John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: September, 2018

Why We Need a Citizen Army

Not too long ago, my grandson, Matthew asked my assistance with a report he had to submit for a high school class. The subject was should we have a military draft? “What do you think, Grandpa?”


Matt knows I’m an old Goldwater conservative, so he did not expect my response: “Absolutely! Citizen-soldiers protect the armed forces from being over used.”


Today we have professional, all-volunteer armed forces including the reserves. The patriotic men and women who choose to join the service want to be there and they bring a degree of commitment and professionalism to all the branches that would be watered down by draftees.


Draftees just want to do their time and get out. Army Reserve and National Guard units would revert to the days when individuals opted for six months of active duty and a six-year reserve commitment to fulfill their required service.


I accept that the commitment and dedication of our professional armed service would surely suffer, especially the Army, but I believe that such a downgrading is a price worth paying to offset the downside of an all-volunteer Army.


Our all-volunteer service has created a new form of separation, not by race, religion, background, education or nationality, but one that basically divides America. We have the few who serve while the rest of us go on with our lives completely removed from their sacrifices as if our endless wars don’t even exist.


Of course, there is public recognition of those who serve. Cosmetic recognition in the form of staged events such as honoring service members at sports events, football and baseball games, the Super Bowl and the World Series. We honor them during Fourth of July patriotic concerts and with pre-planned scripted TV moments showing returning troops surprising spouses and kids (usually at school.) We are conditioned to thank troops for their service and object to any behavior that could disrespect these men and women. They fight while we sprout feel good platitudes.


Meanwhile, we live our lives, attend births, holidays, graduations, marriages and funerals. Life goes on while far in the background, mostly soldiers and Marines suffer and die in lonely places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and hot spots in other Middle Eastern and African locations. We have been engaged in “War Without End” since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and nobody screams, “Isn’t enough, enough?”


We protest if someone slights the flag or football players kneel at the playing of our National Anthem, but our leaders don’t seem too give a damn that we are engaged in two wars, both longer than the sum of all the wars we fought in our nation’s history.


The clock on the Afghan War will tick over to 17 years this October. Iraq, in all its gestations, is right behind it. To date: “More than three million Americans have served in uniform in these wars. Nearly, 7,000 of them have died. Tens of thousands more have been wounded.”


Where is the outrage? Where are the protesters? I find it strangely sad that the old Viet Nam War protesters who I watched fill the green at the top of Main Street in Keene NH, to protest W’s war against Saddam don’t bother to picket any longer. They gave up during Obama’s reign or just became too old.


Instead of outrage over the death and maiming of our greatest national treasure, our young patriots, the protesters march against ICE, the World Trade Organization, Civil War Statues and other causes too stupid to mention.


Meanwhile, soldiers and Marines continue to give their lives for real estate that their bosses abandon in six months. Sadly, they are called on to do this repeatedly. Six month or one-year tours in “the sand box” until they get out, break down, or return maimed or in flag draped coffins.


How many times can the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe they can send these brave men and women into harm’s way repeatedly before they break down? Enough is enough! Stop the madness!


The draft would re-establish a basic tenet of our Republic. Historically, a citizen army fights our wars and we need a citizen army to end this abuse of power.


No president since FDR has asked Congress for a Declaration of War. Our Constitution mandates that only Congress can declare that we are at war. Congress, long ago abdicated their authority and signed off on various Executive Orders taking us to war. Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and whatever heroic name we use for that Afghan mess were all mandated using smoke and mirrors.


Presidents and the Congress realize that we, the American public, are content with our all-volunteer armed forces as we abhor the thought of little Johnny or Suzie being drafted and being killed in a war. Those we can’t trust exploit the volunteer army. So long as patriotic men and women volunteer to serve, the beat goes on


During the eight years when Dwight David Eisenhower was president, we had the draft and we didn’t lose one service man in combat. Ike detested putting his soldiers in harm’s way.


Today, we allow our leaders to thoughtlessly discard our sons and daughters, our greatest generation, because we don’t hold these leaders accountable. Shame on us! A draft would re-establish an army of citizen soldiers like our Republic meant it to be.


With a draft, if a future president attempted to dispatch Johnny or Suzie to China or Lower Nowhere without cause, we’d take to the streets for the real deal: “Hell no, we won’t go!.”

Alan Bond and the America’s Cup

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece about the next America’s Cup challenge. The Kiwi’s wrested the cup away from Larry Ellison in 2017 and brought it back to New Zealand. The next challenge is scheduled for 2021 and Ellison’s defeat opened a run by the New York Yacht Club to represent the United States in that challenge. So far, no other American challengers have appeared and “New York Yacht Club’s American Magic,” is backed by a $100 million fund. Granted, they have a long way to go but, if successful, they would return the Cup to 37 West 44 Street where it resided from 1851 to 1983.


Geoff Jones drew my attention to this fact and when Geoff asked me if I had interest in reading this article, my first reaction was to tell him my experience in 1984 while waiting for my overnight flight to London at JFK. I had made my way to the Ambassadors Club, TWA’s pay-to-play private club that catered to frequent flyers by providing a quiet oasis.


Enjoying a pre-boarding Jameson on the rocks, I found myself in a conversation with an Aussie enjoying his Beefeater Martini. The Royal Perth Yacht Club had wrested the cup from the New York Yacht Club that past September. A momentous achievement as the New York Yacht Club had successfully defended it for 132 years, ending the longest winning streak in sporting history.


He asked what my thoughts were on losing the cup and I cavalierly replied: “You have to understand that ocean racing is an elitist sport and most Americans don’t pay much attention to it.”


I should have realized that he must have been involved with the cup victory and measured my responce accordingly. He confirmed this by explaining that he was a member of Alan Bond’s syndicate. I congratulated him but didn’t apologize for my remark.


Alan Bond was a bigger than life rouge, a phenomenon who went from rags to riches to disgrace in a mercurial manner. Bond recalls other rogues that populated the planet in the late Twentieth and the early Twenty First Centuries. Bernie Cornfeld, who created International Overseas Services, (IOS) with his evangelical command: “Do you sincerely want to be rich?” When IOS crashed and burned, Robert Vesco, another rouge, resurrected it until the SEC chased him into exile in Cuba. Bernie Madoff, who engineered the largest Ponzi scheme of all times, Crazy Eddie Antar whose pitchman guaranteed that “His Prices Were Insane” as was his business plan and Sean Quinn who rose to become the richest man in Ireland worth $6 Billion in 2008 only to declare bankruptcy by 2011.


Bond paved his way to success by using the tired true M.O. of most great rogues, “OPM,” Other Peoples’ Money. “Bond was a skilled salesman with a knack for coming up with cash. He never worried about whether he’d get credit. His early business partner, Cam McNab, (said) that Bond would often buy something that they could refinance on the occasions that they couldn’t pay their wages bill.”


At the time Bond first began his quest to take control of the America’s Cup in 1974, the Bond Corporation was already seriously in debt. Between 1971 and 1974 it had grown 12-fold, but its borrowings had grown 20-fold. accumulating $100 Million in debt.


He chose to win the cup to showcase his mega real estate investment, Yanchep Sun City, a luxury lifestyle for 200,000 people. Potential owners and investors were not exactly flocking to Sun City and it badly needed a boost.


When asked by a reporter if he entered the quest for the sake of sport, Bond erupted: “Anyone who considers racing for the America’s Cup isn’t a business proposition is a bloody fool. There can be no other justification for spending $6 Million on the Australian challenge unless the return is going to involve more than just an ornate silver pitcher.”


It took Bond four attempts to do it. The first three failed, Southern Cross lost 4-0 to Courageous in 1974 as did Australia in 1977. In 1980, Australia lost to Liberty, 4-1.


God only knows how much money Bond spent in 1983. The new boat, Australia II, was shrouded in secrecy and literally kept under wraps to hide its winged keel, designed by Ben Lexcen. Bond attacked the cup with military precision complimenting Lexcen’s genius with the superb sailing ability of skipper, John Bertrand. Still, Dennis Conner made it close losing the Cup, 3 to 4.


Bond was a national hero, and his empire seemed to prosper. It wasn’t until 1987 that it began to implode hitting bottom in 1992 when he declared bankruptcy with a debt of $1.8 billion. His marriage collapsed, he was convicted of fraud for syphoning off $1.2 billion from Bell Resources and sentenced to four years in prison.


Paul Barry, a reporter, was incensed by the shortness of his sentence. Barry noted that a 22-year-old Aboriginal man was given a mandatory penalty of a year for stealing $23 worth of biscuits.  “Had the same formula applied to Bond, he would have been imprisoned for 50 million years,”


Bond died in 2012 at 77.


Prior to 1983, the America’s Cup was proudly displayed mounted on a large table in the foyer of the New York Yacht Club on West Forty-Fourth Street in Manhattan. I was invited to lunch shortly after Bond won the cup and it was as if it was never there. Even though the United States has regained the cup twice since 1983, the winning boats did not fly the pennant of the NYYC, so the cup has never returned to the club.


New York Yacht Club’s American Magic may be their great WASP hope.


Confessions of a Giants Season Ticket Holder

Although my 57th year being a Football Giants season ticket holder began on Sunday September 9 with a 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars my hope is they recover and press on. Meanwhile, I’d like to reflect on some odd experiences and thoughts about the mostly enjoyable but sometimes frustrating journey of being a season ticket holder.


Mike Francesca, the top-rated sports talk guy on WFAN in New York once described Football Giants season ticket holders as white-male, mostly middle aged or older who believe all home games should begin at 1 PM so they can return home in time for their evening martini. He almost hit the nail on the head, but I see no reason why the games can’t start at 2 PM as they did in 1962 and my cocktail of choice is 12-year old Red Breast in a short glass with three ice cubes.


I define the end of summer as the first morning that I step outside to retrieve the newspapers and sense the rising sun has yet to cut through the slight chill from the previous night. I never cease to thrill at the feel and smell of such a morning when I think to myself: “Ah, football weather.”


The best Sunday of the year is opening day when everything is possible. The second happiest day of the year is when the season tickets arrive in the mail. So, help me, I still get charged as I open the envelope. (Unfortunately, NFL teams are encouraging fans to download game tickets electronically to their smart phones, the Giants included. This year the powers that be referred to my cardboard printed tickets as “souvenir tickets” a portent of things to come and so it goes.)


I no longer attend night games although, playoff games may be exceptions.


Worst three defeats I witnessed. Number One: The loss to the Packers in the 1962 NFL Championship Game in Yankee Stadium, the coldest I have ever been. At 18-years old, I was crushed as my new love, the Football Giants lost 16-7. Number two: Super Bowl XXXV. In Tampa. The Ravens cleaned our clocks and the money I pissed away ticked me off, big time. Number Three: The overtime playoff loss to the Rams in Giants Stadium in 1989 when Flipper Anderson caught the winning pass right in front of us and just kept running off the field and into the tunnel leading to the visitor’s locker room. We were stunned, and I’ve never witnessed a packed stadium being that quiet. (Honorable mention: The Fumble on November 19, 1978 against the Eagles.)


Top three victories: Super Bowl XLII. (I will cover this in a separate piece, but the Giants won, and I traveled to Arizona to see the game with my son.) Number two: Super Bowl XXV. This came about by chance; my mates discovered a pool of tickets available for the taking at a reasonable price and four of us jumped on it. The Big Sombrero in Tampa versus the Buffalo Bills with the war in Iraq as a backdrop. Long story, short; Scott Norwood missed a 45-yard field goal letting us celebrate a 20-19 victory. Number three, the 1986 NFC Championship Game vs. the Redskins in the howling winds of Giants Stadium. The hawk was blowing that day allowing Sean Landetta, the Giants punter, to be the hero that day and send Big Blue to SB XXI.


I’ve rooted for the Giants at home in Yankee Stadium from 1962 to 1973, Yale Bowl in 1973 and 1974, Shea Stadium in 1975, Giants Stadium from 1976 to 2009 and now Met Life Stadium. Frankly speaking, Giants Stadium was a brilliant facility for football and head and shoulders above the abomination that is Met Life Stadium.


We began to tailgate in the early ‘80s and although the cast of characters has changed and evolved, the energy, team loyalty and our joy has been an enormous factor for many of us to continue attending games. Even in bad years we persist. Few summer soldiers in this group. We persevere through the heat of September, the great football weather of October and most of November, but also in the rains of late fall and that hawk that blasts cold Canadian wind through the Meadowlands with a vengeance in December and, God willing, during the playoffs.


To be a fan also means struggling to return home. For reasons, too numerous to enumerate, the options available to cross the Hudson River have been reduced to only the George Washington Bridge. Traffic is a nightmare just to reach the bridge where we only face several bad alternatives to cross the Bronx and make our way to Long Island. At seventy-four, I concede my alpha male role as driver to Joe M, my long-time mate, contrarian and resident cardiologist.


Since 1990, my son and I have enjoyed multiple out-of-town trips. We have been to the homes of the Bills, Patriots, Steelers, Bengals, Bears, Packers, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Saints, Cardinals, Rams, Chiefs, Cowboys, Texans, Seahawks, Forty-Niners and Chargers.


My personal favorite was visiting Lambeau Field, the NFL’s version of Mecca. This trip was made special by including my two oldest grandsons, Drew and Matt.


The worst experience was in San Diego. We were a group of ten. Unfortunately, most of us became involved in a short-lived altercation with local Charger fans. (Two of our mates were absent having left to make a pit stop.) Security guards broke it up with the aid of a San Diego patrolman. It appeared we were going to get the worse of the blame when our two mates, Tom C. and James B. re-appeared not knowing what had happened. “Seeing them, I exclaimed to the cop: “Wait, wait, my attorney is here.” (James B.)


James spoke to the policeman then came over to me and said: “He is willing to let us go if we let him escort us out of the stadium right now.”


Aware of our peril, I announced to the group: “On the advice of counsel, we are going to get the f*** out of here right now.”


As we exited each one of us thanked the officer and shook his hand.


Honor and Devotion to Duty

John McCain received in death honors and accolades on a scale that makes me wonder how Bob Dole, another war hero and a senator of even greater accomplishment will be honored when he meets his demise. Will he lie in state in the capital rotunda and be remembered by congressional leaders and past presidents? And what of George Herbert Walker Bush and Jimmy Carter? I am not suggesting that the respect and admiration that McCain received was undeserved. I am asking instead; will these heroes be treated likewise?


The McCain men can truly cast their family shield with the motto: “Honor and Devotion to Duty.” Both principles are difficult to abide by even in the best of times. The late senator remained true to duty, country and the navy a code he inherited from his father and his grandfather. They all steadfastly stayed the course despite troubled waters and great storms.


We all know the story of his ordeal in the Hanoi Hilton, the infamous North Vietnamese prison and how he refused to accept an early release.


McCain spoke of this in a recent documentary. About a year into his captivity, the NV powers realized that he was the son of the admiral in charge of the navy’s forces in the Pacific. McCain recalled being led into a room where an interrogator who spoke perfect French and English explained to him that he would be released shortly on humanitarian grounds. McCain replied that the service didn’t allow for that and the interrogator countered that it didn’t apply because of the extent of his injuries. McCain again refused and explained his injuries weren’t that severe. The interrogator grew angry and said: “Things will be very difficult for you from now on.”


And they were; torture and solitary confinement. But McCain endured and remained captive for five years until all his mates were also freed.


His grandfather suffered a different ordeal at the hands of the US Navy and his son, Senator McCain’s father, became caught up in it.


During World War II, operations of the Pacific Fleet were so complex and the fleet so large that it was treated as two fleets, the 3rd Fleet and the 5th Fleet. It operated as the 3rd Fleet when under the command of William F. Halsey and as the 5th Fleet when under the command of Raymond A. Spruance. While one admiral and his staff commanded the fleet for approximately a six-month tour, the other admiral and his staff planed future operations for their next tour of duty.


The same ships but two different command structures. Halsey’s second in command was John S. McCain who commanded Task Force 38 that included most of the fighting ships in the fleet; the aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and escorts.


On May 17, 1945, Halsey relieved Spruance and the 5th Fleet became the 3rd Fleet. At that time the fleet was still supporting the invasion of Okinawa, preparing further strikes against Japan and the upcoming invasions of the home islands that fall. Early the next month, a typhoon was reported heading on a course to intercept the fleet. Based on inadequate forecasts, Halsey and McCain made several changes in course that led to a substantial part of the fleet sailing directly into the eye. Fortunately, no ships were lost but many suffered damage and lives were lost. Several aircraft carriers lost airplanes and the forward parts of their flight decks. Smaller ships suffered hull damage and the USS Pittsburgh, a heavy cruiser, lost its entire bow.


A court of inquiry found Halsey to be primarily at fault and McCain secondarily at fault. The court recommended that consideration be given to assigning both men to other duty.


Senator John McCain published a memoir in 1999 called “Faith of my Fathers.” In the book’s opening chapter, he relates that his father, then commander of a submarine met up with his grandfather in Tokyo Bay. The book contains a famous photo of the two men standing side by side in kaki uniforms on the deck of a submarine tender. The senator’s father stands erect with folded arms looking fit and ready. His grandfather is leaning against a rope barrier with his arm on the top rope. He slouches and looks weary and drawn.


Senator McCain recalled that his grandfather didn’t want to stay for the surrender and asked Halsey to allow him to skip it and fly home. McCain writes: (Halsey replied,) “Maybe you do, but you’re not going. You were commanding this task force when the war ended, and I’m making sure that history gets it right.”


The senator doesn’t explain with any detail why these two admirals had this debate. But his grandfather left for home following the surrender and the meeting with his son only to collapse and die the evening he arrived home during a house party held in his honor.


The admiral was furious, depressed and suffering, Upon the fleet’s arrival in Tokyo Bay, Halsey was ordered to tell McCain that James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy, had relieved McCain  of command of Task Force 38 because of his actions and errors during the typhoon.


Halsey only received a slap on the wrist, not because he wasn’t responsible, rather because Halsey, who was known to the American people as, “Bull Halsey,” was a national hero who stopped the Japanese at Guadalcanal in the war’s darkest days. McCain was just another admiral, relatively unknown, so Forrestal handed him Halsey’s gilded lily and it killed him.


I don’t know if the senator’s father knew this when he last saw his father and the photo was taken but he continued his brilliant naval career and both the late senator and his son, John, followed. The son is now a naval lieutenant.


The McCains’ have kept that faith. Honor and devotion to duty above all else and protect the Navy at all costs.


RIP John McCain