EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Army | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'army'

My Dad, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Memorial Day

I don’t talk about my Dad much. Once I turned 13 something changed and we kind of became enemies at times. There were good times when he told me stories, but they were mostly war stories because that was so much of his life and if even half of what he said was true he was not a guy to piss off in a fight.

My Dad was 15 when my Grandfather divorced my Grandmother. His sister stayed with her Mom and my Dad got to go with my Grandfather. I never met anyone on that side of the family, but my Grandfather had the brilliant idea to move from Philadelphia back to his native city of Riga, Latvia. 1930 was not a very good time for this because shortly there after Latvia was at war with Russia in the takeover of the Baltic states.

My Dad always laughed at how he and his friends would blow up train tracks the Russians used and steal their barrels of vodka and bury them in their backyards so no one could find them. How many punk ass teens would go around blowing up trains for the vodka just to get a buzz on over the weekend. This went on for awhile until the Russians started wondering why the train tracks all around a certain area were getting blown up. One of his friends got shot because when you bury vodka in the ground you have to dig it up and you usually spilled some when you’re trying to get it out of the barrel. My Dad’s friend and family were shot on site by the Russians.

My Grandfather was so furious with what my Dad had been doing that he tossed him on a boat at 18 to send him back to the U.S. He didn’t get along to well with his mother and sister and he decided to join up with the Merchant Marines because it seemed like a safe bet for him at the time. Well, it wasn’t 1941 yet so he was pretty safe. Until Pearl Harbor  and then he was a Merchant Marine during wartime. That meant he wasn’t a civilian, but now a soldier.

He was sent off to supply the ground troops in Europe along with moving troops to Europe and shooting at anything hostile in between. His ship was stationed in Italy that was safe at the time. It was Northern Italy I believe and when Germany finished with Austria they came to start talking with the Italians and my Dad was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seeing the Germans approaching while he was on shore out of uniform they were suspicious of him. Luckily he spoke German and convinced them he was one of them. Great. The Germans took him back with them and now he was fighting for Germany by being sent on Operation Barbarossa to help dig trenches for the attack on Stalin.

While on the front line Russian soldiers caught him and told them he was merely a Russian peasant farmer who was capture by the Nazi’s and put to work. He spoke Russian as well so he managed to keep a bullet out of his head and now was serving for the Russian military.

He somehow managed to escape one night and I’m sure there was lots of vodka involved. He worked his way back to Italy to a part of Italy that wasn’t so friendly to Americans. So now he’s wearing the uniform of Il Duce’s army. He was stationed on the coast in Southern Italy which oddly enough a passing Merchant Marine ship became the target of the coastal forces.

As my Dad always said the Italian Army was so corrupt that they weren’t worth shit in a fight. He managed to get out of the way and hide and when the Merchant Marines send scout teams ashore his perfect English came back and he convinced them that he was one of them. He got back on ship and they checked him out and found him to be who said he was. He was back to safety by then and the war was almost over.

He went through hell during WWII, but he was always a survivor. The war was not kind to him and they didn’t talk about PTSD back then. They just gave you more cigarettes and beer. Towards the end of his life before the hear disease set in he was smoking a pack of Pall Mall non-filtered and drinking a 12 pack of Budweiser a day. I can see now it was to help him forget the memories of WWII. It didn’t always work. I would always see him go off and cry around the holidays because they were never fun for him. We don’t have many pictures of my Dad for some reason. I guess he only liked to be photographed with me when I was a kid. I did manage to find one and that was the day I came home from the hospital. It’s probably one of the few pics of him where he has even close to a smile on his face.

New Face For Fort Mason?

Originally a U.S. Army post built in late 1800’s for coastal defense during the Civil War [good job guys!], Fort Mason expanded in 1912 to include docks and storage for shipping overseas soldiers and equipment for wars. It hasn’t really changed too much since then since it was finally decommission and handed over to the National Parks Service in the 1970’s.

While there have been some minor improvements, it’s still pretty much storage facilities except for the few rooms that can be rented out for events, Greens, The Blue Bear School of Music and the Italian American Museum. I’m sure there’s more there, but I just haven’t come across it other than attending a meeting of the San Francisco Aquarium Society a few months ago and attending traffic school there several years ago.

The buildings are starting to look rather worn out though and something needs to be done to bring these 13 acres of land to be more useful to the city other than a parking place for Off-The-Grid food trucks every Friday night. Now Fort Mason Revisited has asked 20 design firms to come up with designs to revamp the place and I say good for them. Yes, there’s lots of historical nature to the place having been used by the military during all the wars up to and including the Korean War, but it now needs a big change to serve the people of San Francisco.

Of the 20 firms selected, they have until June 15 to say whether or not they’re in and then three of the firms will be selected to start work this summer. There’s no telling what will come of the place, but I hoping for the best. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a place that’s built off of modern designs with added solar and wind power to electrify the place. The city is also in the process of trying to extend the F line to Fort Mason through an unused rail tunnel in upper Fort Mason. I think that would be a good idea and I believe they should retain some of the nautical themes that have been in place so it coincides with all the boats docked next to it.