Monday, April 06, 2015

The Flying Gregorys

The Colonel and his Lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, are in the midst of the final major phase of operations aimed at completing the Colonel's man cave -- aka: The Colonel's Knotty Room.

The final major phase -- installing the ceiling -- has been ongoing for an interminable amount of time owing to a plethora of distractions, hobbies, and new (according to the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) priorities; all of which have posed a daunting challenge to the tenuous grip the Colonel has on disciplining his severe case of ADD/LIJ (Attention Deficit Disorder/Lack of Initiative and Judgement, for the LSU and Bama grads).

However, the Colonel has managed to maintain a modicum of forward progress and had, as recently as two months ago, reached the point at which it was time to install the pull-down attic stairs. For the last two months the Colonel has studied carefully all written and video instructions for the installation of said pull-down attic stairs. In fact, the Colonel's morning routine each day for the past two months has included coffee, reading the written instructions, more coffee, watching the video instructions, more coffee..., and, then, deciding to tackle some other project that day instead.

At last the Colonel's Lady, inured as she is to the Colonel's pronounced procrastination, could take no more of his dithering and declared last week that the attic stairs were going in, posthaste.

The Colonel doesn't really know what "posthaste" means, but he got the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's intent, nonetheless.

The Colonel began last Friday morning with his customary cups of coffee and careful reading and viewing of the installation instructions, and then announced,

"Attention in the Operations Center! Installation of the pull-down attic stairs will begin, immediately!"

Sadly for the Colonel, he is the sole member of the Operations Staff here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, and no one sprung into immediate action.

About that time, the Colonel's Lady stuck her comely and kind-hearted head into the sanctified confines of the Colonel's operational, if only partially completed, man cave and asked in her most gentle and encouraging way,

"Hey, Knucklehead, you ever going to get those pull-down attic stairs installed, or am I going to have to get our sons to come do it?"

The Colonel drew himself up to his full, if diminutive, height, stuck out his formerly muscled chest, and invited the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda to climb up the step ladder into the attic and prepare for receipt of the pull-down attic stairs assembly.

The Colonel's Lady had only one tiny, little question,

"You want me to do WHAT?!?"

The Colonel showed her the diagram of the two-person operation, wherein one person lifts the fifty-pound pull-down attic stair assembly from the floor up overhead and into the rough opening, and the other person -- in the attic -- guides the pull-down attic stair assembly onto temporary supports at either end of the rough opening.

"Sweething," the Colonel asked his bride of 38 years, 8 months, and six days (but, who's counting), "which job would you prefer?"

"Neither," she intoned flatly, fixing me with the look that usually precedes pleasantries along the lines of "idiot" and other slightly less loving terms of endearment.

"Okay, then," the Colonel responded, having given his Lady the benefit of choice. "Up you go."

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda muttered something under her breath that included the word "up" and climbed up the step ladder into the attic.

When the Colonel was satisfied that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was prepared for receipt of the pull-down attic stairs assembly and subsequent guidance into position in the rough opening, he hoisted the assembly overhead and began climbing up the step ladder...

Okay, the Colonel knows what you're thinking at this point. You're thinking that this doesn't end well. Well, you're wrong -- it does end well.

It just takes a short detour through "disaster" before arriving at "well."

Having successfully placed the pull-down attic stairs assembly on the temporary supports in the rough opening, the Colonel instructed his Lady to stay put in the attic for a few minutes while he squared and secured the assembly in the rough opening. This process was going amazingly well until the Colonel decided to step up one more rung on the step ladder in order to gain better leverage with his screw gun.

This is the point at which the aforementioned detour happens.

Have you ever noticed the warning labels on step ladders that tell you not to stand on the top of the platform at the top of the ladder?

Well, the Colonel has. But, warnings are for the weak...

The next thing the Colonel remembers is the sensation of falling. The Colonel was experiencing that sensation because, as it turns out, there's a very good reason for that warning regarding standing on the platform at the top of a step ladder.

The Colonel vaguely remembers the clattering sound of step ladder bouncing off the floor of his man cave. Vaguely...because that sound was overridden by his own screaming and a loud wailing emanating from the attic.

As time slowed, as it does in his frequent mid-project detours through the disaster zone, the Colonel's cat-like reflexes kicked in and his cat-like arm-flailing was rewarded by an open hand slapping and grasping a 2 x 6 rafter.

Hanging by one arm from the ceiling, the Colonel slowly wound down his personal alarm siren and checked the landing area below his feet for obstructions. He then looked upward into the angelic face of his bride and asked her if she was okay.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's personal siren was still wailing loudly and the Colonel's one-handed grip on the rafter was reaching the limit of it's endurance, so he let go.

He didn't fall.

The Colonel looked up at the still loudly wailing Miss Brenda and noticed a trickle of blood running down his arm.

"Sweetie, please unclench your nails and let go of my arm."

The loud wailing began to abate, but the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's grip on the Colonel's wrists did not loosen.

"Sweetie, I'm only four feet off of the floor. Please let go of my arm."

She let go, the Colonel dropped two feet and then trip-bounced off the top of the air compressor running his screw gun...

What should have been a light knees-bent, cat-like landing became another uncontrolled flailing final approach to prostration on the floor, accompanied by renewed wailing from the attic.

The Colonel lay still for several long moments listening to the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's sorrowful siren, and then,

"Sweetie, you can quit your screeching. I'm okay."

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was as loving as ever,

"You idiot! I was yelling because if you were killed, I had no way to get down out of the attic and call in a life insurance claim."

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Chrysanthemum Crescendo

As the U.S.-led Allied two-pronged march across the Pacific drew inexorably closer to the home islands of the Empire of Japan in the Spring of 1945, both sides' increasing desperation for an end to the monumental waste of blood and treasure was matched by the increasing intensity of the fighting to bring about that end.

By this date 70 years ago, MacArthur's drive from Australia up through New Guinea and back to the Philippines (as he had theatrically promised when chased out by the Japanese three years earlier: "...I shall return.") had climaxed with a destructively brutal wresting of Manila from its unbending defenders. To the East, Nimitz's Central Pacific campaign had seized Iwo Jima in an unbelievably bloody 6-week prize fight whose purse was possession of a sulphurous island with only one redeeming feature -- an airfield halfway between Tokyo and the US heavy bomber base in the Marianas Islands.

Now, all eyes turned to the last major objective short of Japan itself -- Okinawa.

The Japanese viewed Okinawa in much the same way we Americans view Puerto Rico. It was centuries-long held territory, but its inhabitants weren't considered full-fledged Japanese. The Japanese Imperial high command intended to sacrifice the Okinawan people (unlike most of the Japanese-held islands on the way to Tokyo, Okinawa was heavily populated) along with 100,000 Japanese soldiers in a final battle that would give the Americans a taste of just how horrible invading the Japanese home islands would be.

Early in American Pacific War planning, the island of Formosa (Taiwan) was considered as the final island objective and jumping-off point for campaigns against Japanese forces in China as well as Japan itself. As the staggering cost of men and materiel mounted in Europe and the Pacific, war-planners shelved the idea of landings on the very large island of Formosa and subsequent land campaign on the Asian mainland in favor of seizing Okinawa and its large airfields, adequate anchorages, and large-enough troop staging area.

The Americans called the Okinawa campaign "Operation Iceberg."

The Japanese called their kamikaze defense of Okinawa "Falling Chrysanthemums."

The Okinawan people called the battle "The Typhoon of Steel."

On this date, seventy years ago -- April 1, 1945 -- four US divisions, 2 Army and 2 Marine, went ashore virtually unopposed across beaches on the western side of the island. By the end of the day, 60,000 Americans were on Okinawa at the price of a handful of casualties.

It was Easter Sunday in 1945. It would be the last peaceful day for months.

The commander of the Japanese forces on Okinawa had decided against exposing his troops to pre-landing naval and air bombardment in a defense of the beaches. Instead, he constructed elaborate defenses in depth along terrain bisecting the island in successive lines.

While American soldiers and Marines fed themselves into meat-grinding assaults against the most formidable Japanese defensive positions of the Pacific War, the 1300-ship (yes, one thousand, three hundred ships) of the supporting Allied fleet were subject to the crescendo of Japanese airpower, the majority of which were kamikaze strikes. US Navy dead (nearly 5000) exceeded that suffered by either the Army or Marines ashore.

The vast majority of the Japanese defenders were killed or committed suicide by battle's end.
Upwards of 100,000 Okinawan civilians (a third of the population) died.

As the light on Okinawa died by the middle of July, a new light flashed in the New Mexico desert.

A month later, Japan surrendered.