Posts Tagged ‘U. S. Army’

50 Years of Covering Bo Callaway

March 17, 2014

When I covered the late former Secretary of the Army Howard  Bo Callaway’s entrance into national politics in 1964, I didn’t reflect on how his actions were a part of a pivotal shift in American politics.  The Solid South was no longer “solid” for the Democratic Party and was moving toward being “solid” for the Republican Party.  Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Law and carried five Southern states, including Georgia.  Bo Callaway switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and ran as a “Goldwater Republican.”  Goldwater lost ,  but Bo won easily in his bid to become the first Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia since Reconstruction.

I first met Bo when I covered the 1964 3rd Congressional District election for WRBL Radio and TV in Columbus.  As far as positions on issues were concerned, I couldn’t tell much difference between them. Both Democrat Garland Byrd, a former Georgia Lt. Governor, and Bo were conservatives, and when I asked them if they were segregationists, neither seemed pleased that I asked the question, but both told me they were.  I wasn’t, but, then, I wasn’t running for public office in 1964 Georgia.

Timing is everything, the adage tells us, and, in 1964,  Bo Callaway’s timing was perfect. He went to Washington, but he only stayed two years, deciding he would rather be Georgia’s  first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.  He came close, but in the 1966 Georgia governor’s race that got national attention, he lost to arch-racist Democrat Lester Maddox in a convoluted election that ended up being decided by a Democratically controlled Georgia Legislature, because he got  the most popular votes, but not enough for a majority, which was Georgia law at the time.  (A plurality wins now.)  I reported that General Assembly election  live for WRBL Radio and TV from the Georgia House of Representatives.  What a show that was!

The Republican National Convention in 1973 that nominated President Richard Nixon for reelection was also quite a show.  I decided at the last-minute that WRBL Radio and TV needed to have some Georgia oriented coverage.  Owner and GM Jim Woodruff, Jr. thought it too late because all of the hotel rooms were taken.  I told him we would fly down in the morning and back that evening, that jets were fast.  He said he would call Bo Callaway, who was a member of the Georgia delegation, to see if he could cut red tape and get us some credentials so we could get on the floor of the convention. He did and Bo did.  When we got on the floor, Bo met us, gave me an interview, and took me over to the California delegation to introduce me to then Governor Ronald Reagan, who graciously gave me an interview.

I only asked Bo one question when he was forced out of his job as campaign manager for Vice President Gerald Ford when he ran against  Jimmy Carter for President.  He held a live prime time news conference in a WSB-TV studio in Atlanta, which was broadcast on TV stations all over Georgia.  Since I drove up from Columbus for the news conference, the WSB-TV producer of the program allowed me to ask the first question about the alleged conflict of interest charge reported by an NBC  correspondent.  Bo responded that the charge was false, but he resigned as Ford’s campaign manager in order not to make the election about him instead of Ford.

When he was sworn in as President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Army in 1973,  a WRBL-TV news photographer and I flew to Washington to cover the ceremony.     After we filmed the ceremony,  he gave me an interview for the home folks.  A West Pointer, who had left the Army as a First Lieutenant after the Korean War, was then outranking all of the generals.

When I working at WTVM, I did a series of half-hour interviews for Georgians and Alabamians who have earned “A Place in History.”  When I interviewed Bo,  he candidly answered all of my questions about his personal and professional life without hesitation.  It was a fun interview with his telling me about such things as President Franklin D. Roosevelt coming to his parent’s Harris County home for cocktails and dinner when he came to nearby Warm Springs.  There was one question that caused him to pause before answering.  I asked him, “What was it like growing up as the son of the richest man in town.” Bo’s father Cason and his uncle Fuller, Jr.  owned Callaway Mills in LaGrange.  As best as I can remember it, he said, “Nobody has ever asked me that question before, Dick.  My father made it clear to me that being who I was carried a responsibility with it.  He said that I had to always conduct myself honorably and, if I didn’t, and he heard about it, I would have to answer to him.  I’ve always remembered that and tried to follow his admonition.”

You may wonder why I refer to him by his nick name. It’s not out of disrespect, but because  I consider that he and I were friends.  There are some people that you cover over the years that you can’t resist becoming friends with.  He is one and his political rival, President Jimmy Carter,  is another. I read where he and Bo eventually became friendly.   Recently, at the Rotary Club of Columbus where he was a member,  as he was sitting at the table next to mine in his wheel chair, necessitated by a stroke, he leaned over and patted me on the shoulder when I was among those thanked for participating in a Rotary Foundation fund-raising program.   That was the last contact I had with Howard “Bo” Callaway, who truly earned a place in history. .

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Bring Back the Draft?

March 12, 2012

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett speaking to Columbus Unitarian Universalists

Retired Colonel  Ralph Puckett, a highly decorated and honored retired U.S. Army Ranger,  told Columbus Unitarian Universalists Sunday that “our country has put unconscionable stress on the few in our society who serve in our military,” and raised the question of reinstating the draft as a way to ease that stress and resolve the unfairness of less than one percent of the population defending our country.

He said that some soldiers are on their fifth 12-month deployment.

He got an email from a brigadier general recently who is in Afghanistan  The general, referring to a photo he sent, said, “Next to me is the Brigade Command Sargeant Major. Speaking of sacrifice, this was the CSM’s fifth deployment of the war. During this tour his son fell in battle in Iraq serving as a squad leader with  the rangers. The father returned to the US with his son’s remains, attended services, and returned to duty in Afghanistan.”

Col. Puckett told of the sacrifices of the wives of soldiers, saying, “The wives of our soldiers deserve all the support and praise we can give them. They are serving, and sacrificing. They are combat multipliers!

“I know that I could not have made it without my wife, Jeannie. She is my hero, the wind beneath my wings. I would be nothing without her.”

This sacrifice is not being shared. He repeated the saying, “The Army and Marines are at war. The rest of America is in the shopping mall! Our soldiers are giving everything to include their lives while most of us give little or no thought to those who keep us free.”

As for our politicians, forty years ago there were nearly four times as many veterans in Congress as there are today.  “We expect our military to give their lives to defend America. Can we expect our politicians to put our country first before any political gain?”

He spoke of “sending volunteers on their third, fourth, and fifth deployments while the majority of our citizens exhibit little or no interest in those wars puts our country at risk.”

There would, no doubt, be one sure way to get the rest of the country interested in its wars, a military draft.  He told  of military expert Charles Moskos and Washington Post editor Paul Glastris proposing universal registration for men and women between 18 and 24. Individuals could choose service in the military, domestic security, or community organizations.

“If more of our Congress were veterans they would be less likely to support military intervention. Before the attack on Iraq, General Anthony Zinni wondered ‘why all the generals see [attacking Iraq] the same way, and those who never fired a shot in anger and are hell-bent on going to war see it a different way.”

He knows there are strong arguments against the draft. Unless there is mobilization, few serve while most don’t. Service members don’t want a return of the draft, think volunteers make much better soldiers. Then, there is the question of whether women would be drafted. “Would we evolve into an Army that is 50 percent women?  The impact of a politically correct environment could be disastrous.”

He would be for a return of the draft, but fears it would tear the country apart. Still he thinks the draft and national service “are certainly worthy of concern and an effort to resolve the unfairness of the current situation where our defense is borne by a select few.”

Col. Puckett closed with, “The changing international scene including the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growing war talk about Iran, Syria, and elsewhere will bring to the fore the question, ‘Who serves when all do not serve?’ “

New Life for 35mm Slides

August 8, 2011

Like millions of others alive before digital cameras came along, I shot hundreds of film slides.  Since almost no one owns a 35mm slide projector any more, I figured if I wanted people, especially my family, to be able to see those slides, I had better transfer them to digital images.  I was delighted to learn that a 33mm slide scanner is available, and purchased one.

On the blog post I wrote about my grandson Benjamin going into the Air Force, I referred to my visits to some famous places in Europe while I was in the Army between 1954 and 1956. Risking the natural resistance to looking at other folks personal slides, I’m going to show you a few. That means it’s OK if you show me some of yours.

First of all, a look at  your photographer.

This was taken by a 30th Army Band buddy at a small post (don’t remember the name) in the Bavarian Alps, where we had gone to play for a parade.  Being the headquarters’ band for the Munich, Germany area, we played for a lot of  small posts that had no band, which meant we made a lot of trips up some interesting mountain roads.  My brother Elbert, who had toured Germany at the end of World War II, had told me what a beautiful countryside Germany possessed.  He was right.  To be honest, this is not one of the pictures I scanned. I had this one done a few years ago at Columbus Tape and Video, the only place I could find that would print a 35mm slide. They did it, if I remember correctly, by projecting it on a screen and taking a picture of it that could be printed.

Here’s one that I scanned with the $70 scanner I found online.

This is a shot of the Isar River that flows through Munich. It was taken late in the late afternoon, I think.  Munich did have a lot of overcast days, especially in the winter, one, we were told at  the  time, was one of the coldest on record.  One morning a DJ on the Armed Forces Radio Network said, “If you want to vacation somewhere that’s warmer today, let me suggest the North Pole.” I chose it because I read  it’s used now for white-water sports, just as we are about to do on the Chattahoochee at Columbus.

Now, here’s one that’s lit a little better.  It’s a picture of…well…you’ll know.

Now you can show me yours. That’s only fair. Just  hit the comment button and give me your URL so I find them

Yearender: America’s Wars Are Somewhat Ignored in 2010

December 29, 2010

  It is incredible that our country is in very costly wars – costly in many ways – but most Americans appear not to be thinking about it. It is probably thought about more in our area, Columbus (Georgia not Ohio), because Fort Benning supplies so many troops to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.

I just checked the top 10 searches on Yahoo in 2010. The BP Oil Spill tops the list, followed by the World Cup. Teen singer Justin Bieber and American Idol made the list. But neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are on it.

More than 4,400 Americans have been killed in the Iraqi war and more than 1300 in Afghanistan. About 34,000 have been seriously wounded. In 2001 the U.S. Defense budget was $316 billion. $13 billion of that went to the war in Afghanistan. This year, 2010, it’s $693 billion, according to Time, with $102 billion going to Afghanistan and $61 billion to Iraq.

This is really serious business, but you don’t see much about it on TV nor in the newspaper. Even though I was just a child during World War II I vividly remember the constant coverage of the war. It was front page and led radio newscasts just about every day, and dominated the newsreels in the theaters every week. Just about every one had a friend or relative in the military. People were keenly interested in news about the war.

Now, it seems to be something everyone just takes for granted. We have been at war so long that it has become the norm. It is a norm that is having tremendous consequences, consequences that not many of us seem to think about very much.