Category Archives: War Stories

Do You Remember When President Reagan Started…

Saluting the Troops

 Ronald Reagan was the first president in modern times to salute the troops. Even General Eisenhower did not do this when he became commander-in-chief. It simply was not the custom. But, the impact it made was enormous …

Photo of President Reagan, the Great Communicator, saluting the troops

Photo Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library
“We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free. – Ronald Reagan, Speech at Omaha Beach at 40th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1984

Excerpt from Lead Like Reagan, Principles of Dynamic Leadership

Restoring morale

He inherited a military that had been taken for granted; had been neglected. Little respect had been given to the men and women in uniform, and morale among the troops was very low. America was still suffering from the divisive results of the Vietnam War that had ended eight years earlier. By some estimates, half of the military planes and ships were in unworkable condition, due to a lack of spare parts. And then, Reagan began saluting the troops.

A simple gesture of enormous impact

It was a simple gesture, but one of enormous importance and effect. Word spread like wildfire throughout the military and civilian population alike. Reagan was saluting the troops. It was a common topic of conversation at restaurants, boardrooms and barbecues: “Did you see Reagan salute that marine?” Without a single word being spoken, The Great Communicator sent the strongest of messages:

  • We respect you as the men and women of our military.
  • We honor your service to our country.
  • You have our back, and we have yours.
  • We are a team!

If you were born before the mid 60’s, you are old enough to remember the great impact Reagan’s salutes made on those serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Secret Service. Military and law enforcement personnel everywhere took notice. The effect of this leadership is evident by the fact that all of Reagan’s successors have followed the precedent he set.


 * Note: This article was originally published as a post on the Linkedin “I Miss Ronald Reagan” group’s blog. The author is President – of Scanlon, Clay & Company and author of numerous books including “Lead Like Reagan”. To learn more about the book, click here: Lead Like Reagan.


Postscript from “The Crusty Conservative”:

Unfortunately the current occupant of the White House has denigrated President Reagan’s great tradition to a routine, hallow, insincere gesture  that he has to get over with ASAP.

coffee cup salute

    The Crusty Conservative

2/6/15

 Flying Flag w Eagle

“… individuals may injure a whole society, by not declaring their sentiments.

It is therefore not only their right, but their duty, to declare them.”

 

Prisoners in Paradise

italian pows 3

Pat & Frank Fleming have posted a new story on the “we remember blog” and website about how one of Frank’s friends remembers…

Being Coached  in Los Angeles Schools by Italian POWs during World War II & Entertaining Them in his Home

 

italian pows 2

Italian POWs relax with Los Angeles Families

To view this Post – Go To “werememberblog.com”

 Pat & Frank Fleming

October  2014

New War Story – The Crusty Conservative Meets A German POW

Read Now…

pow camp

Frank Fleming (The Crusty Conservative) tells a real War Story about how he met a real German POW near the end of World War II on the “We Remember Blog” & Website.

Click Here to Read The Story on The We Remember Blog & Website 

cropped-Copy-of-Flying-Flag-w-Eagle.gif

A Crusty Conservative War Story – Okinawa Revisited

April 2014

A Tribute

Sixty nine years ago this month on April 1st 1945, the U.S. Marines landed on the island of Okinawa in the South Pacific. Okinawa was one of the last islands invaded and conquered during the U.S.’s island hopping war against imperialist Japan. Over 14,000 U.S. Marines were killed in the ensuing six-week battle for Okinawa.

On the occasion of my learning of the passing of a good friend who was there, I am compelled to retell a story that was told me in good faith by that friend and patriot who was on Okinawa in 1945 and again 25 years later. Whether the story is fact or fiction, an embellishment of a true life incident, or simply a case of “I wish I had done that” or “I wish said that I had said that” hindsight, I will never know. But regardless, the story deserves to be re-told in my friend’s memory and recorded for posterity.

USN Surgeons  operating during  Okinawa Battle

USN Surgeons
       operating during
        Okinawa Battle

This very dear friend of mine (who will remain anonymous) was a U.S. Navy doctor during WW II. In 1945, he served as a battlefield surgeon in a forward field hospital treating the U.S. Marine casualties on Okinawa during that bloody battle. Following the war, my friend went on to become a world-renowned pharmacologist. Later, he became the CEO of a U.S. based international pharmaceutical company. It was in that role that he returned to Okinawa approximately 25 years later.

 

As he told the story, the local Japanese agent for his company was accompanying him on visits to several local pharmacologists on Okinawa who were working on some very promising pharmaceutical agents derived from local herbs and plants. During their travels from clinic to clinic, the local agent drove to a small park atop a high, steep cliff overlooking

Okinawa coastline

Okinawa
              coastline

the Pacific. He parked, got out of the car, opened the trunk and removed a large bouquet of white flowers. The agent took and threw the flowers into the ocean hundreds of feet below and bowed his head in prayer. After the long audible prayer, the agent explained to my friend that his gesture and his prayer were in memory of the hundreds of innocent Okinawa school girls who in the spring of 1945 had plunged off this very cliff to their deaths on the jagged rocks in ocean below rather than be captured and molested by the U.S. Marines who were making their own ultimate sacrifices as they conquered this enemy island.

According to his account, my friend – the former Navy doc – bowed his head for a moment and then un-zipped his flies and proceeded to pee over the cliff saying while he did so:

“Yes, I was here and this is for the hundreds of brave U.S. Marines whom we could not save in 1945 and died fighting for America on this god forsaken island.”

“God Bless Them & God Bless America” 

 Semper Fi & Rest In Peace, Jake!

semper fi

 

The Crusty Conservative

 Flying Flag w Eagle

“… individuals may injure a whole society, by not declaring their sentiments.

It is therefore not only their right, but their duty, to declare them.”

–John Dickinson, Letters of Fabius, 1788

War Story – The Crusty Conservative Meets the KGB

The Crusty Conservative Meets the KGB

While watching the Sochi Winter Olympics from Russia and seeing Russian President and former KBG operative Vladimir Putin taking a prominent role in the events, reminded me of my past encounters with the Russians and the KGB.

In the 1970s, I was a lobbyist working for a major U.S. multinational firm in Washington, DC,  As a result, I had the (now funny) experience of getting to know and spend time with several active kgbKGB agents who were posted to Washington for the specific purpose of spying. One thing that I can guarantee is that I didn’t pass on any secrets to them. I wasn’t privy to any!

At that time, my employer was highly involved at that time in attempting to take advantage of the so-called Nixon/Kissinger détente to open new markets in the Soviet Union. This resulted in the company’s Washington office personnel, including myself, spending a considerable amount of time working with the various trade attaches at the Russian Embassy.

All of us knew that these so-called trade attaches at the Soviet Embassy were all also KGB agents. This we  knew because the FBI and CIA virtually told us so.  Every time someone in our office had a meeting with one of these “attaches”, the FBI would subsequently show up at our offices to find out what was discussed and what kind of questions the Ruskies were asking. On top of that, several times each year, the CIA would show up and request that we ask our Russian associates certain questions when we next met. As a result of these visits, it was obvious to us that we were dealing with ”persons of interest” to both the FBI and the CIA – most likely spies.

Since I was handling the Washington health care beat for the company and they were working diligently to license several Russian medical devices while also actively pursuing a pharmaceutical manufacturing joint venture, I was often included in meetings with the trade attaché from the Soviet Embassy who was in `charge of chemical products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biological agents etc.. These meetings resulted in several memorable exchanges.

Russian President  Vladimir Putin

Russian President
Vladimir Putin

A guy by the name of Gennani  (his Russian cover last name I now forget) was the trade attaché at the Russian Embassy who handled the above areas and my most frequent contact. He was a tall, slight man who we were told (by the FBI) was a high level karate expert who possessed unbelievable upper body strength. In hindsight, Gennani resembled current Russian President Putin (also a former KGB agent) in appearance, stature, and build. He spoke fluent English and could easily pass as an American were it not for a slight accent. He was a likable guy and if I didn’t know he was the enemy, we might have become good friends.

My most memorable story regarding Gennani took place at a lunch meeting with him, at a small, quiet restaurant on 15th Street near his embassy. It was in the early summer of 1976 – an Olympic year – when all of the talk of the town was about the upcoming summer games. The US had not done well during previous post-war Olympics –  losing medal after medal to Russia and other Eastern Block countries. Our whole country was transfixed with the well founded idea that our amateur athletes (which in those days they truly were) constantly lost medals to state sponsored, professional athletes.

During our luncheon, the conversation turned to families and Gennani told us about his family back in the Soviet Union.. He was very proud of his teenage daughter, as he explained at length, because she had been so successful in competitive swimming over the past year. Despite (or maybe because of) being KGB, Gennani was a proud father. I followed his comments about his daughter’s swimming successes by commenting that this I thought that was great and that maybe with some luck may someday would become a good enough swimmer to represent the Soviet Union at the Olympics. Without hesitation he responded – “Oh No, I would never want her to be a professional athlete”. He immediately turned beet red when he realized what he had just said. The cat was out of the bag. He, a Soviet diplomat,  had just publicly admitted that they( the Soviets), considered their Olympic athletes to be professionals – not amateurs as required by the Olympic movement at that time. Score One for the U.S.A.

US olympic logo

Another memorable luncheon was at the Washington International Club with a larger group. Gennani brought a new, older (probably the senior KGB) operative with him and I was seated next to this newcomer. During the lunch to make conversation, I asked him what he liked to do in his free time. He enthusiastically replied that he liked to go out into the woods and countryside and pick wild mushrooms to use in his cooking. I asked if he was able to do this in the US full well knowing that the Soviet Embassy staff’s travels were greatly restricted in the US at that time. He replied that yes he continued to do so in this country. I then asked him if the mushrooms here were a different variety than what he picked at home. Oh yes, very different. Don’t you, I asked, worry that if they are so different from what you pick at home, you might get poisonous mushrooms by mistake in the US. “No problem, I can tell the difference” he replied. How, I followed up?  “Simple, I taste them’. End of conversation, but I will never say that the KGB weren’t risk takers.

All these years later watching Putin and his Russian Olympics, I wonder if Gennani and his mushroom picking boss are now Russian capitalists or maybe even U.S. citizens. I’ll never know, but it is fun speculating what these former KGB agents are doing now that they lost the Cold War. One thing I would guess is that, if they are still alive, they are probably watching the Sochi Olympics just like the rest of us.

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The Crusty Conservative

 Flying Flag w Eagle

“… individuals may injure a whole society, by not declaring their sentiments.

It is therefore not only their right, but their duty, to declare them.”

–John Dickinson, Letters of Fabius, 1788

War Story – French Arrogance

A ”Crusty Conservative” War Story

vive la france           or Vive French Arrogance

      a War Story about how French Arrogance survives even thousands of miles from Paris

Like anybody who has traveled to Europe or even French Canada, I have numerous stories to tell about the incredible arrogance of the French. However, my favorite happened to me not in Paris or Quebec but in Washington, D.C.

A number of years ago, I was the dinner guest of a friend and business associate based in the nation’s capital. He elected to have dinner at a new “in” restaurant called “The French Steak House”. The eatery was housed in a storefront on busy “M” Street in the trendy Georgetown section of the city. The dining room that you entered directly from the street was small and modestly furnished with bent wood chairs around a dozen or more tables with glass protected white tablecloths. The menu was in a plastic placard and consisted of two steak choices, and one each of the obligatory fish and chicken dishes. Both steak selections were listed as being prepared with a Dijon mustard coating and sauce and served with pommes frites (french fries).

When the waiter approached the table and asked for our orders in a recently acquired, highly affected French accent, I ordered the New York steak – medium well. To which I added “could you please hold the mustard sauce”. His reply –

“but Monsieur the mustard preparation is the specialty of the house. That is the only way the chef will prepare it or we can serve it. There are many restaurants in this city that will serve you a plain steak. Why did you come here, if you did not wish to enjoy our presentation?”

Well, I had a few choice comments and an answer to his question that were on the tip of my tongue, but in deference to my host’ I instead bit my tongue and agreed to the place’s specialty.

When my steak arrived complete with mustard sauce, it was accompanied with a large order of beautiful french fried potatoes. I immediately but politely asked for ketchup “for my fries”. The waiter responded –

“But no Monsieur, the ketchup will interfere with the mustard sauce”. I responded  that “I didn’t want the g… d…. mustard sauce to start with and now your telling me I can’t get ketchup because it will interfere with the mustard sauce that I didn’t want to start with and don’t plan to eat”.

Well I lost that war too. I ate, and must admit enjoyed, my steak with mustard sauce and fries without ketchup. I did, however learn that even pseudo Frenchmen can be arrogant as hell and that you don’t have to go abroad to be insulted by an arrogant Frenchman. Some things never change the French will be French wherever they are.

Counterpoint –

In the spirit of full disclosure and fair and balanced reporting, I must relate a story that is a counterbalance to the above.

In the early 1970s, Pat and I were in Paris with our three kids aged 9, 7, and 5. One afternoon, we were trying, unsuccessfully, to hail a cab on the Champs Elyse. Out of nowhere a taxi pulled up in front of us to discharge two passengers.  One was a very , well-tailored, elegant French dowager. The other, equally well-tailored and elegant was either her son or grandson. Both by their mood and manner, they portrayed wealth and power. As the man was paying the driver through the window, we started  to get into the cab. The driver interrupted the transaction with the departing passenger and informed us in broken English that he would not take 5 passengers despite the fact that two of them were small girls.

The disembarking passenger obviously heard the exchange because he reached out and took a banknote (which obviously was to be his tip) from the driver and returned it to his pocket. He then went on to give the cab driver a very severe tongue lashing. Although I didn’t understand a word of the gentleman’s French, I did understand the anger in his voice. When he finished, the cab driver sheepishly motioned for us to get in the taxi.

After hand shakes. bows, “merci”s  and a very sincere thank you to our new benefactors, we were off to our hotel with five people in a Paris Taxi.

Lesson – despite all of the arrogance of the French, at least in the 1970s there were still gentlemen in Paris. I can only hope there still are 40 years or more later.

To that gentleman – a sincere thank you whoever you were.

 

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