By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea – WIF @ War

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Largest Battles

Ever Fought

at Sea

The fate of nations and empires have depended upon control of the high seas throughout civilization. From well-populated coastlines to the most remote ocean depths, sunken vessels lie dormant in a vast watery graveyard, serving as a reminder of the countless battles waged.

Here’s a rundown of some largest and most decisive naval battles that not only changed the tides of war but altered the course of world history.

8. Battle of Lepanto

Long simmering tensions between the Ottoman Empire and Catholic states in the Mediterranean reached a boiling point when Muslim forces captured the Venetian island of Cyprus in 1570. This following year, roughly 500 ships clashed at the Battle of Lepanto, marking the last major engagement powered mostly by oar-driven vessels in the Western world.

Viewed by both sides as a religious mandate, the conflict saw the formation of the Holy League, a coalition assembled by Pope Pius V, consisting of Spain, Venice and the Papacy. Although they would face a battle-tested Turks led by Ali Pasha, command of the alliance was handed to John of Austria, an ambitious tenderfoot with a checkered past.

As the illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and half-brother, King Philip II of Spain, “Don Juan” led a charmed life as a member of the House of Habsburg. The 24-year-old playboy was not the Pope’s first choice to lead the Holy League’s fleet, but when Phillip agreed to finance the righteous rumble, the young admiral received the nod. Miraculously, he exceeded all expectations.

The Ottomans sailed westward from their naval station in southwestern Greece near Lepanto (today Nafpaktos) into the Gulf of Patras. There, they collided with the Christian fleet equipped with more than 200 galleys and bolstered by 44-gun Venetian galleasses (much larger galleys).

By the time fighting ceased, the Holy League had captured 117 Turkish galleys and liberated around 12,000 enslaved Christians. Moreover, the victory effectively thwarted Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean.

7. Battle of Jutland

Big, bloody, and befuddled is one way to summarize the First World War‘s biggest sea skirmish. ‘Stalemate’’ is another. Fought over 36 hours beginning on May 31, 1916, the Battle of Jutland involved more than 250 ships and 100,00 men and produced the only instance in which British and German ‘dreadnought’ battleships directly engaged each other.

Under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the German High Seas Fleet attempted to cripple the Royal Navy by luring Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battlecruiser force out into the open. However, the British caught a whiff of the plan and quickly dispatched Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet that had been stationed at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

The two belligerents then tangled northwest of the Danish peninsula, where the outgunned Germans managed to inflict severe damage, sinking the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, which exploded when enemy shells hit their ammunition magazines. Although the British lost more ships and twice as many men, both sides claimed victory. Fittingly, the muddled outcome mirrored the same futility found on land in trench warfare.

The German fleet was forced to return home, having failed to break the Royal Navy’s blockade of the North Sea. The retreat reaffirmed Britain’s stranglehold on vital shipping lanes, a critical factor that contributed to Germany’s eventual defeat two years later.

6. Battle of the Masts

In one of the first major naval engagements between Muslim forces and the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Battle of the Masts unfolded off the coast of southern Anatolia in 655 CE. The fight for control the Mediterranean saw both sides suffer heavy casualties, resulting in what has been hailed as “The first decisive conflict of Islam on the deep.”

The Rashidun Caliphate, having recently conquered Egypt and Cyprus, then set its sights on bringing Byzantium under Muslim control. Led by Abu’l-Awar, 200 Arab boats sailed north towards the harbor of Phoenix (modern day Finike), where they encountered the 500-ship Byzantine navy, commanded personally by Emperor Constans II.

Fuelled by hubris and a vast numerical superiority, Constans (Constantine the Bearded) didn’t bother to bring his fleet into formation and instead plowed straight into the enemy. Big mistake. The blunder created heavy congestion, nullifying the Byzantine advantage as a clutter of masts flying either a cross or a crescent would give the battle its name. Constans barely escaped the carnage by switching uniforms with one of his officers. The result also marked the beginning of significant Muslim influence on the Mediterranean.

5. Battle of the Philippine Sea

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan is credited with discovering a previously uncharted body of water that he named ‘Pacific’ for the calmness of the water. Ironically, the exploration soon led to his violent death, slain by natives in an archipelago that came to be known as The Philippines. Some 400 years later, the same area saw more mayhem with the largest aircraft carrier battle in history.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea began on 19 June 1944 and rapidly progressed in favor of the Allies. A total of fifteen aircraft carriers from the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force (T.F. 58) flexed plenty of muscle as part of the most extensive single naval formation ever to give battle. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) quickly became overwhelmed, losing three aircraft carriers and 395 carrier-based planes. American airmen described the action as a “turkey shoot” that included six confirmed kills in eight minutes by Navy pilot Lieutenant Alexander Vraciu.

By comparison, U.S. losses were light in comparison with one battleship damaged and 130 aircraft destroyed. The Japanese not only lost one third of its carriers but nearly all of its carrier-based aircraft. Remarkably, the depleted Japanese forces would continue fighting to the bitter end for another 14 months.

4. Battle of Actium

The stakes couldn’t have been any higher as opposing naval forces led by Mark Antony, and Octavian squared off for control of the Roman Republic on September 2, 31 BCE. The evenly matched sea battle involved 800 ships, colliding near the Greek peninsula at Actium.

The assassination of Julius Caesar some 13 years earlier still weighed heavily on both sides, adding to the high drama. The famed general was Octavian’s great-uncle, and Antony formed a personal and military partnership with Cleopatra of Egypt, who just happened to be Caesar’s former flame.

According to historian Plutarch, the fighting quickly took on the characteristics of a land battle in which the two sides launched flaming arrows and heaved pots of red-hot pitch and heavy stones at one another’s decks. Antony’s large, well-armoured galleys were equipped with towers for his archers, large battering rams, and heavy grappling irons. Octavian counter-attacked with a fleet of smaller vessels provided greater speed and maneuverability, tactics that ultimately won the day.

The conquering hero would take the name “Augustus” to become Rome’s first Emperor, launching a prosperous reign that lasted 40 years. As for Antony and Cleopatra, things didn’t end well. The star-crossed lovers fled back to Egypt, where they committed suicide. The tragic romance later spawned a Shakespeare play and slew of big-budget Hollywood flicks. Reviews were mixed.

3. Battle of Salamis

Centuries of fighting between the Greeks and Persians produced one of the more spirited rivalries in ancient warfare. Following their victory at Battle of Thermopylae and the sacking of Athens, forces led by King Xerxes I of Persia looked to expand further with an amphibious invasion in 480 BCE. Historians have long debated the size of the Persian armada, but some accounts list a surplus of well over 1,000 ships.

Facing total ruin, the Greeks hatched an ingenious trap by luring the enemy into a narrow and winding strait between the island of Salamis and the Greek mainland. The defenders occupied a position next to an inlet perpendicular to the entrance with a fleet of 370 triremes and began ramming and boarding Persian vessels in the congested waterway.

As panic ensued, the numerically inferior Greek force sank more than 300 of Xerxes’ ships. The defeat forced the Persian to put the invasion on hold — a significant turning point in the Greco-Persian war that saved Hellenic culture from annihilation.

2. Red Cliffs

In the waning days of the Han Dynasty in China, a classic battle occurred featuring a smaller force overcoming tremendous odds to defeat a much larger navy. A trio of warlords had been vying to seize power in the winter of 208 AD, before finally erupting in one of the more spectacular naval engagements in ancient history.

Troops under Cao Cao prepared to invade the southern territory surrounding the Yangtze River Valley with a massive armada and 250,000 men. In response, Liu Bei and Sun Quan hastily formed a coalition with a combined force of 50,000 troops. However, the undersized alliance relied on a cunning battle plan based on deception — a ruse that worked to perfection.

While feigning surrender, the defenders floated several dozen ships filled with oil and straw towards Cao Cao’s fleet, which had been bunched together in a narrow space near an area known as the Red Cliffs. A favorable wind helped propel the ‘defectors’ ships’ forward as fire quickly spread throughout the invader’s entire formation, resulting in chaos and panic among Cao Cao’s men. The Southern allies exploited the advantage, unleashing the bulk of its navy to destroy the retreating enemy.

The outcome determined new borders of the Three Kingdoms period. Red Cliff would also inspire countless works of art, including a 2007 blockbuster film directed by John Woo.

1. Battle of Leyte Gulf

Considered by many historians as the largest naval battle of all time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf involved a series of engagements between the United States, and Japan fought off the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon. The Americans’ plan was designed to achieve two main objectives: liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines while regaining strategic bases in the Pacific to hasten the end of World War II.

By October 1944, the once-mighty Imperial Japanese Navy had been severely weakened from previous campaigns. Nonetheless, they still managed to assemble a formable array of heavy-gun warships as well as the first use of organized kamikaze attacks. The Allies countered with the full juggernaut of the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets with a combined total of about 200,000 personnel.

The battle stretched over three days in which the Japanese suffered catastrophic losses, crippling its ability to fight as an effective naval force for the remainder of the war. Twenty-six Japanese ships and around 300 planes were destroyed — either by anti-aircraft fire or kamikaze attacks — and more than 12,000 Japanese sailors and airmen died. During an interrogation after Japan’s surrender, Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy Minister, said of Leyte, “I felt that that was the end.”


By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea

WIF @ War

Pandemic Overload (1918) – WIF Medicine

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Facts About

the Spanish Flu

Pandemic 1918

A Little Perspective

Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, struck the world in a series of waves, and left between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. It may have appeared in the trenches of World War I in Europe as early as 1916, according to some researchers. It first appeared in the United States in the spring of 1918. Numerous contending theories of its source of origin continue to be debated. Some say it began in the United States, some say in Europe, and still others argue it originated in Asia. There is no debate over its impact, though, with one-third of the world’s population contracting the disease during its peak in 1918-19. It continued to appear well into 1920, though with significantly less impact.

Differing from other forms of influenza, the virus had a significant impact on young, otherwise healthy adults, who usually had stronger immune systems. It struck the wealthy and the poor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted the illness. The King of Spain nearly died of it. A young nurse in Toronto, Amelia Earhart, contracted the disease, which damaged her sinuses to the point surgery was required. The scars left her with sinus problems for the rest of her life. In the United States, 675,000 Americans died from the flu, most of them during the deadly second wave in 1918. That year American average life expectancy dropped by 12 years as a result of the flu. Here are 10 facts about the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the First World War…

10. Nobody knows for certain where it originated

While there is some disagreement among scholars over the place of origin, the consensus is that Spanish flu did not originate in Spain. When the pandemic spread rapidly across Europe in 1918, wartime censorship conditions affected most news reports. Censorship did not apply to neutral Spain. News reports of the flu’s virulence there appeared in newspapers and magazines, with references to “this Spanish flu.” The name stuck. Reports of the disease in Spain increased substantially when King Alphonso XIII contracted the flu in the spring of 1918. Ironically, as reports of the King’s illness and being near death for several days increased references to the Spanish flu in Western newspapers, the Spanish referred to the disease as the French flu.

Since the pandemic (and in part during it), China, Great Britain, the United States, and France, as well as Russia, have all been suggested as the disease’s starting point. The first case in the United States appeared in March 1918, at a Kansas army post. More recently, researchers identified potential cases as early as 1916, at army receiving and marshaling stations in France. Another earlier outbreak occurred at a British Army base in Aldershot in the early spring of 1917. The UK staging camp at Etapes, in northern France, saw 100,000 troops go through daily, either returning from the front or on their way to it, in densely crowded conditions. Hundreds exhibited symptoms of the pandemic flu during the spring and fall of 1917, a fact later identified by army pathologists.

9. More American soldiers died of Spanish flu than in combat during World War One

Americans were stunned at the casualties suffered by their troops during the First World War, though in comparison to the European combatants they were low. Mobilization placed 4.7 million American men in uniform. Of those, about 320,000 became ill and recovered, or suffered wounds in combat from which they survived. 116,516 American troops and sailors died during the war. Combat deaths totaled 53,402. The rest — 63,114 — died of disease, with most of the deaths occurring from the Spanish flu in the camps in the United States, in Europe, and in ships bound for Europe. Once such ship was a former German liner. In 1917 the United States converted the German steamship Vaterland, interned in New York, into a troopship, renamed USS Leviathan.

On September 29, 1918, Leviathan departed New York for the French port of Brest, carrying 9,000 American doughboys, and a crew of 2,000 sailors (one of the sailors was a young New Yorker named Humphrey Bogart). Spanish flu appeared in the ship during the crossing. When Leviathan arrived at Brest it carried 2,000 men already diagnosed with the Spanish flu, which wreaked havoc in the crowded conditions aboard, and overwhelmed the ship’s medical facilities and personnel. 80 men died during the crossing, many more after landing ashore in France, during the height of the pandemic. A similar outbreak occurred on the ship’s return voyage to the United States.

8. It affected the Treaty of Versailles

The combat during World War One came to an end via an armistice, which began at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of November, the 11th month of the year, 1918. Many issues of the war remained unresolved. The leaders of the Allied nations agreed to meet in Paris in early 1919 to discuss the issues facing Europe. Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, went to Europe to join the discussions, present his famous 14 Points, and to argue for the establishment of the League of Nations. He favored more lenient terms for Germany than those proposed by the leaders of France, Italy, and Great Britain. Wilson intended to use American prestige to obtain less punitive measures against the Germans, especially in the form of reparations.

During the negotiations for the treaty, which took place in Paris rather than the Palace of Versailles for which it was named, Wilson came down with the Spanish flu. Several members of his entourage suffered through the flu during the voyage to France. Wilson’s illness was covered up, though he became severely ill in Paris, unable to attend multiple sessions of the negotiations. His physician, Navy Admiral Cary Grayson, wrote of the President as “violently sick.” When Wilson did partially recover and returned to the negotiations, several participants wrote of his lack of attention, fatigue, and listlessness. He failed to ease the reparations imposed by the Allies on the Germans, and the resulting Treaty of Versailles created conditions in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the war which followed the War to End All Wars.

7. The federal government did little regarding the flu’s impact

In the United States, the federal government did relatively little to combat the Spanish flu, other than issue advisories telling Americans of the dangers presented by the illness. Congress adjourned in the fall of 1918, with the second wave of the pandemic at its peak. The Supreme Court did the same. The United States Public Health Service, then an agency within the Department of the Treasury, issued posters warning against spitting on sidewalks. It also advised workers to walk to work, which seems strange to modern eyes, until one considers that most commuting at the time involved streetcars or railroads. It also warned Americans to avoid becoming over-fatigued.

Before Woodrow Wilson went to Europe, Edith (the President’s wife) sent 1,000 roses to young women serving in the war effort in the District of Columbia, who were sickened by the flu. That was about the extent of the federal effort. Battling the effects of the pandemic, the lost work hours, burying the dead, and combating the spread of the disease was left in the hands of local governments, which responded in varying ways across the country. Some imposed severe restrictions on movement, crowds, and schools, easing them as the pandemic passed through their communities. Others continued to promote large gatherings to support Liberty Bond drives, including a parade in Philadelphia after which thousands died in the city from the rapid spread of influenza which ensued.

6. Some cities made wearing masks mandatory, with criminal penalties

The first wave of Spanish flu in America occurred in the spring of 1918. Compared to what came in the second wave it was mild. The second wave came in September 1918, in the Eastern cities, and gradually moved westward. San Francisco escaped the first wave, and its Chief of the Board of Health, Dr. William Hassler, assured citizens of the city the second wave would not affect them. On September 24, a recent arrival from Chicago became ill with the flu. By mid-October over 4,000 cases were in the city. That month the city passed an ordinance making the wearing of gauze masks mandatory, with Hassler touting them as 99% effective in stopping the spread of the flu between persons.

In truth, the masks were likely of little benefit, and on November 21, 1918,  the city rescinded the order to wear them. Several other cities issued similar orders, with varying degrees of punishments for violators. In San Francisco, violators went to jail. The city suffered 2,122 deaths during the lethal second wave. The third wave struck in December, and lasted through the winter, raising the death toll in San Francisco to over 3,500 out of a population of about half a million. Nearby Oakland was similarly hit. Oakland also enacted an ordinance requiring masks, virulently opposed by the city’s tobacco store owners. One such owner designed a mask with a flap over the mouth, allowing smokers to enjoy their cigars, cigarettes, and pipes while remaining in compliance with the law.

5. The 1918 baseball season was shortened, though not because of the flu

Major League Baseball shortened its season in 1918 in response to the American war effort. The last game of the regular season was played on September 2, 1918. Teams played just over 120 games that year. When the season ended, the second wave of Spanish flu was underway on the East coast. The league champions, the Boston Red Sox of the American League and the National League’s Chicago Cubs, met in the World Series. Public health officials in both cities argued against playing the World Series due to the crowds gathering during the course of an epidemic, but baseball went ahead. Boston’s only concession to the flu came in an agreement to play in Fenway Park, rather than in the larger Braves Field, where they had played in the preceding World Series.

During the World Series a young Red Sox pitcher started two games, winning both, despite suffering from the flu at the time. He started in the outfield in the other four games. His name was George Herman Ruth. Throughout the games he lay down between innings, weakened by the fever and body aches symptomatic of the flu. Some of his teammates assumed Ruth was simply suffering from a bad hangover, a common problem of ballplayers of the day. But throughout the series, Ruth was notably absent between games, even spending time on the train to Chicago in his sleeper, rather than consorting with teammates. The Red Sox won the series four games to two. It was the only World Series in history played entirely in September. That winter, Ruth was sent to the Yankees.

4. Franklin Roosevelt contracted the flu while returning from France

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, and in that capacity went to Europe in 1918. His mission included the coordination of naval activities against the German U-boat threat, and arranging for convoying and port facilities used by US Navy ships. In September 1918 he returned to the United States aboard USS Leviathan. Upon arrival FDR was carried off the ship on a stretcher, having contracted the flu either in France or, what is more likely, aboard the ship. Leviathan’s crew had been exposed to and ravaged by the flu on several voyages. FDR returned to the United States deathly ill, and required several weeks convalescence at his family’s Hyde Park home before resuming his duties.

FDR’s illness and its severity are often overlooked, largely because of his being later stricken with polio, which left his legs paralyzed. His flu is often described as a mild illness, though he left Leviathan with double pneumonia, high fever, and debilitating weakness. His distant cousin, former President Teddy Roosevelt, who had encouraged him to go to Europe, wrote him during his convalescence. “We are deeply concerned about your sickness, and trust you will soon be well,” wrote the former President, adding that, “We are very proud of you.” Had FDR not survived the flu, which killed so many Americans who went to Europe in 1918, the remainder of the 20th century would have been very different indeed.

3. The flu’s second wave was its deadliest by far

The second wave of influenza in 1918 swept across Western Europe and the United States from September through the end of the year and into January. It was the deadliest of the three main waves of the pandemic. In Philadelphia, America’s hardest hit city, about 16,000 died after city leaders refused to cancel a parade scheduled to promote the sale of Liberty Bonds. Cincinnati closed schools and businesses, shut down streetcars, and ordered the wearing of masks. For a time it closed all restaurants, though it allowed saloons to remain open. At one point in November, believing the worst to have passed, the city reopened businesses and schools. Within days the death rate skyrocketed, forcing the city to shut down again. Over 1,700 Cincinnatians succumbed to the flu in the fall of 1918.

Sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center brought the flu to Chicago. In September Chicago’s Health Commissioner announced the flu was under control. At the end of the month there were fewer than 300 cases reported in the city. By mid-October the city reported 1,200 new cases per day. Chicago shut down schools, businesses, banned public gatherings, closed parks, and requested for churches to curtail services. Chicago reported over 38,000 cases of influenza, and 13,000 cases of pneumonia attributed to the flu, before restrictions were lifted in mid-November. One restriction imposed, vigorously opposed by conservative newspapers and businesses, had been the banning of smoking on streetcars and elevated trains. The Chicago Tribune opposed the ban and referred to the Health Commissioner who imposed it as “his highness.”

2. Authorities in Philadelphia announced the flu was no worse than seasonal flu and held a parade to sell war bonds

In mid-September 1918, influenza was present in all the major Eastern cities of the United States, with Boston suffering the highest number of cases. Philadelphia had seen some cases of the flu, though health officials in the city regarded it lightly. The city’s Health Commissioner, Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee, ignored the pleas of doctors and public health experts to ban large public gatherings. Krusen announced the flu was no worse than any seasonal flu, despite the evidence presented by other cities. The Health Commissioner warned the people of Philadelphia to be careful, covering their faces when they coughed or sneezed, and allowed the city’s scheduled Liberty Bonds parade to take place on September 28, a patriotic spectacle attended by an estimated 200,000 people.

By the middle of November, over 12,000 Philadelphians had died of influenza. The city’s morgue, designed to hold 36 bodies, was obviously overwhelmed, and bodies were stored in the city wherever space was found. A streetcar manufacturing company was hired to build simple wooden boxes to serve as coffins. In the tenements, whole families were stricken and died, undiscovered for weeks. Only three days after the parade, every hospital bed in the city was filled. Over 500,000 cases of the highly contagious flu struck Philadelphia before the end of the year. The final death count was over 16,000. In contrast to Philadelphia, the city of Milwaukee, which imposed the most stringent social distancing laws in the nation, also saw the lowest death rate of any city in the United States.

1. One-third of the world’s population contracted the flu during the pandemic

The 1918-20 influenza pandemic, the worst of the 20th century, caused at least 50 million deaths, and probably as many as 100 million across the globe. In remote Tahiti, 10% of the population died. In British ruled India more than 13 million citizens died, with some estimates ranging up to 17 million. German Samoa lost 22% of its population. American Samoa imposed a blockade, and escaped the pandemic unscathed. Brazil’s 300,000 dead included its President, Rodrigues Alves. In the United States over a quarter of the population contracted the flu during one of its several waves. Official death counts usually cite 675,000 American deaths, though some estimates include deaths on Indian Reservations and in Alaskan communities, and elevate the count to 850,000.

Bacterial pneumonia, a complication brought on by the flu, served as the primary killer. When the flu returned for its third wave in the late winter and early spring of 1919, rates of death were comparatively low. Sporadic outbreaks continued in the fall of 1919 and the winter of 1919-20. As the 1920s began the pandemic faded from memory, and remained largely forgotten until the coronavirus pandemic restored it to public attention. All the weapons used to control the spread of coronavirus — distancing, closing of schools, banning large crowds and gatherings, shutting down businesses, and others — were deployed against the Spanish flu. History shows that those communities which deployed them most stringently, throughout the first and second waves, were most successful saving lives.


Flu Pandemic Song – The Flying Fish Sailors


Pandemic Overload 1918

WIF Medicine

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

…Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?…

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

“May I cut in?” Barney Sawicki, the same Barney Sawicki who was star struck by Mary Pickford, aboard an earlier incarnation of the Clipper in 1935, steals a dance with Sara Fenwick, who has turned into the belle of the ball. Lyn was so busy pumping Lady Mountbatten for information about British intelligence, poor Sara is forced to dance her feet off. She will get even, sooner or later, but for the time being any number of men get a close up view of her chest. What the hell, what harm can come of a few fixated peeps? No man fondles her girls, thank God.

The MI5 Crest

“MI-5 is the most tenacious organization in the world,” Lady Mountbatten relates to her intrigued inquisitor. “They need to be, with Hitler at our doorstep. It is all they can do to keep him from bombing our brains out. If it were not for the air raid sirens and the intelligence we get from them, casualties would be devastating.”

“If you were a spy…?”

“I beg your pardon?” The word spy repulses the Lady.

Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?

“Oh yes, most definitely. With all the stops it makes in the Pacific Theater, good heavens, a touristy looking chap could have been practicing his craft for years. He could have a contact in every harbor. But keep in mind, because of your unexpected detour; he will be acting more suspiciously.”

An excerpt from Constance Caraway P.I. – The Hawaiian Spy:1937 CC P.I.-001

“Have you been watching that man in the blue suit, Fanny?” Constance has, ever since she saw him sneak off the Pacific Clipper in Colombo, Ceylon.

          “I did. I don’t think he thought that anybody would notice. But I did not recognize the launch that picked him up.”

          “Yes. Yes.” The gears inside Constance Caraway’s mind are turning and churning. This mysterious man had raised no suspicion until now, like he knows what he is doing and doing it for a while. “And have you noticed that he speaks to no one on the plane, and when we’re ashore, he disappears into thin air.”

          “Maybe I should follow him around at our next stop, take a few pictures,” Fanny suggests. “That photo lab we set up in our stateroom is actually quite good.”

          “Yes it is. Those chemical baths are easier to get than good airplane fuel… I didn’t think we were going to clear the trees back there.” The sound of rustling palm leaves, tickling the flying boat belly, would not be audible, but it can be imagined. “Let’s get back to our mystery man, my dear Fanny. If you could get pictures of the people he meets, that would be helpful. That would leave me free to follow some other leads. It seems that we are attracting an unusual amount of attention, considering we don’t have a flight plan,” Constance tells her trusted colleague.   “Be careful Fanny!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Fiction vs Nonfiction

Episode #263


page 245

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #262

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #262

…“Would you do me the honor of escorting me to dinner?” asks John Ford of Carolyn Hanes, before he leaves the cabin of his weary airplane…

Meanwhile Caption-001“Is that gunfire I hear?” is the question of the moment in the passenger cabin.

Peering out the starboard side of the seaplane, for one and all to see is a submarine that is flying the Japanese flag. It has surfaced and its crew is firing the deck guns at the Pacific Clipper.

“I thought the Captain said we weren’t going to fly over any war zones?” Someone asks nervously as the flying boat pitches upward into the clouds. After several minutes they are descending down on Trincomalee, Ceylon.

Dockyard at Trincomalee, Ceylon from the Admiralty House by Harry Edmund Edgell

Dockyard at Trincomalee, Ceylon from the Admiralty House by Harry Edmund Edgell

Once safely harbored on the large island off the southern tip of India most of the crew disembarks, to be interviewed by the British Royal Air Force. They will also be guests of honor at a reception hosted by the wife of the Southeastern Asia Theater chief, Lord Mountbatten.

fords-flight-route  “Would you do me the honor of escorting me to dinner?” asks John Ford of Carolyn Hanes, before he leaves the cabin of his weary airplane. “I have been spending way too much time with the crew.”

Lyn hesitates. There is more than one dynamic at work here. “That would be wonderful, Captain.”

          It feels like a slap in the face for Sara, who is near enough to witness the perceived flirtation. It is short-lived. “Oh, and my bashful 1st Officer, Rod Brown over there, was wondering if Miss Sara would like to come along.”

          Sara Fenwick has not moved so quickly in her entire life. Imagine that, a double date? “Count me in!”

Double_Date          “Great! We will send a boat to ferry you girls ashore in a couple of hours. Oh, it’s definitely a formal affair. Let’s show them how a Clipper troop does the town!”

          “This ought to be interesting, Lyn. Are you sure you know what you are doing?”

          “I think that I am going to wear that black sequined dress. Do you have an extra pair of dark stockings?” She knows exactly what she is doing.

          “The one with the slit up to here?” she points to a spot on her thigh that is dangerously close to never-never land. “I think I’ll wear my navy blue suit, I just won’t wear a blouse under the jacket.”

         “Now that’s the essence of the evening. Let’s have some fun with this.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #262


page 244

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #259

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #259

…The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York…

Pearl Harbor by Chuck Hamrick

Pearl Harbor by Chuck Hamrick

In the cockpit of the Pacific Clipper, they are ignoring whales as well…  and anything but what is coming through to them on their radio. They are being told to proceed to Auckland and await further instruction there. Upon landing, they are instructed to head west and return the Clipper to La Guardia Field, New York. The regular return route is not safe.

braceT LFTTO:              CAPTAIN ROBERT FORDbracket rt

FROM:         CHIEF, FLIGHT SYSTEMS

SUBJECT:  DIVERSION PLANS FOR NC18602

NORMAL RETURN ROUTE CANCELED STOP PROCEED AS FOLLOWS COLON STRIP ALL COMPANY MARKINGS COMMA REGISTRATION NUMBERS COMMA AND IDENTIFIABLE INSIGNIA FROM EXTERIOR SURFACES STOP PROCEED WESTBOUND SOONEST YOUR DISCRETION TO AVOID HOSTILITIES AND DELIVER NC18602 TO MARINE TERMINAL LAGUARDIA FIELD NEW YORK STOP GOOD LUCK STOP

It is Captain Ford’s unsavory duty to explain the situation and their dilemma. “The United States has declared war on Japan,” he begins, eliciting a gasp from the assembled two-score interested parties. “The Japanese have attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, making it impossible for us to return on an eastward course. We are to make our way west until we reach New York. To do so, we must research a possible route and make sure we are prepared to make any repairs to the aircraft along the way. This is going to take some time.”

Robert Ford-001

Most everyone is in a state of stunned disbelief. Individual inconveniences aside, these events mean that the war has hit home and it is the world’s second such in the span of two-plus decades. Leaders have come and gone, but the results are the same, which makes it hard for Americans to understand. None of these conflicts have taken place on our soil, at least until now. Could the Japanese be on their way to California?

“We will be returning to Noumea to pick up supplies and make sure that all Pan American employees are taken care of. From there we will stop at Gladstone, Australia. Anyone, who wants to get off, can do so there. In fact, I cannot make you stay aboard the Clipper, or prevent you from departing, from anywhere we land. But you will be responsible for your own passage home after we leave Queensland, Australia. I can tell you that none of our stops will exactly be exotic ports of call.

          “In the meantime, we at Pan American Airways will do everything we can to make this journey as comfortable as possible. You will be reimbursed for any personal funds that you use.” That last statement is pure speculation, be is sure that Trippe would be so pleased to see his aircraft return, that he will make good that remote promise.


Alpha Omega M.D.

“The full-throat-ed roar of the four engines filled the cabin as NC 18602 moved forward into the takeoff run.  The slap-slap of  the water under the hull became a staccato drum beat.  Spray whipped higher over the sea wings.  After a few seconds the hull began to rise out of the water but was not quite free.  Ford held the yoke steady as the airspeed indicator displayed the increasing speed: 40 knots…  50…  60…  70…

Pacific Clipper Take-off

“At 70 knots Ford brought the yoke back gently.  The Clipper nosed up.  Passengers seated in the aft compartments might have thought they were about to submerge as the tail came close to the water and the spray hurtling back from the sea wings splattered the windows.  At 75 knots Ford eased up a little on the yoke then immediately brought it back.  This rocking motion was necessary to raise the ship “on the step” – that area of the hull which would be the last to break free from the clinging suction effect of the water now hurtling along underneath the ship.  As the airspeed went to 80 knots the sound of the water abruptly ceased.  The thrumming beat against the hull was replaced by a sudden smoothness as the great ship broke free and began climbing.”  — from Ed Dover’s The Long Way Home

Episode #259


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #258

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #258

…You know, I’ve heard there are cannibals in New Zealand, just waiting for a couple of softies like us, no doubt…

New Zealand

Cannibal Camp New Zealand

“We will be back in time for Christmas, I promise,” reassures author Carolyn to her reluctantly would-be travel companion. “Since when have you become a homebody?”

“Why can’t we just fly to Hawaii and fly back?” Sara Fenwick is trying her best to convince Lyn to make a short trip. If they were to fly the Pacific Clipper, they are not scheduled back to San Francisco until December 14, 1941.

“Sara, we haven’t had a holiday for years and what a great excuse to escape these endlessly cloudy days. I1937 CC P.I.-001 have heard that the South Pacific is marvelous this time of year.” She is doing her best to sell an ambitious trip, much of it over open seas, but one that few people have the opportunity to experience. It would be a valuable tool in the growth of Constance Caraway, Private Eye. She will be going to Hawaii as an agent for the government, to investigate possible espionage by certain military personnel stationed on the island of Oahu. “Don’t you remember what a hoot of a time Mary Pickford and Judith Eastman had? Their trip to Hong Kong took ten years off old Judith. In fact, if she had not broken her hip last month, she would be coming with us.”

“If it adds ten years to my age, you will rue the day!.” She is being worn down, slowly but surely. “You know, I’ve heard there are cannibals in New Zealand, just waiting for a couple of softies like us, no doubt.”

“The Pacific Clipper has a crew of eleven big, strong men, Sara.”

“Well, that is the clincher for me. Eleven muscular fly boys.” Men do have their uses. Benign chivalry is one of them.

After 2410 miles from San Francisco to the Islands (Hawaiian) and then many more miles and islands later…

“I don’t think I will ever tire of the true blueness of Pacific water,” proclaims Carolyn Hanes as they rise Fanny-001into the air, once again, leaving Pago Pago Samoa. They are New Zealand bound; 1726.169 measly nautical miles and then the “turnaround”, in flying terms.

For her part, Sara Fenwick may never look at a glass half-full again. She will be happy when this is over.

“Look, Sara, a humpback!” Lyn has become an expert on whale species. A whale is a whale is a whale to Sara, certainly dissimilar to Constance Caraway’s right hand gal, with an eye for a good picture, Fanny Renwick.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Pan Am Clipper2

Episode #258


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Nazis in the USA 1942 – WIF Forgotten History

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Operation Pastorius:

Germany’s Failed

WWII American

Sabotage Scheme

When Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, his hatred for America was visceral. So when his chief of military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris of the Abwehr, proposed a means of striking in America’s heartland, crippling its industry and terrorizing its people, he approved immediately. The plan was to recruit German men, former residents of the United States, to conduct a campaign of terror bombings targeting America’s infrastructure including transportation facilities, manufacturing plants, electrical distribution grids, and other targets of opportunity. It was called Operation Pastorius, named for the founder of America’s first German settlement, Germantown, Pennsylvania.

The first team of bombers would be followed by a second, then a third, and support for the bombers would be drawn from Nazi sympathizers in America, according to the plan developed by Canaris and run by a deputy, Walter Kappe. Its agents were trained to identify and target Jewish owned businesses in American cities, which Hitler believed carried undue influence with the American government. Operation Pastorius was not a single wave of terror bombings, but a series of them calculated to cripple America’s ability to make war through the flexing of industrial muscle. It was betrayed by at least one of the agents involved, and J. Edgar Hoover took advantage of the betrayal.

10. The Germans planned a wave of terror in the Northeast and Midwest

German military planners of the Abwehr selected the primary targets for the first wave of Operation Pastorius. They included the hydroelectric plant at Niagara, which provided electrical power for much of the northeastern United States. The Hell Gate Bridge complex, a critical railroad link connecting New York to New England was to be bombed, disrupting freight and passenger traffic. America’s aluminum industry figured heavily in the target lists, which included a cryolite processing plant in Philadelphia (cryolite being essential in the smelting of the metal), and several aluminum plants in Tennessee, Illinois, and New York.

Railroad repair facilities and stations were targeted, as were locks crucial to the navigation of barges on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. During their preparation, the agents selected for Pastorius were trained in identifying and bombing targets of opportunity. They were to be selected for their economic value as well as terror effect, and included department stores and restaurants, railway depots, airports, subways, and places of public gathering. Abwehr planners envisioned the operation in effect for two years in the United States, with minimal communication between the agents and planners in Germany. The agents were trained to recognize emerging targets and act accordingly.

9. Eight agents were recruited and trained by the Abwehr

Originally, 12 men were recruited by the Abwehr, selected by Walter Kappe from lists of men who had been repatriated from the United States. Four quickly dropped out of the program, and eight were sent to complete three weeks of training at an Abwehr facility in April 1942. They were trained in the handling of demolition charges and timers, the manufacturing of bombs and munitions, and their placement for maximum effect. They also received training in target selection, small arms, and other aspects of espionage. The training was conducted at an Abwehr facility about 50 miles from Berlin, with some of the instruction provided by operatives of the Irish Republican Army working in concert with the Abwehr.

All of the men selected had lived in the United States for some time, and at least two were American citizens. Another two had served in the United States Army or National Guard. As they were trained, the Abwehr created life histories for each, giving them fictional backgrounds based on their American experiences, and the documents necessary to sustain the charade. Drivers licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and letters from friends and family were prepared for the men to carry during their mission in the United States. When the training was complete the men traveled to L’Orient in France, from whence the Kriegsmarine carried them to the America.

8. They were landed in the United States by two separate U-boats

Divided into two teams of four — one led by George John Dasch, the other by Edward Kerling — the agents were carried by U-Boats to the United States. The first to arrive reached Long Island near Montauk in the early morning of June 13, 1942. The team led by Dasch went ashore wearing German uniforms. The uniforms and the explosives which they brought ashore were buried near their landing point, to be retrieved later, and the four men walked to nearby Amagansett, where they boarded a Long Island Railroad train to New York, inconspicuous amongst the early morning commuters. By the time they arrived in New York their presence in America was known to the authorities.

The second team, led by Kerling, was deposited on Ponte Vedra beach near Jacksonville, Florida, going ashore in the darkness wearing swim trunks and German uniform caps. They arrived on June 16. They dressed on the beach, buried their explosives, and walked to a Greyhound bus station, where they caught a bus to Jacksonville. From there they traveled by train to Cincinnati, where they split into pairs, with two moving on to Chicago and the other two, including Kerling, traveling to New York. All eight agents were to reconnoiter their targets, and rendezvous in Cincinnati on July 4, 1942, to coordinate the bombings to ensure maximum terror effect.

7. The teams planned a campaign of sabotage to last two years

The teams went ashore carrying explosives for their first wave of bombings on targets assigned by the Abwehr. In Germany, Walter Kappe was already planning for additional teams to be sent to America, including himself. He planned to establish a headquarters for sabotage and espionage in the United States following the success of the first wave. Supported by Canaris, he sent the first teams of agents to America well-equipped to support themselves and their operations for two years. Each team leader – Dasch and Kerling – carried with them a list of contacts, Germans known to be sympathetic to the Nazis. The lists were written in invisible ink on a handkerchief.

The team leaders were to contact Nazi sympathizers known to the Abwehr and Gestapo, establishing and utilizing a network of mail drops and contacts through which additional teams could communicate with one another. Substantial German communities in cities were to be plumbed for support for the German operations. The support of the German communities was considered to be necessary for the long-term maintenance of the teams. The United States was not yet on a full war footing when the teams arrived in America, and security was still relatively lax, which the Abwehr believed would allow their agents to assimilate in the German areas with little difficulty.

6. The sabotage teams had false documents and American money

The teams carried $50,000 dollars, in denominations of $50 or less, under control of the team leader, to be used for expenses including travel, purchases of additional explosives and, if necessary, bribes of officials or supporters. Each man was also allotted $9,000 — about half of which was controlled by the team leader, with the rest carried in money belts by the agents. An additional $400 was held by each member for immediate use. All of the money was genuine to avoid the unnecessary risks inherent with using counterfeit funds.

Kerling’s team was tasked with bombing the Newark station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, repair facilities near Altoona, Pennsylvania, the Hell Gate Bridge, and Ohio River dams and locks between Cincinnati and Louisville. Dasch was to target the electrodynamic plants at Niagara, Alcoa plants in several states, and the cryolite processing plant in Philadelphia. Both teams were to target department stores and large train stations wherever possible, with the aim of creating terror among the populace. The agents all carried false documentation which supported their carefully crafted backstories as they moved freely to accomplish their missions.

5. The New York team was accosted by the Coast Guard, escaped, and a manhunt began

As Dasch and his team buried their explosives on the beach in the dark at about 2:30 in the morning of June 13, he noticed someone on the beach staring at him. It was US Coast Guardsman John Cullen. Dasch told Cullen that he and his party were fishing, though they lacked fishing equipment. When Cullen appeared suspicious, Dasch threatened him, then attempted to bribe him with $260. Cullen promised to forget what he had seen and returned to his station at Amagansett, where he informed his superiors of what he had seen, and more importantly, heard. While Dasch was speaking to him Cullen heard the others talking – in German

By the time the Coast Guard returned to the site the Germans were gone, but they discovered evidence of digging and when they went back to their station it was with the information that explosives and German uniforms were buried on the beach. Before Dasch’s team arrived at Penn Station in New York, the FBI in Washington knew of the discovery on Long Island. Dasch and his team split up in New York, registering in pairs at two hotels, safely hidden in the throngs of the city. In Washington, the information was filed accordingly. Kerling’s team had not yet landed when Dasch arrived in New York.

4. The teams planned to meet in Cincinnati to begin their attacks on the 4th of July, 1942

The following day Dasch told the agent he was traveling with, Ernst Burger, that he had no intention of carrying out the attacks as planned, and was instead going to inform the FBI of the entire operation. Burger was given the choice of either cooperating or being thrown out of their upper story hotel room window. Dasch called the FBI on June 15 and was disregarded as a crackpot. The next day he traveled to Washington, checked in at the Mayflower Hotel, and went to the FBI with his information. After he presented the large sum of American cash he was carrying he got the Bureau’s attention. The fact that his story confirmed the findings on Long Island was also noted. Within a few hours, using his information, the FBI had the rest of his team in custody. Kerling’s team landed in Florida the same day.

Dasch could not give the FBI much information regarding the whereabouts of the second team, only that the teams were to meet in Cincinnati on July 4. He did tell the FBI about the invisible ink on the handkerchief. He could not recall the means of revealing the ink. The FBI allowed Dasch to remain in his Mayflower Hotel room, where he was closely watched, while it rapidly solved the mystery of the invisible ink, which was reactive to ammonia. The listed contacts in several cities were placed under 24-hour surveillance. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered the arrest of Dasch’s team kept secret, so as not to alert the remaining four German saboteurs.

3. The remaining Germans were rounded up in New York and Chicago

Kerling and his associate, Werner Thiel, traveled from Cincinnati to New York, where Kerling contacted Helmut Leiner, whom he knew from his earlier life in America. Leiner’s name was on the list provided to the FBI and he was under surveillance. The FBI followed Kerling from that point on, and when he met with Thiel in a bar a few days later they promptly arrested the pair, leaving just two of the German agents still free. Though the FBI did not know it, they were in Chicago, where one of them, Herbert Laupt, had also decided to forego his mission.

Laupt had been raised from the age of five in Chicago, and in 1940 failed to register for the draft, as the law then required. Desirous of marrying his girlfriend, he went to the FBI office in Chicago and told them that he had contacted his draft board. The FBI recognized his name and let him go, hoping he would lead them to the sole remaining German agent. After three days of following him, they arrested Laupt for espionage. Laupt, hoping for leniency, told them they could find the last agent of Operation Pastorius, Hermann Neubauer, at the Sheridan Plaza Hotel. He was taken into custody by the FBI that same evening when he returned from watching a movie. As soon as news of the arrests in Chicago reached Washington, Dasch was arrested.

2. The Germans were tried as spies by a military tribunal

Hoover proudly announced the arrests of the team of German saboteurs as the result of an FBI operation, failing to mention the role played by Dasch when he approached the Bureau with the story. He preferred the public and the Germans believe in the efficiency of the American security effort. For the same reason, he urged the Germans be tried by military tribunal, in secret, telling President Roosevelt that a public trial would reveal too much of the FBI’s methods. Roosevelt agreed, and the eight were tried together by a tribunal of seven Army generals, with the Attorney General of the United States, Francis Biddle, serving as the prosecutor.

The Germans were provided with legal representation, but the outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion. All of the Germans were tried under the penalty of death if found guilty, which they were on July 27. The court recommended the death penalty, though Biddle recommended clemency for Dasch and Burger. The entire court transcript, which ran over 3,000 pages, was sent to Roosevelt, who held the authority to implement the court’s recommendation or grant lesser sentences. Roosevelt’s review of the documents revealed to him that Hoover’s reports of the FBI’s role in the unraveling of the German plan had been somewhat exaggerated. Dasch’s role in exposing the plot remained hidden from the public.

1. All were sentenced to death by the tribunal, but FDR extended clemency

Roosevelt accepted the recommendation from Biddle, supported by Hoover, and granted clemency for Burger, who was sentenced to life at hard labor, and Dasch, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His decision was announced on August 7, 1942. The following day the remaining six German agents were executed in the District of Columbia Jail, using the electric chair. They had been back in the United States less than two months. An enraged Hitler forbade Canaris from conducting further sabotage operations in the United States when he learned that all eight of the agents had denounced Nazism to the FBI. Truman later commuted the sentences of Burger and Dasch, ordering them deported to occupied Germany

Neither were welcomed in Germany, where they were generally reviled as traitors. Dasch tried several times over the remainder of his life to return to the United States, but Hoover blocked his efforts each time. Dasch reported that Hoover had offered him immunity from prosecution in exchange for his giving the story to the FBI; Hoover steadfastly denied he had. In 1959 Dasch published a book entitled Eight Spies Against America, which related his side of the story. It did not sell well, nor did it generate support for his quest for a Presidential pardon, as he had hoped. Dasch died in Germany in 1992, still condemned there as a traitor.


Nazis in the USA 1942 –

WIF Forgotten History

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #219

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #219

…George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak camera, a captain of  industry, reduces himself to nursemaid, helping his brother-in-law cling to life…

captains of industry

 “That damned flu hit him from out of nowhere. I found him in bed, after the magazine called me wondering if I had seen him,”  George Eastman recalls the events.

  “And I was across the country, oh what kind of wife can I be!?” She is distraught. “Why didn’t he let us know he was coming home? I would not have gone away in the first place.”

 “He is upstairs. The hospitals are full. Here, put this on, we don’t need anyone else sick.” He hands her a mask.

 “Is it that bad? I mean if the hospitals are full, that would be thousands.”

“Didn’t you read the papers in California?” George asks like she came from another planet.

“No, had no time, just heard talk of us winning some big battles in Europe.”

11,000 are dead in Philadelphia alone.”

 She hangs her head. “That is why the streets are deserted isn’t it?”

“People are afraid to talk to anybody. And poor Harv, he was shaken badly when he came home, only ten men survived on the Navy ship he crossed the ocean in. He was putting together a story when it got him.”

“Oh, my God – I want to see him,” she rushes to his side.

“You may not recognize him, lost a lot of weight, and he sleeps all day, it’s all I can do to get him to take in fluids, but I think he’s getting a little better.” George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak camera, a captain of the photographic industry, reduces himself to nursemaid, helping his brother-in-law cling to life. “The good news is that he has made it past the first day. Most people who die go fast, mostly younger too.”

“He’s got a strong heart… oh, Harv I am so sorry I wasn’t here for you, can you ever forgive me?” She kneels beside their bed, sobbing, not expecting an answer.

“Do you think I would die without being able to ask my partner why she abandoned our magazine, to be a movie star no less?” Harv Pearson’s speech is slow, but lucid.

“I can’t hug you, you rascal, but when I can, look out.” She looks back at George, mouthing a hearty, ‘thank you’.

MeanwhileThe Spanish influenza leaves as quickly as it had struck, erasing thirty million lives along the way, in time to allow dancing in the streets when the Armistice is signed and the Great War ends on November 11th.

  The balance of power has shifted… for now.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Colorized photo shows the German delegation, as they arrive to sign the Armistice provisionally ending World War One, in a train dining car outside Compiegne, France. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty)

Episode #219


page 204 (end ch. 11)

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #213

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #213

… “It would be a good idea to confine everyone to their deck, to keep mixing to a minimum,” Harv suggests…

Pandemic

Writer/director JOHN DRYDEN

As Harv and the ship commander chat, the subject turns from boats sinking, to young men dying.

“What do you think about some medical experts’ assertion that troop and transport ships are to blame for the outbreak of Spanish influenza?”

American Troops Embarking, Southampton, 1918 by Sir John Lavery

“What do I think? As far as I can see, we are damned if we do or damned if we don’t. If we don’t have a million American troops at Argonne, we are not going home right now.” Admiral Sims speaks about an enemy more invisible than the submarine. “I would avoid interviewing the crew. Keep your distance if you do.”

“Good advice. I hear that IT is killing one person a day onboard. That’s pretty scary.”

“We have twenty sailors in sick bay as we speak. I’m told they are bad off.” He takes off his cap, running his hands through his graying hair. “And we are only one day out to sea.”

“It would be a good idea to confine everyone to their deck, to keep mixing to a minimum,” Harv suggests.

“Did you hear that crewman?” he speaks to the helmsman. “Make an announcement over the loudspeaker. Everyone is to be confined to their deck and avoid physical contact with each other. And tell them not to cough!

“We will figure what to do about the mess hall later. Do you have an idea on how to handle the mess hall, to feed 200 men, scattered all over this boat?”

All suggestions would be welcomed.

“Are there any crewmen who have successfully recovered from the influenza?”

“Two, I believe, but I don’t think they want to get sick again.”

“That is the idea. They can’t.” Rear Admiral Sims looks at Harv like he has lost his mind. “No really, we did an article on disease specialists and one of the things they were working on was figuring out, why once a parson has contracted an illness that they seem to be immune from getting sick from that same disease.”

“I see, so they can mingle with the crew!” He gets it. “You would make a great officer, Pearson.”

“I am a little too old to join the Navy.”

“That may be true, but I lost my First Officer to the sickness and I am hereby appointing you second in command.”

“I’m not very fond of uniforms… no offense intended.”

“Since we are going to spend the next eight days on the bridge, I am going to need your help, if you are wearing a uniform or not.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Influenza WWI

Episode #213


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