Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“I have an itch I need to scratch, Sherman My Boy… set our time machine to 1957 Texas, the sight where hundreds of people saw an egg shaped UFO.”
“I didn’t know eggs could fly.”

The Levelland UFO Case


Just what’s up?

On November 2, 1957, the North Texas prairie town of Levelland (population around 10,000 at the time) was the scene of one of the better documented UFO incidents.  Numerous witnesses reported seeing an extremely bright object, often described as egg shaped and 100 feet long, often at or near the ground.

Looking skyward…

Among the witnesses were many credible people, including the fire chief and the local sheriff.  Some witnesses reported that the bright object landed or hovered on the road in front of their cars, causing the cars to experience electrical and motor problems such as dashboard gauges going wild, lights going out and engines sputtering or even dying.  Some witnesses reported a bright red object going across the sky at high speed.

The U.S. Air Force was contacted and sent a team from Project Blue Book out to investigate. (Project Blue Book was an ongoing Air Force investigation of UFO incidents from 1952 to 1970.  Previous studies had been started in 1947.)  The investigation team discounted some of the witnesses as not reliable due to confusion and/or poor education, and their official conclusion was that the remaining witnesses had been experiencing “ball lightning,” also known as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” the weather that evening of the incident being ideal for it.  That was their explanation for the visual phenomena as well as the effects on automobiles.

Prior to closing Project Blue Book, the Air Force produced The Condon Reportsummarizing the events that had been compiled and recorded and concluded that there had been no evidence found of extraterrestrial activity.

Critics of the investigation of the Levelland UFO and of Project Blue Book find it questionable that the Air Force did not interview 9 of the 15 witnesses and that the incident was not mentioned it in the project’s final report.  Outside investigators claim the alleged ball lightning was not the cause of the phenomena, as their study of weather reports indicated no sign of an electrical storm or conditions favorable for ball lightning.  They also expressed their doubt about the ability of ball lighting to cause electrical disturbances and to even stop cars.

Did the Air Force cover up yet another UFO incident?  Are the folks in Levelland good intentioned but deluded at the same time?

Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs

SEA Where the WABAC Takes Us

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s Sea where the WABAC takes us, Sherman My Boy.”

On September 1, 1952, The Old Man and the Sea, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ernest Hemmingway novel,  was first published.  Many great novels have centered on ships and men at sea.  In the Marine Corps we used to say, “The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is the fairy tale starts Once upon a time, while the sea story starts This is no sh*t!”  Here 10 great sea stories involving the tales of sailors and seamen and their ships are listed.  What tales would you add to the list?

Over the Bounding Mane……

10. The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk, 1951.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning fictional story of a mutiny against a captain whose crew believes he is nuts would rank higher if it were not so depressing.  Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the movie (1954) and did such a great job that he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

9.  The Raft, Robert Trumbull, 1942.


This book is a true story of 3 US Naval aviators who had to ditch their plane early in the Pacific War (World War II) and their subsequent struggle for survival as they waft on an 8-foot by 4-foot inflatable raft for 5 weeks.  Of course they probably survived for this book to be written, but any more details are left to you to find out in the 213 pages of the book.

8.  HMS Ulysses, Alistair MacLean, 1955.

MacLean got his inspiration for this book while serving in the Royal Navy in World War II during which time he made a couple of arctic voyages.  This story is a tale of the harrowing conditions sailors experienced on the arctic convoys, fighting the weather even more so than U-boats or bombers.  After reading this novel, arctic convoy duty will not sound romantic anymore.

7.  The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway, 1952.

Hemingway wrote this tale of an old Cuban fisherman who goes out on his small boat alone to fish with a handline.  Down on his luck, the fisherman needs a decent catch to survive, and he manages to hook the fish of a lifetime.  His battles with the enormous fish, his victory and then the long trip back to as sharks take bites  off of his mighty marlin have an aura of sadness that is hard to describe.  At least he manages to impresses the townspeople with the carcass of the giant fish.

6.  Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen, 1982.

This great movie was based on a 1973 novel by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim.  It gives a powerful and compelling depiction of life at sea that captures the closeness and squalor of the conditions on a U-boat during World War II and especially the terror and hardships the men went through.  You may never want to go on a submarine after watching this, but you will have a bit more respect for those who do.  Recommendation:  Watch the German-language version with English subtitles.  It gives a better feel for the urgency and despair in the voices of the officers and men.  Honorable mentions to Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward Beach and The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy.

5.  The Horatio Hornblower Series, CS Forester, 1945-1966.

This epic 12-book series details the career of a Royal Navy officer from midshipman to admiral during the Napoleonic Wars (mainly).  Forester (a pen name) also wrote The African Queen (1935), another good boat book that was made into a classic movie (1951).

4.  The Odyssey, Homer, c. 800 B.C. 

While Odysseus and his men make their way back to Greece after the Trojan War, they experiences a nightmarish 10-year voyage in which they visit all sorts of magical lands and encounter all kinds of natural, supernatural and “whatevernatural” entities that hinder their journey.  The egotistical Odysseus (Ulysses as he is known in Latin) makes things harder than they have to be, and he ends up being the only one to make it home.  Many parts of the story have made their way to film, including an exceptional television version starring Armand Assante in 1997.

3.  Mutiny on the Bounty/Men Against the Sea/Pitcairn Island, Nordoff and Hall, 1932.

This trilogy follows the men of the HMS Bounty, a medium-sized sailing vessel.  In the first book, the HMS Bounty is on an assignment to transport breadfruit trees from the South Seas to the Caribbean.  The tyrannical Capt. Bligh (played by Charles Laughton 1935, Trevor Howard 1962 and Anthony Hopkins 1984) pushes and punishes his crew until they can take no more and finally mutiny.  The second book chronicles the struggles of Capt. Bligh and his loyal men as they are adrift in a small boat as they attempt to make their way back to England.  The final book tells the story of the Bounty mutineers as wanted fugitives and the life they try to make for themselves.  All books are based on true events but highly fictionalized.  In the three movie versions mentioned above, Fletcher Christian, the main mutineer, is played by Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.

2.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne, 1870.

This novel is the quintessential submarine story and has been made into a movie more than once.  Captain Nemo and his ship Nautilus are so famous that the first US Navy nuclear sub was named the USS Nautilus.  Verne, a visionary, managed to describe technology that did not even yet exist at the time he wrote the book.  Nemo and his ship show up again in another Verne book, The Mysterious Island (another must read).  Both books are novels you wish would never end.

1.  Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, 1851.

Moby-Dick is the story of an enormous and mighty white whale and a peg-legged captain who is obsessed with him.  The opening line of the book, “Call me Ishmael,” is one of the most famous introductions ever.  It may be a long book, but it is never boring.  Incredibly, although the book was not successful for many years following initial publication, it now is regarded as one of the greatest American novels of all time.  Even D.H. Lawrence considers it the greatest of all sea stories.

SEA Where the WABAC Takes Us



The WABAC Machine – Wasted Military $$$$$$

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Well Sherman my Boy, today let’s hopscotch around the globe looking for kool military-type stuff.”

10 Weapons That Never (Or Barely) Went into Service


It seemed like a good idea……

On March 25, 1958, the Canadian supersonic interceptor, the Avro Arrow made its first flight. Designed to fly at Mach 2+ it seemed like a good airplane, but was mysteriously cancelled prior to production, with all partly assembled units and prototypes destroyed.  Other promising weapons have suffered the same fate, some of which may well have been effective while others faded away due to insurmountable problems.  Here are 10 weapons that are distinguished by their novelty, size, or unrealistic projected abilities.  Tell us the never deployed weapons you think should be on this list.

Uncovering the waste…..

10. Avro Arrow.

A supersonic interceptor designed to shoot down Soviet bombers with air to air guided and un-guided missiles, including nuclear armed missiles.  Designed and built in Canada, with possible markets in Europe as well, it was cancelled abruptly with inadequate explanation resulting in much speculation as to the reasons why.  Since the feared Soviet bomber attack never came, the Arrow would never have fulfilled its mission even had it been built.

9. Nakajima Kikka.

Based on the successful German Me-262 turbojet fighter, the Kikka was developed too late to be used against US bombers, and of the 20 or so examples made, only 2 were complete enough to have flown.  Not quite as big or as capable as the Me-262, the Kikka still would have been an improvement over the piston engine fighters Japan was fielding toward the end of the war and may have taken a serious toll on allied aircraft and ships.

8. Project Habakuk.

A British idea to use sawdust mixed with ice (called pykrete after inventor G. Pyke) to form an enormous unsinkable aircraft carrier intended for use against German U-boats in World War II.  Such a vessel would perhaps start as a natural iceberg smoothed flat and coated with pykrete, hollowed out to house aircraft and crews.  Requiring a length of at least 2000 feet in order to accommodate heavy bombers, further requirements that the “ship” be torpedo proof and able to withstand any wave the ocean could throw at it made development extra difficult and time consuming.  Engine pods would be mounted on the sides, but designers never did figure out how to steer such a sea monster.  Nowhere near as stupid as it first sounds, this project might have gone into production if it had been ready before the war ended.

7. P-75 Eagle.

General Motors got into the airplane business with what would have been an impressive piston engine (propeller driven) fighter plane in World War II, but like so many weapons, events moved faster than the airplane could be developed and only 13 of the 2500 ordered were ever made.  Kind of a composite of several previous aircraft rolled into one, the Eagle would have been fast (433 mph) and climbed like nothing else, as well as having a devastating 10 X .50 caliber machine gun armament.  By the time it would be ready for mass production the war would be over or nearly over and the current production of P-51 Mustangs was not only adequate to do the job, but much cheaper as well.  In any case, jet aircraft would make the Eagle obsolete even as it rolled off the assembly line.

6. Panzer VIII Maus.

Designed by the Germans in World War II as the largest tank (or any enclosed armored land vehicle), this monstrosity weighed over 200 tons (US) and stood 12 feet tall, 12 feet wide, and over 33 feet long!  Armed with a 128 mm main gun and an additional 75 mm gun (and a machine gun for protection against enemy foot soldiers) the Maus had an impressive 1200 horsepower engine to move it along at only 8 mph. Oh, and it would only travel 40 miles off road before running out of fuel.  Weighing nearly as much as 4 fearsome Tiger tanks, you might think the Maus (German for mouse) would not be cost effective or efficient, especially since no normal bridge could hope to support its weight, but Adolf Hitler was fascinated by outlandish and huge weapons so it probably would have been produced if the Soviets had not overrun its factory.  Only one complete prototype was made.

5. YB-49 Flying Wing.

Intended to become the main nuclear weapon delivery system, this “tailless” bomber intrigued aeronautical engineers with the inherent advantages of such a layout.  Of course, there are also disadvantages to every design, and in the case of the YB-49 the lack of computers to monitor and control the flight of the futuristic looking bomber meant the USAF would select the B-36 as its heavy nuclear bomber instead.  The YB-49 was in itself an evolutionary advancement from the YB-35, and the B-2 Spirit is the modern version, now complete with all the necessary technology to make the flying wing concept work.

4. MBT-70.

A joint venture of Germany and the US in the 1960’s, the MBT-70 was supposed to be developed to serve both countries as their main battle tanks.  With a huge 152 mm gun that could also be used to launch anti-tank guided missiles and with a hydro- pneumatic suspension to allow the tank to take advantage of terrain by “kneeling” down or raising itself higher, development was taking too long and costs were skyrocketing.  The last straw was that the tank would have been obsolete before it was fielded, causing both countries to cancel the project and build completely new tanks (the M-1 Abrams and the Leopard II).

3. USS United States CVA-58.

This ship was to be the first of a proposed 5 enormous aircraft carriers authorized by President Truman in 1948.  The mighty ship would be different from any other previous (or subsequent) aircraft carrier in that it would carry 12 to 18 heavy bombers instead of the traditional smaller bombers usually on ships.  Over 1000 feet long and 190 feet wide, the behemoth would require over 5000 men to crew the ship and its airplanes.  Cancelled less than a week after the keel was laid, the event caused an uproar known as “Revolt of the Admirals” and caused the Navy Secretary to resign.  Ship protection would have been provided by 8 X 5 inch guns, 16 X 3 inch guns, and 20 X 20mm automatic cannons (huge machine guns).  The US Navy instead received 4 USS Forrestal class carriers, the first carriers with angled flight decks.

2. The “Spruce Goose.”

More correctly known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the giant wooden flying boat with 6 massive propeller engines only had one example built and only flew once, for a short distance.  One of Howard Hughes’ pet projects, the H-4 was made of plywood, not spruce, and was designed to carry 750 soldiers.  Intended for use during World War II, development took longer than expected and the war was over before the plane was ready.  The project was cancelled, and although Howard Hughes promised he would “leave the country” if the project failed Hughes did not leave, though he kept 300 men employed keeping the giant aircraft preserved! (That number was reduced to 50 after 15 years.)

1. XB-70 Valkyrie.

What would have been the fastest bomber ever built, the Soviets designed the MiG-25 Foxbat specifically to shoot it down.  Designed to fly at Mach 3 at high altitudes, the Valkyrie was made obsolete before it flew when Soviet anti-aircraft missiles became capable enough to make high altitude bombers almost useless, regardless of speed.  The Concord SST Mach 2 airliner (now retired) was its legacy.

The WABAC Machine – Wasted Military $$$$$$

Chapter 1 Tone-Setter for LATOBSD

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Chapter 1 Tone-Setter


LATOBSD covers roughly 60 years, more than enough trips around
the sun to both meet and say goodbye to too many fine people;
From the spring of youth, to the winter of maturity, from the dawn of unrighteousness, to the sunset of discontentment.

In the interest of accuracy, I will sort through the most flagrant
fracturing of history perpetrated by little ol’ me. Remember the
“Rocky and Bullwinkle” feature: Fractured Fairy Tales? If you are too
young . . . . here are some pictures.

So . . . . here we go, hop-scotching from through the pages of
The Life and Times of a Black Southern Doctor, sifting from front
to back. Feel free to leaf back to the earlier pages, to refresh your
memory. And I will try not to rush.

____The Life and Times of a Black Southern Doctor 365

If you want to leave well enough alone and believe that all things
I penned are true (you’d be wrong), thank you investing your time and money to read LATOBSD.

For the rest of you:

Nearly all of the main Tallahassee characters were real people.
I used their actual names and because of the volatile nature of the
events, especially in the long-ago 1950’s. If I had fictionalized their names, I could never have kept them all straight. Who they were and what was their
relation to A.O. Campbell needed to be as is. Perhaps it is due to my
simple mind, but George Lewis, Charles Wilson, Franklin McLoud,
the Dr.’s nurses, the Dr.’s attorneys, the Prosecutors, Starke Prison and
Audrie Franich, all appearing in chapter 1, are real. Their true role and actions are my guessing(s), for the sake of an interesting story.

Now, some of the machinations surrounding his trial and
subsequent imprisonment, well that is a combination of speculation
and fictionalization on my part. In the afterglow of true history, none of this tinkering affects the outcome; in real life he was tried and convicted.

I skipped the trial completely. Had I not, the book would be 50 pages longer and even more frustrating. And the book would have ended on a real downer.

Peabody and Sherman

Chapter 1  Tone-Setter