Ellen Church and National Nylon Stockings Day

Among aviation pioneers, the name of Ellen Church is not exactly up there with the Wright Brothers or Louis Bleriot, Jimmy Doolittle or John Glenn, but she was pretty important in her own quiet way as the first “stewardess”. But the Ides of May (every month has ides, defined as the middle of the Roman calendar month, not just March that Shakespeare and Caesar made famous) is also known for the beginning of the Seven Years’/French and Indian War in 1756, the 1864 battle of New Market in the American Civil War, the birth of Madeline Albright in Prague in 1937, the beginning of the Women’t Army Corps in 1942, and shooting of George Wallace in Laurel, Maryland in 1972. But today, stewardesses and nylons.

In September 1904 Ellen Church was born in Cresco, Iowa, and had an early fascination with airplanes and flying. She studied nursing at the University of Minnesota and took off for San Francisco, where she took flying lessons and managed to get a job at Boeing Air Transport (BAT), the forerunner of United Air Lines.  Though they would not hire her as a pilot, Church had the idea that nurses acting as flight attendants on board (the term stewardess wouldn’t come into use until the late 1930’s) would be good for publicity, making flights seem safer.  Thought there had been stewards on airships since 1910, there were no women before Church first took to the air on a 20-hour flight from San Francisco to Chicago on 15 May 1930–with thirteen stops and fourteen passengers.

After Church’s first flight, BAT hired more “sky girls”–registered nurses, younger than 25, single, weighed less than 115 pounds and were less than 5’4″. The physical requirements saved weight, and allowed the young women to stand up while serving drinks and snacks in the small passenger cabins of the time. In addition to their cabin duties, they also had to help fuel the airplanes and move them in and out of the hanger.  For this they were paid the then-princely sum of $125 a month–nearly twice what most nurses made, and almost as much as the average civil pilot.  While she liked the work, a car accident  ended her career with BAT after a year and a half.  She went back to nursing, and in 1942 she joined the Army Nurse Corps and rose to the rank of captain.  Church was responsible for training evacuation nurses in preparation for the Normandy invasion in 1944. Ellen Church was active to the end of her life, when she was killed in a horse-riding accident in 1965.

Now, as you ladies who read this blog at all regularly (bless you, you poor dears) know,  I have very little experience with wearing nylon stockings myself (though I have done so for a few hours at a time as a preventative against man-of-war stings), so at least some of my remarks about National Nylon Stockings Day (and no one knows why its 15 May) will seem insensitive or sexist or something.  So, as always…get over it.

The DuPont Chemical Company first made their miracle of chemistry dubbed “nylon” in 1935: a woven material made of threads manufactured in chemical factories and thus, theoretically infinite.  The product’s first practical commercial product had been nylon toothbrushes first marketed in 1938.  In 1939, legend has it, that a young woman who worked for at the DuPont Experimental Station in Delaware complained that her silk stockings didn’t fit right.  Seeking a wider market, the company reasoned that weaving nylon threads into a fabric pulled over a mold in the desired (by the makers) shape and color (early formulas could be made in nearly any color by adding aniline dyes) of a woman’s legs would be technically feasible. The rest, as they say, is history…maybe.  Still, legends often have roots in facts, so it sounds plausible.

At the World’s Fair in 1939, DuPont showed their mass-produced ladies nylon stockings to rave reviews, and sales of the more easily-obtainable stockings (more available than silk since Japan’s war with China started in 1937) skyrocketed right up until 1942, when manufacture of stockings was suspended for the duration of the war.  Manufacture resumed in 1945 and has continued unabated, with demand far outstripping supply in the 1940’s to the point of riots in late 1945 and early 1946.

But there was (and is) a catch: nylons weren’t and aren’t perfect.  They are more flexible than the cotton and silk they replaced, but not infinitely: until the 1980’s and the introduction of longer-chain “memory” polymer yarns, they squeezed the leg into the shape of the maker’s dies whether the wearer’s flesh was that shape or not.  This created not just discomfort but, in some cases, pain.  Modern hose are more forgiving of thicker thighs or longer calves but are still very form fitting, so the slightest hair stubble will catch in their mesh.  And shaving legs is not like shaving faces, you guys: leg skin never really toughens up like cheeks and chins…so I’m told. Further, the seams were unsightly (though they were eliminated by continuous weaving in 1965) and hard to keep straight.

Worldwide sales of nylon stockings has always been high and is still mind-boggling.  Since their introduction sales of nylon hosiery has been consistently in the mid-hundreds of millions of units–at first because of their fragility, and then because of population explosions, the introduction of nylons for younger girls, and increasing social acceptability of…well, more exposure of the leg. Since 1958 and the development of panty hose the sale of accompanying garters  and belts has declined: since 1980 panty hose demand has exceeded single hose demand.

The silky wonders of science are still popular, despite the discomfort to the wearers. Demographically, regular nylon wearers have been women under fifty since wearing trousers became fashionably acceptable for ladies in the 1960’s.  I’m told by reliable authorities (better than you, wiseguy) that this has been first because of the shaving requirement, second the expense (better-quality units can run $25 and more, and only last three months of weekly wear), and third because of the general discomfort that accompanies having one’s flesh squeezed into someone else’s idea of what their legs should look like because sizing–even three quarters of a century–hasn’t been perfected.

Ellen Church almost certainly wore nylons: hard to imagine such a trailblazer not wearing them at least once.  One wonders if she stood in one of those outrageously long lines for them. My late mother once said she stood in line for half a day outside Hudson’s in Detroit for a pair in about 1946: she would have been 23 or so, a bride of three years.  Then again, that may be more legend than fact, too.  Still, a bit of personal history for context.

The Code of Conduct and International Sculpture Day

For today, a small mea culpa.  Last week I posted nothing because I simply could not find anything to say about the day’s events in history, nor could I find an national or international day worth my (limited) time.  Call it a lack of effort or call it over-scheduling, but I really had other things to do.

But today, we honor the Lieber Code, also known as General Orders No. 100, Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,  signed by President Lincoln on 24 April 1863.  It replaced the old Articles of War from 1806 in US service, and is often seen as a link in a long chain of laws, codes and regulatory nostrums that aim at controlling battle zone chaos.  While the content of the code is not strictly intended to control the heat of battle but the treatment of prisoners of war, deserters and escaped slaves, Lieber still wanted to shape the conduct of those doing the fighting.   The Lieber Code went on to international renown, and was adopted almost whole into the Hague Convention of 1907.  While Franz Lieber, the legal scholar/author, was no stranger to combat having fought at Waterloo, his (and other) efforts at legal regulation of warfare recall a more noble, less savage and polarized age, where artillery was discrete cannonballs that could politely mow down a file of infantry, not block-blasting explosive reapers. Politics, economics, technology, and the roots of ideology have changed the face of war since 1815 well beyond the means for mere courts and their well-meaning laws to regulate.  The best that can be said of any “laws of land warfare” is that the make for good arguments at post-war trials.  War makes its own laws, and success will always be justified, while the losing side is tried under whatever laws the winner chooses.

Which brings us to International Sculpture Day…not.  While Lieber is not known to have been immortalized in bronze or stone Lincoln was, and so was Erich Raeder (whose birthday was on this day in 1876).  Celebrated annually on 24 April since 2014, International Sculpture Day was intended to celebrate sculpture in all its various forms and formats, even those that look like various odd bits of junk welded together.  While I understand that “art” is often intended to be controversial, must it always shock? The featured illustration today is “The Calling” by Mark di Suero, and has been a conversation piece since its unveiling in 1981.  What it seems to be calling is a mystery, but it;s alternate name “Sunburst,” more captures its appearance.  What “conversation” it is supposed to start is unknown.  There are other examples, but you get the idea.

Typhoid Mary and Women’s History Month

Kinda gets ya in the old gazebo, don’t it?

On 27 March 1915, Typhoid Mary (Mary Mallon) was quarantined for life on North Brother Island in the East River between the Bronx and Riker’s Island. In the fifteen years previous, she had worked for as many as a dozen different jobs as a private home cook, and in all but one of those families people sickened and died, whereupon she left and took another job.  She was thought to be responsible for as many as 22 cases of typhoid and three deaths from typhoid in the metropolitan New York area.  The problem at the time was that:

  1. She was always asymptomatic;
  2. Despite her profession as a cook, she didn’t understand the need for basic hygiene, like washing hands;
  3. She consistently refused to believe that she was the problem and refused to change professions;
  4. Neither the public health profession nor the medical profession had ever seen an asymptomatic carrier of disease.

When she was detained in 1907 for studies the medical profession, led by typhoid researcher George Sopher, proved that she was carrying the bacillus and showed her the proof, she refused to believe it.  But in 1910 the health authorities had no power to detain her or any other disease carrier and she was released after she agreed to no longer work as a cook. She kept her word only briefly, and was back in the kitchen by 1911. Three more families sickened and some members died, and she kept leaving.  Finally, in 1915, Mallon was arrested and quarantined for the rest of her life.  Until her death in 1938 at the age of 69, she refused to believe that the bacilli she carried in her gallbladder was responsible for all those cases of typhoid.

This week ends Women’t History Month, which has been proclaimed annually by American presidents since 1988. Canada has marked it since 1992; Australia since 2000. Each year has a different theme, and each year we are graced with some dramatic entertainments made especially to commemorate the role of women in our history; so many that I have stopped looking for them.  And each year the overdrawn and painfully inaccurate films are relegated to the dustbins. That this month includes such events as the incarceration of Typhoid Mary, Anne Boleyn’s beheading, the death of Elizabeth I, the founding of Girl Scouts USA and the Camp Fire Girls, the seating of Jeanette Rankin in the US House of Representatives, and Helen Keller meeting Anne Sullivan. Diversity, thy name is woman.

The K9 Corps and National K9 Veteran’s Day

Well, there’s a lot to say about 13 March, but I’m only covering war dogs today.

There isn’t a field of endeavor that humans haven’t involved dogs in. Animal husbandry, farming (property protection), human assistance (leader dogs for the blind date back to Roman times), laborers (pulling everything from carts to wagons), motive power (treadmills), foot warmers and clowns. And of course, war.

The ancient Egyptians and Chinese bred dogs to act a sentinels, as shock weapons, and to attack enemy livestock and pack animals. Despite their ancient history, use of military dogs was haphazard before WWI, and even then there was little organization in their training or husbandry. Military dogs become more widely known after the Great War when an abandoned German Shepard named Rin Tin Tin was brought to America and became a movie sensation in the 1920’s. By 1942, there was enough demand for war dogs in the United States that the US Army Quartermaster Corps formed an official organization unofficially named the “K9 Corps” as outlined by Edmund Gregory on 13 March 1942.  Regular training centers sprang up everywhere, preparing thousands of dogs for all branches of service, including the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Primarily German Shepards were used, but Dobermans, several breeds of Huskies, Labradors and herding dogs were used as sentinels, scout and patrol animals, sniffers for mines and casualties, and some (mostly privately owned National Guard members) as trackers and prisoner herders.

The Americans were not alone in using dogs in WWII, of course.  The Germans used them for routine sentinel duties; the Soviets trained some as anti-tank mines (which didn’t work); the Italians used them in Africa to control rats; the Belgians to tow machine guns; the Norwegians and Icelanders for search-and-rescue.  The only major belligerents that made no official use of dogs in WWII were the Japanese.

After WWII most military organizations turned their dogs over to the military police, which is where they are in the US armed forces today. By 2008, there were over 500 dog handler teams in the Army, and an unknown number n the other branches. The USO and VA use dogs as greeters and as therapy for returning human vets.

So today, 13 March, is marked as National K9 Veteran’s Day. As much as the dogs who serve two masters (their handlers and their country) are valued, many are simply destroyed when they reach the end of their useful lives, usually about five years.  An organization called SaveAVet.org is out to change that, finding homes for “the other forgotten soldiers” who have done their bits and just want to live out their lives by the fire. Click the link and see if you can help.

Charles I, USS Monitor, FDR and Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

In the name of true eclecticism, we’re talking about beginnings and endings today.  Still, there’s a lot to choose from for 30 January: Maryland ratified the Articles of Confederation in 1781, putting the Articles into effect as a framework of government; Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933; the Lone Ranger began on WXYZ radio in Detroit, also in 1933; and the Tet Offensive of 1968 began in Vietnam, which eventually turned public opinion against the American presence.  But today, we’ll forego National Croissant Day and Seed Swap Day and discuss that vital material, bubble wrap.

As an American I have bent my mind mightily around all the politics involved, but by many commentators it came down to the power of religion, churches, communions, kings, Parliament, guns, and money.

If you ever really want to be confused about English politics, try to study the English Civil Wars (there were three or so) of 1640-1651.  As an American I have bent my mind mightily around all the politics involved, but by many commentators it came down to the power of religion, churches, communions, kings, Parliament, guns, and money.  The House of Stuart became the ruling house of England and Ireland on the death of Elizabeth I in 1604.  The first Stuart, James IV of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland, was at least moderately popular until his death in 1625.  His son, Charles I, was actually the second son of James, the first having died at 12.  Even if Charles was an Anglican, he was married to a Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France, daughter of Louis XIII, which brought him under suspicion.  Pledged to England not to raise the suppression of Catholics but pledged to France to do just that, Charles led something of a double life, favoring his wife’s faith (that he came to share) more than the Anglican. Too, he raised taxes without the benefit of Parliament, which everyone resented.  Open war broke out between Parliament and the Crown in 1642.  By 1646, harried by money trouble and battlefield losses, Charles took refuge in Scotland, but they sold him to Parliament on 23 January 1647. In a squabble you simply can’t make up, the Army kidnapped Charles from Parliament custody in June 1647.  After more exchanges between squabbling interests differing primarily by religion,  Charles signed a secret treaty with Scotland to have him restored to the throne.  His Royalist supporters rose in May of 1648, only to be put down decisively in August.  After more negotiations, bribes, secret treaties and other nonsense Parliament was purged, Charles arrested and put on trial, and was condemned to death on 26 January 1649.  He was beheaded at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, the first anointed king of England to be executed.

Legend has it that the new ship was meant as much a check on Confederate naval ambitions as on an intentions of Great Britain to intervene in the conflict.

Among many other things, the Americans two hundred years later inherited many of the same animosities from the Mother Country that stemmed from religious outlook, but manifested itself in the New World as deep cultural divisions based on political economy: the value of land versus the value of capital.  When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, the US Navy was not just small, it was microscopic.  A Swedish-born inventor named John Ericsson proposed the construction of an entirely new type of warship, a flush-deck, steam-powered ship not clad in iron but built entirely of metal.  Due largely to his tremendous reputation as an engineer, Ericson’s design was accepted and construction commenced at Continental Iron Works in Brooklyn 25 October 1861.  The new ship slid down the ways on 30 January 1862. The name Monitor, meaning “one who admonishes and corrects wrongdoers,” was proposed by Ericsson on 20 January 1862 and approved by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox. Legend has it that the new ship was meant as much a check on Confederate naval ambitions as on an intentions of Great Britain to intervene in the conflict.  Monitor fought her only major duel with an enemy vessel 8 March 1862 at Hampton Roads in Virginia, and foundered in a storm off Hatteras 30 January 1862.  Few warships have ever had such influence not only on naval architecture, but on naval warfare itself.  Today the word monitor is used for any low freeboard warship dominated by gun turrets.

As a youth, FDR attended all the right schools, benefitted greatly from the inherited wealth of one of the oldest families in New York, and went into politics in 1911, serving a term in the New York State Senate.

It wasn’t long after Monitor began her short career that a future naval enthusiast was born not that far away in Hyde Park, New York. Franklin D. Roosevelt was born to the Hyde Park Branch (the Democrats) of the well-to-do Roosevelt family on 30 January 1888; the Oyster Bay Branch (the Republicans) produced Theodore Roosevelt, President from 1901-1908.   As a youth, FDR attended all the right schools, benefitted greatly from the inherited wealth of one of the oldest families in New York, and went into politics in 1911, serving a term in the New York State Senate. Taking up his cousin Theodore’s  old job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, he served there until he ran for vice-president with James Cox in 1920, but was defeated soundly.  Stricken by polio in 1921, Roosevelt recovered enough by 1929 to win election as Governor of New York.  From there, he won cousin Theodore’s old job as President in 1932.  FDR’s tenure of office was the longest of any American, winning reelection three times.  He died in office 12 April 1945, just three weeks before the death of Adolf Hitler.  Criticized and admired, sometimes in the same breath, FDR’s imprint on the Presidency and the power and reach of the Federal government are undeniable.

…bubble wrap is that plastic sheet stuff that some people insist on popping endlessly, I believe primarily to be annoying, but is said to “relieve stress” (with little explosions?)

And finally, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.  Yes, there is such a thing, which is a thing, for reasons not obscure but that make the decisions to have “National anything” day seem sane.  Now, bubble wrap is a generic trademark that, properly, should be rendered “Bubble Wrap® brand cushioning sheets,” but nobody does. Sealed Air Corporation of New Jersey owns it and, apparently pursues its protection from time to time. Be that as it may, bubble wrap is that plastic sheet stuff that some people insist on popping endlessly, I believe primarily to be annoying, but is said to “relieve stress” (with little explosions?)  But I once again digress from the Appreciation Day, which is the last Monday in January, was started by WNVI-FM 95.1 “Spirit Radio” serving Bloomington, Indiana.  It seems they were unwrapping a load of new microphones on the air and one popped, much to someone’s amusement.  Anyway, the first “appreciation” day was held on Monday, 29 January 2001 with a popping relay, a sculpture contest, and a fashion design contest.  You can’t make this stuff up…oh, wait…somebody did.

Refrigerator Cars, Prohibition, Bandaid Surgery and National Without a Scalpel Day

OK, work with me here.  There’s a lot to say about 16 January: Octavian became Caesar Augustus in 27 BCE, the Ostrogoths sacked Rome in 550, the battle of Cape St. Vincent (aka the Moonlight battle) was fought in 1780,  and Khrushchev claimed to have a 100 megaton thermonuclear weapon in 1963. But, today, we talk about saving lives.

The mechanical means of refrigeration that followed soon became not just practical for railroad cars, but for stand-alone refrigerators (as opposed to ice boxes) that began to appear in 1913.

On 16 January 1868, Detroit meat packer George H. Hammond inaugurated the use of ice-cooled boxcars–called reefers–to ship meat to New England.  While this early experiment was ultimately a failure (not because the idea didn’t work but because the cars were unbalanced and derailed several times), it did inspire other work in the area of whole-car refrigeration as opposed to insulated cars that had been in use since the 1840s. The mechanical means of refrigeration that followed soon became not just practical for railroad cars, but for stand-alone refrigerators (as opposed to ice boxes) that began to appear in 1913. While ice boxes lasted until the 1950s in the US and somewhat later in the developing world, the powered refrigerator led a revolution in food preservation that led, eventually to the invention of the supermarket and the TV dinner.

By WWI, the chorus of voices wanting to ban alcoholic beverages altogether was thunderous.

Since the beginning of colonization of North America by religious refugees, the issue of alcoholic beverages has been a contentious area of public debate. The main issues were, at first, sale of intoxicants to the Indians, then of public drunkenness.  The taxes on liquor that started to pay down the national debts after the Revolution were seen by social reformers as “sin taxes” that would discourage consumption, and temperance societies began to sprout. Thomas Jefferson killed the tax early in his presidency, but moral objections to alcohol consumption continued to grow. States like Maine banned the sale of liquor, only to be repealed itself in an election cycle. Federal alcohol taxes were re-imposed in 1864, and by 1898 it was at 1.1 cents per gallon of beverage. By WWI, the chorus of voices wanting to ban alcoholic beverages altogether was thunderous. Amendment XVIII to the Constitution passed in 1918 before Congress passed enabling legislation called the Volstead Act, which was signed into law on 16 January 1920, when Prohibition began.  Much to the chagrin of the social reformers it simply didn’t work, being by and large unenforceable because the consumption of alcohol was so widely popular. The Great Depression helped end the popularity of the law, since about 14% of pre-1920 Federal tax revenues were from alcohol taxes. Amendment XXI repealing Amendment XVIII went into effect on 5 December, 1933.

While most of us would say “um…yeah” to such things today, this was a breakthrough that prolonged the first patient’s life for two and a half years, and probably saves tens of thousands of lives every year.

Venturing into completely unfamiliar territory, on 16 January 1964, Charles Dotter threaded a stent into the leg of a patient using only x-rays for guidance, saving the limb.  While today this sort of thing is regarded as routine, at the time it was Nobel-Prize territory.  Dotter is now known as the “father of interventional radiology,” a sub-field of medicine that covers direct-viewing medical imagery to guide surgical procedures.  While most of us would say “um…yeah” to such things today, this was a breakthrough that prolonged the first patient’s life for two and a half years, and probably saves tens of thousands of lives every year.  Non-invasive surgery has since expanded, with revolutions in fiber optic imagery, x-ray and fluoroscopy, and even ultrasonic imaging that now enables surgeons to save tens of thousands of hours of recovery time, millions of dollars in medical expenses, and billions more in the reduction of hospital contagions.

Though I know less about medicine than I do a lot of other things, I and my family have reaped the benefits of minimally invasive techniques for several years.

Which brings us to National Without a Scalpel Day, marked every 16 January since 2016 by The Interventional Initiative to commemorate Dr. Dotter’s achievement, and to expand awareness of minimally invasive, image-guided procedures (MIIP) that are now a matter of routine in medicine.  Though I know less about medicine than I do a lot of other things, I and my family have reaped the benefits of minimally invasive techniques for several years.  My hat’s off to the late Dr. Dotter (who passed in 1985), and to all the pioneers in the fields of medicine, surgery and medical imagery that he inspired.

The M1 Garand, the JCS, Luzon and National Clean Off Your Desk Day

It’s a new year, it’s Monday, and your redoubtable correspondent is once again hard at work bringing you….aw, you know all that.  This week there was the coronation of Philip V (the Tall) as King of france in 1317, France declaring war on Spain once again in 1718, the Ft Robinson revolt in 1879, and the end of the Gallipoli mess in 1916, but we’re going to explore three interconnected events in US military history, and the bane of office life: desk cleaning.

For the next seventeen years the Garand was the main issue rifle of all the American services, producing somewhat over five and a half million units at four different plants.

By the 1920s, the venerable M1903 bolt-action Springfield rifle was reaching the end of its useful life, by American lights anyway. Though reliable and accurate, American infantry  tactical doctrine was headed in a different direction, towards using more support weapons –machine guns and artillery–to do a bulk of the work while the soldiers maneuvered.  To that end John C. Garand (rhymes with errand) a Canadian born weapons designer at the Springfield Arsenal, developed a gas-operated rifle that used the same 30-06 Springfield ammunition as the M1903 Springfield and the standard M1919 machine gun.  This satisfied the parsimonious among the Army purchasing boards and the then chief of staff, Douglas MacArthur.  On 9 January 1937, after fifteen years of development and trials, the weapon was adopted by the Army, and designated the M1.  The rifle went into mass production after the fall of France in 1940. For the next seventeen years the Garand was the main issue rifle of all the American services, producing somewhat over five and a half million units at four different plants. Springfield and Winchester made M1s during WWII, Harrington and Richardson and International Harvester also made them from 1953 onwards.  Called by George Patton “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” the diversity and number of weapons in service was exceeded only by the Kalashnikov in the 1970s.

By 1942, with America just getting organized for WWII, military planners and their civilian counterparts realized that there was no true joint command of the US military like the British had, and it became difficult to even talk to their counterparts without some unified planning structure.

The US Army was late in coming to the idea of a general staff.  Both the Army and the Navy were run for decades by peculiar creatures called the Bureau System that, since before the Civil War, didn’t even answer to the Army’s top officer, the Commanding General, and the Navy’s senior commander was the Secretary of the Navy until 1915.  All that changed for the Army in 1903 when the last Commanding General of the Army, Nelson A. Miles, retired and Samuel BM Young stepped into office as the first Army Chief of Staff.  (Technically, Henry W. Halleck stepped into the role as Chief of Staff to Ulysses S. Grant in 1864, when Grant was promoted to LTG, and that role died when he retired in 1865). The Navy created the Chief of Naval Operations in January 1915 by regulation. From 1903 to 1942, the Army Chief of staff was the senior service’s senior officer. By 1942, with America just getting organized for WWII, military planners and their civilian counterparts realized that there was no true joint command of the US military like the British had, and it became difficult to even talk to their counterparts without some unified planning structure.  While William Leahy was Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, he lacked both seniority and structure for any combined planning with the Army or the Air Forces.  To that end, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were formed on 9 January, 1942 as the head advisory body to the chief executive.  The first members were Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, Navy Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark, Chief of the Army Air Forces Henry H. Arnold, and Commander in Chief of the US Fleet Ernest J. King.   While Leahy technically presided, and Stark was posted to London, the body was not in the US chain of command.  This changed in 1986 with the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which turned the US military into a far more combined force than it had ever been before.  The all-powerful bureaus were finally dead.

By 1944, the Joint Chiefs had come far from the early days of confusion and building, and the M1 Garand had gotten American forces to the front yard of the Japanese empire. 

On 11 March 1942, Douglas MacArthur committed the US to retaking the Philippines with his grandiose “I shall return” phrase to a group of Australian reporters.  The phrase, so hopeful and full of meaning from America’s senior officer, was flashed all over the world as a beacon of hope.  If asked, however, American planners would have bypassed the Philippines in favor of Formosa and the Pescadores off the China coast, but politically they were stuck with the Philippines.  By 1944, the Joint Chiefs had come far from the early days of confusion and building, and the M1 Garand had gotten American forces to the front yard of the Japanese empire. On 20 October 1944 MacArthur fulfilled his promise by stepping ashore on Leyte.  On 13 December 1944, American forces landed on Mindoro, within easy fighter cover range of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine Archipelago. On 9 January 1945, American forces under Walter Krueger landed at Lingayen Gulf on the west coast of the island.  While the fighting in the Philippines would last until the very end of the war and even beyond, the Japanese defenders would fight beyond all hope of success.

In the words of that forever-anonymous wiseguy who made the first sign that read: “A cluttered desk is a sign of genius,” topped only by “A clean desk is a sign of a timid mind.”

And, since this is the second Monday in January, we get to celebrate/commemorate/ observe/ignore National Clean Off Your Desk Day! Legions of experts in business organization, industrial psychology and  website creation agree with the other blowhards meddling about among the real workers that a clean desk provides a sense of serenity and improves productivity.  However, as Einstein once quipped: “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then is an empty desk a sign?” In the words of that forever-anonymous wiseguy who made the first sign that read: “A cluttered desk is a sign of genius,” topped only by “A clean desk is a sign of a timid mind.”  Words to live by, indeed.  But, ultimately, who has the time to come up with these things?

But last Friday was National Cuddle-Up Day, and no one knows where that came from, either, other than it got to a high of 9 degrees above here in the Great Lakes, and it seemed like a good idea.