Friday, December 21, 2007

Music, Girls, Jokes

The EWOs who went before me said the experience would give me a sense of accomplishment.

They were right. This year, for the first time ever, I got all my Christmas shopping and mailing done early.

For you poor souls who must battle the malls, I feel for you. I honestly would rather be in Iraq than the local Best Buy parking lot.

We’re getting into the Christmas spirit here. We’re having a cold snap this week, and folks are walking around in black watch caps and gloves, with pink noses, drinking Green Beans coffee. This is a tree put up by another unit in my building.

I got this tree in a care package! Same for the stocking.

The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas music flooded the p-way; a sergeant told me that was his tradition -- to break out the Christmas music the Friday after Thanksgiving -- and he wasn’t about to miss it.

The care package flow is up and we’re enjoying each other’s favorite cookies and homemade fudge. Someone even sent baklava.

And, we got treated to a good ol’ fashioned USO show — just like you always hear about!

I have to say I enjoyed every minute of the 3+ hours mega show. Headliners were country stars Keni Thomas, a Ranger-turned-musician, and Darryl Worley, who effectively rhymes “forgotten” and “Bin Laden.”

Keni Thomas belts one out.

They were backed up by the Army Band and vocalists, and spiced up by a small contingent of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Two comedians came out and told off-color jokes, in the tradition of Phyllis Diller. These performers gave it their all! They will miss Christmas with their families to tour Iraq and Afghanistan with the show.

The Army’s rockin’ vocalists brought down the house with “Purple Rain” and “Living in America."

What I found most enjoyable and satisfying was the idea of the continuing tradition of the USO show and its elements: music, girls, jokes. (In the Navy, we find comfort in tradition, and look for it.) I found a few great original photos on the Web, for kind of a “then and now” presentation. Today’s USO performers follow in the shoes of some entertainment greats.

The historical narrative and some of the photos are from the USO website. My thanks to those who posted their personal photos from Viet Nam on various websites.

“During the peak of action in 1945, USO Camp Shows were presenting 700 shows a day, with more than 300,000 performances overseas and in the United States, to an audience totaling more than 173 million. From 1941 to 1947, more than 7,000 performers put on 428,521 shows of all kinds.”
Carol Landis and Martha Tilton in New Guinea.

“Touring Camp Shows were discontinued in 1947 but were revived in 1951 with the approach of the Korean War. Some 126 entertainment units put on more than 5,400 shows in Korea. Stars included Jennifer Jones, Jack Benny, Errol Flynn, Danny Kaye, Robert Merrill, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Maxwell, Paul Douglas, Jan Sterling and Al Jolson. Such stars as Paul Douglas, Ray Milland, Molly Picon, Walter Pidgeon, Jan Sterling and Keenan Wynn also went on tour. Celebrity units drawn from the USO Hollywood Coordinating Committee brought 866 performances to Korea. Among other stars were Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Frances Langford. Stateside visits included such stars as Jayne Mansfield, Jerry Colonna, Bob Hope and Anita Bryant.”

“Bob Hope took his USO Christmas show to Vietnam for the first time in 1964; the shows continued into the next decade. Some 5,559 USO performances took place during the Vietnam years.”

Raquel Welch in Viet Nam, photo taken by a soldier.

Bob Hope and Raquel Welch on stage together.
Ann-Margaret in Vietnam, taken by a soldier.

Soldiers cover a mountain side to watch the show.
Trying to see the show. A Christmas USO show in 1971.
A USO show band rocks some remote area of Viet Nam.

“USO entertainment in the 80s retained its stellar reputation while increasing its range. Superstar rock groups KANSAS, the Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick; jazz legend Louie Bellson; movie stars Kris Kristofferson, Brooke Shields, Chuck Norris; performers Ann Jillian and John Denver; MISS USAs Michelle Royer, Courtney Gibbs and Gretchen Polhemus; rhythm and blues group Atlantic Starr; a host of country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, Mickey Gilley, and the Judds; and even Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek became involved with the USO’s celebrity entertainment program.”

And now, in 2007, The USO Christmas Show closes with “Free Bird” and the guitar solo segues into “America the Beautiful.”

Everyone joined in.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Remembering the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

American dead numbered 2,403. That figure included 68 civilians.

The following poem and photo are from the Naval Historical Center website:

If you have a moment, the photographs of the destruction at Pearl Harbor are well worth a look:


PS: If you are blessed with a WWII veteran in your life, please give them a hug for me.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941
Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
Photographic montage prepared for the 30th anniversary of the attack, 7 December 1971.

It is accompanied by a poem by JO3 Jim Deken, USN:

In the darkest of moments
a nation is wounded,
rights herself
and pushes on.
Her wounds give her strength
and urge her on to victory.

Time passes,
the wound heals
but leaves a mark.
The mark is her reminder
of what has been and could be again.
She does not forget.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


It looks like the comments have not been working for a while, so I've turned off the moderation to see if that helps. The "funny letters" verification is still on. Let's see if it works better now. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why I Watch

Anyone who has been on a ship for any length of time can relate to the inevitable sensory deprivation. This is brought on by the sameness of endless grey p-ways, dirty ladderwells, and nightly Wardroom food offerings of brown on white. While my current sensory deprivation is nowhere near as acute and pervasive as on the ship, I can feel it starting to invade my psyche. Perhaps it’s my living environment:

View of my neighborhood facing North.

View of my neighborhood facing South.

So what to do?

  • Read a magazine. There’s practically a library in the women’s latrine trailer. But I can only take so much Marie Claire.

  • Try something new and interesting at the DFAC. Umm, problem with that….

  • Create yet another PowerPoint presentation. (Really, I don’t know how we won WWII without PowerPoint.)

  • Conduct an Army-Navy psyops campaign on my Battalion Commander!

Yes! I will tape tiny pictures of Bill the Goat all over his office, in places where he will, over several days, continually discover them, much to his chagrin and my sheer joy! I will tape these images in such insidious places as the underside of his phone receiver and inside his desk drawers!


Well . . . I was actually going to do this, but an Army battalion staffer warned me that might “push him over the edge.”

Sigh. I guess I don’t want to push him over the edge.

Well, at least we have the Army-Navy Game to liven things up!

I was treated to YouTube footage of the most recent Whoop goat-napping caper at our Battalion Update Brief (BUB). And the Battalion Commander showed up in a 2007 Army-Navy Game “Goatbuster” shirt.

So that shows some good spirit, even if a bit moldy and overused, God bless ‘em.

Best, I got an invitation, as a Navy of One, to watch the game in the battalion spaces.

I would have loved to have gotten you, Dear Reader, a photo of us all watching the Army-Navy Game together. But here is what happened.

First of all, let me be clear: I don’t give a flying rodent caboose about football. But I care about the Army Navy Game. I care because it is a yearly marker, an event, a milestone in life. I care because the rivalry is pure and not malicious --it’s something like sibling rivalry. The players are destined to be professionals in the military, not the sports-entertainment industry. The gridiron is a long-standing metaphor for the battlegrounds on which Army and Navy will fight a real enemy, together.

Also, I often have a wager on the outcome.

Sadly, I could find no West Pointers who would even discuss a possible wager. Could it be that they thought they might not win? Again, sigh.

Anyway, night of the game, I grabbed some animal crackers, a couple of Diet Cokes, and the Third Battalion EWO, Joker, who was up from PB Dragon (not a grad, but he is a Navy LT who works at the Academy when not in Iraq) and went over to the TOC.

What a great time!

There were about 10 of us or so, with Joker and I the only Navy reps, rooting and joking, pointing out patches the players wore, and generally feeling sympathy for the Army football team.

I even rooted for them a bit.

But the teams winning or losing isn’t the thing. It’s just that we were together watching The Game. How cool, I thought, to be sitting in Iraq, with a bunch of Army officers and enlisted, in a battalion TOC, watching the Army-Navy Game! I was stoked.

I thought, I need a picture. (That is how my mother best communicates with me —subconsciously.) I came back with my camera after half time, but the crowd was reduced by more than half.

By the fourth quarter, Joker and I were it!

Now these Army guys were still in the building, but they had abandoned watching the game to go back to WORK (it was about 1030 at night!) and were all in their offices at their desks. (I guess making PowerPoint presentations. )

So no photo.

But what I said above, about the metaphor and the kinship, that’s all real.