Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in January, 2009.
Tuesday, 20
A new Commander-in-Chief
By the time I'd finished PT and choked down a cup of coffee this morning, our nation had a new leader and our military had a new Commander-in-Chief. After a shower and a second slug of mocha java, I found myself feeling a little antsy about my family. Not the ones closest at hand. I've played it cagey enough over the years to insure wife, kids and dog will be OK through anything short of a tactical nuke in the backyard, but I'm somewhat less confident about the welfare and future of our armed forces, every member of which I consider a younger brother or sister. You know, the folks who inherited all my stuff and my old room in the house when I moved out.
Sure, they've had to contend with combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and a frenetic operational tempo that makes them feel like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, but my siblings are too young to remember the Carter years when a peanut farmer from Georgia - ironically a Naval Academy ring-knocker - nearly gutted our national defense capabilities in an orgy of expensive social engineering. It could happen again and if there was ever a good time for that sort of fiscal sleight-of-hand, now is not it. You could research all this - and you probably should - but let me save you the trouble by pointing out what happened to our vital intelligence services the last time a new CinC decided he needed a quick infusion of cash to fund a wide-ranging domestic agenda.
Early in his new administration, President Jimmy Carter donned a folksy cardigan sweater and nestled next to a White House fireplace to deliver a reassuring talk to all of us a la FDR's fireside chats and then proceeded to take a bloody meat-axe to the CIA and all of our other intelligence services. To cover the nut on his low-income domestic housing and government entitlement schemes for the underprivileged, he fired all the old, experienced clandestine operators and black ops warhorses who kept us abreast of worldwide bad guys and ahead of their nefarious schemes. He left us groping in the dark and impotent on some very dangerous ground.
Among the near-term disastrous results were the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the capture and imprisonment of some four hundred hostages, and the debacle of a rescue effort that became known - much to our embarrassment - as Desert One. There's a lot more including the frustrating and distracting use of our military as lab rats in various social engineering projects that had nothing even remotely to do with national defense or military capabilities, but you should be getting the drift by now. Imagine a similar approach to finding funds for an economic recovery and draconian cuts in our Defense budgets in the middle of the long-term cultural clash that we're calling the Global War on Terrorism. It's that kind of nightmare scenario that's driving up my personal pucker-factor as the new President settles into the Oval Office.
Hopefully, it won't happen. President Obama has got to feel like the guy at an all-you-can-eat Las Vegas buffet that finds himself with a dangerously over-loaded plate. You sit there and stare at all that chow and have no idea where to start eating or if you'll ever manage to stuff it all in your face. The answer, of course, is to put a rein on your gluttony. Take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and don't let your belly override your brain. Hopefully, that will happen. If not, my military brothers and sisters are in for a rough and potentially deadly ride over the next four years.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 2:53 PM / Category:General News
Wednesday, 14
Leader of The Great Raid Makes Final Muster
It happens all too often these days. I see a notice in the paper or on-line that yet another of our World War II heroes has made his final muster. Doesn't matter if it's just Sam the Sailor who served on some nondescript tin-can in the Pacific or some noted general officer who led paratroopers into Normandy on D-Day. What strikes me when we lose another World War II veteran - and we're losing them at the tragic rate of a thousand a day - is that we've missed an opportunity to learn about patriotism, selfless service and sacrifice from someone who knows about those rare qualities from first-hand experience.
Fortunately, we are spared that regret with the passing of Robert Prince, former Army Ranger who died on New Year's Day. Former Captain Bob Prince died as quietly as he lived his notable life after leading the daring rescue of Bataan Death March survivors in the Philippines on 31 January 1945. His memory lives in the hearts of his family and those of us who were privileged to know him. And it lives in a brilliant movie called "The Great Raid," directed by my friend John Dahl, who fought the Hollywood establishment tooth and nail to get Bob Prince's story told.
About four years ago John called me to discuss making a film about one of the more extraordinary events of World War II that involved saving lives rather than taking them. He wanted to know if I was familiar with the 6th Ranger Battalion's raid on the Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines in early 1945. I was more than a little familiar with that story. It's still celebrated in Ranger circles and I'd actually studied the operation in detail during my own training. Everyone involved with Ranger-type operations becomes familiar with the raid at Cabanatuan that resulted in the salvation of 571 allied prisoners who were surely destined for death at the hands of their Japanese captors had Prince and his men not staged the nearly incredible long-range, clandestine raid to free them.
We had our problems - major and minor - getting the film made but we persevered throughout a tight schedule and under frustrating budget constraints in Australia where John and his staff had created a nearly exact replica of the Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan. One of those minor problems that made us all smile was getting Bob Prince to tell the story of that incredible raid in his own words from his unique perspective as mission planner and leader of the assault force. His humility and reluctance to celebrate his own role in the long-range mission behind Japanese lines that logically should not have succeeded was a mark of the man. He considered the action that resulted in his being presented the Distinguished Service Cross, only significant because it saved the lives of the men he called "the true heroes of Cabanatuan" and because it demonstrated the motivation and skill of his Rangers. We'd press Bob for details of his own actions so we could pass them along to James Franco, the actor who portrayed him in our film, but he'd invariably wind up talking about some other soldier in his unit. He was particularly effusive in his praise of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, (played by Benjamin Bratt) the feisty commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion, who chose Prince to plan and stage the raid.
Bob Prince is lost to us now but his story is told in a couple of excellent books and in our film. I'm proud to have known Bob briefly during the making of "The Great Raid" and I'm more than a little proud of Producer Marty Katz and Director John Dahl for their efforts and understanding in getting the film made. It came and went with little fanfare or critical notice for a lot of nonsensical reasons when it debuted back in 2005, but that didn't matter much to those of us who were privileged to work on the project. We did it because it was the right thing to do, in the same spirit that Captain Prince carried out the great raid on Cabanatuan. If you haven't yet seen "The Great Raid," you owe it to yourself and to the memory of heroes like Bob Prince to give it a look.
Thanks, Marty and John...and thanks Bob Prince. You enriched my life and taught me yet another lesson about life and love in the brutal crucible of war.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 11:24 AM / Category:General News
Friday, 2
Another Marine in the Family
Just two days after Christmas I was reminded (as if I need reminding) of why Marines are very special people. My daughter Adrienne married one. This was no spur of the moment thing or the result of too much fun on liberty. I'd figured the day was coming since my daughter and her guy got serious about one age thirteen or thereabouts. What concerned me was young Sam Jackson, my newly-minted son-in-law, who was in those early years shy, introverted and relatively aimless. He did well enough in high school and graduated without most of the attendant problems usually produced in young men who matriculate within the Los Angeles Unified School District. But Sam didn't seem much interested in anything - except Adrienne - after that.
And then one day he announced he was considering joining the Army to become an Airborne Ranger. Adrienne was underwhelmed by the concept. So was the Army apparently as they ran him through unending hassles over his chosen career path. When the frustration level reached maximums, he contacted the Navy and let them know he'd like to become a Hospital Corpsman. I thought he'd surely make that cut given the pressing need for combat life-savers in the Fleet Marine Forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. But no; despite his middling test scores, the Navy wanted Sam to become some sort of engineering snipe. He appealed to me for advice. I listened to his tale of recruiter woes and looked as deeply as I could into his eyes, searching for the core of the man who had been dating my only daughter for the past six years.
And then I picked up the phone and called the Marines. My relatively high profile from showbiz still held some sway in the ranks and the recruiters were glad to see anyone I might recommend. Before too long, Sam was headed for boot camp happy as he could be. Daughter Adrienne was less enthusiastic having grown up with a Marine father and having some insight to the whole duty-first Marine Corps family mystique. We had some lengthy discussions during which the phrase "Gee, Dad, thanks a million for putting Sam into the Corps" was never uttered.
On the day Sam graduated from MCRD San Diego, we all showed up to watch from the bleachers along the infamous grinder wondering what we might encounter when the parade commander dismissed the new Leathernecks. Given my first-hand experience with the transformation miraculously wrought by recruit training and the ministrations of the world's finest human engineers, Marine Corps Drill Instructors, I shouldn't have been surprised at the changes in PFC Sam Jackson USMC. But I was. He was proud, self-confident, and physically fit. More importantly, he was looking at the world around him with a direct gaze, totally free of fear or anxiety, and firmly convinced that he had not only the right path but the skill and tenacity to walk it regardless of obstacles. The change was so obvious and admirable that my daughter let me out of the dog-house and even allowed that joining the Marine Corps might just have been the right thing for her man.
And then Sam got orders to Afghanistan with one of the Corps' frenetic Marine Expeditionary Units. Adrienne was threatening to shove me back in the dog-house. Boot Camp was one thing. A combat deployment to the Middle Eastern war zone was another thing entirely. But Sam understood duty and self-sacrifice. They had become engaged at this point and he told his fiancé that he was a Marine, this was his duty and he damned well intended to do it to the very best of his ability.
I saw a lot of my daughter during that deployment. It seemed like there was always some news item about the situation in Afghanistan that she needed explained. Or there was some Marine specific terminology or procedure she wanted spelled out for her so she could understand what Sam was talking about in his letters from the combat zone. She worried a lot during the seven months Sam was serving in harm's way. I couldn't let her see it, but so did I. He was running with the best team ever to set boots on a battlefield but I knew from my own wars that there's sometimes no accounting for what happens in a firefight and IED's are equal opportunity weapons.
Fortunately, Sam came home safe and sound. If anything, he was even more confident and self-assured after his experience in the ultimate military crucible. He was a solid, disciplined and forthright Marine and he'd even managed to make corporal in just less than two years. It was easy to smile and nod when they set the wedding date. And on that day, I couldn't have been prouder of Sam for his commitment or of Adrienne for her devotion and support of that commitment. They're on the way to Camp Lejeune right now and I know they'll be fine. It's great to be a family and now Corporal and Mrs. Jackson will discover how great it is to be a family within a family. That's why Marines are such special people.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 4:17 PM / Category:General News
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