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Tag Archives: War

“Not a Big Fan”

The original anti-fascist movement prepares to disrupt a large Nazi gathering.

In an interview with Piers Morgan that aired on June 4, two days before the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, in France, Donald Trump was asked if he wished he had served in Vietnam. His response: “Well, I was never a fan of that war, I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away. At that time, nobody had ever heard of the country.”

I wasn’t a big fan of the war in Vietnam either, but I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the Spring of ’66, just as things were beginning to heat up again. I failed my physical, as I was born with club feet, which required surgery to correct my left foot when I was five years old. The doctors saw the four large incision scars on my foot, ankle and shin, and nixed my service.

I argued that sailors don’t do a lot of marching and I should be able to make it. They let me in. When I arrived at the United States Naval Training Center in San Diego, I immediately suspected I had made a mistake. As the bus I was on drove into the camp, I could see numerous company’s of men marching on the largest blacktop (we called it a grinder) I’d ever seen. As it turned out, marching was one of the things we did a lot of . . . and it was hell on my arthritic ankle and my shortened Achilles tendon.

There was on thing, one punishment that was meted out to us that sealed my participation and my eventual discharge. During graduation ceremonies, we would be required to bend our left leg at the knee so we could rest our rifles against the inside of our thighs (so the rifles wouldn’t clatter to the ground) while we screwed our white hats onto our heads in preparation for demonstrating some physical exercises with those rifles.

When our Company Commander thought we needed some admonishment or straightening out, he would make us stand in that position for up to a half hour. It required me to bend my left ankle in a way it just wasn’t capable of doing, as I have a shortened Achilles tendon. Needless to say, it was becoming quite painful after a while. All the marching wasn’t exactly helping either.

I decided to go to sick bay, where they x-rayed my left ankle and, after reading the film and seeing I had arthritis in my ankle, I was offered an honorable discharge. I declined. When I went back to my company, to a man they all told me I was an idiot and that I should take the discharge. Two days later, I decided they were correct and by early July I was a civilian, with a DD214 that said I served 1 month and 23 days. It also said I had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal.

I don’t think of myself as a veteran. I have never attempted to get veteran’s benefits, making a conscious choice after my discharge to not use benefits that others needed far more than I did. I know I wasn’t officially in long enough to quality, but I believe I could have made the case they should never have let me in and the hours and hours of marching and painful standing at “five-and-dive” exacerbated my medical issues . . . but I chose not to try.

After I was discharged, I became more and more opposed to the war and, by 1968 I was involved in the anti-war movement. I also joined a group of leftists, including a bunch of lawyers from an organization called Bar Sinister, in a Hapkido class. I could do most everything, but kicks that involved using the heel of my left foot were problematic and I almost broke it sparring one time.

We eventually morphed into a security team, doing everything from protecting demonstrators to armed security work for people like Jane Fonda, Roger McAfee, Hortensi Bussi Allende, and Vietnamese students in the U.S., among many others. I believed then, and I believe now, I was serving my country by opposing a cruel, illegal, and unjust war; a war that was killing my friends, one of whom it was my solemn duty to serve as a pall bearer for not too long after graduating High School.

I’m proud of what I did, though I frequently have wished I had tried a little harder to stay in the Navy. I do believe my work in the anti-war movement was important and valuable. Nobody paid us, and hardly anybody ever thanked us, but we prevented a lot of bad shit from happening . . . and helped, in many small ways, to end the war in Vietnam.

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I’d Like to Give McCain and Graham The Back of my Hand

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which resulted in the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution authorized President Johnson to send in conventional forces and wage open warfare against the North Vietnamese and resulted in the dramatic escalation of the conflict. The coming years will bring us to many more 50th anniversaries of actions and engagements we never should have been involved in.

A side effect of researching the book I’m working on, which will chronicle my and my colleagues’ activities in the peace and justice movement from about 1966 through 1976, is revisiting the anger and frustration I felt at the terrible injustice of that and, really, all war. This video uses quite a few iconic images to good effect accompanying its song.

It also pisses me off to know how many petulant fools we still have as so-called “leaders”. The names John McCain and Lindsey Graham come readily to mind, but there are far too many others to think they’re anything more than the tip of the cold-blooded iceberg. Many of today’s problems can be laid at the feet of these war mongers and their sycophants.


What Didn’t You Say?

Horn Antenna

I’M ALL EARS!!

I think most anyone who finds their way to this blog, whether for the first time or if they’re regular visitors, knows I’m not really trying to promote myself or to make money off of it. Since I use the WordPress.com engine for this, I know there are occasional ads that pop up, but I don’t receive any compensation from them. I’m really not interested in it. I guess it’s a vestigial behavior related to my actually having a real job for over two decades. I’m not terribly adept at promoting myself, though I will surely have to improve if I’m to accomplish anything of value from my latest endeavor. More on that below.

Nevertheless, I am interested in making a difference; in reaching people and sharing something of my unique perspective on things. Because of that, I do look for one thing other than remuneration . . . feedback. Unfortunately, I get precious little of it. Certainly much less than I get on Facebook. One of the reasons I have a hard time tearing myself away from FB is the engagement I receive. There’s almost always a conversation going on and I get a fair amount of likes, comments, and shares for a guy who is far from well-known for anything.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do watch my stats, which WordPress does a damn good job of providing. I also try to promote most of what I write here using the share buttons and the automatic sharing the engine does when I publish. It’s gratifying to see how many people read (or, at least, visit) my blog, but there’s one thing missing and I’m hopeful that can be remedied somewhat.

What I’m referring to is comments. I get very few comments. I’m not sure why and I do worry sometimes it’s just because I’m not all that interesting. :/ In some respects, it shouldn’t (and mostly doesn’t) make one whit of a difference in terms of whether or not I speak my mind. However, I think that’s about to change.

I’ve announced I’m working on a book. It will be my memoirs of activities I was involved in during the period 1967 through about 1976. This was the period in which I was most active in the Peace & Justice movement, especially the effort to end the war in Vietnam. I am currently in the process of connecting with some of the people I worked with back then and am discovering it is difficult. I need to do a lot of research, as my memory is like a steel sieve. I remember a lot, but it was nearly four to five decades ago and I’m not sure I completely trust what I recall happened. Additionally, I want to include as much as I can from others who experienced some of the same things I did, either with me or in similar circumstances.

This means I need to reconstruct what took place during that time. I spent time working with lots of different organizations and people and there are details I’m hoping to get fleshed out by others. Some of the groups I worked with were the Peace Action Council, Indochina Peace Campaign, Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Union, The Resistance, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The Committee to Free Angela Davis, the Brown Berets, La Brigada Venceremos, and the Black Panther Party. I’m sure there were more I will either remember as I get deeper into my research or that others will remind me of.

Some of the people I worked with were Dorothy Healy, Irv Sarnoff, Tom Hayden, Jackie Goldberg, Ron Kovic, Holly Near, Jane Fonda, the law firm of Margolis, McTernan, Scopes, Sachs, & Epstein, Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, and many others. Some I spent a lot of time with and with others I was involved in one or two engagements and that was it. Since I did a lot of security work, some of those engagements were — shall we say — quite exciting.

I will be sharing more and more of what I’m doing, including posting portions of the book as it progresses. What I’m really hoping to see, and what I’m asking readers of my blog to provide, is a little feedback. If you or someone you know was involved in any way, e.g. anti-war demonstration, march, rally, love-in, teach-in, cultural event, or concert, etc., I’d love to hear from you and, if you are willing, I’d like to talk with you. I suppose you could call what I want to do an interview but, in this case — since I was so involved at the time — I tend to think what I’m seeking is an opportunity to reminisce.

Feedback. It’s what I need right now. After the book is complete everyone can go back to ignoring me. 😉


A Generation Gone

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Tomorrow would have been my father’s 89th birthday. It’s also a couple of months into the 30th year since he’s been gone. Over a generation has passed since he died a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday. I don’t think of him that much anymore, but when I do I miss him; sometimes terribly. Like so many men of my generation, I had a very stormy relationship with my father. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and had served during World War II, and survived the deadly Murmansk runs through the North Atlantic. I know his time aboard ship affected him deeply. I made the mistake – though not very often – of waking him when I was standing too close to his hands and arms. He did not wake well, especially when I was young. I learned to stand back and gently touch his foot or call out to him.

He was raised by a very stern Russian-Polish immigrant who I never got to meet. Assuming my father learned much of how to be who he was from his father, I figure Max Wladofsky was a stern and difficult man to please. My old man really wasn’t capable of showing too much affection, nor was he capable of much in the way of praise. For years after his death, I found myself thinking (after something special had happened to, or because of, me) “I can’t wait to tell Dad.” Of course, that was followed immediately by the recollection he was gone and would never know of it, or have the opportunity to be proud of me. I wanted desperately to please him. Fortunately, in the final years of his life he and I settled our differences somewhat, and finally began building what I’d like to think would have been a wonderful friendship . . . had he not died so very young.

He really was a loving man, but I believe circumstances conspired to make it difficult for him to show affection and acceptance. He was a member of what we now refer to as “The Greatest Generation”, a generation of hard, stoic men who “saved us from Fascism” and, after the war was won, brought home the bacon. When he left the service, he was able to purchase a modest, new home in Panorama City, a suburb in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and have to say much of my life was pretty idyllic by most standards, thanks to his dedication to his family and his hard work.

He was, I believe, scarred forever by his experiences during the war as well. He never saw combat as a soldier, but he spent weeks aboard ship, in convoys being hunted by German U-Boats and sailing through waters in which hypothermia would have killed survivors of a torpedoed ship within minutes. I doubt many on those ships slept very soundly. I’m sure he didn’t.

I hardly ever saw him when I was a young boy, as he worked six days a week at the Grand Central Market, in downtown Los Angeles. He left the house before I arose and frequently didn’t get home until after I was in bed, asleep. Sundays were usually spent with other members of our extended family and, if memory serves, the adults kept mostly to themselves and the kids played together. I got to know my cousins pretty well, but I didn’t get to know my father until much later.

Because I had been told most of my life that I was exactly like my father, I spent quite a few years after his death thinking 59 would likely be the end of the road for me. Since I’m now 66, I’m thankful that didn’t turn out to be the case. Still, I think I would gladly give up a few years if I could have had a few more to enjoy with my father. I wish he were here so I could wish him one more happy birthday tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to content myself with spending a few minutes writing this post and thinking about him . . . and how much I really do miss him.


Golf and Cognitive Dissonance

The 18th at Simi Hills

The 18th Hole at Simi Hills Golf Course – Simi Valley, California

I took up golf at the tender age of 46. My department was having a tournament and they needed bodies to fill up open slots. After a significant amount of badgering, I agreed to participate. To be fair, I had been introduced to golf when I was fifteen. My father had taken it up and he wanted me to enjoy it as he did. Unfortunately, he also wanted me to be right-handed. I’m not. He insisted I would be better off golfing right-handed and I tried, but it wasn’t to be. I felt incredibly awkward and didn’t want to put up with what I perceived to be an inordinately difficult effort to make the switch.

Couple that with the belief (this was back in 1962) that golf was primarily for old farts, and a strong desire to spend time surfing, and I didn’t last long at all. I guess, then, it’s not entirely correct to say I took it up at 46, despite the intervening 31 years before I handled a golf club again. Regardless, I played in the company tournament and spent a little time on the driving range and practice green in preparation. I was hooked—big time!

My uncle offered to have a friend make me a set of custom clubs for a very reasonable price, which I did. I quickly discovered, however, golf can be a very expensive sport, especially when you spend all your spare time hitting balls or playing. I could not afford to keep up the pace I was going at. In order to continue, I wrote and published a newsletter for the course I spent all my time at, Simi Hills. None of the articles were based on anything but my own fertile imagination and conjecture, but the General Manager of the course loved it and asked me to do it on a monthly basis, with real information this time.

In exchange for my efforts, he began allowing me to hit as many balls as I wished on the range and I took full advantage of it, frequently hitting hundreds of balls as I perfected my game. Soon I was invited to play with the head pro and the GM and, of course, it was as good as getting hours and hours of free lessons. I got my handicap down to 12 within a fairly short while, no mean feat for a man who was then pushing 50.

As I increased both my physical capabilities and my understanding of the game, I was soon approaching a single-digit handicap. It was then my wife and I decided to adopt. I wasn’t actually too keen on the idea at first, as I had visions of retirement, travel, and lots of golf. However, the desire to be a parent overcame my (very strong) desire to continue playing golf and, once the process began rolling along, it became harder and harder to play or practice. By the time we returned home with our oldest, in 2002, I was 55 and it became very difficult to fulfill my duties as a husband and father and still have time to play golf.

So, why am I telling you all of this? I still watch golf quite a bit and, lately, I’ve been playing a very realistic virtual game (World Golf Tour) online. Also, I have given a lot of thought to the role golf plays and how it jibes with my world view. I am aware there are numerous arguments for golf being a wasteful, indulgent sport of the rich. I am aware golf courses take up a lot of property for the use of, perhaps, not very many people. My best, somewhat informed, guesstimate is that the average full-size course is used by around 350 golfers a day. That’s not very many compared to the numbers using a municipal park or a National or State park. It surely explains why golf is so expensive, as it is a heavily tended and manicured environment.

Many courses, some suggest as many as 40% in the 1990s, were built as a part of a real estate development, and I’m not even going to get into the place Country Clubs play in terms of the exclusivity and expensiveness of golf. A large percentage of golfers are very well off. I suppose, comparatively, I am one of them. Certainly, when I was still employed in an excellent, well-paying job, I had the money to play a couple of times a month and practice several days a week when I wished.

There are, however, significant attempts to bring golf to the less-than-affluent, Tiger Woods’s “The First Tee” likely being the most prominent. Frankly, I don’t believe golf need be an “exclusive” sport. Furthermore, I think it has values to teach, as The First Tee does, that are difficult to find in today’s hyper-competitive environment found in many other sports. Inasmuch as I started so late in life, golf hasn’t taught me so much as it has reinforced in me many values I find important and useful, e.g. integrity, self-assurance, patience, calm deliberation, respect for others, etc. I also found on the golf course a place where everything else in my life melted away for a few hours. I was able to put my job and my responsibilities out of my head for a while; no mean feat for one such as I.

Tiger thanks a Marine

Tiger Thanks a Marine For His Service

There’s one other thought I had – and this whole post (which is somewhat off the top of my head, though I’ve thought about it a lot) was begun with this thought in mind – that bothers/concerns me. The military has long had a close association with golf (see this USGA history) and I have no problem with this. It does, however, lend even more credence to the belief that golf is exclusive because, historically, it has been primarily the Officers who had the time and money to play. That may be changing, but my goal isn’t to analyze the development of golf inside the military. What I am interested in understanding is what it means that every golf tournament now seems to have members of the military ceremoniously tending at least one flag on the course – generally the 18th.

I find myself wondering if this doesn’t, in some small way, signify our becoming more and more a military culture and also, given our penchant for honoring our armed forces for serving, yet never questioning how and why we ask them to serve, if this isn’t a bit backwards. What does it say about us as a society that we don’t seem to question how our military is used, yet now (post-Vietnam) bend over backward to thank them for their service? How do we justify asking them to do what many believe is not in our best interests, yet feel a heartfelt “thank you for your service” is somehow enough to justify our cavalier attitude toward the forces behind their service and sacrifice?

This leads me to other questions, such as are we becoming a sort of Sparta by proxy? Are we a nation that uses its wealth to prosecute wars that are unnecessary and only serve the interests of the truly wealthy and powerful, simultaneously insulating the average citizen from the sacrifices and costs involved? Are we asking the members of our armed forces to kill, fight, and die for no other reason than to preserve our position as the world’s largest consumers of natural resources, then showering them with just enough pomp and circumstance to obfuscate the ugly and horrific reality?

This is where I find cognitive dissonance. As I watched the end of the Greenbrier Classic yesterday, there were two service members tending the pin on the 18th. I am pretty sure I’ve seen this at just about every tournament I’ve watched this year and it seems as though it’s been only recently this has happened regularly. I really love golf as a sport, though I do wonder where it fits in the overall cultural milieu I live in. I hate to see it used as a propaganda tool but, truth to tell, I’m not sure that is what’s happening. What do you think about this? Am I crazy; being too ideological; reading too much into a genuine expression of gratitude? The dissonance is killing me.


Memories and Grief

Sp4 Steven Larry Ostroff

My friend Steve Ostroff (on the left) just before his untimely death

“Life doesn’t cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” — G.B. Shaw

I have written previously that I am not a journalist and this post is clear evidence of that. My original intent was to publish this on either the Sunday before, or on the Monday of, Memorial Day. However, the subject was a bit emotional for me and I found it difficult to finish until now. I, therefore, offer it as a remembrance. It need not be tied to any particular holiday.

It’s Confusing

Memorial Day – much like Veteran’s Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and many other holidays or special days that commemorate the military or significant days in our nation’s history – almost invariably brings me a storm of mixed emotions. I have enormous respect for those who serve our nation. At the same time, I believe they are most often sacrificed not in defense of our freedom, but in the defense of others – who never serve – and in defense of their fortunes and their “right” to make money incessantly.

This Autumn it will have been 45 years since I had the dubious distinction of being a pallbearer at the funeral of one of my best friends, Steven Larry Ostroff, who was killed in the battle of Ong Thanh on October 17, 1967. He was the first of five classmates of mine who would perish in that unjust, stupid conflict and I was highly conflicted about it.

“I want to be an Airborne Ranger. I want to go to Vietnam. I want to live a life of danger. I want to kill the Viet Cong.”

Steve was by no means an innocent, angelic hero. I remember my brother recounting running into him shortly after he finished either Boot Camp or Advanced Infantry Training. What stuck out for him was Steve’s enthusiasm for battle and his desire to kill. I was a bit put off by hearing that at the time, but not entirely surprised. It was, after all, the mindset the Army wanted in their Infantrymen. It was what they trained them for.

I was just beginning to understand what the war in Vietnam was all about; an understanding that would soon blossom into full-blown resistance and activism in an effort to bring it to a halt. Steve, born 15 days before me, was barely twenty years old when he was killed. During the funeral his casket remained closed. As I remember it, we were under the impression his body was not recovered for a couple of days and his family did not want anyone viewing his remains.

I’m not sure at this point that was the reason, though. Based on the accounts of his death I’ve read recently, it seems more likely to me there wasn’t a whole lot of him left to identify and having what was left on display in an open casket would have been too horrific for his family and friends. The web sites I have found with his information state he was killed by “Multiple fragmentation wounds“.

I clearly remember the grief on his parents’ faces as we went through the acts of remembrance, consecration, and burial. I have always been moved most by the loss experienced by those who have been left behind and it’s especially painful to see parents having to endure the loss of a child. In this case, it was made even more difficult because – if memory serves – Steve was an only child.

Twice-Baked Rye Bread

He and his family lived right across the street from John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, where we both attended, and he and I used to hop the fence to eat lunch at his home. His mother, I believe her name was Sarah, always had hard salami in the house and, if I played my cards right, I could count on enjoying one of my favorite sandwiches, served on Jewish Rye . . . with real garlicky kosher pickles on the side.

We belonged to the same temple, Valley Beth Israel, and became Bar Mitzvah at around the same time. We went to the same Jr. High as well and, as crazy kids and adolescents, we had some good times together, the memories of which have receded well into the background after all these years. This is especially so because we never had the opportunity to reinforce our memories by reliving them and, probably, embellishing them.

When I was in Washington, D.C. years ago, I made a trip to the Wall to see Steve’s name and to reflect on his life and death. I did the same in Sacramento, where there is a memorial to the Californians who perished in Vietnam. Both of these trips were some time ago and both were quite emotional.

What Is Really Going On

I have remained dead-set against every engagement we have indulged in since, but I am hardly anti-military – and here is where the conflict, the cognitive dissonance, comes alive and dances crazily in my head. Steve was a friend of mine and the men and women who continue to serve include friends and family. I know and love many of them, yet I don’t believe they are keeping our country safe; at least not for the most part.

For the most part, I believe they are being used as pawns – as “cannon fodder” – in our ongoing efforts to make the world safe for lucrative investments in natural resources and trading opportunities including, and maybe especially including, the sale of arms and ammunition to just about anyone who has the money to pay for it.

I will continue to honor Steve’s memory, despite his apparent thirst for killing and despite my belief he was not fighting for our way of life or to keep us safe, just as I will continue to honor the men and women who serve today. However, I do so only because I also believe most of those who serve honestly believe they are fighting to defend their country. They believe this because they’ve been told it’s true and I’m not going to hold their naivete and ignorance against them.

Some would argue I should condemn them, based on the principles that ignorance is no excuse and the existence of the duty to refuse to obey unlawful commands. However, I think the situation is far more complex than that and I cannot turn my back on people who have been taken advantage of for so long they have no way of knowing how terribly they’ve been duped.

I feel for them – especially for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and I feel for their families. So much of the suffering that takes place due to war and conflict is completely unnecessary and truly counter-productive for all but a very few . . . and those are the ones who also profit the most handsomely from war. They’re the ones who should be shot.


24 August 2015

In preparation for my High School class’s 50th reunion in about six weeks, a classmate was putting together a Vietnam veteran’s collage. As part of the effort he is also creating a memorial to our fallen classmates. In doing research for this tribute, he came across this post and asked me, since I mentioned we had lost six classmates, who the sixth was. He was familiar with only five. I had long thought there were six members of our class who perished in that conflict, but I believe I was wrong. I have made the correction, above.


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