Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CC (part 5) - Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy/
"Ah, Audie Murphy died!"

I clearly remember that day of the Memorial Day weekend in 1971. My mother looked at the morning newspaper and said that, mourning a loss of a great American hero, who perished in an airplane crash.

Frankly, a teenager at the time, I really didn't know anything about Audie Murphy. Yes, this dates me as a baby-boomer, whose parents were, as Tom Brakow coined the word: The Greatest Generation. My parents lived through the Great Depression, which ended with the onset of World War II.

I later learned one of the greatest heroes of that war was Audie Murphy.  In fact, he was the most decorated World War II combat soldier, perhaps in all American history. [reference: Audie Murphy Facts]

And this soldier is the subject of part 5 of the CC (The Commander and the Chief) thread.

The first book of The Commander and the Chief series, His Tribe of One, makes a reference to Audie Murphy.

In this scene, Lord Wise briefs Colonel Jack Sheffield about another American hero, Admiral Connor Quinn, at a London tavern. The Admiral had died mysteriously and his widow is assembling a team to get to the bottom of his accident.

“Back to Admiral Quinn,” Jack continued when they were alone, “word is, as a POW, he talked Yasser Nasser out of deploying his nukes, surrendering to the allies, and destroying all his weapons of mass destruction. That feat is legendary. Surely it’ll go down in the annals of military history.”
“Quite.” Wise put away his reading glasses. “And not long after the war, the Admiral and Yasser Nasser were awarded the Alfred Peace Prize.”

“With much pomp and ceremony.” Jack wiped the brew from his blond mustache. “But the Admiral’s death. Why would an admiral be flying alone? Into hostile air space? Especially where he’d previously been shot down? You send a drone, or one of your lackeys, someone more expendable. Not the Hero of the Dust Devil War.”

Wise glanced about, then lowered his voice. “Precisely. The press reported it as an unfortunate accident. They likened it to the death of Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War Two. Murphy, too, was tragically killed in a plane crash, years later after the war.”

“And that should be the end of the story.” Jack finished his brew.
“But it’s not.” Wise continued, “The US Navy SEALs were alleged to have retrieved the Admiral’s remains in the desert—in the Forbidden Area. The Admiral’s body was apparently badly mangled. That’s why he had a closed casket funeral. He ostensibly has been laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in a very public display on American television.”

Jack squinted at Wise. “Sounds like you have doubts.”

“My client…she has many unanswered questions.” Wise rubbed his chin. “Dr. Orlovic has exhausted her resources at home. All her inquiries have been met with stonewalling and threats as she digs for answers. She believes the Todd Administration is covering up something terrible.”

from His Tribe of One, Chapter 3, Soldier of Fortune

So who was Audie Murphy?

The clip below gives a summary of his heroics and his life after the war:

Back to the book:

Lord Wise seals the deal with Colonel Sheffield with a reference to one of Audie Murphy's movies, To Hell and Back.

“Dr. Orlovic is waiting at the Gladstone Hotel as we speak. Indeed. She has serious doubts. And she’s wholly committed to do all she can to find her husband. Or at least find out what really happened to him.” Wise finished his brew. “The logistics are in place. I’ve hired other agents. They know only what they need to know. But you’re a critical piece, Colonel. An experienced soldier I can trust to lead this mission to hell and back.
“Why should I meddle in this American affair? What’s in it for me?”

“First of all, we gambled that you’d take this job.” Then Wise showed a page on his mobile display. “But I’m counting on my client’s offer being one you cannot refuse.”
Jack’s blue eyes opened as wide as the Atlantic Ocean when he saw the seven-figure offer. “I’m in!” And they shook on it.

from His Tribe of One, Chapter 3, Soldier of Fortune

To Hell and Back:

And below is clip from the biographical movie, To Hell and Back (1955),  showing the heroism of Audie Murphy, starring Audie Murphy as himself:

(reference:  )

After the war, Audie Murphy went to Hollywood.  It took him a while to break into show business, but from 1948 to 1969 he made 44 films, a TV series, and other appearances.  [reference:  Audie Murphy - IMDb] He was also a successful songwriter (1962 - 1970). [reference: Songs by Audie]

This snippet from 1955 on What's My Line, before the movie To Hell and Back was released, tells what a big movie star he was in his day:  Audie Murphy What's My Line on 3 July, 1955  

But his life was not a bed of roses after the war ...

Audie Murphy and PTSD 

Audie Murphy suffered from what we call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms of insomnia, nightmares, depression.  He battled addictions and suffered a tumultuous first marriage, which ended in divorce. But later he championed the returning Vietnam veterans and lobbied the government to extend health care to treat their PSTD and mental health problems. [reference: Audie Murphy and PTSD]

No Fairy Tale Ending

Gambling, womanizing, bad investments, bad publicity took their toll on this hero. In the late 1960s, Audie Murphy was bankrupt and his reckless actions had tarnished his public image.  [reference: Audie Murphy Facts]
Audie Murphy grave/

Like General Patton who survived World War II, but died in a car accident, Lt. Murphy survived the war, yet died in a plane crash on a business trip.

So was it announced that day on May 28, 1971 on the various evening news programs:
Audie Murphy Announcement of Death (NBC, ABC, and CBS)   

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  And his grave is the most visited site, only second to President John F. Kennedy.  [reference: Audie Murphy Places]

70 years later ...

Shortly after this blog is posted, we will pass the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 1945.
[reference:  End of World War II]

And what better tribute than to soldiers like Audie Murphy would fought and suffered, even many years after the war.

Here are some pages:

* From the military:  Welcome to Audie Murphy Tribute Page

* His Memorial Page: Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website

My favorite site, The Audie Murphy Story:

One final thought of bravery:

"Loyalty to your comrades, when you come right down to it, has more to do with bravery in battle than even patriotism does.  You may want to be brave, but your spirit can desert you when things really get rough.  Only you find you can't let your comrades down and in the pinch they can't let you down either."

Audie Murphy

And in the spirit of honoring those in World War Two, we are grateful for all veterans who have served and for those who still serve to keep us safe, home and abroad.


For other posts in this series:

CC (part 1) - The Commander and the Chief: His Tribe of One (2014)

CC (part 2) - Universe in a Glass of Wine  (2014)

CC (part 3) - Happy Bill of Rights Day  (2014)

CC (part 4) - Stories and the Brain (2015)


photos from:  Audie Murphy/
                      Audie Murphy grave/

Monday, August 10, 2015

Nostalgia (part 4) - VJ Day Kiss - 70 years ago

Kissing the War Goodbye/

70 years ago ...

August 14, 1945 was the dawn, ending those dark days from 1939 - 1945 which were marked by a horrific world war.  World War II left no continent untouched and a devastating body count.  With causalities approaching 70 million, it may have been the worst war in recorded human history, such seen in this interactive video:  The Fallen of World War II on Vimeo

But as the Psalmist wrote:

"... weeping may endure for a night, 
but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalm 30:5 (KJV)

Finally the night of weeping ended and joy came with the unconditional surrender of Japan bringing with it a promise of peace.

This iconic kiss was a snapshot of that day - capturing the spirit of VJ Day - Victory over Japan.  And I wrote about it five years ago in this blog: A kiss immortalized in August 14, 1945

Since then, the identity of the nurse has been challenged. Some have come forward claiming to be the sailor and the nurse in the photo. Even science has weighed in: Solving The 'VJ Day Kiss' Photograph Mystery Using Astronomy And Science

Who were they really?

Perhaps it's best to let it be. It was what it was ... a magical moment ... the hand of fate.

And 70 years ago was a different time. During World War Two, America was united. We were bold and committed to what FDR said in his Pearl Harbor speech -

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion,
the American people in their righteous might
will win through to absolute victory. ...

With confidence in our armed forces,
with the unbounding determination of our people,
we will gain the inevitable triumph --
so help us God."
from:  FDR: Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Yet, FDR would not live to see the end of the war, but died in office on April 12, 1945. [reference: FDR Dies]  

But he inspired us to never give up and overcome in the face of overwhelming odds, like he never gave up when faced with a crippling handicap, as dramatized in this scene:  The best part of the movie "Pearl Harbor"

And though I wasn't born yet, my parents had not met yet, it does make me feel nostalgic for a time when all Americans are united, again, and determined to fight for the right. And in the end experience ...

* The sweet kiss of victory! *


Previous posts in this series:

Nostalgia (part 1) - A Father's Thanksgiving Prayer  (2014)

Nostalgia (part 2) - Christmas Past in War and Peace (2014)

Nostalgia (part 3) - Something Old, Something New  (2014)


Photo from: Kissing the War Goodbye/

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Physics (part 2) - Flat Earth? It depends ...

Flat Earth/Wikidpedia

Flat Earth?

That's a throwback to medieval science, isn't it?  And didn't Columbus debunk the "flat Earth" when he "discovered" America? Or so says the myth.

But actually, the ancient philosophers and learned understood that the Earth was round, at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. [reference: Who Discovered The Earth is Round?]

Today, the term Flat Earther has become an epithet for someone who adheres to outmoded beliefs and ideas. And there really exists such a groups  as The Flat Earth Society.  And they still make the case ... you guessed it ... for a flat Earth.

Some may laugh. Flat Earth? That can't possibly be.  Well, ...

It depends ....

According to Einstein and the great scientists before him, such as Lorentz and Maxwell, the length - including the "flatness" of the Earth, for example - is not absolute, but depends on your reference frame.

The video below take a serious scientific look at the flat Earth:

Indeed, our latest knowledge of physics indicate, if you are going near the speed of light, the Earth is flat as a pancake.  And that point was made about 7 minutes into the video.

Again, here are the numbers, which could be the answers to homework problems given in any college modern physics course:

* For cosmic ray protons, for example, moving at 99.9999999999991% of speed of light, the Earth only appears 17 meters thick, essentially flat

But to us Earthlings, our reference frame, the Earth is ball shaped.  Yet, to cosmic travelers zipping along near light speed, it's a flat Earth. At least in their direction of motion.

Why does length contract?

I had a physic professor who said - and rightly so - there is no answer to why nature behaves as it does. All we have are descriptions.  And that's what all those equations are about. They describe phenomenon, make predictions of their behavior, and can be reproduced with the same results.  If they fail to do so, it's back to the drawing board. (And that can be a subject of another post.)

As for length contraction, here is a mini-lecture from a modern physics class describing its observed behavior: Physics: Length Contraction

Ball or Sphere?

But what of the claims of a Flat Earth, regardless of our reference frame?  Consider the philosophy of Ockham's Razor:

The salient point is this:

"when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better."
  [reference: What is Occam's Razor? ]

Simply put. Keep It Simple. And a spherical Earth does just that.


Previous post in the series:

Physics (part 1) - Picking Feynman's Brain (2013)


Photo from: Flat Earth/Wikidpedia

Sunday, July 26, 2015

CC (part 4) - Stories and the Brain

Welcome to Part 4 of my The Commander and the Chief thread, known more succinctly as CC. It follows anything related to ... you guessed it ... The Commander and the Chief series.

Today's topic is books, any books, and what's inside ... the story.  When engaged with a reader, ...

Stories are good for the brain.

Stories are nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. And scientific research backs up that claim. Evidence of positive effects on the brain includes heightened connectivity and neurological changes which are likened to the exercise of  "muscle memory"Brain function 'boosted for days after reading a novel' - Science - News - The Independent 

Throughout history, we've discovered ...

The Power of Story 

 ... as a way to remember who we are and explore what we can be. And such power is extolled in this clip below:

Also, some research suggest that for a book in print, we gain all these benefits:

1.  Increased intelligence
2.  Brain power boost
3.  Increased empathy
4.  Increased understanding of what is read
5.  Possible way to fight Alzheimer's disease
6.  Help in relaxation
7.  Help in getting to sleep
8.  Reading habit that is contagious to our neighbors

[reference:  8 Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real) Book | Real Simple ]

On the topic of the Power of the Story, I've crafted a novel in my latest eBook, His Tribe of One, the first in The Commander and the Chief series.  And now that story is available in paperback.

It can be purchased directly as a paperback on

* His Tribe of One
 ( )

Or found in these links :

* His Tribe of One
(paperback and Kindle)

* Barnes and Noble: His Tribe of One
(paperback and Nook)

Also for more information, please feel free to check up on the website for the latest updates in the series:  S. K. Smith - The Commander and the Chief  at

Remember, reading is good for the brain - especially on paper, and I hope I have spun a good yarn that you would enjoy.

Your readership is appreciated!

Blessings .... S. K. Smith


Photo from:  Story/

Friday, July 10, 2015

America's Story (part 19) - Trinity and "The Long Peace"

70 years ago .... July 16, 1945

It was a lifetime ago, 70 years. It was then the world's first atom bomb exploded. It was a test in the desert of New Mexico, near the end of World War II. And the silent film below shows what happened :

Ground Zero ... Trinity

A few years ago, I visited the Trinity site and stood at Ground Zero. I wrote about it here: The Trinity Site: Where the first atomic bomb was exploded

Less than a month after this atomic test, Japan was bombed with this new weapon: Hiroshima on August 6th, and Nagasaki on August 9th. And Japan's Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered on August 14/15, citing this "new and most cruel bomb." This date became known as V-J Day (Victory over Japan) and was followed by the formal surrender was on the US battleship Missouri off the coast of Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, officially ending World War II.  [reference: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - World War II - ]

The Casualties:

Some calculate the causalities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as much as 200,000. And of course, there was more after the literal fallout.  [reference: Total Casualties | The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki | Historical Documents | ]

What history overlooks is the B-29 firebombings of Japan the previous months of March - August 1945) under command of General Curtis LeMay. Those bombing killed far more combatants and civilians than the two atomic bombs.  [reference: Curtis LeMay | World War II Database ] Yet, because of the shock of this "new and most cruel bomb" those deaths seemed eclipsed.

Yet, the bombing ended the war, most likely the most terrible war in recorded human history. Some put the total deaths of World War II over 70 million, with virtually no part of the planet untouched by this global conflict. [reference: World War 2 statistics ]

The Enormity of that War:

The one nation that really took a hit was the former Soviet Union at 25 million deaths, followed by China at 15 million, and Germany at 8 million.

The video shows the perspective of World War II death counts. It compares to other wars and ongoing conflicts since World War II:

Also, here is a reference the interactive of this presentation:

The Long Peace?

Since then, in the United States we had conflicts and wars:  Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II, as well as the Cold War and other conflicts throughout the world.  All these are tragic, especially to those who lost loved ones. But the video shows these were minor in comparison to World War Two.  Same case can be made for the other countries of the world.

Professor John Gaddis referred to this period of lack of major conflict among the world's great powers as "The Long Peace." [reference: An assessment of Gaddis’ suggestion that MAD secured a ‘long peace’ ]

The Long Peace is debated, but it asks the question: Are we living in a modern Pax Romana?


Giving Peace a Chance

Peace is hard to quantify as it has a qualitative meaning as well as lack of immense global conflict. But during the 1960s and 1970s this theme of peace was echoed in the Baby Boomer generation. There was no World War III, at least on the scale of World War II, but it seemed we all seemed to live under a specter of an imminent nuclear holocaust during the Cold War.

John Lennon's music, Give Peace a Chance (1969), reflects some of this angst:

Anyone who watches the news - if it bleeds, it leads - sees we still are fighting each other. But the scale is nothing like it was over 70 years ago.

May the Long Peace continue as we Give Peace a Chance ...


Other posts in this series:


Photo from: Wikipedia/Trinity

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Signs of the Times (Part 7) - Leap Second - the new Y2K?

Wikipedia/Leap Second - June 30, 2012

Remember 1999?  

You must be an old timer then.  :)  It was last century. Actually last millennium. Back then, we were all bracing for the dreaded ...

Y2K - the year 2000

For some, it was the End of the World. And for grins, here are some of those predictions of Armageddon, nuclear holocaust, the End Times:  10 Failed Doomsday Predictions (2009)

Side note:  It's interesting when Jesus spoke of the End Times while on earth, He said He didn't know the date. Only the Father in Heaven knew the day and the hour.  (reference: Matthew 24)  Amazing how many people claim to know more about this than Jesus!

Back to Y2K, 2000 years after Jesus ...

For others, Y2K meant the Millennium Bug (which could have meant the end of the world). Our computers, which we have become so dependent upon for everything it seems, were not ready to handle the roll over from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000. [reference: Y2K bug from Encyclopaedia Britannica]

This clip, a parody on the cartoon Godzilla, expresses the concern, humorously.

Time marched on. And there were glitches as the calendar rolled from 1999 to 2000. But  we survived. Since we are still here, the end of the world didn't happen ... yet.  :)

Next scare ...

December 21, 2012 - End of the World 

At least according to the Mayans. Or so they say. [reference: The Mayan Calendar - predicting the end of the world?]

And the Mayan calendar spawned this disaster movie - 20122012 | Sony Pictures

Yet, there were skeptics that it was just another day:

We're still here. And there is an explanation for that: Mayan Calendar And The End-Of-The-World Explained

Now, in the coming week we are facing a ...

Mini-Y2K, the Leap second - midnight, June 30, 2015 

To adjust our standardized clocks, a second will be added to our year. An extra second should be no biggie.  Again, it's the old we-are-so-dependent-upon-computers thing.  This extra second could really screw us up:  Leap second on June 30 will be 'mini-Y2K'

The dreaded leap second, coming this June 30, is explained here:

But this has happened 25 times since 1972 and the last time was 2012,  which caused computer problems. Yet, we survived the 2012 leap second and the Mayan calendar scare.  It wasn't the End of World ... yet ;)

See you on July 1 ... Lord willing ...

Timing is everything in this world of hi-tech, which is just another one of the ....

Signs of the Times ....


Previous posts in this series:

Signs of the Times (part 1) - Camping in the Parks (2012)

Signs of the Times (part 2) - Layaway (2012)

Signs of the Times (part 5) - Staycations (2013)

Signs of the Times (part 6) - Fear of Missing Out (2015)


Photo from:  Wikipedia/Leap Second - June 30, 2012

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Timeless Truths (part 6) - Magna Carta - 800 years and still going strong

Magna Carta/

Timeless Truths explores, June 15, 1215 AD - a watershed year. And we still feel it effects in 2015. What happened 800 years ago?

In 1215, failed foreign policies and heavy taxation spurred an uprising of powerful English barons against King John. Under duress, this successor to his brother Richard I, the Lion Heart signed a document which put all future monarchs under the rule of law.

It was called the Great Charter. Perhaps it's better known for its Latin name, the Magna Carta. [reference:  Magna Carta - British History - ]

And here's how it happened:

The signing of the Magna Carta rippled throughout history, setting the basis for English Common Law, and inspiring the American Revolution as well as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

The principles placed limits on what our government can do. Thus governments were to be in chains of their Constitution, not the people in chains to their government.  Politics shifted from a government of men to a government of laws.

And below is a lesson as to how the Magna Carta influenced the American government:

As US President Abraham Lincoln echoed the Declaration of Independence, which was echoed by John Locke, which echoed the Magna Carta:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

It's no wonder the Magna Carta is considered one of the Five Documents that Changed the World.

Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Happy 800 years!


Previous posts in series:

Timeless Truths (Part 1) - A Cup of Cold Water (2013)

Timeless Truths (part 2) - Love (2013)

Timeless Truths (part 3) - Hakuna Matata - No Worries? (2013)

Timeless Truths (part 4) - A Mother's Advice  (2013)

Timeless Truths (part 5): Always Assume Positive Intent (2014)


Magna Carta/