The Failure of General Haig

Here’s the best one line summation of one general’s record during the Great War. It comes from William Manchester in his book American Caesar about American general Douglas MacArthur. 
In World War I Douglas Haig butchered the flower of British youth in the Somme and Flanders without winning a single victory.” 
Instead of being properly castigated and denigrated, Haig was given the title Earl and “awarded with £100,000 by a grateful Parliament.”
Sadly, most of the political and military leadership of the era, including American commander Pershing, were beyond irresponsible in conducting the war. They sacrificed the lives of so many men, mostly the young and naive.
MacArthur himself was beyond reproach, often fighting alongside his subordinates and repeatedly risking his own life.

What’s in a name?

Ever since my interest in genealogy began in earnest at the end of the Reagan era, I’ve been fascinated by names. Relatives have had some peculiar ones such as Brazilla (a corruption of Barzillai) and Crooks, which is the middle name of great-great-great-great uncle, John C. Hill. (I discovered his middle name on General Land Office records via the Bureau of Land Management. The long string of ‘greats’ reminds me of all those ‘begats’ in the Bible. I am assuming a man named Crooks, perhaps John Crooks, was an inspiration to my ancestor James Hill, or his wife Sarah Tidd, in giving his son John that middle name.)

Just like George ‘Cant-stand-yaCostanza, Brazilla has a lot of possibilities for mischief and fun, including this one. Brazilla Van Note is the first one in the family to carry the name, I think. The name was passed down to his grandson, my great-grandfather, George Brazilla Hay. It’s also the name of a congressman from Tennessee.

Back in the day, Biblical names were often the thing to do, even the obscure. Of course, it’s usually the ‘good guys’ (and gals) rather than the baddies. I have yet to hear of anyone in the modern era named Herod or Pilate. Ezra and Jabez are names of ancestors that immediately come to mind.

My name, Aaron, is obviously Biblical. Historically, he was Moses’ brother, and perhaps more importantly, his official spokesman, appointed by none other than God. He became the first high priest of the Israelites.

However, I am not clear on why my parents settled on this for my ‘Christian’ name. It is from the Old Testament, just as my middle name Jonathan. Yet my brothers have ‘New Testament’ names: Paul and Stephen.

According to A Dictionary of First Names by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, the name Aaron may very well be Egyptian in origin rather than Hebrew, just as the name Moses is. Traditionally its origins have been linked to the Hebrew word ha-ron, which means ‘mountain of strength,’ but the authors regard this as “no more than a folk etymology.” It “has been used fairly infrequently by Christians, rather more commonly by Jews.”

I am assuming my middle name comes from Jonathan, friend of King David. I have always admired the incredible friendship those two had. I was lucky to experience the very same thing with a man from the Aceh area in Indonesia named Barita. From the first moment we met in Seattle it was as if we were brothers.

There are two other Jonathans of note in the Bible: one is described as an idol-worshipper and the other, Jonathan Apphus (or Maccabaeus), was leader of the Jews during the time of the Maccabean rebellion against the Seleucid Empire.

My maternal grandfather’s name was Oscar. The Dictionary of First Names claims it is of Irish and English origin, given new life by the antiquarian and poet James Macpherson and Napoleon. It “is now also a characteristically Scandinavian name” introduced by Napoleon because he was an admirer of Macpherson’s work. He “imposed the name on his godson Oscar Bernadotte, who became King Oscar I of Sweden in 1844.”

The name means “god spear” or “god’s angel” from the Old English name Osgar, from os (“god”) and gar (“spear or knight”). The Old Norse cognate was the name Asgeir which is made up from the elements as (“god”) and geir (“spear”). The corresponding German form is Ansgar. Saint Ansgar is known as the Apostle of the North. In Irish mythology, Oscar was the son of Oisín and grandson of Fionn Mac Cumhail. He strangled his enemies with flaming spear chains, as in the case of Cairbre. In Gaelic Oscara means “deer lover.”

My grandfather Oscar’s surname was Fromke. Years ago, while digging around in books and online, I discovered a newsletter published by a group based in Wisconsin focusing on genealogy in Pomerania. The December 1994 issue of the newsletter

The name Fromke is from Lower Germany. In old documents it was recorded as Vrome and Vromeke. It translates as  “a competent or valiant person” “honorable man, steadfast man.” and honorable trustworthy man. In Middle High German Vrumman became Frommann. The root of the name is Fromm, sometimes spelled Fromme. In Middle High German it became Frommel, and in Lower German Frommke and Fröhmke. A Lower German patrynomic version is Frömming.

The ending “-ke” is typical of many surnames in German regions east of the river Elbe. Some say it has no meaning; others say, it’s origin might come from changing the Slavic ending “-kow” (pronounced “koh”) to a more German sounding ending “-ke”.

“Recent surveys have shown that the -ke German name endings, like in Radtke, far outnumber other German name endings like -ow and -itz. This is not surprising since the -ke name ending is an ancient name ending used by the Saxons from North Germany, around the Hamburg and Bremen area. As these Plattdeutsch speaking Germans moved east through Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and East Prussia, they took their names with them. Since the Baltic Sea area of Pomerania was heavily settled by Saxons, the -ke ending was common in that area. As the Pomeranians later settled in Wisconsin and other states, these states also have many German names ending in -ke.”

Ottilie was the name of a few great aunts. It is French and German, and derived from the medieval names Odila and Odile. It’s a feminine form of Otto. One such Odile founded a Benedictine  convent at Odilienberg in Alsace, France in the 8th-century.

Emil, Herman

Wesley Calvin

My four nephews names are Torin, Logan, Quinn, and Blair.



Hitch-22 is a memoir from none other than the polemic, acerbic Christopher Hitchens. The New York Times published a short review on it.

Mr. Hitchens is devoted to wit and bawdy wordplay and to good Scotch and cigarettes (though he has recently quit smoking) and long nights spent talking. He is also devoted to friendship. . . . Mr. Hitchens’s close ones include Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and the poet James Fenton . . . The business and pleasure sides of Mr. Hitchens’s personality can make him seem, whether you agree with him or not, among the most purely alive people on the planet.”

There are all sorts of anecdotes. He once described Margaret Thatcher as “sexy.”

It is packed with people — everyone from William Styron, Jessica Mitford and Isaiah Berlin to Nora Ephron, Keith McNally and Hunter S. Thompson, all of whom arrive attached to good anecdotes. A generous friend, Mr. Hitchens gives most of his book’s good lines (and there are many, a good deal of them unprintable here) to the people he loves.”

I just had to include this tidbit about Clive James. He “began a review of a Leonid Brezhnev memoir this way: ‘Here is a book so dull that a whirling dervish could read himself to sleep with it…. If it were read in the open air, birds would fall stunned from the sky.’”


Jews Worldwide Have Common Genetic Ancestry

News that a genetic study has “traced the genetic roots of seven Jewish groups” has been noted in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and by CNN’s Dr. Gupta, on his blog. Google News links to 29 items on the subject, though this is likely to grow.

A new and complex genetic analysis has revealed that Jews all over the world are related by virtue of uniquely shared genetic traits dating back several millennia.”

“The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history,” the principal investigator, Dr. Harry Ostrer, said. He is a professor at New York University.


Parade Magazine Features WWI Vet Frank Buckles

Frank Buckles
Frank Buckles at the WWI monument in Washington, D.C.

The piece in Parade was written by Richard Rubin, an author who is currently writing a book about the last American veterans of World War I.

Buckles’ cause is the creation of a National World War I Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. As the last living American veteran of that war, he says, “I know that I am a representative of all those who have gone before me. Those veterans, especially those who made the supreme sacrifice, should be remembered.”

Most of the First World War monuments are overseas, in Europe, and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

“But few Americans visit those sites anymore. Few even know they’re there,” Rubin writes.

More Americans died in that war than in Korea and Vietnam combined. The U.S. played a significant role in winning the war for the Allies and, in the process, was transformed into a world power.”

Rubin describes a “territorial feud between those who want to enhance the existing D.C. monument and those who have insisted that the recently restored Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, . . . site of the National WWI Museum, already is the national memorial. Both sides have had strong supporters in Congress.”

For example, the National World War I Memorial Foundation‘s mission is to “advocate and raise funds for the re-dedication of the DC War Memorial as a national World War I Memorial.”

“Veterans of all the wars deserve their honor,” Buckles said.


‘A winding street, lined with stone and plaster houses’

Here is a letter from an American 42nd Division soldier about France, focusing on the towns.

The towns occupied by the regiment were typical French country villages. A winding street, lined with stone and plaster houses, each one like its neighbor, and all like those in every town of its size in the district—red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets—no gutters, and before every house the inevitable pile of manure—such is the prevailing pattern on which French villages are cut.

The dwellings combined the house and barn under one roof which, while economical in some ways, had its drawbacks. The family lived on one side of the ground floor and the other side was devoted to barn purposes. The farmer had only to step out of his kitchen door to take care of his stock, but vice-versa it was just as easy for the chickens and pigs to enter the kitchen. Over home and stable there was always a large open hay mow and it was in these lofts that the majority of the men were billeted, sleeping in the straw. “Hitting the hay” and “Going to bed with the chickens” ceased to be merely figures of speech.

— Captain Raymond M. Cheseldine 166th Infantry, 42nd Division

Three Murders

Three young men, all students at one time of Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, have met premature deaths in the past few years. Two in 2009, another in 2007. All were murdered. And no one has been arrested in any of the cases.  

Justin Little was killed by someone while in France. He was 21. Montez Bailey, actively involved in student government, was shot while chatting with a friend in a northeast Salem park. Bailey’s killing appeared to be gang-related, although it was likely a case of mistaken identity. 

Bill Mills was the first. In 2007, his “skeletal remains” were found in rural Linn County, though he may have left campus with his killer, as his car remained on campus “unlocked and with his books inside.” 

The Chemeketa Courier, the student newspaper, has reported on all three crimes and the aftermath. Local media have reported on the cases, too, including The Oregonian, Statesman Journal, and Albany Democrat Herald

William “Bill” Carl Mills was first reported missing in January 2007. A deer hunter didn’t discover his remains near McCully Mountain Road, south of Lyons, until October. 

No suspects have ever been named in the Mills case. 

“Somebody out there has the answers that we need,” Melissa Baker, a classmate of Mills, said.  

Justin Little “had traveled to France to gain a better understanding of world history.” Little was assaulted in the early days of October, perhaps on the 3rd, “by an unknown attacker” while taking a nap on a park bench in Paris. According to one report he was “bludgeoned to death.” 

The Oregonian, via, has a special section dedicated to Justin Little news. His parents have established scholarships in his name, The Justin Little Memorial Foundation. 

According to Justin’s father, Jim Little, French police have no leads in the investigation of Justin’s death. 

Today, Jim and Tanya Little mix tears with laughter as they remember their son and his passion for history and Boy Scouts. 

“Justin’s great fear was that he would be forgotten and fall into obscurity,” Jim said. “I thought this would be an appropriate way to keep his memory alive.” 

In September, the Littles and their family and friends will be selling kettle corn at Mt. Angel Oktoberfest to raise money for the foundation. 

The Silverton Knights of Columbus donated a concession booth and Jim bought a kettle corn machine. 

“We plan on putting some money away for an endowment, so when we’re too old and tired to make kettle corn, we’ll still be able to provide something in his memory,” he said. 

“It helps,” Tanya said. “To do something good and nice for someone else through our personal tragedy; it helps.” 

According to Justin’s father, Jim Little, French police have no leads in the investigation of Justin’s death.

Today, Jim and Tanya Little mix tears with laughter as they remember their son and his passion for history and Boy Scouts.

“Justin’s great fear was that he would be forgotten and fall into obscurity,” Jim said. “I thought this would be an appropriate way to keep his memory alive.”

In September, the Littles and their family and friends will be selling kettle corn at Mt. Angel Oktoberfest to raise money for the foundation.

The Silverton Knights of Columbus donated a concession booth and Jim bought a kettle corn machine.
“We plan on putting some money away for an endowment, so when we’re too old and tired to make kettle corn, we’ll still be able to provide something in his memory,” he said.

“It helps,” Tanya said. “To do something good and nice for someone else through our personal tragedy; it helps.”


I Always Liked Dennis Hopper

There was one overarching thing about Dennis Hopper. He was unique. He had his own perspective on the world. And this included acting is some great and not-so-great film projects.

An early one was The Sons of Katie Elder with the Duke and Dean Martin. George Kennedy plays a gun fighter hired by Hopper’s dad in the film, portrayed by James Gregory, a man most will recognize from reruns on television, but not likely by name alone. And Paul Fix, a remarkable man, is the sheriff. He helped Wayne with his acting and wrote a few screenplays, including Tall in the Saddle.

For quite awhile, I owned Paramount’s double DVD featuring Sons and The Shootist. After watching them repeatedly, getting the storylines and scenes down in my head, I sold the two to some woman whose husband is a diehard John Wayne fan.

Hopper was in a few more Wayne flicks, including True Grit. Later in his career, after he gained some notoriety, he never worried about being in odd, downright bizarre productions such as Blue Velvet.

His politics were a curious hodgepodge, going from life as a leftist to conservatism, strongly influenced by a sense of libertarianism.

The controversy about me, I don’t think it’s going to stop me. However, a lot of people treat me differently, and they do bring it up. I’ll be at a dinner party, and somebody will say, ‘Well, you couldn’t be thinking that …’ And then you realize that everybody at the table is looking at you, and they’re like, ‘You’re kidding! You’re not really for Bush.’ And it goes around the table. It can only stop me from eating, not working.”

Google News has a feed with the news of his death. USA Today has a blurb on some of his artwork soon going on display. Motorcycle Cruiser magazine has some details on his directorial debut, Easy Rider. And though I never watched the episodes, he was in season one of Fox’s 24.

James Dean convinced him to pursue his passion for photography, and he did, producing iconic images from the march on Selma, which became part of the book Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967. Some of the photos were featured in Vanity Fair.


Next Year’s TV Stars?

I discovered via Facebook that a classmate from high school, a big guy who played on the line for the football team, and his wife are working towards getting on the next season of The Biggest Loser. Since I am gradually becoming somewhat of a health nut and have worked hard to lose 30 pounds myself, I thought I should help publicize their effort and do what we can collectively to help them out in their quest. Read more about Jay and Laura on her blog.