Tag Archives: Checkerboarders

Devil Dog’s Son, Fr Byers: ironic proof

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Yours truly on a day-off, of sorts. Smiling and what all. The gall. A snake-handler preacher man ruint with longevity. Way too snarky. Having waaaay tooooo much fun. And who ever heard of a day off for a priest anyway? Sounds demonic. Anyone who casts out Satan must be doing this by Satan, and is a devil himself, a downright snake in the grass. And… and… I’m the Son of a Devil Dog. So, that seals it.

VMFA 312 Marine Fighter Attack Pilot Devil Dog six 50 cals

While the USMC in general has a nickname of Devil Dogs, dad was a commander of the Checkerboard Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of gullwing F4U Corsairs (VMFA 312) each sporting six 50 Cals and having the logo of a Devil Dog carrying the same. But the idea that the Marines are Devil Dogs isn’t that they are demonic. Here’s a one minute recruiting commercial about that:

The idea of extreme violence of a Devil Dog is not that goodness and kindness and truth are suppressed. No no. Instead, it is to bring goodness and kindness and truth to those who are happy to receive it even if it means battling in hell to do it, and looking, for that reason, finally coming out of hell, very much like the devil himself for having fought battles in hell over against the devil, that serpent who, for all his bluster, has been vanquished by Christ. I mean, isn’t it true that Christ Jesus looked demonically criminal on the Cross for having battled all of that hell that was broken out all at once against Him on Calvary?

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

One of the greatest defeats of contemporary mankind is the loss of a sense of irony. We don’t see behind the truths plainly spoken to see… the truth! What to do when we are just learning to live with Him who is Truth, but who for all intents and purposes and constructions looks to be Untruthfulness. He did that for our sake, by the way, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. I might have said that once or twice before… ;-) Jesus is very much the Devil Dog Himself. You don’t think so? A blasphemy you say? Let’s review something I’ve many times posted, but not in a while. It bears a re-reading. We MUST get a sense of irony back if we are to be Christian, if we are to have a sense of identity, a solid base from which to work, that is, a oneness with Christ Jesus, Himself Irony Incarnate, as it were, so to speak, a Devil Dog. Let’s turn to the great historian Hilaire Belloc once again, for, after all, we bear the burden of being naive, or, as he says, “young”, “pure”, “ingenuous”, so easily thrown into fear, unthinking, cowardly fear. Enough of that! Behold: irony!

hilaire belloc“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]

If there’s any proof that I’m a Devil Dog, it’s that I love such irony in the face of my being the most naive, the “youngest”, the “purist”, the most “ingenuous”, the most stupid idiot in the world, unable to appreciate such truths until they smack me down with such extreme violence that I gotta pay attention. It’s like Thomas the doubting Apostle. I’m forced to put my finger into the holes the nails made in the hands and feet of Christ. I’m forced to put my hand into the side of Christ, where I touch that beating heart, still pierced open. “My Lord and my God,” I blurt out. The irony is, I’m the absolute last person who would ever say that. Not me. I’m the one who put those wounds there. But the truth, “vivid with ironical power”, shines the light, and makes me a Devil Dog too. Thank you Jesus, you who want to make us all Devil Dogs.

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George Byers Jr, USMC and Army

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I mentioned that I got a treasure trove of stuff about dad the other day, and this after Mark Meadows and Beverly Elliott were able to get the list of medals and the medals themselves (which I had been unable to do for decades) from the Navy’s Archives in Tennessee. That treasure trove I received just the other day instead included three of the four citations for the medals received above the Purple Heart, which he also received. More on those later. Just. Wow. One of the citations describes an action which may have helped bring a faster end to WWII in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, trying to take that in, today, out of the blue, FedEx dropped off another package full of medals, this time from what was known of his entire service, though from the perspective of what’s in the archives of the U.S. Army, which he made a career of after his career with the USMC. This is a lesson in archive work. The package came in from TACOM, but not in Detroit, instead in Philadelphia. The medals were personalized with his name inscribed. Very nice. Thank you to whoever is behind this. Very kind. There were extra bits I didn’t have about marksmanship and such. And there was another medal which I didn’t know he had, this time: Vietnam. There’s a remaining mystery in the theater of Europe-Africa-Middle East.

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Dad the hero: I don’t know the half of it Thanks NC Rep Mark Meadows & Bev!

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I’ve never met the Honorable Mark Meadows or Beverly, but they are now family as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been trying to get something about dad’s wartime years for decades, it all having disappeared in the vicissitudes of life. No one could get anything, not even friends of friends working the archives. But Rep. Meadows and Bev were successful. The first notification, the listing of medals, came in just now. I hope there is more available. Obviously, I don’t know the half of it. My patriotism is confirmed again.

I am overwhelmed. This is all quite the revelation to me. I’d like to write some posts about those medals against the backdrop of the man I knew as dad. But below is just my first overall reaction to my dad, the hero. He didn’t get the Medal of Honor, but on multiple other occasions he almost did with another four medals just below the Medal of Honor a couple of which are exceedingly rare for field officers who are not Generals. He didn’t get a medal for a record number of planes shot down as a fighter-attack pilot, but some of the missions he was given were obviously freakishly important, with the success of some part of the war effort, in no small part, riding on whether he would be successful. He got a Battle-Wounded Purple Heart. And, I only find out now, he was also in the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign. I had thought he was all Pacific based. What special mission did they spirit him away to do way outside of his normal theater of operations, and then back again?

Part I: the spirituality of integrity, of being a hero

  • On the one hand, my dad wasn’t perfect. I know that. I’ve seen him at his worst. I’m his son. Have any of us seen ourselves at our own worst, admitting that, dealing with it, coming around, being the best because of depending on our Lord, because of knowing we can’t depend on ourselves?
  • So, on the other hand, I’ve also seen dad at his best, when he learned, successfully, to depend only on our Lord. He’s always been the hero in my eyes because of victory in his personal life. In that way, he’s my example of integrity. I still remember going to the 1962 Mass with him in the early 1960s: he would smack his heart with his fist at the Confiteor: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Part II: The instruction about my dad, the hero

Top Brass and politicians were often over to my dad’s house, George Byers Jr. There I would be, the little boy naive to the warring ways of the world. More times than I can count, they would take me aside, have me sit down, and have “The Talk” with me. “The Talk” consisted of seriously looking me in the eye and then, when I was paying serious attention, they would instruct me about my dad being a great hero, that there were a lot of things which for a thousand reasons could not be told, but I had to know that my dad was a great, great hero, and that it was an honor for me to be his son.

This one or that would write a book. This one or that would recount war stories. But they would never ask my dad for the same. They already knew his story as these things get around by witnesses who survived to tell the tale. They knew he could never say a word with any non-combatant like me around, little boy that I was.

What I don’t have…

While the generic description of why any medal is what it is is widely available, there is also a story recounted for specific medals given to specific individuals for specific actions, especially ones which are recommended only by the President of these USA. I don’t have the stories. I wish I did…

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Top Gun: The Rest of the Story

Live and learn, right? But maybe it’s taken all these years to learn a lesson about military funding. Trump’s got it right. Here’s why:

At the end of any war there is a push by politicians who have no military background to cut military funding down to just about nothing, as if no other war would ever take place.

What happens is that training goes to hell and no one knows how to do anything anymore. No more tactics. No more talent. An entirely vulnerable nation. But it’s like clockwork. Politicians play on the heresy of false optimism, that we’ve saved ourselves because we played out some fearfully effective strikes in the last war, yesterday. So, now it’s all good. We don’t need funding. Let’s spend money on pork projects for my constituents. Then, for just a few individuals, literally, the entire nation is put at risk.

After WW2, and then, “after” the Korean conflict (which Trump will hopefully now bring to an effective and formal close), back in the 1950s, pretty much the entire budget for pilot training was slashed to nothing, that is, just when the first jets were coming out.

My dad, commander of the famed Checkerboard fighter attack squadron out of the Marine Corps Air Station (Merritt Field) of Beaufort, SC, just up from Parris Island, came back from his ten years in the South and then North Pacific Corsair flying (VMFA-312) so as to teach the guys how to fly at Andrews just South of D.C. while he was put through JAG school at Georgetown University. After this, he went to Chicago to continue to teach a new generation of fighter pilots.

But that’s when the funding was cut. He knew how to fly by instinct and could handle the new jets, but his students couldn’t learn the instinct because there was no funding except for just a practice flight here, maybe again later, there. Nothing really. They had to think about flying the planes. Not good enough. They flew the planes literally straight into the ground.

My dad complained ferociously about the need for more funding for more flights. Denied. Again and again. More deaths of the best of the best.

And that was it for him. He wasn’t going to kill off an entire generation of pilots just because some self-congratulatory politicians thought they could please a few pork recipients.

So, dad took a cut in rank, left the Department of the Navy, moved to Minnesota to be a civil lawyer and politician himself, meanwhile joining the National Guard for something like another 20 years. But his heart was still with flying for the USMC. He would often bring me to airfields, and sometimes was able to commandeer a fighter to buzz over the rooftops of our local city where he was mayor. Why? Because his heart was still with the guys who were flying their planes straight into the ground because there was no funding for pilot training in the hippie days of the early-mid 1960s. Guys thought they could fly. They knew nothing. They were taken out with great ease by the enemy. We had now lost everything. Tactics. The whole lot. Gone.

Finally, with enough dead, people woke up. Top Gun school was created. Now, looking back, we all wish the Top Gun of Top Guns would have been heard. But at the time, all that could be heard was the ♬ kaching ♬ of greed. I, for one, am happy for the renewed military spending, and that, finally, finally, we are taking a look at the plight of our pilots.

Here’s dad, George Byers Jr, getting out of one of the planes he so loved to fly:

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsair

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Update: Israeli Air Force getting cocky about doing the impossible. Dancing.

But the Israelis are not the first to land an attack fighter with only one wing. Perhaps my dad was the first. He also had the wing of his gull-wing corsair knocked off during a training exercise at Andrews Air Force Base in D.C. by a knucklehead student pilot coming up out of a barrel roll a bit too quickly. In the case of my dad, Commander of the Checkerboarders, he was able to keep the inevitable spin from happening by holding the stick all the way over while flying at 45 degree angle, landing on the tip of his good wing, and then the wheel of his good wing. Hah! He would have used the side of his plane for the necessary lift. Hah!

corsair vmfa 312 USMC Korea

Whenever I see cockiness trounced, I am tempted to do a dance. Attack pilots are the same. And attack pilots are pretty much all the same. Here are some Russians. I can just hear the criticisms, saying that those are toy planes without any serious possibilities in a real war, blah blah blah. Regardless, this is some good flying:

Even if tender snowflakes are offended by this, I have to say: Competition is a good thing. It’s hilarious. It brings us beyond where we’re at. A challenge to overcome. Let’s see what Saint Paul says in Romans 12:10-19:

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.[!] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [Outdo one another in showing honor.]

You get the idea.

Update:

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Nostalgia: VMFA 312 Checkerboarders

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsairI sometimes get nostalgic when I’m not feeling well. Yesterday, in the minutes it takes to get back from Graham County to Cherokee County, my right eye swelled shut for who knows what reason, although it looks like I was in a fight. If I had gone to the emergency room (I wouldn’t!) they might have been tempted to call the LEOs who would ask what really happened. I would just say, “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, the face being what it was, I had a moment to be nostalgic and so looked up a phrase involving Pappy Boyington and my dad’s name just on a lark. Hah! Another picture of my dad perhaps in his early-twenties. A bit after this picture, he would end up in another USMC Fighter Attack squadron, the VMFA 312, the famed Checkerboarders, which was the squadron used to portray Pappy in the series Bah Bah Blacksheep, though my dad headed up the Checkerboarders and was later in command of one of the bases in Japan. Dad died back in 1993 with all the sacraments. So very important. I really have to wonder if he and Pappy ran into each other. Dad could put back some liquor at the time and be a bit boisterous and be a bit of a troublemaker, just like Pappy. Maybe they were too much like each other and so had to be in different squadrons as far apart in the Pacific as possible.

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