Battleship Fire Mission

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I want to share something special with you. This video is never-before-seen footage from my private collection. It was filmed aboard the Battleship Missouri during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. What you are seeing is the forward main battery plotting room, which is the control center for the sixteen inch guns. All of the computer equipment we used was from the 1940′s and 1950′s. The main ballistics computer was installed on the ship during WWII and the shore bombardment computer was added during the Korean conflict. Talk about getting your money’s worth from technology!

The mathematics involved in solving the gun fire control problem are very complicated. We were trying to fire a 2,000 lb projectile at a target 20 miles away from a moving, floating platform, but the computers we were using had no solid state electronics. Not only were there no microchips, we didn’t even use any transistors in our gear- it was all vacuum tubes and analog equipment! But it still worked. Sometime, when I have a little more time, I will explain a bit more about what the math looks like. For now, take a look at the video… and be sure to thank a veteran today for the freedom!

Fishing in Tasmania

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, my ship, the USS Missouri, made a port visit to Hobart, Tasmania in Australia. I have to say it was easily one of the most memorable places I ever got to see. I can remember thinking that there is really only one thing I would like to do in Tasmania- go fishing. One of the locals in a restaurant where we were eating overheard me expressing this desire to my shipmates and before I knew it, I was heading to the Great Lake with a young fishing fanatic called Josh and his family in hopes of landing a Tassie lake trout. This short video clip makes me smile every time I see it.

Your Future Self

Michael Wesch often talks about the “context collapse” involved in creating a video for YouTube.

On the other side of that little glass lens is almost everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, and even those you have never heard of. In more specific terms, it is everyone who has or will have access to the internet – billions of potential viewers, and your future self among them.

In 1988 YouTube was barely even a dream, but I was stationed in Japan in the Navy, happily making videos for the enjoyment of my family and friends back home. I’m sure I considered that one day my future self would want to view the videos as well. Here is a clip that I did as a joke after a long week of chipping & painting. I wonder if I’d considered a “potential audience of billions” if I’d have done anything differently?

Honor Flight to D.C. – Day 1

A week ago, my grandpa & I embarked on a journey we will both remember for the rest of our lives; a WWII veterans honor flight to tour the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. Over the next several posts, I will recount some highlights of our trip, and hopefully share some tips for people reading this who might be considering taking the same trip themselves.

We live three hours from the Kansas City airport, so we left the day before and stayed at the Airport Marriott, because we could leave our car there instead of in long-term parking. We later learned the Sleep Inn has the same service. We could have saved a bit if we’d have known that. We arrived Sunday afternoon, flew out Monday morning, took our D.C. tour on Tuesday, then flew home on Wednesday.

This is Grandpa and me just before we left Clifton, KS.
leaving

Flying

Grandpa didn’t believe me when I told him about airport security. “Surely they wouldn’t suspect an old man like me,” he quipped. Even I was surprised the level at which they suspected him.

Here’s a travel tip for those traveling with WWII veterans: have them go through security while seated in a wheel chair. My grandpa doesn’t walk too well, but he walked through security. His titanium knees set the metal detector off and the TSA made him stand while waiting unattended for several minutes. In retrospect, he should have just went through in the wheelchair. He couldn’t pass the metal detector anyway, why not have them use the wand on him while seated?

In this photo, the TSA inspector accused Granddad of carrying a pocket knife. “I don’t have a pocket knife,” he said. “Well you have something metal here in your pocket.” After a few moments of this sort of back and forth, it occurred to grandpa what the problem was.

I have a piece of grenade shrapnel in my leg, but I’m not going to take that out for you.

With that explanation, he was allowed to proceed.

tsa

Getting through security was a major hassle and probably the worst part of the trip. Elderly vets flying on Southwest Airlines need to arrive at least an hour early and get through security as quickly as possible. Since Southwest has no assigned seating, you want to be sure to be among the first to board. We were not, and had to entreat upon the goodwill of a kind passenger toward the front of the plane to let us sit together. The aisle and window seats were full 20 rows back and only middle seats were available, until a nice lady saw our predicament and let us have her seat. An early arrival and boarding would have spared us a small hassle. The weather was beautiful the whole trip, and our flight went without a hitch.

Food

Bring yourself some snacks! This tip is probably more for the guardians than the veterans, but both can benefit. By the time we arrived at the Baltimore airport and wound our way through the terminal to the hospitality room, I was famished.

food

We were fed not long after our arrival, but a candy bar or some snack mix or something would have been great while we waited. There are times on the tour bus when a little pick-me-up is in order as well. I brought along extra fruit from breakfast on our actual tour day.

You want to be sure to drink plenty of water and have it always available to drink on the bus as you tour. There was a time or two when we ran out, and I got really thirsty from pushing that wheel chair around all over the place. You do want the elderly veterans to ride the wheel chairs as much as possible. On our trip we had two vets wind up in the emergency room. One became dehydrated because he didn’t drink enough water, and the other fell over and injured herself because she tried to walk back to the hotel after a long day of touring, instead of accepting a ride in a wheel chair. Even very able-bodied vets should take a break and ride on occasion throughout the day.

Udvar-Hazy Center

We toured this branch of the National Air and Space Museum after our arrival in Washington. I knew that grandpa was tired, and this tour was optional, so I asked him if he wanted to see it. He said we didn’t come all of this way to go sit in a hotel, so we went. And were we glad we did. We saw amazing, historic aircraft. I remembered my Navy days with displays of the F-14 Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet and A-6 Intruder. I told Grandpa that I’ll never forget the A-6′s nearly blowing my ears out as they flew in and out of Cubi Point in Subic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a louder aircraft.

enolaGay

The plane Grandpa was most moved by was of course the “Enola Gay” which he says is the plane that saved his life. Regardless of what your thoughts might be on the morality of dropping atomic weapons on Japan, if you were faced with being in the first wave of invasion forces into Japan as was my grand dad, you were happy to see the war brought to a speedy conclusion by whatever means necessary. He is convinced that he would not have survived if the invasion would have happened. Grandpa wrote to his mother in October 1945 regarding the day the war ended,

It was the happiest day of my life.

globalFlyer

I was surprised to see another famous plane in this museum that I immediately recognized. Steve Fossett’s Global Flyer flew the first solo flight around the world, and he did it from none other than Salina, Kansas. Several K-State at Salina students were directly involved in that mission, and our entire campus was saddened to learn of Fossett’s death in 2007. However, it was nice to see the famous aircraft once again.

After an hour or so of touring the Udvar-Hazy museum, we went on to the hotel to get ready for the evening banquet.

Banquet

banquet

There were some 170 people at our banquet including veterans and guardians, all from Kansas. I’m told another group of similar size came later in the week. I think it is really great what Central Prairie Honor Flights has done to put this all together. Every veteran flew for free, and for a $500 donation I was able to accompany my grandfather. I doubt that amount fully covered my expenses, so I’m grateful to everyone who is donating to this worthwhile project.

The food at the banquet was wonderful, the Hilton staff gracious, and Dan Curtis’ family is extremely talented, providing us quality entertainment. His wife & daughters have beautiful singing voices, and we all had fun singing the service fight songs. It was a really long day, but we enjoyed it and looked forward to the next day of tours and remembering fallen heroes.

Kansas Vets Heading to Washington DC

me&grandpa

I’m getting excited because tomorrow, Grandpa & I are heading to Kansas City on the first leg of our veterans Honor Flight. It’s been a long wait, we applied to go last summer, but at long last our day has arrived.

I’ve been loading pictures on to my iTouch so we can talk & discuss. I scanned in Grandpa’s WWII photo album a few years ago, but we’ve never really discussed them in much detail. He and I served in the same part of the world, but some 40 years apart. Grandpa served in New Guinea, the southern Philippines, and occupied Japan. I spent a great deal of time in Japan and in the Philippines during my Navy service, and one of the highlights of my time over there was my visit to the Manila American Cemetary. It wasn’t a place I would have thought to visit on my own, but Grandpa wrote to me and told me if I ever got the chance, he would appreciate my visiting the grave of his fallen comrade buried there. Fortunately, I once did have the chance to go, and was honored to bring home photographs of his friend’s marker for him.

The pictures at the top of this post were made when we were both around 20 years old, Grandpa had his portrait made in Japan after the war had ended, and my portrait was made at my recruit training graduation in Great Lakes, IL. I thought it would be interesting to put them together to see how much I resemble my granddad.

We are both really looking forward to this trip. My connection to Grandpa while I was serving in the Pacific made me pay more attention to historic places I saw such as Corregidor and Nagasaki. I have always been proud of him and I know he was proud of me as well. Now we are going to see the WWII memorial together for what will be an unforgettable trip!

WWII Veteran Honor Flights

Grandpa Army

My Grandpa Jo just after returning home from the Pacific Theatre

This week I called the Central Prairie Honor Flights office to ask about my Grandpa Jo’s application to visit the Washington D.C. WWII memorial. My 85 yr old Grandpa said he would only go if I would accompany him, so earlier this year I applied to be his guardian on the trip. Hundreds of Kansas veterans have applied for this opportunity, so we have had to wait our turn. It now looks like we will be traveling in September or early October.

coldWarCertificates

Grandpa was a combat medic in New Guinea & the Phillipines. I am a veteran of the USS Missouri, the site of the Japanese WWII Surrender, but my service on that famous ship was during the Gulf War era. The above photo shows us together with our Cold War certificates. Grandpa served at the beginning of the cold war; he was actually an occupation army soldier at Hiroshima, Japan after the bomb was dropped. I was stationed in Japan when the Berlin Wall fell, so we at both ends of the Cold War era.

No WWII veteran has to pay for his or her own flight, it is all supported through sponsor donations. If you know a veteran, perhaps you would consider sponsoring him or her on this amazing journey. If you have a large circle of influence, perhaps you could join me in spreading the word about this worthy cause. The national office can be contacted by visiting this link. If you want to support a specific region, you should contact the appropriate regional office.

This video series was produced by a Wichita, Kansas television station and does a wonderful job of explaining how this program works. Check them out!

Since each video automatically plays, I will give you the remaining three parts as links:

I think this is an awesome way to show appreciation to those who sacrificed some of their youth to support and defend freedom. Please consider supporting a veteran today! And stay tuned to this blog for further updates. I will be sure to share photos & video as this story progresses.

Amazing Grace Hopper

I try to tell all of my female computer students about Grace Hopper, especially those who question the decision to be computer professionals. Too many people do not realize the amazing contributions of women to the field of computing. It is seen as a men-only club, which simply is not true. Some of the best computer people I know are women.

The picture in this post is from 1985, the year that Admiral Grace Hopper and Seaman Recruit Bill Genereux served together in the Navy. I never met her but that was the first year I learned about her.

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace International Day of Blogging. I wrote about another pioneer, Jean Jennings Bartik, who actually worked on the ENIAC and other computer projects before Grace Hopper. Literally hundreds of blog posts were made about women in technology yesterday. Check them out!

The One Thing

If you are a teacher, and you have not already viewed the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, then STOP! You obviously have time to kill because you’re here. Stop reading my silly blog and watch it now!

Wasn’t that awesome! I first saw this video last fall in my Principles of College Teaching class, although it’s been out for a couple of years; wish I’d seen it sooner. I think it’s brilliant!

I’m currently reading “The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose” by Matthew Kelly. He writes:

We don’t produce broadly educated, well-rounded leaders for tomorrow. We teach more and more about less and less. We don’t draw out the individual. We impose upon the individual – systems and structures. We don’t reverence individuality, we don’t treasure it, we stifle it and try to stamp it out. We don’t educate, we formulate. We abandon the individual in his or her own need and uniqueness and “impose” the same upon all…

Truth be told, our modern education systems crush the very spirit they claim to instill.

When I reflect on my own teaching and philosophy, I wonder if I am ever guilty of the indictments of these gentlemen. After all, I am a computer technology teacher, and the field of Computer Science is chock full of specialists. Do I ever “crush the very spirit I hope to instill“?

I believe that often times teacher themselves suffer from the same mentality. Certain ways of teaching are preferred over others. For example, the lecture has taken a beating in recent years in favor of “active learning”. But Ken Robinson gives us a spellbinding 20 minute lecture. The point is, we should encourage the strengths of our students and we should also be teaching with our own personal strengths.

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

How many of our students leave our classes thinking they are stupid because what we are teaching doesn’t resonate with them? While we should never accept a lack of effort, perhaps we might do well in accepting that some of our students will never excel in our subject. One thing I struggle with when I recognize that I have a “tree climbing fish” in my class is how to be patient and continue to encourage.

Matthew Kelly also writes:

I believe that we are all capable of doing one thing better than any other person alive at this time in history. What is your one thing?

Oh my gosh! I’ve heard this before! And when I heard it, I thought “yeah, whatever“. In the film, City Slickers, Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, is on a cattle drive trying to sort things out and make some sense of his life. The trail boss Curly, played by Jack Palance, says that middle aged men often come out around the same age, trying to understand.

You city folk!  You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope… then you think two weeks up here will straighten it out.

Here is Matthew Kelly’s idea expressed in Curly’s simple, cowboy way that I’ve heard before but never paid much attention to:

Previously, I posed the question “The quality of my life is determined by the quality of my _____ ?” referring to the Jim Fay statement that “Quality of life is determined by quality of decisions.” Most of the replies I received dealt with some aspect of this idea, whether it was relationships, family, friends, thoughts, or so forth. Ultimately, it all comes down to how we decide to approach these areas of life.

But how do we make good decisions?!?

Kelly suggests that if we know our one thing, the thing that helps us to become the “best version of yourself” then every decision should be centered around whether or not it will help us to do the one thing we were created to do!

I believe if we want to be truly amazing educators, then a number one priority ought to be helping our students discover their “one thing.” And we ought to know our own personal “one thing” and strive to use it each and every day we step into the classroom!

Shooting the Big Guns

Today as I walked across the campus of Kansas State University, the windows rattled and shook because soldiers at Fort Riley were having artillery practice. As I heard the guns boom and felt the ground shake, I recalled that today was another anniversary of sorts from my days in the US Navy.

I will never forget the day that the Battleship Missouri unleashed her 16″ guns against Iraqi forces in Kuwait. February 3, 1991. I was off duty, asleep in my bunk when a tremendous BOOM! shook the ship. The first thing that came to my mind was “Oh no, we’ve struck a mine!” Ships were hitting mines, and we had been involved in destroying mines in the gulf over the previous several days. Then, as I came to my senses, I realized what was happening. The big guns of the USS Missouri were back in combat action for the first time since the Korean war!

Our berthing compartment was directly below Turret #2, so it is a difficult thing to ignore. But believe it or not, there were times that we were so tired we actually slept while fire missions were going on over head.

I was in “F” division, the group responsible for aiming and firing the world’s largest guns. I can remember being frustrated at first because we were divided into two teams and the other fire control team was getting all of the missions. When my team would take over, there seemed to always be a lull in the action. But the frustration was short lived because by the time the 1991 gulf war ended, the Missouri had fired over 800 one ton projectiles.

It is hard to describe the feelings associated with firing Naval Gunfire Support missions. It was something I had trained for over the six years I had been in the Navy. I had been to the gulf region once before on the USS Cochrane shortly after the USS Stark was hit, but we were never called upon to shoot. I can remember feeling disappointed because shortly after leaving the gulf, the USS Hoel, a sister ship to the Cochrane, was called in to destroy an Iranian oil platform. We wanted that job!

But in February of 1991, it was finally our chance to do the job we had trained long and hard to do. I am briefly visible in the YouTube video at 0:21 seconds. A minute later, check out the footage starting at 1:21. The dot you see flying out of the impact crater and arcing across the desert is a truck! These guns were big, they were bad, and the world will never see the likes of them again.

Just imagine firing something the size of a Volkswagen Beetle at a football field in the next town 20 miles away! That is what we did in the 1991 Gulf War. It’s a pity that the battleships were eventually retired, never to be heard from again. But I’m proud to have served on the world’s most famous battleship.