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Now that July is approaching, the month in which we Americans celebrate our
Independence Day,  I’m going to stick to one category in my posts. The subject this entire month will be Patriotism, in its many different aspects. In addition to my own thoughts on the subject, I’ve invited a couple of guest bloggers to add their viewpoints in the days to come.To start things off, here’s a five-star review that my book received on Amazon.

 A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

Jean contacted me and asked, as a military historian and author to review her book.I soon found myself well-entrenched into the story of her father for many reasons.First as a veteran who has lost friends in the service, I found the forthright narrative an easy read, free flowing and a chronological masterpiece. This is not always the case with biographies, and I have written a few with my wife Anne-Marie Lewis. Second, my grandfather was KIA at Metz on Oct. 6, 1944 and was one of those buried in European soil until he could be returned. Third, it should be understood that not all our heroes were in direct combat. This book proves that a good man behind the scenes, with the right stuff and moral courage can accomplish very heroic things.

Maj. Gen. Howard L. Peckham’s story may not be unique within military circles, but it is a unique story of great accomplishment in the wider arena of human endeavors. The details of his political and military contacts, as well as the obstacles he overcame to untangle many logistical nightmares are worth reading alone, as they are bane of any military leader or organization. What he accomplished was remarkable. Hopefully, his kind of leadership and the circumstances in which he found himself will not be needed in the future. If it is required, I would suggest military leaders refer to this book as a benchmark on how to conduct that delicate balance between military necessity and uncompromising ethical leadership.

 

 

 

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Martin Luther King Jr.

The following is a copy of an article I wrote that was published in a local newspaper’s January edition, in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday:

“It was a warm day in September 1962 that my husband Bob and I began our journey by train from California to Louisiana. We had arranged to meet my parents at the New Orleans railroad station and then go with them to a French Quarter hotel where we had room reservations. At the same time that Bob and I were riding on the train, they were driving from their home in Washington, DC. We planned to spend a few days sightseeing before we all headed to Florida in Dad’s car for a reunion with my brother, his wife Jane, and their two young sons.

Our train eventually clanked its way to the New Orleans station. Once inside, Bob headed towards a sign marked ‘Waiting Room,’ where he was met with a big shock. I had neglected to tell him that there were two waiting rooms—one for ‘whites’ and one for ‘colored.’ He had mistakenly gone to the wrong one. When I caught up with him, I pointed out that even the drinking fountains are segregated.

‘Those are just a couple examples of how people of color are discriminated against in the Deep South,’ I told him. Bob was born and raised in Europe, and this was his first visit to that part of the United States. ‘They’re also barred from certain restaurants and must sit in the backs of buses,’ I said.Bob responded by saying, ‘How unfortunate.’

This decades-old treatment of black citizens was especially disheartening to Martin Luther King Jr., a black man born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Because he grew up in this segregated city, he experienced firsthand the injustice of racism.  He later became an ordained Baptist minister and served as pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Reverend King was driven to help stamp out segregation by ‘meeting physical force with soul force,’ as he called it. To that end, in the mid-1950s he became leader of the Civil Rights Movement. A major victory for the Movement occurred in 1955 when a fellow civil rights advocate and Montgomery resident, Rosa Parks, was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white person. After her arrest, he met with her to plan a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The boycott lasted 385 days and ended when the United States District Court ruled to end segregation on all Montgomery public buses.

This positive outcome encouraged Reverend King to promote peaceful civil disobedience. He believed success in ending segregation could be achieved by using non-violent means, such as sit-ins at restaurants, marches, speeches and boycotts. He felt that by doing so, black people could conquer injustice while still maintaining their dignity.

Because of his efforts, the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum and rolled onward like a powerful stream. During the march on Washington in 1963, which drew thousands of his supporters, he gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Here are excerpts:

‘And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.’

‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

Reverend King played a large role in ending legal segregation and creating the Civil Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law in 1964. That same year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite his immense success, he gained many foes who were opposed to civil rights. At his hotel in Memphis, he was assassinated in 1968 by one of those enemies of freedom. Reverend King was only 39 years old.

In 1983 Congress declared every third Monday in January to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This holiday falls on or near his birthday and is a well-deserved tribute to a man who died much too soon.”

 

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

A couple of days ago, Thanksgiving Day, I thought about a Puritan ancestor of mine, whose name was Samuel Corning. Like other pilgrims, he journeyed from England to America in pursuit of religious freedom. His ship arrived in Massachusetts in the seventeenth century, only a few years after the Mayflower, which landed there in 1620.

Samuel ‘s arrival was too late for him to participate in America’s first Thanksgiving, which was celebrated in November 1621.

The  excerpts below are from an article I wrote about him and his descendants. It was published at EzineMark.com.

As much as he enjoyed visiting other New England states, such as New Hampshire, my father’s roots in Connecticut were as deep as the Atlantic Ocean. His paternal grandmother, the former Ann Matilda Corning, was born in Preston, Connecticut. Preston was also the birthplace of his dad, Frank Everett Peckham.

According to family records, our Cornings have traced their roots to Saundby Parish, Nottinghamshire, England, to the late fifteenth century.

The first Corning to settle in America was Ensign Samuel (sometimes spelled Samuell) Corning, who was born in 1616 in Norfolk, England. After arriving in Massachusetts, he first lived in Salem but didn’t stay there long. He and his wife Elizabeth chose to settle down in the smaller town of Beverly, approximately four miles north of Salem, because of its better opportunities.

It turned out to be an auspicious move. In 1641, Samuel became a freeman, a title that conferred franchise and other privileges in the community. He also established himself as a trusted citizen of Beverly by serving as a selectman, a responsible job given to a town officer who, because of his capabilities, had been chosen to manage certain public affairs.

Samuel was a Puritan in his religious beliefs. This was not a problem in Massachusetts, as it had been in England. There, as he learned through his own disheartening experience, the domineering Church of England harassed Puritans because of their belief that people should use the Bible as a guide in social, financial, and even—-much to the horror of British authorities—-political issues. Puritans believed that when the Bible reigns as supreme authority in the foregoing matters, religion stays simple, pure, and unscathed.

Undoubtedly his tenacious hold on Puritan beliefs was the precipitating factor that brought Samuel to the New World, where he was sure to find religious freedom. And find freedom he did. Historical records indicate that he was one of the founders of First Church in Beverly, where he and his family enjoyed worshiping freely and in peace. As evidence that he was a hard worker, another trait of the Puritans, he himself built the church’s meeting house. Because he wanted to keep his mind on God, Samuel had no use for ornate rituals or vestments, thus ensuring that the meeting house’s interior was kept spartan.

He carried his religious beliefs into his home by living a simple lifestyle, although it is known that he had some real estate holdings within the community. It is also known that he was fairly well off financially in his later years (which he interpreted as a blessing from God).

In 1868, a descendant of the first Corning in America became entwined in the Peckham family tree. In that year, Ann Matilda Corning, granddaughter of Uriah Corning (a Revolutionary War hero), married James Riley Peckham of Norwich, Connecticut. As a result, two clans with deep roots in New England were forever united. Ann Matilda became the mother of my grandfather, Frank E. Peckham, and thus my father’s grandmother.

More information about my family’s roots is contained in my book, A Salute to Patriotism. Here’s the link:  

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

 

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One of Amazon’s top reviewers recently posted a 5-star review of my book A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham on my Amazon detail page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/. Here are excerpts from the review:

“A descendant of Revolutionary War heroes, Howard Louis Peckham’s love for his country started early On a family trip up the Hudson River the young subject to this book pointed to the West Point Academy, high on the bank and said I’d like to go to this school. After his dream of graduating from West Point, the Army Engineer School, and the Command and General Staff School (later called College), he served twenty years in the Corps of Engineers, including four years as an instructor at West Point. In 1942 he was assigned to the 2nd and 8th Armored Divisions, respectively, where he was an outstanding staff officer.

While serving as combat commander with the 12th Armored Division one year later, he was promoted to brigadier general and ordered to Washington, DC to head the Fuels and Lubricants Division of the Quartermaster General’s office. While serving concurrently as a member of the Army-Navy Petroleum Board, he testified before Congress about army petroleum needs. For his meritorious work of procuring fuels and allocating them to our armed forces worldwide, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal.

Times were tough, resources were scare, and in order to win the War in Europe, there had to be a plan of action. A modern army marches on wheels and without fuels and lubricants those wheels bog down in a morass of despair and ultimate defeat. My grandfather told me stories about World War I, I can only imagine the logistics of an even greater armored force in World War II. The demands must have been exceedingly great, as gasoline was the lifeblood of modern armies becomes a major concern to battlefield commanders in France. There had to be meticulous planning to satisfy this demand.After the fighting was over in Europe in postwar Paris, Howard Peckham’s Corps of Engineering experience was needed for a more somber task.

He headed the American Graves Registration Command and returned more than 80,000 American war dead to the United States. Approximately 60,000 others were interred in ten permanent American cemeteries in Europe, graded and constructed under his command. This task was not held lightly, there needed to be someone to carry out the final resting places for those who fought bravely, but succumbed to enemy fire. If you ever get a chance to visit you’ll see the artisan work and layout of these honored places. They are truly breath taking in scope.

A Salute to Patriotism is filled with articles, pictures, and is well-referenced. The book is about the life, times, and work of a dedicated, hard-working man, that was duty bound. After his return to the United States, he served in highly responsible positions until his army retirement in 1956.

The book continues after Major General Peckham’s retirement. As a civilian, his patriotic service continued when he worked for the Free Europe Committee, an organization being secretly funded by the CIA. He had a goal to get the nations behind the Iron Curtain peacefully freed from Communist domination, but that didn’t happen until after his death. The Iron Curtain fell in 1989. Howard Peckham not only believed this would bring more security for the United States, but for the world as a whole. Those words from General Douglas MacArthur ring true today as when they were first spoke and had a profound effect. Duty, country, and patriotism would continue to dominate his life to his death in 1972.

The story is well-told, detailed, and chronicles the different capacities that were served by Major General Peckham during W.W. II. For those that are interested in more detailed descriptions of military history of this time period, this book will be a very interesting, eye opening read. Major General Howard Peckham definitely led an interesting life, as depicted throughout this book. But this isn’t just a book of his professional work, it’s also about his personal life which I found very interesting making history come to life. The author’s view point is weaved within this fabric of this story making history more human.”

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Here are excerpts from an article I wrote for the WoodbridgeLIFE newspaper about the amazing event that occurred in July 1969. The article was published in this month’s edition.

Mission to the Moon
by Jean Kavale

Occasionally I think about the days when Americans not only traveled to the moon but walked on its surface.

. . . .It was a remarkable achievement and the result of a step-by-step process that took place over several years. One major step occurred in 1958, when President Eisenhower founded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a government agency designed to lead space exploration. It has done so ever since.

The idea of lunar travel was conceived in 1960, also during Eisenhower’s administration. Called the Apollo program, it was a follow-up to the Mercury program. Unlike the Mercury capsule, which could support just one astronaut and could only orbit the earth, the Apollo spacecraft was designed to carry three astronauts and be able to orbit the moon.

When President Kennedy took office in January 1961, he wanted the United States to have superiority over the Soviet Union in space exploration. A Russian, however, was the first person to fly in space. Yuri Gagarin accomplished that feat in April 1961, although the U.S. wasn’t far behind. In May of that year astronaut Alan Shepherd became the second person to fly in space and the first American to fly in space.

A forward-looking President Kennedy was spurred into action by the foregoing events. He asked Vice President Johnson to look into the status of America’s space program and into programs that could enable the U.S. to catch up with the Soviets. As a result of extensive research into the technical details, it was determined that the United States could be the first country to reach the moon.

On May 25, 1961, Kennedy proposed the moon landing to a joint session of Congress. Some of his words follow: . . . Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not. . . . Now it is time to take longer strides, time for a great new American enterprise. . . .

John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, another step towards the objective of traveling to the moon. This happened on February 20, 1962. Further steps were the launchings of test flights Apollo 2 through 10. Sadly, there was a fire in the cabin of the first proposed test flight, Apollo 1, which resulted in the deaths of the three astronauts who were inside: Grissom, White, and Chaffee.

President Kennedy’s dream of putting an American on the moon came true in 1969. Neil Armstrong, serving as Apollo 11 commander, piloted the lunar module that landed on the moon’s surface on July 20. He was joined by astronaut Edwin Buzz Aldrin. The third man on this mission, astronaut Michael Collins, stayed in the command module.

Due to an assassin’s bullet, it was too late for the President to hear Neil Armstrong’s words as he left the lunar module, called Eagle, and stepped onto the moon: That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Millions of people all over the world heard him on their radios as he spoke or watched images of him walking on the lunar surface. It was a proud moment for America.

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon. He and Neil Armstrong spent about two and a half hours doing various tasks such as planting an American flag in the moon’s dirt, performing experiments, taking pictures, and collecting more than 45 pounds of lunar material. Michael Collins meanwhile orbited around the moon in Columbia, the command module.

Eagle was on the moon for 21 hours before it roared back to Columbia, carrying Neil and Buzz. Remaining behind was a stainless steel plaque they brought with them, which they had signed. It also had the signatures of Michael Collins and President Nixon. It read: Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.

All three astronauts, now together again, left the moon’s orbit on July 22nd and returned safely to Earth.

THE FOLLOWING SUMMER SPECIAL ENDS ON AUGUST 31,2015: The Kindle edition of my book A Salute to Patriotism is selling on Amazon for only $2.99. Here’s the link:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B6EIUNI/

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Here’s a copy of the article I wrote for the Woodbridge LIFE newspaper. It was published in this month’s edition:

The High Price of Freedom

Who among us can forget seeing row after row of marble headstones at the Normandy American Cemetery, overlooking Omaha Beach? Many Americans who visit that cemetery in France are moved to tears by its vast size, each cross or star representing a young life lost in the ravages of war.Even if they haven’t seen the cemetery in person, millions of Americans saw it while watching the opening scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan. They also saw it on television in June 2009 when the 65th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated there. President Obama was present along with President Sarkozy of France, Prince Charles of Great Britain, World War II veterans from several countries, and many other guests. President Obama returned there in 2014 when the 70th anniversary commemoration was held and gave a moving speech. Here are some of his words:

At the end of the war, when our ships set off for America, filled with our fallen, tens of thousands of liberated Europeans turned out to say farewell, and they pledged to take care of the more than 60,000 Americans who would remain in cemeteries on this continent.

Not everyone attending the commemorations knew that the ground on which the Normandy Cemetery is situated was once a temporary resting place. It was named after a local town, St. Laurent, and was one of 37 temporary American World War II cemeteries scattered throughout Western Europe. After President Truman signed appropriate documents in 1946 authorizing the return of deceased Americans to their homeland, the U.S. Army learned that it was facing an enormous task.

One of its first duties was contacting next of kin to ascertain their wishes: Did they want their loved one returned home or laid to rest in a permanent U.S. cemetery in Europe? Even though no financial cost to them was involved, it was often a painful decision for families to make. After their answers were received at the Paris headquarters of the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) European Area (EA), thousands of heroes who lost their lives in the European Theater would soon begin their journey home.

On Memorial Day of May 1947, dignified ceremonies were held at all of the temporary cemeteries. The first shipload of American war dead from Europe arrived in New York City in October of that year carrying more than 5,000 caskets. They had left from Antwerp, Belgium, the primary port of debarkation for the American deceased of that zone in Europe. Afterwards, other ports were used, especially Cherbourg in France.

The army’s AGRC-EA was also responsible for grading and constructing ten permanent American cemeteries, where the war dead to remain in Europe would be reburied. All of the permanent sites are on land where a temporary cemetery was previously located, except for one near the French/German border that was completely rebuilt. There are five in France, two in Belgium, and one each in Luxembourg, England, and Holland. Clergymen assigned to the AGRC-EA performed benediction ceremonies at the temporary sites when they were closed.

Building the Normandy cemetery was especially hard, as described in Final Disposition of World War II Dead: 1945-1951 by Edward Steere and Thayer Boardman. Work couldn’t begin until right of entry from the French government was received, which took longer than expected. Grading and construction began in June 1948, but because of St. Laurent’s proximity to the English Channel, AGRC engineers frequently had to trudge through thick mud, and French workmen often had to move their heavy equipment in clay-like soil. In spite of setbacks, operations ended in early November 1948.

When the AGRC-EA completed its work, it gradually transferred the permanent cemeteries to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), a civilian agency. The ABMC later replaced the army’s simple wooden crosses and stars with those of marble and erected additional structures, such as beautiful statues. It continues to maintain them.

Before my parents and I left Paris in March 1950, an article about my dad, then-Brigadier General Howard L. Peckham, appeared in the March 18 edition of The Stars and Stripes. He had headed the AGRC-EA during the period May 1947 through January 1950. The article states:

Under him, approximately 83,000 World War II dead were returned to the U.S. Nearly 60,000 others have been interred in permanent cemeteries in France, Belgium, England, Holland, and Luxembourg.

Let’s recall, especially on Memorial Day, that an American flag still flies valiantly above those cemeteries.
(End of Article))

More about this subject appears in my book A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham.It is available at the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

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Here are some comments from Readers’Favorite about my bookA Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham

Before reading this book, I only knew about Major General Howard L. Peckham in passing. I am, however, happy and even feel honoured that I read this book. . . .The reader is given what I feel is an intimate look into the life of a man who gave his entire life to serving his country. . . .The book is written well with a good eye to detail and flow. It is also edited well, making it an enjoyable read. I would recommend any military or patriotic historian give this one a try.

Kathryn Bennett, Readers’ Favorite

A Salute to Patriotism is the story of Major General Howard L. Peckham. What makes the book special is that it is penned by his daughter, who showcases the legacy of her father and captures the love he had for his country. She is articulate when it comes to sharing her father’s life with readers and gives insight into people who lived during and after WWII. She also discusses her father’s personal life in this well-written biography, showing readers that, apart form being an amazing man, he was also a good husband and father.

Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite

Major General Howard Peckham definitely led an interesting life, as depicted throughout this book. But this isn’t just a book of the professional work. . . . It’s also about his personal life. . . . I found it very interesting learning about history in this way. . . .There is also plenty of information from the author’s point of view to go along with what is being said. . . . excellently written and also very descriptive. I was intrigued by everything I read and would definitely do better with history if it was all written this way.

Samantha Rivera for Readers’ Favorite

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