Alone on the Shield: A Novel by Kirk Landers

“I hope you get drafted, I hope you go to Vietnam, I hope you get shot, and I hope you die there. Those words, spoken in the anger of youth, marked the end of the torrid 1960s college romance of Annette DuBose and Gabe Pender. She would marry a fellow antiwar activist and end up immigrating to Canada. He would fight in Vietnam and come home to build an American dream kind of life—a great career, a trophy wife, and a life of wealth and privilege. Forty years later, they have reconnected and discovered a shared passion: solo canoeing in Ontario’s raw Quetico wilderness. They decide to meet again to get caught up on old times, but not in a restaurant or coffee shop—they agree to meet on an island deep in the Quetico wilds. Though they try to control their expectations for the rendezvous, they both approach the island with a growing realization of the emotional void in their lives and wonder how different everything might have been if they had spent their lives together. They must overcome challenges just to reach the island, then encounter the greatest challenges of all—each other, and a weather event for the ages. Alone on the Shield is a story about the Vietnam war and the things that connect us. It is the story of aging Baby Boomers, of the rare kinds of people who paddle alone into the wilderness, and of the kind of adventure that comes only to the bold and the brave.”

Quetico Provincial Park: is a large wilderness park in Northwest Ontario Canada, known for its excellent canoeing and fishing. This 1,180,000-acre park shares its southern border with Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which is part of the larger Superior National Forest These large wilderness parks are often collectively referred to as the Boundary Waters or the Quetico Superior Country

Derecho Storm: A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods.

My thoughts: I absolutely loved this book and I didn’t want it to end. Kirk Landers writing is wonderful, energetic and exciting. Yes, this book is about canoeing and wilderness. Two things I am passionate about but isn’t that why we read? If you have an afternoon or two I highly suggest picking this up to read. Sorry no spoilers here! Except I never want to experience a derecho storm while on the water, it would be catastrophic..

Cheers….

Alone on the Shield by Kirk Landers.
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A Memorial Day Thank You

Memorial Day for me is about reflection, it is about honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. I find myself thinking of our service members almost daily. I’ m extremely thankful for all who have served, all who are serving and for the sacrifices those families make as well.

You all are truly loved and appreciated!

Image © Joe Geronimo
Image © Joe Geronimo

Postcard of the Week:

Vintage Santa Fe Railway map postcard.
Vintage Santa Fe Railway map postcard.

This weeks “Postcard of the Week” is a vintage linen Santa Fe Railway “Map” postcard which was mailed on September 8th 1944 in Gallup, New Mexico. It appears that “Bob” is in the United States Navy and there was no charge for postage. Here are some Wikipedia facts from September 1944.

September 1944

1: Canadian troops capture Dieppe, France.
2: Allied troops enter Belgium.
3: Brussels is liberated by the British Second Army.
Lyon is liberated by French and American troops.
4: A cease fire takes effect between Finland and the USSR.[1][2][17]
Operation Outward ends.
5: Antwerp is liberated by British 11th Armoured Division and local resistance.
: The uprising in Warsaw continues; Red Army forces are available for relief and reinforcement, but are apparently unable to move without Stalin’s order.
United States III Corps arrives in European Theater.
: The BelgianDutch and Luxembourgish governments in exile sign the London Customs Convention, laying the foundations for the Benelux economic union.
6: The “blackout” is diminished to a “dim-out” as threat of invasion and further bombing seems an unlikely possibility.
Ghent and Liège are liberated by British troops.
8: Ostend is liberated by Canadian troops.
: Soviet troops enter Bulgaria.[2]
: The Belgian government in exile returns to Belgium from London where it has spent the war.
9: The first V-2 rocket lands on London.
Charles de Gaulle forms the Provisional Government of the French Republic in France
: The Fatherland Front of Bulgaria overthrows the national government and declares war on Germany.[1]
10: Luxembourg is liberated by U.S. First Army.
: Two Allied forces meet at Dijon, cutting France in half.
: First Allied troops enter Germany, entering Aachen, a city on the border.
: Dutch railway workers go on strike. The German response results in the Dutch famine of 1944.
11: United States XXI Corps arrives in European Theater.
12: The Second Quebec Conference (codenamed “Octagon”) begins: Roosevelt and Churchill discuss military cooperation in the Pacific and the future of Germany.[18]
13: American troops reach the Siegfried Line, the west wall of Germany’s defence system.

Waves of paratroops land in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

14: Soviet Baltic Offensive commences.
15: American Marines land on Peleliu in the Palau Islands; a bloody battle of attrition continues for two and a half months.
16: The Red Army enters Sofia, Bulgaria.
17: Operation Market Garden, the attempted liberation of Arnhem and turning of the German flank begins.
: British and commonwealth forces enter neutral San Marino and engage German forces in a small-scale conflictwhich ends Sept. 20.
18: Brest, France, an important Channel port, falls to the Allies.
: Jüri Uluots proclaims the Government of Estonia headed by Deputy Prime Minister Otto Tief.[19]
19: The Moscow Armistice is signed between the Soviet Union and Finland, bringing the Continuation War to a close.[2]
Nancy liberated by U.S. First Army
20: The Government of Estonia seizes the government buildings of Toompea from the German forces and appeals to the Soviet Union for the independence of Estonia.[19]
: United States XVI Corps arrives in European Theater.
21: British forces take Rimini, Italy.
: The Second Dumbarton Oaks Conference begins: it will set guidelines for the United Nations.
: In Belgium, Charles of Flanders is sworn in as Prince-Regent while a decision is delayed about whether King Leopold III can ever return to his functions after being accused of collaboration.[20]
San Marino declares war on the Axis
: The Government of Estonia prints a few hundred copies of the Riigi Teataja (State Gazette) and is forced to flee under Soviet pressure.[21]
22: The Red Army takes Tallinn, the first Baltic harbour outside the minefields of the Gulf of Finland.
: The Germans surrender at Boulogne.
23: Americans take Ulithi atoll in the Caroline Islands; it is a massive atoll that will later become an important naval base.
24: The Red Army is well into Poland at this time.
25: British troops pull out of Arnhem with the failure of Operation Market Garden. Over 6,000 paratroopers are captured. Hopes of an early end to the war are abandoned.
United States IX Corps arrives in Pacific Theater.
26: There are signs of civil war in Greece as the Communist-controlled National Liberation Front and the British-backed government seem irreconcilable.
30: The German garrison in Calais surrenders to Canadian troops. At one time, Hitler thought it would be the focus of the cross-Channel invasion.

Postcard of the Week:

Russian New Year Postcard.
Russian New Year Postcard.

This weeks “Postcard of the Week” is from Russia or Russian Federation and is a New Year greeting. This particular card was sent to me from Lyuban, Belarus near the Minsk region on November 8th 2012. To this day it remains one of my most favorite in my collection.

During the Soviet years, Christmas celebrations were not allowed in Russia and the Soviet Union. New Year’s celebrations that were similar to Christmas celebrations elsewhere began in the 1930s. Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) took the place of Santa Claus at children’s parties. He was given a grandaughter, called Snegurochka (Snow Girl or Snow Maiden), to help him. At first the New Year holiday was for children, but later it became a holiday for everyone.

In the 1950s, there were some colorful greeting postcards in a Soviet realist style. A real revival of Russian greeting postcards occured in the 1960s. Although the artwork became more modern and international in style, the themes often show typical aspects of the Soviet and Russian culture. Many of the designs also show a decorative folk art influence.

Russians began celebrating Christmas again in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, the New Year holiday remains much more important.

V Mail “Victory Mail”

431218 V-Mail Packaging

Introducing V-Mail

Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan and entered the largest full-scale war in history. As war raged around the world, countries divided into Axis and Allied powers and battlefields spanned across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Members of the armed forces were deployed to the far reaches of the globe and were separated from their families.

In a days before email, cell phones, and text messaging, letters served as a vital link between loved ones and friends. Army Post Offices (APOs), Fleet Post Offices (FPOs), and U.S. post offices alike were flooded with mail sent by service members and sweethearts. According to the 1945 Annual Report to the Postmaster General, mail dispatched to the Army in that fiscal year reached 2,533,938,330 pieces compared to the prior year total of 1,482,000,000 and fiscal 1943 sum of only 570,633,000 items. The Navy received 838,644,537 in fiscal year 1945 whereas the prior period saw 463,266,667 mail items sent. The bulk and weight of parcels and letters was competing with military supplies in transport vehicles. Officials from the Post Office, War, and Navy Departments faced a large problem: Was there a way to save room for equipment and still deliver the mail?

Mailing to the frontlines: American soldier finds lost letters near Auw, Germany; February 1945. National Archives (111-SC-200677).
Mailing to the frontlines: American soldier finds lost letters near Auw, Germany; February 1945. National Archives (111-SC-200677).

Operating V-Mail

The Post Office, War, and Navy Departments worked together to ensure V-Mail for civilians and service members around the world. Numerous personnel, expensive pieces of equipment, photographic supplies, ships, and planes were needed to process and deliver V-Mail. The volume of mail and supplies was such that all three departments were needed to keep the network operational and keep the mail moving.

The Post Office Department was responsible for domestic dispatch and handling of mail. The Post Office sorted V-Mail by respective Army and Navy post offices and delivered it to the V-Mail stations in the United States. Postal authorities divided the continental U.S. into three regions and funneled the incoming and outgoing V-Mail to three facilities: New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. At the ports of embarkation the War and Navy Departments took over postal duties and Kodak ran the V-Mail photography operations. The military was responsible for the transportation of mail destined for overseas personnel. Getting V-Mail to and from the field depended upon a network of V-Mail plants at key locations in the European and Pacific theaters.

Technology was the linchpin in this inter-agency, international network. At the center was the Recordak machine that was initially developed by the Eastman Kodak Company for bank records. The microphotography equipment was designed for ease of use and mass production of recorded materials. Great Britain’s Airgraph Service relied on Kodak for shrinking letters onto microfilm for shipment. Following that lead, the U.S. War Department entered into a contract with the Eastman Kodak Company on May 8, 1942 to use Recordak machines to process V-Mail.

Kodak coordinated the photographic operations in the continental U.S. When it came to the far-flung overseas V-Mail stations, the processing was in the hands of the U.S. military. There, staff relied on the Recordak’s straight-forward design and function to process mail quickly. Captain James Hudson, trained by Eastman Kodak Company, operated V-Mail in Cairo, Egypt, described the machine’s actions:

“It accepted a stack of regular size sheets of paper, about 8 x 11, and fed them one at a time through this machine that was about the size of a small chest of drawers, or today’s paper copier. Cleverly, a light scanned the sheet through a narrow, transverse slot and exposed one frame of a 16 mm motion picture film that was synchronized with it, so that one tiny frame had the image of the full sheet of paper. For those days, that was a lot of compression and tremendous synchronization to make it happen. Kodak gets all the credit for that innovation” http://postalmuseum.si.edu/VictoryMail/operating/flipbook_flash.html

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Using V-Mail

V-Mail letter sheets were designed to make the microfilming process easy. The distinguishing marks and uniform size of V-Mail stationery helped workers gather the folded letter sheets for their special processing. All sheets were set to standard dimensions, weight, grain, and layout.

The materials were produced by the Government Printing Office as well as printing and stationery firms that had been issued permits by the Post Office Department. Multiple suppliers were used to get the V-Mail forms to the people quickly.

The Post Office Department provided customers with special stationery for free. Correspondents could obtain two sheets per day from their local post office. Others opted to purchase the materials that were readily available in neighborhood stores.

V-Mail stationery functioned as a letter and envelope in one. Once the sender had completed her message, she put the recipient’s and return addresses at the top and then folded the sheet into a self-mailing piece. This set of addresses was essential to the final stages for delivery because only this side was reproduced from microfilm to photographic print.

The sender repeated addresses a second time on the opposite side of the sheet. This set, on the “envelope” side of the form, was used to carry the mail along its first stage of the journey from a mailbox to a processing center.

You can print out a copy of a blank V-Mail form (http://postalmuseum.si.edu/VictoryMail/images/vmail.pdf) to use as stationery. If you want to mail it, be sure to use first-class postage.

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Letter Writing in World War II

For members of the armed forces the importance of mail during World War II was second only to food. The emotional power of letters was heightened by the fear of loss and the need for communication during times of separation. Messages from a husband, father, or brother, killed in battle might provide the only surviving connection between him and his family. The imminence of danger and the uncertainty of war placed an added emphasis on letter writing. Emotions and feelings that were normally only expressed on special occasions were written regularly to ensure devotion and support.

Military personnel felt the most connected to home through reading about it in letters. Civilians were encouraged to write their service men and women about even the most basic activities. Daily routines, family news, and local gossip kept the armed forces linked to their communities.

Wartime romances adjusted to long distances and sweethearts and spouses separated by oceans used mail to stay in touch. Couples were married on furlough and babies were born while their fathers were away at the battlefront. Letters kept America’s troops informed about home life and detailed accounts allowed them to be in the war and have that critical link back to their families. Others wrote to kindle new relationships and fight off the loneliness and boredom of wartime separation.

Mail played a significant role in maintaining morale on the battlefront and at home, and officials supported that role by working to ensure mail communications during wartime. V-Mail service could ensure this communication with added security and speed. The Office of War Information and the Advertising Council worked with commercial businesses and the community to spread the word about this new service and its benefits.

V-Mail was promoted as patriotic with advertisements emphasizing contributions to the war effort, such as saving cargo space and providing messages to lift spirits. To allay the fears and misconceptions of would-be V-Mail writers, news reports explained how the letters were processed and sped to military personnel.

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Bicentennial Barns

On a trip through portions of Ohio last summer I discovered a love of the State’s Bicentennial barns. Now I have always had a passion for barns, however these beauties take the cake. Ohio Celebrated it’s Bicentennial 1803-2003 and artist Scott Hagan completed his five-year mission of painting the Bicentennial logo on at least one barn in each of the 88 counties in 2002. Pretty impressive accomplishment if you ask me. I have been able to photograph only six of these barns. I do however hope to return over the next several years and record the remaining. As I understand some have been repainted or destroyed.

Location: Coshocton County 54210 Rt. 36, Fresno; just east of intersection SR 93 and U.S. Route 36. Latitude: N40 17.50 Longitude: W81 43.44 This was the 20th barn to be painted.
Location: Coshocton County 54210 Rt. 36, Fresno; just east of intersection SR 93 and U.S. Route 36. Latitude:
N40 17.50 Longitude:
W81 43.44 This was the 20th barn to be painted.
Location: Crawford County 3536 State Route 598, Crestline; SR 598 about 1.5 miles north of U.S. 30 Latitude: N40 50.04 Longitude: W82 47.32 This was the 18th barn to be painted.
Location: Crawford County 3536 State Route 598, Crestline; SR 598 about 1.5 miles north of U.S. 30 Latitude: N40 50.04
Longitude: W82 47.32
This was the 18th barn to be painted.
Location: Hancock County 20442 US 224 East; SR 224, about 7 miles east of Findlay. Latitude: N41° 04.23 Longitude: W83° 29.16 This was the 15th barn to be painted.
Location: Hancock County 20442 US 224 East; SR 224, about 7 miles east of Findlay.
Latitude: N41° 04.23
Longitude: W83° 29.16
This was the 15th barn to be painted.
Location: Holmes County 7260 SR 83, just south of Holmesville  Latitude: N40 37.29 Longitude: W81 55.05 This was the 47th barn to be painted
Location: Holmes County 7260 SR 83, just south of Holmesville
Latitude: N40 37.29
Longitude: W81 55.05
This was the 47th barn to be painted
Location: Summit County At 3742 Hudson Drive. Visible from Rt 8 just north of Silver Lake exit. Latitude: N41 10.28 Longitude: W81 28.68 This was the 77th barn to be painted.
Location: Summit County At 3742 Hudson Drive. Visible from Rt 8 just north of Silver Lake exit.
Latitude: N41 10.28
Longitude: W81 28.68
This was the 77th barn to be painted.
Location: Fulton County 21157 U.S. 20A in Archbold. Latitude: N41 34.11 Longitude: W84 16.48 This was the 37th barn to be painted.
Location: Fulton County
21157 U.S. 20A in Archbold.
Latitude: N41 34.11
Longitude: W84 16.48
This was the 37th barn to be painted.
May 20, 2012 view from SR 65 of the Putnam County "Ohio Bicentennial" barn, just south of Columbus Grove, OH. Destroyed 40 days later by derecho thunderstorm complex. Location: Putnam County On Rt 65 south of Rt 12 intersection by .5 mile. Latitude: N40 54.55 Longitude: W84 04.05 This was the 55th barn to be painted. Ohio Barns
May 20, 2012 view from SR 65 of the Putnam County “Ohio Bicentennial” barn, just south of Columbus Grove, OH. Destroyed 40 days later by derecho thunderstorm complex.
Location: Putnam County On Rt 65 south of Rt 12 intersection by .5 mile.
Latitude: N40 54.55
Longitude: W84 04.05
This was the 55th barn to be painted.
Ohio Barns
"After" photo, July 23, 2012, of ruins of Ohio Bicentennial barn for Putnam County, just south of Columbus Grove, OH. Destroyed by severe derecho storm of June 29.
“After” photo, July 23, 2012, of ruins of Ohio Bicentennial barn for Putnam County, just south of Columbus Grove, OH. Destroyed by severe derecho storm of June 29.