John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: August, 2017

Momumental Insanity

The tide to erase all reminders of injustice in the land of US is at flood stage. Agitators have moved on from their condemnation of Southern icons to seek out any, and all who may have showed hatred, demonstrated intolerance, prejudice, simple mindedness or just didn’t get it the same way as they see it. Goodbye, Bobby Lee, they have you on the run. Your monument in New Orleans; gone, baby, gone…so too those at Duke University, Baltimore and University of Texas, too…with more to come.


Stonewall has also received the bum’s rush…and so it goes.


I sit here in Port Washington far from the south and yet, mindful of the sharks circling hungry for the kill. They got Bobby in of all places outside of Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. It seemed Bobby was stationed there in the 1840s and planted an elm tree outside a local Episcopal Church. Over the years two plaques were placed there commemorating the tree and its successor. When the blow back from the Charlottesville riots reached Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the diocese cut down and removed the plaques. Curiously, that church is derelict, closed for lack of a congregation. Nevertheless, the diocese caved in a New York Minute…that’s when I knew common sense was in retreat.


Some group alerted the blood-thirsty media that the image of the Confederate Battle Flag (the stars and bars) was part of the tile decoration at the Times Square Subway Station. The MTA’s explanation that it was designed to represent Times Square as the “crossroads of the world” went unheeded. Rather than enter into a pissing contest, the MTA folded and is papering over the “offensive tiles” with faux tiles. This was no longer a retreat, it was a rout.


Quickly, attention shifted to Christopher Columbus. Ole Chris has been under siege for some time having been stricken in favor of Native American celebrations in several parts of the country. But not in New York! Here we have Columbus’ statue perched atop a high pedestal in the center of Columbus Circle. Italian-Americans funded the statue, built it dedicated it and gave it to NYC to show their pride…if you think for even a second that Chris is coming down…well good luck with that, Comrade Mayor Bill DeBlasio.


Next up; Peter Stuyvesant. Question, for the last two hundred years, who gave a damn about Pete except to note that he had a peg leg and took the hit when the Brits took over. The tom-toms are beating and anyone with a grudge to settle is on the warpath. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center told The New York Post: “Peter Stuyvesant was an extreme racist who targeted Jews and other minorities…from settling in New Amsterdam. New York…should take the lead in denouncing Stuyvesant’s bigotry.”


I hope Ms D-L was happy to get that off her chest…it must have been a long time coming.


And the beat goes on…in Philadelphia, there’s a movement to take down a statue of Mayor Frank Rizzo, in Chicago, a statue of Italo Balbo who also has a highway named after him. There is a movement in Beantown to rename historic Faneuil Hall because Peter Faneuil, who donated the building to the city in 1743, was a slave owner and trader.


In Manhattan, we have a gold encrusted heroic statue of General Sherman at Grand Army Plaza, U.S. Grant in his Riverside Park tomb and Admiral Farragut overlooking Madison Square Park. What impurities are they hiding?


Stalin and Mao would take pride in those who want to re-write history by erasing the past. Are these activists aware that Congress restored Lee’s citizenship in 1975 by a vote of 407 to 10 and Gerald Ford signed it. Robert E. Lee is a national icon like him or not. It will be a long slog to erase Bobby.


Seventeen highways bear his name, ten high schools, two junior high schools and seven primary schools. Three towns, nine counties and two colleges have Lee in their names. The M-3, the first US Army battle tank to see action during WW-II was named after Bobby as was the USS Robert E. Lee, SSBN-601, a Polaris missile submarine that serviced from 1960 to 1983. Let us not forget that red Dodge Charger in the Dukes of Hazard.


Our past is our past. Our national stain was allowing slavery to exist at the founding of our nation. We suffered a horrendous civil war to end slavery but it took another hundred years to outlaw Jim Crow in those states that assumed they were still part of new confederacy able to suppress black citizens. To our shame, several border states and even our nation’s capital abided by Jim Crow.


It is our sad heritage that across America, racial inequality remains our national stain. Hatred, prejudice, profiling, and segregation continue to exist. That is the downside of our legacy, but erasing the past so somebody can feel good is nothing more than a fool’s errand.


The past is the past and to hell with the past. Teach your children well, the future is theirs to change.


Trapped in the Electronic World

Once again, I have fallen victim to the ever expanding and complicated electronic world. I am forever playing catch up trying to understand that what simply eludes me before being confronted by the next revolution.  All I know is I’m continually a day late and a dollar short.


My latest trial came when I set out to purchase tickets to a football game only to be forced to confront e-tickets as my only option. Living most of my life comfortable with paper tickets I had a hard time adjusting to the first generation of e-tickets that airlines promulgated sometime in the 1990s. I wasn’t happy when I was forced to print my own boarding passes first at the airport and then at home via my PC. At least, I could live with this process as it still produced a document I could hold in my hand.


Smart phones brought forth a new leap into this brave new world: Stand-alone e-tickets. The ticket parked on your phone was the only evidence you had of buying it. I did report last summer that I took the plunge when the Long Island Railroad introduced e-tickets. I bought a round trip using my IPhone. What I didn’t realize was e-tickets are the LIRR’s friend, not the passenger’s. Once you activate it, Big Brother ends its validation 30-minutes later. A paper ticket is good for a fixed period and if the collector doesn’t take it…you ride for free. Lesson learned, I stopped buying LIRR E-tickets.


My real introduction to e-tickets came this summer. I bought four tickets from StubHub in June for a road Giants game in Tampa versus the Buccaneers. I expected StubHub to alert me when they received the tickets from the seller so I could print them at home. Instead, I received the following message on August 8:


You’ll need to download the Buccaneers app on your smart phone and create an account with the same email address you used on StubHub. Once your tickets are transferred to you, you’ll receive an email notification from the primary and will be able to view this ticket transfer on the app. If you have any questions call us 24/7.


W.T.F! Damn right, I had questions. Fortunately, I had the good fortune to reach a rep at StubHub who had the patience of Job and a think on-your-feet mentality. By the end of our conversation I had the Buccaneer app on my IPhone, a valid account and a valid password. Believe me though, it was a slog about as painful as root canal. A lesser person would have cut me adrift. Not only was she successful, but she empowered me with a sense that I had this mastered. One thing did bother me though, she informed me that I would not receive the e-tickets until September 28 and the game was on October 1.


A good thing I didn’t fret too much over this narrow window because I received a new message from StubHub two days later:


Hi John,


Your tickets are ready to print in your StubHub account.


The message included detailed instructions about how to print my tickets and what I should do with them, i.e.: Bring them to the game…W.T.F!


Before I could react, a second email arrived this time from Ticketmaster that read:


Dear John,


Brad Bond is offering tickets to the event(s) listed below. To collect the items offered, please click on the button below and follow the simple instructions.  


I presumed Brad Bond was the seller but why did Ticketmaster get into the act? I followed their instructions and pressed a box that said: CLICK HERE TO ACCEPT TICKETS…


W.T.F. Instead of moving forward a message advised that I had to close some program that blocked cookies before I could open the tickets. What program and where would I find it? Is it on my IPhone, on my HP laptop or on AOL? Confused and reeling, I called my 17-year-old grandson, Drew. Politely, he asked if I could call him the next day as he was mowing lawns for cash.


“Of course.” I replied. But wait, I then received the following email directly from the Bucs:


You are going to the event(s) below – have a blast. Before you get to the gate…we recommend you pull up your tickets before arriving at the entry gate.


Three different sources of information, StubHub, Ticketmaster and the Bucs. I repeat the obvious; W.T.F! Thoroughly and soundly defeated, I was about to give up when the thought occurred: “Why not check the Bucs app on my IPhone?”


To my surprise and amazement there were four e-tickets on the app each with a QR Code (that box with all those lines and patterns inside.) It seems all’s well that ends well unless I somehow erase the tickets between now and October 1, or even worse, lose my phone.


One final thought: “I’m too old for this s***!”


Time and Again in Middle Village

(All of this happened between 1970 and 1977.)


One hot, steamy Saturday morning found me vacuuming the orange shag-rug that covered our first-floor living room and dining room. Mary Ann had left me alone taking Beth and Michael with her. A fortuitous glance out of our front window revealed my cousin, Bob, exiting his car…a dream come true. At that time, Bob was a Seventies swinging single and it was within the bounds of reason to believe he’d fantasize knocking at a door answered by a bored housewife wearing only her panties and bra. Close but no cigar; In fact, I was the one smoking the cigar and dressed only in a tenement tee shirt and Jockey shorts. I didn’t even give him the chance to ring the bell … I threw open the front door, vacuum cleaner in hand, cigar in the other to exclaim: “What can I do for you good looking?”


Our house at 65-33 77th Place had been the childhood home of Aunt Helen. Mary Ann and I had moved into a one-bedroom garden apartment in Kew Garden Hills next to Flushing-Meadows Park when we were first married in 1967. Beth was born in 1969 and we soon began outgrowing our apartment. As if by magic, my Aunt Helen arrived in the nick of time offering to rent us the Middle Village house for an astounding amount of $150. Trust me, even in 1970, a monthly rent for a house of only $150 was unheard of!


We moved in February of 1970. My cousin Helen, her husband Don and their family lived four houses away from us in 65-25. In April 1972, they moved to Ramsey, NJ but first sold the place to her brother and his wife, Bill and Del, and their family.


In those early years, we had an active social life with neighbors like Angela and Harold, Vinnie and Lillian, Bob and Connie and Michael and Carol*. Gatherings were mostly house parties but also the occasional church or fraternal order racket. I’m not sure how widely known the term “racket” was outside of Queens but it defined dining and dancing dress-up affairs that included various fund-raising events like 50/50, baskets of cheer, raffles and auctions. We’d take a table of ten. Our tickets included set-ups but it was always BYOB, (Bring Your Own Bottle.)


*Michael and Carol didn’t socialize with us that often. Michael seemed too busy with work and attending NY Knick games. Michael was often late coming home. Two times at Saturday night house parties, he explained ice on the bridge delayed his coming home from Knick games. Of course, this was met with disbelief among the guys especially since he couldn’t tell us the final score. As it turned out, he was full of shit and had a thing going on with a squeeze in his office…goodbye Michael and Carol.


Fred and Huguette arrived from Viet Nam in 1975. They moved into 65-31, a heretofore vacant house next to us. Fred first served in Viet Nam as an army electronics technician while the army was still advisers. After returning home and completing his service he took a job with Decca and returned in country where he met and married Huguette. Fred was a pragmatist with a terrific sense of humor. One Saturday afternoon witnessed the two of us consciously deciding not to prevent an accident. It was one of those Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the Long Island weather gods produce a mild day perfect for installing outdoor Christmas lights. We were both outside, each working on our own displays, when Bill came out lights, ladder and staple gun in hand. Bill erected his ladder, plugged his string in and climbed up to begin fixing it to the house.


“Should we tell him to unplug them first,” Fred asked?


“Naw”, I replied, “Let’s watch the show.”


Bill’s second or third staple hit the wire. Fred and I watched as the spark, shock and sound took him off the ladder and onto the grass. Unhurt but flustered, Bill didn’t appreciate our uncontrolled laugher and our now useless advice to unplug the lights first.


One of our favorite Friday night pass time was stoop sitting around the front walkway leading to the door. Bill and Del, Fred and Huguette and we Delaches lived within five attached houses of each other. We’d leave the widows fronting the street from our kids’ rooms open allowing these organic baby monitors to sound the alert by way of crying if one awoke.


The gals smoked cigarettes, guys cigars; we drank beer or wine and a few exotic drinks, mostly for the ladies like whiskey sours, sloe gin fizz or whatever else was trendy. Eventually, the need for pizza would strike our collective stomachs and a couple of the men would make a pizza run to Tudor Tavern Pizzeria on nearby Eliot Avenue and 80th Street. The later it was, the better the pizza tasted.


One Friday night, Mary Ann and I joined the stoop-sitting festivities already in progress. We had dined at her mother’s house in Flushing before coming home to put our kids to bed before joining the group. Bill reminded me of a story long lost to me:


“One of my favorite stories, you came over to our front lawn and in short order, Mary Ann announced: ‘John, I have a bone to pick with you.’


“Apparently, while at her mother Dorothy’s house that afternoon. The kids were in the living room and Michael was trying to turn on the TV. Mary Ann and Dorothy were in the kitchen but could hear their conversation. Beth to Michael: ‘You can’t watch that TV, it’s too f***ing dark.’


“Mary Ann told you there was a lull in her conversation with her mother so they both clearly heard what Beth had said. Dorothy feigned being unsure and asked, ‘What did she say.?’


“Mary Ann gave the only reply she could think of, ‘I don’t know.’


“Mary Ann asked if you had an explanation why Beth would have said something like that?


“You thought for a moment and replied: ‘Well, that tv is too f***ing dark.”

The Boys and the Bull: Part Two

Admiral Nimitz made his decision to replace Ghormley with Halsey on October 15, 1942 and Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, concurred the next day. On October 18, Bull Halsey received this terse order from Nimitz: “You will take command of the South Pacific Area and South Pacific Forces immediately.”

A new buzz of confidence arose as soon as Halsey landed on the island of Noumea, headquarters (HQ) for South Pacific operations. A staff officer painted a sign in two-foot letters repeating Halsey’s mantra: “KILL JAPS, KILL JAPS, KILL MORE JAPS.”

Two weeks later fate brought both sides together. Halsey and his opponent, the brilliant Isoroku Yamamoto, Marshall Admiral of the Imperial Fleet, decided to re-supply their own armies slugging it out on Guadalcanal and hopefully destroy the other’s fleet. Accurate intelligence on both sides put combat plans into motion. Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan on board USS San Francisco and Rear Admiral Norman Scott on board USS Atlanta would lead the American task force into battle. They were destined to die in the upcoming battle. So were all five of the Sullivan boys.

Callaghan, or, as his men fondly referred to him: “Uncle Dan,” would lead the task force bent on stopping the Japanese fleet. Scott’s flagship and two destroyers were absorbed into Callaghan’s task force. The Japanese task force centered around two battleships, Hiei and Kirishima intent on bombarding Henderson Field, the American air base with their big guns. The Japanese were loosely formed as they steamed toward the Americans on the night of November 13th. Callaghan arranged his ships into a battle line, four destroyers in the van followed by the cruisers, Atlanta, San Francisco, Portland, Helena and Juneau followed by four trailing destroyers.

Cushing, the lead destroyer in his battle line reported first contact with a Japanese destroyer at only 3,000 yards at 0140. Five minutes later the battle was joined. The Japanese concentrated on Atlanta with devastating results. A hit on the bridge killed Admiral Scott and most of his staff as two salvos knocked the light cruiser out of action. Cushing and the destroyer Laffey were also sunk in short order by the battleship Hiei, but other USN tin cans let loose their torpedoes that together with pounding fire from their cruisers killed Hiei.

In the “fog of war,” San Francisco may have mistakenly killed Atlanta and ordered a cease fire that didn’t last long. At this point, the Japanese battlewagon, Kirishima and other ships raked San Francisco, killing Admiral Callaghan.

Samuel Eliot Morison, described what happened on board Juneau, home to the Sullivan brothers:

“Juneau, last cruiser in column, fired along with the rest of the task force during the hectic quarter-hour between 0148 and 0203. In common with other ships, she had difficulty in identifying targets; Callaghan’s Cease Fire order belayed a brief spraying of Helena. An enemy torpedo sundered Juneau’ forward fireroom with a shock which put the ship completely out of action, dead in the water and probably with a broken keel. From that moment her main concern was to clear out and keep afloat.”

Atlanta, Cushing and Monessen succumbed to their wounds that morning. The wounded warriors, San Francisco, Juneau, O’Bannon, Sterett and Fletcher formed up to exit the battle zone. A Japanese submarine, I-26, sighted the cripples and fired a spread of torpedoes. “One enemy torpedo traveled toward Juneau and at 1101 detonated against her port side under the bridge. Horrified sailors in San Francisco saw the light cruiser disintegrate instantaneously and completely, sinking with apparently no trace except a tall pillar of smoke and little debris. Nobody waited to look for survivors.”

A B-17 flying over the scene later that morning spotted about 100 survivors. The crew radioed a message requesting rescue forces. “Unfortunately, this message never got though. Of more than a hundred men who miraculously survived the eruption and who clung pitifully to the flotsam that marked their ship’s end, all but ten perished.”

George, the oldest son, was one of those survivors who didn’t make it. He lasted four days part of it searching for his dead brothers calling out their names before he succumbed to exposure and delirium.

Bull Halsey stayed the course despite this heavy price he continued to send his men and ships into harm’s way over-and-over again until the enemy quit.

Mrs. Sullivan received a personal message from FDR and the dubious distinction of being a five-time Gold Star Mother. She also sponsored the new destroyer USS Sullivans DD-537 at the ships launching in San Francisco on April 4, 1943. The Sullivans participated in both World war 11 and Korea before being decommissioned in 1965. It is now a floating museum on Lake Erie outside Buffalo, New York.

A second USS Sullivans DDG 65 was commissioned in 1997 at Bath Iron Works in Maine and has been in service ever since.

“There is many a boy here who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”

William Tecumseh Sherman  









The Boys and the Bull (Part One)

Thomas Sullivan and his wife, Alleta, raised their family in Waterloo, Iowa. Mr. Sullivan worked for the Illinois Central Railroad as a freight conductor while Mrs. Sullivan kept house and raised their five boys and one girl. George was born in 1914, Francis in 1916, Genevieve, a year and one day later in 1917 (Irish twins?), Joseph in 1918, Madison, (a boy’s name back then) in 1919 and Albert not until 1922. (Perhaps Alleta received a three-year pardon for good behavior?) An eighth girl, Kathleen was born in 1931 but died just five months later.


The five boys were troublemakers with a capital “T” and every one of them dropped out of school in junior high. In keeping with their pack mentality and Tom-foolery, they enlisted together in the Navy after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.




William F. (Bull) Halsey, Jr. was born in 1882, the son of Captain William F. Halsey, Sr. and the former Anne Masters Brewster. Halsey attended private schools and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904. In 1935, he became a Navy pilot earning his wings at 52 years old so that he could command a carrier group. He was at sea on December 7, 1941 returning to Pearl Harbor on board his carrier flagship, USS Enterprise, after a re-supply mission to Wake Island.


The Sullivans convinced Naval bureaucrats to assign them to the same ship after completing basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Center. They reported to the USS Juneau, CLAA-52, a brand-new cruiser then being fitted-out at the Federal Shipbuilding Company in Kearney, New Jersey. Juneau, had been built side-by-side with her slightly older sister, USS Atlanta, and the Sullivan boys stood at attention in their dress blues part of the crew of 63 officers and 785 enlisted men as Juneau was commissioned on Valentine’s Day, 1942.

Captain Lyman Swenson sailed his new command down the East Coast and into the Caribbean where its crew, including those five greenhorns from Iowa could drill, drill and drill again until ordered to the southwestern Pacific on August 22, 1942.

Atlanta and Juneau were a new concept in warship design, a multi-purpose platform primarily designed and armed to protect the fleet from attack from the air –  an anti-aircraft cruiser. Their eight, 5-inch twin-turrets, (three forward, three aft and two amid-ships) plus numerous 40mm and 20mm cannons could let loose a magnitude of deadly steel to kill or deter the most determined attacker. Both ships performed as expected shooting down numerous Japanese aircraft during several battles off Guadalcanal.


Unfortunately, these lightly-armored steeds, built for speed and air defense, were poorly designed to withstand the big guns of the Imperial Navy’s cruisers or the revolutionary, monster, oxygen-fed torpedoes carried by their destroyers and submarines.


Marines successfully landed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi on August 7, 1942 establishing secure beach-heads and pushing inland seizing a Japanese airstrip soon to re-christened, Henderson Field…So far, so good.

The Japanese reacted with all hell two nights later. Admiral Gunichi Mikawa ordered his task force to destroy the landing fleet. Standing in his way off Savo Island, Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley had positioned two cruiser squadrons, one, north and one to the south of the island. Mikawa took the southern route the one closest to Guadalcanal sinking the USS Astoria, USS Quincy, USS Vincennes and the HMAS Canberra. Mikawa inflicted the greatest loss of men and ships America ever suffered in a battle at sea. But Mikawa blinked. He didn’t continue forward to sink the supply ships; he returned home. Hindsight sucks, but that moment was the best shot the Japanese had to reverse what was almost impossible to reverse…Japan was finished.

The next six months witnessed a war of attrition, a terrible struggle. Each side would go on to lost a total of 24 ships and thousands of young lives. The difference was America had undertaken an enormous building program and every carrier, cruiser and destroyer lost would be replaced with five to ten new ships in less than a year. The Japanese didn’t have the same luxury enjoyed by the Arsenal for Democracy.

But that was all in the future. After Savo, circumstances became desperate and it became clear to Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, that Ghormley wasn’t capable of carrying on. Halsey understood that the battles had to be fought with the “navy you have to fight with” and he was pragmatic enough to understand he had to send his officers, men and their ships into harm’s way for as long as it remained necessary.


(To be continued)