Lest We Forget

This new year begins with Americans caught in a moral quagmire. Traditional beliefs such as love of country and confidence in leadership seems to suffer from vast divisions. Our American experiment in self government has been turned on end, and what was once seen as threatening, is now open to a sliding scale of opinions. Our national values are, as sung in the musical Hamilton “Upside Down.”

I came into the world as the Cold War simmered between the US and the USSR. Khrushchev had replaced Stalin, and nuclear missiles rested uneasily, waiting for one wrong move from either side. America, caught up in the Red Scare convicted and executed suspected spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The House on UnAmerican Activities Committee, (HUAC) became the equivalent of political show trials, publicly ruining the reputations of citizens, suspected as secret Russian collaborators.

Real covert agent, Klaus Fuchs, stole nuclear secrets from the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. David Greenglass, a physicist, turned Russian agent, and brother of Ethel Rosenberg, worked also on the Manhattan Project. English MI6 agent, Kim Philby, worked for a time in the offices of the OSS, (later the CIA) only to defect to the USSR, with all he knew of American and British secrets. American Communist and union organizer Eugene Dennis, was sentenced to five years for his affiliation with the Kremlin. Soviet spy, Whittaker Chambers renounced his Russian allegiance and became the darling of the conservative right, naming State Department official Alger Hiss as a Russian operative.

Whether true or not, many other Americans were stained with suspicion of acting as Communist agents. Joe McCarthy made a name for himself as a Commie hunting Senator. Caught in the fear were playwright Arthur Miller, screen writer Dalton Trumbo, actor Larry Parks, stage actor Zero Mostel, movie star, Sterling Hayden, who all found their careers in tatters. Refusing to name others, HUAC branded these unfriendly witnesses as“Fifth Amendment Communists.” These accusations, for many of the accused, never washed off.

The 1950’s were dangerous years for political nonconformists.

So it is no small wonder that many Americans of a certain age are flummoxed by the denial of Russian election hacking at the highest levels of our government. This new president has repeatedly demonstrated absolutely no concern for our democracy, for fear it undermines his legitimacy. In other words he is more worried about his own hide while the most direct and sinister Russian attack ever has infected our elective process. And worse, his band of true believers gloss over the breach as well, buying into the propagandized term of “Fake News.” Is this president truly more important than the country and people he was elected to serve? Does he understand the prime objective of Russian apparatchiks is to undermine the United States of America?

As for the members of Congress who know more of this breach, and still enable this president- is protecting your party more important than saving our democracy? Are your partisan priorities more vital than the oaths you swore to uphold the Constitution? If the answer is a blind yes, then what was the point of the suffering of that earlier generation—the ruin of artists and free thinkers, the brutal crimes of the guilty? The 33,000 loyal Americans who died fighting Communism in Korea? Or the 58,000 boys who were killed fighting the pro-Communists in the jungles of Vietnam? Are these past sacrifices meaningless in light of current political expediency? Are you going to shout ‘fake news’ while giving away our sovereignty?

America has a vibrant, if not an often difficult history. We who love our country would like a future, as well.

Christmas in Algeria, 1932

Dearest Mother,
I have read your letter and I want you to know that Miss has given us that warning already. We never go out alone. Earl Leslie and the other boys keep a close eye on us. There, that should relieve your concern.
North Africa is very strange, but I like it here. Una bought a guidebook and we have, as a group, toured Tunis and Algiers on foot. The buildings are a mix of the past here. The book calls the style “Ottoman-French. I guess that means both Middle Eastern and European.
Every morning we wake up to a public call to prayer. The people are mostly Muslim and the calls are part of their customs. I think it sounds soothing—usually the sound of the caller lulls me back to sleep. Curious, isn’t it?
The heat here is dry, and the sun blinding white. We stroll through the narrow streets (in groups) where the sun can’t reach us, making for darker, cooler shade. Nameless women veiled from head to toe pull their children along dressed all in white. It’s such an exotic world.
Silly as this sounds, I tried to buy you Christmas gifts in the market, but found nothing. You’ll have to settle for a telegram, because this is a Muslim country and they don’t celebrate Christmas. And, Mother, please have a happy Christmas.
We girls have all decided to do our own gift exchange and sing Christmas carols. We’ve hung paper chains on a palm tree in the lobby of the Algiers Hotel! The hotel managers gave us permission.
Merry Christmas Mother. I love you and Eileen very much. The young man I mentioned is not serious. His name is Elie, (Jewish, I know) and he has kindly showed us all around tourist sites.
Helen

River of January, page 165-166.

Indie writer, Gail Chumbley is the author of the memoir, River of January and River of January: Figure Eight. Available at www.river-of-january.com and on Amazon.com.

This is Happening!

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“River of January: Figure Eight” is ready on November 1st! Ordering begins after midnight, on All Hallows Eve.

Go to www.river-of-january.com or to Amazon.com. If you haven’t read the first installment, “River of January,” go to our webpage at www.river-of-january.com or to Amazon.com

Also available on Kindle.

A New Musical Icetravaganza

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Seventeen Days and counting until the release of “River of January: Figure Eight.” Books will be available at http://www.river-of-january.com.

Days of Future Past

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Mont Chumbley with Eastern Airlines Chair, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Let the countdown begin! Eighteen days until the release of “River of January: Figure Eight.” Watch for book talks in your area! Visit www.river-of-january.com.

Premier Sunday

Ladies and gentleman! Today, October 2, 2016 I proudly present the cover art for book two of River of January.

Please welcome River of January: Figure Eight, available for purchase one month from today, November 2, 2016.

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Huge thanks go out to the talented Brooke Rousseau, and her brilliant mother, Yvonne at Point Rider Publishing.

Perorders available at gailchumbley@gmail.com.

To catch up with book one, River of January is available at www.river-of-january.com or at Amazon.com. Also found on Kindle.

Author Gail Chumbley can be found at gailchumbley@gmail.com or at http://www.river-of-january.com

Before War Was Cool

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The protagonist in River of JanuaryMont Chumbley, or “Chum,” as we called him, pined to join the Navy in 1927.  In fact Chum knew that the Navy was his destiny from the time he witnessed a barn-stormer, (stunt pilot) fly miracles across the rural Virginia sky.  What the boy didn’t count on in his hopes was the resistance he met from his own family.

The Chumbley’s were not alone in their disgust with the military.  All of America suffered from a giant hangover after the Great War (World War One), convinced Americans that their participation had been a horrible mistake.  Though not fully true, the US still viewed itself as a simple republic, not an empire builder bound for global influence.  That policy came later, after World War Two, in the Cold War.

President Wilson staked his own presidency on his Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations, which would have bound the country to Europe in a forerunner to the United Nations.  The public, through their Senators voted the Treaty down, killing it as dead as the soldiers who would never come home.  Books were written after 1919 that discredited war as nothing but a fools errand.  “Johnny Got His Gun” was one such novel, and Erich Maria Remarque‘s “All Quiet on the Western Front” was another.

Folks stateside strongly regretted sending Doughboys across the Atlantic to battle the Kaiser and his evil Hun army.  By the year Chum pushed to join the Navy, the US had negotiated a treaty with the French, called the Kellogg Briand Pact, which outlawed war as an alternative in international conflict.  (“Don’t plant that mine, if you can’t do the time?”  Seriously?)

The Nye Commission, a House investigating committee was charged to find out why America joined the war.  In the end these law makers judged money was the culprit.  War manufacturers, such a poison gas producers the Dupont Corporation and financiers,The House of Morgan, were condemned for their roles in fanning the flames while counting their profits.

It was in this cultural/political atmosphere that Chum wanted to join the Navy.  When his father and aunt objected, they simply parroted the opinion of a nation that believed the military was only for scoundrels and suckers.  If Chum succeeded in enlisting he would draw shame on the family’s name.

Now, I am a child of the Vietnam era and understand the power of public opinion concerning war.  Too many young men came home to condemnation for rendering their duty to their country.  Many were already angry from their combat experiences, especially if they were drafted in the first place.  War protestors vented their fury on those boys who did nothing more than complete their mission.

Still for many young people, such as Chum in the 1920’s, the service still offers training and opportunity.  Perhaps it would benefit us all to remember to separate the advantages of military training, from the poor use of young people deployed for uncertain, poorly planned political agendas.

Chum did meet his service obligations, later after Pearl Harbor.  But he would agree, I think, that he gained more from his service in the Navy, than he returned.

Servicemen have never been suckers, and decision makers must never lightly treat them as such.