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“I speak to you from hallowed ground.”

 

“I am speaking to you today from hallowed ground.”

Just for the period of time it takes to read this post, I’d like you to imagine the words are being read to you by Charles Kuralt. All of you under forty are probably asking, “Who in the hell is Charles Kuralt?” Charles Kuralt was “the voice” of a CBS program that aired for years. It was titled On The Road. His distinctive voice was the signature for this show … a show that was all his.  On The Road was just that, Charlie nosed around the nooks, crannies, highways, and byways of the US. I know it may be hard for the younger folks who read this post to believe, but once upon a time their were actual journalists on national television that were true to their vocation, not their political beliefs. It was a time before we were divided into blocks for political opportunism. Kuralt found and touched the heart and the soul of his viewers. As you read my words, hear them through his voice.

The historical marker for Camp Blanding. Though it tries to tell the story it can only hint at the brave people who traveled through history here.

I’m speaking to you today from a few hundred yards off of Florida Highway 16. It’s about midway between two places you probably never heard of, the towns of Starke to the west and Green Cove Springs which lies eastward. The grass field I’m sitting in the middle of, is part of the Camp Blanding Museum. Around me are the tools of wars past. They’re reminders of what this place was, one of the important training areas for a war that would engulf the world. What remains of this site as an active military center is behind the entrance south of the museum. It’s only a token of what was once arguably the largest city in Florida. Over 300,000 men and women trained or worked here. Look around and you see what young men came to this place to learn to use. They had to do this to help win a war we could have lost and as importantly to give them their best chance of surviving it.

One of the artillery pieces on display. An artillery barrage was an infantryman’s worst nightmare.

This 1 1/2 ton truck was a World War II workhorse. Men road in it and supplies it carried kept them fighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sherman. This M4A1 version was a medium tank. Shermans were the primary battle armor used by US forces in WWII. Its numbers offset the German armors superiority.

Looking inside the drivers compartments of these vehicles is a shock to some. The levers, switches, and mechanisms are crude by 2017 standards. A young man asked, “Did they really fight in these things?” An old man answered, “We sure did and we did a damned good job of it!” There was more in his voice than pride in having served and survived. In his eye and tone there was that reverence those who have experienced combat have for those they knew who did not return to stand here today.

The lawn around the museum is home to many vehicles. Half-tracks, DUKWs, ambulances, trucks, field pieces, all are pages of a book that tell us a story. Even a C-47 transport plane with D-day markings graces a concrete pad, a reminder of 508th Paratroop Regiment who trained in the sands beyond the guard gate.

Mixed in with the vehicles are monuments to the Army units that trained here and the people that were flesh and bone that gave them life. Among them was the Big Red One – the first army division. Nine infantry divisions lived here and learned about war on these grounds. There are monuments to the extra brave who began their journey into hell at this place. One honors distinguished service cross recipients and another the nations highest award, The Medal of Honor. Both have a significant number of names chiseled into stone to remind us of sacrifice and that sometimes forgotten word – honor.

Going inside the museum is like stepping through a time portal on Star Trek. We see what we were. What we did. Right and wrong.

A D-day newspaper. This sealed Hitler’s fate.

A GI dressed for battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pictures and exhibits show us what a base for a quarter of a million men looked like. Row upon row of small cabins, barracks like the one the museum is housed in, hospitals, theaters, commissary buildings, maintenance facilities, everything that a city of that size needed to exist was built in Florida’s wilderness. Work on Blanding was a seven day a week, three shift schedule in 1940-1941. Today, most of the 150,000 acres that is Camp Blanding has been reclaimed by the pine barrens and swamps from which it was hacked. Concrete foundations, weathered and hidden by nature, dot the ground and are the ghosts that haunt these woods.

Reminders of the past always bring bitter to go with sweet. Exhibits remind us of where we’ve been, some of them telling us of what we did wrong. The Army of 1940 was one that was still segregated. Separate facilities, living areas, even swimming lakes are indictments of what just one of our societies mistakes has been.

It tells us of things we did correctly. Few know that many German POWs were transported to the USA. Camp Blanding hosted around 2,000. They lived in the same type facilities as our GIs. They were given jobs and paid to do them. Contrast that to the fate of POWs in German or Russian hands. Less than 10% survived the war and literally this amounted to millions of deaths. More than 15% of Germans elected to stay in the US and become citizens and over 98% survived.

Places like this, Camp Blanding, are places that should bring us together. We can attempt to change history, there are those who do, but it really won’t change. Camp Blanding is a string tied around our finger, like ones used by our country men before computers, to remind them of something they had to do. If we forget the good and bad that history teaches, we’ll neither continue our virtues or avoid our mistakes. Humans are on a long voyage of discovery. That discovery is how imperfect we really are. We have to embrace what we have become, not languish in what we were, but learn from where we’ve been.

The Medal of Honor.

 

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Golden Buddy — Where does all your energy come from?

Me and my niece Remi. This younger generation makes me tired just watching them.

I’m recuperating. My muscles are sore, my joints are jingling, even my tail hurts. Keeping up with the relatives isn’t always a good idea, particularly if the relative is ten percent of your age. The Geezer and Mrs. G took me to visit my niece, Remi, this weekend. She lives in the Jacksonville area. She’s Golden. Yep, she’s a Golden Retriever, too. Remi is a little over one year old. I love her, but she makes Niagara Falls look inactive.

We’ve been together before and I new she was energetic, but I didn’t expect to step into a situation equivalent to a nuclear explosion. When the front  door closed behind me at her human’s house, the action began. In the twenty feet it took to get from the door to the living room, Remi had circled me four times, jumped over me three times and crawled under me once. She was as quick as the animation in one of those super-hero cartoon films. Maybe she thinks she’s The Golden Flash or something.

“Let’s play tug-o-war.” Remi bounded around and picked up a rope with handles on both ends. When I didn’t respond, she added, “Come on, live a little!” I rolled my eyes, but she didn’t receive the same message I was trying to send. “How about we do the tug thing and run and jump into the swimming pool at the same time. How’s that? Huh? Huh?”

I needed some excuse that wouldn’t admit I was at the age that a discussion about the literary classic “Lassie, Come Home,” or an in depth analysis of the pros and cons of dry foods versus canned was more to my liking than a serious romp in the park. The best I could come up with was, “My winter coat is coming in and I’m shedding very badly right now. I need to stay out of your humans pool.”

“OH! Okay! Lets play with a ball. I’ll go get one. We can play take away. I hold it my teeth and growl when I’m ready to begin. You grab it with your teeth and try to pull it away from me.”

I had to think of something. I lied —– “I have false teeth.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. Lets play tag, instead of take away. I hold the ball and runaway until you catch me. Then I give you the ball and I chase you until I tag you. I’ll even give you a five second head-start.”

“Honest, Remi, I’m tired from my travel. Right now I’d have a rough time summoning up enough energy to chew my dinner.” I thought that would end the conversation.

“Poor Sandy! Those horrible false teeth. I’ll help! I’ll chew your food for you! You might lose some in the process, but it’s better than starving.”

I knew I was cooked. I said, “Let’s go play.” No other three words have caused me more misery.

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The Geezer had a successful visit to the Florida Heritage Book Festival on Saturday in St. Augustine. His publisher and a number of her authors attended to support this literary event. I’ve included a picture of his display and pictures of our visit to the Camp Blanding Museum on the way home. I’ll being speaking of both in future posts.

DL (The Geezer) in his taylor and Seale tee shirt talking to other T&S people at the Florida Heritage Book Festival

C-47 cargo plane with D-Day wing markings. Aircraft like this one were what our brave paratroops jumped out of to land in France.

Inside the Museum. A room like this was where GIs lived while they trained for combat.

 

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To go or not to go, that’s my question. Not for you … you GO!

 

One of the pioneer houses at the Crowley Museum

One of the pioneer houses at the Crowley Museum

To go or not to go that is the question. Whether to be admired and petted by my many admirers or to risk the hooves and horns of free ranging farm animals … Wow what a question. The Geezer says I can go with him on one of his trips … I always beg him to … now I’m not so sure I’ll go.

The Geezer or DL Havlin as he’s better know, is one of the speakers at the Southwest Florida Heritage Festival at the Crowley Museum this Saturday. He’ll be doing two presentations. One will be “The Loyal 14th Colony: Florida and the Revolutionary War” which he’ll present at 1:30. The other will be on the years from 1865 through 1914. He calls that one, “Florida, the forgotten years,” and his talk will begin at 11:30 for that one.

There will be a large number of fun and educational events held at the Crowley. Don’t miss it! Here is a site that provides more information including directions on how to get there.  http://crowleyfl.org/calendar/heritage-festival/    DL (and maybe me) will be there. There will be all kinds of demonstrations from blacksmithing to pioneer cooking. Live music, too.

Here are more pics taken at Crowley.

An 1800's Cracker Limo

An 1800’s Cracker Limo

"I have nothing to offer you but blood, sweat, and grits" A pioneer kitchen---

“I have nothing to offer you but blood, sweat, and grits” A pioneer kitchen—

What put the CRACK in Cracker -- An exhibit at the Crowley Museum.

What put the CRACK in Cracker — An exhibit at the Crowley Museum.

The Geezer’s latest book has been released. It’s a suspense mystery novel titled The Bait Man. It will be available through your local book stores and on-line in ten days to two weeks.

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On haunted, hallowed ground.

 

The "King's Highway." This piece of American history is haunted.

The “King’s Highway.” This piece of American history is haunted. It wandered its way from Fort Brook (Tampa, FL today) to Fort King (Ocala). A bloody massacre occurred on the sands pictured here.


 

Have you ever been on a spot that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck? I’ve been to several, but I’ve never been to one that had my ESP on alert more than the one pictured above. My fur, and I have plenty of that, was at full attention during my entire stay at this place.

You might ask why. The shaded, sandy lane is the place a war started. It was one that those who fought its battles, at the time, saw as necessary. History would add “unjust” as a descriptor of the conflict, but would also have to  add “inevitable” during the era it was fought. On December the 28th, 1835, Major Francis L. Dade and a group of 108 soldiers were attacked and defeated by 180 Seminole warriors under Chief Micanopy. Only three of Dade’s command survived; Seminole losses were later reported to be less than a dozen braves.

The reason the Seminoles attacked was fear that Dade’s troops were there to enforce a treaty that some of their leaders signed agreeing to relocate to west of the Mississippi in what is now Oklahoma. The soldiers were on their way to strengthen Fort King which settlers feared wasn’t strong enough to protect them. Reality, harshly stated, was 30,000 settlers wanted access to the lands belonging to 5,000 Seminoles. Tricked, bribed or coerced, some Seminole chiefs signed treaty papers ceding their lands to the US Government at Fort Gibson after visiting Oklahoma in 1833. Legality and morality became opponents.

My human, the Geezer, is doing research for a four book historical series he’s writing on the birth of modern Florida. It was a pregnancy that covered a period from the 1780’s through the 1950’s. Ohhhhh, my! That makes the canine gestation period of 9 weeks and the human pregnancy of 9 months, pieces of cake.

We walked over the well-documented battle site trail at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park. I could feel cold hands reaching out, touching my coat. The dead’s spirits hadn’t left this spot.

I asked, “Geezer, do you feel something?”

“Like what?” he answered. He grinned at me. His expression was wry, not mirthful. The old boy knew and felt their presence, too.

“Ghosts!” I said and he simply nodded, yes. It is a haunted, hallowed place.

There is a great museum there and the battlefield is very well marked. I’ve included a few photos.

Flintlock rifle, bayonet, and sword in the Dade Battlefield Museum.

Flintlock rifle, bayonet, and sword in the Dade Battlefield Museum.

 

An artist's recreation of the battle scene.

An artist’s recreation of the battle scene. The Seminoles wait, hidden, as Dade’s column approaches.

 

Recreation of the log revetment the survivors of the initial assault built. They made their last stand behind the logs they cut down.

Recreation of the log revetment the survivors of the initial assault built. They made their last stand behind the logs they cut down.

1835 soldier in uniform

1835 soldier in uniform

Seminole ready for battle.

Seminole ready for battle.

 

These two figures are in the museum on site. The information provided is excellent and portrays both sides fairly.

 

 

 

The Dade Battlefield park is well worth making a trip to visit or swinging by if you’re traveling past. It is just a few miles off I-75 near the town of Bushnell, Florida. The address is 7200 County Road 603 (Battlefield Parkway). You can get more info from the website – http://www.dadebattlefield.com.

 

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