Today is the 120th Anniversary of the founding of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, which carried visitors from Mill Valley up the slopes of Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais to just below the East Peak of the mountain.
The Mt. Tam Railway operated for 34 years until 1930, when operations were shut down and the tracks torn up.
Most of the old railroad grade was converted into a fire road, which remains a favorite hiking and running trail on Mt. Tam. During my trail-running days, I ran hundreds of miles on the railroad grade.
Three years ago, I wrote another blog on the Mt. Tam Railway, which contains additional photos and information about the railroad and the associated buildings and services:
Three Dot … 129
Today is Vietnam Veterans Day …
… a day for honoring all those who served there, including …
… my Dad, GMCM Lawrence John Reilly Sr. (US Navy Ret) …
… my brother, BT3 Lawrence John Reilly Jr., one of The Lost 74 of the USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754) …
… the rest of the crew of the Frank E. Evans …
… my prospective brother-in-law and West Point classmate, Thomas Havard “Trey” Sayes III (Capt. US Army) …
… his Dad, Col. Thomas Havard Sayes Jr. (US Army Ret) …
… all of my other West Point Class of 1967 classmates who served with courage and distinction in Vietnam …
… and all other American & allied veterans of that war.
Three Dot … 123
… is what we call the day after Thanksgiving … because it is the day on which retail businesses move from “red” to “black” in their annual ledgers of profits and losses.
As an aside likely of interest to no one except me … I was born in Brooklyn, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and near where the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was published … and in the 1970’s, lived in Santa Ana … where the Santa Ana Register was published. The Brooklyn Eagle has long since passed into history … while the Register (now called the Orange County Register) remains the primary newspaper in Southern California’s most conservative county … and I now live in Northern California, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.
There are also lesser-known “black” days of the week … in fact, there is one for each other day … representing events of widely divergent meaning.
Black Monday, for example, has two meanings … one a mini-Black Thursday …
And we had a Black Tuesday …
Not to be outdone, the United Kingdom joins our “black day” list with a stock market crash of its own …
Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state … and home to the country’s 2nd biggest city, Melbourne. The fires which started on Black Sunday ultimately killed 173 people … injured 414 … burned 1,100,000 acres … destroyed 3500 buildings … and killed nearly 12,000 head of livestock.
Finally, we also have two versions of Black Sunday … one of which, fortunately, is fictitious. The real one happened in Oklahoma and Texas in 1935 … during the days of the infamous “dust bowl” … when monumental dust storms swept across parts of those states …
The fictional terroristic Black Sunday was a book of that name by Thomas Harris …
So, here’s hoping everyone who went shopping today had a good Black Friday … and that others, like myself … who wouldn’t have ventured out to a retail store today under any circumstances … had a nice quiet day at home!
Three Dot … 117
There is good reason to conclude that the class lived up to its motto … “None Will Surpass” … with ’67 grads excelling in their military careers and civilian endeavors after leaving the Army … or, for three of us, the Navy!
For today, though, I just want to remember … through representative photos … what an experience it was for me to be a West Point cadet from July 1, 1963, until June 7, 1967.
Among my I-2 classmates were my two best friends, Jim Vance (3rd row, 2nd from left), who nearly four years later introduced me to my wife-to-be, Sandy Douglas, and Dick Waterman (upper left corner).
On October 19, 1963, another classmate and good friend, Tom “Trey” Sayes, introduced me to his younger sister, Candy. We dated throughout the rest of plebe year … and, after her family moved to Oklahoma the following year, saw each other rarely … and finally drifted apart. We saw each other one last time in July 1967, while I was on graduation leave … then not again until exactly 43 years to the day of our first meeting … October 19, 2006 … when I drove to Colorado to see her again … as they say, the rest is history … and we have been back together ever since.
By yearling (sophomore) year, we were more relaxed … and a smaller group, several of our company mates having departed.
I was a rabid Army football fan and festooned the door to my room … and the surrounding walls … with support for the team … and, along with the rest of the Corps of Cadets, enjoyed Army’s 11-8 win over Navy in the 1964 game … the winning margin of which came by way of a field goal by my classmate Barry Nickerson.
In April of 1965, near the end of Yearling year, my family visited West Point … and my Mom took this picture of me … my favorite of all of my West Point photos …
As a plebe, I had run on the plebe cross-country, indoor track and track & field teams … but was not good enough to compete intercollegiately as an upperclassman. As a result, I participated in intramural athletics … including football …
Eventually, as a first classman (senior), I was the coach of the company intramural football and wrestling teams … and finally was designated Athletic Sergeant for the company … my official rank upon graduation.
Between our yearling and “cow” (junior) years, the corps was re-organized from two regiments to four … and we were re-assigned to new companies. I was assigned to Company D-2 and housed in the old Central Barracks (which were later demolished to make room for new cadet barracks). Among my D-2 classmates were my roommates our last 2 years as cadets … Bob Unterbrink (front row, third from left, next to me) … and Rob Walker (4th row, right end).
Two of my D-2 company mates went on to become Army generals … Chuck Sutten, (front row, 4th from right, directly in front of me) … and Ed Smith (2nd row, 4th from left). Note in this picture Arnie Cano (from Panama) … holding in his right hand a small lizard!
First class (senior) year marked the beginning of our transition from cadets to officers … starting with receipt of our rings …
During the 1966 football season, Army played the California Golden Bears in Berkeley … providing me with the opportunity to visit for the first time Cal’s Memorial Stadium …
… a place I would later visit many times and grow to love as a fan of the Cal Bears myself (after #1 son attended Cal and worked as a student manager for the football team). Army beat the Bears 6-3 in the 1966 game!
Another major milestone came in March of 1967, when we were allowed to receive delivery of our new cars … mine a maroon with white top 1967 Corvette convertible …
Then came June Week … the traditional celebration of a graduating class of West Point cadets. The day before graduation, we had an academic award ceremony … at which I received the “Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century Award” as Honor Graduate (First in Class) for the Department of English …
.. the night before graduation, we had our graduation hop …
… and then graduation day itself … and my swearing in as a newly commissioned United States Navy ensign … a whole other story for another time!
And … finally … graduation …
… and liberation!
June is a busy month of historical and family anniversaries … today is a day on which the two converge … as one of the American soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach at Normandy on D-Day was my father-in-law, Joe Marion “Pappaw” Douglas, of Senatobia, Mississippi.
In all the years I knew him, Joe Douglas talked about D-Day only once, describing for me what happened to him and others on his craft … a member of the venerated Big Red One … the 1st Infantry Division … he recalled nervously anticipating his first combat as his landing craft headed toward the beach.
He described feeling seasick as the landing craft bounced across the waves … and then the ramp dropped … and “all hell broke loose”.
His was one of the landing craft immediately taken under heavy fire from the Germans defending Normandy … several members of his platoon were killed in the first few seconds and those toward the rear of the craft, including Pappaw, had to either climb over their bodies and into the line of fire … or jump over the side into the breakers.
Although not much of a swimmer, Joe Douglas chose to jump … and nearly drowned himself in the process … to survive, he shed his pack and dropped his rifle … and then, once ashore, picked up another rifle and ammunition from a dead comrade … and joined the attack on the German defenses.
Several years after Pappaw described his experience to me, Steven Spielberg directed his Oscar-winning depiction of the invasion … Saving Private Ryan … and Pappaw went to see it with my sister-in-law, Penny Douglas.
He broke into tears during the opening scenes, one of the few times any of us had ever known him to cry. Joe Douglas was a gentle man in his personal life … but a tough one in combat. By April of 1945, he had fought with the 1st Infantry Division in all of its major battles … as the allies drove across Europe and into Germany.
Pappaw gave his imprimatur of historical accuracy … and emotional impact … to Spielberg’s recreation of the D-Day invasion … as it brought back memories he had long sought to keep hidden deep inside.
On this very special anniversary day, I salute Joe Douglas and all of the other men who made this momentous invasion an Allied success. Pappaw died on July 7, 2000, at the age of 76. He never considered himself a hero; the rest of our family knows better.
———- ooo ———-
For the Army.mil website about D-Day, complete with a detailed history, videos and photos, see:
———- ooo ———-
… to most Americans is a day to honor those who have given their lives in the military service of their country …
… to “remember” men and women they have never actually known …
… and to “celebrate” the day with barbecue, beer and baseball.
To the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, however …
… Memorial Day is a day for somber reflection …
… and honoring the memory not of multitudes of unknowns …
… but of loved ones who, in earlier times, had shared the day, unaware of the heartache and sorrow lying ahead.
… and today our thoughts turn to our son, brother, father, grandfather & uncle …
… who was lost at sea on June 3, 1969, in the sinking of the American destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754).
… and here …
Because he was lost at sea, Larry has a memorial headstone at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego (coincidentally, the city of his birth) …
… which I first visited with other family members when Larry’s son Lawrence John Reilly III was a small child …
… an error I shared for many years because it was still June 2, 1969, in the United States when the collision occurred …
… though it was already June 3rd in the South China Sea …
… as a result of which the official date of the collision in June 3, 1969.
———- ooo ———-
Monday, April 28, 2014, was the 225th Anniversary of another historical event which has always fascinated me — the Mutiny on HMS Bounty …
… in what is now called Bounty Bay and settled on the island. The settlers included Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 18 women, one with a baby.
What is less well-known is the aftermath — for both Christian and Bligh. The latter navigated the launch in which he had been set adrift for 47 days until reaching Timor in the Dutch East Indies …
… he did this with a quadrant and a pocket watch, but no charts or compass, and covered a distance of approximately 3,618 nautical miles or 4,164 miles, an extraordinary feat of seamanship. Bligh went on to have a long and successful career in the British Navy.
On Pitcairn …
… things were less sanguine. The Tahitians who had accompanied the Englishmen to Pitcairn were treated as virtual slaves and eventually revolted. There is some disagreement in surviving accounts of what happened, but what is clear is that Christian, most of the other Englishmen and all of the Tahitian men died in a series of battles that took place just four years after the landing. Some reports indicate that Christian actually committed suicide during the fighting.
By 1808, when the American trading ship Topaz visited Pitcairn, only one Englishman (John Adams), nine women and a handful of children were still alive.
Their descendants (approximately 48 people) still live today on Pitcairn, a British overseas territory.
… as did Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, whose 1932 novel “Mutiny on the Bounty” was my introduction to the event in the mid-1950’s.
I later read the Notable Trials Library edition of “The Court-Martial of the ‘Bounty’ Mutineers”…
… which was first published in England in 1931, and which contains both correspondence among the principals and a transcript of the courts-martial proceedings against Bligh and the mutineers who were captured on Tahiti.
More recently, Caroline Alexander has written “The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty”, which brings to the events a more modern interpretation.
And, of course, Hollywood has made three big budget movies about the Bounty:
In 1935, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as Christian …
… in 1962, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Trevor Howard as Bligh and Marlon Brando as Christian …
… and in 1984, “The Bounty”, starring Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian …
I have watched all three multiple times … each has strengths and weaknesses … my personal favorite among them is the 1962 version.
For more information about the Mutiny on the Bounty, see:
Today is the anniversary of another disaster which has long fascinated me … the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
Even before moving to the Bay Area and experiencing first-hand the most damaging earthquake since the Great Quake (Loma Prieta in 1989), I had read many articles and several books about the 1906 event … the best of which, in my opinion, is “The San Francisco Earthquake” by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts.
Most of the damage to San Francisco as a result of the ’06 quake actually resulted from the ensuing fire, rather than directly from the earthquake … roughly one-quarter of the city was destroyed by the fire.
The quake was on the San Andreas fault … which ruptured along 296 miles of its length … more than 10 times the length of the Loma Prieta rupture … which means, of course, that damage extended far beyond San Francisco … and reached into Marin County …
…lateral movement was as much as 24 feet in some places …though there now remains little physical evidence of this movement, the Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore still shows a good example:
One of my favorite items among my collectible postcards is one that was mailed from the “Tamalpais CA” post office on the day of the quake … unfortunately, the postmark does not indicate the time of mailing … nor have I been able to determine exactly where in Marin County the “Tamalpais” post office was located at that time … but the card must have been postmarked close in time and location to the Great Quake.
I bought the postcard in a lot of Mt. Tamalpais postcards on eBay several years ago and discovered the historic postmark only after they had arrived.
Some interesting facts about the San Francisco earthquake:
The quake is now estimated to have been about 7.8 on the Richter Scale (which had not yet been devised at that time). Property damage was estimated at $400 million … more than $5 billion in today’s terms when adjusted for inflation … more than 28,000 buildings were destroyed … and more than half of San Francisco’s 400,000 residents were left homeless.
The Valencia St. Hotel had been built on filled land … which liquified during the quake … three of the four floors of the hotel were swallowed up by the ground … with the loss of more than 100 lives.
Among those killed in the quake was San Francisco’s fire chief, Dennis Sullivan … he was asleep in his room on the third floor of the Engine House adjoining the California Hotel when the quake struck … and toppled the hotel’s brick chimney and dome onto the fire house quarters, causing the 2nd and 3rd floors to collapse onto the ground floor … Sullivan was severely injured and died at the Presidio Hospital on April 22, 1906.
A. P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy, saved his bank’s assets in the aftermath of the quake by moving them out of the city to his home in San Mateo … with public transportation disrupted by the quake, he walked the 17 miles from his home to the bank … hired a wagon to move the bank’s money, gold and other valuables … and later returned to set up shop on the sidewalk in front of the ruined bank building … his bank made millions of dollars in reconstruction loans … and eventually became the Bank of America, one of the biggest in the world.
For more information about Giannini and his bank rescue, see:
And for more information about the earthquake, see:
Today is the 102nd Anniversary of the sinking of the great British ocean liner RMS Titanic … an event regarding which I have been fascinated since childhood.
That fascination actually began during cub scout, boy scout and state conservation summer camps that I attended as a child … during which it was common at evening meals to sing a then popular song about the tragedy:
Oh, they built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue.
And they thought they had a ship that the water would never get through.
But the Lord’s almighty hand knew the ship would never land,
It was sad when the great ship went down.
Oh, it was sad,
It was sad,
It was sad when the great ship went down to the bottom of the….
Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives,
It was sad when the great ship went down.
They sailed on through the night and were almost to the shore,
When the rich refused to associate with the poor.
So they threw the poor below, where they were the first to go,
It was sad when the great ship went down.
Then they swung the lifeboats o’er the deep and raging sea,
And the band struck up with “Nearer My God to Thee”.
Little children wept and cried as the waves swept o’er the side,
It was sad when the great ship went down.
There are any number of additional verses … and/or variations on those I remember (each verse of the current “official” Boy Scout version is somewhat different than the ones I recall singing).
My fascination with the Titanic continued throughout the years … and I avidly followed the efforts of oceanographer Robert Ballard to find the wreck.
No one was more excited than I when he finally succeeded … I have since watched his documentaries about the search many times, have his beautiful book about the Titanic and other “Lost Liners” …
… and love the gorgeous paintings that Ken Marschall did for that book and “Titanic — An Illustrated History” by Don Lynch …
And of course there are the documentaries by Ballard and others showing Titanic today … lying in two major pieces on the floor of the Atlantic …
… and this poignant view of the human cost …
For alternative verses of the Titanic song, see:
And for a YouTube performance of one version of the Titanic song, see:
Besides being my wedding anniversary …
… and the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor …
… December 7th is a significant date to me for another reason …
… the Army-Navy football game in 1963, about which I have blogged once before …
Separate and apart from my personal interest in the game, the 1963 Army-Navy game had national significance, coming as it did on the heels of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy …
… the game had been scheduled for November 30th, but was delayed because of the assassination … and there was some discussion of possibly cancelling it completely.
The president, however, had been a big football fan, particularly of the interservice classic …
… and had planned to attend the game and flip the coin for the opening kickoff … his family, in particular First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wanted the game to be played, even as the country was in the midst of the official 30 day period of mourning for the slain president.
JFK, of course, was a Naval officer and World War II hero … about whom the movie PT-109 was made … so, after a one week delay, the game was on … with Navy, ranked #2 in the country, a big favorite to win its 5th Army-Navy game in a row.
Instead of names across their shoulders, the Navy uniforms featured the slogan “Drive for Five” … and the Middies were led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach.
Rumor had it that an upset win by Army would put the Black Knights, in place of Navy, into the Cotton Bowl against #1 ranked Texas … and Army had a secret weapon named Rollie Stichweh at quarterback …
… so we cadets were hopeful.
The game was played at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, which was later renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in honor of the president … and the nation looked on as the two service academy teams met in honor of their fallen commander-in-chief.
Army scored first, but Navy ran off three unanswered touchdowns to lead 21-7 with ten minutes to play … which was when Army … and Stichweh in particular … took over and mounted one of the most thrilling comeback attempts in college football history.
First, Army drove to a touchdown … which was scored by … Rollie Stichweh on a one yard run … after which Army made a daring 2 point conversion, to make the score 21-15.
And then, with everyone in the stadium expecting it, Army attempted an onsides kick … and succeeded … with the ball recovered by none other than that man Stichweh … after which Army once again drove deliberately (too deliberately, as it turned out) toward the Navy goal line.
On a 3rd down run, Army halfback Ken Waldrop dove to the Navy 2 yard line with 18 seconds to play …
… but with deafening noise in the stadium and no timeouts remaining … Army was not able to get off a 4th down attempt to pull out the win.
Like all Army fans, I was crushed when the officials waived off the game as time expired … and the memory remains vivid even after 50 years … but there is no doubt that the game helped to heal the grievous wound which the nation had suffered two weeks before.
Oddly, the game is known in football history for another reason … it featured the first ever use of instant replay … showing Stichweh’s 4th quarter touchdown run.
As mentioned in my earlier blog, Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins wrote an excellent story about the game … which I have saved to this day … and which is reproduced below.
One other personal note … my guest for the 1963 Army-Navy game was none other than my then girlfriend and now fiancee Candy Sayes (Davis)!
This year’s Army-Navy game will be played at 3:00 pm EST next Saturday, December 14th, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia … the Middies are on an 11 game winning streak against Army … the longest such streak in the 113 year history of the game … and lead the series 57-49-7.
I, of course, will be rooting for Army … as will Candy’s brother, my West Point classmate, Trey Sayes … but she, her son Jason Davis, a 1994 Annapolis graduate, and my Dad (Lawrence Reilly, Sr., a retired Navy master chief gunner’s mate) will all be cheering for the Middies.
For other stories about the national significance of the 1963 Army-Navy game, see:
A documentary has also been produced about the game and its importance to the country …
… it is called “Marching On: 1963 Army-Navy Remembered” and is described here:
The Army football website is here:
Navy’s is here:
The Wikipedia article on the history of the Army-Navy game is here:
And here is the Dan Jenkins Sports Illustrated article about the game:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s speech to Congress on December 8, 1941, asking for a declaration of war against Japan:
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
This weekend, the USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754) reunion was held in Virginia Beach. I was not able to attend, but my Dad — one of the survivors of the 1969 sinking of the ship — was there.
The Virginian-Pilot ran a front page story about the reunion, which included a photo of my Dad.
The online version of the article and several photos from the reunion can be seen here:
They are also linked in a post on my Facebook page here:
Freelance writer and author Louise Esola, who is writing a book about the Evans and who is a strong supporter of efforts to have the names of the lost sailors added to the Vietnam Wall, also attended the reunion and posted several comments on her Facebook page:
For more information about the Evans, see the USS Frank E. Evans Association website:
Other websites with information of interest about the Evans:
Lost at Sea Memorials article about the Evans:
Article re Sage family from the Lincoln Journal Star:
Information about names on the Vietnam Wall and the requirements for inclusion:
A viral email about the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers has been making the rounds since at least 2004 and recently showed up again on Facebook:
The guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns are truly inspirational.
However, based on my own experience as a Navy brat and 8 years in the military (4 at West Point and 4 in the Navy), some of this seemed too extreme to be true, even for an elite military unit. Therefore, I did some research when I first saw this chain email in 2004 and again when it resurfaced in 2011.
Unless otherwise noted, my responses below to the inaccuracies in this piece come from the FAQ page website for the Society of the Honor Guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? 21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.
Inaccurate. The Guard site response: “He does not execute an about face. He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds. Then he turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder, counts 21 seconds, then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat. He faces the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.”
3. Why are his gloves wet? His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.
4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not? No, he carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.
Mostly correct; see response to #2 above.
5. How often are the guards changed? Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.
Inaccurate. The Guard site response: “The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Nov 1) and every hour during the winter. During the hours the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every 2 hours. The Tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every day since 1937.”
6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to? For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5’10” and 6’2″ tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30″.
Possibly inaccurate. The Guard site does not contain the physical requirements. The “Home of Heroes” site for the Guard at …
… gives the requirements as: “Each soldier among them is physically fit for the demanding responsibility and between 5’10” and 6’4″ tall with a proportionate weight and build.”
6. (cont) Other requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
Complete nonsense (the patent silliness of this and some of the following “requirements” prompted me to check on this to begin with).
The Guard site response: “False. The average tour at the Tomb is about a year. There is NO set time for service there. The Sentinels live either in a barracks on Ft. Myer (the Army post located adjacent to the cemetery) or off base if they like. They do have living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater where they stay during their 24 hour shifts, but when they are off, they are off. And if they are of legal age, they may drink anything they like, except while on duty.”
6. (cont) They cannot swear in public FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES …
More nonsense, to which the Guard site responds: “False, how could that be enforced?”
6. (cont)… and cannot disgrace the uniform (fighting) or the tomb in any way.
Inaccurate. See response to following item re the guard badge.
6. (cont) After TWO YEARS, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.
Inaccurate. The Guard site response: “The Tomb Guard Identification Badge is awarded after the Sentinel passes a special test. The Badge is permanently awarded after a Sentinel has served 9 months. Currently there are 525 awarded. And while the Badge can be revoked, the offense must be very severe, such as a felony conviction. But you can drink a beer and even swear and still keep the Badge. And the Badge is a full size award, worn on the right pocket of the uniform jacket, not a lapel pin.”
Note: I checked today and determined that the current number of badges is 610. See:
6. (cont) The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.
Partially accurate. The Guard site response:
“The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand so that his back is straight and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can “roll” on the outside of the build up as he walks down the mat. This allows him to move in a fluid fashion. If he does this correctly, his hat and bayonet will appear to not “bob” up and down with each step. It gives him a more formal and smooth look to his walk, rather than a “marching” appearance.
“The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a “horseshoe” steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.
“Then there is the “clicker”. It is a shank of steel attached to the inside of the face of the build-up on each shoe. It allows the Sentinel to click his heels during certain movements. If a guard change is really hot, it is called a “smoker” because all the heel clicks fall together and sound like one click. In fact, the guard change is occasionally done in the “silent” mode (as a sign of devotion to the Unknowns”). No voice commands – everything is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts.”
6. (cont) There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.
Could not find any information on this, though it seems reasonable to expect that the uniform pants would be creased front and rear.
6. (cont) The first SIX MONTHS of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
More nonsense. See response above re living under the tomb and drinking alcohol.
6. (cont) A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.
This much appears to be accurate, if somewhat understated. “From the Home of Heroes” site: “In addition to extensive training in the manual of arms, the guard change ceremony, and the intricacies of military ritual, the new-soldier is required to memorize additional information on Arlington, including the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans.”
6. (cont) Every guard spends FIVE HOURS A DAY getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.
Inaccurate. The Guard site states: “Currently, the Tomb Guards work on a three Relief (team) rotation – 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 96 hours off. However, over the years it has been different. The time off isn’t exactly free time. It takes the average Sentinel 8 hours to prep his/her uniform for the next work day. Additionally, they have Physical Training, Tomb Guard training, and haircuts to complete before the next work day.”
Thus, they are on duty three days on out of each nine day cycle. Eight hours of uniform prep for each work day equals 24 hours every nine days, or an average of 2 hours and forty minutes a day.
The widely reported refusal of the Tomb Guard to stand down during Hurricane Isabel IS a great, inspirational, and true story.
However, the final reference to the Tomb being guarded 24/7 continuously since 1930 is erroneous. As noted above, the 24/7 guard was instituted in 1937. By the way, to date there have been 3 female tomb guards.
… 9-11-01 was one of those days … everyone remembers where he or she was when first hearing the news … I was enroute from Mission Viejo to Los Angeles International Airport with Glenda Blake, as we were planning to fly to San Francisco Airport for a visit to Marin County …
… at first I thought it was an incident like the 1945 crash of an Army B-25 into the Empire State Building … an accident … likely to cause damage, but after which the building could be repaired …
… then we heard about the second plane hitting the South Tower of the World Trade Center and it became obvious that these were not accidents …
… with the airports closed, we turned around and went back to Glenda’s home … then drove to Marin a couple of days later …
… on March 3, 2012, I visited the World Trade Center Memorial with #1 son Doug and daughter Risa … one of the names engraved on the wall around the Memorial Pool is Brent James Woodall … Brent was a Cal football player and one of Doug’s friends when he was a manager for the 1991 team …
The National 9/11 Memorial Website is here:
Today (Sunday, August 18, 2013) is the 117th Anniversary of the founding of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, which wound its way up the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California. The Mt. Tam railroad, often referred to as “The Crookedest Railroad in the World”, had 266 curves over its 8.19 mile distance! The railroad operated until the summer of 1930, then shut down and the tracks were torn up.
Parts of the old route in downtown Mill Valley, and the nearby residential neighborhoods, were built over and partially paved to create Fern Canyon Road and upper Summit Avenue. What is left of the railroad grade is now a fire road and was one of my favorite places to run in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I ran part or all of it with most of my running partners in those days, including sons Doug & Matt, Eric Nygren, Tom Hurst and Toby George. On one occasion, my friend and running partner from the Orange County DA’s office, Doug Woodsmall, visited Mill Valley and we ran the full length of the railroad grade from bottom to top and back.
For more information on the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, see this Wikipedia article:
And for an interesting short documentary about the railroad produced in 1976 for the Marin County American Bicentennial Commission, see this YouTube video:
And here for additional video footage of the railroad from the Marin County Free Library: