Posted by: SJS | October 30, 2022

Their fight is our fight — so VOTE!

As the valiant, determined armed forces of Ukraine continue their fight against a cruel, ruthless enemy that targets civilians and critical infrastructure in its efforts to wipe their country off the map, it is good to remember that the Ukrainian people are fighting for the values that we hold dear as Americans–democracy and freedom. The willingness of the Ukrainian fighters to lay their lives on the line in this titanic struggle has been demonstrated time and time again.

Despite the enormous losses they have absorbed, the Ukrainian people have never wavered in their resolve expel the Russians from every inch of their sovereign territory. The morale of the Ukrainian fighters has been high since the first hours of this war in February. They know exactly what they are fighting for and, in contrast to the Russian forces they confront, the Ukrainians have not one shred of doubt about the rightness of their cause.

As we enter into this election season, I urge everyone who reads this blog to make sure to vote. Our right to vote in free and fair elections is the bedrock of our democracy and our most precious right as citizens. The brave people of Ukraine are giving us, and the whole world, a powerful lesson on paying the cost for preserving democracy and guarding freedom. When you go to the polls or mail in your vote this year take a moment to consider how fortunate we are as Americans and recommit yourself to doing everything in your power to ensure that we maintain the freedoms that we have and hold dear.

Posted by: SJS | October 24, 2022

A day in the life on the PTs

A revealing photo of crewmembers aboard their berthed PT boats taking care of various maintenance tasks. In this undated picture, we get a glance of enlisted sailors going about their duties, working together to do all the necessary jobs involved in keeping their boats in fighting trim and readiness. I love discovering “behind the scenes” photos that round out the image of the PT crews.

As a young boy, I remember hearing stories from my father about all the hard work that went into PT boat maintenance–everything from cleaning to repairing to repainting and then to more cleaning. It was clear to me that all the work that went into boat maintenance paid off every time the PTs shoved off for another mission, knowing that every facet of their craft was in top shape.

Posted by: SJS | October 17, 2022

Women resistance fighters in WWII

I was thrilled and deeply encouraged to come across these striking photos of women who served with the Greek resistance to fight the Nazis in WWII. In every photo, these remarkable fighters project confidence, determination, and fearlessness. They are from the vast archives of Life Magazine, taken by photographer Dimitri Kessel. My thanks to Peter DeForest who shared them on a facebook page devoted to WWII pictures.

In the proud faces of these women, I see the same focused attention and calm resolve I see in the photos of courageous Ukrainian women who have stepped to the front lines to join their male counterparts in their war against the Russians who are no match for the fire and fierceness that the Ukrainian armed forces are bringing to the fight every day.

Like their counterparts in WWII who bravely took on the Nazis in Greece, the women of Ukraine are giving us all a lesson in real time about what it means to stand firm for democracy and to concede nothing in the defense of freedom.

The forces of fascism could not defeat fighters like these in Greece or anywhere else in Europe. The forces of fascism will not defeat the noble people of Ukraine. And unless we give up the fight here in the United States, those forces under the guise of White Supremacy, MAGA, and the Ku Klux Klan will not defeat democracy in our nation.

Posted by: SJS | October 14, 2022

No quit in the Ukrainian fighters

Ukrainian tank crew rolls into action

As the Russians launch continued missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets across the country, the fighting forces of Ukraine continue their valiant offensive on the eastern front. With relentless determination, they are wresting back their territory from an enemy who is growing weaker and more desperate by the day. They are giving Russia, and the rest of the world, a textbook lesson on what it means to love democracy and to do what is necessary to defend freedom.

The armed forces and the civilian population of Ukraine are faced with the very real threat of a cruel, thuggish adversary that is intent on erasing not only their country but their families, homes, and culture. To describe the threat they face as “an existential challenge” is a gross understatement. That is why the Ukrainian resistance will never, never diminish. There is no alternative to victory, because victory means survival.

A major reason for my enduring admiration and fascination regarding the Ukrainian fighters is that I am witnessing–in real time–what it was like for my father and his fellow PT sailors to go toe to toe with enemy forces in the Mediterranean and the South Pacific. Few units in the US Navy of WWII faced longer odds than the members of the “Mosquito Fleet” when they squared off against Nazi fighter planes or the entrenched, suicidal forces of Imperial Japan in the steamy jungles in the Pacific islands. Yet the PT crews did their job day in and day out, with the same raw courage and daring that the Ukrainians are demonstrating today.

The father who raised me was serving on those boats during some of the darkest times of the brutal fighting in the South Pacific in the spring and summer of 1945. To say I am in awe of what he and his mates accomplished in those days is–also–a gross understatement.

And just like my father, Red Stahley, and the PT crews of WWII, there is no quit in the Ukrainian armed forces. The Russians picked the wrong enemy in this war and they will be paying for their mistake for generations to come.

Glory to Ukraine!

Posted by: SJS | October 7, 2022

PT 196 – with attitude

Looking for prey

With her war paint on full display, PT 196 throttles up over the water. The PT crews loved nothing more than naming their boats and applying war paint, especially on the bow of their boat. I’ll have to do more research to find out the nickname of this boat but no nickname could possibly be more expressive than the paint job adorning this craft.

The bold spirit of The Mosquito Fleet found multiple ways to advertise itself. The image of a hungry shark prowling for prey is among the better ways that the PT crews signaled their determination to seek out and destroy any adversary in their path.

Long after his Navy career had ended, Red Stahley kept his edge sharp and his “PT attitude” ready for whatever challenges life put in his way. That was something I learned at a very early age and never forgot.

Posted by: SJS | September 26, 2022

New Mark VI Boats for Ukraine from US

It was thrilling to read that the armed forces of Ukraine will soon take delivery of twelve Mark VI patrol boats from the United States to support their operations against the Russian military. In an interview with the news source ArmyInform, Ukrainian Rear Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa confirmed that the American patrol craft would soon be put to good use by the Ukrainians who have demonstrated a remarkable ability to integrate advanced weaponry into their battle plans and utilize those weapons to devastating effect and with lightning speed.

The Mark VI is a class of patrol boat in service with the United States Navy which is designed to patrol rivers and deploy weapons against enemy positions on shore. These craft are 85 feet in length and designed for a crew of ten with the capacity to carry up to eight additional personnel. The Mark VI is equipped with modernized weapons, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems. The Mark VI was introduced by the US Navy in 2014.

When I first saw a photo of the Mark VI I was struck with its resemblance to the legendary PT boats of the Navy’s WWII fleet. The Navy’s description of these “modern PT boats” sounds very similar to the type of craft my father manned in 1945 when the PTs were being used for river patrols and close-in fighting with the forces of Imperial Japan in the final year of the war. When my father was on PT 373, he was a crewman on a heavily armed gun boat that was sent on missions up jungle rivers to take out an entrenched enemy.

Putting the Mark VI at the disposal of the Ukrainian fighters is yet more bad news for the hard-pressed Russians who are already suffering staggering losses at the hands of their highly-motivated and determined adversary. Just as they have been able to unleash the lethal potential of every weapon system they have received from their allies, I have no doubt the Ukrainians will put the Mark VI boats to use quickly and to devastating effect against an enemy that is growing weaker and more confused by the day.

Glory to Ukraine!

Posted by: SJS | September 11, 2022

Counteroffensive underway in Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an armored vehicle on a road in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Over the past few weeks, the intrepid forces of Ukraine have launched a massive counteroffensive on the eastern front. They have penetrated deep into Russian-held territory sending the invading troops fleeing like frightened rats. Leaving behind heavy equipment, tons of ammunition, and even unfinished meals, the Russians have run away faster than Senator Josh Hawley fleeing the insurrectionists at the US Capitol on January 6th.

The Russians fear the Ukrainians more than they fear death or even the wrath of Putin.

The mighty Red Army they’re not.

As I follow the progress of the courageous, fearless defenders of Ukraine, I am continually reminded of the Navy’s PT crews who relished the opportunity to take the fight to their adversaries whenever those opportunities presented themselves.

Glory to Ukraine!

Posted by: SJS | August 22, 2022

Partisans at work — doing what they do best

Two Ukrainian partisans pose after a recent attack on armored vehicle

During World War II, the Nazi war machine faced determined, deadly resistance from French underground fighters on the Western front and Polish partisans in the East. As the war in the South Pacific grew more intense into the 1940s, the forces of Imperial Japan found themselves increasingly vulnerable to fierce guerrilla fighters in the jungles of the Philippines and Burma (now Myanmar).

Using stealth, speed, and laser-focused determination, these partisan units operated far behind enemy lines. These units destroyed infrastructure, disrupted communications, and provided targeting information for Allied bombing missions. Partisan fighters also assassinated officials they considered to be in collaboration with the enemy.

In addition to the havoc they wreaked, the partisans delivered a powerful message to their adversaries: you are never safe. The impact on enemy morale was persistent, grinding, and relentless. By all accounts, partisan fighters played no small role in turning turn the tide of WWII in favor of the Allies.

In a similar way, Ukrainian partisans are now hammering the Russians. In recent weeks, Ukrainian partisans played in a role in the huge explosion on a Russian air base in the Crimean Peninsula which Moscow annexed eight years ago. The attack destroyed eight Russian fighter jets. It was a devastating strike in territory that the Russians long considered to be safe and invulnerable to attack.

Learning about the work of the bold Ukrainian partisans reminded me of the stories I heard from my beloved uncle, Frank Morris, who served in the US Army under the command of the legendary General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of WWII. In the sweltering jungles of Burma, Frank’s unit was aligned with indigenous Kitchin fighters who were always eager to go toe-to-toe with the Japanese. The American troops and their Kachin compatriots played a major role in keeping supply lines open and communication networks in place as the Allies pushed west against the entrenched forces of Imperial Japan.

Uncle Frank maintained a lifelong love and devotion to the people of Burma because he never forgot the bravery of the Kachin partisans who he fought with, shoulder to shoulder in some of the toughest days of the war. Frank credited the Kachin fighters with getting the Americans out of multiple jams during their years of working together to drive the Japanese out of Burma.

Frank and Kachin fighters take a smoke break
Frank Morris shares Camel smokes with his Kachin comrades-in-arms

Posted by: SJS | August 18, 2022

PT 513 in the English Channel

PT 513 armed, ready and moving out

My thanks to Griff Carey for posting this powerful photo from the archives of Life Magazine. The photographer was David Scherman.

PT 513 was part of the legendary Squadron (RON) 35 which participated in the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. The PTs of that squadron performed multiple tasks as part of the Normandy invasion–clearing mines, supporting landing craft, and helping to rescue Allied troops whose crafts went down in the channel. On D-Day and the days leading up to the invasion, the PTs were busy indeed.

High quality black and white photos like this one always do an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere and the energy that surrounded the work of the PT boats. Color photos are wonderful but when it comes to capturing the nuances of mood, movement, and tension, I’ve always found black and white photos to be the best.

Posted by: SJS | July 29, 2022

Doing the hard work of defending freedom

Ukrainian troops move against the Russians

Every day, whether the world is watching or not, Ukrainian men and women wake up, get out of bed, put on their helmets and body armor, and pick up their weapons. They then get busy defending their nation against the invading enemy whose goal is to wipe their country off the map. Every day, I remind myself that many of these noble Ukrainian fighters are my age (70) or older.

The Ukrainians have no time for complaining, making excuses, or denying the magnitude of danger they face. Whether the world is paying attention or not, the Ukrainian people accept the reality of their situation and deal with it. They’ve made it clear to anyone who cares that they won’t quit until the job is finished–and that job is to drive the murdering, criminal Russians out of their country.

A few months ago, these Ukrainian soldiers were teachers, pharmacists, construction workers, students, government administrators, truck drivers, retirees, and real estate agents. Many of them had never fired a weapon before Russia’s invasion in February of this year. When they “go to work” these days, their work involves assisting artillery units on the front lines, providing military logistical support, or pulling guard duty in a newly dug trench line. For the people of Ukraine, defending democracy is not an abstract concept or an academic debate. Defending freedom involves determination, endurance, facing fear and courage, courage, courage.

Like my father, Red Stahley, and all the other brave Americans of his remarkable generation, ordinary Ukrainians are demonstrating what it means to put one’s life on the line to defend democracy. America’s Greatest Generation taught us that freedom isn’t free and the brave Ukrainian people are demonstrating that truth again in real time.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed with the demands or life or feel tempted by self-pity, all I have to do is to remember what’s going on in Ukraine and it snaps me right out of any funk in which I find myself. Ordinary Ukrainian citizens my age–and many who are older–are facing down a vile, bloodthirsty enemy who commits large scale war crimes on a daily basis.

May the noble example of the Ukrainian people give us renewed energy and determination for doing the necessary work of preserving democracy and the precious freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

Glory to Ukraine!

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