson's LST, and the men raising it.
The movie "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006) shows the three survivors going on a goodwill tour of the U.S. in order to sell war bonds. Often they had to re-enact the famous pose. We learn about "survivor's guilt."
The movie was based on a book of the same name by James Bradley and Ron Powers. The essence of this story: a "mundane moment" blown wildly out of proportion by the media and a government eager to exploit patriotic feelings during war. The men who raised the flag become part of the War Department's propaganda machine and are labeled heroes, much to their chagrin.
Eastwood's movie attempts to problemize the concept of heroism in war. The public saw the men as symbols of U.S. excellence, but the men were too tortured by what they saw, and didn't find the label fitting.
Have you read the book "For Whom the Bell Tolls?"
 
Getting just the right flag
Jim Peterson's LST had the kind of flag the Marines were looking for. It was "one of our 'Sunday' or large ensigns," Jim recalled. "The Marines only had a small flag which could not be seen by the ships at sea and the troops inland. So it was LST 779's flag that the Marines raised on Suribachi, unofficially signifying its capture by the Marines."
I'm not sure how Jim's crew could be so close to combat and not have casualties. But this is what happened. Actually there was one minor injury, to a crewman's thumb, Jim has told me.
We're blessed having Jim with us. But the wisdom behind the Iwo Jima campaign - "Operation Detachment" - might be called into question.
Here's how Jim summed up his experience: "Aboard ship, as we watched the Marines raise our flag, we all felt very good because we had been the first LST on the beach, our flag was on top of the mountain, and we did not have one casualty among the crew." 
It's all enshrined in history. And yet mankind doesn't seem to learn the lessons. We were dragged through Korea and then the nightmare called Viet Nam which cast a backdrop through my whole youth.
 
The durable LST in war
The landing ship/tank (LST) was an invention for war. The British evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 demonstrated the need. The vessel debuted in the Solomon Islands in June of 1943. LSTs were a big part of the invasions of Sicily, Italy, Normandy and southern France, along with the infamous "island hopping" which is embedded in Peterson's memory.
We learn that LSTs "demonstrated a remarkable capacity to absorb punishment and survive."
Servicemen would sometimes joke that "LST" stood for "large slow target" or "large stationary target." Silly young men. Or shall we say irreverent. I'm sure the GIs turned to gallows humor a lot. I can't possibly relate to how you might confront such stress. Many of these young men came away with PTSD of course.
Seeing Jim Peterson at our Morris Senior Community Center, you'd never suspect he was through anything traumatic. He's so fortunate. He has lived a full life with wife Jean, who was librarian at Morris High School when I attended there. She'd call me "kiddo."
Our family has a monument at our Summit Cemetery plot that acknowledges Ralph's service in the U.S. Navy. We have a black bench type of marker. Just enter the cemetery at the veterans memorial and go east into that new open area. You'll see "U.S.N. WWII" under my father's name. He visited Tokyo with other officers shortly after the end of hostilities. Tokyo was ravaged. He described a most stark scene: families living in tee-pees made of corrugated tin, and on and on. Homeless families.
One wonders why the fire-bombing wouldn't complete the job, without the exploding of atomic weaponry.
World War II was hell. We need to learn and to realize that our human impulses could still be pointed in that direction. Heaven help us.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chris Christie takes "long way around the barn" in denials

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey
I had a friend once who gave advice on how to get out of jury duty. He said that when you show up for the initial screening, just say "you know, I'm going to be good at this, because I can tell if a person is guilty just by looking at him."
I was reminded of this when Chris Christie went to the podium last week. This was going to be Christie's "Checkers speech," only without the dog. I was going to watch in order to try to spot any telltale signs of guilt. Me and countless others.
We asked ourselves: How would a totally innocent person behave in this situation? Christie, a lawyer by profession, was going to be way too clever to be cornered by a room-full of reporters. What we needed was people with training in asking prosecutorial questions. Christie "worked the clock," blathering and repeating and giving the impression this was a fully adequate mea culpa.
Would a totally innocent person feel the need to spend nearly two hours in front of a gaggle of reporters? A totally innocent person wouldn't have that much to say. A totally innocent person wouldn't feel the need to talk about his "feelings" so much. An innocent person would say in a tight, efficient way that he tried to take the appropriate actions when informed of anything untoward. As for his own lack of guilt, it would be professed in a straightforward way - no need to "take the long way around the barn."
Christie took a couple laps around the barn. As a public servant he should have shown more humility. We don't need chutzpah at a time like this.
Had I known how long the press conference was going to be, I'd be sure to go to the bathroom first. It isn't only New Jersay that is "stronger than the storm," our bladders had to be, also.
The governor is under scrutiny over how the "Sandy money" was spent, in recovery. I guess it was Rand Paul who established the term "Sandy money." Paul is a Kentucky Republican who can't bring himself to get on board with a Northern Republican. Too many "rinos" there.
Of course, the Republicans will rue the day they became perceived as a party associated with the Southern U.S. We're not talking Lester Maddox here, but the South is too small a base and has become too stigmatized given its history of losing. 
Northern Republicans have to be whistling past the graveyard a little. 
 
Bigger than life image (yes, bigger)
Christie is the rotund governor who has developed a certain charisma about himself. This story line can take on a life of its own. Beyond competence, or lack of it, we see a politician who is good at getting attention for himself. Instead of being branded a loud-mouthed jerk, he comes to be seen as direct and candid. There is much about Christie the media likes. He wouldn't stand out if he were an ordinary, temperate man with measured views and statements. A two-hour press conference is in line with the kind of visibility he has achieved. An objective view of Christie would cut him down to size.
But the media likes this cartoonish image that makes the governor seem like "Bluto" out of "Popeye." He tells off a constituent who wanted to ask why Christie sends his kids to private school. Then he goes on the "Morning Joe" TV program and respectfully answers the same question, when he's talking with people in his own orbit of anointed movers and shakers. He knows the people with whom he has to cultivate a good feeling. Those people are largely not out in "Flyoverland."
There is much incestuousness among the powerful people out East.
The "Morning Joe" panelists should act like hard-nosed journalists, which they purport to be, and not go out of their way talking about how much they "like" Chris Christie, and how "he's a friend of the show." We need a governor who's a "friend of the people." But that's a problem with Republicans: They have ideas and principles but they don't care about people. Thus Rachel Maddow (on the left) asserts that Republicans see government as "theater," little more. So, we have those "stronger than the storm" TV ads that stroke the Christie family.
Christie is now facing a probe over "Sandy" relief funds. The ad campaign came across as a Christie re-election campaign. Christie was running against Barbara Buono, the Democrat who knew she'd have powerful machinery aligned against her. Once you get used to pronouncing her name - not quite like Sonny "Bono" - you have to admire her grit in the face of Christie's bigger-than-life political persona and snowballing momentum.
Buono is among the many critics turning up on TV now. I'm not sure she's a "friend" of the "Morning Joe" panelists (of Joe Scarborough), but why in heck should she be? She's up against a "show business phenomenon" as much as anything. The fat and loud-mouthed Christie has an image that the media have deemed interesting and engaging. Competence, meanwhile, is off to the side. "The show must go on."
 
Bridge episode becomes scandal
Eventually, shortcomings in competence do show themselves. So, we come to the notorious bridge closing episode. Teeming commuters cross the George Washington Bridge. September 9 was the first day of school for New Jersey children. The Port Authority closed two of the three access lanes connecting Fort Lee NJ to the bridge. Port Authority officials claimed the lanes were closed as part of a "traffic study." Motorists got ensnarled in maddening delays - an obvious outcome not requiring any "study."
Politics was afoot. I'll repeat the saying I used in connection with our Denny Hecker mess in Minnesota: "What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."
People are getting sucked into a whirlpool of investigations now. It's far worse than the mayor of New York City using a knife and fork to eat his pizza (LOL). The NYC mayor represents a comeback for liberals. The bridge scandal could give a push to that too. Remember, Republicans don't care about people. Alan Grayson knows how to be blunt about this. He describes the Republican approach to health care as follows: "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."
People need some very real help in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. It was October 29, 2012, when Sandy devastated New York, New Jersey and a wide swath out East, killing at least 159 people and destroying more than 650,000 homes. The "stronger than the storm" ads avoid any uncomfortable scenes. We see kids building sand castles. We see the Christie family in campaign mode. They are all very well-scrubbed.
The people out there needed as much very real, very direct help as possible. But as we all learn when getting familiar with the political process, "Republicans don't want people to like government." And, "Republicans don't care about people." They see government as an annoyance - an impediment.
The suffering commuters who needed the bridge, were like so many ants underfoot with Christie's national political aspirations. He needed to "run up the score" in his win over Buono. BTW I consider Buono to be a quite attractive woman. Sensitive and thoughtful too. She got burned by the Christie machine, a machine that bit off more than it could chew in trying to hurt Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
Bridget Anne Kelly emailed to David Wildstein: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." This is the language of thuggery, reflecting the kind of element that might call on Batman to eradicate. Attention Commissioner Gordon. Fortunately there are regulatory checks and balances in real life.
Right now, it looks like the big bombastic governor is going to be cut down to size. Eventually even your friends will leave you in a situation like this. And you'll be left only with pathetic lap dogs like Rudy Giuliani talking you up. Giuliani should stick with his infomercials. Talk about incestuousness: "Morning Joe" gives Giuliani a platform to spout his knee-jerk partisan nonsense, only because Giuliani is one of those anointed individuals in the East Coast power corridor. Such incestuousness helped pave the way for the financial crisis - too many people with backgrounds at the same Ivy League schools, too intertwined, too back-slapping with each other.
Memo to those people: Those of us out in the Great Plains are just as intelligent as you tinsel-crazed jerks. Steve Kornacki should just report, and not go on and on about how he's indebted to Wildstein, a man who takes the Fifth in court. Wildstein is the Christie-appointed Port Authority executive who ordered the lane closures. When Bridget Anne Kelly emailed "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Wildstein responded "got it."
Would normal, sensible people, the kind of people with whom I mix at the Morris MN McDonald's Restaurant in the morning, ever think of communicating on such terms? And yet we have those unsavory folks on our TV tube, as if they're so (expletive) important and should command our attention. 
  
Putting aside public service
Chris Christie is a magnet for attention with his two-hour press conference. "He doth protest too much," or something like that. Christie is a moderate Republican in a blue state. That in itself creates a jam for him. But his biggest jam was when his operation put aside civility and good sense, forgetting the noble aim of public service in the name of premature presidential aspirations.
It's too early to focus on the presidential stuff anyway. What sensible person would want that job anyway? Better to stay low-profile, so you can choose to eat your pizza with knife and fork and not be pilloried.
"Bluto" (Christie) made his bed, now he can sleep in it. Hang in there, Barbara Buono.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 9, 2014

JoAnn Person committed herself to Army Nurse Corps

The scope of violence and tragedy in World War II defies description. Not until "Saving Private Ryan" did Hollywood really put aside inhibitions about showing all that. The honesty, ironically, may have helped kill off the WWII combat movie. When I was a kid, I think it was just understood how gruesome much of the conflict was.
Latheria "JoAnn" Person flew over Nagasaki soon after the infamous atomic bomb was dropped there. The Hiroshima bomb was more famous. Hiroshima was the first and it taught us that we'd better restrain our human impulse of conflict, lest civilization be wiped out. We learned to a degree. But I grew up with Viet Nam as a most unfortunate conflict engulfing humanity.
JoAnn Person departed from this life on December 3, 2013. She became part of that immense wave of Greatest Generation members exiting into the next life. The name "Latheria" was from her ancestors. Everyone called her "JoAnn." She spent the last five years of her life at West Wind Village.

Lives about to be transformed
The Greatest Generation saw headlines after Pearl Harbor that indicated to them their lives would change. JoAnn recalled a report in the New York Times about Congress' impending legislation to draft Registered Nurses. JoAnn wasn't going to wait. She enlisted. She was a 1943 graduate of Mercy College of Nursing in San Diego CA. She was working at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City when she saw that news report.
She was inducted at Camp Carson CA and underwent three weeks of basic training. She then received five days leave. She learned she was going to be sent overseas. 
JoAnn was among several hundred nurses on a hospital ship that pulled out of Long Beach CA en route to Hawaii. In Hawaii they were separated into groups. Some were to stay in Hawaii while others went to various South Pacific hospitals. JoAnn underwent three weeks of "jungle training," learning to attend to the various types of wounds and tropical diseases. She was put on "alert," not knowing where her service would take her.
Finally word came: JoAnn was deployed to the 227th Station Hospital in Guam and Okinawa.
JoAnn recalled the heat and humidity as overbearing.
"We perspired constantly," she recalled in the book of war recollections put out by our Historical Society, "and soon noticed the mold on most things."
JoAnn was taken to the 68th Field Hospital. She explained that such a hospital was "completely portable." She described her nurses' quarters as one 14-foot tent with a dirt floor, a folding army cot, a blanket and a mosquito net for the cot. "Thick mud" was part of the environment. She was assigned to a surgical ward which was a double-pitched tent with 40 army cots. It was a triage center.
"The care was good but somewhat crude," JoAnn recalled in the Historical Society book, called "The '40s, a time for war and a time for peace."
Nurses were called on to "invent and improvise" at times. Obviously she saw a lot that was depressing. She noted that some "emotional distance" was necessary - not easy. The doctors left much of the daily care to the discretion of nurses. JoAnn was struck by how the patients looked after each other. Everyone appreciated and was respectful toward the nurses.
All the grim aspects didn't stand in the way of occasional laughter and fun, JoAnn recalled. Nurses would gather the ingredients for fudge sometimes, and the soldiers loved it.
  
The Okinawa campaign: large in scope, brutal
Okinawa is a famous place associated with World War II, or shall we say infamous. The battle of Okinawa was code-named "Operation Iceberg." It was fought in the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa, and involved the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater. It spanned April until mid-June of 1945.
After a long campaign of island-hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan and planned to use Okinawa, located just 340 miles from the mainland, as a base for air operations with the anticipated invasion of the mainland. Four Army divisions and two Marine divisions fought on the island group.
The combat was hellish, making us wonder how humankind can descend to such a level. The battle of Okinawa came to be called "typhoon of steel." This reflected the sheer ferocity of fighting. The Japanese unleashed kamikaze fighters. The Allied efforts included naval and amphibious resources and tactical air forces. The casualty statistics were the most tragic of the Pacific Theater.

Dad hits the nail on the head
My late father Ralph E. Williams was in the Pacific Theater as gunnery commander and was fortunate enough to survive, like JoAnn. I remember when Dad and I were watching a WWII documentary on TV, and there was a scene with some Japanese leader making a formal speech leading up to the war. I remember because Dad uttered one word, in disgust: "politics." He left it at that. Here's the significance: My father wasn't indicting the Japanese people for all that happened, rather he saw the political apparatus as the culprit. People are people.
The Allies had 14,009 deaths at Okinawa - incredible. There were 65,000-plus Allied casualties of all kinds. How can one even get a grip on the enormity of this? The number of Japanese killed or committing suicide, along with the toll on the natives, were similarly jaw-dropping. I hate to even keep reciting the numbers.
No wonder the Greatest Generation spoiled their own children after the war. They were young in a time when the specter of war made the future completely uncertain. They already had dealt with the Great Depression. They readily had children after the war. Their "boomer" children grew up in prosperous times but there was conflict with Viet Nam an unnecessary distraction.
I think most boomers feel their parents could have done more to try to influence the the government to withdraw from Viet Nam. But those were Cold War times, times of paranoia and fear about things that largely turned out to be boogeymen. Communism imploded on its own.
We have to ask ourselves: Would the Axis powers have imploded on their own? I guess there was urgency about the possibility of the Nazis using the most developed weaponry. The Nazis did get into rocketry.
There was always doubt about whether the Japanese empire could get enough resources to continue their conquests. Wasn't the Pearl Harbor attack prompted by the feeling of being pinched with resources? Well, the Japanese certainly learned there'd be hell to pay. Indeed, "the sleeping giant" of the U.S. was awakened and "filled with a terrible resolve."
It was a blessed resolve of course. The tragedy was the price paid for good to triumph over empire-building. The Japanese paid that price dearly as the war arrived at its closing stages. The bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki.
"The day the first atomic bomb was dropped was a day and night of great confusion," JoAnn recalled. "There were no communications, and nothing about a bomb. No one knew what was happening, and the rumor was the Japanese were trying to retake the island."
Nurses were escorted to a bomb shelter, actually an Okinawan tomb on the side of a hill.
Everyone went through an episode called "the false peace," JoAnn recalled. Then came Nagasaki, whereupon "the word finally came through: the war was over.
"Then there was a real crazy celebration."
  
War leaves us pondering questions
Had there been no atomic bomb, to what extent would there be an invasion of the Japanese mainland? There is tons of speculation about this. How much more tragedy and deaths could each side absorb? What on earth was Japan trying to accomplish? Or the Nazis? Did they really think the conflict would eventually just wind down and they could relish their empires? The Nazi leaders were going to be sought for prosecution. To the extent the Japanese abused or killed prisoners, their leaders too would have to be held accountable.
The Axis leaders were never going to live comfortably in a world restored to peace. Many of their leaders had to realize they were simply going to have to fight to the death.
Why? What was it that possessed mankind in the years leading up to World War II? What explains the behavior at the "rape of Nanking?" Why was human life so brittle?
JoAnn Person was committed to the profession of healing. She did all she could in her MASH unit. Her generation was taken from a placid pre-war routine into a conflagration defying description. Military service took men and women from small towns and large cities across America and transported them around the world. After the war, the veterans including those intrepid nurses took advantage of the increased education opportunities provided for them by the government.
Indeed, WWII changed American society irrevocably. It redefined the status and opportunities of the professional nurse.
The U.S. Army Nurse Corps listed fewer than 1,000 on its rolls at the time of Pearl Harbor. How quaint. It's sad of course that peace could not have prevailed. Sinister forces around the globe nixed that. The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor where 82 Army nurses were stationed around Hawaii, serving at three Army medical facilities. Six months after that attack, there were 12,000 nurses in the Army Nurse Corps ranks.
In all there were over 59,000 American nurses serving in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during the war.
Nurses in the war served closer to the front lines than ever before. They served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes.
  
Nagasaki bomb more powerful than the first
Nagasaki was an exclamation point on WWII. That fateful day was August 9, 1945, and the time was 11:02 a.m. The original target was Kokura but this city was obscured by clouds! Amazing how fate operates. So, Nagasaki was chosen, an important port in the vicinity.
The bomb, called "Fat Man," was dropped, and the north part of the city was destroyed in less than a second. This was a plutonium bomb, a type having been detonated only once previously, as a test in central New Mexico.
"Fat Man" killed 73,884 and injured 74,909. It was actually somewhat more powerful than "Little Boy" which was dropped on Hiroshima. More powerful it was, but it actually did less damage than the Hiroshima bomb because of Nagasaki's more uneven terrain.
The pace of reconstruction in Nagasaki was slow. Today it's the capital and largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan.
"A few days after the war ended, we were told be be prepared for some very unusual patients coming to our hospital," JoAnn Person recalled. "They were liberated prisoners of war coming from Japan. We were to prepare ourselves emotionally for what we were about to see and for whom we were to care."
It was grim. The liberated prisoners were emaciated and suffered from diseases, mostly tuberculosis. The nurses cried and so did the generals, JoAnn reported.
  
Brainerd Guard unit bears brunt
The toll in war's aftermath included the National Guard unit of Brainerd MN, my mother Martha's hometown. The Brainerd unit entered war with fanfare from their hometown, amidst festivities including the high school band with Mom playing trumpet. The unit was in fact doomed to misery. It was sent to the Philippines. The Japanese (called "Japs" or "Nips" in denigration at the time) rolled over U.S. forces, leaving General MacArthur in the wake of this to make his pledge to "return." He did, but only after tremendous sadness and misery.
The prisoners freed by the Japanese at the end of WWII were "ravenously hungry," according to JoAnn. She and the other nurses were ready to go home, to be spelled by others. But there was no such news forthcoming. They were headed to Korea with the Army of Occupation.
"On our flight to Korea, our pilot circled over the remains of Nagasaki," JoAnn reported. "We were all thankful the war had ended without an invasion taking place. We were happy that many lives had been saved - possibly our own."
In Korea the nurses had to deal with smallpox. The longing to go home grew. JoAnn got injured on duty. In the book she doesn't specify her injury, but it was sufficient for her to be sent home as a patient. She sailed, part of a passenger load that included 3,000 soldiers and 16 nurses, on a ship from Korea to Seattle, a journey requiring 14 days which seemed really long.
JoAnn was hospitalized for four months in Tacoma WA.
She met Lyle Person at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. She got her degree in psychology in 1949. She and Lyle were married a year earlier. She worked for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in health services for two years. Then she came to Morris to farm with Lyle, plus she worked for five years in the Morris Public Schools as school nurse, and for many years at Morris Medical Center, SCMC, West Wind Village and Hoffman Good Samaritan Center.
What a "Greatest Generation" life! She was an only child, like me.
I will never forget the service veterans with whom I interacted when I was with the Morris newspaper. They readily pop into my memory, people like Fritz Spohr, John Barber and Melvin Reynolds. The veterans organizations are a dynamic presence in Morris. That's what these people are all about: commitment and goodness. Let us never forget their gentle and reassuring presence.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, January 3, 2014

Armistice Day blizzard in Minnesota in 1940: grim

Armistice Day blizzard photo from "Sprick family" blog
One of the persons with whom I exchange Christmas cards lives in Missouri. St. Charles MO. I once heard that midsummer in Missouri with its humidity was like Minnesota winters in terms of the challenges presented. I haven't asked her about this.
I do know that as I write the first draft for this post, the wind howls outside. It howls and roars as if evil spirits are out and about. Is it a blizzard? Some of the forecasters offered that word. It is surely not a blizzard. It's merely a spell of unpleasant weather that causes us Minnesotans to follow the ritual of "stocking up on groceries." We hunker down in case the worst happens.
We don't seem to get the kind of blizzards that I remember from years ago. Is it global climate change? The kind of climate change that gave us a (light) hailstorm in October? We have to be prepared for some new wrinkles in the weather now, it seems.
Reflecting further, maybe my perception has just changed. Maybe we can deal better with the bad winter weather because of better resources for doing so. We are thus less inclined to notice the severity. One appreciates this theory when reading about the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. We lived in a much different world in 1940. We were vulnerable in the face of weather adversity.
Think about the year: 1940. November. We were about a year from entering World War II. Young people all over America were about to have their lives changed profoundly because of the war effort that was quite suddenly thrust upon us. But in that November of 1940, people were skeptical about being dragged into the overseas conflicts. Life remained peaceful here.
The famous blizzard happened on November 11, 1940. A lengthy misty rain preceded the real onslaught of weather. The sleet finally gave way to snow. Snow had been forecast but not to a degree prompting alarm.
Armistice Day was a time to remember "the big war" which at that time was World War I. That was "the war to end all wars," a phrase we might remember with a shake of the head. So, it was a day of some mourning. But also, it most surely was a day for hunting. The hunters probed the woods for deer and went to the rivers for ducks.
November 11 was a Monday. If you weren't hunting you might be going to work. The day began with no feeling that something serious or catastrophic might be afoot. Slowly that began to change. The winds increased to 30-plus MPH with gusts much higher. People at their jobs in the Twin Cities began worrying about getting home. Many didn't make it. Drifts built up with suddenness. Cars became stalled which blocked roads.
The extent of the crisis was clear by late afternoon. Public transportation became grounded. Suddenly there was a feeling all around Minnesota to "hole up" and simply get through it all. People made do wherever they were. Years later, people were known to tell stories about where they were and how they coped with this hellish unleashing of the elements.
The temperature fell to near zero by Tuesday morning. The hellish episode covered a wide swath of the Upper Midwest. High winds were even reported along the Eastern seaboard. Icy squalls were reported in the Rocky Mountain region.
 
We'd be better protected today
What if it happened today? It would surely be memorable and challenging, but most certainly to a lesser degree. We are much better equipped to deal with rampaging weather. The weather forecasting is more reliable, and if anything tends to "over-warn" us, sometimes making an approaching storm seem more serious than how it turns out.
All aspects of transportation are far better developed. Let's cite the road-clearing vehicles - more of them and better ones. There was no Interstate Highway system in 1940.
We take for granted the very effective outerwear we have today. Such outerwear reflects a scientific understanding of how clothing can insulate us from the weather. Synthetics accomplish this. Outerwear are heat-efficient and water-protective. The finest wool hunting clothing of the '40s could easily leave us feeling cold and miserable.
Water resistant hats and jackets are a precious asset today.
People in the midst of the Armistice Day blizzard knew it was bad, but they'd wait a day or so before getting news reports reviewing the scope and toll of it all. The snowfall was staggering, a record for 24 hours, coming in at the range of 16-plus inches, greater in some places like Collegeville which had 26.6 inches!
There was tragedy. Two days after the storm, there were 37 known deaths in Minnesota. That figure got pushed to 59. It was revised down to 49 by a researcher in 1983. Nationally it appears the death toll was 144. So, Minnesota had about 40 per cent of the total dead. Indeed we were at the apex.
People took refuge wherever they could. Stories abounded. For the hunters, the crisis became especially grim as conditions worsened. In the Winona area alone, in southeastern Minnesota, the bodies of 14 hunters were found Tuesday night. Seven died from drowning, seven from freezing.
 
Adversity on heels of the Depression
Damage to property had to be staggering. Engine blocks were frozen solid. Crashes left cars totalled. The hellish wind gusts uprooted trees. One reading in Duluth was 63 MPH! All this weather adversity was thrust upon us as we were struggling to emerge from the Depression. Jobs were still far from plentiful. Disposable income was anything but plentiful.
Houses were primitive in many ways. Many had no central heating. They might lack storm windows, weather stripping or even insulation. Some remote areas might not even be blessed with electricity yet, or telephones, or even running water in the house.
 
Franklin Roosevelt fresh from re-election
The great Armistice Day blizzard happened just six days after the presidential election. FDR turned back Wendell Willkie. FDR was thus embarking on his third term, a matter of concern to many. He had defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 and Alf Landon in 1936. Now with Willkie put aside, FDR would have to lead the USA through the grave challenges of World War II. And he would run again for president, and win, in 1944 over Thomas Dewey.
FDR died in office. No other president won more than two elections.
As Minnesotans went about their rounds in that November of 1940, the world's conflicts were not out of mind. Those conflicts hovered quite noticeably, but we were steadfast in not wanting any part of them. Thus the "America Firsters" arose as a major influence. FDR and his party's platform pledged no involvement in the conflicts, unless an attack should happen. Japan attacked and the "Firsters" evaporated out of existence most suddenly. Conspiracy theorists later suggested FDR allowed Pearl Harbor to happen, thus the door could open for the USA to assert itself.
Many critics thought FDR's third term by itself was a threat to democratic government. The law prevents this today (or we might still have Bill Clinton, which might actually be a good thing, IMHO).
The "war in Europe" seemed a looming specter for us. Adolph Hitler was this odd dictator whose voice we heard on the radio. Hunting might have been an outlet, an emotional release as it were, for people to put aside concerns about macro affairs for a day. We learn that the weather had been "deceptively mild" leading up to Armistice Day. The Weather Bureau on the day before, didn't suggest anything truly alarming. We got that term "snow flurries."
Deer hunters liked the snow forecast because they could expect being able to track. (I see no appeal in the sport of hunting today.) Duck hunters expected that birds would be easy to find. The hunters' enthusiasm would turn out to be deadly for many of them.
My late father Ralph E. Williams had an account of how he got through the famous blizzard. I have to confess I have forgotten the details. My father passed away in February of 2013. At the time of the blizzard he was 24 years old. He was a Glenwood native and graduate of the University of Minnesota.
Our family came to Morris in 1960 and established our permanent residence on the northern edge, where we can really feel the blasts of northwest wind in wintertime. We do have a shelterbelt of trees in back.
We remember some significant blizzards since moving out here. I can only try to imagine what the Armistice Day blizzard was like.
 
Two "adventures" for me in blizzards
I have been stranded out of town twice in blizzards. The first was in the 1970s and I got holed up in Westport, a fly speck of a town east of Glenwood. It's along that seemingly endless stretch of highway between Glenwood and Sauk Centre. It seems endless because there seems to be nothing there.
My 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado - what a car, I wish I still had - just couldn't plunge forward any further in the face of Mother Nature. I rapped on the front door of a private home where the people were most helpful. The times seemed more innocent then, with people tending to be more trusting. My "host family" had relatives visiting. We watched "The Tonight Show" which I remember had the Smothers Brothers as guests. The Smothers Brothers weren't just comedians, they were a little edgy and controversial at that time, as noted by one of the people in the room.
Bottles of beer were available. Drinking was a more accepted pastime then. We were supposed to appreciate alcohol when it was offered to us. I most heartily appreciated my hosts.
Finally the winds subsided and it was time to head out, and I remember the feeling of camaraderie I felt with other motorists who were getting out on the roads at first opportunity. I exchanged a wave with one, as if we were both saying "good luck" or "Geronimo!" or whatever. I was en route to St. Cloud. Finally I got to the Interstate Highway which always seems to be stable.
My second time of getting stranded was years later when I drove the van for the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper. I shouldn't have even left Morris en route for Lowry. I should have refused. It wasn't worth it to face that risk. Much to my relief, visibility improved noticeably as I got east of Cyrus. My panic was over but it was still unsettling.
The gang at Quinco Press in Lowry was a little surprised when I pulled in. We printed the newspaper as usual and I got it all packed into the van. Then I headed out for Starbuck. Again I could have said "Geronimo!" In Starbuck I found the road to Morris was literally closed. Law enforcement took care of that. So I checked into the motel and called home where I found the family was quite anxious. I had survival clothing in the van. I jokingly referred to it as my "Mount Everest clothing" as I felt it would be good enough to allow me to climb Mt. Everest. I even had goggles for the eyes.
That storm was nasty and very cold. That night, feeling bored, I tested my "Mt. Everest clothing" and decided to walk to the Water's Edge, which actually was a fair distance. A couple cars honked as they approached me, saying in effect "hello" or "you're nuts, guy." I arrived at the Water's Edge which was open and had a handful of patrons, in no hurry to leave obviously. I dined nicely, then trekked back to the motel where I watched a TV special starring country singer Martina McBride.
I would later be annoyed that my boss at the newspaper nit-picked the telephone bill from the motel. He should have been thankful I survived. It seemed this was one of those phone bills where the motel guest gets gouged, but it should have been small potatoes. None of my phone time was for the purpose of idle chatting. I got updates and communicated on my status, and maybe spent a few seconds "shooting the breeze" with people like Gene DeGier, husband of our office manager. Finally the conditions became less severe and I could step into the driver's seat of the van again, gamely, ready to get back to Morris ASAP. The newspaper wasn't worth it.
Today the Morris newspaper only comes out once a week, compared to twice then. Today I consider the Morris newspaper to be garbage. It is no longer locally owned.
My adventure reflected the commitment we felt in those days. I'm sure the adversity I confronted paled in comparison to what my father Ralph saw on November 11 of 1940. But the adversity of war would follow not long thereafter. My father enlisted in the Navy. He visited Tokyo as an officer in the immediate aftermath of the war. Finally he settled into a career in music: composing and educating. Certainly he never forgot the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. The wind roared.
Today we can deal with it so much better.
Today we have presidents limited to two terms. Central heating is the norm. Life moves forward.
And in Missouri, they face the travail of midsummer humidity as if it, too, is a serious challenge to be surmounted. I hope my friend Donna in St. Charles keeps dealing with it well.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com