Category Archives: Best Of The Past

History on the Water

The USS Orleck Naval Museum docked serving the community at Lake Charles, LA.
The USS Orleck Naval Museum docked at Lake Charles, LA.

by Rick Bretz

When a Navy ship stops serving the United States in defense of the nation, the next step can be the scrap metal yard, sold to another country or in the case of 164 other ships, become an interesting, floating museum.

A view from the bridge of the USS Orleck.
A view from the bridge of the USS Orleck.

The US Naval Ships Association states there are 164 Naval Museums throughout the United States.  There are many more throughout the world from other countries. The site below gives a synopsis of the museum ships travelers can find while touring.

http://www.hnsa.org/

The USS Orleck is just one of those ships.  However, the journey from the initial launch to where it floats today at a dock in Lake Charles, La., is an interesting story that involves two wars, another country, a hurricane and a few determined individuals.

Instrumentation on the bridge.
Instrumentation on the bridge.

She was named after Lt. Joseph Orleck, commander of the USS Nauset, and a World War II hero killed in action in the Gulf of Salerno when his ship took fire from German aircraft September 9, 1943. Lt. Orleck died while trying to save all of his crew as the ship went down.  He was awarded the Navy Cross.

Lt. Joseph Orleck
Lt. Joseph Orleck

The Gearing Class destroyer was launched on May 12, 1945 by Mrs. Joseph Orleck. She served in the Korean War and then underwent an upgrade as part of what the Navy called the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program in 1962. After that she served with distinction in the Vietnam War by providing Naval gunfire support missions as well as search and rescue and reconnaissance efforts.

USS Orleck at sea
USS Orleck at sea

From there in 1982, the history gets interesting as she was transferred to the Turkish Navy and renamed the TCN Yucetepe where she served the Turkish Navy until 2000.

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Turkish labels still dot the ship from her days in that country’s Navy.

 

In 2000, the Turkish Navy transferred the ship to the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation where she was a Naval Museum to serve as a museum and memorial and it might stayed there at Ochiltree-Inman Park on the Southeast Texas coast but for Hurricane Rita in 2005.  The hurricane damaged her during the storm and after receiving repairs the City of Orange voted to not let her return.

After several years docked and relocated from one place to another, the Lake Charles City Council voted to let her dock on their shores and on May 20, 2010, she was moved to the city where she rests today.

The big guns are at the ready but are rendered inactive as part of an agreement with the government.
The big guns are at the ready but are rendered inactive as part of an agreement with the government.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.hnsa.org/

http://news.usni.org/2015/05/22/the-naval-history-and-hnsa-guide-to-u-s-museum-ships

http://orleck.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Orleck_(DD-886)

http://www.ussorleck.com/

 

 

Vermont’s Covered Bridges the Past

 

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by Rick Bretz

A trip to Vermont can provide an opportunity to remove oneself from all that prevents peace and relaxation. While travelling the highways, back roads, and by ways of the state, you can witness the vivid green mountain ranges as well as see up close the covered bridges that connect roads over valleys and waterways. Using a thoroughly modern piece of machinery, the automobile, to find architectural skill that benefited the  horse and buggy rider sometimes requires compromise.   For almost all bridges, there is room for only one car to cross at a time so diplomacy is required. “You go first, then it’s my turn.”

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The covered bridge lives in many states across America but it also can be found in many countries such as Germany, China, Switzerland and Turkey.  Covered bridges have an architecture all their own and can vary is types. color and size.

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Construction workers and engineers built the first covered bridge in Pennsylvania over the Schuylkill River in 1800. Pennsylvania has its share of covered bridges, more than 200 spreading out across the state. However, Vermont has its share and the count comes in at just over a 100. The state has the highest number of covered bridges per square mile than any other state.

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The covered bridge was engineered for a couple of reasons. The primary requirement was to protect the bridge from the weather by enclosing it on its sides and with a roof. Experts in the field of Covered Bridge-worthiness say that an authentic covered bridge is built with trusses. Vermont law now protects covered bridges and none can be torn down without approval from the governor and the Board of Historic Sites. A covered bridge can extend the life of bridge well past the 10 or 15 years a wooden bridge can last without the cover and enclosure walls.

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Many states can boast covered bridges but they will have a tough time matching the high concentration of bridges per square mile combined with the scenery you will enjoy while looking for them.  Besides the skiing, Vermont’s bridge scenery remains in place for travelers to see the past.

 

 

one of the many streams and rivers where covered bridges can be found.
one of the many streams and rivers where covered bridges can be found.

 

Notable Links

http://www.sites.si.edu/exhibitions/exhibits/archived_exhibitions/bridges/main.htm

http://www.vermontbridges.com/

https://www.facebook.com/vermontcoveredbridgesociety

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covered_bridge

http://www.coveredbridgesociety.org/

http://www.vermontbridges.com/links.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsgrove_Covered_Bridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_covered_bridges_in_Vermont

 

 

 

 

I’m Sorry Everyone’s Sorry, and I Apologize for That

Adam_and_Eve004

by Rick Bretz

The first apology in the history of the world, of course, occurred shortly after Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree.
She had to send out a Tweet that went something like this, “I deeply regret the error of my ways. I saw it and I took it. I shouldn’t have and media cameras caught me. Most of all, I am sorry for hurting the only human being that I can have a conversation with, Adam. Please do not use me as an example. I didn’t know what I was thinking.”

 
That Twitter apology was followed by a Facebook post and several talk show appearances.

 
This was soon followed by a heartfelt, “I’m Sorry” from Adam for coming home later from whatever he did in those days.
Many apologies later from Caesars, Pharaohs, Kings, Queens, husbands and entertainers led to another famous apology.
History would reveal that Leonardo Da Vinci apologized for taking so long (4 years) to complete the Sistine Chapel. Ok. That didn’t happen but if he were doing today, he would have to explain why he was behind schedule on an evening news show, followed by Congressional Hearings to explain how the money was being used.

 
An avalanche of heavy-hearted apologies have inundated the radio, internet and talk shows the last several years. Too bad most of them aren’t sincere. The apology-makers are trying to save something they have, like money, reputations, endorsement deals or careers. Part of the problem is that the word usage police and special interest groups have begun to hold people’s reputations and careers hostage until they submit to their social penance demands. People have to show the proper amount of contrition or else they can’t move on with their lives.

 
Here is an effective apology from the past. In 1077: Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV apologizes to Pope Gregory VII for church-state conflicts by standing barefoot in the snow for three days.

 
Now this is an apology. No words but action. I’ve given some apologies but I would have never thought about this as a way to say, “I’m Sorry.” If I did think of it, I would have kept it to myself and thought of something else like “I’ll light the candles in the Chapel for seven straight days or something like that.”

 

bb-belushi

 
However, when you need a real apology done the right way there are two examples that come to mind. One is a non-apology no fault appeal.

 
It was John Belushi’s last second plea to his scorned girl friend at the end of the Blues Brothers movie, “No I didn’t. Honest… I ran out of gas! I–I had a flat tire! I didn’t have enough money for cab fare! My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners! An old friend came in from out-of-town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!!

 

 

afishcalledwanda

 

 

Then there is the insincere heartfelt apology given to Kevin Kline by John Cleese in the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda.” He states while hanging upside down out of a window, “All right, all right, I apologize. I’m really, really sorry. I apologize unreservedly. I do. I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”

 
There are many ways to apologize but don’t say you are sorry unless you mean it. Also, don’t keep saying I’m sorry for no reason, it loses its effectiveness and just makes the offender look ridiculous. So, with that stated, I’m sorry for wasting your time reading this post. Really I am.

 

 

Notable Links:
http://theamericanscholar.org/apologies-all-around/#.U5ONU5UU-00
http://www.newrepublic.com/blog/the-plank/great-apologies-history
http://www.policymic.com/articles/72705/7-times-u-s-presidents-have-admitted-they-were-wrong-in-history
http://www.gq.com/entertainment/humor/201001/best-and-worst-apologies
http://www.upenn.edu/pnc/politicalapologies.html
http://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-sistine-chapel

Superior Performance-President Richard M. Nixon

President Richard M. Nixon
President Richard M. Nixon

 

by Rick Bretz

No former President provokes more passion and stimulates more conversation than former President Richard Milhous Nixon.  Voters elected him as the 37th President of the United States serving from 1969-1974, resigning on August 9, 1974, one day after announcing it to a national TV audience. Nixon’s legacy is more complicated than just a Watergate cover up.  After his resignation, according to the book “The President’s Club”, Presidents from both sides of the aisle sought his advice and relied on him for overseas missions on a range of diplomatic topics including the Soviet Union,  the Middle East and the Far East.  Actors tried their talents at being Nixon a few times in film. Few have tried to master the nuances of Nixon’s personality. There are several movies about Richard Nixon such as All “The Presidents Men” and the “Assassination of Richard Nixon” but these releases keep Nixon behind the scenes as a looming figure. We only see him in news footage. I have selected actors who have taken on the responsibility to carry the whole movie. There are a few who have accepted the challenge.

 

Nixon (1995) Directed by Oliver Stone

Anthony Hopkins as President Richard M. Nixon

Played against Ensemble Cast portraying significant people throughout his life.

Nixon and Hopkins
Nixon and Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of President Richard Nixon shows a Nixon who relies on his wife Patricia Nixon for advice and support.  He shows him as someone who plays hardball politics to succeed. Hopkins doesn’t look all that much like Nixon but he splashes the screen with Nixon’s paranoia and emotional repression. The movie gives a glimpse of how tough Nixon could be when dealing with his adversaries and pushy friends looking to gain something from his position. This movie was not well liked by Nixon’s family and friends. However, the criticism aside, Hopkins does an admirable job of revealing Nixon’s complicated, multifaceted personality. The movie also gives the viewer an idea of Nixon’s childhood challenges that shaped his personality and character.

 

 Frost/Nixon (2008) Directed by Ron Howard

Frank Langella as former President Richard M. Nixon

Played against Michael Sheen as talk show host David Frost and Nixon’s interviewer

Frank Langella as Nixon
Frank Langella as Nixon

The negotiations leading up to David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon is a slice of history people weren’t aware of during the airing of the show. The movie shows the interview as a chess game between Frost and his people and Nixon and his aides. Nixon didn’t want to reveal anything that would further damage him but he also wanted to get his side of the story to the public. Langella does a skilful job of portraying Nixon as someone who his smart and is good at countering verbal maneuvers. The movie was criticized for its compression timeline that didn’t show Nixon having his way during a majority of the interview. The suspense lies in how Frost can get Nixon to admit he made a mistake and was wrong.

 

The Checkers Speech, the Real Frost/Nixon Interviews, the Farewell Speech to White House Staff

(1952, 1977, 1974)

Richard Nixon as Richard Nixon

Nixon gives his farewell speech with family by his side.
Nixon gives his farewell speech

Nobody does Nixon like  Richard M. Nixon himself.   His Checkers Speech saved his position as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate and Vice Presidential candidate during the 1952 election campaign. Checkers refers to his dog and he explains in the televised speech that the dog is beloved by his daughters and he won’t give it up. The speech addressed concerns about Nixon’s financial dealings.

If you want to get a better idea of how the Frost/Nixon interviews went, then watch the whole conversation. In this interview, you get an idea of Nixon’s intellect and command of foreign policy. It’s the reason why President William Clinton sought out Nixon’s advice when he needed answers about foreign policy and the current political climate.

The Farewell Speech to the White House Staff is riveting. The speech to his loyal followers in the White House addresses his childhood, his father, mother, revenge and serving in politics. This speech had more drama in it than 50 percent of the movies released in the 1970s.

Towards the end of the speech, Nixon says this, “We want you to be proud of what you have done. We want you to continue to serve in government, if that is your wish. Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

 

The Real Person

There are many caricatures when people portray Nixon. The real person was an intellectual and political heavy weight who got caught up in government politics as take no prisoners game defined earlier in the 1900s.. His failure was to realize the shift in the political climate and how the press had changed concerning how they reported on politicians as the Vietnam War wage on in the late 60s and early 70s.  His downfall was using the tape recording system started by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s.

http://whitehousetapes.net/

The record, however, shows that Nixon began several programs that still live with us today. He began the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Natural Resources and proposed ending the draft. His trip to China thawed relations between the two countries and he used triangle diplomacy to further America’s interests. He also signed into law Title IX, legislation that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” He made it possible for all daughters to participate in sports so they can have a chance at scholarships and education.

After he left office, Richard Nixon became a consultant to later Presidents as well as a prolific author and statesman.

Conclusion

President Richard Nixon will always be viewed as tragic figure with personality flaws. Some will view him as a criminal for his actions. The record is more complicated than to paint his legacy with broad brush strokes. He started many positive programs and probably helped to end the cold war when he visited China. As we have seen in the past 30 years, being a President is fraught with political landmines that can trip up the most talented of people. The Presidents that came after Nixon had and will continue to have the benefit of learning from his mistakes.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113987/?ref_=nv_sr_3

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870111/?ref_=nv_sr_1

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/gen/resources/watergate/nixon.farewell.html

President Richard M. Nixon Links:

http://nixonfoundation.org/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/richardnixon

 

Links to Checkers Speech Frost/Nixon interviews and Farewell Speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4UEv_jjPL0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UzyZYBYg8g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32GaowQnGRw

Superior Performances-Captain William Bligh and the Bounty

by Rick Bretz

There are at least two sides to every story, if not more. In the case of the HMS Bounty and the mutiny adventure, several different accounts can be put together to find the truth. One side is Captain William Bligh’s, another is Fletcher Christian’s, another is the Royal Naval Leadership’s, another is the Bounty’s crew’s, and still another would be the native islanders’. With any good story and book, there follows a movie.

A celluloid figure interpreted often over the past several decades is Capt. William Bligh, the leader of the HMS Bounty. Here are the performances that depict the Captain.

 

Charles Laughton just looks mean as Captain Bligh.  He doesn't even have to say a word.
Charles Laughton just looks mean as Captain Bligh. He doesn’t even have to say a word.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Charles Laughton as Captain William Bligh

Played against Clark Gable as 1st LT. Fletcher Christian

Charles Laughton played Captain Bligh as a tyrant and cruel skipper of the Bounty. You can’t find any humanity in his performance much less a modicum of mercy. Laughton’s acting ability makes you cheer when Gable takes over the Bounty and sets Laughton sail in the lifeboat.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

Trevor Howard as Captain William Bligh

Played against Marlon Brando as 1st LT. Fletcher Christian

Trevor Howard’s performance gives movie goers a business like performance to the role. He toned down the maliciousness of Captain Bligh and presented the idea that his leadership style had to be tough to keep control of the Bounty’s tough crew. He also gets points for putting up with his co-star. Historical accounts indicate how difficult Marlon Brando was during the making of the movie in Tahiti.

 

The Bounty (1984)

Anthony Hopkins as Captain William Bligh

Played against Mel Gibson as 1st LT Fletcher Christian

Anthony Hopkins’ performance portrayed thoughts and emotions boiling just underneath the surface with some of them reaching the tipping point and others staying hidden. As with all his roles, he can seemingly show several emotions and thoughts behind his facial expressions without saying much. Of the three actors on this list, his performance came closest to making the audience understand his point of view if not completely sympathizing with his plight.

Portrait of the real Captain Bligh
Portrait of the real Captain Bligh

 

The Real Person

We all know that Hollywood liberally applies artistic license to historical events and to the people who become vital figures during these episodes. In this case, the actors and the screen writers needed a villain and he, Capt. Bligh, was it. A closer look shows that Bligh was a superb seaman and may not have been as nasty and evil as the movie portrayals.

After the mutiny, Bligh went on to have a stellar career and was promoted several times, attaining the Vice Admiral of the Blue rank in 1814. Not long after the mutiny, Bligh returned to Tahiti to get Bread Fruit Trees and to take them to the West Indies without incident. He commanded several ships afterward including the HMS Glatton in 1801 during the Battle of Copenhagen, receiving a commendation for bravery from Admiral Nelson.

HMS Bounty built for the 1962 movie starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. The ship was destroyed during  Hurricane Sandy storm.
HMS Bounty built for the 1962 movie starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. The ship was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy storm.

Conclusion

Most movies need a hero and an adversary. The worse the adversary the better the movie. A commanding and controlling Bligh fit this mold perfectly while LT. Christian and the crew were perfect as the flawed heroes. Captain Bligh followed established rules and procedures set by the British Royal Navy Leadership in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He saved himself and the other crew members that were with him on the life boat by using his navigational skills to get to the nearest port. It was an incident in history where circumstances met with the right personalities to produce an anomaly in British history.

As far as my favorite performance of the three, I like Anthony Hopkins’ version. You can tell there are more ideas and emotions working inside his brain. If you want to root for Fletcher Christian and his mutinous crew, then I pick Laughton’s performance. If you want more information on the real Mutiny on the Bounty story, check some of the links below.

 

Notable Links:

http://7seasvessels.com/?p=108701

http://www.sttudy.org.uk/Bligh/bligh.htm

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2826/if-captain-bligh-was-really-such-a-jerk-to-his-crew-why-was-he-promoted-following-their-mutiny

http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/captain/captain-william-bligh.htm

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0026752/?ref_=sr_2

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056264/?ref_=sr_1

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086993/?ref_=sr_2