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On Target by mausersandmuffins

Target Acquisition is the location, detection, and identification of a target in sufficient detail to permit the effective employment of lethal and non-lethal means.

It takes more than a good eye, it takes a combination of vision, resolve and strength.  I know that when I first starting shooting rifles, I could do a pretty good grouping for those first few rounds, then it went south.  That was simply a matter of muscle strength. I got a couple of five pound weights, holding one out where a support hand would be, one where my  grip would be. At  home each morning, I’d pull them up, like I was pulling the rifle up quickly to target and hold 30 seconds or so, drop, rest, hold, repeat, 80’s music  sounding out a rhythm on the stereo.

“Hammer Time!”

But it’s seeing what you are doing that’s the most important element of target acquisition, not just maintaining it.

When I was a child, we’d take a vacation every year to the Oregon Coast, renting a small cottage with a view of the beach. Coming down a steep hillside into Cannon Beach, the station wagon dissolving into damp grey light, streams of fog pouring over the road to lie like barely congealed oil, we kids would have all eyes glued to the front windshield.  It was always a contest to see who first could spot the water and call it out.

There it is!  We’ll pull ourselves up in the seat seeing that ocean as if for the first time. You’ve never seen small children so focused, so concentrated. It was something our parents taught us early on.  There is fun, and there is play, but there are times, that for your safety, you need to be able to sit still and truly look.

Eighteen years later, I’m in the left seat of a transport, shooting down the barrel of an instrument approach into a tight runway in the mountains.  We have enough fuel to give it just one try and then go to our alternate airport.  But thanks to a weather system  that didn’t bother to read the accu-hunch forecast, there were some serious thunderstorms drifting in that moat between us and our only other option.  We needed to get into this airport,  now, this once. If we blew it, we’d not get a second shot.

There is no range concentration that can match that of pilots that have just one shot at getting in to land or face a dire horizon. If you’re lucky, you can pick up the tease of the approach lights and stay in the clouds til you’re a hundred or so feet from the ground. But if you break out of that ragged overcast at that point, rain splatting on the windshield like a thousand guppies, doing 130 miles an hour, you’d better have your target in clear view or your day is not going to go well.

As the shotguns and Daisy’s of my youth gave way in my middle years to pistols and AR’s and a cranky Mauser or two, the ability to see and quickly lock on to a target became more of a priority. Things like humidity and breath suddenly become issues, safety glasses fogging up and things like foliage becoming more than shade when hunting from a blind.  Even eyewear was an issue.  I wear contacts, deciding to get rid of glasses that could be used for vision as well as setting ants on fire.  There’s no fogging, and although my vision isn’t as “crisp” as glasses when I’m tired, I have the peripheral vision to see the target coming into view if it’s a moving one.  As nearsighted as I am now, a Beluga whale could sneak up on me from the side if I wear glasses.

Be sure of your target and what is behind it.  Wise words, especially with distance.  How often do we hear of someone accidentally shot and killed while hunting because someone mistook them for a moose.  Frankly if some someone mistook me for a moose, I’d be visiting Weight Watchers after I wrapped their firearm around their ears.  But it happens , first a sound, a rustle of brush, and some muttonhead fires, not waiting to notice that his target is sporting a Cabelas hat, not a full rack.

It is so easy to just react without a true target (patience grasshopper). I’ve sat in more than one blind, feet freezing, stomach growling, just waiting for it.  You can hear everything,  the retreating darkness, the smell of first light, the delineation of leaves, the Morse code of squirrels chattering their warnings. But you can’t really see. Then the forest emerges into smooth, bright shapes, light and shadow and movement, and your eyes can only scan, looking with that tense, unmoving sobriety that is a blind man listening.  If you are lucky you will see it, a flash of fur, a mass of bone that is more fight than surrender.  You make sure it is all there, all four dimensions, solidity, mass, a shape that could be no other than an animal, and something else.  Not hesitation, not fear, but pure and intent assurance as you draw up your weapon.

 

If you don’t CLEARLY know what your target is, keep your finger off the trigger.  If you do, and ONLY when you do, use the front sight of the gun as a guide to aim.   If you are after multiple bogies (i.e. kevlar vested doves) leave your front sight as soon as your next target approaches and as the gun approaches it, sight again and pull the trigger.  Always know where your front sight is.  It will tell you almost anything you could want to know about a shot.  If you’re new to shooting, just practice watching the sight, no targets.  When you get used to seeing the sight in recoil, move onto paper. If the shot needs to be dead center precise, the sight needs to be clear.

I know many people that can shoot faster than their sight picture and do so with the accuracy needed to stop a human target in most situations.  But that involves the instinct of practice and an intimacy with their weapon that someone that takes that firearm out of the nightstand drawer a couple of times a year is not going to have.

Unless you are being mugged by a 18 inch tall paper squirrel, your target is going to be moving.  Remember, as far as triggers- mechanical things all happen at the same speed for each given piece of machinery.  You need to learn to act upon what your eyes tell you.  Like anything else with shooting, that requires practice and concentration.

Practice close up. Practice at a distance. If you have never shot long range, you won’t ever forget it, a moment whispered and dreamt about, laid out flat in front of you. In that fleeting moment, you will hold your breath in the presence of power. You count that pulse between heartbeat and breath, compelled into an aesthetic deliberation you don’t quite understand but fully desire, faced for the first time in your living history with something proportionate with your capacity for awe.

Target acquisition is when what you have been waiting for comes from an enormous distance. It sometimes comes directly, sometimes coming as if by magic from no where when you least expect it, giving you a clear view after long  dark, days of solitary combat.

My weapons are at rest and dinner is simmering on the stove.  Coming up the long road, the sunlight streaming off of it like shining wind, is an SUV, its form and windows giving no hint of what it brings.

Inside, a rescue Lab gives a gentle “woof”, recognizing the sound and what it means before human ears can even hear its echo. We look up through the light, beyond the drive, beyond the wasted years in which we looked, but never really did see.

We stand in the drive as the vehicle comes into view, bringing up an arm in greeting, in that moment between heartbeat and breath.

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I just thought this was cool for some reason! Grumpy

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I recognize a lot of places that were in LA & San Francisco from long lost youth. Back when the insanity was just starting out. Enjoy a brief look back when this was a great place to live! Grumpy

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David Niven: The British Movie Star Commando who Won the Iron Cross by WILL DABBS

David Niven was a true Renaissance Man.

David Niven was an esteemed English actor and novelist. During the course of his long and storied acting career, Niven played a leading man, a world explorer, the villain in a Pink Panther movie, a soldier, a sailor, an action hero, and even James Bond in the first Casino Royale. He won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1958 for his role as Major Pollock in Separate Tables.

Most modern actors are a lot better at looking awesome than actually being awesome.

Today’s crop of actors is, with few exceptions, a bunch of vapid amoral losers. Their standard of accomplishment is running about naked and flying on private jets to A-lister conferences while telling the rest of us what we should be sacrificing to battle climate change. By contrast, David Niven was a real-live warrior.

David Niven had military service in his DNA.

Born March 1, 1910, at Belgrave mansions, Grosvenor Gardens, London, Niven came from a long line of British soldiers. His father LT William Niven was killed in Turkey during the Gallipoli Campaign serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry in 1915. His maternal grandfather, CPT William Degacher, was killed in 1879 at the Battle of Isandlwana during the Zulu Wars. His great grandfather was LTG James Webber Smith CB.

An inveterate prankster, a young David Niven was actually expelled from his first British boarding school.

Two years after the death of his father, Niven’s mother remarried, this time to a prominent British Conservative politician. At age six, young David was remanded to boarding school. His experience there was rocky, predominantly the result of his proclivity toward pranks.

Margaret Whigham was David Niven’s first love. She harbored a deep affection for him throughout her life.

At age 18, Niven impregnated a fifteen-year-old socialite named Margaret Whigham while she was on holiday. Given the puritanical mores of the day this held the potential for great scandal. The young woman’s family arranged for an abortion, but she revered Niven until his death. Whigham was among the VIP guests at his memorial service in London after he died.

Finding Himself

David Niven’s military service played a large part in shaping his gentleman persona.

David Niven was educated at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, graduating in 1930 as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army. This experience was said to be foundational to his developing the refined unflappable bearing that held him in good stead on the stage and screen. However, the peacetime Army did little to hold Niven’s attention.

David Niven arrived in New York City bereft of both money and a plan.

LT Niven once ditched a lecture on machinegun tactics delivered by a British Major General in favor of a social engagement with a young woman. Niven was subsequently arrested for insubordination but killed a bottle of whisky with Rhoddy Rose, the officer tasked with guarding him. Rose later went on to become a decorated Colonel in the British Army. With Rose’s assistance, Niven escaped out a window and caught a ship for America, resigning his commission via telegram once underway. Upon his arrival in the United States he tried and failed to make a living first selling whisky and then as a rodeo promoter.

In retrospect Errol Flynn was likely a pedophile, but he helped open the door to Hollywood when David Niven was an aspiring young actor.

After stints in both Mexico and the Caribbean, Niven eventually made his way to Hollywood, securing a role as an extra in such films as Barbary Coast and Mutiny on the Bounty. His designation as an extra was, “Anglo-Saxon Type No. 2,008.” More serious roles followed until, by the late 1930’s, he had become an A-lister leading man. Niven and Errol Flynn shared a house for a time. By 1939 David Niven was on top of his game, having earned top billing for big budget Hollywood productions. Then Hitler invaded Western Europe, and Niven gave it all up to return to England and rejoin the British Army. At the time, David Niven was the only British movie star working in America to do so.

The Humble Warrior

David Niven served with the British Commandos throughout most of World War 2.

I watched a couple of interviews with David Niven on YouTube in preparation for this project. Despite his refined, almost haughty British demeanor, you cannot help but be struck by the man’s humility when he was elaborating on his military experience. Once during an interview with Dick Cavett he was asked to relate the most perilous experience he had while serving in World War 2. He prefaced his answer that many other men had done much greater things than had he and that he was likely the most terrified man in Europe during the war. However, cutting through the fluff, David Niven was the real freaking deal.

The British Commandos were some of the hardest soldiers in Allied service.

After being recommissioned as a Lieutenant, Niven was assigned to the motor training battalion of the Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. The British have some of the most adorable unit designations. Dissatisfied with the pace of that assignment, he volunteered for the Commandos. Niven trained at Inverailort House in the Western Highlands, eventually coming to command “A” Squadron of the General Headquarters Liaison Regiment.

This photo is obviously staged, but the weapons are interesting. The lead Commando sports a captured German P08 Artillery Luger with a 32-round trommelmagazin snail drum, while the trail man carries an M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun.

The British Commandos during World War 2 were an elite light infantry unit specializing in small unit operations. A modern counterpart might be the US Army Rangers. Their training was notoriously grueling, and they were relied upon to execute the toughest missions, often with minimal support. Commando training and operational experience laid the foundation for much of the world’s modern Special Operations capabilities.

Niven’s Commando unit ranged ahead of Allied lines conducting reconnaissance and establishing bombing lines for Allied air power.

Niven was an acting Lieutenant Colonel by the time he landed on the continent several days after D-Day. He served with a unit called “Phantom” that was tasked with covertly locating and reporting enemy positions in the chaos following Operation Overlord. One of the few war stories that he was willing to relate publicly concerned his being shelled while attempting to cross a bridge between the American 1st and British 2d Armies.

LTC Niven Earns the Iron Cross

Bridges are natural choke points in military maneuver. They attract chaos.

LTC Niven was crossing a bridge just as the Germans began dropping artillery on it. He dove out of his jeep and into a nearby foxhole with heavy German artillery fire impacting all around. Amidst the unfettered chaos of the moment he looked up to see John McClain, an old friend and drama critic, hunkered down the next foxhole over.

The Iron Cross was the archetypal German combat decoration.

The Germans obliterated the bridge, but Niven and McClain emerged unscathed. McClain was uniformed as a Lieutenant in the US Navy. After a happy reunion McClain produced a sack filled with German Iron Crosses. The German forces at Cherbourg were cut off and surrounded. Their commander, Generalleutnant von Schlieben, had requested a sackful of Iron Crosses be air dropped into the salient to be distributed to his men in an effort at shoring up their morale. The Luftwaffe attempted to drop the sack from a fighter plane but inadvertently deposited it in McClain’s hole.

This is a scene from The Guns of Navarone. Years before David Niven made this movie he was informally awarded an Iron Cross for bravery under fire.

These men were in show business, after all, and were ever on the lookout for an opportunity at levity. Niven’s friend formally presented him with a German Iron Cross for bravery right there in their foxhole. Niven said that he affixed the decoration to his shirt underneath his combat jacket and wore it for the rest of the war.

David Niven and Errol Flynn were roommates for a time.

Though Niven was tight-lipped concerning the details of his wartime service, it  was undeniably extensive. He was evacuated as part of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. When once he was preparing his men for an assault he attempted to allay their jitters with,”Look, you chaps only have to do this once. But I’ll have to do it all over again in Hollywood with Errol Flynn!”

The Battle of the Bulge was chaos for Allied troops subjected to German attack.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Niven was challenged by a nervous American sentry jumpy over stories of Otto Skorzeny’s commandos infiltrating Allied lines in American uniforms. The trigger-happy American asked him who had won the World Series in 1943. Niven responded with, “Haven’t the foggiest idea, but I did co-star with Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother.” The sentry let him pass.

David Niven knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of German fire. Note that the Wehrmacht soldier on the right is packing a Soviet SVT-40 self-loading rifle.

Many Hollywood actors had actively avoided combat. When pressed about his wartime service, Niven said this, “Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings, or whines past, has never heard one – they go crack!”

Once the war ended Niven was ready to resume his previous life.

Niven ended the war a Lieutenant Colonel and returned to Hollywood. Among his several decorations was the American Legion of Merit. Like most combat veterans of that era, Niven seemed ready to put the war behind him and move on with his life.

The Rest of the Story

Niven married Primula Susan Rollo soon after he returned from WW2. Her accidental death nearly drove him to suicide.

Soon after his return to Hollywood, the Niven family was enjoying an evening as guests of Tyrone Power. While playing Sardines, a lights-out version of hide and seek with the accumulated kids, Niven’s wife Primmie took a tumble down some stairs, fractured her skull, and was tragically killed. The distraught man immersed himself in his work to compensate. Prominent roles alongside the likes of Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Shirley Temple followed.

Around the World in 80 Days took Best Picture and invigorated David Niven’s film career.

David Niven’s career waxed and waned as is often the custom for movie stars. He played on Broadway opposite Gloria Swanson in Nina as a respite from movies. His fortunes lagged for a time until he was cast as Phileas Fogg in the smash 1956 hit Around the World in 80 Days. Around the World took home Best Picture that year.

David Niven was the very image of a Hollywood leading man.

David Niven holds the distinction of being the only person ever to win a Best Actor award at a ceremony he was hosting. Appearing on-screen for only 23 minutes in Separate Tables, his performance was also the briefest ever to be afforded this honor. Niven’s Oscar proved to be the key that opened all the doors in Hollywood.

Streaking was popular back in the 1970’s. I never saw the appeal myself.

Niven shined in movies like The Guns of Navarone, Death on the Nile, Rough Cut, and Seawolves. While hosting the 46th Academy Awards ceremony in 1974, Niven was interrupted when a naked man went streaking past in the background. Streaking was considered quite the popular pastime in the early 1970’s. His classic off-the-cuff response was, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?” David Niven was ever the refined English gentleman.

Despite being part of the most narcissistic profession in human history, David Niven’s wartime service humbled him.

This quote lends insight to this remarkable man’s worldview, “I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war.” What a stud.

David Niven excelled at everything he did.

David Niven died in 1983 at the age of 73 from complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease. The archetypal English gentleman on the silver screen, Niven was also quite the British patriot when it counted.

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“Hoss” from Bonanza was a Real Life War Hero by WILL DABBS

Bobby Blocker parlayed his exceptional size and talent into an esteemed career in both television and movies.

Bobby Dan Davis Blocker was born in 1928 in De Kalb, Texas, to Ora “Shack” and Mary Arizona Blocker. He attended military school as a child and excelled at football. Blocker played ball in college as well. The fact that he was 6’4” and weighed 320 pounds didn’t hurt his gridiron prospects.

Bobby Blocker, right, was always a really big guy.

While in college Blocker parlayed his immense size into jobs as both a rodeo performer and a bouncer in a bar. Despite his intimidating habitus, friends described him as good-natured and soft-hearted. Upon his graduation from college in 1950 Blocker received a letter from Uncle Sam.

Bobby Blocker Goes to War

Blocker’s imposing personality adapted well to military service. He’s obviously the big guy in the middle.

Bobby Blocker was drafted in 1951. He took his basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and was there molded into an infantryman. He spent another nine months honing his craft in Sapporo, Japan. In December of 1951, Blocker deployed to Korea with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division—the Thunderbirds. He served in-country through August of 1952.

The landing at Inchon was the largest amphibious invasion since the Second World War.

Blocker landed at Inchon and by Christmas was in the thick of the fighting. In short order, he found himself near Chorwon in what is today North Korea. The series of fortifications that Blocker’s regiment manned was called the Jamestown Line. He remained in combat for 209 days.

Wintertime combat in Korea was just ghastly.

The Jamestown Line was a series of trench systems. Where much of World War 2 had been a war of mobility, Korea frequently devolved into a bloody stalemate fought in foxholes and static trenches more akin to those of the First World War. Add to this the bitter cold and penetrating wind and you had a recipe for misery on a scale most modern folk cannot imagine.

This is the typical terrain overlooking Old Baldy. It is desolate and forlorn.

Opposing units seesawed back and forth assaulting hills and taking fortifications in a war where success was measured in yards. Allied troops designated the dominating terrain feature Old Baldy, a distinctive promontory that held a commanding vantage over the entire area. The most critical piece of dirt in the area became known as Pork Chop Hill.

Pork Chop Hill ultimately cost way more than it was worth.

Bobby Blocker’s part in this sordid bloody production was simply the opening act. The Thunderbirds seized Pork Chop Hill, so named because of its geometric similarity to the familiar porcine comestible, in May of 1952. A seriously bloody fight took place between Allied troops and the Chinese the following year.

As the Russians are finding out in Ukraine, it’s tough to get worked up over the prospect of dying for nothing.

In April and July of 1953, some 347 Americans died against an estimated 1,500 Chinese dead. The two major battles for Pork Chop Hill gained notoriety due to their apparent utter pointlessness. Men bled out to hold terrain that had little significance in the real world. This fight unfolded while the UN Command was negotiating with the leadership of China and North Korea over the Korean Armistice Agreement. Both sides wanted the hill as a bargaining tool. Of all the reasons a man might have to die in battle, this was a really crappy one.

SGT Blocker’s fight was harsh and pitiless.

Back when Bobby Blocker called this desolate scrap of real estate home things were still plenty horrible. Blocker was acting First Sergeant on May 25, 1952, when his company manned positions on Hill 200 near Outpost Eerie. In the frenetic combat that followed six Americans were killed and a further 21 were wounded. At the same time, 132 Chinese soldiers fell.

Bobby Blocker, shown here on the far right, took to soldiering readily.

Gordon Abts, an American grunt who earned the Silver Star for gallantry in May of that year, served under Sergeant Blocker. He later said, “(Blocker) was a great guy. He was very strong. He could take a beer can between two fingers and crush it. He was very athletic. He was loud, but very friendly and got along with everybody. He was a great leader.”

In some of the harshest fighting of the war, Bobby Blocker proved to be a capable combat leader.

SGT Blocker was wounded rescuing his men under fire. He was credited with saving the lives of several members of his unit during combat. At a time when most Chinese attacks occurred at night, Blocker and his men fought gallantly against the infiltrating Communist hordes.

By the summer of 1952, Bobby Blocker’s war was over.

Blocker’s 179th Infantry Regiment was taken off the line in July of 1952. Only then was SGT Blocker finally evacuated to a hospital. The Thunderbirds went into reserve, and by the end of the summer Blocker was headed home. When he left the Army he had been awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with two bronze campaign stars, the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Now What?

The big Texan came home from the war to wrangle sixth graders.

When he returned to the US the gigantic combat veteran taught high school English and drama before taking over a sixth-grade classroom at Eddy Elementary School in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Now married to his new wife Dolphia, the couple eventually moved to Los Angeles.

Blocker’s imposing stature and natural Texas drawl made him a perfect fit for the myriad westerns Hollywood was churning out.

Blocker had a Master’s degree in drama and began pursuing his doctorate at UCLA. Blocker was from Texas and typically dressed the part. At one point he was standing in a phone booth arrayed in his typical Texan attire when the casting director for a television western spotted him. Things got busy from there.

In every role he played, Blocker was larger than life.

One of his first credited roles was as the Goon in the Three Stooges short Outer Space Jitters in 1957. He made the playbill as Don Blocker for reasons that have been lost to history. At the same time, he was cast as the blacksmith in two episodes of Gunsmoke. Small parts in Colt .45, The Restless Gun, The Sheriff of Cochise, Cheyenne, The Rifleman, Cimarron City, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Wagon Train, and Have Gun Will Travel followed. This was the Golden Age of TV Westerns, and Bobby Blocker rode the wave. Throughout it all Blocker parlayed his impressive size into screen-filling characters alongside most of the major actors of the day.

Bonanza’s Hoss Cartwright was Dan Blocker’s defining role.

In 1959 Bobby Blocker landed his dream job. He was cast as Eric “Hoss” Cartwright in the hit NBC Western series Bonanza. He by now marketed himself as Dan Blocker professionally. Blocker played the iconic role through 415 episodes.

Stephen Grellet was an exceptionally wise theologian.

When interviewed about the unique combination of power and compassion he poured into the character of Hoss Cartwright, Blocker said he tried to channel Stephen Grellet, the prominent 18th-century French-American Quaker missionary. Grellet once wrote, “We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again.” This was Hoss Cartwright’s mantra.

The Rest of the Story

Stanley Kubrick made some weird movies. One of his most iconic roles nearly went to Dan Blocker.

While Hoss was by far Blocker’s most famous role, he logged a little time on the big screen as well. He starred alongside Frank Sinatra in the 1963 comedy Come Blow Your Horn and again five years later as a seasoned tough guy with Sinatra in Lady in Cement. Potentially his most thought-provoking Hollywood encounter involved the esteemed director Stanley Kubrick.

Hard to picture this as anybody but Slim Pickens.

Kubrick was casting his bizarre anti-war film Dr. Strangelove and needed somebody large and menacing to play Major TJ “King” Kong. Peter Sellers carried the film playing multiple parts, but he felt that the role of Kong should be a standalone character. Blocker’s agent perused the script and refused to allow him to read for it. The iconic part subsequently went to Slim Pickens. Dr. Strangelove would have had an entirely different flavor had it been Hoss Cartwright riding that thermonuclear bomb while maniacally waving his cowboy hat.

Dan Blocker’s was a common face on television in the ’60s and ’70s.

Blocker worked regularly into the 1970s on projects as disparate as The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County and The Flip Wilson Show. Along the way, he was gifted partial ownership in several Bonanza Steakhouse restaurants in return for his service as the chain’s commercial spokesman while in character as Hoss.

By all accounts, Dan Blocker was a devoted family man.

Dan and his wife Dolphia had four children. One son, Dirk Blocker, became an actor of some renown in his own right. Dirk’s most familiar role was that of Marine pilot Jerry Bragg in the awesome 1970’s-era TV epic Black Sheep Squadron. Black Sheep Squadron was a staple of my childhood. Looking back on it I can see the family resemblance. Dan’s son David became an Emmy-winning TV producer. One of his twin daughters was a visual artist.

In 1965 this Chevelle Z-16 was the cat’s pajamas.

Dan Blocker was a great fan of high-performance automobiles. He maintained a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z-16 as well as a 1965 Huffaker Genie Mk 10 racer he christened the Vinegaroon. The Vinegaroon raced for Chevrolet in 1965 and 1966 as part of the US Road Racing Championship series as well as the 1966 Can-Am championship.

Dan Blocker died from unforeseen surgical complications.

In May of 1972 Blocker went into the Daniel Freeman Hospital in LA to have his gallbladder removed. A cholecystectomy is a common surgical procedure that should have been fairly routine. The hulking combat veteran who played the lovable Hoss Cartwright suffered a pulmonary embolus post-operatively and died both suddenly and unexpectedly. He was only 43.

It turned out that Dan Blocker’s Hoss Cartwright really helped define the Bonanza narrative.

In an unprecedented effort, the writers of Bonanza wrote Hoss Cartwright’s death into the show’s narrative. More commonly when a major character died during the production of a TV show the writers and producers would simply gloss over it. In the later series Bonanza: The Next Generation it is explained that Hoss drowned saving a man’s life.

Dan Blocker’s modest grave is fairly nondescript.

Bonanza sputtered on for one more year without Hoss, but it never was quite the same. That 14thseason wrapped in January of 1973 and has been the least popular of the show’s protracted run. Dan Blocker–actor, war hero, father, and cowboy–is buried in the Woodmen Cemetery in De Kalb, Texas, alongside his father, mother, and sister. His is a fairly unassuming grave for a truly outsized guy.

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Theodore Roosevelt and the New York Police Department. When a Future President Tried to Reform the Police In the 1890's

Cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt reforming the New York Police

 Theodore Roosevelt depicted as a policeman in a cartoon. His nightstick reads, “Roosevelt, Able Reformer”. MPI/Getty Images
Future president Theodore Roosevelt returned to the city of his birth in 1895 to take on a task that might have intimidated other people, the reform of the notoriously corrupt police department.
His appointment was front-page news and he obviously saw the job as chance to clean up New York City while reviving his own political career, which had stalled.
As the president of the police commission, Roosevelt, true to form, vigorously threw himself into the task. His trademark zeal, when applied to the complexities of urban politics, tended to generate a cascade of problems.
Roosevelt’s time at the top of the New York Police Department brought him into conflict with powerful factions, and he did not always emerge triumphant. In one notable example, his widely publicized crusade to close saloons on Sunday, the only day when many workingmen could socialize in them, provoked a lively public backlash.
When he left the police job, after only two years, the department had been changed for the better. But Roosevelt’s time as New York City’s top cop had been raucous, and the clashes he found himself in had nearly brought his political career to an end.

Roosevelt’s Patrician Background

Theodore Roosevelt was born into a wealthy New York City family on October 27, 1858. A sickly child who overcame illness through physical exertion, he went on to Harvard and entered New York politics by winning a seat in the state assembly at the age of 23.
In 1886 he lost an election for mayor of New York City. He then stayed out of government for three years until he was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison to the United States Civil Service Commission. For six years Roosevelt served in Washington, D.C., overseeing the reform of the nation’s civil service, which had been tainted by decades of adherence to the spoils system.
Roosevelt was respected for his work reforming the federal civil service, but he wished to return to New York City and something more challenging. A new reform mayor of the city, William L. Strong, offered him the job of sanitation commissioner in early 1895. Roosevelt turned it down, thinking the job of literally cleaning up the city was beneath his dignity.
A few months later, after a series of public hearings exposed widespread graft in the New York Police Department, the mayor came to Roosevelt with a far more attractive offer: a post on the board of police commissioners. Enthused by the chance to bring much-needed reforms to his hometown, and in a very public post, Roosevelt took the job.

The Corruption of the New York Police

A crusade to clean up New York City, led by a reform-minded minister, Rev. Charles Parkhurst, had prompted the state legislature to create a commission to investigate corruption. Chaired by state senator Clarence Lexow, what became known as the Lexow Commission held public hearings which exposed the startling depth of police corruption.
In weeks of testimony, saloon owners and prostitutes detailed a system of payoffs to police officials. And it became apparent that the thousands of saloons in the city functioned as political clubs which perpetuated the corruption.
Mayor Strong’s solution was to replace the four-member board that oversaw the police. And by putting an energetic reformer like Roosevelt on the board as its president, there was cause for optimism.
Roosevelt took the oath of office on the morning of May 6,1895, at City Hall. The New York Times lauded Roosevelt the next morning, but expressed skepticism about the other three men named to the police board. They must have been named for “political considerations,” said an editorial. Problems were obvious at the outset of Roosevelt’s term at the top of the police department.

Roosevelt Made His Presence Known

In early June 1895 Roosevelt and a friend, the crusading newspaper reporter Jacob Riis, ventured out into the streets of New York late one night, just after midnight. For hours they wandered through the darkened Manhattan streets, observing the police, at least when and where they could actually find them.
The New York Times carried a story on June 8, 1895 with the headline, “Police Caught Napping.” The report referred to “President Roosevelt,” as he was president of the police board, and detailed how he had found policemen asleep on their posts or socializing in public when they should have been patrolling alone.
Several officers were ordered to report to police headquarters the day after Roosevelt’s late night tour. They received a strong personal reprimand from Roosevelt himself. The newspaper account noted: “The action of Mr. Roosevelt, when it became known, made a sensation throughout the department and as a consequence, more faithful patrol duty may be performed by the force for some time to come.”
Roosevelt also came into conflict with Thomas Byrnes, a legendary detective who had come to epitomize the New York Police Department. Byrnes had amassed a suspiciously large fortune, with the apparent help of Wall Street characters such as Jay Gould, but had managed to keep his job. Roosevelt forced Byrnes to resign, though no public reason for the ouster of Byrnes was ever disclosed.

Political Problems

Though Roosevelt was at heart a politician, he soon found himself in a political bind of his own making. He was determined to shut down saloons, which generally operated on Sundays in defiance of a local law.
The problem was that many New Yorkers worked a six-day week, and Sunday was the only day when they could gather in saloons and socialize. To the community of German immigrants, in particular, the Sunday saloon gatherings were considered an important facet of life. The saloons were not merely social, but often served as political clubs, frequented by an actively engaged citizenry.
Roosevelt’s crusade to shutter saloons on Sundays brought him into heated conflict with large segments of the population. He was denounced and viewed as being out of touch with the common people. The Germans in particular rallied against him, and Roosevelt’s campaign against saloons cost his Republican Party in the city-wide elections held in the fall of 1895.
The next summer, New York City was hit by a heat wave, and Roosevelt gained back some public support by his smart action in dealing with the crisis. He had made an effort to familiarize himself with slum neighborhoods, and he saw that the police distributed ice to people who desperately needed it.
By the end of 1896 Roosevelt was thoroughly tired of his police job. Republican William McKinley had won the election that fall, and Roosevelt began concentrating on finding a post within the new Republican administration. He was eventually appointed assistant secretary of the Navy, and left New York to return to Washington.

Impact of Roosevelt on New York’s Police

Theodore Roosevelt spent less than two years with the New York Police Department, and his tenure was marked with nearly constant controversy. While the job burnished his credentials as a reformer, most of what he tried to accomplish ended in frustration. The campaign against corruption proved essentially hopeless. New York City remained much the same after he left.
However, in later years Roosevelt’s time at police headquarters on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan took on a legendary status. He would be remembered as a police commissioner who cleaned up New York, even though his accomplishments on the job didn’t live up to the legend.
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Interesting stuff Well I thought it was neat!

Gibraltar is such a neat place!

Levanter (a “banner cloud”) over the Rock of Gibraltar

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Interesting stuff The Green Machine

5 awesome foreign awards US troops are allowed to wear

 5 awesome foreign awards US troops are allowed to wear
You may be looking fresh with that stack of awards and badges, but cool flashy medals are reserved for the most prestigious of US military awards.
But how do you stand out at your next unit ball or dress inspection? Rock some foreign ones, that’s how.
Everything on this list is subjective and doesn’t cover every single foreign award authorized for troops.
Even if you do, regulations dictate you’re only authorized to wear one foreign badge with other decorations in order of presentation. The award also falls under the original nation’s regulations and some badges are purely honorary awards (meaning you can’t wear them).

Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) and Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)

Ever wondered what was at the bottom right of the medals of your salty senior non-commissioned officer who has been in since the Persian Gulf War? Technically these two are the same medal and technically they’re foreign awards.
The Kuwait Liberation Medal was given by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to members of the armed forces who served in Operation Desert Storm between Jan. 17 and Feb. 28, 1991. It still holds the condition that the troop must have served 30 consecutive days (which gives you only 17 days of wiggle room), but given instantly if they saw combat
The Government of Kuwait awarded one to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield or Desert Storm between Aug. 2, 1990 and Aug. 31, 1993.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

French Commando Badge

No matter what jokes people say about the French military, their commandos are beasts. This badge is adorned by those bad asses and their foreign graduates, and it’s a rare opportunity for American troops to get accepted into French Commando schools.
The training is a grueling three weeks that tests your survival skills in the field. If you can get in and graduate, the badge is one of the coolest designed badges of all American allies.

(Image via Eaglehorse)

Any foreign jump wings

Foreign jump wings are awarded to U.S. parachutists when they complete training in a foreign country under a foreign commanding officer. In order to qualify, you must already have the U.S. Parachutist Basic Badge. Then it all depends on your unit to do a joint jump between American troops and their military.
A lot of the awards have a similar design to the U.S. badge. Hands down, the coolest design goes to Polish Parachute badge.Image result for Polish Parachute badge
First worn by the Cichociemni (WWII Special Operations paratrooper literally called “The Silent Unseen”) the diving eagle has several variations like those worn by Poland’s GROM and other troops.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Anderson, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

Fourragères

These ones are more unit citations than personal awards. This has the easy benefit of just being lucky enough to be in a unit that was awarded a fourragère in the past but it also means that you won’t stand out against anyone who’s also in your unit. These are decorative cords with golden aglets (tips).
Awarded to units that served gallantly in the eyes of French, Belgian, Portuguese, and South Vietnamese armies (Luxembourg also has fourragères but they never authorized foreign units to wear one), the color denotes mentions and honors. Just like with normal unit citations, if you are in the unit when it was awarded, you keep it for life.
Don’t expect to see anyone wearing one outside of a designated unit, though, because these were last given in 1944.
Related: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

(Photo by Sgt. Jon Haugen, North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs)

German Armed Forces Badge of Marksmanship

I didn’t want to make this in a ranking order, but the Schützenschnur (Sharpshooter Rope) is by far the coolest and most sought after. I managed to earn one in gold when I was stationed in Baumholder, Germany.
In order to earn one, you need to perform a marksmanship qualification with German weapons. Round One is pistol, round two is rifle, and round three is heavy weapons. I was given the P8, G36, and MG3 for my qualification.
At the end, you are awarded the badge in bronze, silver, or gold. If you shoot gold with the pistol and rifle but botched the machine gun in bronze, you earn a bronze “Schütz”. You are awarded according to your lowest score. I pulled off gold in all of them.
I will openly admit that I have no idea how I made gold with the MG3 but hey! I’ll take it.
 (Screen grab of video by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer)

(Bonus) Order of St. Gregory the Great

This one isn’t authorized to wear on a U.S. Military uniform because it goes with an entirely new uniform that comes with it.
The Order of St. Gregory the Great is bestowed upon a soldier by the Vatican and the Pope himself. You are knighted and given the title of Gonfalonier (Standard-bearer) of the Church.
A famous U.S. soldier to have been knighted by the pope was Brevet Lt. Col. Myles Keogh, when he rallied to the defense of Pope Pius IX against the Kingdom of Sardinia. Keogh held his own until his capture.
After release, he was awarded the Pro Petro Sede Medal and admitted into the Order.

(Painting via wikicommons)

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All About Guns Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad Interesting stuff Soldiering Stand & Deliver War

When a Stud & a Good Rifle meet!

Lee-Enfield Rifle: The Long Arm of the British Empire and the story of Lachhiman Gurung

The Nepalese Gurkhas are legendary fighters who have served the British crown for generations.

Lachhiman Gurung seemed an unremarkable sort. He stood all of four feet eleven inches tall when he left his village to buy cigarettes for his father and ended up enlisting as a Gurkha in the service of the British Empire on a whim. However, on May 12, 1945, deep in a Burmese jungle Lachhiman Gurung proved that sometimes some of the most remarkable stuff comes in compact packages.
Gurung’s fighting position was at the foremost vanguard of his unit’s defensive emplacements standing ready against a pending Japanese attack. When the Japanese came they led with 200 seasoned assault troops. In fairly short order Gurung was alone, the rest of his mates either dead or dying.
Once the Japanese troops got within hand grenade range they began pelting Gurung’s position with grenades. Gurung picked up the first two and threw them back at his attackers. When he hefted the third it detonated in his hand, removing most of his right hand, blinding his right eye, and peppering his body and face liberally with shrapnel. Where most normal humans would have the good grace to just lay down and die, Gurung unsheathed his Kukri knife, shoved it into the ground at the lip of his foxhole, and announced to the Japanese that they would get no further than that knife. He then hefted his Lee-Enfield rifle, chambered a round with his left hand, and invited the Japanese to see what it was like to, “Come fight a Gurkha.”

At only 4 feet 11 inches tall, Lachhiman Gurung did not seem like a particularly imposing figure. However, behind a Lee Enfield rifle he wrought sheer havoc upon attacking Japanese forces despite grievous wounds.

The Japanese accepted Gurung’s offer. For the next four hours, Lachhiman Gurung ran his bolt-action Lee-Enfield rifle one-handed, setting the rifle down to work the bolt or reload with his left hand before taking it up again to kill more Japanese. When the Japanese got close enough to overrun his position Gurung would lay down, let them come in close, and then jump up to cut them down at point blank range, all the while running his bolt-action rifle with his single remaining hand.
When he was finally relieved, there were thirty-one dead Japanese soldiers in and around Gurung’s fighting position. He was heard by nearby troops shouting, “Come and fight! Come and fight! I will kill you!” in an effort at taunting the Japanese in closer. Lachhiman Gurung was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valor in combat, for his actions that night in the sweltering Burmese jungle. The fanatical defense of that forlorn combat outpost by a single Nepalese Gurkha, himself less than five feet tall, demonstrated to all involved that a single determined man with a rifle can be a formidable combat implement.

The Gun

The SMLE No 1 armed British troops throughout World War I and into World War II. Many Commonwealth soldiers used this reliable bolt-action repeater through the end of the conflict.

The Lee-Enfield rifle was first adopted in 1895, and it soldiered on through a variety of marks until it was finally supplanted by the L1A1 variant of the FN FAL in 1957. More than 17 million of the guns saw service. Possession of a Lee-Enfield rifle marks one as a warlord of distinction in Afghanistan even today. Designed by a Scotsman named James Paris Lee, the Lee-Enfield superseded the Lee-Metford rifle. Its longevity in service is exceeded solely by the Russian Mosin-Nagant.
The Lee-Enfield in its sundry guises fed from a detachable ten-round box magazine. However, in action troops were trained to charge the rifle from the top via either loose rounds or five-round stripper clips. Early SMLE (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield) No 1 versions featured a pivoting magazine cutoff plate that only allowed the weapon to be fired one round at a time. Troops who carried the SMLE referred to it affectionately as the “Smelly.” At the time it was introduced it was thought the magazine cutoff might reduce the British troops’ tendencies toward profligate ammunition expenditure. As mechanical restrictions on one’s onboard ammo supply are typically not terribly popular in combat this superfluous appendage was deleted in short order.
The Lee-Enfield sported rear-locking lugs along with a short bolt throw. In addition, the action cocks on closing while most competing designs cock when you open the bolt. This all conspired to give the Lee-Enfield rifle an exceptionally high rate of fire in the hands of a trained rifleman. British soldiers were trained to fire between twenty and thirty aimed shots per minute as part of a “Mad Minute” exercise. This maneuver was intended to apply maximum fire to an area in as short a period as possible. The current record for performance with a Lee-Enfield rifle is held a British Army rifle instructor named Snoxall who hit a twelve-inch target at 300 meters 38 times in sixty seconds.

The SMLE’s vital statistics are inscribed on the wrist of the weapon. This particular example was produced in 1914 and bears the inscription “GR” for “George Rex.”

The SMLE feeds from a 10-round detachable box magazine.

For all its remarkable performance the SMLE No. 1 was an expensive rifle to produce. The SMLE soldiered on in Imperial service throughout World War II, particularly among Commonwealth troops. It was an SMLE No. 1 Mk III that Lachhiman Gurung wielded that night in Burma. However, after Dunkirk the Brits needed something they could produce a little faster. Enter the simplified No. 4 Lee-Enfield. The No 1 and the No. 4 can be easily discerned at a glance by their muzzle bosses. The No. 1 has a stubby nose. The No 4 sports a small bit of barrel protruding out the front. Each rifle accepts a different bayonet.

Early No. 1 SMLE rifles sported sights that were graduated out to 2,000 yards.

Despite its detachable magazine, the SMLE rifle was intended to be charged from the top via stripper clips. Early models had the magazine attached to the rifle via a short length of chain to prevent its loss.

My SMLE No. 1 rifle has had a cracked forearm meticulously repaired.

The No. 4 came in several variations but most featured simplified flip-adjustable rear sights and somewhat cruder construction. Early SMLE No. 1 rifles had sights graduated out to 2,000 meters. Troops of this era were trained to use their rifles for massed volley fire as well as indirect fire over obstacles. There are numerous anecdotes of German troops in WWII believing they were under attack from machineguns when in reality they were simply being subject to the massed fire from trained British riflemen.
The No. 5 Mk 1 became known as the Jungle Carbine. This Lee Enfield rifle sported a shorter barrel, cut-down stock, and lightening cuts to make the rifle as lightweight as possible. All this conspired to enhance the Lee-Enfield’s already prodigious recoil.
The No. 5 Mk 1 (T) was the dedicated sniper version of the No. 4 Lee Enfield. Equipped with a wooden cheekpiece and a 3.5X telescopic sight, this superb sniper rifle served throughout WWII and Korea. The accuracy requirements for these rifles demanded that they place 7 out of 7 shots within a 5-inch circle at 200 yards.

Early SMLE No 1 rifles sported a magazine cutoff feature that mandated that the rifle be loaded one round at a time. This superfluous device was deleted in short order. Early SMLE No 1 rifles sported a magazine cutoff feature that mandated that the rifle be loaded one round at a time. This superfluous device was deleted in short order.

I have a friend who was shot in the chest by a Chinese sniper wielding a captured No. 5 Mk 1 (T) during the Korean War. My buddy was wearing a brand new flak jacket at the time. The round struck the 1911A1 pistol he was carrying in a shoulder holster before deflecting into his flak vest, leaving him bruised but otherwise unhurt.
The wrist of the Lee Enfield rifle typically holds the gun’s vital statistics. The “GR” marking stands for “George Rex,” the British monarch reigning during the production of most of these early guns. These rifles were produced at a variety of facilities on several continents to include plants in the US and Canada. The Lee-Enfield saw service everywhere the British fought during the first half of the 20th century.

The No. 4 Lee Enfield rifle was the definitive WWII model. It was cheaper and faster to build than the WWI-era No. 1.

The rear sight on the No. 4 is a simple flip aperture.

This No. 4 is a Canadian version built in 1943 at the Long Branch arsenal.

 

The No. 4 Lee Enfield sports a stubby bit of barrel out the snout. The No. 1 has a flattened nose cap. This is the easiest way to differentiate the two rifles at a glance.

The shortened No. 5 Lee Enfield included a conical flash suppressor and was called the Jungle Carbine.

The German Kar 98k cocks on opening. The Lee Enfield cocks on closing. This makes the British rifle faster in action.

Post Script

From left to right—the American .30-06, the British .303-in Rimmed, and the German 7.97x57mm Mauser.

Lachhiman Gurung’s primary complaint after the protracted night action that decimated his unit and cost him an eye and an arm was that his injured arm kept attracting flies. He ultimately healed and returned to his native Nepal as a farmer. In time he immigrated to the UK.
In 2008 the UK adopted a policy that revoked the rights of some Gurkha veterans who retired prior to 1997 and lived in the country. The actual term used was that the Gurkhas had “failed to demonstrate strong ties to the UK.” In response, Lachhiman Gurung hefted his ludicrously huge rack of medals and headed for Britain’s’ High Court. In a classic “Don’t Make-Me-Come-Over-There” moment, this rugged little half-blind one-armed man showed the members of the court the face of true dedication and got the onerous law overturned. Lacchiman Gurung died of natural causes in 2010 at age 92.

Lacchiman Gurung lived out his days in the UK as a hero. When ill-advised legislation threatening to strip Gurkha veterans of their benefits he rucked up again and made things right. I wouldn’t want this little half-blind one-armed man after me.

The Lee-Enfield rifle was the backbone of the British armed forces for more than half a century. Rugged, powerful, accurate, and fast, this classic bolt-action rifle and the rimmed .303-inch cartridge it fired expressed the will of the English people at the farthest reaches of their influence. In the hands of extraordinary men like Lachhiman Gurung the Lee-Enfield was the long arm of the British Empire.

The Lee Enfield No. 5 Mk 1 (T) was the scoped sniper version of the rifle. It saw service throughout WWII and Korea.

Technical Specifications

No. 4 Lee Enfield Rifle
Caliber                  .303 British Mk VII SAA Ball–Rimmed
Weight                  9.06 lbs
Length                  44.45 in
Barrel Length      25.2 in
Feed System        10-Round Detachable Box Magazine/5-Round Charger Clips
Sights                    Fixed and Adjustable Aperture Sights