Tuesday Reads: Some History Along With Today’s News

Navaho Code Talkers

Good Morning!!

I’ve spent this morning reading history, so that’s what I’m going to share with you today.

Yesterday, fake president Trump made a complete ass of himself once again when he hosted some Navaho Code Talkers in the Oval Office. To our eternal shame, Trump positioned them in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence O’Donnell talked about it on his show The Last Word last night.

Please click on that link to watch Peter MacDonald’s speech and Lawrence’s commentary. You can also watch the entire White House ceremony with Trump’s dismissive body language and racist comments if you’re interested.

From MacDonald’s speech I learned that Navaho code was first used in 1942 on Guadalcanal. I’ve written before about how my Dad was a member of the North Dakota 164th Infantry, the first Army unit to go into battle in World War II. They were sent to Guadalcanal to help the Marines who were stranded there without incoming supplies and were down to one meal a day. They landed 75 years ago on October 13, 1942.

On Oct. 13, 1942, the 164th Infantry landed on Guadalcanal to become the first US Army unit to offensively engage the enemy – in either theatre – when it reinforced the 1st Marine Division against the Japanese in World War II.

A little more history:

A regiment of North Dakota Guardsmen, the 164th was sent to New Caledonia in January 1942 and extensively trained with its sister regiments comprising the Americal. Because of the extraordinary emergency faced by the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal, the regiment was deployed to fight with the Marines along the Henderson Field perimeter.

My Dad in uniform

Arriving on Guadalcanal on October 13, 1942, the 164th deployed into the perimeter:

Arriving at Guadalcanal on October 13, 1942 ahead of its brother regiments as emergency reinforcement for the 1st Marine Division, the Regiment was the first U.S. Army unit to engage in offensive action during World War II in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Between October 24 and October 27, elements of the regiment withstood repeated assaults from Japanese battalions and inflicted some two thousand enemy casualties. The First Marine commander, Major General A. A. Vandegrift, was so impressed by the soldiers’ stand that he issued a unit commendation to the regiment for having demonstrated “an overwhelming superiority over the enemy.” In addition, the marines took the unusual step of awarding Lt. Colonel Robert Hall, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 164th, with the Navy Cross for his role in these battles.

Until the Americal division commander, Major General Alexander M. Patch, and other units of the division arrived, the 164th fought alongside the Marines in a series of encounters with Japanese units in the Point Cruz area, where they successfully dislodged enemy troops from two hilltop strong points. The action earned them the nickname “The 164th Marines.” Members of the 164th were also known as “jungle fighters” within the U.S. media because of the terrain on which they fought.

On November 23, 1942, the Navaho Code Talkers arrived on Guadalcanal.

On Guadalcanal the US Marines were still dug in fending off Japanese attacks on their positions around Henderson Field. A remarkable new asset joined them in November 1942, when a detachment of Marines recruited from the Navajo Nation arrived. It was becoming necessary to communicate urgently by wireless on the battlefield – yet the Marines had learnt that the Japanese were often listening in. The introduction of men speaking in Navajo was to transform this situation. Chester Nez was one of the men who joined the battlefield in November 1942:

A runner approached, handing me a message written in English. It was my first battlefield transmission in Navajo code. I’ll never forget it. Roy pressed the transmit button on the radio, and I positioned my microphone to repeat the information in our code. I talked while Roy cranked. Later, we would change positions.

“Beb-na-ali-trosie a-knah-as-donih ab-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi.” Enemy machine-gun nest on your right flank. Destroy.

Suddenly, just after my message was received, the Japanese gun exploded, destroyed by U.S. artillery.

Navaho Code Talkers

One of the characteristics of the Navajo language was its oral tradition. The men were accustomed to remember quite long and detailed instructions rather than writing them down. This was to be an important aspect of the Navajo Code talkers work in addition to the fact that they their communications were impenetrable to the Japanese. Under the stress of combat conditions they were able to remember and pass on detailed instructions quickly without writing them down

My father was a radio operator. Did he help transmit some of those messages? I guess I’ll never know. If only he were still alive I could ask him.

It’s so sad that Trump ruined yesterday’s important ceremony with his idiotic attack on Elizabeth Warren.

CBS News: Families of Navajo Code Talkers decry Trump’s “Pocahontas” jab.

Families of Navajo war veterans who were honored Monday at the White House say they were dumbfounded that President Donald Trump used the event to take a political jab at a Massachusetts senator, demeaning their work with an unbreakable code that helped the U.S. win World War II.

Trump turned to a nickname he often deployed for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2016 presidential campaign: Pocahontas. He then told the three Navajo Code Talkers on stage that he had affection for them that he doesn’t have for Warren.

“It was uncalled for,” said Marty Thompson, whose great uncle was a Navajo Code Talker. “He can say what he wants when he’s out doing his presidential business among his people, but when it comes to honoring veterans or any kind of people, he needs to grow up and quit saying things like that.”

Lupita Holiday, daughter of a code talker from St. Geroge, Utah told CBS News’ Jacqueline Alemany on Monday that it appeared that the president “doesn’t know the history” of the Native peoples.

“Maybe he doesn’t know we’re different tribes and he might have been here a long time ago but I don’t know,” said Holiday. She added, saying the name was “a little offensive” to her, “Look at the history of Pocahontas and maybe find out what she did and then find out what the code talkers did. It’s two different things. Two different tribes.”

Pocahontas is a well-known historical figure who bridged her own Pamunkey Tribe in present-day Virginia with the British in the 1600s. But the National Congress of American Indians says Trump wrongly has flipped the name into a derogatory term, and the comment drew swift criticism from American Indians and politicians.

I hate Trump. In fact, hate isn’t strong enough a word. There isn’t a word in the English language that could express how much I despise him.

To continue the historical theme, today is the 75th anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove fire, November 28. 1942. The Boston Globe published a long story about it today: The deadliest disaster in Boston’s history happened 75 years ago. Some worry the city is forgetting.

It all happened in less than 15 minutes.

Just a few blocks from the Boston Common, the city witnessed the worst-ever tragedy in its long history when a rapid inferno engulfed Cocoanut Grove, a popular nightclub packed with people out on the holiday weekend, exactly 75 years ago Tuesday.

Now, even those with close ties to the 1942 disaster — the second deadliest building fire in American history — say it’s tough to locate the nightclub’s former location where rows of indistinct Bay Village apartment buildings now stand.

“The sands of time are basically covering over an event that is of huge importance historically locally, but also nationally,” said Dr. Ken Marshall, a local surgeon and chairman of the Cocoanut Grove Memorial Committee….

“This changed fire laws and safety rules and building code regulations, and monumental things in medicine,” he told Boston.com, adding that “95 percent of people” don’t even know where it happened.

Four hundred and ninety-two people died within 15 minutes; 400 more were sent to hospitals. The club was packed with about 1,000 people. The legal capacity was supposed to be 450. People couldn’t escape because outside doors were locked to prevent customers from leaving with out paying their bills. The only exits were revolving doors.

The revolving doors leading to Shawmut Street became a “death trap,” according to the Globe.

The portico was a furnace, and firefighters were unable to get under the three arches of stucco, unable to penetrate nine feet to the revolving door, jammed with bodies, where they could see, through the glass, flames, smoke and men and women, succumbing and falling in a stack. Officer Elmer Brooks recalled that when rescuers tried to pull bodies from the door, arms and legs came off in their hands.

Main dining room after the fire

After this horrible disaster, many fire safety laws were passed in Massachusetts and around the country. You know those pesky regulations that Republicans hate so much? I hope you’ll read the article. It’s really interesting.

I’ll end with three political news stories.

Splinter News: Here Are Some Facts and Questions About That Nazi the New York Times Failed to Note.

The New York Times published a profile over the weekend of an Ohio man named Tony Hovater, a co-founder of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party. The piece, by reporter Richard Fausset, was meant to say something profound about the banality of evil—This man shops for groceries! He has a Twin Peaks tattoo! He has both a wife and cats!—but it came across instead as an exercise in making evil sound banal.

In one of two follow-up pieces the Times ran to try to explain the story, the paper’s national editor, Marc Lacey, wrote, “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.”

Yet Fausset spent so much time staring at Hovater eating a turkey sandwich, he didn’t get around to shining much light on the particular corner his subject occupies. The Times managed to miss or gloss over a whole batch of facts and questions that might have lent both context and color to what purported to be a definitive profile of a white nationalist “foot soldier.”

Click on the link to learn the many facts the NYT failed to report.

Michelle Goldberg at the NYT: Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump. Goldberg has been reading that book by  Luke Harding’s I’ve been telling you about.

Three months ago, The Washington Post reported that even as Donald Trump ran for president, he pursued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The next day, The New York Times published excerpts from emails between Felix Sater, a felon with ties to Russian organized crime, and Michael Cohen, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers and Sater’s childhood friend, about the project. Sater was apparently an intermediary between Trump and Russia, and in a Nov. 3, 2015, email to Cohen, he made the strange argument that a successful deal would lead to Trump’s becoming president. Boasting that he was close enough to Vladimir Putin to let Ivanka Trump sit in the Russian president’s desk chair, Sater wrote, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

These stories were, at the time, bombshells. At a minimum, they showed that Trump was lying when he said, repeatedly, that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Further, Sater’s logic — that Putin’s buy-in on a real estate deal would result in Trump’s election — was bizarre, suggesting that some part of the proposed collaboration was left unsaid.

But three months feels like three decades in Trump years, and I mostly forgot about these reports until I read Luke Harding’s new book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one.

That’s why “Collusion” is so essential, and why I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it. This country — at least the parts not wholly under the sway of right-wing propaganda — needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power.

Please go read the whole piece.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair’s The Hive: Has Mike Flynn Already Flipped on Trump?

The conspicuous lack of charges against Michael Flynn and Michael G. Flynn, despite reports that Robert Muelleralready has enough evidence to arrest the former national security adviser and his son, invites the obvious question: has the elder Flynn already turned state’s witness? The tantalizing possibility that Flynn, like George Papadopoulos, has flipped, gained new currency last week when The New York Times reported that Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, had ended an agreement to share relevant information about the ongoing Justice Department investigation with Donald Trump’s legal team—a move that could presage a new arrangement with Mueller. Jay Sekulow,an attorney for Trump, dismissed that interpretation at the time, telling the Washington Post, “No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president.” But a new report that Kelner met with members of the special counsel’s team suggests that Flynn has, in fact, cut some kind of deal.

According to ABC News, Kelner visited Mueller’s offices in Washington, D.C., on Monday—a development that could indicate the two sides are discussing a plea deal. (Keller declined to comment on the meaning of the meeting.) That could have far-reaching implications for the president and members of his campaign. Of the many Trumpworld characters ensnared in Mueller’s probe, Flynn is perhaps one of the most pivotal; not only does he lay claim to some of the most questionable Russian contacts, but he could also prove to be immeasurably valuable in revealing whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to derail Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

I can’t wait until we get the full story!

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?

34 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Some History Along With Today’s News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have great Tuesday, Sky Dancers! We will get through this somehow. As Peter MacDonald said, we Americans are diverse and when we join together in a common cause we are “invincible.”

  2. bostonboomer says:


  3. NW Luna says:

    Thanks for posting more on the Navajo Code Talkers. I’ve always liked hearing about them. They were and are brave. That they worked on behalf of a country which stole their land and imprisoned their people symbolizes a good-hearted and unselfish hope and desire that this America could be a country for all peoples.

  4. Sweet Sue says:

    Great post, BB! It will take me some time to pore over.
    Your father was a handsome man.
    Someone on TV said that Trump always looks uncomfortable at solemn occasions.
    Obviously, he hates any event that doesn’t revolve around him exclusively.
    He is a human being (although he evinces no humanity) and I wonder if, deep down, he doesn’t know that he is unworthy of the more sacred duties of the Office.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He was only 17. He lied about his age to get into the National Guard so he could earn some money. Then he was called up immediately after Pearl Harbor.

      • dakinikat says:

        My dad had to eat lots of bananas and drink lots of water to pass the weight reqs for the Army Air Corps. Those things would be caught these days, I suppose.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Abusive bullying stems from deep insecurity doesn’t it? I’m sure BB can answer that. I don’t think it’s conscious with him – he really buys into his own delusions about himself.

  5. Enheduanna says:

    I know ya’ll have seen the Christmas HellHall by now, but ICYMI:

  6. NW Luna says:

    Now other racist low-lives are getting habituated by Trump’s stooges getting off (so far) with petty excuses and lies, so these mini-Trumps try the same tactics.

    Jeff Sessions’s ‘failure to recall’ gives defense lawyers new argument in police shooting case

    “Like Sessions, Slager never lied or misled anyone,” the defense attorneys’ filing reads. “Like Sessions, he answered the questions that were asked. When he had his memory refreshed, he added the refreshed recollection to his testimony. When he failed to remember certain items, it can be attributed to the stress or chaos of the event during which the memory should have been formed.”

    Slager, 36, gunned down Scott, 50, in North Charleston after Scott fled a traffic stop for a broken brake light. Scott, who was unarmed, was running away when Slager fired on him. He died on the scene, struck by five of Slager’s eight shots. Cellphone video captured the shooting, which became a rallying cry for police accountability advocates around the country.

  7. jan says:

    Navajo codetalkers may have saved our butts in WWII. Also as a history buff and military brat, I have read history talking about a group of Japanese-American soldiers who saved some Texans who were besieged in Europe. Japanese Americans were not allowed to serve in the Pacific. There were women who fought in the French Resistance and in the Siege of Stalingrad(I think it was) Russian civilians would rather eat rats and leather than surrender to the Nazis. Lots of heroes in WWII.

  8. NW Luna says:

    Why. Is. This. Happening? Hmmm, Qui bono?

  9. NW Luna says:

    Yeah, I know, it’s got Slanders on the program, but my Sen Cantwell is a gem. 6 pm PST is, uh, 9 pm EST.

  10. NW Luna says:

    Is there anyone connected to Trump who’s not chummy with Russians?

    • quixote says:

      I’ve been thinking they must all be chummy with the Russians for a while now. If you’re running a criminal enterprise, you can’t afford to let in outsiders who might blow it wide open.

  11. RonStill4Hills says:

    Thanks for highlighting the Vets. All of them, your dad included. They are infinitely more important than any idiotic thing that comes out of he mouth of the Jack-Ass-O-Lantern.