Walking on the Moon

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:


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:


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

Veterans Day Special

Hello Everyone,

Big news! The Kindle version of the biography I wrote about my dad, A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, is selling for only $1.99 through November 30, 2014, in honor of Veterans Day.

One of Amazon’s top reviewers had this to say about the book:

“The daughter of Major General Howard L. Peckham, Jean Kavale was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She had more than fifteen years of experience as an editor in Silicon Valley, including Senior Editor with PDR Information Services. She was also a Contract Editor for Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, for which she edited the entire library of CallPath books. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, a teaching credential from San Jose State University, and a master’s degree in pastoral theology from the University of San Francisco. She has authored two other books – FROM THE POTOMAC TO THE SEINE: THE PERSONAL STORY OF AN ARMY FAMILY and FAITH AND PHILOSOPHY. It is Jean’s wish that the world be more aware of the work of her father, the head of the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) in Europe (1947-1950) and so this memoir, touching and informative, comes at a time when so many of us are deeply concerned about the ongoing loss of lives in the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East. Hence this current book – A SALUTE TO PATRIOTISM.

Well researched and written with the voice of one who not only knows the principle character well but also has the gift to write and report as a fine journalist and historian, Jean comments, `When my father was ordered to head the AGRC in 1947, the fallen Americans of the European Theater were resting in 37 temporary cemeteries scattered throughout Europe. Under his command, they were either returned home for reburial or reinterred in one of the ten permanent American cemeteries in Europe, depending on the wishes of the next of kin. The AGRC did the grading, constructing, and reinterring at the permanent resting places, including the formerly temporary one overlooking Omaha Beach. The civilian agency that took over the cemeteries in 1951 replaced the Army’s simple wooden crosses and stars with those of marble: the agency also added structures, such as beautiful statues.’

A book of this magnitude is difficult to summarize and the author’s summary states it best: `A descendant of Revolutionary War heroes, Howard Louis Peckham’s love for his country started early. After his dream of graduating from West Point came true, he served for twenty years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1942 he transferred to the Quartermaster Corps and went to Washington, where he headed 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. In postwar Paris, Howard Peckham 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. After his return to the United States, he served in highly responsible positions until his army retirement in 1956. As a civilian, his patriotic service continued when he worked for the Free Europe Committee and traveled abroad to meet with Western European diplomats. His goal was to get them more involved in the Committee’s work. Nations behind the Iron Curtain peacefully freed from Communist domination, Howard Peckham believed, would ensure more security for the United States. Duty, country, and patriotism would continue to dominate his life to the end.’

Rich in detail yet never lacking in forward momentum, this memoir to a man whose life was directed by his patriotism is an inspiration to read. The writing is accompanied by photographs and drawings and has the warmth and respect of a family scrapbook as well as a significant document about the military history of this country.”

You can read other reviews at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B6EIUNI

Happy Reading!

Lisnabreeny Cemetery Today


The entrance to the site of the former American cemetery at Lisnabreeny

The entrance to the site of the former American cemetery at Lisnabreeny

For years, many people in Northern Ireland felt that a proper memorial should be built on the site of the former temporary cemetery at Lisnabreeny. In 2012, the Castlereagh Borough Council decided that the time had finally come to do just that. At the dedication ceremony in the fall of 2013, a crowd of people–including dignitaries from Ireland and the United States–prayed together and watched as wreaths were laid at the memorial. The ceremony concluded with the singing of the British and U.S. national anthems and a flyover by a restored B-17 plane.

Also in 2013, a pretty memorial garden was completed at the entrance of Lisnabreeny. The garden contains a granite monument, on three sides of which are etched the names of all the American personnel temporarily buried in the cemetery.  A flagpole also stands prominently in the garden. On certain days, the Stars and Stripes proudly waves over this lovely piece of land, which is so much a part of World War II history–and an important reminder of ultimate sacrifices made during that war.

It’s good to know that the Americans who came to help the British in Northern Ireland will be forever remembered.

Swedish soldiers at ease prior to the religious ceremony

Swedish soldiers at ease prior to the religious ceremony

In May 1948, my father was scheduled to attend an AGRC meeting and a religious service at the temporary American Cemetery at Malmo, Sweden. Several AGRC people flew with him in a C-47 from Paris to Copenhagen, and then to Stockholm–including my mother and me. He explained to me that the American military attaché in Sweden was responsible for overseeing the search and recovery of American airmen and was being assisted by ordinary Swedish citizens. The following quotes are from my book A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham:

“An example of this aid occurred in 1943, when a fisherman in Sweden’s waters found the body of an American. The airman was later identified as Vincent A. White of New Jersey, who was killed in action in October 1943, along with other members of his crew. He was buried in the American cemetery in Malmo, Sweden. The respectful fisherman later made a personal visit to the fallen airman’s grieving family in the United States.”

When we left Stockholm early on the morning of Tuesday, May 11, we motored south to Malmo, arriving at about noon. After driving past the historic buildings of the city’s old streets, we arrived at a cemetery where a large area had been set aside for the burial of American airmen.

“Here we watched helmeted Swedish soldiers stand quietly at attention before bowing our heads while Chaplain Pfeiffer, an AGRC colonel, led us in prayer. Howard Peckham then delivered a speech describing the heroism of the airmen buried here, whose planes had crash-landed either on Swedish soil or in Swedish waters during World War II. On each grave was a marker, in front of which was a petite bouquet of simple and colorful wildflowers. The decorations mirrored the Scandinavian disdain for ostentatiousness, but the tribute seemed very impressive nevertheless.That ceremony concluded our trip, and we returned to Paris.”

In a future post, I’ll provide information about some of the other airmen buried at Malmo. I’ll also explain what the former temporary site looks like today.

The following is an overview of my book, A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham. As my valentine to you, from February 10 through February 17,2014, it will be selling on Amazon at the reduced price of $3.99:

After transferring from the Corps of Engineers to the Quartermaster Corps in 1942 and receiving a promotion to brigadier general, my father went to Washington, where he directed the Fuels and Lubricants Division of the Quartermaster General’s Office. During those years, he served concurrently on the Army-Navy Petroleum Board (ANPB) and occasionally testified before Congress about the U.S. Army’s petroleum needs. He worked diligently to procure oil and gasoline and then allocate them to American troops worldwide.

His hard work paid off well. For meritoriously procuring fuels and lubricants and then allocating them to the military forces of the United States during the period October 1943 to September 1945, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal. His division had efficiently allocated petrol, oil, and lubricants (POL) to all the theaters of operation, thus helping them to secure victory.

A descendant of Revolutionary War heroes and a graduate of West Point, Dad felt a sense of patriotism early in life. My book traces his idyllic childhood in Norwich, Connecticut, to his retirement years in Washington, DC. One chapter describes his engineering assignments during the Great Depression, such as serving as Deputy Administrator of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in New York City, and three chapters about his postwar work as head of the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) in Paris. The responsible service he performed in command positions after receiving his second star in 1952 is also described, as is his post-retirement job (1957-1958) as a consultant for the Free Europe Committee (FEC).

For my research, I examined government documents, my father’s diaries and letters, and numerous other sources. The book’s many photographs help to back up the veracity of its historical content.

One image in the book will undoubtedly linger in the reader’s mind longer than the others, in view of America’s ongoing search for energy resources. It shows military vehicles arriving on boats and rolling onto shore the day after D-Day. As noted in Fuels for Global Conflict by Erna Risch, before any vehicle was transported to Omaha and Utah Beaches in Normandy, it was filled with a full tank of gas and carried an extra supply of gas in five-gallon cans. For that foresightedness, and for other expert planning, America can thank the Fuels and Lubricants Division and its commander, Howard Louis Peckham.