Imagine a time when there was no air force, or for that matter, airplanes. Of course, for those of us living today, that would be very hard to imagine…in fact, maybe impossible. Nevertheless, before the Wright brothers made flight possible, there was not only no planes, but no air force. Then, in 1914, things were about to change forever.
The First Aero Squadron was formed in 1914. It was organized after the start of World War I, but it was first used because of the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, who was initially a bandit, but later became a general in the Mexican Revolution. He was a key figure in the revolutionary violence that forced out President Porfirio Díaz and brought Francisco Madero to power in 1911. Pancho Villa was an excellent guerrilla leader who fought against the regimes of both of those men. After 1914, he engaged in civil war and banditry. He became notorious in the United States for his attack on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916, and something had to be done
On March 9, 1916, Villa, who opposed American support for Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, led a band of several hundred guerrillas across the border on a raid of the town of Columbus, New Mexico. Seventeen Americans were killed in the battle. On March 15, President Woodrow Wilson ordered, US Brigadier General John J Pershing to launch a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa. Four days later, the First Aero Squadron was sent into Mexico to scout and relay messages for General Pershing. On March 19, 1914, Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron took off from Columbus, New Mexico, in the first combat air mission in United States history. The squadron was on a support mission for the 7,000 US troops who invaded Mexico to capture Villa.
Despite encountering numerous mechanical and navigational problems, the American pilots flew hundreds of missions for Pershing during which they gained important experience that would later be used by fliers over the battlefields of Europe. Unfortunately, during the 11-month mission, US forces failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, and Mexican resentment over US intrusion into their territory led to a diplomatic crisis. In late January 1917, with President Wilson under pressure from the Mexican government and more concerned with the war overseas than with bringing Villa to justice, the Americans were ordered home. The missions were over.
The world was embarking on the industrial revolution, and it was during World War I that we found out just how much of a difference that industrial revolution could make in wartime. From the introduction of airplanes to the use of tanks and railway guns on the battlefield, soldiers had to contend not only with each other but with the productions of the factory floor. Even the recent invention of the telephone made its way into battlefield units, where soldiers used it to convey orders or direct artillery fire.
Nevertheless, there was one area where technology was not as “up to date” as it needed to be. The telephone while a great invention, was not as reliable as the commanders of Europe would have liked. I guess that anyone who has used a modern-day cellular phone can relate that. I’m sure that they could envision the need to arrange their operations, and they weren’t too sure the information was completely safe. So, they brainstormed alternatives in an attempt to improve combat communications. The leaders of World War I turned to a much older form of communication…the carrier pigeon.
Pigeons had been used for communication for many, many years. These unsung heroes of World War I, the carrier pigeons, used by both the Allied and Central Powers, helped assist their respective commanders with an accuracy and clarity unmatched by the modern technology. The National Archives holds a vast collection of messages that these feathered fighters delivered for American soldiers. Using these messages and the history of the carrier pigeon in battle, we can look at what hardship these fearless fowls endured and how their actions saved American lives. One of the most impressive things about the war records of the carrier pigeons was how widely the birds were used. Their service as battlefield messengers is their most known use, and the pigeons found homes in every branch of service.
The rudimentary airplanes of the embattled countries used pigeons to provide updates midair. Launched mid-mission, the birds would fly back to their coops and update ground commanders on what the pilots had observed. These strange update methods were born of the essential need for leaders to know what the battlefield looked like and what the enemy was doing in its own trenches. Planes flying over and pigeons bringing the information back quickly was the best way to stay ahead of the enemy. In addition, tanks carried the birds in order to relay the advance of individual units. Even after the introduction of the radio, pigeons were often the easiest way to help coordinate tank units without exposing the men to dangerous fire. Radios to be overheard. Of course, while it made the soldiers safer, the pigeons were not necessarily safer. Many of them didn’t make it back home, having been shot down and/or used for food for starving families. Still, without a radio set, the soldiers would have had to leave the relative safety of their tanks to relay or receive orders. These birds saved lives, even if it meant sacrificing their own. Their owners also saved lives by allowing their pigeons to be involved. They were a great asset to the war effort of more than one war.
The birds’ most effective use was on the front line, as they were brought forward with their armies to help update commanders and planners in the rear. When the birds were away from their home lofts, they stayed in mobile units, which were usually converted horse carriages or even double-decker buses. I’m sure it made a strange sight. The mobile lofts were useful when the armies outpaced their established lines of communications or when the enemy disrupted communications lines for the telegraphs or telephones, as they often did during battle. While the other Allied powers were first to use birds, the United States did not lag far behind when we entered the fray. During the course of the war, many birds performed heroic deeds in the course of service and became heroes in their own rights.
My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was a remarkable woman. I was quite impressed with her work ethic. That might seem a funny thing to say about a woman who no longer worked outside the home, but she was, nevertheless, dedicated to he work…her home. For most of her life, she lived as a pioneer woman, because while her home had many things, and was a normal stick built home, it did not have an indoor bathroom, even though the bathroom was somewhat completed. Water was the main concern, as well water was used, and there is always the concern of a well running dry, I suppose.
Grandma was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1909. Of course, we all know that the ground hog has a 50-50 chance of guessing right concerning winter, and I personally think that the latest Punxsutawney Phil, maybe doesn’t have its act together. Todays prediction was for an early spring, but…time will tell. According to statistics, the groundhog saw its shadow in 1909, so that should have been six more weeks of winter. I have no idea what the winter ended up like in Montana, but knowing what Montana winters are usually like, In would be surprised if the winter ended early.
Grandma Hein saw many changes over the years of her life. From the early days of automobiles and airplanes to the more modern days of both before her passing. She saw telephones, and even the early days of cell phones. She was able to travel to the places where her children moved, and meet grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even 2nd great grandchildren. She lived a long and happy life, and yet we still never felt like she was with us long enough. Today, Grandma would have been 111 years old, but that would have been an unlikely birthday to have happened. Nevertheless, happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.
I’m sure that everyone has heard the little jokes people make to tease someone about which parent they look like…or sometimes don’t. They might say something like, “You look like the milkman.” Of course, the indication is that the mother had an affair, but sometimes such a joke can backfire on the teller of the joke. When I say this, I am speaking from experience…not as an adult, but rather as a child. You see, my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I do look like the milk man…because the milkman was our dad. Of course our younger sisters do too, but he wasn’t a milk man when they were born.
During the early years of their marriage, my dad worked for a company called Twin Ports Dairy, in Superior, Wisconsin. Over the remaining years of his life, my dad held various other jobs, and the one I remember the best was when he was a welder, first for Fred Dewell company, and later for WOTCO. Both of these were in Casper, Wyoming. One of the ones that I found the most interesting was when he worked for Douglas Aircraft. This was before he was married, and before World War II. It was this job that qualified him to become the Flight Engineer on the B-17 Bomber. A man who worked building airplanes, would have a unique ability in that field. He also did work in the lumber yards and in the oil fields, prior to my parents marriage. In fact, he was working in the oil fields when he and my mother exchanged their wonderful love letters…which my sisters and I recently came across among their things. There are many parts to a man, and most men will do several types of work before settling on the one they will do for the rest of their life. My dad was no different, but in the end it would be the work that he did at the suggestion of his older brother, my Uncle Bill, that my dad would do the longest…welding. As World War II was progressing to the point of Americas necessary involvement, Uncle Bill was worried about his little brother, and he really hoped that his skill as a welder would keep my Dad on the home front, but it was his skill with airplanes that would win out in the end, and Dad would go to war…and thankfully come back home again.
All those parts of my dad…along with his deep love of family would make him into the person we all knew and dearly loved, but I think for my mom, its possible that the Milkman job was a personal favorite. After all, it kept him close to home, and it was a safe job for her husband and the father of her children. I think it was her favorite, because of all the times I have heard her talk about that one, and I can relate to the part about keeping him home, because sometimes when he had to go out of town for work in the years after we moved to Casper, I simply didn’t feel good until he came home. I don’t mean sad…I mean I felt physically ill until he came home. My sisters and I loved our daddy very much, and we wanted him to be at home. In fact, I still wish he was at home…here on Earth, instead of in Heaven, because I miss him very much. Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. We all love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you and Mom again.
With the thousands of airplanes in the air at any moment, one might think that daily accidents would be common place, but in reality, air travel is actually very safe. Nevertheless, it is not without its tragedies. What tends to amaze me, however, is the fact that relatively few ever seem to crash in a city, even though the airports are usually very near cities. Still, there is not a perfect record of missing the cities, when it comes to plane crashes either, and when a plane crashes in a city, you know that the death toll will be higher, and more than likely will include people on the ground, who were just going about their day, completely unaware of the danger they were in.
Such was the case on this day, December 16, 1960, in New York City, when two commercial airliners, a United DC-8 from Chicago, that was heading to Idlewild Airport…now renamed John F Kennedy International Airport, in southern Queens, and a TWA Super Constellation from Dayton, Ohio that was heading to LaGuardia Airport in northern Queens, collided over the city, killing 134 people in the planes and on the ground. This remains the only such accident to occur over a major US city to this day. It was snowing that morning, and the United flight had been put into a holding pattern. Unfortunately, the pilot miscalculated the location of the pattern, the plane came directly into the path of the TWA flight, who was on approach to LaGuardia Airport. There were 128 people onboard the two planes, and all of them, except eleven year old Stephen Baltz were killed on impact. The boy would die from his injuries the next day, but he was lucid enough to give a brief account of the accident, saying that, “It looked like a picture out of a fairy book. Then all of a sudden there was an explosion. The plane started to fall and people started to scream. I held on to my seat and then the plane crashed.”
The TWA plane crashed onto Miller Field, a military airfield on Staten Island. The United flight, which was missing its right engine and part of a wing, came down in the middle of the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, narrowly missing Saint Augustine’s Academy. It hit an apartment building and the Pillar of Fire Church. Dozens of other buildings caught fire in the resulting explosion. Mrs Robert Nevin, who was sitting in a top floor apartment when the place crashed into her building, later said “The roof caved in and I saw the sky.” Six people on the ground died when the plane crashed, including the 90 year old caretaker of the church, Wallace Lewis, and two men who were selling Christmas trees nearby. Christmas presents carried by the plane’s passengers were strewn all over the streets. Firefighting efforts went on for nearly 72 hours because of the multiple fires.
Fifteen years ago today, Americans were greeted with horror, as terrorism split the atmosphere of safety we had long enjoyed around our nation. I think most Americans had become comfortable, and even complacent about national security. Life was going along at almost a lazy Sunday afternoon pace. We were like small town kids, who thought that nothing ever happens in our town. How very wrong we were. Our world was about to be turned upside down.
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I think most people thought it was a tragic accident. We simply couldn’t fathom the idea that a terrorist would be so horribly cruel as to hijack a plane full of innocent people and fly it straight into a building full of more innocent people. And yet, to our horror, that is exactly what these terrorists did. They operated the planes with no mercy and no feelings. They did not care about the lives they were taking or even about their own lives…in fact, they thought they were heroes for their actions, and that there would be great rewards in Heaven for them. Their complete shock as they entered Hell, must have been devastating.
Their actions left our nation is shock and disbelief. We watch as the devastation unfolded before us, growing worse by the moment, our hearts and minds were assaulted, yet we could not look away. We watched, hoping that the people on the top floors could be saved…even after they began to fall or jump from the building, because the heat was more than they could take. We felt sick with each and every thud. We prayed over the rescuers, that they would be successful in getting people out, and that they would come out too. We watched in stunned disbelief as the towers fell, praying that after the first tower fell, that somehow, the second would remain standing…until it also fell. We became angry at the people who had done this, without provocation. Pure hate, of our beliefs, our prosperity, and our liberties, and that drove them to attack us.
As the day went on, we watched in horror as more information came out. We knew that there were going to be many people died, but still we watched as they dug through the rubble. We thought there would suddenly be people found alive in that rubble. As time went on, we knew that there wouldn’t be huge numbers of survivors. In the end, only twelve people were found alive after the towers fell. After a couple of days, we knew there would be no more, still we could not look away. We had to watch…had to know. As each lost one was found…we cried right along with their families. Then came the worst horror of all…finding out that some people would never be found. The fires had been so hot that their bodies were cremated. That added more horror to our thoughts. It was something we just couldn’t fathom, just like we could not fathom that 15 years later, that day would still be as vivid in our memories as it was on the day we were attacked.
Located in the middle of Pearl Harbor is an island 335 acres in size. In Hawaii’s early days, it was known as Mokuumeume, meaning Island of Strife. It amazes me just how close that name is to the reality that is the island that is now known as Ford Island. I don’t think that strife is a constant companion of the island, but on this day, December 7, 1941…the date that will live in infamy, Ford Island was at center stage as one of the worst attacks in history took place on American soil. The participants, from the American side anyway, would have most certainly have chosen not to be there…if they had been given a choice. The island had changed hands several times, before finally ending up as a part of the military installation that was Pearl Harbor.
Every year, as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day comes around, I try to write a story about that dreadful day, and this year, while looking at Pearl Harbor on Google Earth, my thoughts turned to that little island that was at the center of the attack. How must those men have felt? Everything happened so fast. There wasn’t even time to get the planes in the air. While the ships were being bombed around them, the pilots, mechanics, and airfield crew could only stand around watching…and dodging bullets. Of course, for most of them, that was impossible. The death toll that horrific day was 2403. In addition, there were 1178 people wounded. The emotional toll was beyond the imagination. This was the event that finally brought the United States into World War II.
I began to wonder what the people who were there were thinking as the events of the attack unfolded. There was no way to get off the island. If they had tried, they would surely have been killed. There were bombs going off on all sides of the island. Ships were sinking, airplanes were destroyed, and buildings were on fire or blown up. It was as if the world was coming to an end…or in reality, it was like waking up and finding yourself literally in Hell. My mind struggled to imagine how they must have felt…wishing and praying that all this was a dream and that they could be somewhere else…anywhere else. Still, they knew that it was real, and they were there, and nothing would ever be the same again. They knew that the world as they had known it, had vanished…never to exist again. Of course, our country would come back from this attack, because we are a resilient people, but we would never be the same. We were less trusting of our enemies, something I see again in this day and age of terrorism, and something I think is important.
Being too trusting of our enemies in December of 1941, was exactly what paved the way for a surprise attack on December 7, 1941, and being too trusting today could do the same thing. It is imperative that we protect our people at all costs…even if it makes us seem heartless now. As in the case of the attack on Pearl Harbor, second chances at protecting our people don’t usually come. By the time we realize that we have made a mistake, it is too late, because it has become a fatal mistake. The men and women who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor knew first hand that our enemies hate us and want nothing less that death for America. That, I believe is the valuable lesson the people who survived that horrific attack took away that fateful day, and one we all need to seriously consider today.
My grand niece, Aurora…nicknamed Rory, is the daughter of my nephew, Ryan Hadlock and his wife, Chelsea. Rory is a sweetie pie of a girl, who loves making faces with her aunts, and playing with her older brother, Ethan. But when it comes to Rory’s uncles, she is the princess. Those girls have a way of wrapping their uncles around their baby fingers. Of course, the uncles have a great time with Rory’s brother, Ethan too, but Rory is the princess, and that is all there is to it. In reality, uncles just don’t stand a chance against the charms of their little nieces. Rory just gives them one of her sweet little smiles, and they melt. Then, she gets picked up, swung around, rides of all sorts…like piggy back and airplane. Yep, Rory’s uncles think she’s the cream of the crop. And she thinks the same of them. Of course, it isn’t just her uncles who think Rory is pretty special. Her great aunts and uncles fit in that category too.
Rory is good friends with her cousin, Aleesia too. They love to play together and get along famously. They especially love to dance the night away. And our little Aurora can sing with the best of them. She loves music, and just can’t help but sing along. Rory loves spending girl time with her aunts and her mom. Since she is the only little girl in her family right now, she is the focus of all the girly fun things…nail polish, pony tails, and girly clothes. Rory is her own girl, and I know she will develop her own style, but she will have been well trained in what looks good by her mom and her aunts. Nevertheless, it seems to be her uncles who Rory likes to play with the most.
Rory is a little bit shy with people she doesn’t know very well, but once she knows you, she is more at ease and you never know what she might decide to do. Like most kids, she is pretty inventive with her play. She might be camping out with her brother or doing the baking with her mom. It just depends on her mood at any given time. Rory has a lot of years ahead of her, and I know she will have a lot of changes in her life. I hope she will always keep her sweet sense of humor, because it will take her far. I just think we are all very blessed to have little Rory in our lives. Today is Rory’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Rory!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
So much has changed in the area of aviation over the years. I’m quite sure that the Wright brothers would be amazed. One thing that hasn’t changed since those first airplanes, however, is our interest, or in some cases obsession with flight. Many places around the country have displays of actual planes that are low enough to the ground to get you up close and most of these are displayed right beside entrances to memorials or other sights that are about flight. Planes, perched on a pole, give us the ability to stop and take pictures that we can use as a memory of our visit to the site.
Bob and I have made several of these stops to get pictures with an airplane of one type or another, and now looking back, I see that my parents and grandparents liked to do the same thing. There is just something about flight…the feeling of freedom, that draws us to it, but what really fascinates me is the changes in the planes over the years. If the Wright brothers were here, and a helicopter or a Harrier Jet took off, I’m sure they would stand there staring with their mouth wide open. The speed it took just to get their plane in the air for a few minutes compared to the lack of speed to get these in the air would be shocking.
When you compare the fighter planes of the past to those of today…well, just imagine if America had today’s planes in World War II. The war would have been over after one battle. No other nation would have been able to hold us off. The passage of time has brought new technology to the levels of being very dangerous in the wrong hands. I suppose it is a good thing that it came about slowly, so we could adjust our way of thinking. Still, craziness knows no generation, and there are always those who would start a war. And just a side note, be sure to take a good look at the cars in the first and last picture. Much has changed in the auto industry too…but, that is another story.
If he was still alive, my dad would have been 88 years old today. He lived such an interesting life…experienced so many things. As a young boy, he and his brother shot off dynamite and rode trains around the Wisconsin area because his dad worked for the railroad. When he was older, he worked at Douglas Aircraft Company building airplanes. During World War II, he was a top turret gunner and the flight engineer on a B17 Bomber. He traveled the United States and parts of the world. And he took his family along on as much of it as he could.
We were so blessed to have Dad as our family leader. He somehow made everything alright. From the scariest situations to our fear of moths. From our concerns over imaginary bears in the campground to the very real spider that always seems to show up on occasion. Dad was an amazing problem solver. It didn’t matter what problem we had, from the simplest to the most serious, he would find a solution. He was so understanding.
Dad loved to tease his girls, and he had many funny little sayings that always made us laugh. I can still hear him saying some of the things we all remember well. They were always designed to make us laugh. He was quite a joker. And he always managed to act shocked when we would tease back. There are times that I can hear his voice so clearly…almost as if he is standing next to me. And I can see the looks on his face when he was acting like we were abusive, when we flicked him with our finger…never mind the fact that it did not hurt and often, he flicked us first. He was just goofy.
Dad was forever in love with Mom, and always showed her just how much she meant to him. He treated her like a princess. He was one of the last of the true gentlemen left here on Earth. A man who set a high standard for himself. There were words that he never said, because he wanted to set a good example. He was a Christian and he made sure his family was too. We all grew up knowing our Lord.
My dad was the most wonderful dad that ever existed. I am so thankful that he was my dad. I will miss him for the rest of my life, but I know that there will come a day when we are all together again for eternity, and for that I am grateful. Happy birthday in Heaven Daddy!! I love you very much!!