Saturday, June 25, 2016
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
and the 50-year journey of
Winston Churchill’s cigar
|·The Winston Churchill cigar given to Paul Keane in 1961. |
PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KEANE
·By Paul Keane
Posted: 06/08/16, 8:09 PM EDT | Updated: 39 secs ago
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes it isn’t — especially if it belonged to Sir Winston Churchill, the British prime minister who, as President John F. Kennedy said, “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” to defeat Hitler and what Churchill himself labeled Hitler’s “gang of Nazi thugs.”
I know about that cigar because I had it in my dresser drawer for 52 years (in three states and six different homes) until four years ago, when I gave it away. No one in my family was a history buff or even interested in looking at it, let alone keeping it safe. I tried to give it to my alma mater,
where my own papers are located in their “Kent State Collection” (which I
helped found), but they didn’t want it, either. Yale University
What to do? Yale suggested the Churchill Archives Centre. I said, “Isn’t that like bringing oil to
Arabia? They probably have all the
Churchill stuff they need.”
On a lark, I emailed the Churchill Centre at
College in .
And guess what? The one thing they did not have was an actual Churchill cigar —
which by the way was about 9 inches long and made in Cuba — La Carona Habana. Cambridge, England
Even more gratifying is that they were enthusiastic about what they called my “back-story” — how I actually got the cigar.
How did I get it?
I was 16 years old, a junior at Hamden High School and I took an interest in Churchill from watching one of the first documentaries ever produced on TV in 1960, six consecutive Sunday nights from 10-11 p.m. (bonus: it was way past school-night bedtime!).
The series was called “The Valiant Years,” narrated by actor Richard Burton (one of Elizabeth Taylor’s six husbands) — who spoke all of the Churchill lines that helped save Western civilization: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” and “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,” and most famous of all, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
When I read in the paper that Churchill at 87 was on this side of the Atlantic vacationing on Aristotle Onassis’ yacht, the Christina — then the longest yacht in the world at 325 feet — which would dock in New York at the 79th Street Boat Basin in a week, I asked my parents if I could use the money I earned mowing lawns to take the train to New York from our home in Mount Carmel and try to get a glimpse of him.
They said, to my astonishment, Yes! (By the way, I’m not sure I would have allowed a 16-year-old to go to New York by himself in 1961, but they did.)
When I got there, it rained and stormed — “hurricane-force winds” the news called it — and the seas were too rough for the huge yacht to dock, even in the
So I had to spend two days and overnight on the boat basin dock. I had dressed in a suit and tie so I looked presentable, and since I was 6 feet, 2 inches tall, I looked older than my teen age.
I had a $2 fold-up raincoat to protect myself from the storm. At one point Churchill’s nurse, Muriel Thompson, came ashore on a small Chris Craft used by Onassis to ferry people back and forth to the huge yacht bobbing in the
I told her I had been hoping to catch a glimpse of Churchill and she said she would see what she could do. When she came ashore again later that evening she gave me one of Churchill’s cigars, a note from him on House of Commons stationery and his handkerchief with his laundry mark “10” on it (Number 10 Downing Street? He hadn’t lived there for years). She and I and her fellow Chris Craft traveler, J. Peter Grace, owner of W.R. Grace steamship lines, drove into
for coffee. Manhattan
Later that evening, when Muriel Thompson and I couldn’t find an available cab in the rainstorm, I asked a policeman in a squad car to give us a ride back to the
79th Street Boat
Basin, saying, “This is Churchill’s nurse and she has to get back as soon as
possible.” Everyone in New York who could read
a paper knew Churchill was in New York and
stuck in the Hudson River on Onassis’ yacht.
They drove us through the wet and windy streets of the city. When we got there, Onassis’ Chris Craft had left for the Christina.
I knocked on the window of a tugboat moored in the
Street Boat Basin filled with sleeping firemen and
said the same magic words, “This is Churchill’s nurse and she has to get out to
the Christina.” Grumpily, they fired up their tug and brought us out.
Ironically for a fireman’s tug, their mast, with its string of electric lights, hit the Christina’s horizontal flagpole, which protruded from the side of the yacht, and sparks flew everywhere. It looked for a minute like a fire might start on the firemen’s tug itself. The men were shouting about the sparks in chaos as Muriel Thompson leapt onto the stairs hanging down the side of the yacht.
The next day, when 87-year-old Sir Winston Churchill was helped off the yacht (which had managed to dock in the now-calm seas), and was eased into a limousine, I ran up to the car and flashed him his famous “V-for-Victory” sign — and he flashed it back to me.
Little did I know at that time that in
that sign is the equivalent of an upraised middle finger in . (So
that’s what Churchill had been flashing Hitler all through the war!) You never
ask for two loaves of bread in America
with a forefinger and middle finger V-sign. You use your thumb and your index
finger. If not, you’re at risk of receiving a fist sandwich instead of two
loaves of bread. Britain
Anyway, Churchill Centre would love to have the cigar, they said in 2013, but they couldn’t offer me anything for it; their budget was small. I said fine. But I had discovered the postage would cost $190: could they pay that?
No — not even that.
I wanted the thing to have a permanent home, so I agreed to pay. But there was one other problem. Tobacco products could not be sent out of the country for some reason. Our resourceful postmistress in White River Junction,
, researched the matter and
discovered that a “single cigar” could pass inspection if it was declared “antique.”
So off it went — along with my $190. Vermont
It had become a bit frayed over 50 years and the Churchill Centre archivist had to trim about half an inch off the end. Here is the director’s letter.
“Sarah and I met this morning and carefully unpacked the cigar. I am delighted to confirm that, apart from a couple of small pieces that had come away from the frayed end, it is intact and looking in good condition. Sarah is now going to think about a safe way of displaying it that will prevent further deterioration or damage during handling. We will send you a receipt shortly. In the meantime, thank you once again for this unique item, and for sharing its fantastic back story.
“All best wishes,
It was signed by Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Centre.
The director wrote me again in 2013, saying, “The cigar now goes down a storm with visiting school groups.”
Nothing could please me more.
As a retired
English teacher who taught thousands of teenagers over 25 years, I am delighted
to think my story as a 16-year-old might interest other kids near that age. Vermont
The moral of this 50-year journey of a cigar is simple: Value is in the eye of the beholder.
Paul Keane is a 1963 graduate of
. He lives in Hamden
High School , where he
retired after 25 years of teaching high school English. Vermont
Posted by Paul D. Keane, The Anti-Yale at 9:29 PM
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|United States Senator|
Ten months into his confinement (1965-1973) as one of the highest-ranking officers to be taken prisoner in Vietnam, Denton was forced by his captors to participate in a 1966 televised propaganda interview, broadcast in the United States. While answering questions and feigning trouble with the blinding television lights, Denton blinked his eyes in Morse code, spelling the word "TORTURE" — and confirming for the first time to U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence that American POWs were in fact being tortured.
In 1976, Denton wrote When Hell was in Session about his experience in captivity, which was made into the 1979 film with Hal Holbrook. Denton was also the subject of the 2015 documentary Jeremiah produced by Alabama Public Television.
Fort Huachuca bids farewell to Morse code trainingApril 27, 2015
By Tanja Linton
National Morse Code Day is celebrated on what would have been its founder's 224th birthday. Samuel F. B. Morse dispatched the first telegraph message in Morse code, May 24, 1844. The message, "What Hath God Wrought?" was dispatched from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to Alfred Vail at a railroad station in Baltimore.
The military first used Morse code during the Crimean War. Both the Union and Confederate armies heavily relied on Morse code during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln utilized it to receive military intelligence, as well as command and control his generals in the field.
Even in the increasingly high-tech world, there is still a need for this old-school mode of communication, said David Germain, chief of Morse code training and sole remaining civilian Morse code instructor at the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion.
"We train [for] Morse code because the adversary still uses Morse code," said Germain, who, along with another course instructor, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Henrichs, are training two airmen to serve as Morse code instructors in Texas.
Air Force Tech Sgt. Ryan Kilcrease agrees there is a continued need for Morse code training. "It remains the cheapest and most reliable means of communication."
Senior Airman James Gosnell, also training to become a new instructor, learned Morse code on Fort Huachuca and upon completion of his training was assigned to Osan Air Force Base, South Korea, for two years. He said the assignment was challenging. "It took me nearly two months to get up to speed learning to keep up with some of the fastest transmitters in the world," he said.
In a memo signed April 5, 1985, the Army became the executive agency for conducting the Morse code course on Fort Devens, Massachusetts. A few years later, Fort Devens consolidated Morse code training into a joint learning environment by providing training to Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
In 1993, the Morse code course moved to Fort Huachuca, where it continued to be trained in a joint environment. The Army celebrated 30 years of being the executive agency to conduct Morse code training, April 5.
Throughout the years, the Navy and Marines reversed the training pipeline and started to send their students to Pensacola, Florida, and then to Fort Huachuca to attend Morse code training. In 2006, the Air Force followed suit.
In late 2004, early 2005, the Department of Defense sent out a message stating there was no longer a need or requirement for operators trained in only Morse code. Based on that message, the Navy no longer sent their students to Fort Huachuca to be trained - deciding instead to conduct its training in Pensacola. By 2007, the Marines also stopped attending Morse code training on Fort Huachuca.
That same year, the training consolidated two separate courses - the basic Morse code training course and the advanced Morse code training course from 22 weeks to 16 weeks. The cut in training time for the Army was due to the course not being considered as a primary military occupation specialty, but as a secondary training for three Army specialties. In 1991, the course trained an average 1,600 students annually for all the military services.
The current Morse code course is self-paced and requires 81 days for completion. However, a student successfully completed it in a record 27 days.
Master Sgt. Adella Creque, superintendent, 316th Training Squadron, said the course is hard because a student has to master one segment before moving on to the next and may fail several times before advancing.
In 2012, the Army stopped enrolling students in the Morse code course since it no longer has a requirement to train Soldiers. A cooperative agreement between the Air Force and Army allowed the training to continue on Fort Huachuca until now.
"I think [Morse code] will always be out there," Germain said. "It's cheap, easy, effective and reliable to use. There will always be a need for it."
Posted by Paul D. Keane, The Anti-Yale at 9:30 AM
Monday, May 30, 2016
"The fundamental failure was the division in our94 year old Henry Kissinger
country, without that we could
have managed it. It's a historic
found itself America
country, without that we could
have managed it. It's a historic
The Viet Nam Summit
held at the LBJ Library,
April 26-28, 2016
Posted by Paul D. Keane, The Anti-Yale at 9:47 PM