Dragonglass is very similar to the stone found by Obsidius in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire features “wights” (undead zombies) created and controlled by “the Others” (intelligent undead), which are vulnerable to “dragonglass” (obsidian). HBO’s Game of Thrones makes both its wights and “white walkers” (its preferred term for the Others) vulnerable to the volcanic glass and has the smith frantically forging weapons out of dragonglass before the undead hordes arrive — which is not how obsidian weapons were made in the real world:

Obsidian gets its name from this mention in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (AD 77):

…among the various forms of glass we may reckon Obsidian glass, a substance very similar to the stone found by Obsidius in Ethiopia.

The country’s too rough for ‘em

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult, as Dunlap discovered in the rough terrain of the Philippines:

Jap stragglers were all through the area covered, and he had to try and protect the driver and tractor from them, which was a tough assignment since the noise of the motor would drown out the sound of Jap rifle fired at even close range. The Japs might easily get more than one shot at the men before they would even know they were in danger. I know, because one took a shot at me when I was going up and I still do not know in what direction he was, although I heard both the bullet and, faintly, the report of the rifle.


Only those few men pulling and pushing levers on the jolting, sliding tractors kept the ammunition and food moving up. They sure did not keep any union hours, either. I often wondered what the people at home would feel if they knew just how thin the string was that held us together.


Quite a few tents were up, since they could be dropped from planes without damage.


While we were carrying our belongings into the tent, three or four soldiers came down the trail and passed us, heading back, all leading huge dogs. I asked a trooper standing by what the idea was and he said “Oh, those are the war dogs — they’re takin’ ‘em back because the country’s too rough for ‘em.” Nice place we had come to.


A hospital had been set up, with three or four tents and cots for maybe 50 men, and a kitchen was running, serving hot food to everyone around. This kitchen was important. When a man had been up in the line too many days on cold rations and got sick or just played out, he would be sent back here to “guard rations” one, two or three days. Actually, it was a chance to relax and sleep in a straight line and get a few hot meals. The men would get some of their strength back then we would see them going back up one morning with the ration pack train.

The rations went from here on the backs of Filipino carriers because only men could navigate the trails from here on. They worked in pairs either carrying their load on a pole sling or one walking empty-handed until his partner got tired. Some were young boys, some almost old men. Every age and class of person was represented. They were hired, or perhaps rounded up is a better expression, by the guerrillas, who usually acted as guards along the trails. It was terrible labor to handle some of the items, such as C-ration cases or cases of pistol ammunition, and often some of the men would want to quit. The guerrillas did not let them. Remember, some of the paths went almost straight up and down and it was necessary to use ropes and vines to assist ascent and descent and always the footing was slippery clay or mud. The trip up and back required about nine or ten hours, allowing for a short rest at the front end.

A lot of rations were flown in to us a week or so later when transport planes reached the island. Delivery was fast — a crew member just kicked the boxes out the open door of the airplane as it flew over, 200 or 300 feet up. Cargo parachutes were tried a few times on medical equipment, but did not do so well. Chutes tore, or did not open, so they just went back to throwing stuff out and hoping it would hit a bush or small tree to break the fall. Attempts were made to drop rations right at the line, but the Japs got half of them and the men up there could not hunt through the brush for the boxes. Also, a couple of guys got hurt by boxes landing on them, so it was decided to keep up the packtrains, which had to handle the ammunition anyway.


The ambulance is for my money the best army wheeled vehicle for going places. I have seen them go through mud and rough country that jeeps, weapons-carriers and six-by-sixes could not pass.


The unusual point or feature about this camp was that there was absolutely no guard system. Each man was his own perimeter, so to speak, and kept his rifle or carbine within reach at all times. You ate with your gun across your lap. The only time we kept an all-night guard was once when a Filipino reported he had seen several Japs dressed as Filipinos prowling around about a half mile away. That night the Filipinos were warned not to move at all after dark and we decided to shoot completely on suspicion.


The banks and bed of this one were composed entirely of smooth boulders and the water was clear, clean and cold, perfect for bathing. Soldiers in the Pacific were always looking for decent places for a bath. A lot of water was bad — carrying infections and diseases. The sole objection to this stream was that a would-be Jap sniper liked to haunt it. He would take a shot at somebody every afternoon. He did not hit anybody while I was there, but it was annoying. We kept on using the same spots, for after all, it was a swell place for a bath.


The troop armorers as a rule were not much good at anything except cleaning guns and replacing broken parts which were obviously out of kilter, but a few of them became expert by their own interest and study of weapons.


Most of the men from the foxholes stopped in at our tent on their way to or from the line. They really appreciated our being up there and we appreciated their appreciating us, if you get what I mean. We did no sloppy jobs, for our hearts were really in our work. When a man asked for a carbine or an M1, we would go over all we had and give him our best, with whatever we had in the way of patches, oil, extra magazines or other helps.


The M1’s were going to ruin for lack of cleaning in the holes up front — the poor guys did not have anything to take care of them with, and often were not in a position to shoot them often enough to keep the barrels clear of corrosion (grass won’t grow on a busy street — regardless of the corroding primer compound, if a .30-06 barrel gets a bullet through it every six or eight hours it will stay in pretty good shape).


We happened to have an almost new rifle to give him, so after he changed the rear sights he felt all right. He had filed the top of his original aperture out into a large open V and wanted to keep it. Said he had killed eight Japanese all within 50 feet, in bad light, and did not need or want an aperture rear sight. He would not use anything except the rifle, as he considered the extra penetration he could get compensated for the weight. Most men wanted carbines as they could be carried so much easier than the M1, but the boys who really wanted to kill Nips liked the rifles. “Kill ‘em through trees,” was their story.


The Thompsons were only popular in the jungle, where a fast spray-effect was desired. Much of the Philippine fighting was in comparatively open country or rough mountain terrain where the submachine gun was heavy to carry and not too effective.

High-glucose corn syrup

Monday, April 29th, 2019

If you see corn syrup on the shelf at the grocery store, you might be amused to see the label proudly declaring “0g High Fructose Corn Syrup”:

Corn syrup, also known as glucose syrup to confectioners, is used in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor. Corn syrup is distinct from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is manufactured from corn syrup by converting a large proportion of its glucose into fructose using the enzyme D-xylose isomerase, thus producing a sweeter compound due to higher levels of fructose.

Fructose is sweeter than sucrose, which is sweeter than glucose.

Relative Sweetness of Sugars

In the tropics this was beyond price

Monday, April 29th, 2019

One of the officers Dunlap served with in the Philippines was a good trader and had done some “advantageous business” with navy and CB forces in the Admiralties:

A jeep had turned into a huge generator, much larger than our regular authorized one, and another jeep into — prize beyond words — an ice machine. It only made slush ice (a snow-like product), but we had cold stuff. It required water constantly running through it to cool the machinery, so it was never used at all while we were in Leyte. Long before, the boys had picked up a refrigerating unit and built a water cooler, running cooling pipes through a tank set on a small trailer. Two G.I. cans set on top were filled and the power turned on. When the tank cooled off, ice-cold drinking water was available at both a faucet and a homemade fountain spout. In the tropics this was beyond price. The trailer was easy to set up and could be in operation within a few hours after stopping. A large oven had been accumulated along the line somewhere and as the company had a good baker we had more than the usual run of bread, pie and cake. I appreciated these things, having been on C, K and 10-in-1 rations for the past five or six weeks, most of the time.

He bought a couple of boxes of shells and made his own gun

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Dunlap describes the local Filipino weapons:

The Visayans, or Leytans, did not have many weapons aside from their sundangs and bolos (to them a bolo meant generally any long knife, but specifically, the name was applied to a pointless chopping tool, halfway between a cleaver and a knife).

So they made a good many crude shotguns for use on Nips, proving again that a scattergun has a place in warfare, even if it is not legal. Some of the guns were not so crude, either. Many were well-proportioned, with good stocks of mahogany or what they called “Komagoon” wood, a type of ebony running from dark brown to jet black in color. Other lighter woods were also used. Because of the stocks and the pipe barrels, most guns were heavy, weights ranging from nine to eleven pounds. All were singleshots; some had hammers, some had concealed spring-loaded firing pins, looking like our hammerless shotguns. The operation of the Leyte type might be called a reverse bolt-action; the breech remained constant and the barrel was rotated and slid forward to open. The receiver was a tubular piece of steel or iron, or even brass, with a large cut in the top at the rear at the breech plug for loading and a narrow slot running forward from the left side of the opening at its front, paralleling the barrel. The slot would extend perhaps 4″ then make a right angle quarter-turn and then turn again and parallel the barrel until the slot reached the end of the receiver. The barrel would be a chambered or unchambered piece of iron or steel pipe with a little lug on it close to the rear, sometimes just the stud of a screw into the chamber section. The lug could slide through the slots, making the various turns and eventually be locked fairly tight on its final move to the right, inside the front edge of the receiver or loading opening.

To operate these Leyte shotguns it was merely necessary to rotate the barrel until the locking lug lined up with the forward slot and slide it forward until the lug contacted the first right angle turn. This distance was figured so the empty shell could be ejected without being blocked by the barrel. The extractor was a fixed flat spring type firmly attached to the breech and the ejector usually a flat spring fastened to the bottom of the breech tube or receiver, lying in a groove when the barrel was to the rear. The loaded shell was inserted in the barrel and the barrel pulled back in firing position and locked, the extractor hook passing over the rim of the shell to hold it and the ejector under the barrel. After firing the barrel would be pulled forward, the extractor would hold the shell so that the barrel would be pulled free of it and when the rear end of the barrel cleared the end of the ejector, the ejector could fly up and knock the shell away and out of the gun.


Contrary to general belief, these home-made “guerrilla guns” were not a wartime resistance-inspired weapon, but were the standard Filipino arm, many made years ago. They were just the Leyte Filipino’s shotgun. Factory-made guns were too expensive for him, even if they were available, so he bought a couple of boxes of shells and made his own gun. Ammunition was sold in the larger towns in peacetime.


A good bolo was always handy. I never saw a barong, but heard about them. A Filipino blacksmith told me he saw one once which had a blade 4″ wide and 30″ long, double edged and straight. I myself saw a farmer cutting sugar cane with a Luzon blade which he called a “badang,” the blade being pointed, narrow and as long as any Jap sword. In the South, the Moros had their wavy-bladed kris (pronounced “krees”) which was strictly a fighting instrument.

They loved fire-power

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

Dunlap talks a bit about the Filipinos:

The Filipinos of course must be described — they were definitely on our side, even though the inevitable few sold out to the Japs. The guerrilla movement was well organized on Leyte and Samar at the time of our landing and most of the guerrillas we worked with in Leyte were fighters. On Samar they practically liberated the island by themselves, though the 8th Cavalry was the strong force over there.

Some of them were very hard little characters indeed. The U. S. had equipped the recognized organizations with small arms before we landed, by submarine, and evidently brought in some clothing, as their standard uniform was a U. S. fatigue cap, a pair of shorts, weapons and, in some cases, fatigue jackets. They loved fire-power. I have seen a Visayan who would not weigh 120 pounds wringing wet (and he was) plodding through calf-deep mud carrying a BAR, a loaded 10-magazine belt, a half-dozen bandoleers of .30-06 rifle ammunition for reloading, and a Jap knapsack full of grenades and loose cartridges, grinning happily as he headed for the line to unload.

Some were useful soldiers and some were not. The good ones were very good, however, having been members of the Philippine prewar forces, or trained by some member for years, most of whom were veterans of the Jap invasion and knew what the war meant. Such men and units could fight either as guerrillas or combat troops — there is a great difference — while the other native forces were mainly effective only as irregulars and not particularly useful in a prolonged battle.

A lot of American soldiers in the Philippines saw only the second-rate Filipino forces, who were sort of home guard units, spending their time guarding bridges and street corners and lying about the Japs they had killed, and whose organizations were more officer-heavy than anything else. Had more officers than men.

Well, the boys who met us on those first days of invasion and moved along with the advance, either on Leyte or Luzon, were of a different stripe. They did not do much bragging about Jap-killing, but most of them had Japanese army equipment on hand.


The Filipinos who hated the Japs most and who worked and fought against them were as a rule the poor farmers out on the edge of the mountains and jungles who suffered less from the Japanese than the townspeople who were impoverished by the occupation. The ragged farmer who owned a couple of acres of rice land and a water-buffalo if he was well off, and only a bolo and a nipa shack if he was not, was the guy who defied the Imperial Nipponese Army.


Do not make any mistake — both the Japanese and the Nazis had some very good ideas in their plans for Asia and Europe, ideas with plenty of merit if honestly administered and carried out as on paper. Naturally, they were bait for winning over conquered populations. A lot of trouble is due the world from those plans, too. Witness Indonesia now. The Japs did not give the Dutch colonies anything themselves and treated the people worse than the Dutch ever had, but they promised plenty and the people are now wondering why they cannot promote the better way of life on their own hook.


When I was in Leyte at the Sugud Road Junction I lived in a fair-sized house, very well built, but slightly ventilated by machine gun fire and shrapnel. It was a frame building with a metal roof, about one story off the ground and of about five or six rooms. The wood used was almost entirely red mahogany. The owner was a civil engineer and his wife had been a school teacher, hence both spoke very good English. From these people we did get a good picture of the Japanese in Leyte. The man had been one of the higher-ranking intelligence workers for the guerrilla movement, and was very level-headed. His wife and child had once been held hostage by the Japs until he came in and gave himself up — then escaped to the mountains after they were safe. Despite this, he told me once that all Japanese should not be considered bad, but as a race they were always unsure of themselves and that in his opinion most of their direct cruelty stemmed from that fact. They never knew how to do anything diplomatically and were always worrying about how their actions were being received, as a prelude to running amuck to justify themselves in their own minds that the populace was against them and needed to be made afraid.


The people blandly ignored the law and as a rule sold nothing to conform to the price ceilings.


These country people were good enough in their way and very honest. I do not know of anything being stolen from any soldier while we were in Leyte. Small boys were of course all over the camps and one I remember in particular; a very small soul about two or three years old and about two feet high. I had been test firing and was cleaning some guns on the rack beside our test range when one of the section men called “Who’s your friend?” I looked around and down to this very serious-faced boy. He was dressed in the usual short shirt and an overseas cap someone had given him. He watched every move I made for half an hour, and would not say a word or laugh, just kept a deadpan expression with his hands clasped behind his back. Finally a welder offered more interest than I and he wandered over to see the sparks fly. He came around every day for a week or so and finally a few of the men temporarily adopted him and named him “Charley.” He learned a little English and had the run of the camp. We got his history from older people — both his father and mother had been killed by Japs as they retreated along the road past his home. The boy’s true name was Sergio, and he roamed the neighborhood, every woman knowing him and taking care of him for the day or two he would stay with her. No one attempted to keep him, but accepted him as a member of the community, free to come and go as he pleased. I asked a reasonably well-to-do farmer what would become of him and got a surprised look. He said the kid would just grow up, welcome in all the homes, and when he was through school he could take his father’s place and start farming it. The women would see that he was fed and had clothing enough. I guess Leyte does not know about orphan asylums, and I think that kid will be all right without one.


In the jungle a determined Filipino could be a very unpleasant foe, as the Japs found out (so did we, a long time ago!). This time they were for us, not against us.

24 men and a useless lieutenant

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Dunlap had 24 men and a useless lieutenant:

He was not a bad guy; he just did not know anything. In unguarded moments he would even admit it. Had been a lawyer, so when his draft board started looking at him longingly he asked for a commission in the JAG (Judge Advocate General Dep’t.—Army for legal branch) and got it, with a desk which he polished until some unkind son shanghaied him to the South Pacific and eventually he ended in the MP’s because he knew nothing about soldiering whatever. He was a gentle soul and positively no help to me.

I had a corporal, one of the regular MPs, who was OK. Except in air raids. A red alert would drive him into a hole and keep him there, scared as he could be. I never knew a man so allergic to Jap airplanes. Since he was completely unashamed of his fear, no one said or thought anything of it. Had he pretended otherwise, he would have lost all respect from the men.

They ended up directing traffic, which was a surprisingly demanding job:

A man from the Corps HQ came around and gave us a lot of information on territory outside our beat and we had to figure out every outfit we knew of and how far it was to them from us and their nearest town, etc. In a few days we had every outfit listed by branch of service, distance from all towns on maps, and complete traffic information on northern Leyte. When a driver would stop in the road and ask where the 7th Division was, the man on duty would call to one of us to check and we would tell him where both of them were—the 7th Japanese Division and the 7th American Division. Things were fine till a G2 man came around and said we should not have so much information—a Nip might get to see it. So we had to give up our maps and our detailed lists and go on our memories thereafter. Technically, I suppose he was right (personally, my idea was that he was jealous, account of our having more dope than he had).


As far as I was concerned, a reckless driver was practically a traitor.


Some QM trucking companies began to bring loads up from Tacloban. I think all of them were colored units, and practically all the drivers were bad, a menace to the road and everything on it. We began to have a lot of wrecks as the result of speeding, sideswiping, meetings at one-way bridges, etc.

The most important long-term impact is actually on the health of the mother

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Emily Oster, economist and author of Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, From Birth to Preschool, explores the data all guilt-ridden parents need:

Some of the best evidence on breast-feeding comes from the Promotion of Breast-Feeding Intervention, or Probit, study, a large randomized trial from the 1990s run in Belarus, in which some of the mothers received breast-feeding guidance and support and some didn’t. Based on this data, the most well-supported benefits of breast-feeding are lower risks of gastrointestinal infections (with symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting) and of rashes and eczema early in life. To put some numbers to it, the study found that of the babies of a group of mothers encouraged to breast-feed, 9 percent had at least one episode of diarrhea, compared with 13 percent of the children of mothers who weren’t encouraged to breast-feed. The rate for rashes and eczema was 3 percent versus 6 percent.

Yet the study found no effect on respiratory infections, including ear infections, croup and wheezing. So why do we continue to see the “evidence-based” claim that breast-feeding reduces colds and ear infections? The main reason is there are many observational studies that do show that breast-feeding affects these illnesses.


One study of Scandinavian 5-year-olds found that children who nursed longer had cognitive scores that were nearly 8 points higher on average. But their mothers were also richer, had more education and had higher I.Q. scores. Once the authors adjusted for even a few of these variables, the effects were much smaller.

In fact, the most compelling studies on this compare siblings, one of whom was breast-fed and the other not; these find no significant differences in I.Q. This same type of sibling study has also looked at obesity and, again, found little to no impact.


However, there is real evidence base for a link between breast-feeding and cancers, in particular breast cancer. Across a wide variety of studies, there seems to be a sizable effect — perhaps a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer for women who breast-feed for longer than 12 months. In addition, the case for causality is bolstered by a concrete set of mechanisms. Researchers suggest that breast-feeding changes some aspects of the cells of the breast, which make them less susceptible to carcinogens.

After all that focus on the benefits of breast-feeding for kids, it may be that the most important long-term impact is actually on the health of the mother.

Combat MPs ran into the screwiest situations at times

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Dunlap witnessed some unsanitary practices in the Philippines:

I remember listening to one skirmish for about half an hour one night about 10 o’clock — a Jap woodpecker (light tripod 6.5mm machine gun) would fire a short burst, then an American .50 would answer. This kept up for quite awhile. I never did find out what was going on. Did not try to. A Filipino farmer proudly brought in a Jap one morning, except that he did not bring all the Nip. Just the head. We had to get him to take it out and bury it somewhere without being too rough on his feelings. He was so happy. Combat MPs ran into the screwiest situations at times.


While here a second typhoon hit and bothered us a little. It was not as violent as the first. That same night we had to go get a Jap, as the 12th Cavalry broke their unsullied record and reported a live Nip. A couple of the boys went back — yes, back — to get him and the three of them returned in time to spend the night holding the orderly room tent down. In the morning we tried to find some clothes for the Jap and a small lieutenant donated a suit of khakis. The Jap had really been captured by some Filipinos and turned in to the cavalry, stripped of everything but a breechcloth. This was our first true Jap as such and we looked him over well. He was valuable — had been a top non-com and in charge of all their vehicles at Tacloban. He was a smart city boy and totally unafraid of us, seeming to know he would not be hurt. Most of the better-class Japanese knew some English but this one had only a few words. We kept him all day and after he was questioned, kept him busy ditching our tents, for by now we lived in them.


The town of Barugo is rememberable only as the place where the Filipinos did very complete bolo jobs on three Japs they caught. Took them on the beach and blinded them, then amputated everything possible, the heads last. The kids were kicking the heads around in the streets, an unsanitary practice, as they were barefooted.


There was also a very good blacksmith at Barugo. He later made a lot of souvenir bolos for soldiers which were works of art.

Occlusive dressings can be made from just about any plastic packaging or bag, and tape

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Tourniquets have returned to favor after saving lives in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The mass use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) by enemy fighters, and the use of body armor by US troops, meant a wounding pattern which primarily affected the extremities. This is where treatment with a tourniquet is the ideal solution, and why the numbers backing the use of tourniquets are so high.

The wounding patterns in active shooter incidents (ASI) don’t lend themselves to tourniquets:

The Profile of Wounding in Civilian Public Mass Shooting Fatalities is a study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery on February 16, 2016.

The study examines 371 wounds from a total number of 139 fatal casualties of 12 separate ASI’s.

Each victim had an average of 2.7 gunshot wounds (GSW) and,

“Overall, 58% of victims had gunshots to the head and chest, and only 20% had extremity wounds. The probable site of fatal wounding was the head or chest in 77% of cases. Only 7% of victims had potentially survivable wounds. The most common site of potentially survivable injury was the chest (89%). No head injury was potentially survivable. There were no deaths due to exsanguination (severe loss of blood) from an extremity (arms and legs).”

The most common preventable way to die from penetrating trauma to the chest is by Tension Pneumothorax:

Tension Pneumothorax develops after a bullet (for our purposes) punctures a lung, allowing air to enter from the wound into the chest cavity, but unable to escape. Over time, air builds up pressure to the point where it begins to restrict blood flow of the heart and other nearby vital arteries.

This can cause what is known as Obstructive Shock. The heart and arteries are unable to function properly due to being compressed or obstructed, in a similar fashion to how a tourniquet works. Additionally, pressure is placed on the injured lung making it unable to stay inflated or function.


The solution is more chest seals.

A chest seal is what is called an “occlusive dressing.” ‘To occlude’ means ‘to stop, close up or obstruct an opening.’ It refers to any non-porous material (plastic) affixed in place to prevent more air from entering the chest cavity.

While there are of course many professionally manufactured chest seals designed to function as required, occlusive dressings can be made from just about any plastic packaging or bag, and tape.


After discovering a penetrating wound on the trunk of a patient, “From belly button to collar bone,” the giver of first aid immediately clamps a hand over the wound site to prevent additional air from entering into the chest cavity.

Using their teeth and other hand, or instructing a bystander to do it, the first responder removes the chest seal packaging. The first responder then tells the patient to take a deep breath and exhale. At the end of the exhalation, any blood present on the skin is wiped away and then the sticky side of the chest seal is applied over the wound, ensuring adhesion.

Once the exit wound (if any) is found, the steps are repeated. (Always search for an exit wound. It won’t do your patient any good to have only one hole patched.)

The patient is then placed in the sitting position, or on their affected side (recovery position).


Many trauma, or “blow out” bags, include a needle decompression kit for treating patients with Tension Pneumothorax. This is only necessary after the condition has worsened to the point where it has become life-threatening. The timely and correct application of a chest seal could prevent the need for needle decompression.

Only the P-38s were allowed in the Philippines

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Dunlap was north of Tacloban when the first typhoon hit:

I had managed to build myself a sort of pup tent, and it stayed up for the first half of the big wind, while regular tents were blowing down. No one had bothered to remember that the blamed wind blew one direction for a few hours, then calmed down awhile and finished by blowing the opposite way. My open-ended shelter lasted about two minutes of the second half. Everything was down in the in the morning and between the rain, mud, and wind the war was stalled for everything except the foot soldiers out ahead.


At about the time of the typhoon, a couple of days either way, the first American army planes appeared — Lockheed P-38 “Lightnings.” We were childishly pleased to see them and expected great things. I think there were eight planes at first, but am not sure; more came in almost daily as the engineers ironed out the airstrips. By this time we held two fields, the one at Tacloban and the one at Dulag. I saw a few dog-fights, but never saw a P-38 knocked down. They always flew in pairs, in the system originated by Chennault, one plane always protecting the other which did the actual fighting, or at least made the initial pass or attack. It was our firm belief that only the P-38s were allowed in the Philippines because they were the only American plane that the anti-aircraft gunners could positively recognize as not being Japanese and therefore not shoot them down accidentally on purpose. I don’t know how much truth there was to the rumor, but we never saw a single-engined fighter such as the P-51 or P-47 until the Jap air force was almost driven out of the southern Philippines, and either of the ships was better at dog-fighting than the Lockheed.

From now on we would need to find time to cultivate a hobby

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Tanner Greer has spent a great deal of time with Chinese teenagers:

When I lived in Beijing, I paid no rent: instead I lived in the homes of various Chinese families who allowed me to live with them free of charge on the condition that I help their children with English. In addition to writing, I earned a small sum through private tutoring and teaching high school seminars. My specialty were the high fliers aiming for the Ivy League. [...] The “highest fliers” were usually the children of Beijing’s rich and prominent. By living in their homes, teaching in their schools, and meeting with them often to customize the education of their children, I was exposed to the inner life of Beijing’s high society. It fundamentally reframed how I understand China.


Consider, for a moment, the typical schedule of a Beijing teenager:

She will (depending on the length of her morning commute) wake up somewhere between 5:30 and 7:00 AM. She must be in her seat by 7:45, 15 minutes before classes start. With bathroom breaks and gym class excepted, she will not leave that room until the 12:00 lunch hour and will return to the same spot after lunch is ended for another four hours of instruction. Depending on whether she has after-school tests that day, she will be released from her classroom sometime between 4:10 and 4:40. She then has one hour to get a start on her homework, eat, and travel to the evening cram school her parents have enrolled her in. Math, English, Classical Chinese — there are cram schools for every topic on the gaokao. On most days of the week she will be there studying from 6:00 to 9:00 PM (if the family has the money, she will spend another six hours at these after-school schools on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Our teenager will probably arrive home somewhere around 10:00 PM, giving her just enough time to spend two or three hours on that day’s homework before she goes to bed. Rinse and repeat, day in and day out, for six years. The strain does not abate until she has defeated — or has been defeated by — the gaokao.

This is well known, but I think the wrong aspects of this experience are emphasized. Most outsiders look at this and think: see how much pressure these Chinese kids are under. I look and think: how little privacy and independence these Chinese kids are given!


No middle-class Chinese teenager has a job. None have cars. The few that have boyfriends or girlfriends go about it as discreetly as possible. Apart from the odd music lesson here or there, what Americans call “extra-curricular activities” are unknown. One a recent graduate of a prestigious international high school in Beijing once explained to me the confusion she felt when she was told she would need to excel at an after-school activity to be competitive in American university admissions:

“In tenth grade our home room teacher told us that American universities cared a lot about the things we do outside of school, so from now on we would need to find time to ‘cultivate a hobby.’ I remember right after he left the girl sitting at my right turned to me and whispered, ‘I don’t know how to cultivate a hobby. Do you?’”

Those “forced labor battalions” showed a hell of a lot of fight

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Japanese pilots were specimens, Dunlap noted — at first:

One of the wounded prisoners in the hospital was a Jap Naval pilot, a warrant officer in rating. He was a pocket Hercules and looked like an ad for a physical culture magazine. Only 21, he had been flying fighter planes for a year and a half, and had started his training at 16. He told us that the Japanese army air force was only spending four months in pilot training, and that the men were no good (the Jap army and navy did not get along very well together). This bird had been around too long and was too smart to act like most of the Japs. Being captured did not bother him at all and he was actually anxious for us to win the war so he could go home. He did not believe much of the propaganda, either Japanese or American, so he did not give us any trouble. The suicide type was either the ignorant soldier or the newer recruits. The smart Nips did not go for it, though they were often forced to go along with their orders.

Prisoners needed protection:

When a prisoner did show up outside the hospital, we had to protect them as well as watch them. All Filipinos and half the G.I.’s were anxious to knock them off. I remember one morning a tall slant who kept grinning idiotically and tapping himself on the chest as he repeated “Taiwan, Taiwan,” meaning he was a Formosan. He even pretended not to understand Japanese. Probably was a Jap peasant who fancied himself a bright boy and did not want to die for the Emperor. Two or three native boys, Filipinos about 14 or 15 years old, were standing watching and carrying on a very polite conversation with me. Finally one asked “Please, sir, you give him to us? We kill.” As if he were asking for a match. I explained that I had signed a receipt for this particular specimen, but that I would be pleased to try and save an odd one for them if he turned up off records.

Both Formosans and Koreans were as bad as the Japanese in ill-treatment of native populations and prisoners of war. Some Filipinos went so far as to say that the Japs were easier to get along with, and the Koreans the worst of all. Which is why a lot of ex-soldiers and ex-prisoners of war will refuse to get worked up about the delay of independence for the noble and oppressed Koreans. Those “forced labor battalions” showed a hell of a lot of fight when the Japs were still riding high. In the Admiralties and and New Guinea they made banzai charges, sometimes with bayonets tied to poles, spear fashion, when they did not have rifles for all.

One fellow caught a 20mm explosive shell in the shoulder

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

I remember a young Marine trying to convince me that a .50-caliber round was so lethal that it would literally rip you apart just passing by. The other extreme seems almost equally implausible, but Dunlap saw it:

The Japs strafed the field a time or two and one fellow caught a 20mm explosive shell in the shoulder. He lived and I believe the arm was saved. Ordinarily a 20mm anywhere in the body is finis.

What’s so great about Western Civilization?

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

What’s so great about Western Civilization?

Forget calling it Western civilization for a moment. Instead think of a kind of party platform with a bunch of planks:

  • Support for human rights
  • Belief in the rule of law
  • Dedication to democracy
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of conscience
  • Admiration for science and the scientific method
  • Curiosity about other cultures
  • Property rights
  • Tolerance or celebration of technological and/or cultural innovation

I’ll be generous and stipulate that 90 percent of the people who are offended by pride in Western civilization actually believe — or think they believe — in most or all of these things.