Sunday, December 4, 2016


Wild Eye, Battle of Polygon Wood, Sept 1917

John "Barney" Hines (1873–1958) was a British-born Australian soldier of World War I, known for his prowess at collecting "souvenirs" from German soldiers. Born in Liverpool, England, in 1873, Hines served in the Royal Navy, the King's Liverpool Regiment, and the Australian Imperial Force AIF. He arrived in Australia shortly before World War I began and volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. Although discharged due to poor health in early 1916, he rejoined in August that year and served on the Western Front from March 1917 to mid-1918, when he was discharged again for health reasons. During his period in France he proved to be an aggressive soldier, and gained fame for the collection of items that he amassed, but was undisciplined when not in combat and frequently punished. Following World War I, Hines lived in poverty on the outskirts of Sydney until his death in 1958.

Hines was born in Liverpool in 1873. When he was aged 14 he attempted to join the British Army, but was returned to his mother after she protested. At the age of 16 he successfully enlisted in the Royal Navy but was discharged the next year after contracting malaria.

During the following decades Hines drifted between jobs and countries, including spending three years in the King's Liverpool Regiment and serving as a guide in the Second Boer War, before immigrating to Australia. He was a large man and much of his body was covered in tattoos. Hines may also have been illiterate, though he was capable of signing his name

When Hines first joined the AIF on 24 August 1915, he falsely claimed to be 28 years of age. In the year before he joined the Army he had worked as a seaman, engineer and shearer. He was discharged from the AIF as medically unfit in January of 1916. In May 1916 Hines successfully rejoined the AIF, this time giving an age of 36 years and seven months. By this stage of the war medical requirements were less strict due to the need for reinforcements to make good the AIF's casualties. Hines was assigned to the 45th Battalion and departed Sydney for Europe onboard HMAT A18 Wiltshire on 22 August 1916.

After completing training in England, Hines joined the 45th Battalion on the Western Front in March 1917. In June that year he captured a force of 60 Germans during the Battle of Messines by throwing hand grenades into their pillbox, and was later wounded. He returned to his battalion in time for the Battle of Polygon Wood in September, where Frank Hurley photographed him on 27 September surrounded by the loot he had captured. Hines was an aggressive soldier and it has been claimed that he killed more Germans than any other member of the AIF. Though brave in battle and admired by his fellow soldiers, his behavior was erratic at times. The wartime commander of the 45th Battalion, Arthur Samuel Allen, described Hines to a journalist in 1938 as "a tower of strength to the battalion . . . while he was in the line".

Hines' enthusiasm for collecting German military equipment and German soldiers' personal possessions became well known within and possibly outside of his battalion, and earned him the nickname of "Souvenir King". Although he collected some items from battlefields at Ypres and the Somme region, most were stolen from German prisoners of war. He kept the items he collected for himself, and there are no records of any being handed over to the Australian War Records Section, the AIF unit responsible for collecting items for later display in Australia. Hines sold some of the items he collected to other soldiers, including for alcohol. The photograph of Hines at the Battle of Polygon Wood was published in late 1917 under the title Wild Eye, the souvenir king and became one of the best-known Australian photographs of the war. Many soldiers identified with Hines and were amused by his collection of souvenirs. The photograph was used as propaganda, and a false story developed that the German Kaiser Wilhelm II had become enraged after seeing it.

Away from the front line, Hines developed a record of indiscipline. He was court martialled on nine occasions for drunkenness, impeding military police, forging entries in his pay book and being absent without leave. He also claimed to have been caught robbing the strongroom of a bank in Amiens, though this is not recorded in his Army service record. As a result of these convictions, Hines lost several promotions he had earned for his acts of bravery. He was also fined on several occasions, and the resulting need for money may have been one of the factors that motivated his looting. A member of the 3rd Battalion described Hines as "not normally a weak man but rather one . . . uncontrolled". An officer from the 45th Battalion stated after the war that Hines had been "two pains in the neck".

In mid-1918 Hines was discharged from the AIF as being medically unfit due to hemorrhoid problems. He arrived back in Australia on 19 October 1918. While his Army service file records that he was lightly wounded on two occasions, Hines later claimed to have been wounded five times.

Hines was traumatised by his experiences during World War I. For 40 years afterwards he lived in a humpy (a small, temporary shelter made from bark and tree branches, traditionally used by Australian Aborigines) made of cloth bags near Mount Druitt on the outskirts of Sydney, and never married. The humpy was surrounded by a fence on which he hung helmets taken from German soldiers; he became well known to locals, though school children were afraid of him. Hines was unable to find consistent work, and lived on his Army pension as well as income from odd jobs and selling his souvenirs. He gained renewed fame when the photo of him at Polygon Wood was displayed at the temporary Australian War Museum in Sydney (the predecessor of the Australian War Memorial) from 1933, and several newspapers and magazines aimed at former servicemen published profiles of him. An article in the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia's magazine Reveille in 1934 highlighted Hines' desperate living conditions and stated that he had been unemployed for four years. Several former soldiers sent money to him in response to this article. Hines' pension was also doubled, though this income made him ineligible for relief work during the Great Depression. Despite his poverty, Hines traveled to Concord Repatriation Hospital each week to donate a suitcase of vegetables from his garden to the former soldiers being treated there.

Hines told a journalist in June 1939 that he was seeking to join the Militia and hoped to fight in another war. He attempted to enlist in the military during World War II, despite being in his 60s, but was rejected. An article published in The Nepean Times during 1943 claimed that Hines had attempted to stow away on a troop ship in 1940, but was found and sent ashore before the vessel sailed.

On 28 January 1958, Hines died at Concord Repatriation Hospital aged 84 or 85. He was buried in Rookwood Cemetery in a grave which was unmarked until 1971, when the Mount Druitt sub-branch of the Returned Services League of Australia paid for a headstone. The Blacktown City Council also renamed the street on which he lived in the suburb of Minchinbury to John Hines Avenue, and a monument commemorating him was built at the nearby Mount Druitt Waterholes Remembrance Garden in 2002.

A large version of the famous 'Wild Eye' photograph was accorded a prominent position in the Australian War Memorial's permanent building in Canberra after it opened in 1941. The photo was also included in the 2014 redevelopment of the Memorial's permanent World War I exhibition. In a short biography of Hines published in 2002, historian Peter Stanley commented that "'Wild Eye's' bravado conceals a deeper pathos" and he "was a man whose skills in fighting were needed and whose knack for souveniring was admired, but he had few gifts that a peaceful society valued".


Saturday, December 3, 2016


Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

Rangers lead the way!

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Technique for Learning Foreign Languages

I have always considered speaking foreign languages a requirement for professional soldiers . . . S.L.

Growing up overseas, I was exposed to several languages through environment and of course formal study in school. While this experience is a definite advantage, it is not an absolute requirement. My father grew up in Australia, didn't leave the country until he was in his thirties, and by the time he was in his forties he spoke Indonesian and Thai.

Over the years I developed a system to gaining limited working proficiency in any language in a relatively short period of time – a couple of weeks to a couple of months. During the course of my career I shared this technique with my colleagues and it works.

This is my technique:

I take five 5”x8” index cards (because in the Army I learned that the world revolves around 5”x8” cards) On the first card, I write the greetings; hello, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good night, etc., please and thank you, prepositions (in, on, below, above, near, far, behind, in front, out of, etc.) and conjunctive adjectives (before, after, now, later, yesterday, tomorrow). On the second card, I write the number system, phrases associated with simple arithmetic and money, days of the week and months of the year. On the third card, I write questions and answers associated with asking and receiving directions - to include the cardinal directions - and phrases involving airports, train stations, taxis, and checking in and out of hotels. On the fourth card, I write phrases associated with shopping – to include what to ask for at a pharmacy - how to buy food in a market, and how to order a meal in a restaurant. On the fifth card, I write useful phrases involving who, what, where, when, why and how many.

Nowadays there are numerous translation resources available online, but in pre-Internet era, doing this involved the use of a dictionary and a good phrasebook. In some ways, the old way was more effective; it required a bit more focus and effort, which seemed to intensify the learning process. Study your cards daily and learn the ‘helper’ phrases. The goal is to be able to experience basic day-to-day situations without breaking into English.

Advantages of learning foreign languages include widening your horizons; it’s becoming essential, you’ll meet new people and it’s great for traveling. After learning one language, it’s a thousand times easier to learn the next one. When you study languages you become smarter, by definition, and you’ll stay smarter for longer. Speaking a foreign language boosts your creativity, builds up your self-confidence, and as an added bonus, employers love it (and they’ll love you more). Anyone can learn a foreign language – consider; an infant can do it – and my technique really is this simple.


Friday, November 4, 2016


I wrote this story this past summer when I was on the road 'Down South', to coin a phrase. It is one of the collection of stories that I will soon self-publish as an e-book - The Long Bar - I've been talking about it for awhile, so maybe its time to give everyone a preview. This fantastic tale is narrated by a patron in the Long Bar, telling his story to Mike, the bartender. - S.L.

© Sean Linnane, June 2016

San Cristobal, capital of the Republic of El Cristobal, lies at the foot of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Mayan name of the volcano that looms ominously over the sleepy city. The ancient Mayans worshiped Xiuhtecuhtli, offered it human sacrifices – virgins were thrown in there annually. The soil on the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli was particularly fertile for the cultivation of corn, manioc, cacao, potatoes and coffee. And for the Mayan’s offerings and adoration, Xiuhtecuhtli would periodically reward them with eruptions that wiped their fields and villages away, and caused widespread havoc.

And then the cycle would repeat and the Mayans would start over again.

San Cristobal is a throwback to a better time, a time before the hustle and bustle of modern life and all the complications that come with it overtook once pastoral Central American backwaters. The Economic Officer at the American Embassy suggested to me it’s the success of agrarian programs. “There’s more money in the countryside, the volcanic soil is incredibly fertile,” he indicated the volcano through his office window. “Why go to the city? For a campesino to leave the farm and move to the city is to be sentenced to a life of poverty, a permanent slot on the lowest class of society.”

And so San Cristobal remains a unique destination, a quiet provincial town, almost a time portal to the Good Old Days. Somehow I didn’t take the concertina wire and the sandbagged fighting positions on all the official buildings seriously.

Meanwhile Xiuhtecuhtli smolders. The sacred mountain is a forgotten god, a looming presence, overlooking the activities of the mere mortals below...

* * *

“You had one job to do, Linnane. Get your team down to this dinky little place nobody has ever heard of - Cristobal - and ride herd on them while they do what they it is they do. One job! So how the hell did you end up in the middle of a revolution and overthrow the government... on YOUR FIRST NIGHT IN TOWN???

“Well, Chief, it really all started back here in the States, at the airport, when I met my future self - or at least one of my future selves - getting on the airplane...”

“Huh?” Chief stared at me in consternation, and damn near bit through the butt of the half-smoked cigar that hung eternally from his lip.

* * *

We are all ghosts, haunting our past selves as we look back at them in our memories. There is the sensation of someone ‘walking on our grave’. It comes with a shudder, and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Time and space are not a linear progression of course – Einstein explains this to us. There are intersections and it is inevitable that people cross over; possible evidence of time travel or forms of ‘immortality’ are not unheard of. And so it was the day I encountered my future self, as I boarded my flight to Republica de Cristobal.

Making my way down the aisle I noticed a tattoo on a gentleman’s right arm; a Chinese dragon. The same Chinese dragon I have on my right arm. I mean, EXACTLY the SAME tattoo as mine ...

Glancing over the gentleman I noticed he was tanned, dark hair without a trace of gray - this despite the fact he was evidently several years older than me, and dark piercing eyes. For all the life of me it seemed I was looking straight at an older version of myself. I was tempted to get his attention, roll up my sleeve and reveal MY dragon.

Then I noticed something else. The gentleman – if indeed he was my future self, somehow physically present in this plane – was missing his left arm, directly above the elbow...

* * *

The night I checked into my hotel there was some kind of gathering outside in the street. It was a big crowd, with a woman leading the crowd, giving some kind of speech on a megaphone. Well I had reason to go outside. I wanted a bottle of wine, so I was making my way down the street to a local tienda de vinos. Coming back with my bottle of wine under my arm, I made it less than a block when it became evident the sidewalks were non-navigable, and so was the street, with all the people.

Somebody bumped me sideways and then I was in the middle of the crowd. The crowd was getting ugly, people were yelling at me in Spanish and I couldn't understand a word they were saying and things were on the verge of going out of control. When people started putting their hands on me I realized I had to do something to turn the sentiments of the crowd in my favor so I did the only thing I could think of - I hollered out at the top of my lungs:


Those were the magic words, apparently, because right away everyone started yelling: "¡VIVA! ¡VIVA!" They picked me up and then I was crowd surfing as the mob made their way to this huge imposing building which I presumed was the Presidential Palace. All the while, you gotta understand, all I was doing was trying to stay alive.

There was a momentary lull at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the imposing edifice, so to keep the spirit of the thing alive I did the only thing that seemed natural at the time: I hurled my bottle of vino rojo. It shattered at the entrance of the marble wedding cake of a building, the crowd surged forward and the Presidential Honor Guard dropped their rifles and ran for their lives.

I guess you could say I christened the beginning of a new era...

* * *

The human wave that was the popular revolution busted down the doors of the Presidential Palace and poured in like a flood, dragging me along. Everywhere you looked they were ransacking the place, until we reached the offices of El Presidente himself; the Inner Sanctum of Power of the Republic. An uncomfortable quiet fell over the crowd, and one by one the rioteers dispersed until it was only the leaders of the mob - and myself - who remained. There was no sign of the former occupant of these ornate offices.

My comrades-in-arms looked about in wonder as it all sunk in, what they had just accomplished. Incredibly, they’d overthrown the hated dictator... with my help, apparently. Then the woman who had led the chanting with the megaphone - not one hour before - looked to me, excited.

“Señor, now YOU are the new EL PRESIDENTE ! ! !” All her colleagues beamed, their smiling faces showing their approval at this logical conclusion.

El Presidente... the title had a nice ring to it. I felt a momentary surge of power go straight to my head.

Meanwhile the smoke had not yet cleared out in the palace grounds, they were still manning the barricades in the streets. In the palace courtyard my predecessor was being given the customary retirement ceremony for dictators who fail to make the last flight out of the city to the South of France... complete with blindfold and last cigarette... occurred to me that I’d just won the booby prize...

“Er, I think a better idea is for la Republica to have its first WOMAN ‘La Presidente’ - think of the legitimacy in the eyes of the international community - much more beneficial for leveraging grants and loans from the World Bank and the international community, no? - versus a gringo like me who can only order a beer in Spanish. I think I can serve the Republic better in a more utilitarian role... Minister of Agriculture, perhaps?

Agriculture means farmland, and as far as I was concerned, the further away I could get from all the madness going on in the capital city, the better. As soon as possible I caught the train to the interior, way up in the mountains, to inspect the state of agriculture in Republica de San Cristobal.

There was much to see in the countryside. An afternoon was spent exploring an ancient Mayan pyramid. It was fascinating to clamber about its step sides, to climb the steep staircase up its center. I imagined the priests and acolytes conducting the Ceremony of the Sun. Did they actually perform human sacrifice, and were these volcanic stones once drenched in blood and gore?

Meanwhile the thing about the arm had been bothering me; the premonition was weighing on my mind. I was really anxious about the possibility of losing my arm. It was a tricky thing. What does one do when one has had such a vivid premonition? Such a significant indicator of a future mishap?

We finally arrived at our first destination and los campesinos were waiting, their bright smiling faces beaming as they presented their harvest. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. I was looking at more cannabis than I’d ever seen in my life! Marijuana, Mary Jane, hemp, reefer, dope, more weed than I could ever imagine existed even, dried and cured, bales and bales of the stuff. I mean, there was a LOT of grass! Enough to stone an army...

“But where are the food crops?” I asked, incredulous.

“Bah!” they snorted and hissed. “Thees ees better Señor! Thee ees mucho dinero!” And of course they were right. Any poor bastard can slave away growing corn and beans – this was a cash crop. But how could I apply for grants from the World Bank? “And there ees MORE, Señor!” they exclaimed as they walked me over to the poppy fields and the coca plants growing on the mountainside.

Of course I took notice of the scowling hombres with the military-style caps and crossed bandoliers, toting assault rifles and shotguns. As of any drug-producing operation, this was far from any sort of pastoral idyll.

I put my face in my hands and shook my head; no, no, no a thousand times no, this was not happening to me. Somehow I’d gone from a trip to the bottle shop to the de facto leader of a street revolution to candidate for El Presidente to the head representative and ministerial administrator of a national level drug growing operation. How the hell was I going to get out of this mess?

My senior staff assistant sensed my stress and anxiety. “What you need Señor, where you must go, are los aguas termales minerales – the mineral hot springs.”

This didn’t sound like a half bad idea. Anything to get me away from the drug fields and those heavy rifle-toting characters.

We made our way towards the mineral hot springs, first by truck until the trails became almost impassable. We then took an ox cart up the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli, the smoldering volcano which presided over the entire countryside like a sulking god. A guide accompanied us, one of the camposinos, who prattled on in a dialect that I assumed was a mix of Spanish and Mayan.

My assistant translated; “This flowering tree is a powerful hallucinogen, if you take this flower you will go directly to the mental hospital. But the flower is very good; if you place the flower beneath your pillow you will sleep soundly, the deepest most restful sleep.

“This plant is inedible, it is poisonous. If you take the seeds and eat them, you will transform into a crazy animal and you will endanger yourself. One time, a campesino took the seeds and the next day they found him naked, trying to outrun a diesel locomotive. The locomotive won, of course, and he died.

“This little animal,” our guide picked up a tiny snail, its shell smaller than the small buttons on a button-down collar shirt, with a curious purple stripe that followed the spiral pattern around its yellow shell, and held his finger out allowing it to travel to my hand. “This little animal can enter the body.” At least that’s what I thought I heard the translator say – he was speaking Spanish, after all, which I barely speak.

I imagined he meant the premature form of the snail? Entering the body through the mouth, or the ear perhaps? I hated to think he meant the urethra, or the other orifice. “It enters the body and it will live inside the mind.” He must have meant the brain but he used the word mente which means the mind, the consciousness. I shuddered at the thought of a snail occupying my consciousness. I placed my finger to the hallucinogenic tree and observed the little fellow making its way across.

And then we arrived at the hot mineral springs, a primitive spa featuring bamboo huts and many pools constructed of haphazardly placed stones and mortar. The jungle canopy provided shade, and the steam of the hot springs rose up. It was impossible to see the entire area as it wound around the mountain. The springs were quite hot, but there were also pools for cooling off. Our guide took us up the mountain to the beginning of the springs, where a large placard announced:

(The Sulphur-Rich Waters)

“Embellacen la piel, el cabello y las uñas y mejoran la circulación sanguínea. Sus efectos analgésicos ayudan a disminuir grandamente el estrés y los Dolores musculares y artricos ya que mediante el proceso de Osmosis el azufre y le resto de minerales medicinales son absobidors por las células del cuerpo...”

It went on:

“...logrando asi beneficiarnos con sus propiedades antiinflamatorias, inmunoestimulantes y regeneradoras las cuales están cientificamente comprobadas desde hace más de 2000 años.”

As I continued to read the unusual Spanish verbiage I strangely began to completely understand every word:

"Embellishes the skin, the hair and the nails and aids the circulation of the blood. Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects greatly help decrease stress and muscular sickness and arthritis because through the process of osmosis, sulfur and the rest of the medicinal minerals are absorbed through the skin into the body cells thus achieving benefit with its anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulants and regenerative properties which are scientifically proven over 2000 years."

We entered the waters and it was indeed very restful and relaxing, but the heat eventually drove us to the cooler pools. Then we’d return to the hot sulphur to soak some more and enjoy its rejuvenative effects which were quite noticeable.

My intent was to remain in the countryside for a week or more, as long as it would take to do a complete tour and determine the needs and capabilities of the plantations. By now my Spanish was perfect, which was odd because all I’d studied in school was French and Latin but there you have it. Odd because I was picking up more than just vocabulary and grammar, I was getting the slang and the local idioms and I even understood the Mayan dialect of the campesinos. There was something more; vivid dreams that seemed to follow into the waking state. Visions of strange creatures from the bas-relief carvings around the pyramids, come alive and talking to me, advising me in my affairs in the countryside.

The volcanic rumblings and tremors were increasing in tempo, to almost daily, and yet the seismic instruments of the meteorological station located halfway up the volcano gave no indications in the signals they transmitted. The fantastic creatures that now spoke to me constantly – an enormous rooster-like bird, a surreal jaguar, a dog-headed man, an enormous feathered serpent – insisted it was necessary we climb the volcano.

Our ascent of Xiuhtecuhtli, the ancient Mayan god, took over six hours, and every inch of the way I was totally out of my skull. I knew they were hallucinations, but they were absolutely real. As real as this bar we’re standing in now, as real as the people around us even now as I speak.

When we got to the instrument station the problem with the transmissions was immediately obvious. A large volcanic boulder lay squat on top of what remained of the station – angle irons and wires and the steel instrument housing protruded out like a large insect squashed beneath a giant’s toe.

To my affected vision the sky was yellow and the mountain was deep purple. There was a rumbling, quite a shaker, and Xiuhtecuhtli coughed a large red hot missile that landed like a mortar round less than half a football field away. Xiuhtecuhtli coughed again and this time a cloud of volcanic ash spilled over the crater and rolled towards us. To my wildly hallucinating mind, a vivid purple cloud of volcanic ash, pulsing and breathing as it rolled downhill toward us.

Xiuhtecuhtli was in eruption. We ran for our lives, of course.

* * *

The evacuation was chaos. The railway was an early casualty of the volcanic ash and the red hot, semi-molten boulders Xiuhtecuhtli was spitting out. The dirt roads and trails out of the hinterland were jammed with ox carts and donkey carts and ancient trucks overloaded until their suspension groaned and hundreds of thousands of campesinos on foot, some pushing bicycles laden with possessions, some beating hapless horses and donkeys.

It took us the better part of two weeks to make our way out of the disaster area. At night we slept under the open skies with the campesinos. None of them seemed aware it was el Ministro de Agricultura with whom they shared their food and drink. Not that it mattered; the only authority that held any power or influence over the affairs of men anymore was Xiuhtecuhtli, the angry God of Fire.

The situation in the capital city was just as chaotic. Between the clouds of volcanic ash plastering the outer suburbs and the almost continual tremors, existence had relegated to daily survival and supplies were running out. Rivers of red hot lava were pouring down the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli, and the capital city lay right in their path.

I made it to the airport and flashed my passport to a gentleman who was obviously an official of the US embassy. “I gotta get on that plane!”

“Who are you?”

“I’m a US citizen!”

“Yeah, but are you connected to the embassy?” he shouted over the noise and confusion. “This is an official flight. Embassy officials only.”

To hell with that. “I’m the Minister of Agriculture!” I shouted.

He must have thought I said I’m involved with working with the Ministry of Agriculture, some kind of humanitarian operation. Whatever he thought didn’t matter, the man waved me by and I was able to get a seat on what turned out to be the last flight out of there. My last sight of San Cristobal through the passenger window was what looked like a barrage of red hot boulders landing on the far side of the runway and exploding, sending shards of volcanic debris in all directions. I felt sorry for the poor souls left behind. Who wouldn’t? It was like the Last Days of Pompeii.

Back in The World my employers didn’t have much to say to me. The back-pay they owed me made the ass-chewing bearable, and I still had my arm. Still do, in fact. The hallucinations seemed to have quieted down a bit, or at least they’re manageable, which makes me wonder how much of the whole thing really happened and how much was some kind of waking dream – going right back to the beginning, the encounter on the plane, the one-armed man?

* * *

“You still worried about losing an arm?” Mike asked, pouring his guest another beer.

“Nah,” he said, looking at his arm as he flapped it like a wing. “The only thing I’m worried about is the when and where, and the pain. I lose this arm and I win the lottery.”

“How so?”

“I got it insured.” He coughed, a bit of a hack, and a gob of some kind spittle flew out, landed at the foot of the bar. Mike glanced down and saw ... a tiny little yellow snail, with a purple line that followed the spiral of its shell ...


Wednesday, November 2, 2016


STORMBRINGER is about Honor, items of military interest, literary and artistic themes, and the international security situation. I am a professional soldier, a writer and a thinker. I try not to let politics intrude . . . S.L.

This summer I told a dear, old friend that I am not a political creature, that I do not post politics on social media. This is true, however I have since begun posting a few political images & memes on Twitter, FB, etc. This is as a counter to the unbalanced propaganda I've seen long-time friends post on their social media. I never go along with the crowd, I am a free thinker and I instinctively question the popular wisdom. I certainly do not trust what the talking heads on the squawk box dish up for us, especially when it is endorsed by the powers-that-be.

AND SO I post anti-Hillary material. For what its worth I am not a Republican - I am an American first, a Conservative second and I only vote Republican because voting the other way is simply unthinkable. I do not especially care for Donald Trump - he is not a Conservative, he was a Democrat for a hell of a lot longer than he's been a Republican and I honestly do not care for his style. He turns me off as much as he turns off all the liberals I know.

But this election is not about whom we vote FOR . . . it is about whom we vote AGAINST. For a long, long time I have said that if Mussolini was running against whomever Team Obama / Clinton put up there, I'd vote for him. Hell, I'd vote for Daffy Duck before I voted for Hillary Clinton. Well maybe I spoke too soon because look who we got.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, I can't wait for this election to be over. This is the craziest political season since the Emperor Caligula made his horse into a senator, and the senator's wives into whores. When it is all over this time next week I will take down all the political propaganda I have posted to date.

This is the craziest political season since the Emperor Caligula made his horse into a senator, and the senator's wives into whores.

Now if you think right, you can go out and do your part to Make America Great Again. And if you think the other way then you must deal with the knowledge that you have voted for the only candidate to run for the Presidency while currently under criminal investigation by the FBI, and that your candidate Hillary is the single most unethical, corrupt, dishonest individual to run for the office of President of the United States . . . EVER.

That is all.

Take Due Notice Thereof and Conduct Yourself Accordingly,


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rangers vs Special Forces: Hostage Rescue

A prospective client asked me all about scenarios involving airfield takedowns - all the who-where-what-why-when's & how many's . . . I told her it all depends on so many factors & variables, to include what kind of troops available . . . this led to a conversation regarding the difference between Rangers and Special Forces, and so I shared with her the following parable from the ancient sagas of US Army Special Operations . . . S.L.

The Chief of Staff of the Army asked his Sergeant Major - who was both Ranger and Special Forces qualified - which organization he would recommend to form a new anti-terrorist unit. The Sergeant Major responded to the General's question with this parable: If there were a hijacked Boeing 747 being held by terrorists along with its passengers and crew and an anti-terrorist unit formed either by the Rangers or the Special Forces was given a Rescue/Recovery Mission; what would you expect to happen?

Ranger Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If the Rangers went in, they would send a Ranger company of 120 men with standard army issue equipment.

Mission Preparation: The Ranger Company First Sergeant would conduct a Hair Cut and Boots Inspection, while the officers consulted SOPs and held sand table exercises.

Infiltration Technique: They would insist on double timing, in company formation, wearing their combat equipment, and singing cadence all the way to the site of the hijacked aircraft.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived, the Ranger company would establish their ORP, put out security elements, conduct a leaders recon, reapply their camouflage, and conduct final preparations for Actions on the OBJ.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would be completed within one hour; all of the terrorists and most of the passengers would have been killed, the Rangers would have sustained light casualties and the 747 would be worthless to anyone except a scrap dealer.

Special Forces Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If Special Forces went in, they would send only a 12 man team (all SF units are divisible by 12 for some arcane historical reason) however, due to the exotic nature of their equipment the SF Team would cost the same amount to deploy as the Ranger Company.

Mission Preparation: The SF Team Sergeant would request relaxed grooming standards for the team. All members of the team would spend a grueling afternoon at a quality spa ensuring physical abilities would be honed.

Infiltration Technique: The team would insist on separate travel orders with Max Per Diem, and each would get to the site of the hijacking by his own means. At least one third of the team would insist on jumping in HALO.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived , the SF Team would cache their military uniforms, establish a Team Room at the best hotel in the area, use their illegal Team Fund to stock the unauthorized Team Room Bar, check out the situation by talking to the locals, and have a Team Meeting to discuss the merits of the terrorists' cause.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would take two weeks to complete and by that time all of the terrorists would have been killed, (and would have left signed confessions); the passengers would be ruined psychologically for the remainder of their lives; and all of the women passengers would be pregnant. The 747 would be essentially unharmed, the team would have taken no casualties but would have used up, lost, or stolen all the "high speed" equipment issued to them.


Friday, October 14, 2016


In Thailand, one witnesses the deep respect given King Bhumibol and the Royal Family by the Thai people. That respect was earned; everywhere one looked was evidence of the King's great works and his love for his people. I wish to show my respect & to honor His Majesty on the occasion of his passing . . . S.L.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช - pronounced P'humip'hon Adunyadet) known as King Bhumibol the Great, was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he was, at the time of his death, the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, serving for 70 years, 127 days. He held Thailand together during VERY difficult times, and helped lead Thai people to prosperity. His story is very unique, and quite remarkable. He was one of the greatest kings of all history.

His Majesty led Thailand during extremely challenging times - throughout the Indochina Conflict - and personally helped bring prosperity and stability to Thailand and throughout the region. For the many difficult decades following World War II, Communist insurgencies existed in every country in Southeast Asia. Thailand was an anchor of stability, the keystone that held the region from total collapse. This was due in large part to King Bhumibol's direct influence, thanks to his remarkable character.

Westerners who have never visited Thailand cannot fully appreciate the King's influence. In Thailand, they had a Communist insurgency, but the majority of the Thai people never supported this despite the difficulties & extreme poverty experienced in the provinces. This was directly due to the King's personality. He was revered as semi-divine. As Communist guerrilla movements took hold and even prevailed in neighboring countries, in Thailand the Communists failed to gain traction.

In Thailand, democracy is not like in the West. There are many coup's-de-etat - most of them bloodless, thank God. When a coup - or a counter-coup - takes place, the leaders seek the official blessing of the King. Without this blessing, the leaders of the coup (or counter-coup) must pack their bags and go into exile. As such, King Bhumibol practiced much more direct influence over the political affairs of his country than his royal counterparts in the West.

Thailand emerged from the difficult war years and rode a wave of economic development as one of Southeast Asia's 'tiger economies'. When I returned to Thailand in the late eighties, I observed that a middle class had emerged. In large part because of the King's personality and tremendous influence, Thailand has no enemies. Everybody loves Thailand.

In recent years there has been trouble within the Kingdom. Following years of domestic political strife, the military took power. There have been human rights issues - it is not my intent to discuss this here. Ironically, it is the heavy-handed military government that may actually ensure a seamless coronation of the Crown Prince.

There will be difficult days ahead. The Thai people pray for King Bhumibol . . . I pray for the Thai people . . .