June 2008

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As the 4th of July approaches, I want to recognize some family members who served in World War Two. I have always been fascinated by war and especially D-Day. Every year I get my D-Day haircut and when I was at my sickest, I looked to what our guys did in Normandy for inspiration. I don’t have much desire to visit France — except that I want to visit the Normandy beaches and our cemetery there.

Two of my father’s cousins served in the war. One was a sergeant in a financial unit and at one point he was attached to Patton’s headquarters. Another was a P-51 pilot in China. His plane went down and he was reported as MIA but it turned out he survived. (For both of these guys, I need to do more research. Both survived the war. One is still living today.) I have more distant relatives who served as well. They were not as lucky as my first cousins once removed. One was swept overboard and died in the Pacific. Another died in an air incident but I do not know the details. Another was killed on April 7, 1945 while flying his B-29 over Tokyo on his 22nd bombing mission.

But today I want to especially single out Sergeant James Alvin Holt. I came across his story recently as I was doing genealogical research. James was born on March 2, 1918. His grandfather and my great-great grandfather were brothers. When the United States entered the war, James Holt entered the army, joining the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division.

The 3rd AD arrived in England on September 15, 1943, and trained near Liverpool and Bristol as the invasion of France loomed. D-Day was June 6, 1944, and the 3rd AD was transported to Normandy in support of the invasion on June 24. The 3rd AD had been training for two and half years. It was days away from its first experience in combat.

The 3rd AD did not fully engage in the fighting until July 9th. But they first saw action on June 29th in Villiers-Foussard outside St. Lo. Elements of the 3rd AD were assigned the task of pushing back a German salient, an action which prompted a tank and infantry counterattack by one of the best German units in Normandy, the Panzer Lehr Division.

A 3rd AD artilleryman described the terrain of Villiers-Foussard: “This pan of Normandy is the bocage country of apple orchards, small fields with high earthen hedgerows, and sunken roads. German infantry could get good defensive positions with overhead cover from artillery air bursts by digging into the hedgerows. Due to the nature of the terrain tanks have limited mobility and visibility is limited making artillery fire adjustments difficult. Also an infantry company commander on the attack could find it very difficult to know the location of his platoons.”

While only a few members of the 3rd AD saw action at Villiers-Foussard on June 29th, it seems that 26 year-old Sergeant James A. Holt was one of them. I don’t know exactly what happened next but Sergeant Holt is listed as killed in action on June 30, 1944, sixty-four years ago today. The 3rd AD does not seem to have seen fighting on the 30th, so my theory is that Sergeant Holt died of wounds sustained the day before. It’s also possible that he died in some sort of accident on the 30th, though he was awarded the Purple Heart. Perhaps he was wounded in the American attack on the German salient or perhaps he was wounded in the Panzer Lehr Division’s counterattack. I have visions of a Kasserine Pass type of situation with very experienced German troops taking on this green American division.

When I look at my family tree and I see branch after branch stretching from the distant past to the present, it’s heartbreaking to see only blank space below James Holt’s name. That blank space shows the lingering cost of war. He never married and never had kids. And those kids never had kids. All those people never born, their absence is the evidence of loss.

So far, I’ve only been able to put together a rough outline of what happened to him and to the 3rd AD at Villiers-Foussard. But I do know I have someone to visit when I finally make it to Normandy. Sergeant James A. Holt is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer in France.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting was great political theater. If I was a social studies teacher, I’d show the video of that in class. (Might have to edit it down as it took over six hours.)

I loved the righteous indignation of Harold Ickes. His passionate defense of “fair reflection” might have been inspiring if it was not so hilariously disingenuous. Today on Meet the Press, Ickes responded to the question I’ve most wanted the Clinton Camp to answer:

MR. RUSSERT: Here’s what baffles me. Back in October, when Senator Obama and other Democrats took the names off the ballot in Michigan, Senator Clinton kept her name on, but she said this to National Public Radio: “You know, it’s clear, this election they’re having in Michigan is not going to count for anything.” That’s what she said back then. And now suddenly, when you need the delegates in order to catch up to Obama, everything should be counting.

MR. ICKES: Well, you know, I guess the, the simple response to that, Tim, is, one, circumstances do change.

“Circumstances do change.” What does that mean? Now Hillary needs those votes for her specious popular vote argument?

MR. RUSSERT: But Michigan was not a real primary.

MR. ICKES: Michigan was, in fact, a real primary. Six hundred thousand people voted, Tim, compared, compared, compared to 160,000 in ’04, which had a high–which had a real, live primary as well.

MR. RUSSERT: Then why did Senator Clinton say it wasn’t going to count for anything?

MR. ICKES: I think at that time people were focused on Super Tuesday, and a lot of us did not feel that it was going to go beyond that.

He says people didn’t feel the campaign would go beyond Super Tuesday. So do votes count or not count depending on whether they will influence the outcome of the nomination contest? That’s the best answer they can come up with to this question? This just illustrates the bankruptcy of the Clinton position.

I’m sure Ickes would speak just as passionately for counting all the votes if the roles were reversed and Obama needed the delegates, right? Ha! By the rules set up by the DNC, Michigan and Florida did not count. Why did Ickes not launch his civil rights crusade back when these rules were put in place? What a joker. For people like Ickes, Lanny Davis and Howard Wolfson, surrendering all integrity and credibility is apparently a small price to pay to defend Hillary Clinton to absurd extremes. This is the old style of politics Obama is campaigning against. Thank God he’s been successful. It gives me great faith in the American people and our system.

The complete bullshit put out by the Clinton campaign and surrogates is what turned me off to politics starting in about 1992. The honesty of the Obama campaign is why I jumped on the Obamawagon. If Clinton was the one with the massive lead in delegates, would Obama now be shouting “Racism!” and making other preposterous arguments? I don’t believe so. I doubt he’d still even be in the race.