Saturday, 24 October 2015


This episode took 13 key players.  It started as I was nearing the end of my 96th tour around the Sun on Spaceship Earth.  I was believing my failing stamina was insufficient for further travel on this planet when my nephew, David in Ottawa, knowing I had not seen my brother, Trevor, and his wife, Enid, in Port Hope for 10 years started to correct all this.  Trevor, now at age 94, was a WWII pilot who started an electrical wiring business in 1946 that grew into a large appliance and furniture store in which he still works every day.  His family consists of Paul, David, and Lisa.  Paul now runs the store with expansive show rooms and a warehouse of 1,000 items from mattresses to sofas, TVs, and appliances, somewhat ambitious for a town of 16,500 yet quite successful as they service what they sell.  His wife, Linda, and children, Nick and Sarah, also graced our gathering.  Lisa is a world traveller having worked in the UK, European countries, Israel, and visited many in the east before living in Australia.  Now, she and her husband, Rich,  have built homes in Prince Rupert, BC, and a half dozen large cabins on the north shore of Haida Gwaii with the motto “All the Beach You Can Eat”.  Lawyer David is a 100,000 mile-a-year traveller on Air Canada working with governments around the world but especially Washington and London where he maintains a bicycle.  In Ottawa he has cycled some 10,000 miles this year, often 160 km a time along country roads just to get a cup of coffee at favourite stops.
David conspired with my daughters, Valerie and Patricia (Trish) who could get a week off work at the same time to be my escorts for an Air Canada flight from Denver to Toronto where Lisa, all the way from the west coast and Valerie’s son, Braden, who is a computer expert in Wisconsin, arrived just before us to rent a car.       Lisa drove us to the Toronto home of daughter Diane, a retired registered nurse who ran an addiction ward and Mark, a lawyer and hockey coach, for dinner and a few hours with them and their grown family of Bryce, Jessica, and Derek.  It was then 120 km to Port Hope where Lisa and I stayed with Trevor and Enid while Valerie, Trish, and Braden had rooms in a nice hotel downtown on the banks of the Ganaraska River. 
  Saturday saw a reunion of 16 family members including David’s son, Adam, and girl friend, Katie, plus 3 from Oshawa & Scarborough.  Joan brought her mother, Ruth Garnett, now a widow.  We had not seen each other since  schoolmates in 1938, both remembering the time when one of the boys used his family car to pack in students to drive the 70 miles to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair.  Heaters did not exist in cars then so four of us were packed in the back seat under blankets.  I sat next to Ruth. 
     Unfortunately we boys were very shy of girls so failed to take advantage of the situation.  Fortunately we have all outgrown that handicap.
BOMBER COMMAND:  Sunday several carloads of us drove to the RCAF museum in Trenton that features the only Halifax in Canada, the aircraft most flown by Canadians in Bomber Command.  It had been retrieved in 1994 from 225 metres down in Lake Mjosa, Norway, where it had been shot down 23 April 1945. Karl Kjarsgaard, a Canadian Airlines pilot, found the location and sparked the flight of the wreckage to Trenton where 120 volunteers worked 16 years to rebuild it.  David made a substantial financial contribution.
I had visited it several times during this phase and knew many of the volunteers including Jeff Jefferies, head of the rebuilding team, now deceased, and Bill Tytula who, in a powered wheel chair, was on duty to escort my group around the displays.  
Being so precious and so cramped, visitors are not allowed inside the Halifax but installed cameras bring  inside images to screens on the balcony.  As I am one of the very few living survivors of those shot down in a Halifax, two old retired RCAF friends, Morris Gates, author of several books including the new 606-page  book on the Rockcliffe years of 408 Squadron during which it mapped much of Arctic Canada, and Tom Kupecz, still working on such tasks as NATO operations and who is the author of my Blog #084, published 09 January 2013 entitled “Conspiracies”, asked the current curator, Kevin Windsor, to make an exception for Valerie, Trish, and me, allowing us to crawl in through the rear small hatch that my crew had to chop open with an axe as it had been fused by cannon fire and frozen solid in a plunging, burning aircraft. 
In the Halifax I now had difficulty clambering over cross members and easing myself into narrow compartments wondering how I ever accomplished what I did back in 1942 and 43.  My eyes were moist as I recalled the 125 good young friends that WWII took from me, especially Pat Porter, after whom Trish (Patricia) is named.  He was the only one who had a chance to get out but sacrificed his young life to stay at the controls to fight the plunge and give the 6 of us the seconds required to cut our way out.
     After the inside tour we had a most interesting talk with the educational coordinator, Gina Heinbockel-Bolik, leaving a hard cover copy of my book with her for the museum library.
EMOTIONS:  Deep and mixed emotions drag me to this symbol of the best and worst of human activities.  It was part of Bomber Command that fought the longest, continuous battle of WWII, 2,074 days and nights.  After the Kriegsmarine U-boat rate of 75%, it suffered the highest casualties at 59%.  For almost 5 years it was the only weapon we had that could strike at Germany until joined by the USAAF 8th Air Force in 1943.
Effective navigational aids were too often jammed by Luftwaffe countermeasures so our inaccurate bombing, usually at night or over solid cloud, killed 600,000 German civilians and devastated vast areas.  It is a guilt I can never escape.   Hitler and his SS and Gestapo were also a curse on the German people and we must accept our blame for their rise, a story too long for this blog.
Of the 125,000 aircrew who flew in Bomber Command, 73,741 became casualties including 9,838 POWs.  Of the 6,176 Halifaxes built, 2,627 were shot down.  Aircraft flown by the 135 Bomber Command squadrons were: Blenheim, Whitley, Wellington, Hampden, Manchester, Halifax, Stirling, Lancaster, and Mosquito.  Survivors, after the war, were converted to needed pots and pans.
Squadrons were: UK 100, Canada15, Australia 8, Poland 4, Free French 3, New Zealand 2, Rhodesia 1, Czechoslovakia 1, Netherlands 1.  More Canadians flew with RAF and RAAF  than RCAF squadrons.  Life expectancy was five operations.  Survival rate of those shot down was 17%.  Mark's dad survived two tours on a Polish squadron flying Wellingtons.
OTHER IMPRESSIONS:   Both Denver and Toronto terminals are massive and confusing revealing the world’s over population. Greater Denver has 2.9 while Toronto 5.5 million humans.  Both offer wheel chairs to those of my age.  Arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto, cultural diversity is immediately apparent.  Welcoming signs  are painted in a score of languages and costumes.  The women pushing my wheel chairs were mainly of Asian (India) origin.  Over 140 languages and dialects are spoken among 200 ethnic groupings.  Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada. 
In spite of Ontario losing 300,000 manufacturing jobs to lower wage countries and the percentage of GDP for manufacturing dropping from 22 to12%, the hundreds of miles we drove looked clean, prosperous, and safe.  Highway 401 that extends from Windsor to Quebec City (Autoroute 20 in Quebec) has up to 18 lanes in the Toronto area packed with trucks and cars that can number 500,000 a day, the world’s busiest.
Canadians who put up with a record 78 days of political campaigning for the 19 October election would never endure the four years the unfortunate in the USA suffer.
What a pleasant surprise back at Pearson airport for the return flight!  After enjoying the free magazines and varied food in the Air Canada lounge we joined the throngs at the departure counters and there, in the adjacent counter, was good friend Donna Desroches from St, John’s, Newfoundland, en route to visit her sister, Betty Davis, and us in Colorado Springs.
Arriving back in Denver, Valerie’s husband, George, who had driven us to the Toronto-bound Air Canada flight, was waiting to drive us to Colorado Springs where Daughter, Barbara who, along with 3 horses, lives alone on a 44-acre ranch 27 miles away, was waiting in my house that she had cleaned and put in immaculate shape.
The family all got home safely and is once again widely dispersed, all thankful for these modern, and confusing to me, phones that provide instant e-mails, pictures, and even conversations.  
All in all I am being spoiled so much that I fear I will grow up to be a spoiled brat.               


Sunday, 11 October 2015


   Some  32,000 years ago, small Neanderthal families were enjoying life here when uppity Cro-Magnons moved in and, with sex playing a role, made the Neanderthals extinct.  Both had female gods.
    Jumping to 10,300 years ago, a group of mesolithic Caucasians came to settle, cultivate Emer wheat near Jericho, make beer, and multiply.  They prospered until, around 3000 BC,  Egyptians filtered in.  By 1850 BC Sesostris III could argue the land should be Egyptian so moved in his army to make it so.  Few human arrangement are permanent.  1750 BC saw a horde of Asiatic Hyksos  sweep  in.  Then came the Caucasian Hurrians.  By 1500 BC the Egyptians were back, bumping into the Hittites, fleeing from Asia Minor.
So the Canaanites, still with female gods, suffered more see-saw battles on their soil for generations with no one learning that population increases lead to wars which lead to more wars and misery ad infinitum.
About 1,500BC Abraham and his Luddites arrived, bringing the male god of vengeance, Yahweh, to the local goddess societies. Slowly they were to become the ruling class among the Hapiru, the original Hebrews who, some 250 years later, were led out of Egyptian captivity by Moses who died en route in Jordan.  The later Israelis are one branch of this Hebrew group.  The Hebrew invaders were opposed by the Canaanites, including Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites.  The Yahweh priesthood told the Jews this was their promised land but only if they first cleansed every living thing from it which they did and continue this approach today.
The original cleansing was not easy.  “Sea People”, fleeing Mediterranean climate change, came to form 5 city states.  These Philistines clashed with the Jews who considered them inferior as they were not circumcised.  David and Goliath were participants of this clash.  The Philistines had the closely-guarded secret of smelting iron.  The Jews did not, but used their wiles to steal the knowledge, forcing many of the Philistines (Phoenicians) to flee and set up colonies from Cyprus to Carthage to Spain. Many stayed, giving their name (Palestine) to the area. Then the oppressed-by-all Assyrians arose to conquer and become new oppressors in 722 BC, followed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Jews integrated and prospered in 50 years of Babylonian captivity, altering many stories, like the Flood, as their own.  Persians took over in 536, and Alexander the Great in 331 BC.  In 167 BC, the Jews  drove out the Seleucids (Alexander’s heirs), forming  a kingdom with Jerusalem as capital.  Rome protected this Maccabean kingdom until 61 BC when, to support King Herod, it sacked Jerusalem.  After 2 Jewish revolts, the Romans evicted all those they could catch in 135 AD.
Jews dispersed to all corners of the known world.  Some were welcomed, some tolerated, some persecuted.  Then, in 632, the new religion of Islam prompted new aggression and Palestinians suffered more bloody battles until all were conquered and persuaded to convert to Islam by 720.  In 1100, Crusaders restored Christianity until ousted in 1187.  Frederick II restored Christianity in 1229 but, in 1244, Seljuk Turks, driven out of Asia by Genghis Khan and his Mongol horsemen, swept in to take Jerusalem and restore Islam.  In the 14th and 15th centuries, Palestinian suffering continued including the Black Death.  In 1516, Selim I began 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule which fluctuated from good to bad and all points in between.  The Palestinian capital alternated among Damascus, Sidon, and Acre.  In 1831, the Egyptian, Mohammed Ali, an Ottoman provincial ruler, occupied Palestine.  He opened the area to  Western influences.
In Europe, Jews lived a mixed bag.  Disraeli got to the top of the greasy pole becoming the UK prime minister.  Christendom outlawed usury, leaving it to the Jews who then made fortunes in the banking business, so much so that they could finance the British 1815 victory over Napoleon.  This made Baron Edmond de Rothschild very rich, so he financed the return of Jews to Palestine. He bought  housing complexes, evicted the Palestine tenants, and brought in Jews.  By 1917 the Palestine population consisted of 8,500 Jews and 1 million “Arabs”.  These Jews, along with much larger contingents of Palestinians, helped the British and Australians free Palestine from Turkish Ottoman rule.   In short-sighted gratitude, the British promised both an independent homeland in tiny Palestine.  The Jews had a big advantage, many coming from Europe and North America with financial backing and with experience in democratic governing.  The Palestinians, under Turkish rule for 400 years, had none of this.  To mounting Palestine fears, Jews continued to arrive.  By 1930 the British declared there was no more land left but, with the rise of Hitler, 133,000 more Jews came, causing the 1937 Arab revolt that resulted in 5,000 Arab, 1,200 Jewish, and 500 British casualties.  When WWII erupted in 1939, Jews were 30% of the population and frictions were increasing.  While 1,200 Arabs enlisted in British forces, 27,000 Jews did and they were allowed to build a munitions industry to aid the British who by 1942 uncovered a vast Jewish network stealing British arms.  Meanwhile, in 21 extermination camps, the Nazis murdered 14 million people, 6 million of them Jews.  Surviving Jews flocked to Palestine, swelling their population to 600,000 among 1.5 million Palestines.  In 1948 the UK gave its responsibilities to the UN which was manipulated by Harry Truman to impose a Jewish state on Palestine with no similar Palestine state.  The US now had two footholds in the Middle East.     But the Israelis went on a rampage killing and forcing Palestines into exile to take control of 77% rather than the 44% that was UN approved.  So they were attacked by Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.  Innocent Jews were also attacked in various Arab countries.  All sides lacked unity, but the Israelis emerged victorious, gaining much land.  In 1956 a UK-US-Israel force seized the Suez Canal after Egypt nationalized it.  World pressure, with the Commonwealth leading, caused a withdrawal.  In 1967 sabre rattling increased.  Israel, knowing it could not maintain mobilization, launched pre-emptive strikes, during which  Israeli aircraft and  torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty which was monitoring broadcasts.  Out of a US crew of 275, 34 were killed and 75 wounded.
Again the Israelis won and this time occupied Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, Northern Palestine, and the Sinai.  They annexed 2/3 of Gaza, Northern Palestine and about half the West Bank.  They moved 400,000 settlers into the remaining Palestinian West Bank and 8,000 into the smaller Gaza, forming over 100 settlements on Palestinian land, effectively denying them the wherewithal to form a state. 
In 1979 Israel, for peace with Egypt, returned the Sinai desert. Palestinian activists fled first to Jordan, their numbers causing Jordanian expulsion to Lebanon.  Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to destroy them, but suffered its first defeat, withdrawing in 1985 except for a buffer zone which it held until 2000.  In 2006 they evacuated all settlements in small Gaza that had been left to Palestine. but retained control of its borders and trade   They also evacuated 4 isolated West Bank settlements.
  Palestine are a mix of Canaanite, Philistine, Hebrew, Egyptian, Hyksos, Hittite, Persian, Greek, British, Australian, French, German, Turkish, and other genes.  To call them “Arabs” is  a misnomer. The Jews are also a very complex and quarrelsome genetic mix.  Differences are cultural with Judaism taking the longevity crown.  As Israel has taken most of the land, the Palestinians have been left stateless, disorganized, over-crowded, mostly homeless, and poor (44% earn under $2.30 per day) in a land only 17% arable - the best of recipes for resentment and violence.  The Arab world has left them festering in refugee camps in order to pressure the West to reduce the extent and power of Israel.  With Western criticism, but no action, the Israelis continue to treat the Palestinians as we did the native Americans from Ellesmere Island to Terra del Fuego. 
The Israelis deserve credit for surviving, and building a viable and thriving state but have enjoyed considerable Western help and armaments, including German reparations.  Obsessed with survival in a hostile environment, they  accept billions of dollars in annual US aid, but decline US advice.  They ignore scores of UN resolutions.  They react to Palestinian insurrections with excessive force causing from three to a thousand times the Palestinian casualties as Israeli.  Hamas was formed in 1987 in reaction to a corrupt and ineffective PLO that was unable to halt the increase in Jewish settlements.  Palestinians, by destroying international aircraft on the ground, murdering Israeli athletes, and using suicide bombers, have not exactly endeared us to their cause, so we forget how desperate their plight is.  They have a tiny degree of freedom, but Israel continues to control their travel, exports, imports, and even jails.  Israel used tanks to break into a Jericho jail in 2006 to seize 6 Palestinians accused of doing to an Israeli leader what the Israelis had done to 7 Hamas leaders.  This was extreme humiliation to Palestinian moderates.  This, of course, does not excuse Hamas from using its hard line for other than a starting bargaining position, but it appears they have no one to bargain with, even though the Israelis make the same claim to excuse their actions and delays. 
Yet sane and moderate heads are numerous, and while thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have worked together as equals, there remain far too many real terrorists everywhere, clinging to religion, ignorance,  prejudices, hate, and greed.  They hinder progress in human rights.  Several US presidents , like Eisenhower, Carter, and Obama, sailed out to create a more peaceful world only to have their sails removed by special interests especially those who benefit from conflict and who manipulate news items to imply it is not they but the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah who are the terrorists.  Money does work as an invisibility cloak to the eyes of too many voters.
We are all one species.  What we do to others we do to ourselves, and our progeny suffer.