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Bob Snyder

Bob Snyder was my best friend in high school. We met as members of the McClellan Cadet Squadron, Civil Air Patrol in Sacramento. We both dreamed of military careers and spoke almost every evening on the phone about CAP and military history. We both became cadet lieutenants. (that’s Bob in his CAP uniform). Bob was raised by his grandparents in West Sacramento because his parents were out of the picture for some reason I will never understand. He attended James Marshal High Sc

Serendipity

The origin of this book came in the early 1990s in my family history research. I stumbled across a query in an old journal mentioning my ancestors and asking for information about their murders in 1813. Their murders?! The query was then about ten years old. I wrote a letter to the address provided on the hopes that the person had not moved or died. The bad news is that she had moved. The good news is that she had moved next door and got my letter. Martha Heineman was a retir

The Lost Cause

The tragedy in Charlottesville and ensuing cacophony has inspired me to offer my perspective of the history involved. The monuments in question, hundreds, even thousands of them, were erected by proponents of The Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, a series of myths that sought to rationalize Southern suffering. The purpose of the monuments was to say, “We lost the war, but we will win the peace.” These edifices and their inscriptions were the work of local groups like the

My First Podcast

I was honored to be interviewed on the Writers Groupie podcast. I moved my desk around so that my bookcase was in the background and I raised my desk to the standing position. #writing #history #podcasts #Publishing #novels #criticism #video #books #fiction

The American Revolution

We recently observed the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, the ban on slavery. Slavery—involuntary servitude, bonded servitude, etc.—had been the law in the United States and tradition long before that. While a milestone in American History the 13th Amendment should not be seen as a goal or a finish line. The 13th Amendment figures in a wider context of the evolution of human rights since 1776 when the idea of inalienable rights was posed in the Declaration of Independ

Monuments

The aftermath of the tragedy in Charleston has triggered a lively and not always civil discussion on the action in South Carolina to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the capitol grounds (which I agree with) has generated calls fore removal of all symbols of the Confederacy. Most of this noise is just noise in my opinion.  When some misanthrope murdered nine people under color of the Confederate Battle Flag, cries went up to destroy everything Confederate. With the Int

West Point and Cadet Benjamin O. Davis

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point has named a barracks after General Benjamin O. Davis, ’32, the second African American to graduate. He went on to a distinguished military and civilian career. While at West Point he was “silenced” by the other cadets because of his race. His predecessor, Henry Ossian Flipper, endured the same, probably worse from 1873 to 1877. Who were the cadets who imposed this regime on Davis? I looked up graduates of the Class of 1929, the seniors

Bengazi Thing

Congressman Adam Schiff (D., California) has been named by minority leader Pelosi to participate in the most recent inquiry into the deaths of a U.S. Ambassador and three other State Department men in Bengazi. This seems to be fish guts in the water for the Republicans despite the fact that 1) the ambassador had asked for increased security, 2) early assessments of the attack were wrong, and 3) in a war we take damage. I know Adam Schiff. I worked with him in the late 1980s w

Storm in the Desert

I note with some concern a series of stories about the Nevada rancher locked in a struggle with the U.S. Government over his payments for grazing rights. According to the stories he hasn’t paid rent on the Bureau of Land Management lands on which he has been raising cattle, cattle he sells for a profit. The Government has gotten court orders to seize his cattle and have picked up some 300 head. But the rancher is defiant and – this is the scary part – has attracted militia me

Disappeared

The four-engine plane carried 15 persons, nine crew and six passengers and nary a trace was ever found. One passenger, a Chinese-American (Chinese were not permitted to be citizens then), was reported to be carrying $US3 million for use by the Chinese government in its war with Japan. One modern researcher, Guy Noffsinger, has started a website focusing on the mystery of the Hawaii Clipper and is investigating the theory that the flight was hijacked by Japanese Naval intellig

Crimea and Czechoslovakia

The crisis in Ukraine over Crimea has launched news producers into warp drive to find analysts, commenters, commentators, talking heads, and anyone with or without knowledge of events to be interviewed. You know you are wasting your time when the interviewee says, “I only know what I see in the news.” Some of the producers will find historians to find some sort of parallel in the past and the easiest one to pick on is the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938. To recap, in 1938 Adolph H

What are you listening to?

As posted here before, I have begun to explore audio books in addition to hard copy books and e-books. In the past month or two I have tried several audio history books, one about Winston Churchill. Kudos to the actor who reads the narrative for his ability to get into character for Churchill, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and French, British, and American soldiers and politicians. No wonder audio books retail for more than the hard cover versions. There is a lot of talent goin

Holiday Tradition

As a youngster one of the rituals exercised by my mother was, “David, would you go find some chairs please?” I then had to go about the house, not that it was very big, and find all the extra chairs and bring them one at a time to the dining room. For some reason this exercise annoyed me. It was natural that I should help with the dinner and finding chairs is about as low-skill as you can get. It’s not like the chairs are not done or cold or too salty. How simple can it be? W

What are you reading? Hearing?

I usually have two books going at once, one a work of fiction and the other some kind of history book. With the Kindle I can have three or four going at once. I’ve been nibbling at the Memoirs of Ulysses Grant for more than a year, but that doesn’t count in the two. The basic Kindle has a limitation in history since maps don’t do well and maps are pretty important. The iPad* does maps better, but it’s not as convenient as the Kindle. The iPad is prettier, but heavier. The iPa

The Mill

I really need to get better at blogging. That’s a good New Year’s resolution, but I’ve never done New Year’s resolutions. My newest project is a history of Longview Fibre, a pulp, paper and containerboard mill in Longview, Washington. The mill was built in 1927 in the planned community of Longview by industrialists from Wisconsin who managed to recruit a brilliant engineer and businessman named Harry Wollenberg. In the interest of full disclosure, my paternal grandfather help

My video

In 1963, I heard a single by the surf rock band, the Marketts, called “Out of Limits”. I like the fast paced, heavy bass of the music and somehow visualized jets taking off from an aircraft carrier. Most of my visualizations at the time involved airplanes. Surf rock fell out of vogue in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but every once in a while the tune would come up on a radio and once again I saw the Navy jets being catapulted off a flight deck. Then with the advent of digital downlo

California

I am posting this from the lovely California coast south of San Francisco. I grew up in California, moved away at age 18, came back at age 36, and moved away again at age 50. That means the Golden State has figured into about half my life, early on to imprint me and then later to contribute to financial security. As I visit here in typical balmy weather I am also reading the autobiography of William Tecumseh Sherman who was stationed here and traveled extensively in the 1840s

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the forum

One thing I like to do is participate in online forums (fora?). These are the discussion groups. Back in the early days of the Internet, before the World Wide Web (there is a difference), academics would keep in touch with each other’s scholarship on something called Usenet Newsgroups. These are the old soc.history.war type addresses. Sadly these venues atrophied as they were taken over by trolls and bots. Trolls are posters who purposely try to hijack and redirect a discussi

What are you reading? Steve Jobs

I am reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson which I recommend from a number of viewpoints. First, it’s well researched and well written. Isaacson talked to dozens and probably hundreds of people and had the advantage of unlimited access to the subject himself. And Jobs was, at best, a difficult subject. Jobs picked Isaacson and then took his hands off the project. His only area of influence was the cover design and he was, reportedly, his typical butthead self

Podcasts

Yes, an entire year since the last post. Not that I haven’t had anything to write, I just haven’t written it here. Here’s hoping I do better. One thing I have discovered recently is the world of podcasts. These are web-based audio and some video shows produced by everyone from big-time mainstream Hollywood and New York entities to universities, National Public Radio, and individual academics reading their papers, down to individuals ruminating into a microphone from their kit