Saturday, January 7, 2017
We have no idea where or who took the movie. We do know when. It was shot before the Soviets started their attack on Turkey. We are just going to describe what it shows.
The Boy and the Porpoise
The initial scene is a beautiful day on the Sea of Marma. You can see a number of unmistakable landmarks in the distance. The exact bay or inlet we are looking at is impossible to tell. The first couple of shots are just the sun and water so it must have been in the afternoon. The cameraman is obviously hiding from something that is across the water. He zooms in on one of the tanks the Soviets have moved up in the night.
All of a sudden the camera jolts to the left as if the cameraman hears something and is trying to find it while looking through his viewfinder. Then we see it. What is it? At first it’s just a ripple of something just under the water, but very near the surface, like a fish gently feeding on a bug and sucking it into its mouth.
It starts to move fairly fast and we see the dorsal fin of a harbor porpoise with something else trailing behind. That something else turns out to be a very small boy holding on to the fin and being dragged along by the porpoise. The child is so small that even the porpoise easily carry him. If you had to guess you would say the boy is about four years old at the most.
You can see the boy take a breath of air but it is not a breath of desperation but one of normal activity. Then, he turns his face towards the camera just as the photographer zooms in. You see a look of utter joy on the boy’s face. He obviously is having the time of his young life. He is enjoying himself like no one else ever has. The porpoise is willingly giving him a ride and they both are enjoying it.
For a second he lets go and his playmate disappears and then suddenly leaps out of the water and over the boy’s elated face. The porpoise disappears from the surface again, then leaps once more as the boy reaches up and touches his playmate’s belly when he comes into range and soars over him. It happens again. The boy cannot swim too well so the porpoise comes along side and lets him catch his breath by holding on.
It is a mesmerizing sight to behold and a wonder. Who was this boy? How had he and the porpoise become friendly? How long had they been doing this? Were they both still alive?
The porpoise nuzzles the boy and he in turn pats its head and gives it a kiss that the animal seems to like. The porpoise sweeps around again and comes up under the boy letting him hold on once more and they speed off. The porpoise in front and the boy almost flying behind. Once again you can see the joy on the boy’s face. Then, they dive. The camera searches for them. It follows the path that they would have been on had they gone straight. After a few moments the operator zooms out and starts to pan first right then left searching for the pair. Nothing...it goes on like this for a couple of minutes.
Such a small boy couldn’t have held his breath that long. Where was he? Had he drowned? The care the porpoise had shown for the boy led you to believe that it would never let him come to harm. But, where did they go? It is a film clip full of the joy and wonder of life, yet also full of questions.
Questions that have never been answered. After spending a few more seconds looking for the pair the cameraman pans back to the Soviet units moving in along the western shoreline.
You don’t feel sad when the movie ends. Even though the boy and the porpoise have disappeared beneath the water. The final scene is of the enemy lining up for an assault. This should put you in a pensive mood. On the contrary, if you ask most who see this small clip they are filled with a feeling of joy and hope. The look on the boy’s face will stay with you forever and may even rekindle your love for mankind, it is just that powerful.
No one knows where the clip came from. No one knows who have the filmmaker was. But anyone who sees the clip, doesn't seem to care.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Wait...wait...now! Easy, easy, common you beautiful thing...that’s right now keep the nose up. “How are we doing Wilkins?...over”
“Looks good Skip. The rest of the squadron is turning in unison. I never thought I see a squad of B-24s doing an aerial ballet. It looks real good from here and everything is nominal Skip...over.”
Okay rolling back to the port...nice and easy.
“Squadron...simulate a jink to the starboard on three, two, one, mark.”
Pull hard... rudder opposite keeping that nose up... come on don’t fail me now. God damn you’re doing a thing of beauty here.
“Tail to Skipper... Watch Flying Wedge Skip she’s close to stalling out...over.”
“Copy...over.” Lieutenant Storm, get your speed up! You still have your trim flaps full.”
Jesus, who would have thought that I would have to help these guys fly as well as keep my bird in the air.
“Good call Tail...over.”
“How are the other squadrons doing Owens?..over”
“Remarkably well Skipper. It looks like number three has worked it out and their last maneuver was a thing of beauty...over”
“Good to hear....over.”
Owens had a ringside seat for some pretty amazing flying. We’ll let him tell the tale.
“When we first started it was awful. I mean bombers aren’t built to dodge and weave and especially when surrounded by other bombers. I mean everyone but LeMay knew it was possible, but no one was sure it could be done on a squadron level without putting other squadrons in danger.
12 B-24s dropping out of formation and making a tight turn in unison and then reforming with the rest of the bomber stream was quite a sight to behold. Yet, they were pulling it off. You really had to think in three dimensions to make it work and they had figured it out ...in theory. We had yet to try it in combat. In fact, the whole 15th Air Force had yet to drop a bomb or see a Soviet fighter much less those missiles they shot at you."
The whole concept boiled down to the fact that those missiles were going so fast that a well-timed turn or change in altitude could make them miss. Well timed is the key. Make the maneuver too soon and the damn things adjusted. Make it too late, and well, it’s too late. The real challenge was timing and spacing.
The really new concept was that the maneuver involved the whole bomber stream. There was nothing new about turning in unison. Every time a squadron turned for home, they banked and turned together. They had that move down pat. It was everyone’s favorite part of every mission besides landing. The bomber stream followed as they got to the point where they had dropped their bombs.
They had all watched in envy as the fighters blithely jinked this way or that, and faked out the missiles. Very few fighters were shot down by either air to air or ground to air missiles anymore.
Even a single bomber could just barely out maneuver one of Stalin’s Fire ground to air missiles if they did not have to worry about colliding with their neighbors. The air to air missiles were another matter and they would have to rely on the fighters to keep the launching platforms at arm’s length.
This new emphasis on squadron maneuvers might not have much effect on the actual hit rate of the missiles but it would have a huge effect on moral. The missiles seemed to always lock in on the lead bombers. Even if the whole squadron could not get out of the way of the missile, at least now the flight leaders had a fighting chance. The predictions were that the hit rate would go down only a small amount but that the damage would be more evenly spread out and not just the flight and squadron leaders.
Spreading out the damage was not emphasized or even spoken openly about. The goal was to lower the hit rate overall but everyone knew that it would have the effect of spreading out the danger more evenly. The missiles were focused so intently on their initial targets that it was easy to tell which squadron and even which plane it was locked on to and they very rarely deviated and chose another target. Knowing you’re the target of the missile meant two things for the plane in the crosshairs. One was a distinct advantage. The second was terrifying. Terrifying to know the missile was locked on to your plane and attempting to blow you and your crew to pieces.
The rule was that whatever squad started a turn first was given priority and until they had complete their evasive maneuver no adjoining squadron could leave the formation. If you left the bomber stream too soon you would be subject to charges. If you maneuvered too late you might get hit.
Any thinking person could see that this would not make much difference in the overall hit rate but is would boost the morale of the crews and at this point in the war that was critical. Twilling knew his men and how much they could take. This tiny gesture could just give him another month or so before it became apparent once again that they were not winning.
SAC was already at that point. The 15th would step in and take over for a while. He and his brand new but old, shiny B-24s were polished up and ready for action and they would give SAC a breather...a respite from the inevitable. Basically the bombers of the 15th were just more targets for the Reds to shoot at. They would be no more successful than the B-29s at reversing the oil production rate. They could and would slow it down and that was good enough in the eyes of the Joint Chiefs.
That was good enough to justify their possible deaths. Sacrifices had to be made and they were.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Toros was beyond despair. His beloved ferry was sinking before his eyes. His family had run the ferry for over a hundred years and this was the 5th iteration of the large boats that plied the Turkish Straits. His ferry had carried kings and queens and now it was being scuttled before his eyes by the thugs from the army. He was told that it was to keep it out of the hands of the cursed Ruskies in whose hands they feared it would be used to bring death to all from across the Bosporus.
Why would he have let that happen? He would have taken his ferry away from the fighting. Did they really think he was that stupid or was a spy for the Ruskies up north, their ancient enemy the Cossack? We will fight them for every inch and they would never have gotten on foot on my beautiful ferry he fumed inside.
What was he going to tell the family? Should he have fought an unwinnable fight with these 18 year olds and their pig of an officer? All that would happen would be a knife in his belly if he had tried to physically stand up to them. He had seen their kind before. All swagger and bravado when facing an old man but just wait until they faced an 18-year-old Ruskies driving a tank, then we’d see how brave they were. He could hear shouts all along the waterfront as barge and ferry were scuttled. The weeping and wailing was deafening as it bounced off a passing freighter, which made them even weep louder and curse the soldiers harder. How were the fishermen going to fish? How were the ferryman going to feed their families? The whole waterfront was shut down and how in Allah's name were the Cossacks going to get across in the first place. There were no boats on the far side and he could see nothing or imagine anything that they could use to get across.
His families ferry and heritage, bumped against the rocks in the causeway as it drifts down to the bottom, one last large jolt causes the clapper of the bell to hit the side of the rim and to ring one last time. It so happens that this was the one millionth time exactly, that the bell had rung, and its last. This particular bell was made from the canons of Constantinople. The irony was that these cannons were originally made from the Christian bells of this same city. The bells were melted down, some more chemicals and the zinc and copper levels adjusted and poured into the cannons that manned the walls for centuries. As brass cannons were replaced the metal was remolded and used in Ottoman Tombak and bells.
This form of brass called tombak is easy and soft to work by hand: hand tools can easily punch, cut, enamel, repousse, engrave, gilt or etch it. It has a higher sheen than most brasses or copper, and does not easily tarnish. Some of the greatest works of art to come out of the Ottoman Empire were made from tombak. It is a beautiful medium to work with and to create some of the most beautiful, intricate and prized works of art man has ever imagined much less created.
Another use is just as creative yet very destructive to individuals, the full metal jacket. Gilding metal is a type of tombak which is one of the most common jacketing materials for jacketed hollow point bullets which the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibited using. These are the kind of bullets that easily flattened and expanded in the body. That rip a person’s insides to shreds once they penetrate the skin. Expanding to triple the size they enter as. A monstrous invention on the par of shrapnel and napalm.
As with most inventions of man, Tombak can be used to create things of great beauty and to kill and maim.
In less than a week Toros and all he knew would be dead, burned or blown to bits. His wife, 3 children, mother, 2 sisters and 13 cousin’s aunts and uncles. His ferry would not even be a footnote in history even after serving kings, queens, the rich and the poor. Not a picture or even a clear memory would remain of his movable floating bridge between east and west. Luckily, he would be the first to die and none of this would enter his mortal life and spiritual memory. He would not take to the grave all the tragedies that were about to be endured by his family. We don’t even know Toros or his boats given name.
All Toros knew is that his ferry was sinking and so was his livelihood and his families future, the feared and hated Russki were a few hundred meters away and about to attack. His wonderful ship's bell rang one last time before it was swallowed up by the waters of the Bosporus. One last clear tolling of his beloved bell.
“Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. . . . from Meditation 17 by John Donne”