John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: May, 2019

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The New York Football Giants 1966 season turned out to be an absolute disaster, the worst in team history. Entering Week Ten their record was 1-7-1 as head coach Allie Sherman led his boys into DC with their new back-up QB, Tom Kennedy. Three weeks earlier the Giants had plucked Kennedy from the minor league Brooklyn Dodgers of the short-lived Continental League than a stellar addition, he assumed the starters role after Gary Wood, the team’s other sub-par QB hurt his shoulder..

 Frank Litsky reported in The New York Times on Saturday, “The Redskins have lost three in a row, but Sonny Jurgensen’s passing will probably make them well.” Jurgy already had 18 touchdown passes, rookie Charlie Taylor had developed into a fast, dangerous receiver and the Giants had been reduced to playing three rookie linebackers, Mike Ciccolella, Jeff Smith and Freeman White who was supposed to be a tight end. The Skins were scheduled to start two former Giants in their backfield, Steve Thurlow, and the bizarre, Joe Don Looney.

Sunday, November 26 produced, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

The Good:

The Giants scored 41 points, the most they would score all season.

They out gained the Redskins 389 yards to 341.

They had 25 first downs to the Skins 16.

Joe Morrison caught two TD passes from Wood for 41-yards each.

Homer Jones caught a 50-yard TD pass from Wood.

Wood ran one in for 1 yard.

Aaron Thomas caught an 18-yard TD pass from Kennedy.  

The Bad:

            The Redskins intercepted the Giants five times and scored on a 62-yard fumble recovery,

            a 52-yard punt return and a 62-yard interception.

The two teams scored 16 touchdowns, ten by the Redskins and six by the Giants.

The Ugly:

Bobby Mitchell scored the final TD for the Redskins by running the ball for 45-yards. Mitchell had last played as a running back in 1961 with the Cleveland Browns. Normally a flanker back, he shifted position due to injuries to the other running backs. Redskins head coach, Otto Graham told reporters after the game, “He doesn’t even know the plays from that position.”

Kennedy started, but the Redskin defense befuddled him with blitzes and fake blitzes leading to three interceptions in the first half. The sore shouldered Wood replaced him, but finally had to give way to Kennedy again in the fourth quarter.

This opened the door for Kennedy to engineer a bizarre play that led to an all-time scoring record. With seven seconds left on the clock and with the ball on the Giant 22-yard line, Kennedy threw a fourth down pass out of bounds to stop the clock. His excuse was that he thought it was third down which begs the question: With seven seconds left on the clock and your team down 69 to 41, just exactly why are you stopping the clock?

Graham ordered Charlie Gogolak to kick a 29-yard field goal. When asked if his motive was to embarrass the Giants, Graham replied: “Hell no, I didn’t know anything about records. I wanted Gogolak to try a field goal. He hadn’t had a chance all day and he missed two against Cleveland last Sunday. I’m not one to run up the score on anybody.”

But records they did set: It is the only NFL game with a total combined score of over 100 points.

The total of 113 points was 15 more than in another game involving the Giants, a loss in 1948 to the Chicago Cardinals, 63-35.

The Redskins scored the most points ever scored in a regular season game, one shy of the 73 points the Chicago Bears scored against the Redskins in the 1940 championship game.

The 16 touchdowns scored is a record for any NFL game.

The Redskins 10 touch downs and Charlie Gogolak’s 9 PATs tied a record. If Charlie had made his first, another would have been broken.

The New York Times also reported that the Redskins lost $315 in footballs that went into the stands. In this era before nets behind the goal line, 14 Duke footballs, then manufactured by Thorp Sporting Goods costing $22.50 each, became fan souvenirs. The Times article pointed out that the Duke is named after Wellington Mara, the Giants president.

Coach Allie Sherman wasn’t happy either. “I guarantee you this is never going to happen to a team of mine again.”

He was right, but then again, that’s a tough score to replicate. But the Giants did try. The next week in Cleveland, they lost to the Browns 49 to 40. At home against Pittsburgh, they crumbled to the Steelers 47 to 28 before ending the season with a milder 17 to 7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Yankee Stadium.

That game ended the season with a dismal record of 1-12-1. Truly, the season of our discontent.

My Mark on the Internet

In 2006, I decided to research a piece about a spectacular maritime accident that took place in New York harbor in the spring of 1973. The Sea Witch, a container ship was outbound from the Howland Hook, Staten Island terminal. The ship had just entered the Narrows when the steering mechanism failed causing it to veer toward one of the Staten Island anchorages and strike the fully laden tanker, Esso Brussels, igniting its cargo of crude oil. Locked together, both ships drifted under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge before they grounded in Gravesend Bay off of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

My initial searches were fruitless. When I Googled “Sea Witch,” the only match I made was for the Nineteenth Century Clipper Ship of the same name. I tried several different portals, each of them a dead end. Frustrated, I decided to visit the U.S. Maritime Academy’s library in Kings Point only to find that they too had a limited collection about the Sea Witch or the collision.

Finally, on an off-chance, I contacted the National Transportation Bureau’s Accident Investigation Bureau. That led me to a U.S. Coast Guard’s site where I discovered what I was seeking, the Coast Guard’s accident report. There it was right in front of me, their accident report.  Between a balky printer and an unreliable internet connection, I worried over downloading and printing out each of those forty-seven pages until it finished.

I now had the foundation for my piece. Next, I made my way to the newspaper room at main branch of the NY Public Library at Fifth Ave. and Forty-Second Street to copy the articles that ran in each newspaper’s Metropolitan Section.  I paid attention to The Staten Island Advance that focused on the accident as a local story.

One source led to another and slowly, the details I was seeking began to assemble. Still, I wasn’t satisfied relying principally on third-party reporting. One person’s name critical to telling this tale kept appearing, the pilot in charge of the Sea Witch when all hell broke loose, John T. (Jack) Cahill.

How to find him? I wrote a letter of introduction to the New York Harbor Pilots Association, the governing body for all licensed pilots, asking them to forward a second letter addressed to Cahill. My letter explained who I was and why I wanted to contact him.

Almost a month later my home phone rang while I was sitting in the kitchen. My hello triggered a rough voice that responded, “This is Jack Cahill, I understand you are looking for me?”

A week later found me heading west on I-78 almost to the Delaware River to meet Jack Cahill and discuss my project. He lived in retirement with his second wife, Andrea, who was of French extraction. Quite a scene, Cahill had a table full of folders that he didn’t choose to open while Andrea buzzed around the table in an obvious hostile mood.

I realized my situation was in doubt. Andrea didn’t want me in her home as she perceived me to be a threat to her man. If I couldn’t win here over, my visit would be a waste of time. I had to overcome her lack of trust in me.

I turned to her and said: “Mrs. Cahill, let me be assure you, from everything I have gathered about that night, your husband, Jack, was the true hero. If not for him, the Sea Witch crew would have perished. Let me make you both a pledge that I will not submit my story to any publication until Jack signs off on the content. If Jack doesn’t approve it, I will change it. If that doesn’t work, I will scrap it. To do otherwise would be a sin.” 

Her reaction was immediate and amazing. The clouds parted and the sun shone down. Andrea offered me coffee and a tray of biscuits before she left the room. Jack opened his files, showed me his remarkable photos and told me his story.

I drove home knowing I had something special. Professional Mariner magazine bought my story and published it. I was ecstatic, my first (and only) paid published piece. Jack Cahill’s first- person account gave it wings.

Once published, a copy quickly made its way onto Wikipedia. The original listings attributed the piece to me but as time went on and different organizations picked up on it, my identity faded away.

 Recently, I Googled the accident and found a serious expansion of my piece written for the fireboat “Fighter” museum. The author took complete license with what I had written yet retained my favorite line that I used to describe the initial conflagration when the ships collided: “…and the night exploded.”

I loved that line and this S.O.B. not only lifted what I wrote but took it out of sequence at his/hers convenience. Whoever you are: please note that plagiarism is and always will be plagiarism. Shame on you!

Truthfully, I really don’t mind.

I know that it was my effort that added this story to our collective memory. My baby, no one else’s. I conceived it and I birthed it.

Now my teenager is on her own. 

Never published on this blog, In June, I will give you, dear reader, my revised edition of my story in two parts

Irony and Sarcasm

The dictionary defines irony as: “A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”

The street definition of irony is: “You really can’t make this s*** up.”

The dictionary defines Sarcasm as: “The use of irony to mock or convey contempt.”

The street definition is “Gotcha!”

This piece is a bit of both, however, before I present it, I wish to explain two relevant points:

During my thirty-year career in the marine and energy insurance business, I represented several so called “Big Oil” clients and major oil tanker fleet owners. To fulfill their insurance needs led me to develop a close understanding of how they think. The major oil and gas companies are the most competitive, competent and professionally run operations on the planet yet extremely demanding in achieving their perceived results.   

They are ahead of everybody else including Uncle Sam and like Uncle, they have all the time, all the money and all the lawyers they need. Witness Rex Tillerson’s tumultuous tenure as Secretary of State. He knew he was better than the President, but he failed to recognize he was no longer CEO of Exxon-Mobile and Trump was now the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

I lifted what follows from an article by Jesse Barron: “Hedging Against the Apocalypse,” part of a series of essays in the April 14, 2019 climate issue of The New York Times Magazine.

I accept on face value what Mr. Barron wrote and, to the best of my ability, I have not influenced or altered his message.

Barron begins with a confrontation between Tillerson, and a Capuchin Franciscan friar, Michael Crosby, during Exxon-Mobil’s 2015 Annual Meeting. Crosby deliberately set out to upset Tillerson’s apple cart by accusing him of deliberately ignoring climate change. During their exchange, the good friar gave the CEO a run for his money scolding Tillerson by admonishing him that, “You’re living in the past.”

Crosby challenged the CEO on renewables, but Tillerson came right back at him. From my own experience, I can easily picture the biggest bully in the room gripping the rostrum, steely eyes, laser focused, reply: “Quite frankly, Father Crosby, we choose not to lose money on purpose.”

Dear reader, Tillerson’s statement sums up in a nutshell what makes Big Oil tick.

Fast forward to 2018. Never mind that Tillerson retired and Darron Woods is Exxon-Mobil’s new CEO.

Declan Flanagan, CEO of Lincoln Clean Energy, a renewables company announces that his firm has partnered with Exxon…”to build a solar farm in the Permian Basin.”

If you read the book, Friday Night Lights, saw the movie or watched the TV series, you would understand that the Permian basin was in decline in the 80’s and 90’s. Its oil fields first exploited in 1921, were running dry. Drilling was at a minimum and Odessa, the heart of the basin, was dying.

There was a solution, hydraulic fracturing, a concept first reported in a 1948 issue of Oil & Gas Journal. (Ayn Rand promoted the concept in her masterful 1957 apocalyptic novel, Atlas Shrugged.) (Who is John Gault?)

But the price of crude oil remained too low and the cost of fracturing or, fracking remained too high for this technology to be cost-effective until the millennium when the price of oil and advanced technology made it profitable.  

Barron noted in his piece: “In recent years, the Permian became the most productive oil and gas field in the United States, as…fracking…made it possible to shatter the tightly packed shale. Exxon, Chevron and their peers can now access natural gas and oil that was previously unreachable…If Permian were a country, it would rank among the largest oil states in the world.”

“All well and good but what’s the point? Simple, fracking requires an inordinate amount of electricity to be effective. Though Exxon’s deal with Lincoln is one of the most visible examples of a fossil-fuel company using renewable energy, all the Permian extraction outfits consume it…to make fracking more profitable.”

Exxon, Chevron and their partners have blanketed the surface of the Permian with solar panels installed by Lincoln for the sole purpose to pay the electric bills needed to extract the oil and gas.

Save the planet? Bah humbug: Maximize profits.

Climate change is real. What Big Oil is doing in the Permian is at best, a head-shaker and, at worse, complete pervasion of why Lincoln exists and its stated goals.

Never-the-less, because of fracking, the USA has once again become a net exporter of oil and gas and Lincoln is making a handsome profit.

That “Goddam” War

Note to my readers: my computer is out of action forcing me to present an abbreviated version of this piece using my IPad.

The point of my original piece was to demonstrate that Lyndon Blaines Johnson knew from the beginning that our war in Vietnam was a “Bright and shinning lie.”

In his book, Presidents of War, Michael Beschloss reproduces LBJ’s conversation with Senator Richard Russell recorded by LBJ on May 27, 1965:

(LBJ:) “It’s the damn worst mess I ever saw…and I don’t know how we’re ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese and all of them, down there in those rice paddies and jungles…It appears that our position is deteriorating. And it looks like the more that we try to do for them, the less that they are willing to do for themselves…It is just one of those places that you can’t win…it frightens me…It’d be Korea on a much bigger scale and a worse scale…The French report they lost 250,000 men and spent a couple of billion of their money and two billion of ours, down there, and just got the hell whipped out of them…we’re just in quicksand—up to our very necks.”

On March 31, 1968, almost three years later, LBJ cashed in his chips finally admitting that the military quagmire he called: That “Goddam” War had destroyed his presidency.

He concluded his otherwise banal speech to his tired and spent constituents with these two pronouncements:

“With America’s sons in the field far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to nay personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office—the Presidency of your country.”

“Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

So marked the beginning of the end for America to lose the war we couldn’t win. Richard Nixon gave us five more years of killing fields in Southeast Asia before the house of cards collapsed in 1973,

LBJ missed the dramatic last scene, succumbing to a heart attack on January 22 of that year. RIP.

I hope you enjoy this abbreviated and early post, and, God willing, I’ll be back in business next week.


Doolittle’s Raiders

Early in the morning of April 18, 1942, Captain Marc A. Mitscher ordered the USS Hornet, to turn into the wind and prepare to launch aircraft. Sixteen twin-engine Army Air Force B-25 bombers were lined up on the flight deck, engines roaring prepared to race into the sky and fly to Tokyo 650 miles distant. The first bomber had only 500 feet of deck available to achieve take-off speed. Splashing into the Pacific presented a real and frightening possibility.

The battle plan called for the B-25s to be launched no further than 500 miles from their target but Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey in charge of the task force, was spooked by a Japanese picket ship that reported his fleet. Halsey’s priority was to protect his two aircraft carriers. He ordered an early launching so his fleet could retire before the enemy mounted a counter attack.

Sixteen airplanes, 80 men, five aboard each airplane. A pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier and an engineer / gunner. Lieutenant Colonel James (Jimmy) Doolittle commanded the mission and flew that first bomber. His co-pilot was Lieutenant Richard E. Cole who lived long enough to be the last surviving Raider. Lieutenant Colonel Cole (retired) died on April 9, 2019. He was 103.

Doolittle and Cole shared the flying but during the flight, Cole perplexed his pilot. Cole recalled that the crew remained quiet as they approached Japan but, “…The tune, Wabash Cannonball, kept running through my mind. I (started) singing and stomping my foot with such gusto that the boss looked at me in a very questioning manner like he thought I was going batty.”

Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar

As she glides along the wonderland o’er the hills and by the shore

Hear the mighty rush of the engine hear those lonesome hobos call

Traveling south to Dixie on the Wabash Cannonball

Every plane reached Tokyo, successfully delivered its bomb loads and escaped with minimal damage. Sadly, the added 150 miles made it impossible for any plane to make it to a Chinese controlled landing strip. The crews had a Hobson choice to crash land or parachute into a dark and rainy night. One aircraft made it to the Soviet Union where the crew was interned. Three aviators were killed and eight fell captive to the Japanese. Four of these Raiders survived to return home once the war ended.

Cole’s parachute snagged a pine tree. Twelve feet off the ground, he waited until morning. “Being a young kid…it was easy for me to climb down.” Chinese soldiers on patrol found Cole and reunited him with Doolittle at their nearby camp. 

The story of the raid is legendary. Conceived in January of 1942 by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King as a morale booster to gladden the hearts of Americans during the darkest days of World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt approved it with gusto.

As soon as news of the raid was released it became the stuff of legends that was magnified by the book and movie, “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo”, starring Spencer Tracy as Doolittle. FDR helped enhance the mystery. When asked to reveal the secret location where the bombers originated, he replied: “Shangri-La.”

Jimmy Doolittle received the Congressional Medal of Honor in recognition of his heroic exploit. An aviator’s aviator and a great leader, Doolittle held several important commands during the war including the Eighth Air Force. He retired in 1959 as a four-star general. He died at age 96 in 1993.

Dick Cole retired from the USAF in 1967 and moved to Comfort, Texas.

The Raiders sported an active alumnus first meeting in 1946 to celebrate their leader’s 50th birthday in Miami. Cole told the National World War II Museum: “It gave us a chance to renew the camaraderie of the group and it gave us a chance to honor the people that gave their lives on the mission and those who had left the group since.”

The reunions became an annual affair. In 1959, the city of Tucson presented the Raiders with 80 silver goblets, each etched twice with each raider’s name, one right side up, the other upside down. At each reunion, the Raiders raised a toast with a sip of 1896 cognac, the vintage-Doolittle’s birth year. They retired the goblets of those who passed since the previous reunion by turning them upside down.

Cole built a velvet-lined display case to move the collection to the site of each reunion. By 2013, only four survivors remained, Dick Cole, Edward J. Saylor, David J. Thatcher and Robert Hite who could not make the ceremony.

Colnel Cole made the final public toast: “To the gentlemen we lost on that mission and to those who passed away since, thank you very much and may you rest in peace.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined tumbling mirth

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

(From High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr.) 

RIP Dick Cole, Jimmy Doolittle and the other 78 Raiders: collectively our National Heritage.