I’ve been quiet for the last several days* for several reasons. I’ve been heartsick; paralyzed with rage, unable to form sentences;** and, perhaps most to the point, unable to add much, if anything, to what everyone else has been saying.
What’s more, I’m well behind on my book project, and just about ever last erg of writing energy I may have by rights has to go there. Plus I’m heading off this weekend eclipse chasing, then off-the-grid resetting (a place in NE California that lacks cell signal and any form of internet, 13 miles from the nearest hamlet, no town electricity or services at all. IOW: paradise). So I’m not going to be adding much to the conversation for a while yet, as in, for some months.
But I don’t want to remain completely uncounted, so here I’ll just say two things. First, of course, is to sign on to what every other, more responsible poster has said here: Donald Trump is not just a bad president. He’s an existential danger to the US and the world — and he is allowed to be so by a Republican Party that is wholly complicit in his failure, his corruption, and in accepting his embrace of evil. As we do our best not just to resist but to overcome, we must aim not just for Trump’s fall, but for salt to rain on the fields of the entire, and thoroughly misnamed
Grand Grotesque Old Party.
And second, because not even dire political straits can be navigated by rage and desperation alone, here’s a treat I discovered as I took one of my winding journeys through the ‘tubes.
That is: I’m writing (inter alia) about the South Sea Bubble. I was, for reasons that, trust me,*** make perfect sense in context, trying to discover a little more about the forestalled first voyage of the South Sea Company ship the Royal George. Googling around that I was led to an image of the so-called South Sea shilling — part of a coinage in several denominations minted in 1723, three years after the Bubble, using silver the Company found in one of its few successful maritime ventures.
That led me to Spink and Son’s website to see if I could pick up such a coin as a curio and a keepsake. Spink’s is a fabulous too-English establishment, with retail premises in London not far from the British Museum, and an astonishing collection of rare coins and medals. It’s not really the right place to look for my coin — South Sea shillings are way too common and plebian, it turns out, and Spink’s likes to quote numbers with way too many zeroes in it for my bank balance. But you know how it is. Once there one can’t help mouse around — and cruising over to their private sale page, I found this:
The Dickin Medal
Awarded to 3 year old pigeon NURP.41.SBS.219 The Duke of Normandy, 21st Army Group, D-Day 6/6/44, AFS, No. 1086, DM No.45.
Here’s Spink’s photo of his grace’s medal:
The Duke of Normandy’s citation reads:
“For being the first bird to arrive with a message from Paratroops of the 21st Army Group behind enemy lines on D-Day, 6th June 1944 while serving with the APS (Allied Pigeon Service).”
That would have been the crucial information that paratroopers had managed to secure a key German battery overlooking Sword Beach in time for the D-Day assault on that position.
BTW: if you want that bauble, it’s offered at £15,000.
Here’s the Duke himself, a fine specimen of pigeon-hood:
Some of y’all are likely much better informed than I am, but for me, the Dickin Medal was novel territory, so some further research was clearly required. Of course in idle surfing, that means a quick trip to Wikipedia. It turns out that the Dickin Medal is often termed “the animal Victoria Cross,” which apparently makes the human Victoria Cross people rather cross, which ISTM is their problem.
The Dickin Medal has been awarded 67 times since it was instituted in 1943. The first went to the pigeon White Vision, who flew into headwinds for nine hours to deliver a message that led to the rescue of the crew of a flying boat that was forced down near the Hebrides. The most recent award went, posthumously, to Reckless, a Mongolian mare who served with the US Army in Korea. Here she is under fire…
And here in happier days:
She was, apparently, something of a character:
Out of a race horse dam, she was purchased in October 1952 for $250 from a Korean stableboy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister. Reckless was bought by members of the United States Marine Corps and trained to be a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. She quickly became part of the unit and was allowed to roam freely through camp, entering the Marines’ tents, where she would sleep on cold nights, and was known for her willingness to eat nearly anything, including scrambled eggs, beer, Coca-Cola and, once, about $30 worth of poker chips.
She served as an ammunition resupply horse–which is itself a reminder that for much of the twentieth century mechanized war was a hell of lot less internal-combustion-powered than you might think. See, e.g., this glimpse of German resupply on the Eastern Front in 1942:
Back to Reckless: her medal-winning feats came during the Battle for Outpost Vegas, during which she made 51 trips, covering 35 miles, ferrying over four and half tons of artillery ammunition to the front lines. She was wounded twice, and received two battlefield promotions, to corporal and then sergeant, and survived the war to live out a comfortable retirement in the United States.
As with the Victoria Cross, it’s not uncommon for Dickin Medal winners to have died in the action which earned them their award for valor, and many of the most recent winners have been dogs trained in the discovery of IEDs. Here’s Buster, an RAF sniffer dog who, thankfully, survived his service in Iraq in 2003 to make it to the very respectable age of 16:
All of which is to say that there are so many much better creatures in the world than the vileness currently infesting the Oval Office, and all those who in any way made or make that continuing disgrace possible.
But we knew that.
So to close: here’s to the Duke, to White Vision, to Reckless and Buster and the rest of their gallant company — and to all those who keep us company, who are, if unable to banish Trump, are still able to ease our spirits, the better to fight the bastards again tomorrow:
Over to y’all. Try to have some fun. We’ll all need it.
*not on Twitter, TBH.
**with more than 140 characters
***in general, whenever you hear that, or even more, Trump’s favorite imperative, “believe me,” put both hands on your wallet. Someone’s lying to you. But not this time.
Images: Spink and Sons, Duke of Normandy Dickin Medal.
Paradata, The Duke of Normandy,
Camp Pendleton Archives, Reckless Under Fire,
US Marine Corps history division, Sgt. Reckless, Camp Pendleton
Bundesarchiv, German Supply Wagon in Mud, 1942
Me, Tikka, Hairy Eyeball, 2017
Each of those animals highlighted above are far more evolved beings than that jackass in the White House.
Wow. Not even a whole Joule. Hope you are able to re-energize!
Buster looks the part. What a good boy.
Horse cavalry in the 21st century. And the monument.
Tom, you are the only American I can think of who’d get sidetracked into a post about British animal heroism medals. Good on you, and enjoy your sabbatical.
@Baud: True, makes my girls look like slackers. They’re passed out after the excitement of yesterday’s spa day.
Definitely a post off the beaten path??
@?BillinGlendaleCA: Send them to boot camp instead. We need them to fight Nazis.
@rikyrah: Glad to hear your sister is improving.
BTW, y’all see this?
I’m pretty excited about my upcoming writing retreat, but mine will be in civilization (Lake Arrowhead). I am 90 percent sure that I’m going to leave my Kindle behind and only bring paper books, because the Kindle will be too much of a temptation.
Tikka is full of win and awesome!
I wrote a post on India’s 70 years of independence, which kinda got lost in the daily T drama. I am going to do several posts on India to commemorate this milestone over the next two weeks.
@schrodingers_cat: Happy independence day, SC.
Or should I say, Merry Christmas!
Twitter is fuckin’ killing this country.
@different-church-lady: You should tweet that.
@Baud: Happy Diwali!
My understanding is that the Spanish Civil War, which was a prelude to the mechanization of WW2, also had a whole bunch of cavalry. It was for no other reason than that the roads were so bad, especially around the Pyrenees, that cars couldn’t get through.
@Baud: We can say that now. Did you know?
@JPL: That’s what people should say when they tear down a Confederate statue.
That was my assumption: Seth Rich Truther successfully convincing technologically naive people that his crackpot conspiracy theory was true.
@efgoldman: Ain’t that the truth.
His other point about having to be offline to absorb some of what’s going on, was important. I have reached the point, where I have no empathy for those who have voted for the nightmare that is Trump. Trump’s rant yesterday actually lowered my blood pressure. My biggest fear was that the media would say he pivoted. Well that’s no longer a possibility.
@Baud: OMG, between the allegations against the hack possibility and the comments, the Derp is like a Superball shot out of a cannon.
@Mnemosyne: If you’re a publisher of a serious magazine, you hire someone who is not technologically naive to review the piece you are about publish.
@debbie: And I would take any of them over him as president.
I don’t comment much but I may be in withdrawal from your posts – how long must we be without you??
Villago Delenda Est
@Baud: The Russophiles who run The Nation have an agenda, and they have no problem cozying up to a tyrannical kleptocrat in the process.
@Baud: After 7 years away, I created a new Facebook account. My posts there are almost exclusively about how awful Facebook is.
Bannon is happy. Trump’s presser yesterday was “defining:” https://www.axios.com/what-steve-bannon-thinks-about-charlottesville-2473751951.html
Jennifer Rubin had an amazing column today. I never thought I’d agree with anything she wrote (and you have to ignore the Centrist Way baloney paragraph toward the end) but check this out:
(Probably a BJ commenter has posted something about this already but anyway)
@Baud: OMG What a great idea!
My favorite is Stubby but I’m partial to terriers.
I went to the UK for a vacation in 2016. While out in the wilds of Cornwall, I had a couple of rainy days so in addition to the French Open, I saw quite a bit of UK TV, including a BBC report on Lucca, the American hero dog who was being honored with the Dickin Medal that week.
Two days later I was at the Hilton Metropole near Paddington Station, and awoke early. As I headed across the lobby in search of coffee and croissant, I saw a German Shepherd and his human — and it was Lucca! I guess for winners of the Dickin Medal, there is no “no pets” policy. The handler let me pet Lucca, but I didn’t keep him too long — when you see a dog headed out of hotel at 6 AM … you know he has business to attend to.
Lucca is a good dog!
Major Major Major Major
My favorite war animal is Sergeant Stubby.
I think Tom is being paid by the Pentagon to make us pro-war.
It sure was.
I think that’s probably the first thing that Bannon has said which I’d agree with.
Buster is so regal! That dog coat uniform and his medals really add to his image, but even without them you could tell he’s a good, strong, devoted boy.
Thank you, Tom, for bringing us such delightful inspiration and salve to our wounded spirits. Enjoy your vacation.
@DissidentFish: That’s so cool.
Major Major Major Major
@eclare: @Major Major Major Major: Damn you eclare, you beat me to it!
@Villago Delenda Est: From WIKI – “In 1988, Katrina vanden Heuvel married Stephen F. Cohen, a writer on the Soviet Union and a professor of Russian Studies at Princeton University for 30 years, subsequently at New York University.”
I have heard Stephen Cohen on Thom Hartmann’s radio show many times; and when Obama was the President Cohen would say stuff like the US and NATO were aggressors trying to isolate the USSR from their satellite states; so of course they had to invade Ukraine. I like Hartmann, but worry that he too is on Putin’s payroll. Gets kinda confusing…
@Baud: Neigh! Say not so!
@Baud: These two? Really?
@Major Major Major Major: Hope the upcoming animated film is good.
@Nelle: I’m out altogether through the rest of August, and will be back to my current, very sporadic posting schedule in September. Thanks for the kind words!
@Mnemosyne: There’s always the Milky Way as a temptation.
I guess you see what I did there. Kidding aside, worth the read if you didn’t get through it. In other news, Netanyahu’s sons thinks BLM more dangerous than Neo Nazis: http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-junior-says-leftists-more-dangerous-than-neo-nazis/
@?BillinGlendaleCA: Oh too funny. That’s my new favorite picture of yours.
Literally as i was reading your post, CBS was running an interview with three women, two of them black, who still support him and say they’d vote for him again.
Holy shit some people are blind.
@Baud: Yeah, none of that Milky Way crap, a dog with bows on her ears.
@efgoldman: What the ever loving fuck? Wow.
Puts my internet distraction excursions to sha…hey everybody, new Star Wars trailer!
@rikyrah: I was too late to respond to your reply to me yesterday about your sister’s status but I see from Baud’s comment she’s doing better? I’m so happy for her. Is she Peanut’s mom?
Mike in NC
Our governor, Roy Cooper (D), wants to get rid of all the Confederate participation trophies on public land, but good luck with that since the NC legislature is dominated by the Tea Party. Per the local TV news, a large monument erected in downtown Wilmington by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909 was vandalized overnight. So far no rally by Trump’s KKK.
The 27% rule knows no color lines.
I bet you can make a pretty good living being the Token Minority Trump Voter.
Speaking of animals and medallions, Owney.
That spaniel sniffer dog looks marvelous. Yea Buster!
Would rather look at any of these regal animals than the Orange Mistake bloviating from the White House.
Thank you Tom.
@schrodingers_cat: Congratulations on the milestone and your chronicles!
My favourite Dickin Medal recipient is the only cat – Simon, the ship’s cat of HMS Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident. Despite being injured by shell fire, he return to catching rats.
Its funny, at first I thought the medal was named after the boy (Dickon) in the book ‘The Secret Garden.’ He was quite the animal whisperer.
This interview with Bannon is a MUST READ: http://prospect.org/article/steve-bannon-unrepentant
I’ve loved Reckless’s story ever since I first heard about it. Thanks for highlighting animal gallantry!
Amen, brother. Every word.
I see that birds, horses and dogs have received the medal but of course, no cats … .
See #61 — you didn’t read closely enough.
I find it utterly impossible to keep up with the pace of BJ, so if y’all have already see this, apologies.
Parliament has a mouse problem….
@Quinerly: I think it means that he is on his way out. We’ll have to wait to bomb China til another day.
What did you think?
I do hope that Tom or Adam will comment on it.
Now this statue is a keeper.
@DissidentFish: I love that!
I’m surprised that the two big Bannon pieces of today have had such little press. In related news, Corner Stone has totally abandoned us. We must accept it.?
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tom Levenson. This and the post about Marc’s cats are much needed.
Thank you also for featuring recipients who survived combat — I couldn’t have taken hearing about ones who didn’t, just now.
@Elizabelle: Sniffer looks indominatable. Indominable. Dammit. Indomitable.
Sniffer looks indomitable.Picture of strength and resolution for the ages. Sniffer was a sound dog, in the old school sense.
@jl: Sniffer could spell ‘ indomitable’ right the first time. That’s what kinda dog that Sniffer was.
A bit of info on the pigeon front – contrary to teh movies (e,g, Ghost Dog, which that aside, I loved), homers/carriers go in one direction: from release point to their loft. So one sets up an HQ, settles a loft (may take a while). then sends birds out to allow troops to report back in at ~80 mph as the crow flies. Orders back to the troops? Motorcycle courier or sumpin’. Cher Ami got the dang Croix de Guerre!