Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

RADM Charles Hunter, USN (Ret) Passes

February 26th, 2017 by xformed


Rear Admiral Charles Bryan Hunter, USN (Ret)

RADM Charles Hunter passed away 2/24/2017. Memorial service will be held at 1 PM March 4th, 2017 At the Gross Funeral Home, 6636 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL.

I made a post back in 2009 about ADM Hunter here, and what follows is a little more about this man, one of my friends.

I met Charlie (he told us to not call him “Admiral” or stand when he walked in all these years – but we ignored his request out of respect) in 2009 by being invited to have breakfast with several veterans, mostly Naval Academy graduates and pilots (he was a 1954 USNA Graduate). Even with a table full of veterans, not a lot of details of real combat gets mentioned, but from a man who was awarded a Navy Cross, and as noted in the picture, the Distinguished Flying Cross as well, over the years, I heard him speak briefing of his single plane mission into Haiphong Harbor on the moonless night of October 30th, 1967.

He had arrived aboard USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64) to replace the VA-196 CO that had been shot down. His orders to replace were delivered to him one morning at NAS Whidby Island, where he was a Replacement Air Group instructor for the A-6 Intruders. He had gone to work for a normal day, commenting he regularly he and his Bombadier/Navigator (BN) walked into the CO’s office and indicated they wanted to get in the game. They were regularly told to shut up, get back to work training crews….but on this particular morning, they were called in and told to gear up for a TransPac flight and get headed west. Arriving aboard, he was now the new CO of VA-196.

Three months later he was flying up the Red River at night at 200 ft, inbound to the target. I didn’t catch the entire telling, as several conversations are always going around the table, but I overheard “There were 5 SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) coming at us, 2 from (???) and three at 2 o’clock, so I barrel rolled to evade. The we set the radar altimeter to 50 ft and it alarmed 3 times before we got to the target.”

Consider that statement for a moment, and parse out the important real details. First off: 5 SAMs headed your way all at once. You’re low, altitude gives options when playing the physics of flight. Not much of it limits you. Now, he’s inbound and we know his 9.5 tons (a fully loaded A-6 capacity) was delivered to to the location of the mission. While I’m not a pilot, I know this: Even fighters, let alone attack aircraft, almost always jettison their external stores when it’s time to fight, or in this case, evade. He barrel rolled beginning at 200 ft with 9.5 tons of ordnance still on his wings, and didn’t end up impacting the Red River surface doing close to Mach.

I’m also not sure of the details in the radar altimeter alarming, but I suspect it was to alert the pilot of an all-weather attack aircraft, designed to fly to target in basically zero visility, that he was going lower than the parameters set into the system to aid the low visibility capabilities. So there he and his BN were, zorching (tip o the hat to the long departed Neptunus Lex – another fine aviator) towards his assignment just short of 600 kts at 50 ft off the water with a now alerted air defense network, at that time, the best one on the planet…. He popped up, delivered the ordnance, and high taled it back to the CONNIE, with he and his BN intact.

His comment was the USAF airborne asset counted at least 22 SAMs being fired at his aircraft. 22….let that sink in. Other than that one snippet I overheard and then listen intently for the rest after I heard it begin, he never really mentioned it. He never mentioned his Navy Cross, and until finding his picture (above) on the funeral home site, I had no idea he had a Silver Star as well. Humble. Just a good old boy from the Panhandle of Florida, who worked hard, having many times mentioned his teacher who made a point to make several of them very good in math, and was accepted into the Naval Academy.

More details I managed to collect: He was Commanding Officer of VA-85 (Assuming command 9/6/1968), an East Coast Squadron, and while in that position, I found a passing note on the web years ago about GEN Curtis LeMay coming to the carrier he was flying from, and Charley briefed him. I did ask him ,having found that bit of history, what that was like. He brushed it off like “he was just an average guy” (meaning GEN LeMay). UPDATED: I just found this clip of him, with Gen LeMay in the pilot’s seat of an A-6A, giving his the details of one of his VA-85 aircraft:



He skippered the USS SARATOGA (CV-60) 11-Sep-76 to 4-Feb-78 and had the highest operational performance rates for all the East Coast CVs.

Besides being good company at breakfasts every other Saturday mornings for the last 7+ years, he was just an average guy in being around everyone. No need for special treatment and seemed a little embarrassed by our rank recognition when he or we walked in to our meeting place.

After absorbing the stories of a great man and leader above, to see him physically, you’d not then a bantam weight 5′ 6″ man could have been a warrior who would have earned top awards for heroism under fire. No matter, he had whet it took when the time came to get the mission accomplished, and also to lead crews to excellence.

Other personal stories: As an Ensign, he began at the RAG learning to fly the F-7U CUTLASS. One of our other breakfast attendees flew with him and later did a deployment to the Med as roommates flying them.

He punched out once: He was getting a mid-air refueling and he ended up with fuel in his A-4 SKYHAWK engine (and not inside the combustion system), causing the plane to begin burning up. Smoke in the cockpit stuff, so he fell back from the tanker and used the ejection seat, without noting any injuries.

There’s more to this story about ADM Hunter: The mission of such historical value was the basis for the movie starring Danny Glover: “Flight of the Intruder.” The differences: It wasn’t a rogue mission and he wasn’t shot down over enemy territory. In this case, Hollywood partially modeled real life.

Full text of his 30 Oct 1967 Mission Citation:


Hunter, Charles Bryan

Commander, U.S. Navy
Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED NINETY SIX (VA-196), U.S.S. Constellation (CVA-64)
Date of Action: 30 October 1967

Citation:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] Charles Bryan Hunter (NSN: 0-584531), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 30 October 1967 as a pilot in Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED NINETY-SIX (VA-196), embarked in U.S.S. CONSTELLATION (CVA-64). Exercising exceptional professional skill and sound judgment, Commander Hunter, planned and executed an extremely dangerous, single-plane, night, radar bombing attack on the strategically located and heavily defended Hanoi railroad ferry slip in North Vietnam. Although the entire Hanoi defensive effort was concentrated upon his lone bomber, he flawlessly piloted his aircraft to the target area and commenced his attack. Seconds before bomb release, six enemy surface-to-air missiles were observed to be tracking on his plane. Undaunted by this threat to his personal safety, Commander Hunter took swift and effective action to avoid the missiles and then proceeded to complete his attack, releasing all weapons in the target area with extreme accuracy. After release, he guided his plane through the intense anti-aircraft-artillery fire and four additional missiles which were fired at his aircraft. In spite of this intense enemy opposition, Commander Hunter completed his mission and was directly responsible for dealing a significant blow to the North Vietnamese logistics efforts. His indomitable perseverance and conspicuous gallantry were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Fair winds and following seas, ADM Hunter.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Military, Navy | 1 Comment »

Fair Winds and Following Seas: COL George Dodenhoff, USMC, Ret

September 18th, 2015 by xformed

20150813_135408

“Dode” was a WWII veteran, joining the Marines in 1942. His first combat was on Okinawa with VMF-311, the Hell’s Belles, flying CAS missions in the F4U-8. Of note, VMF-311 were the first to use the F4U in the close air support role. His career later had him assigned to the famed VMF-214 in Korea, flying CAS for the Chosin Reservoir battle. He continued on to complete a 29 year career, comprised of a cross training assignment with the USAF flying the F-86 and serving in the Congo, Vietnam, and other duties that included a tour at the Naval War College. He passed away August 6th, 2015.

I have been provided access to the items from his desk, where I spent a number of hours, working on his computer and listening to the stories of an old warrior and leader over about a decade. My intention is to put together as much material as is possible from his notes, log books and models and document my recollection of his career oral history I was able to hear.

For the first stop, with his wife, Priscilla’s permission, is to share the memorial service for Col Dodenhoff.

More to follow in a series I’ll post as “From the Desk of Col D.”

Category: History, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History | Comments Off on Fair Winds and Following Seas: COL George Dodenhoff, USMC, Ret

A Date with Destiny – Part IX

April 24th, 2014 by xformed

Since 2009, I’ve had a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “You should try to get recognition for LT Ray Everts. It’s been very insistent and persistent this past week. This year, I’m asking for an effort of the greater group of shipmates, who may be able to find some puzzle pieces. Keep reading, I’ll get to it. First a little background:

I began this story in 2007, 19 years after the fact because I realized it was a story worth telling of the professionalism of my shipmates on USS CARR (FFG-52) and the sailors from USS KENNEDY (CV-67) who saved those men in peril on the sea on April 24th, 1988. I wasn’t there, I reported aboard USS CARR (FFG-52) in late September that year, but in time for the awards to flow in. During that time I heard the first person stories of my crew.

For many years, it was an integral part of the history of the ship, but that ended as a story among a crew March 13, 2013, when the USS CARR (FFG-52) decommissioned. The story is alive around the web. Part of it here. As I sought out first my shipmates via Navy: Together We Served. I later reached out to those who may have been there, by dates listed aboard the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), USS KENNEDY (CV-67) and USS MCCLOY (FF-1038). While got some dry holes, I found LCDR Pete Wilson, USN who provided a detailed, multi-page input. All those stories, from the several sailors and officers who took the time to provide their view of history, added more context to the day.

Again, I began to tell a story of professionalism, but found a story of heroism, one that had not been reported for the record: It came first from a comment left by Jim Chapman in 2007: He had been the aircrewman in the back of Dusty Dog 613 right on top (they had been practicing dipping on BONEFISH when the fire occurred). Jim lives right near by and we met and he told me what was happening in the helo. They knew sailors were in trouble and needed help, and they did more than the helo was supposed to do, nearly resulting in a crash while trying to hoist more men. That takes guts to keep working a few yards off the water in extreme conditions. Thankfully they and the sailors they pulled aboard all are here to tell the story. In the April 2008 annual post, I recorded Jim’s story to share. He added to my view (and if you read his post, you’ll see he was clear about making sure I had the story right). Jim: BTW, I called CAPT Johnson about 2 years ago and pointed out you and your crew knew exactly what you were doing.

On April 15th, 2008, FT2(SS) Bill Baker left a comment on the 2007 post that told a story of heroism beyond even what the helo crew: LT Everts died in his lap, having safely gotten the boat to the surface, ensuring he didn’t add a collision with a surface ship to the already chaotic, deadly situation. He didn’t put on an EAB, as it would have obstructed his use of the periscope during surfacing. I emailed Pete Wilson, the former XO, and he said that was never related at the debriefings. That began the little voice in the back of my head. The April 2009 anniversary post quoted Bill Baker’s comments and put what history of Ray Everts I could track down via the internet.

Here’s my request to my shipmates and family members who may wander by here, it’s also three parts:

  • I’d like to find out how to contact LT Evert’s family. Sounds like he wasn’t married by the many comments, so I’m assuming his parents would have been the NOKs.
  • I want to mount a campaign to complete a virtual 1650 for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, to acknowledge his selfless sacrifice for his shipmates, the 89 who survived.
  • Help to figure out who to submit this to in DoN, or possibly via the serving Congressional senator or representative.

Who’s in? Spread the word, reach out to commenters on other blogs (that’s another part of the story), let’s see if we can crowd source the answers and move forward to get this medal in the service record of Ray for the ages.

Leave your comments here, so it can be a group effort. eMail is nice, but this space can be the virtual bulletin board to share anything someone knows.

To those who have, here, and on other blogs, added to this entire story, thank you. The connection of the internet has allowed this moment in time to become a fuller story than any one person has, and also has connected a few sailors from that day.

And to those, not on the sub, or the helos, or the whale boat, who scrambled to comfort and care for the sailors of the BONEFISH, your efforts were greatly appreciated (go back and skim the comments that have appeared over the years). BZ.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

PTSD Research study conducted by an OIF Vet. Pass the Word!

June 18th, 2013 by xformed

Received via email, from and OIF Vet who is conducting a study on PTSD. PLease give it some consideration to 1) Participating if you fit, and 2) passing the word!

Here’s the DesMoines Register article discussing his background and the project he’s taking on and why: “YP Spotlight: Iraq War vet turned Drake professor explores inconsistency of PTSD”.

Attention Military Veterans: A research study examining military experiences (including deployment experiences) of those who have served (or are currently serving) is being conducted by Dr. Steven L. Lancaster, a professor at Drake University. This online survey assesses experiences with stressful life events (including military events, such as combat exposure), current mental health experiences, coping skills, and thoughts related to these events and how your time in the military has affected you. If you are a military veteran who is 18 years or older, you are eligible to participate.

The survey is completely anonymous and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. As an incentive to participate, all participants will be given the chance to enter a raffle drawing for a $50 online gift certificate to Amazon.com awarded to 6 randomly selected participants. The drawing database is maintained separately from, and is not in any way connected to, survey information submitted; therefore your participation will remain anonymous. If you would like to participate in this research study, please click the link below.

This will take you to a consent form and questionnaire. You will have a chance to enter the raffle after completing the questionnaire.

This research has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects at Drake University.

Please feel free to forward this announcement to eligible friends/colleagues/military members you know who may wish to participate. Thank you in advance for your help with this project. We are going to publish the results in scientific journal with the goal of better understanding the post-deployment experience of military service members.

If you desire to participate please copy and paste this URL into your browser (no http:// is necessary):
bit.ly/TMvKpx

Sincerely,

Steven L. Lancaster, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology
Drake University
Phone: 515-271-2844
Email: lancasterlab@drake.edu

Category: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Education, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Science, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on PTSD Research study conducted by an OIF Vet. Pass the Word!

Will you help with the 2012 Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT Fundraising Work (7/4-9/3/2012)

July 3rd, 2012 by xformed

If you need no introduction to this wonderful project, and want to just get on with getting your blog/website participating, the signup link is here.

Background:

This year, while there is a reduction in military action, there still are men and women in the field, who are at risk of being injured. There are those, of course, presently in the military medical system who have injuries that can be circumvented or need therapy that can be provided by technology.

Beginning this Independence Day in 2012, Soldier’s Angels will begin the annual fundraising efforts to provide funding for laptops with voice recognition software, Wiis and GPS units to be provide at no cost to military members or care facilities to help these men and women get back closer to normalcy in their lives, after serving their country and us.

Know these things about the annual fundraising:

  • All the donated funds go to the equipment, or the delivery to the people/facilities. You don’t often come across a charity project that devotes the funds right to the “end users.”
  • While the 4 “service teams” are listed for the donations, all the money goes to one account, and is spent to provide to those in need, regardless of their service affiliation. The teams are merely a ways for the supporters to have a little friendly competition among themselves to satisfy their fix for a little old school interservice rivalry.

The VALOur-IT (Voice Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops) project was an accidental program, begun in 2005, when a blogger was injured by an IED in Iraq. From there, this project of all volunteer help, has provided over 6000 laptops to those who cannot use their hands or have vision issues. For years, they have all been brand new units, set up with Dragon Naturally Speaking software.

Please consider helping out in some (or all) of the following ways:

  • Join the list of sites/blogs and get it to your readership
  • Get the link to Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT donation page and send it to your email list
  • Lobby your workplace to allow you to post/pass out a flyer with this information to the employees
  • See if your employer has matching funds for donations to this project and get that word out to your co-workers
  • Present this information to your social networks, the digital ones, and the real ones, too!
  • Post the information in local coffee shops/restaurants and other places with community bulletin boards (check with the management first, which is another opportunity to discuss this project with those who are not aware of the work)

Thank you for reading this and considering taking this information viral! The people who have benefited for the donations over the last 7 years have been given a precious gift and are grateful for the equipment the has helped them get back into life!

Category: Air Force, Army, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops, Technology, Valour-IT | 2 Comments »

Farewell, CAPT Carroll LeFon, USN (Ret)

March 12th, 2012 by xformed

Updated: 3/12/2012 PM.

It’s been a week now, since the phone call from AW1 Tim popped up on my phone in the early evening. I was busy at Home Depot, so I figured “I’ll call him back tomorrow.” Later that evening, before shutting down for the night, I saw the back channel emails and listened to Tim’s message. As soon as the first “F-21 crash” hit my ears, I thought as they did, and s they did, prayed we wouldn’t hear the worst of news, yet still knowing, the minimum: The pilot had died. Bad news would be coming for someone.

I’m not sure exactly when I found Lex’s Blog, but this I know: It was some of the most engaging writing on the blogs, right up there with a Army National Guard CPT from California and the Army Tanker who rolled into Fallujah. All of them were real, and discussed life in the active duty word in terms I could connect with.

Over the many years of reading, along came the only line, highly factual novel: “Rythyms.” What an incredible read that was. I’ve told countless people “it reads better than a Clancy novel, and has enough detail to keep us (vets/military members) in it, yet he explains thing happening on the ship and in the cockpit so people with exposure to the life will understand.” Something about his way with words. He could seat you in the plane, make you feel the launch and the thrills and the boredom and the terror of night landings…

His blog became my “hub” or gateway to other websites in the MilBlogging world, being the first one I checked in for news, humor, analysis, and just life stuff that Lex would write.

I began admiring his writing from the words on the screen standpoint, but also saw something special…actually, many things:

  • He was a mentor: Many posts on his site are related to the advice he gave, or was asked on him. Not only did he had great answers, that he shared, he turned the commenters loose to help out. Oh, what amazing guidance, from the old school to the current crop of those in uniform. The comments on any post at his site are not to be missed.
  • He was a humble leader. Many of his stories were encoded with that understanding of “the system.”
  • Well read, beyond the NATOPS manuals and the like, in classical literature, philosophy, and history.
  • He was a leader who valued those working with him. The stories told that, but in this world of blogging, his site was a lot of him leading the way, then having those in the blogoshpere/virtual peanut gallery take over to
  • He was a man of conviction. Solid vision.
  • A family man, who cared deeply about his real family, and his extended ones.

The man was many things. I only briefly met him and spoke with him at the 2006 MilBlogging Conference. I sometimes emailed him, with questions, or things I found that may be of interest. Some links got published…..I had a response where they were appropriate.

He inspired me at many levels. I, having seen the opening line of his work “Rythyms,” commenced my own version, having stood my first watches as an assigned officer on a replenishment ship that ran with Battle Groups, and many a time, I was watching the carrier to our port side, first as a Junior Officer of the Deck, and later, as the Officer of the Deck, responsible for the comings and goings of the ships alongside, the helos off the aft deck and the supplies moving via “connected replenishment” (CONREP) or by helo (VERTREP). I learned a lot, and he story gave me a foothold by putting the eyes of the OOD of an AOR into the picture. The story is “Life in the Fat Ship Navy,” and is presently an uncompleted work. I have been fortunate enough to have received a few emails over the years, saying how I took tham back to many years ago, and got their minds churning, remembering the sounds, sights and smells of it all. A tribute to Lex’s style, which I endeavored to “mimic.”

But that wasn’t all. His virtual demeanor constantly made me think as to how I might communicate more fully, yet concisely. All of his writing was a model of how to do that….and it begged for being an absorbed quality.

Years ago, I stumbled upon “High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband”, a similar man, by my best recollections of the read. Devoted to their families, their profession and their faith. While Col Husband’s wife, Evelyn, penned that wonderful book, telling the story of a great man and leader and husband and pilot, Lex’s readers have been able to do this, telling stories of all manner of his life and interactions with others, and conveying how they were blessed by CAPT LeFon’s life. In a week, there are over 1400 comments on the Open Thread, put up by the only other person who could log onto Lex’s Blog, Whisper. If you’d like to see, as someone on Facebook pointed out, what the “dash” on your headstone represents, there are about 1400 descriptions there for the world to see.

—Updated portion—
Shortly after posting, I remembered a few back channel and out in the open discussions Lex and I had. We professionally “CPAed” (Closest Point of Approach) certainly by an association, if not within a few hundred yards of each other in the summer of 1979. It would have made Lex a 3rd Class Middie, on cruise aboard the USS NICHOLSON (DD-982). I was in the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard, as part of the commissioning crew of USS LEFTWICH (DD-984), still, at the time, uncommissioned. I recalled the USS NICHOLSON pulled in on the West Bank yard side for dry docking to repair damaged propeller. It seems she had been backing into a slip in GTMO during Shakedown training and found a coral head near the landward end. Turns out, Lex was aboard at least at the time of the grounding incident, but we found our connection via the Commanding Officer of NICHOLSON at the time. It seems the discussion was something about how “Black Shoe” leadership was so much different from that of the Aviation community. Of course, he could say this then, in the mid-2000s. Turned out I was on DESRON 32 when the same officer was the Commodore, and that, was something we shared in common, despite being separated by time, community and coasts across our careers.
—End Update—

We lost a great man. His wife and family are left with but a legacy, but also the gratitude of many who were positively touched in this life by a man who was larger than himself, yet never penned (typed) a word that would lead you to believe he was anything more than one of us….and in that, there is a great lesson for me.

Category: History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Stream of Consciousness | 3 Comments »

67 Years Ago: Battle Off Samar

October 25th, 2011 by xformed


USS HEERMANN (DD-532) at the Battle off Samar (click for the larger image)

It is the last great sea battle to be fought. It demonstrated much of humanity, the determination of both sides in a massive world war, the individual bravery of men on small ships who charged head long into death, so that those they were tasked with escorting could complete their mission. The Japanese bravely pushed to wipe General MacArthur’s “I Have Returned” landing at Leyte Gulf back into the sea, using the remaining surface forces of battleships and cruisers, only to be defeated by a ambushes the night before in the inland seas of the Philippine Islands, and on the morning of this day, 67 years ago, the likes of CDR Evans, CDR Hathaway, LCDR Copeland and their crews, while aircraft from the escorted CVEs made runs from above, many without bombs and some without even gun ammunition.

Rather than rewrite the story today, I will refer you to the work I produced in 2004, on the 60th Anniversary of this battle.

As I studied this battle more, I came across two other famous battles in history. I discussed them here, as they all have a common thread and a common day.

Side note: I found someone who, as s tribute to a friend, built an 8′ replica of the HEERMANN out of legos! That’s some kind of dedication.

Category: History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 1 Comment »

Flt 93 Blogburst: How come the design meeting minutes have been “lost?”

September 24th, 2011 by xformed

Photobucket

Alec Rawls, who has been working with Tom Burnett Sr. to stop the Crescent of Embrace memorial to Flight 93, explains the circumstances (related by Mr. Burnett in 2008, but not published until now).

Mr. Burnett had been telling his fellow design competition jurors that the crescent is a well known Islamic symbol. In addition to the giant central crescent (now called a broken circle) Tom also objected to the minaret-like Tower of Voices. “I made a point at that meeting,” says Mr. Burnett, “to tell people that we have an Islamist design here that can’t go forward, please, stay with me.”

One of the left-wing design professionals on the jury, Tom Sokolowski (then director of Pittsburg’s Andy Warhol Museum) thought that objecting to the crescent shape, just because it happens to be used by Muslims, was anti-Muslim bigotry. In a rude attempt to shut down criticism, Sokolowski actually called Mr. Burnett “asinine” for objecting to the huge Islamic-shaped Crescent. (Sokolowski would later repeat this performance to the press, calling a local preacher “asinine,” “small minded,” “bigoted,” “repellant,” and “disgusting” for protesting the Crescent design.)

It was in this atmosphere, charged with universal awareness amongst the jurors that the giant crescent was indeed a well-known Islamic symbol shape, but also charged with uncertainty as to whether people would be allowed to mention this fact, that another family member, Sandra Felt, started to explain what she liked about the Crescent design. She liked the “embracing” nature of it, says Mr. Burnett. She liked the way it “reached out…”

At which point another family member “lost it” (Mr. Burnett’s description), screaming in agony: “I don’t want to reach out to those people! THEY MURDERED MY DAUGHTER!”

The Park Service claims it “lost” the minutes

This extreme level of conflict on the jury over perceived Islamic symbolism should have come out years ago. The jury included a designated, non-voting, minutes taker. This was not supposed to be a private deliberation. These were volunteer citizens, doing the people’s business, and the jury minutes were supposed to be made available to the public.

The Memorial Project and the Park Service claim that the minutes were “lost.” No doubt, but that doesn’t mean the loss was accidental, and defenders of the Crescent design had good reason to make the minutes go away. Any faithful record would have been explosive, revealing these fierce objections from multiple Flight 93 family members to the blatant Islamic symbolism in the Crescent design.

The ballot wasn’t supposed to be secret either, but the Park Service refuses to account for what they claim was a 9 to 6 tally in favor of the Crescent design. What does 9 to 6 even mean on what was a ranked vote amongst three designs? Did every ballot that did not rank the Crescent last get counted as a vote in favor?

The whole thing is fishy, and there is one most obvious reason why the defenders of the Crescent might want to keep the vote details hidden. The seven family members on the jury were outnumbered by eight academics and design professionals. Thus all six of the votes against the Crescent could have come from the kin, with only Sandra Felt voting for it. This is more than just possible. It is likely.

Another mother of the murdered said only that she agreed with Mr. Burnett, and he thought that the other two men amongst the family members (Gerald Bingham and Ed Root) were on his side as well, though both have since spoken out against his ongoing effort to rescind the chosen design. Bingham and Root are angry at the anguish that the families are still being put through over the memorial design, but could such men have voted for the Crescent in the first place, in the face of that mother’s anguished cry?

A vicious left-wing ideologue like Sokolowski, yes, but it seems almost inconceivable that family members could vote for a design that other family members saw as a tribute to the terrorists, or at the very least, as reaching out to Islam. Since Bingham and Root are willing to speak out, can they please tell us whether they voted for the Crescent? If they didn’t, then the vote amongst the family members was at least 5 to 2 against.

In support of Powerline’s John Hinderaker

The immediate impetus for making these revelations public now is to support John Hinderaker’s 10th anniversary 9/11 post:

You may remember that there was considerable controversy when the design for the Flight 93 memorial was unveiled. It was called “Crescent of Embrace.” The crescent is, of course, the central symbol of Islam, and the design apparently was intended to symbolize some sort of rapprochement with that religion. The winning design was chosen by a jury, and some members of the jury, including Thomas Burnett, whose son was one of the heroes who brought down the airplane, vigorously opposed it. As I understand it, no one on the jury questioned the Muslim reference inherent in the crescent, but a majority believed that it would somehow be “healing” for the memorial to be, in part at least, a sort of tribute to Islam.

That was John’s response to Tom Sr.’s revelations, and his statement is fully supportable, but for people to know why, the supporting information has to be available to everyone. Now it is.

Given the conflict between Mr. Burnett and Tom Sokolowski, there could not have been any doubt in any juror’s mind that the Crescent was an Islamic symbol shape. Indeed, the jury made a specific request, not honored by the Park Service or by architect Paul Murdoch, that:

The crescent should be referred to as ‘the circle or arc,’ or other words that are not tied to specific religious iconography.

The only question was whether the use of this Islamic symbol shape should be seen as bad, and for a majority to favor the crescent design, a majority just have decided that it wasn’t bad, even in the face of family members who found it horrific.

Maybe these left-wing design professionals actually wanted to torture the families, but the generous interpretation is the one John gives: that they saw the Crescent design as symbolizing “some sort of rapprochement” with Islam. Certainly that seems to have been Sandra Felt’s idea, and at least one family member not on the jury thought it obvious that this must have been the intent of everyone who voted for the Crescent design. Mark Bingham’s mother, Alice Hoglan, just wished that the outreach to Islam had been made explicit:

The Flight 93 Memorial selection committee has admitted to misgivings about the word ‘crescent.’ I almost wish that instead they could claim they deliberately chose the crescent design as a gesture of peace and unity with the Islamic world. If they were to make that claim, I would not object. I would welcome such a compassionate gesture.

Unfortunately, regardless of the intentions of the jurors, architect Paul Murdoch did not have a compassionate gesture in mind.

A terrorist memorial mosque

Mr. Hinderaker’s anniversary post does not investigate whether the giant crescent actually does point to Mecca (allowing it to serve as an Islamic mihrab), or whether the Tower of Voices really is a year-round-accurate Islamic prayer-time sundial. Perfectly understandable, as these claims take some work to check and John had only just learned that the memorial controversy is still aboil, after thinking that it had been resolved in 2005.

But he does provide links to the evidence, and notes that some of it is accessible just by looking. Like why in the world does the Tower of Voices have an Islamic-shaped crescent on top?

UpTowerMid-toneContrast 40,size60%
The minaret-like Tower of Voices is formed in the shape of a crescent and is cut at an angle at the top so that its crescent arms reach up to the sky, as seen on mosque minarets across most of the Islamic world.

Literally dangling down below these symbolic Islamic heavens are the symbolic lives of the 40 heroes. This symbolic damnation is repeated over and over in Murdoch’s design. The memorial is not just any mosque, it is an al Qaeda victory mosque.

So much for trying to reach out to Islam without bothering to vet what part of Islam is being reached out to. Nothing could be worse for the decent people of the Islamic world than to hand a great victory to the very worst in the Islamic world. That is the problem with doing this Muslim-outreach thing on the sly.

Knowing the American people would never go along with intentional Islamic outreach, the Memorial Project had to cover up what actually went on in the jury room, and once they got into cover-up mode, they just kept covering up revelation after revelation about what is actually contained in Murdoch’s design.

Sokolowski’s own vile cover-up: attributing the Crescent choice to the families, after vilifying family members who opposed the Crescent design

Here is how the Post-Gazette reported on local preacher Ron McRae, who believed that architect Paul Murdoch had intended the Crescent as a tribute to Islam:

It’s a memorial to the terrorists,” McRae said. “It’s not a memorial to the innocent Americans who died there.”

But Tom Sokolowski, the director of the Andy Warhol Museum, and one of the Stage II jury members, said that claim is “asinine.”

“If the families of the 40 people who were killed felt this was an appropriate symbol to honor their loved ones, then I think he is delusional,” he said. “To take this small-minded, bigoted view is disgusting and repellent.”

Sokolowski knew that family members on the jury had taken that exact same “disgusting and repellent” view because he had said as much to their faces, and now here he was pretending that it was McRae, not himself, who was vilifying the families. Absolute moral trash of the highest order, even if he is just a feckless little worm. By intent, he is as evil as Murdoch.

Gordon Felt’s defense of the Crescent design is also belied by what transpired on the jury:

Gordon Felt, whose brother, Edward, died in the crash, called the focus on the crescent an “unfortunate distraction,” from the fourth anniversary memorial service tomorrow at the crash site.

Still, he continued, “It would be silly of us to have some sort of symbolism [in the memorial] that would be offensive to people.”

This from the man whose own sister in law had spoken in favor of the “reaching out” symbolism of the Crescent, symbolism that was seen by other family members as intending to reach out to Islam, inspiring the most dreadful offense. All this is FACT, and Gordon Felt waves off any thought of it as “silly.”

Did Gerald Bingham lie in his letter to the Memorial Project?

Mr. Bingham’s letter to the Memorial Project (p. 21 here) was timed to counter Mr. Burnett’s appearance at the 2008 Project meeting. It in-effect calls Mr. Burnett a liar, denying that Tom Sr. had ever raised any protest about Islamic symbolism when they served on the jury together:

Attention: Joanne Hanley
RE: Mr. Tom Burnett’s disapproval of the Memorial scheduled to be built honoring those on United Flight 93

Please read the following letter into the minutes of the Flight 93 board meeting scheduled for August 2, 2008.

I served on the Jury to select the final design for the Flight 93 Memorial along with Mr. Burnett. As I recall, Tom liked the design with a line of rocks along a 2 ½ mile walking trail. He indicated in his discussion with me that when it came to final vote that this would be the design of his choice. After the vote was taken and his design was not chosen he was very upset. Not once during these discussions did he mention that the design chosen by a majority vote of the committee had anything to do with a “symbol to the terrorist” as he is now saying.

The final design was chosen because its’ layout fit the landscape where the plane crashed and kept with the surrounding area.

I believe that Mr. Burnett has forgotten that this memorial is for 40 individual people who were on a flight taken over by terrorists and that all 40 of those people became heroes that day. All he is accomplishing at this point is causing other families aggravation and needless controversy.

We need to forge ahead with the plans as voted upon and join together as one just like our loved-ones did on United Flight 93, September 11, 2001.

Respectfully,
Gerald Bingham
Father of Mark Bingham

Mr. Bingham’s denial that Tom Sr. said anything about Islamic symbolism is contradicted by numerous data points, starting with the fact that Mr. Burnett spoke out to the press immediately after Crescent design was unveiled in 2005:

Tom Burnett Sr., whose son died in the crash, said he made an impassioned speech to his fellow jurors about what he felt the crescent represented.

“I explained this goes back centuries as an old-time Islamic symbol,” Burnett said. “I told them we’d be a laughing stock if we did this.”

But his fellow jurors — and it turns out, many of the other family members — disagree with his interpretation.

“I got blown off.”

But not entirely. The jurors, in their final report, suggested the name of Murdoch’s design be changed from crescent to something with less religious significance, like an arc or circle.

This is corroborated by Helene Fried, who helped to manage the design competition:

Fried said the connection was raised by some history buffs on the jury during three days of deliberations last month.

Compare “old time Islamic symbol,” with “history buffs.” And if the Jury’s statement that the Crescent name is “tied to specific religious iconography” was not in response to Mr. Burnett’s protests, where did it come from? Is Bingham saying that others on the jury were more vehement than Mr. Burnett in pointing out and objecting to this tie?

Then there is Mr. Burnett’s account of Tom Sokolowski calling him “asinine” for objecting to the Islamic symbolism of the crescent. This is corroborated by the fact that Sokolowski used the exact same language to condemn Pastor Ron McRae. Altogether, the evidence is overwhelming that it is Gerald Bingham who is lying when he accuses Mr. Burnett of lying.

For the sake of the families

Bingham makes his motivation clear. He opposes Mr. Burnett because:

All he is accomplishing at this point is causing other families aggravation and needless controversy.

But notice what Bingham doesn’t say. He is willing to discuss how Mr. Burnett voted, but he keeps his own vote secret. (Gerald Bingham has been divorced from Mark Bingham’s mother Alice Hoglan since the 1970’s, so her stated approval of Muslim-outreach in the Flight 93 Memorial should not be linked to him.)

If Bingham voted for the Crescent, his secrecy about his vote would make no sense. Everyone from Sokolowski on up appeals to the will of the families. Bingham himself does this. These appeals obviously turn on whether the nine votes for the Crescent design came from family members or from the cadre of left-wing design professionals who outnumbered the families 8 to 7.

For Bingham’s objective of ending the controversy, the most weighty thing he could say is that he voted for it, but he doesn’t. And how could he have voted for the Crescent? This is a man who is so keen to avoid pain for the families that he is even willing to tell slanderous lies about the one family member he blames for dragging out the controversy. Surely such a man would never have voted in the first place for a design that was already causing the most extreme anguish to multiple family members.

Ed Root is also loud in his condemnations but mum about his vote

Jury member Ed Root also attacks Mr. Burnett and Mr. Rawls for continuing to oppose the Crescent design (p. 22 here):

Those who oppose this Memorial, for whatever misplaced reasons, have voiced their belief on numerous occasions. That is a striking example of the democracy we hold dear. When those unfounded beliefs turn to a zealotry that attempts to overthrow the very democratic process that selected the winning design it does a terrible disservice to those who worked long and diligently during the design process and, to me, it mocks those very 40 that we long to honor. Our nation is one of laws and due process. To let a few destroy what many have built is not democracy, but tyranny.

Yet Root too keeps his vote secret. It could just be embarrassment, not wanting to admit that he voted for such an obvious perversion, crammed to the gills with Islamic-shaped crescents. Or it could be that he was better than that, and despite the magnificence of Murdoch’s Crescent, was unwilling to vote for as design that other family members found so appallingly offensive.

Mr. Burnett says he liked Mr. Root, and it is easy to see why. They both believe the passengers and crew were fighting, not just to stop the terrorist attack, but to get back to their families:

“The people of Flight 93 wanted to live,” Root said while visiting “Father Al” and the chapel in July. “There’s no doubt in my mind, they didn’t want to die.”

That distinguishes the passengers and crew from the hijackers, in Root’s eyes.

“[The passengers and flight attendants] wanted to try to get control of the plane and, if possible, to survive,” he said. “But they knew from all of the phone calls that if they didn’t do something, it would be far worse. So it really is this comparison of philosophies of a free society versus a terrorist society. One is, their cause is death; the other is, their cause is life. And that’s what makes this worthy of a national memorial. That’s what makes this worth being remembered.

Maybe he can join with Mr. Burnett in demanding an explanation for Memorial Superintendent Keith Newlin’s claim that it was the passengers and crew who crashed the airplane: “They are the one’s who brought the plane down,” says Newlin. This is his way of avoiding the implication that the circle-breaking crescent-creating theme of the memorial can only be depicting the actions of the terrorists. “[The terrorists] TRIED to break the peace,” says Newlin, “but they failed.” Surely Root would disagree.

But Root is wrong about who is refusing to respect democratic principles. Their 15 person jury does not take precedence over the will of the nation, clearly expressed in the national uproar over the original Crescent of Embrace design. The Memorial Project promised to remove the offensive features—the Islamic symbol shapes—but they never did. They just disguised them.

“The difference is at best a subtle one”

Thanks to Powerline for exposing this as well:

Crescent and Bowl side by side
Crescent of Embrace, left. Circle of Embrace, right.

They call it a broken circle now, but the unbroken part of the circle, what symbolically remains standing in the wake of 9/11, is just the original Crescent of Embrace. All they did was recolor the graphics, then add an extra arc of trees, placed to the rear of a person facing into the giant crescent, that explicitly represents a broken off part of the circle. As a result, Murdoch’s circle-breaking crescent-creating theme is now even more explicit, and so are its obvious terrorist-memorializing implications.

Will other front-line conservative blogs and publications take notice?

John Hinderaker is a top lawyer, a lifelong expert at evaluating evidence. When he announces that there is serious substance to the Flight 93 controversy, serious people ought to listen.

Everybody understands the difficulty. With multiple Flight 93 family members crying their anguish against anyone who prolongs the controversy, people need to actually look at the facts before taking a position. So take a look! MANY of the facts are perfectly straightforward and utterly damning. Not everyone can be as brave as Pamela Geller, but no one should let the whiff of danger stop them from examining this most important issue.

We’re talking no less than the re-hijacking of Flight 93 by an actual al Qaeda sympathizing architect. Think 9/11 folks. The whiff of danger should be an attractant, a chance to tackle a hijacker. Those lied-to and in some cases lying family members need to have their fat pulled out of the fire. Ride to the sound of the guns.

Category: Geo-Political, History, INternational Relations, Leadership | Comments Off on Flt 93 Blogburst: How come the design meeting minutes have been “lost?”

9/11 – Ten Years Later – My Reflections

September 11th, 2011 by xformed

That day I was retired from the Navy, way in the rear, without any gear of helpfulness to those on the front lines. So, where I was, suffice it to say, I remember, but it wasn’t off significance to the big picture.

That day/event shattered a major belief structure I had held since the summer of 1988: Major, large scale wars have no place in the post Cold War World…think about it: The issues are no longer taking over crop land, but the economic might of the “competing” nations. To go for the scortced earth, have an artillery division take 3 feet of dirt off a sqaure mile does nothing to preserve the economic resources you’re coveting.

After 9 months at War College, reading much more history, to add to the many tomes already ingested, I was thinking we’d be more in the “staring each other down” mode in the future. Prepared to fight, but not doing it in a big way. Bad outcomes on both sides, but then, I didn’t give guerilla forces much of a place in my thinking.

Then came September 11th, and the face of war in the modern era (meaning when I’m living), took a radical turn: A religiously based, ideologially driven, small group of people, not aligned with any one nation, and certainly not organized to meet the definition of the armed force of a soverign nation, without the direct or monetary support from and established nation-state, arrived on the scene, outdoing even the Japanese Naval Forces of 12/7/41, and then stood up to take a bow. Thus Al-Queda became part of the lexicon.

The “Laws of War” were not written to primarly handle this type of conflict. They were designed to “manage” the conflict between nation states, with easily identified military forces, loyal to one flag or another. Guerillas were but a side show. Certainly not without impact, but still a side show, until 9/11/01 arrived.

There went my construct on how conflict would happen in the now definitely post-BiPolar Supwer Power era.

Other things changed. How those combatants, illegal as they were, were to be handled. We got Guantanamo Bay, a place I had frequented as a training base during my time in uniform, converted into a holding facility for those we captured on the battle field. Why? By all I can rekon is we didn’t want to “go there” and handle the illegal combatants (those who were armed and attacking US troops, yet without an identified national uniform or affiliation), and summarily execute them where they were captured. It’s allowed, but, by being compassionate (I’m all in on this one), we then ended up with a situation on our hands as how to ensure justice was done. You know the history of that discussion, which still isn’t completed (despite a pledge to handle this from the current Commander-in-Chief).

We now, as an entire society, began looking over our shoulders, and eyeing suspicious acts of any one around us. Top it off with pre-suspecting every single air passenger as a real possibility of being a hijacker not wanting cash, like D.B. Cooper. On top of the untold billions invested in equipment to clearly show we trusted no one citizen of our nation, the tremendous loss of productivity we have suffered, which I suspect will never be calculated, but it is clearly a cost we have incurred by having to arrive earlier, sit longer, just to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Along the way, we developed an extreme phobia of telling someone else something that might hurt their feelings, such as “If you’re willing to consider killing us for your ideology, we’re willing to try to kill you first to prevent it.”

The phobia then extended to ensure we didn’t inflame those who, by their deeds, had already shown they were upset by us.

And, along the way, it has become acceptable to determine something that happened in the name of Christianity in the 2nd millenia AD, was a workable rationale to give a pass to those who began mass killings in the name of Allah, like the modern world, was still in the Middle East doing something other than run of the mill economic trade and business.

On top of that, while trying to shut out Chritianity as the root cause of the attacker’s anger, therefore justified (in some circles), we have been told to even think someone who subscribes to a faith that clearly has scriptures detailing the destruction of the “infidels,” is Islamophobic and is a crime of hate.

Excuse me, but slaughtering just anyone in their way, Christians, Hindus, Buddists, atheists and Muslims alike is a hate crime to me, but I’m being “intolerant” of saying killing for killings sake is a hateful thing.

Enough of that, so onto a set of rhetorical issues befuddle me:

I’m really missing the point of those who say we “over reacted” or, as on man put it a about a month ago, “we went to war for no reason.” Getting on board with those, like President Clinton, and the early version of President Obama (and I disagree with this, but it helps address the people who think war was not the answer): I’d like to ask them how they have reacted when they are told that a serial murderer is on the loose in their area. I know, as we see this all the time, from both sides of the aisle politically, they demand the law enforcement not rest until the person responsible is found and brought to justice. They want dragnets and sweeps and police to protect them from the threat of being next, and have no problem “judging” the murderer without a trial. So my question would be: What if 2996 people were murdered and that person announced that they had done it and they would do it again, and again, until they had their way with all of you? I think I know the reaction, but the craziness here is they somehow think the 2996 lives lost on 9/11 was no call to action to find those who did it and remove the capability for it to happen anymore, particularly in of the continued statements of future attacks, let alone having seen the actual carnage all over the world, in Europe, India, the Middle East, Malasia, and more places. What kind of a society would we be, saying we are a nation of laws, who turned our backs on that tragedy of 9/11 and said “we can’t respond, we had it coming to us.”?

Anyhow, much has changed. Politicians are fearful of making waves, because we can’t hurt feelings. Small organizations get people to belive they have a big voice, then proceed to peddle disinformation, and we are told they are the experts and do not question tham (side note: We somehow hate corporate lobbyists doing the same thing, but once again, when it’s from an outside force, we must now bow and scape in their general direction, so they don’t do it again…but wait: They tell us they will and then we still cower).

On top of that, it has become fashionable to ask the person on the street their opinion, on complex matters, and honor their answers. We’re not getting any smarter, as seen by standardized tesing, and revisionist history, yet somehow we have to hear from those who lack even a modicum of understanding, as if they are all expert scholars on the subject.

And my last item before stopping rambling: I heard it this morning. On the about to be dedicated “Peace Pole,” the message of “peace on earth” was done in four languages, and particularly in English, as “we need to hera it the most.” I may have missed it, but Arabic native speakers attacked us on 9/11, and have done so for many more years, thankfully overseas, and “we” need to hear it most inplies very strongly we were the cause. And, by the way, the other three languages didn’t include Arabic. At the services, the same leader read a letter from a very close friend who has very recently served in Afghanistan about his year’s tour. The Army Captain was obviously in Civial Affairs, as he was in charge of getting wells put in for the people. In his letter he mentioned, how during his tour, he was amazed at the massive out pouring of help from people all over the US, mostly strnagers to him, to all him to deliver school supplies and so much more to the chldren of Afghanistan. The majority of the letter reiterated how he couldn’t fully comprehend this help sent to a far away US population to people they didn’t even know, just because it was a gift….and “we” who speak English need to hear about “peace on earth” more.

When was the last time the Taliban send school supplies to the mid-West after the tornados, or the mid-Atlantic and North Eastern States in the awake of the hurricane?

So, yes, things have changed. And some people have still not bothered to fully understand we didn’t attack because we “over reacted,” we did it beacuse 2996 people are no longer there to continue conducting “peace on Earth” operations, as they were doing that morning, ten years ago.

Category: 2996 Tribute, Geo-Political, History, INternational Relations, Leadership, Military, Military History, Political, Stream of Consciousness | 1 Comment »

Project 2996: CAPT Gerald DeConto, USN

September 9th, 2011 by xformed

I didn’t know him, yet our service times crossed, and career paths were the same: Surface Warfare Officers.

He died on 9/11/2001 in the Pentagon. He had made his way up the ranks from his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1979, to having had command of the USS SIMPSON (FFG-56).

When he died that day, ten years ago, he already was taking action as a result of the attack on the US. As reported in the Washington Post:

As director of the current operations and plans branch of the Navy Command Center, Capt. Gerald F. DeConto, 44, was organizing the Navy’s response to the World Trade Center attack when he died in the crash at the Pentagon.

In the aggregate of the comments in an online guest book for the victims of 9/11, I’d say this: He respected and was respected by those who served with him and he would go out of his way to help a shipmate move ahead in life.

I see he was the Executive Officer of the USS LAKE EIRE (CG-70), not just any old Executive Officer’s job. I was in a pre-commissioning crew as a division officer, and I had had my fill of the non-naval duties required in such an assignment. CAPT DeConto obviously was up to that challenge, and a commenter in the guest book indicated he did well.

That had to be a quite an assignment, but he had several challenging ones, beginning with his assignment to the mine sweeper USS EXCEL (MSO-439) right out of the Academy. Those are small ships, and the crew is as well, but all the duties of a large ship happen on a small shop, too. The junior officers on small ships learn a lot fast.

A native of Sandwich, MA, he had been blessed to have spent the weekend prior to 9/11/2001 with his mother. That, given the naval life, was quite a blessing from my view.

CAPT DeConto, thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Category: 2996 Tribute, History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

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