Posts Tagged ‘ Adversity ’

EXPERIENCING SELF PITY? USE HUMOR AS YOUR WEAPON

PUTTING A FACE ON THE HUMAN RACE

EXPERIENCING SELF PITY? TRY TAP-DANCING

IT AWAY ON THE STAGE OF LIFE!

We are all starring in The Theater of the

Absurd. Look into the mirror. See yourself?

Even at your saddest moment of

wretchedness, study the character gawking

back at you. Notice the bloodshot eyes, the

twitch, the frown etched in deep furrows.

Pretty pathetic, huh? Now look deeper. There’s

a gladiator hiding behind that gloomy

facade. I don’t care how you’ve failed

or how your spirit was damaged. Give your

memory sack a good shake and there’ll be

an assortment of memorable moments spilling

out. Guaranteed, you’re gonna find something

to howl, growl or smile about. I know, I know.

You’re uncomfortable. But don’t hide. You’re

tap-dancing under the glare of the spotlight,

sharing the stage with billions whose tragedies

would dwarf the grief you’re experiencing.

You’re suffering an ego attack. Maybe a broken

heart? Everybody gets them. So stop fretting!

Even in the midst of catastrophic sadness,

there is humor. When my childhood friend,

Dick (Bumbo) Channon died at 52, I had his mother

and sister laughing. I dropped a handful of

bubble gum into his open casket. Memories are

made of happiness. Fun, never dies easy.

When my Irish pal, Frank Francis O’Leary

recently kicked the bucket, I wrote a

story turning the portly aerospace

physicist into a leprechaun stuck in a

tree. Death might be an emotional disaster for

many, but beyond those woe-be-gone tears lurks

the soul of truth that’s ready to spring forth

and bite you on the buttocks, infecting your

solemnness with happy memories. Truth harbors

a helluva sense of humor. You just gotta remember

the good times. So, if you want to temporarily

overcome those doldrums, here’s my suggestion:

Go into the bathroom and lock the door. As I

suggested earlier, find the mirror. You’re all

alone, right? Now bend over and give yourself

a kick in the ass. If you’re not double-

jointed, pull down your pants or panties and

“moon” the mirror. That act, I suspect, will give

you good reason to rise above self pity. You might even

realize what a pathetic looking asshole you are.

Remember: Laughter beats tears.


— Boots LeBaron —

WHO’D KILL DUMBO, SIMBA OR MAGILLA AND CALL IT SPORT?

THE HUMAN RACE

 

KILLING INNOCENT ANIMALS  IN WORLD JUNGLES IS A HUMAN DISGRACE!

 

     What if poachers in Africa and other countries of the world killed Dumbo, Ruby the Rhino, Tony the Tiger, Smokey the Bear, Magilla the Gorilla, or Peter Potamus the hippopotamus or Simba The Lion King? Wouldn’t that piss you off?

     Of course, the above names belong to cartoon characters. But what if they were true to life animals killed by poachers in the jungles of the world? For instance, let’s identify Cecil, a magnificent adult lion, recently killed in Zimbabwe, to a famous cartoon celebrity many of us might recognize as Simba The Lion King?

     Cecil reportedly was murdered by a 55-year-old dentist identified by Associated Press as Walter Palmer from Eden Prairie, Minneapolis. Armed with a crossbow and protected by armed

guides, he killed Cecil who at the time of death was wearing a collar and was lured from a protected area early this month (July) where he was assassinated.      So Palmer, a big game hunter, was identified by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the Safari Operators Assn. of Zimbabwe and police authorities as an American facing poaching charges for the crossbow incident.

     Cecil was more than a statistic. He was a beautiful animal who was denied the right to live in Zimbabwe by a dentist who AP reportedly paid $50,000 for the sordid trek to kill a defenseless lion. So, there goes another Simba The Lion King to the sport of death.

     What a trophy he would make for the wealthy dentist who in 2008 AP says pleaded guilty to making false statements to wildlife officials about fatally shooting a black bear in Wisconsin in 2006.

     For cartoon identification purposes, let’s call that bear, Smokey. For making false statements to wildlife officials about the bear (Smokey), Palmer was put on a year’s promotion and fined a couple of thousand bucks. Despite the two killings, old Walter will never wind up in The Big House.

     If he ever goes on a big hunt, authorities should demand that he must replace steel-tipped arrows with suction cups. That’d make the odds more even.

     Several months ago, I wrote another story about poachers, using Dumbo, Walt Disney’s adorable little elephant, as the main character. My intention was to make readers realize that the mass murders of wildlife creatures were heartbreaking realities.

     Ironically, another well written story by Robyn Dixon of the L.A. Times reported earlier this month that more than 1,200 rhinos were slaughtered last year in South Africa.   Remember Ruby the Rhino cartoon? So sad.

     Anyway, let’s focus on Dumbo, a story I labored on a number of months ago. Imagine that today he was a full-grown mountain bull with massive ivory tusks roaming the jungles of Africa’s plush Botswana or the tundra in Northern Kenya. He’s the same precious little rascal with the big heart we all remember as kids. He’s just grown up.

     Animal assassins armed with automatic weapons, poison-tipped spears, bow and arrows and even crossbows are killing beautiful animals throughout the world today. Not only are these animal hunters killing for cash, but describing their brutal, inhumane homicidal acts as sport.

     I know, I know. Humanity is a violent species. Humans kill each other motivated by racial bigotry, greed, religious extremism, poverty, war, terrorism, ignorant fury or murderous vindictive acts focused at some tenant who’s not paying the rent a hanky-pankiest playing with your soul mate.

     As people overpopulating Earth, we are something to behold. God only knows why individuals must complete such missions of mayhem. Yet, some poverty-stricken African men and women

can earning as much as $2,500 a kill. They hack off Dumbo’s massive tusks and leave his rotting carcass for the vultures and other predators. Loads of ivory tusks are shipped to China and other Asian countries where they are carved into small ornamental knickknacks, jewelry, priceless chess pieces, and religious symbols earning fortunes for their remorseless marketers. Are you going to buy one?

     Since premeditated murder of innocent animals for profit is a sin, how can those who worship various Supreme Beings explain why they are making fortunes selling or buying religious artifacts made from the tusks of endangered pachyderms or horns of rhinoceroses? And why in hell would God-fearing customers purchase such religious items carved from elephant tusks? I guess you can chalk it up to a classic case of greed, ignorance, pomposity or an unsavory act of spiritual apathy.    

     By now, an adult Dumbo would have his own breed of babies and leave behind a grieving widow. Elephants do grieve just like humans. Experts on the subject report that in Africa alone, about 30,000 these magnificent mammoths are slaughtered annually.      The reason I used Dumbo as a metaphor is to make this point: How many of you know of giant tusker named Sato? Not many, I’ll wager. The renowned 6-ton pachyderm who roamed Tsavo East National Park in Kenya was killed by poachers on May 30, 2014. Some reports say he “died a painful death” caused by poison-tipped arrows or spears. Another news story reported that he died suffering eight bullet wounds fired from automatic weapons.

     Since you might not know who Sato is, I substituted Dumbo’s name. The information I gleaned from a variety of sources: CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning News, National Geographic and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

     Paula Kahumbu, a Kenya-based wildlife conservationist for Wildlife Direct, said that Sato (like Dumbo) was a celebrity in his own right; that he was highly respected not only as a “magnificent pachyderm but as major tourist attraction.”

     A National Geographic story quoted Ms. Kahumbu saying, “All the killers wanted was his tusks so somebody far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”

     The question to those who have never witnessed such an atrocity is: How deeply would you care if you learned that an elephant named Sato was slaughtered for his tusks? After all, Sato was only one of an estimated 100,000 elephants ruthlessly assassinated across Africa in recent years. If Sato’s mutilated carcass turned out to be an adult Dumbo, once revered by children as well as adults, wouldn’t that leave an emptiness in your soul; a painful feeling of remorse in the pit of your conscience? I hope so.

     I realize that our violent society breeds its own stalkers, killers, drive-by shooters as well as domestic and foreign terrorists like ISIS. So who is truly concerned about some big old thick-skinned pachyderm named Sato in an African reserve tens of thousands of miles from our shoreline.

     After all, there are an estimated 690,000 African elephants alive today. That’s a lot of Dumbos compared to 5 million such giants roaming free back in the 1930s and 1940s. Now their severed tusks, each with a monumental price tag, are shipped to places like China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam.

     Foreign criminal organizations with sophisticated weaponry kill viciously, reported CBS-TV. A horrendous incident reported in a 2012, an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down inside a national park in Cameroon, a republic stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad in West Africa.  

     In recent years, says one report, “dozens” of rangers were killed fighting to protect wildlife from poachers in Africa. Is waging such a war against those who kill animals for profit so horrifying when humanity is hard at work killing its own kind by the millions? For God sakes, we’re even decapitating heads and burning people alive to make a political point; stoning women to death because they refuse to obey the demands of ruthless males who dominate their lives.  

     Since we’re talking about cartoon animals, let me ask one last question: If you were a poacher, how much would you charge to kill an adult Dumbo for his valuable tusks and his sturdy legs used occasionally for coffee tables, Ruby the Rhinoceros whose horns are made into dagger handles or ground into power used for medicinal purposes as well as an aphrodisiac, Peter Potamus the hippopotamus for his cute ears and big toothies, Maguilla the Gorilla using his powerful hands and feet for trophies, Tony the Tiger for use as a throw rug which includes his handsome head and sharp fangs, Simba the Lion King for his mane and mandibles, Smokey the Bear for his huge paws and claws?

     I feel so helpless trying to rewrite parts of this story. Helpless!! All I can say is: Think of these beautiful, defenseless animals. For their sake, please don’t buy ivory! And vote against the rampant growth of guns in our nation.

 

                        — Boots LeBaron —

A BROKEN PROMISE: CIVILIZATION’S MAJOR CRIME

THE HUMAN RACE

A BROKEN PROMISE AIN’T NO MISDEMEANOR!

 

A broken promise can scar the

soul of every individual who’s convinced

that trust is humanity’s cornerstone.

It’s capable of shattering the

confidence of any trusting person

whose confidence in another

has been desecrated.

In any court of

dignity where the indignant

act is exposed, the culprit

will either be exonerated,

mentally shackled with feelings

of guilt and anxiety for life,

stuck with a misdemeanor thanks

to the power of forgiveness,

labeled as a liar and a cheat,

or, depending on the severity

of the mental or financial anguish

inflicted on another. Of course, those

suffering from life’s broken-promise

syndrome, especially those whose lives

have been wrecked in the midst of a

lovey-dovey relationship, has every

philosophical right to reward that partner

with a seat on the electric chair.

Humanity consists of so many ridiculous

men and women in search of peace of mind

and a perfect life, which is never perfect.

No matter how benign or devious, a broken

promise can cause humiliation, hyperventilation

acute anxiety or psychotic short circuitry

despite the admirable intentions that kick off

any kind of human relationship. Yet, no matter

how intolerable the plight, a broken promise

should rightfully be labeled guilty as charged

on every victim’s shit list. Forever!

Boots LeBaron

BEWARE OF THE SMILEY-FACED OFFICE JACKAL!

THE HUMAN RACE

THE OFFICE JACKAL WILL EAT YOU UP!

 

Like the owl, the hyena, and

especially the office jackal,

they are out to get us! Comparing

these predatory creatures to people,

they are society’s bullies, workplace

maneuverers who feed on fellow employees.

Even brilliant CEOs have to defend themselves

against management subordinates who are

who are determined to devour their

executive bosses. Using disparaging

tactics, propaganda is the weapon

that keeps them on top of the

corporate and blue-collar heap.

They break hearts. They plagiarize.

Some are so brilliant, so creative,

they lure the naive, unsuspecting leaders

and fellow employees into a steel trap from

which there is no escape. These human

jackals exist because they are so

cunning. Many hide behind purity,

integrity, compassion. Even religion.

Some carnivores actually reward followers

who help carry out unscrupulous assaults

on others. So guys and gals who expect

to earn an honest buck at whatever

job level you are working, you’d

better beware that there are political

hyenas and other hungry predators who,

despite their hypocritical smiley faces,

see you as nothing more than tidbits. You

could wind up as carnage scattered across

that untamed concrete jungle you identify as

your World of Opportunity. Thank God,

that’s your problem. Not mine!

 

— Boots LeBaron —

 

 

BEAUTY QUEEN TELLS ABOUT HER ADVENTURES IN LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

LIFE’S REALITIES FROM A FORMER BEAUTY PAGEANT WINNER

 

     Lee Turner was one beauty pageant queen who wasn’t afraid to tell her true story,  looking at life and death as she lived it.

     Here’s the still-timely interview I wrote 26 years ago:

     Despite their years, the expressive brown eyes are youthful and unmistakable trusting. As we sat across from each other in a corner booth at Buffy’s coffee shop in old downtown Torrance, California, Lee Turner revealed what those eyes had seen in 74 years of life.

     I’ve never used the word sweetness to describe a woman’s face. But in Lee’s case, it was a perfect fit. Even before she spoke, her eyes would reveal the emotional thoughts behind them.

     It wasn’t all good. It wasn’t all bad. Yet there were moments of terror that still lingered in her memories. There were moments of love, restlessness, confusion — and times when she felt “on top of the world.”

     For Lee, motherhood was one dream that never materialized. After several miscarriages, she could never have a baby of her own.

     The last pregnancy lasted six months.

     “It broke my heart,” she remembered. “But looking at the world today, maybe it’s just as well.”

     Although she shrugged away those memories, she recited “My Great Desire,” a poem she wrote after she lost her last child, as if it happened just yesterday.

     “I wish I had a darling boy to tuck into his bed,

     To put away each baby toy and smooth his tousled head.

     I’d walk so proudly down the street

     And take his chubby hand

     And smile at ever one I’d meet

     And look upon his face so tan!

     God, is that too much to ask,

     A favor which seems quite small?

     I would try to master the heaviest task

     If you would heed my call.”

     A half-century before we met, in the former Torrance Auditorium, Miss Leila (Lee) Mae Combs, a striking 24-year-old brunette paraded across the stage in a one-piece swimsuit and high heels.

     In competition with nine other young women, she won, selected as the first Miss Torrance in that city’s history.

     “The country was still very poor then. The Torrance Moose Lodge sponsored the beauty contest. I came prepared to sing a ‘song poem’ I wrote. But it wasn’t necessary.

     Lee walked away not only as Miss Torrance 1939 but was awarded a new swimsuit, a beach towel, a robe, a free hair shampoo and set at a local salon, and the opportunity to compete in the Miss California beauty pageant in Venice, Calif.

     “I lost that one,” she said, smiling.

     Beauty contest winners, Lee noted, “have it made today. If they were asked to compete for the kind of prizes I won, they’d say, ‘Forget it!’ In my day, the honor of being selected as a pretty woman was important.”

     As a young women, her favorite actress was Clara Bow. “I wanted to be like her,” Lee said. “In 1940, she moved into a girlfriend’s apartment in Hollywood, worked as a waitress and taught ballroom dancing while pursuing an acting career. But Hollywood never beckoned.

     “A couple of producers offered to show me their etchings,” she said, giggling. “I told them, ‘No way!'”

     She would never forget the Sunday morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. “Even now when I think of it, I break out in goose bumps.”

     On that fateful day, Lee and her first husband, Eddie Guillow, a crane operator, were newlyweds living in a small house near Honolulu Airport.

     “I was sitting at a breakfast table writing a note to my mother on a Christmas card when I heard the sound of a plane,” Lee recalled. “It kept getting louder and louder. Suddenly, the house seemed to explode.”

     A Japanese Zero riddled her home with machine gun fire, the bullets penetrating the breakfast nook only a foot from where she was sitting. “I ruined the note,” she said, laughing at the irony. “I dove for a door jam, thinking it might be an earthquake.”

     Then a second plane zoomed overhead, dropping a bomb that exploded across the street, sending chunks of shrapnel into her house. About the same time, her husband was operating a crane near the battleship USS Arizona, which was under heavy attack. “When the Arizona exploded and sunk, Eddie had to dive off the crane and swim under the burning oil to safety.”

     A year later, back in the U.S. while walking with her sister-in-law, Lee said she “hit the dirt” when a plane passed overhead. “I felt embarrassed. But when my sister-in-law started laughing, I told her, ‘It’s not funny!'”

     Her husband was killed in a crane accident in 1947. Five years later she married Ken (Buck) Turner. A maintenance supervisor for the Torrance Parks Department, her husband died several months later.

     “It seems that everywhere I go, something drastic happens,” said Lee, who grew up in Torrance in a family of eight children and graduated from Torrance High School there.

     Another calamity she found herself in the midst of was the devastating Long Beach earthquake in 1933. “It was a very foggy Friday afternoon,” she recalled. “I was in the kitchen of my second-story apartment fixing french fries when the building began to sway and shake.

     “Polytechnic High School was right next door. It’s tower collapsed and fell onto my front yard. I was 18 years old and terrified. When I sat down at the breakfast nook, a second temblor tore the gas stove from the wall and knocked me out! When I came to, I was covered with french fries.

     “I was trapped in the kitchen. Rescuers had to break into the room to get me out. Other than a bump on my head and being scared half to death, I was fine.”

     At that time, I asked, “At your age, with all these experiences, what have you learned about survival?”

     “I live today as if it were tomorrow. I have girlfriends. I like to go places. I was a liberated women long before my second husband died. I don’t like to see what’s happening in the world. But I love visiting downtown Torrance.

     “I plan to be around long after everyone else is pushing up daisies,” she said with  that sweet-faced smile.

     Suffice to say: Lee Turner, if she’s still alive today, was my favorite beauty queen.   Ever!

 

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

 

THE SYMBOL OF BLACK SLAVERY ENDS TODAY (JULY 10, 2015)!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

SOMETIMES A LITTLE POLITICAL RISK IN LIFE WORKS!

If you experiment with life,

Undoubtedly you’ll suffer strife.

Failure can be remorseful

But lessons learned resourceful.

To gamble on a bright tomorrow,

Procrastination may result in sorrow.

Without risky experimentation,

How does one weigh true jubilation?

Symbolizing the brutal act of black slavery,

today the Confederate battle flag comes down

Ending its metaphorical reign of savagery.

After 150 years, fueled by political myopia, no longer

Shall it wave its toxic message across our  U.S. Utopia.

Challengers of fate’s perplexing test

Now have a chance to be politically  the best.

Too unpatriotic to endure, the prejudicial gambol

Has trapped  such ruthless aspirations in a bramble.

Never knowing your true potential

Doesn’t mean you’re inconsequential.

Even evildoers who’ve survived on sheer luck,

Their bullyrag has finally become mired in the muck.

 

Boots LeBaron —

NAVAL/MARITIME OFFICER REMEMBERS THE HELL OF WAR

THE RING OF LIFE

 

COMBAT STORIES RECALLED BY U.S. NAVAL/MARITIME COMMANDER

     In 1989, then Mayor Katy Geissert told me about a 78-year-old Naval veteran whose American flag autographed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen from a convalescent home. At the time, I was working as a free-lancer writing everything from human interest stories and essays to light poetry.

     Katy was serving as the first female mayor for the city of Torrance, Calif. What began as a brief interview with retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis, stretched into days. I saw his credentials, believed his words, and wrote this story. It was carried on the front pages of a few newspapers, including The Daily Breeze, a Copley paper. Although I didn’t work

at The Breeze, I was there when his wife, Maureen, brought him into the newsroom on a wheelchair. In full uniform, he struggled to his feet and stood proudly for a photo that made the front page of The Breeze.

     Although I edited the feature slightly, meet the crusty old U.S. war veteran whose wife said she “rescued” him from the convalescent facility where she had cared for him, married him, and finally brought him home where he recalled his wartime adventures.

     Believe it or not, here’s the story he told me during a surprisingly long interview which I wrote about the ancient warrior:

 

     Birth is a gift. Life is an adventure. Death is a tragedy that even the courageous might welcome with open arms.

     “Many times,” retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis admitted wishing “the sun would never come up, at least for me.” Not while serving his country during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but over the decade he was being shuffled from one hospital to another, winding up at society’s last stop: a convalescent home in Torrance, California.

     When a bomb explosion blew him off the bridge of a cargo ship as it headed down the Saigon River in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Cmdr. Ellis suffered a serious head injury.

     “I was in a coma for months,” he told me. “When I finally came to, I couldn’t talk, think, and my legs were paralyzed. The surgeons must have left a couple of loose wires in my head.

     “When I was younger, I felt that a man who’d commit suicide has gotta be a coward. I was wrong,” said he sat in a wheelchair with his caretaker-wife, Maureen, 48, at his side.

     What I had anticipated to be a brief interview stretched into hours. Although dates escaped him, the stories he’d recall was far more than a old seaman’s yarn. For Ellis, with memory fading and a body that was anything but shipshape, hell appeared hard for him to forget.

     I first learned about the commander from Torrance mayor Kathy Geissert who told me about an elderly man in a convalescent home where his American flag which was personally autographed for him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen.  

     The second eldest in a family of 5 sisters and 4 brothers, Ellis grew up on a fruit farm in Garfield, Arkansas. In 1928, right out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy. Following his discharge, he remained in the Naval Reserve and went on to college studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

     The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was called back into active duty. Eight months later, serving aboard the USS Edgar Allen Poe during the invasion of Guadalcanal, a bomb struck the ship, rupturing steam pipes in the engine room severely scalding the young engineer.

     Months later, he was aboard another ship that was sunk by German torpedoes in the North Atlantic. “This was early in the war before they started using convoys,” he said. “We floated around for four days before a Dutch trawler picked us up.”

     He described the feeling of watching your ship sink as “helpless, sad and depressing. Your ship is your home. Down with it goes all your personal belongings, your letters, uniforms, pictures of loved ones, and some of your shipmates.”

     Ellis vividly remembered the nine invasions he participated in during The Big War: Guadalcanal, North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Naples, Normandy, Toulon (a seaport in southeast France), Marseilles and Okinawa.

     After the death of his younger brother, Harold, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany, Ellis described himself as “bitter.”

     That, combined with experiencing the loss of shipmates with the sinking of the USS Poe, caused Ellis to volunteer “to make the first wave of any invasion the military cared to send me to.”

     In 1943, off the western coast of Italy, Lt. Com. Ellis was aboard another troop carrier, the USS Georgian. “They had bombed us pretty heavy and we lay dead in the water,” he recalled. The Germans boarded the ship, captured five officers, including Ellis, and transported them to a prisoner-of-war camp in Czechoslovakia.

     “Every morning the Germans would come by and say, ‘You goddamned Yanks, this is the day you’re going to get it!’ One day they loaded us into wooden boxcars. We were jammed together. There was no velvet seats in those cars. We knew we were headed for the gas chambers.”

     As the train sped along the tracks, Ellis and a chief petty officer, Felix Bond, broke a hole in the side of the boxcar and jumped off “in the middle of nowhere. My arms, knees and face were badly scraped up and Bond broke his leg.”

     The two men hid in the brush during the day and, using the stars to navigate, traveled at night. “We didn’t want to go west. That led to Germany. If we were captured we knew we’d be murdered.”

     A distant light led them to a small farmhouse where a Czech

couple and their teen-age daughter lived. “The girl spoke almost fluent English. They had no love for Hitler so they hid us in the stable, fed and doctored us as best they could. They were scared but very brave. They knew they’d be killed if they were caught harboring allies.”

     Although Bond was too injured to travel, Ellis somehow had to get to Prague, which was about 10 miles from the farm. He claimed he had to locate the underground by reciting the code word, “Mickey Mouse.” The problem was how could a 200-pound Yank, who didn’t know a word of Czech, find that needle in the haystack?

     “The woman shaved my head. She cut off her long hair and glued it to my head. They gave me an old dress, a hat and a walking stick. Oh, and two shoes that didn’t match. I was some sight.

     “They put me on the road and pointed me to Prague. I hitched a ride part way on a horse-drawn wagon. But most of the way I walked. I spent hours on the streets. My feet were killing me. I find somebody and whisper ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Most of them thought I was a crazy old lady.”

     Finally, he said, a man responded with another code name which Ellis no longer remembers. “He took me into a cellar, dressed me in a French uniform and got me to the French border.”

     When he made it back to England, he volunteered to participate in “commando-type missions to help evacuate Jewish and Slav refugees across the English Channel.” Months later, Ellis found himself on another mission aboard the SS Benjamin Contie, a troop carrier which was wired with high explosives.

     On June 6, 1944, the Contie was part of the first wave to hit Ohama Beach during the massive allied invasion of Normandy. He claimed it was the sixth invasion he participated in.

     “We pulled up so close to shore we scraped bottom; unloaded our troops, blew out our hull, turning the ship into a permanent bunker,” he recalled. “There were four other ships in that invasion just like us.”

     Two battleships, the USS Texas and USS Arkansas, were firing their big guns from a distance so close to the Contie “the concussion would knock some of us down. I lost my helmet and my right eardrum because of those damned 16-inchers.”

     He recalled a grisly memory aboard the Contie during the invasion: As an Army sergeant was supervising the debarkation of troops, a cable snapped, decapitating him. “He body took a few steps then fell forward into the arms of two soldiers.

     “A soldier picked up the head. I’ll never forget. The G said, ‘Look, he’s trying to say something.’ I looked. The eyes were open. The mouth was moving. I said, ‘Let him talk. Maybe he’s talking to God.'”

     Listening to the old commander, I was convinced that he was telling what he remembered was the truth. Hard to believe, it was not a yarn designed for Hollywood and John Wayne.

     But his adventures continued.

     Expecting to be transported to a hospital ship on the second day of the invasion, Ellis climbed onto a British minesweeper. In less than ten minutes, the sweeper was struck by a bomb, split in two and sunk. He was knocked overboard. Soon an amphibious landing craft plucked him out of the ocean and carried him into the thick of the invasion.

     That same day, he said, a jeep driving past him hit a landmine and Ellis suffered serious injuries, losing part of his stomach and chalking up a second Purple Heart for his war chest. After spending time in an English hospital, he traveled aboard the Queen Mary, which had been converted into a hospital shop, to New York where he was discharged from the Navy and re-enlisted in the Merchant Marines.

     As a Maritime commander, he returned to the wars. Following the invasion of Sicily, he transported Gen. George S. Patton and his Third Army troops on a few occasions. During that period, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to meet her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a hospital in Warm Springs, Georgia.

     “He was very sick,” recalled Ellis. “But he was sitting up in bed puffing on that long-cigarette holder. That’s when he shook my hand. The president, said Ellis, tried to write a brief tribute

on presidential stationary. His handwriting was illegible, prompting his wife to write the note. In part, it read, “…

knowing your military history, I consider you a brave man and a great credit to the United States.” Right then I told him that the real heroes are the men who never make it back. I still believe that.”

     The president managed to autograph an American flag, which he presented to Ellis. After it was displayed in Torrance, Calif. on Memorial Day 1988, the flag was stolen from the convalescent home where he was being cared for.

     On May 13, 1989, dressed in his Maritime uniform, Ellis married Maureen Buckley Kerger, who had “rescued” him from the same convalescent home where his American flag was stolen. Thus began another chapter in the life of an Arkansas farm boy who went to war so many years ago and had seen his share of hell on Earth.  

               END

    NOTE: Tomorrow, July 4, 2015, (Independence Day), I’ll tell Ellis’ story about the day the commander refused to allow Gen. George S. Patton to bring his pit bull terrier aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II.

 

 

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