Tag Archives: World War II

What is On My Mind Today: El, Elvis and A Prison Break


I have this friend, of many years, whose name is El.

El is a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who still carries the bullets in his body from a surprise attack during the battle for Luzon. One of our first conversations was about this very battle and how he’d been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.

I thought he was jesting with me, as nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for just four hours.  The Japanese just did not operate that way during World War II….except in cases like his.

Not yet twenty years old with bullets in his back and legs, he spent over four hours laying on a jungle battlefield, as Japanese soldiers poked him and his fellow American soldiers with bayonets, to make sure they were all dead.  As he laid there, every once in a while he would hear a gunshot, and know that another boy would not being going home. El will tell you the only reason he survived was that he fell face down when he was hit and how hard it was not to flutter his eyelids when poked with a bayonet.

He and his fellow survivors, made it off the island and were given medical aid. Unfortunately, there was only one small plane to evacuate the boys and it seated four. So, El and one of his buddies were put into body bags, used for the dead, with only their heads sticking out and tied to the wing of the plane.  His only request was to be tied face down so that he could see where he was going.

As they flew over the Pacific ocean, at about 1000 feet, he could see the whole Pacific naval fleet, whirling around in the ocean waters beneath him.  He says he often wonders what their plane looked like on radar and is amazed that they were not shot down.

By the time he reached medical care, just a day or so after being hit, his leg was already black from infection.  He did not lose the leg, but he has scars the entire length of that leg that tell the story about how hard it was for him to keep it.

El is a very well known, popular, active member of the City of Forest Lake, MN.  He has been a fixture on their city streets for many years as he cruises town in his “scooter”, with a big American Flag flying behind him.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, regardless of rain, sleet, snow, fog, heat or cold, not much could stop El from getting where he wanted to go on that “scooter.” He was even given a special permit, by the city,  so he could legally drive on city streets.

El’s health had been more of a challenge as of late and he was recently moved into a nursing home. Today when I arrived for a visit, and to deliver several dozen of his favorite cookies, homemade gingersnaps,  I found him sound asleep, with his ever present”scooter” parked right beside his bed.

I always enjoy El, and again today we had a great chat.  I announced to him that I have decided that Elvis was murdered with codeine by Ginger Alden, and that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  He gave me a broad smile, and I got the look I always get for my foolishness. Then, I was told to write a book.

I then asked him if he was still cruising around town on his “scooter.”  “No!”he fairly shouted. “They won’t let me out of this place without someone with me!”  His response surprised me some, knowing the man as well as I do.  And, I told him so.  I went on to explain that find it hard to believe he could not evade capture by mere nursing home staff.  After all, he has, under dire circumstances, escaped capture many times before. Then, I remembered that he was incarcerated…once.

During World War II, after El recovered from his wounds, he was sent back into service. By this time, the war in the Pacific had ended and El was sent to Japan.  He and his unit were on guard duty near one of the towns that had been blasted off of the face of this earth by atom bombs.

El and his buddies had a pretty great time in Japan. They were young, had survived the war and had money in their pockets.

In those days, when in a United States military uniform in Japan and you had too much fun, you would end up in a military prison.   The commander of this prison was a proud, obnoxious, arrogant, peacock-strutting of a man, who continually boasted that no one had or ever would escape his fenced stronghold of character development and repentance.

So, one night, after having enjoyed a goodly portion of fun, frivolity, frolic and fermentation, El and a buddy decided to break into the prison.  The success of their venture was made known to the hilarity of all the very next morning when there were two extra soldiers during roll call.

Well, the prison commander became positively apoplectic!  Both El and his commanding officer received their due portion of this man’s verbal wrath.  When the prison commander finished his tirade, El’s commander turned on El  threatening all sorts of dire consequences.  El was then marched to his commanding officer’s  jeep.  When they got into the jeep, the officer turned to El and said, “Ewert, you are such a dumb ass!” Then, burst out in laughter.

El and his commanding officer returned to their camp, went into the officer’s quarters and proceeded to spend the remainder of day consuming more than their share of beer toasting the success of El’s prison break-in.

And, yes, El has met Elvis

El and I with matching hair-dos, during my cancer battle. 






What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day and Cupcakes


I was watching the news this weekend and there was a segment where a baker was demonstrating how to decorate cakes.  At the end of her demonstration, she showed off cupcakes that she had decorated especially for Memorial Day.  They were bright red, white and aqua blue.  Then, with chipper voice she joyously explained that the cupcake icing design resembled fireworks.

Memorial Day is not a day to hold celebrations, in truth, it is a yearly national funeral for our military dead.  It is a day of remembrance….of loss…not victory, freedom or national pride.  It is the day to think about all of those young men and women whose lives were cut short and whose beautiful bodies were torn, mutilated and so grievousness wounded that they could not survive their injuries.  Their trauma and deaths were horrific.

I have been reading the book, “Unbroken”.   This book is about World War II soldier Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, who spent much of World War II as a Japanese Prisoner of War after his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  The brutality of his war experiences are so vividly described as to, at times, seem to be frankly unbelievable.

I do believe them, because I have had the privilege of knowing many veterans both personally and professionally and their stories were oftentimes very similar to Mr. Zamperini’s.

For instance, take my friend El.  Now in his nineties, he is the last man left on this side of the turf from his army unit.  I first met El on a World War II Honorflight.  I was his caregiver and he was one of my folks.

That day as we chatted together, he mentioned that he had once been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.  I chuckled and said that nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for a couple of hours, how did he manage that?

He then told me how this happened. His platoon had been ambushed, all of them were killed outright or wounded.  For the next several hours Japanese soldiers walked among those American boys, stabbing them with their bayonets to see if anyone was left alive. Any groan that was heard, was quickly followed by a gun shot. El always says the same thing, “Thank, God, I fell on my stomach and that my eyelids never fluttered.”

Then, there was Sid Schmuckler.  What a great name! Sid was quite a guy, at over 90 years of age, he still worked every day and drove himself to his office on Minnesota’s freeways in his station wagon.  Sid was a navy man and fought in the Pacific. He was a beach commander.

The night before an invasion was launched, he would go ashore to scout the position and help radio our soldiers ashore.  He was a beach commander on Iwo Jima and was in a few other very notable battles.

Sid could tell me about boys, who were just his age, that he had seen blown to bits just as matter of fact as if he was describing restaurant menu.  He did have this sad chuckle about the ironies of war that he had witnessed.

He once told me about this chaplain that was walking right down the beach on Iwo Jima as it was being heavily shelled and under constant fire by the enemy.  From behind their fortified breastworks, he and the soldiers with him screamed at the chaplain to get down!  The chaplain, as calm as if he was taking a Sunday stroll, just kept walking down that bomb pocked beach, stopping to check on each wounded, dying or dead soldier in his path.

As they were yelling at the chaplain, the boy next to Sid took a bullet to the head.  Still alive, it was immediately determined that his wound was mortal.  When the chaplain was much closer to Sid, he was grabbed and thrown behind the breastworks. Sid pointed at the young dying soldier and asked the chaplain, to give the Catholic boy last rites.

The chaplain quickly went about his business.  Just as he concluded, the young soldier breathed his last. As he closed the boy’s eyes the chaplain said, “I hope his Catholic mama never learns that a Ra bi administered her son’s last rites.”  Before anyone could detain him, the chaplain quickly leaped from relative safety of the breastworks and continued his mission of mercy on that beach.

However, there was one war story that brought instant tears to Sid’s eyes.  He was back on his ship, the war nearly over, and they were smack dab in the middle of the entire Pacific armada with vast air power protecting the fleet.   American air superiority was so complete that even Kamikaze’s were no longer considered much of a threat.  He finally felt safe from the enemy.

The ship next to his was a hospital ship.  That evening, the deck of the hospital ship was brightly lit as the nurses and doctors operated feverishly to save the lives of wounded soldiers.

Sid was on the deck watching the hospital ship when one lone blip showed up on his ship’s radar.  It was determined that it had to be an American plane….it wasn’t. The Kamikaze pilot targeted the hospital ship.  His plane crashed onto the ship’s deck and burst into flames as it skidded across the top of the entire ship. I can still hear the despair in Sid’s voice as he described the horrific scene, “He killed all of the nurses, those girls, those girls, they all died!”

Memorial Day is set aside for us to think about human cost of war and to solemnly remember and honor our nation’s military dead and their families.

It is not about ……cupcakes

Just saying…..




Letters to My Grandson: Cat Warfare….Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack Cats!

Dear Grandson,

Well there is finally a thin layer of ice on the pond behind our house.  It is much too soon to go on any ice…so STAY OFF THE ICE…until your dad says it’s safe.

Well I have decided to eat healthy this holiday season.  So every morning I have been eating cottage cheese with pineapple.  I love pineapple.  It is sweet and sour all at the same time.  Its yellow color reminds me of sunshine and the tropical island of Hawaii where it is grown.  I have never been there, but I am told it is just beautiful.

I do have a cousin who grew up in Hawaii. He lives out in California now.  He never could get used to the cold, snow and ice of Minnesota.  He is about the same age as your Great-Grandpa Larson.  This guy was amazing at Judo and was once a coach for our country’s judo team at the Judo World Championships.  He has great stories.

Image result for Mel Augustine + JudoCousin Mel. 

One of his stories happened when he was just a boy…about your age.  In those days parents did not let kids sleep in, even on weekends.  So, it was bright and early when his friends stopped by to see if he wanted to go climb the hills and see the sun come up over the sea port town where they lived….Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

These boys loved climbing up to the high places outside of town to watch all of the ships in the harbor.  Pearl Harbor was one of our country’s biggest naval ports at that time and much of our Pacific fleet of naval ships were there.  Then, too, there were the air fields where American military planes would take off and land all day long.  What kid wouldn’t want to sit and watch that in the warm tropical sunshine?  It must have been beautiful.

So as my cousin and his friends were sitting there enjoying the view.  Several small planes flew over them a lot closer that the pilots normally did.  The boys all stood up and waved at the pilots and the pilots, as usual, waved back. It was only then, that the boys notices that the pilots were not Americans, but Japanese.  Then, without warning the bombs began to fall onto the great ships in the harbor.  Little did these boys know that they had just witnessed the beginning of World War II.

Image result for japanese WWII Zero
Japanese plane that was used in attack. 

Japan, just like Hitler, began world conquest campaigns long before the American’s joined the fight.  The war began in Europe when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  The Japanese began their military march across Asia and the Pacific Islands when they invaded Manchuria in 1931.  For the next ten years Japan expanded its China invasion leading to a war with China in 1937.  The Japanese war machine was ruthless and cruel. It is estimated that in China alone about 7-11 million civilians died as a direct result of military action and another 3-4 million Chinese soldiers were killed.

Until the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 911, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the most deadly attack by terrorists on United States soil.  The casualties on 911 were 2,996 people killed and more than 6,000 wounded.  There were 265 killed on the four planes, 2606 in the World Trade Center and immediate area and 125 deaths at the Pentagon….but that is another story.

Picture taken from the cockpit of attacking Japanese plane of first bombs landing. 

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 a.m. when the first wave of 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes attacked. These planes were launched from six aircraft carriers that were anchored just north of the island of Oahu.  The planes in the first wave were:

  • Forty-nine Nakajima B5N bombers armed with 1750 pound armor-piercing bombs targeted battleships and aircraft carriers.
  • Forty B5N bombers armed with torpedoes.
  • Fifty-one Aichi D3A Val dive bombers armed with 550 pound bombs targeted Ford Island the Wheeler Field.
  • Forty-three Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighters targeted Ford Island, Hickam Field,
    Wheeler Field, Barber’s Point and Kaneohe.

    Picture from cockpit of attacking Japanese aircraft. 

The attack only lasted for about 90 minutes. When it was over all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged.  Four had sunk. Three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer were also badly damaged.

Pearl Harbor immediately after the attack. 

American Military forces in Hawaii began the day with 402 airplanes.  Of those 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged.  A total of 155 planes were damaged or destroyed while just parked on the ground.  Only eight planes managed to get airborne during the attack.  Nobody in the sky was safe from the Japanese attack, in fact three civilian aircraft were also shot down.

In addition to the massive amount of damage done to the United States’ ships and planes, the loss of life was horrendous.  There were 2,403 Americans killed and 1, 178 wounded. On the other hand, by using a strategy of surprise, the Japanese losses were quite small. They lost 29 aircraft, another 74 were damaged, five midget submarines were sunk and 63 men killed.

At Pearl Harbor on that fateful day were members of Minnesota’s Naval Reserve. These sailors served on a ship call the U.S.S. Ward.  Before the attack on Pearl Harbor had even started they spotted a Japanese midget submarine and sunk it.  The Ward’s gun was known as the first gun to be fired by American’s during World War II.

Image result for USS WArd gun
Members of the crew of the U.S.S  Ward standing by the gun that fired WWII’s first shot. 

The U.S.S. Ward may have survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, but she did not survive the war. On the morning of December 7, 1944, three years to the day after the ship’s shot was the first of the war, she was attacked by several Japanese kamikazes.  Kamikazes were pilots that used their planes as bombs and purposely crashed them into American ships.

These young Japanese men had promised their government to die in their planes. To ensure that they would indeed commit suicide in their planes and keep that promise, their government, for added incentive, removed the plane’s landing gear. One kamikaze hit the Ward badly damaging her.  Her crew was ordered to abandon ship and then she was sunk by another American ship.

The gun that fired the first shot of World War II at the Minnesota State Capitol.

The USS Ward’s “First Shot,” gun had been removed from the ship when it had been updated earlier in the war.  When my friend Bob Hanson was National Commander of the VFW, he found out that this gun was in a junk pile and was going to be scrapped.  He got permission for the gun to be shipped to Minnesota. He showed me the actual letter giving Minnesota the gun. Today this very gun is on display on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. It’s a big gun!  We will have to go see it sometime.

While the first two waves of Japanese attack planes created severe damage and loss of life.  Had a third wave hit Pearl Harbor’s fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities, the result for Americans would have been much worse.  Without these resources used to repair the damaged ships and aircraft it is estimated that the war against the Japanese in the Pacific could have lasted another two years.

Almost half of all the Pearl Harbor casualties occurred on the battleship U.S.S. Arizona. The Arizona weighed 31,400 tons and was over 608 feet long.  It was over 97 feet tall when in the water. This ship was hit by four bombs.  Its ammunition store was hit and over 1,000 pounds of black powder exploded.  The whole front part of the ship was destroyed. The ship sank, in less than 40 feet of water, taking over 1000 men to the bottom with her. Many of these men died slowly, trapped inside the ship.

Image result for pearl harbor attack
U.S.S. Arizona  on fire and sinking. 

In total 1,177 members of Arizona’s crew were killed.  There were 37 pairs or trios of brothers on the Arizona. Of these 62 were killed. Twenty-three sets of brothers died.  Only one set of brothers survived. And that was only because one was off the ship that day and the other survived his wounds. The ship’s only father and son pair were both killed in action.

All 21 members of the ship’s band died.  When the attack began, they were on the top deck of the ship getting ready to play music for the daily flag raising.  Immediately these brave sailors ran to their battle stations. This is the only time in our nation’s history that a whole military band was killed in action all at the same time.

Your Great-Grandpa Larson has been to Hawaii and seen the memorial for the Arizona. The memorial is built over the sunken ship. All these many years later this ship is still leaking oil into Pearl Harbor’s harbor.

Image result for Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial
Memorial for the U.S.S. Arizona.  It was built on top of the doomed ship and crew. 

Interestingly, there was this very popular and handsome singer back in those days named Elvis Presley.  He got drafted and served in the Army.  When he got out of the military, one of the first things he did was play a concert in Hawaii to raise money for the Arizona Memorial.  He raised over 50,000 dollars which was about 10 percent of the total cost to build the memorial.  Elvis was the largest private donor to the memorial.  I have many of his CD’s if you ever want to hear him sing. Grandpa won’t let me get a poster of him.

Image result for Elvis Presley concert for U.S.S Arizona Memorial
Elvis Presley in Hawaii for March 25, 1961 benefit concert for U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. 

Now, you may be asking yourself, where is the cat in this story?  Well the Japanese were certainly “Sneak Attack Cats.”  However, there is a famous Pearl Harbor cat and her name was Pooli.  Pooli was born on July 4, 1944 in the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor and with her mother set sail that very day on the attack ship USS Fremont.

This cat became the ship’s mascot and saw action in many Pacific sea battles from the Philippines Islands to Iwo Jima.  Whenever the call to battle stations was sounded this cat would sprint to the mail room and would fall asleep in a mail bag.  The guns blasting away did not bother her a bit. For her service this cat was awarded three service ribbons and four battle stars.  Pooli survived the war and lived to be a very old cat.

World War II cat veteran turns 15
Pooli  wearing her uniform and medals. 

Within days after the attack on Pearl Harbor our nation declared war on both Germany and Japan.  Fighting a two-front war is never a really good idea.  Which reminds me of during the Civil War when many politicians were pressuring Abraham Lincoln to fight a two-front war and declare war on England. …he responded by saying, “One war at a time….One war at a time!”

Nobody with a brain for survival would choose to fight a two-front war. A two-front war, which was what World War II was for America, was thrust upon us by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was tough war. Our country had to unify and everyone had to forget their personal differences and work together.  When we all come together as an American family, I believe we are unbeatable.

Lincoln was a wise old guy and, “One war at a time” is good advice for many things.  Staying focused on a job until you have successfully completed it organizes the mind and promotes excellence.  Now, I am going to go focus on Christmas present wrapping.

Lots of hugs and love,    Grandma Pat


Letter to my Grandson: Cat Warfare…A Delicious Cat

     Peter the Great                                              Furry  Yury

Dear Grandson,

Boy is it cold out this morning, you can really tell that summer is over for good.  We still have a lot of green leaves on our trees, but many of the trees in the neighborhood are already quite golden.  My neighbor across the street is having three really big trees cut down today.

Do you know who was as big as a tree? Peter the Great, who was born in 1672, ruled Russia as tsar or emperor from 1682 until 1725.  A tsar is the Russian word for king.  There were many things that made this guy exceptional.  Royalty or not, Peter stood head and shoulders above everyone because he was almost seven feet tall at a time when the average man was only five feet, seven inches tall. That is almost half a foot taller than Grandpa Doug, or the size of Abraham Lincoln with his stove pipe hat on.   Peter’s feet and hands were small, he had narrow shoulders and a small head for his size.  He was considered handsome by the ladies.  He also suffered from severe headaches and seizures which greatly embarrassed him.

Peter the Great, like French King Louis the XIV, witnessed and escaped dying in a violent political revolt when he was a boy about your age.  Both rulers were greatly affected by those experiences and as a result were very unforgiving of those who led or participated in government revolts.   While they both executed their fair share of rebels, Peter the Great, was much more of a hands on killer and swung the sword that cut off the heads of his enemies himself.  In fact, his oldest son, as ordered by his father, was convicted, tortured and only escaped execution by dying in prison first.  Your dad doesn’t look so bad now, does he?

Peter executed quite a few people during his reign.  He once chopped the head off of his wife’s boyfriend, pickled it in a jar and made her keep it by her bed as a reminder that he did not like what she had done. Aren’t you glad your dad just cans vegetables and apples?

While it was not all right for his wife to have boyfriends, Peter enjoyed having plenty of girlfriends when he was married.  However, he expected this girlfriends to follow his rules and actually executed one of them.  Her name was Mary Hamilton and being a guy who really valued education, Peter took the opportunity to show the crowd attending the execution the vertebrae, windpipe and carotid arteries of his lover’s severed head.

His love of education and progress is what made him Peter…The…Great.  At the beginning of his reign Russia was a backwards, weak, uneducated country.  Peter worked his whole life to reform Russia’s borders, government, church, schools and society.  He replaced many old traditions with new ideas that were modern, scientific and that copied the progressive governments of Western Europe like France, Britain and the Netherlands.  Peter ended Russian’s system of education by the church and established the first public schools.

Peter made Russia a world power.  He went to battle to expand his country’s borders and gave his land locked country access to several seas expanding their ability to make war and extend trade. Peter loved anything to do with boats and sailing.  He studied shipbuilding in the Netherlands, hired some of Europe’s best craftsmen and built Russia’s first navy. On September 12, 1698, Peter officially founded the first Russian Navy base, Taganrog, on the Black Sea.

In what was once a swamp, he built the city of St. Petersburg and made it Russia’s new capitol. The best builders and architects in the world were hired to ensure that St. Petersburg was a very modern city whose beauty, elegance and extravagance rivaled the famous palaces of the French.

During his travels in Europe, Peter admired French fashion and cleanly shaved faces.  He insisted that the Russian’s get rid of their old clothes and wear new more fashionable attire.  He also ordered Russian men, who all wore long beards at that time, to shave them off.  Those who chose not to, were charged a beard tax. To pay for all of his palace, navy and society building Peter raised a lot of taxes.  His royal highness’ high taxes led to more revolts among citizens, which were immediately stopped by brutal and violent armed force followed by more mass executions

Peter liked to collect things…palaces, jewels, art, ladies and dwarfs.  Yes, this very tall ruler collected really short people like kids collect Pokémon cards.  He loved having them around all the time and was even known to have naked ones jump out of giant pies for his amusement.  He bought them miniature ponies to ride and even hosted an all dwarf wedding.

In addition to collecting dwarfs, Peter the Great collected very expensive and beautiful artwork.  The paintings, statues and jewelry he purchased are still in Russia today and are kept one of the world’s largest museums called, “The Hermitage.”  That is also what President Andrew Jackson called his plantation, but that is another story.

In addition to its vast art collection The Hermitage, which used to be a royal palace, is home to an army of cats.  Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, became disgusted with the hundreds of rodents roaming the palace chewing on everything and spreading disease.  She issued an order for the best rat and mouse catching cats in all of Russia to be sent to her.  This cat army commanded by Furry Yury patrolled and kept Russia’s art treasures safe from gnawing mice and rats for over 200 years.

These art security cats survived many human generations, revolutions and wars, but died out during World War II when the Nazi’s surrounded and laid siege to the city of St. Petersburg, which had been renamed Leningrad during the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Over four million Russia defenders and civilians died during the siege and battles for the city.  Food ran out and many Russian’s died of starvation. Those that survived remember eating mice, rats and cats.  One girl recalled how her mother wanted to fix her grandmother’s cat for supper and the grandmother responded, “Do you want to kill my cat?”  The girl’s mother replied, “Do you want to kill your grandchildren?”  She said that cat meat was much more delicious than when they ate their father’s leather belts.

I hope and pray that neither or you or I will ever be that hungry.  It is important to remember to pray for those who are that hungry. Yes, children in many parts of the world still die every day from not having enough food to eat. That is why we shouldn’t waste food and should thank God with a table prayer before we eat for the blessing of having food.

Have a great week in school.  Be sure to practice your clarinet a lot and loud! I know your dad did.  I sent you a book of Christmas songs for clarinet players.  You should receive it next week.

Lots of Love and Hugs,

Grandma Pat

Letters To My Grandson: Cat Warfare…Sir Winsome Perchkill


Dear Grandson,

Wow, did we get rain last night.  Over five inches, there are puddles everywhere. The storms were fantastic last night, the lightning and thunder continued non-stop for hours.  Great show!  I love a good storm.

During constant roar of the booming thunder, I was reminded of a famous cat from World War II who was named Sir Winsome Perchkill. Sir Winsome Perchkill was a survivor of the “London Blitz” and was the pet and close adviser to the man who understood from the very beginning that Hitler was a nasty customer and not to be trusted.  The world, especially Europe, is free today and Hitler and his evil Nazi armies were defeated, because of a gruff old man who did not and would not ever surrender named Winston Churchill.

I bet you don’t know about the London Blitz.  “Blitz” is part of the German word “Blitzkrieg” which means “lightning war.”  It is a war strategy where you attack first, taking your enemy by surprise with overwhelming power and moving very quickly to conquer them.  Cats often use this strategy on birds and the Nazi’s used type of warfare on many of the countries in Europe.

So it was no surprise to the British, who live on a large island off the European coast, when German bombs started to fall on their county. At first the bombs were targeted at factories, but it wasn’t long before the bombs were killing men, women and children.  In one six-month period the Nazi’s dropped tons of high explosives for over 267 days in a row.  London, the capital of England, was targeted 71 times.  In September of 1940, London was bombed by the Germans for 57 nights in a row.  More than one million homes were destroyed and 40,000 civilians were killed. To save the children of their cities, the children were taken from their parents and sent to live with strangers in the country until the war was over…years.

During all of this World War II misery, both Sir Winsome Perchkill and his human, Sir Winston Churchill, encouraged their fellow citizens displayed courage, exampled unwavering resolve and led their people to victory over Hitler.

Sir Winsome Perchkill’s human was born with red hair in a palace on November 30, 1874.  That was two years before U.S General Armstrong Custer was killed, riding horses, at the battle of the Little Big Horn, but that is another story. The point is, it was a long time ago.

It is said that God, gives us the talents we need for our destiny in life. This was certainly true for Perchkill and Churchill.  Especially true for this cat’s human…Churchill. Even as a young child, Churchill was very patriotic, independent and a bit of an ornery brat by nature.

While Churchill did grow up to be a great war hero and leader, like many famous leaders he was not super human or even perfect…not as a boy, nor as a man.  Not in behavior or physically. Although Churchill was very smart, he was not a good student and did not get great grades.  He was, however, very good at math and history.  Then, too, as an adult he became one of the world’s greatest speech makers of all time; however, as a child he had trouble talking, because he had a “lisp”.  A lisp makes everything a person says sound like it has an “s” in it. I bet he was bullied in school for that.

I also bet that his mom once wanted to teach him a lesson about not following other kid’s bad examples.  I am sure that she said to him, “Winston, if all your friends are going to jump off a bridge, are you going to, too?”  Being the non-listening type, he probably went right out to show his mom that following the wrong crowd and jumping off bridges weren’t such bad ideas.  Well, when he was 18 years old Churchill fell 29 feet from a bridge and almost died. He was unconscious for three days and in bed for several months. Sometimes, mom’s do know best.

It is amazing how people that save the world come so close to dying when they are young. Like when Abraham Lincoln was kicked in the head by a horse when he was a kid…right in mid-sentence. He was unconscious for quite a while. Just as his family gave him up as a lost cause, he woke up talking.  He actually finished the sentence he was saying before getting kicked by the horse.

Which reminds me.  After World War II was over,  Winston Churchill when staying in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House saw President Lincoln’s ghost.  Churchill had just gotten out of the bathtub and was totally naked.  He said to Lincoln’s ghost, “Mr. President you have me at a disadvantage.”  The ghost did sort of freak Churchill out and he never stayed at the White House again. That is just a good story, I don’t care who you are.

During World War II and when the Nazi’s bombed London, Churchill was older than your grandpa. It was almost like serving his people during that war made him feel younger. People thought that his energy and leadership skills were limitless.

Churchill is known for his great speeches of unwavering resolve. The little boy born with red hair, a bad attitude and lisp grew into the man who led his country through the darkest nights of war on to the brightest of victories. Many of his war speeches are famous.

Such as,

“… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”


“ Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say,  ‘This was their finest hour’.

Churchill believed in God and that his duty on this earth was to stand up to evil, do what is right regardless of the the personal cost and to save his nation. So, that is what he did. That does not mean that he never felt fear, I am sure he did. But, he knew that fear is just a emotional reaction…courage is a choice. People are not born brave, they chose to be brave.

Interesting his most famous war speech was also his shortest….just five words.  He walked onto a school stage and said to the students, “Never, never, never give up. “  Then he left the stage.  I always wear those words on a necklace…they helped me be brave during my cancer battle. When I was discouraged, I would read those words, remember Winston Churchill and the brave people of Britain. Giving up was just not an option for them or me.  Sometimes, in life you go forward just because you have no other choice. Sometimes, you just have to be too ornery to quit.

Hope your new chickens are getting along with your old chicken.  There is nothing worse than a bunch of old hens pecking at each other.  Good luck, with that.

Sending lots of love and hugs,

Grandma Pat


Letters to My Grandson: Cat Warfare…A Very, Very Bad Cat!


Dear Grandson,

Hope you are having a great week.  I bet it is fun to see all of your friends again now that you are back in school.

This week’s edition of “Cat Warfare” is the mustached “Herr Hitler Cat.”  Not only did this unfortunate cat look like Adolf Hitler, but he was a bad decision maker and actually hung out with guy.  Always, remember you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you cannot pick your friend’s nose or your relatives. It is important to pick good friends, you don’t want any like this guy, because Adolf Hitler was a very, very bad cat!

Hitler started World War II in Europe.  Later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but that is another story. However, Hitler started the war in Europe in 1939 when he invaded the country of Poland.   He lied about Poland attacking Germany, then invaded them.  Some people’s kids!

World War II lasted from 1939 until Germany surrendered in 1945. Over 100 million people from 30 countries fought in this war. Over 61 million soldiers and civilians died, including over 6 million Jewish people who Hitler ordered killed in death camps.  Some of these camps killed tens of thousands of people each day.

Hitler was a believer in an idea called eugenics. This is probably the worst idea ever thought up.  This idea said that if you killed off the weak, sick, different and especially the Jewish…you could create a master race.  Whether it was through abortion, mercy killing or outright murder people who did not fit into Hitler’s plan were killed.

I will tell you right now grandson, that God alone is the giver and taker of life.  He created all humans equal and he intends that they should all be treated the same with kindness. Hurting anyone because they are different than you or because you want their stuff is always wrong. A civilized society can be measured by how it takes care of its weakest members. Being civilized is the only thing that separates humans from animals. Politeness and kindness count.

Hitler ruled Germany with an iron fist with a government style called a dictatorship. During Hitler’s reign of terror there were no elections and disagreeing politely with him was not tolerated either.  There is an old saying that nothing corrupts as absolutely as absolute power and dictatorships prove that point.  This principle never applies to mothers and grandmothers though.

His secret police, called the Gestapo, kept the entire population living in total fear.  No one knew when there would be a knock on the door at night and a person would disappear never to be seen again.  Spies were everywhere.  Children spied on parents, parents spied on children.  Everywhere spies were watching their neighbors.  Any cat could be ratted out at any time.

However, as supreme ruler Hitler was popular with the ladies. They cheered for him like he was a movie star.  Even his silly little mustache became high fashion.  I will tell you how he got that mustache, it wasn’t his genius for looking goofy, but an act of war.

Hitler was a soldier during World War I and was a victim of a poisonous bomb gas attack.  Poisonous gas attacks were used in battle for the first time during the First World War. They were so very deadly to soldiers fighting in trench warfare, but that is another story.  The gas attack on Hitler did cause him to go blind for a bit.  After he regained only his sight, not his right mind, he shaved off the edges of his big mustache until his mustache was so small that his gas mask could fit over it.  That is why he only had whiskers under his nose.

Enemy poisonous gas attacks were not the only gas attacks Hitler feared.  The man was constantly farting!  Not a joke, just fact. He was a strict vegetarian, which he thought would help control his flatulence, but it only made it worse. He took all kinds of medicine to stop his farting, including pills filled with poop.

Hitler was also a great animal lover and that was another reason he did not eat meat or hunt.  What a guy, save the animals…kill the people.

In the end, especially his, he really was just a rotten old stinker.

Hope you have a great week.  Say hi to your mom and dad.

Lots of love and hugs,

Grandma Pat




A Great Man, Leader and Veteran: Robert E. Hansen

book cover

One of the finest leaders and human beings I have ever known was Robert E. Hansen (Bob). Bob was a World War II veteran who passed away just about a year ago.

Recently, I received a call from his widow Sue asking me to assist her in drafting some appropriate remarks for her to use at next month’s national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention where Bob will be honored. The convention is honoring him for his life-long dedication to serving his country, veterans and the VFW. Throughout the years, Bob held many leadership positions in the VFW organization including serving as VFW National Commander during the Kennedy administration.

Yes, Bob personally knew and worked with President John F. Kennedy–even used to ride alone in the limo with him.  In fact, he once showed me a cassette that contained a personalized message from President Kennedy thanking the VFW for their support and expressing his gratitude to Bob for his counsel and advice. The tape now resides at the Kennedy Presidential Library.

In addition to the historically significant Kennedy tape, there was Bob’s wall. Hung on a wall in his home were signed photographs of every major world leader, president and governor that he had worked with throughout his life. Everyone who was anyone in military or political world history during Bob’s lifetime was on that wall.  It was impressive to say the least!

At that time, I worked for the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. After seeing Bob’s wall, I returned to work and enthusiastically described the display to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.  I told him all about the signed pictures of the famous important world and national leaders, both military and civilian, from World War II to the present that were on that wall including Admiral John S. McCain, General Douglas MacArthur, French President Charles de Gaulle and Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy just to name a very few.  It was a big wall!

Secretary Ritchie, who I had introduced to Bob, really wanted to see that wall.  So, I arranged a meeting. About the time the meeting was to take place, Bob and his wife Sue heard a knock at their door. They opened it to find Secretary of State Ritchie standing there with a signed picture of himself.  He then asked, “Can I be on your wall?”   I am pleased to say both Bob and Sue got a real good laugh out of it and the Secretary got to join the famous on Bob’s wall. It is important to note that since his death all of the photographs and artifacts from his “wall room” have be donated to an appropriate historical society.

Bob did not just casually meet these world leaders and get a signed photo.  He considered them friends and corresponded with many of them throughout the years. His stories of the events of his life were always entertaining and often historically significant. Stories such as when he had an audience with French President Charles de Gaulle that included a reception in Bob’s honor at the Palace of Versailles. Then, there was the time he visited and had lunch with President and Madam Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei, Taiwan.

Bob’s long and eventful life was never an easy road.   As a very young boy he and his only brother lost their mother to cancer. This tragedy only served to strengthen the two boys’ bond. Both brothers answered their country’s call and served in the military during World War II.   Bob alone returned home. Harry was killed on the island of Okinawa during the last few weeks of the war. To his dying day Bob grieved for his lost brother.  His local VFW post was renamed to honor his dead brother and is now called the Gallager-Hansen Post.

I think surviving so many devastating personal hardships is what made him into the man I so greatly admired.  Bob was a forceful combination of strong personal ethics, very high intelligence and amazing people skills. He could read people instantly and accurately. This talent, more than any other, is what I believe made him so successful as a public servant.

For all of his success he remained a humble Christian Minnesota lad.  In his dealings with people he would always try to error on the side of kindness and mercy, but he didn’t mince words or avoid making hard decisions when the situation called for it.  I have known many people who thought they were great political strategists, none could compare to Robert E. Hansen.

Bob was walking talking history and his home a museum.  He had kept records of everything and had letters, documents, mementos and pictures from the famous and powerful people that he known.  During one visit I told him that he should really get all of his papers organized so that their history would not be lost. He handed me a big thick file and told me to do it.  So I did.

There was no way to make any organized sense out of the mish-mash of notes and documents in that file. I chose to take a different approach and drafted all of those facts, figures and quotes into a comprehensive biography draft. Once I completed the draft of his military, professional and volunteer careers, his wife Sue added the personal family information. Bob reviewed our transcript many times, to make sure that everything was absolutely accurate.

“More Than I Ever Dreamed” a biography of Robert E. Hansen VFW Past Commander-in-Chief was self-published by the Hansen’s.  It was a small publishing run of several hundred copies and by the time we finished editing the book most of the copies were pre-sold.  It was fun to see the books for sale in places like the Minnesota History Center and Science Museum.  Currently, there are 4 or 5 copies still available on Amazon.com.

Sue and I have received many compliments about our biography of Bob.The greatest compliment I will ever receive was the most recent–from Sue.  On a day when her grief for her lost husband was a bit overshadowing, Sue got out the book and read the whole thing, “It felt like he was sitting there with me, telling me his stories again. It brought me much comfort.”   That alone is worth all of the volunteer hours that I spent working on keeping the stories of Robert E. Hansen alive.

I miss Bob and cannot help but think how different politics would be today if there were more people with the moral strength of character of a Robert E. Hansen.  Candidates who show respect to both adversary and supporter and put country before self …just saying.