On September 10, 1998, my father died of a stroke while watching a rerun of Seinfeld.
It was the first cool day of the fall after an awful, sticky summer of blazing heat, repeated heart attacks and kidney failures. The day had been his first good one in six months and fall was his favorite time of year, so it was doubly auspicious.
There is no such thing as "a good day to die." But there are better and worse. Taking the alternative of D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge or the Hurtgen Forest or Iwo Jima, where so many of his fellow age-mates died, an apparently fast stroke while laughing at Jerry's antics is fair.
I mention my father for two reasons. The first is that I keep his generation in mind while writing my books. The societal conditions that provided the soldiers for the American Army in WWII were unprecedented in history. It was a society that was as technologically adept as any in the world, but that had fallen upon hard times so that there was a great need for work. Also those hard times had hammered out some of the impurities in the metal already. What was left was pretty good iron that was turned to steel by 1944.
Which, if a similar situation were to occur today, would not be the case. Personally, I like the present day. This is, unless anyone is confused, a golden age. With all the ills of a golden age. (Read The Decameron and tell me that there is a new ill under the sun.) But, given the choice between a decadent golden age and a stoic time of privation and war . . . give me the golden age.
But—there is always a but, isn't there? But, if a situation were to occur today which called for a national will to survival, it would be difficult to replicate that "Greatest Generation." First we would have to go through the sort of pre-tempering that occurred with the Great Depression, getting out all the "lesser" impurities. Only then would we as a nation be prepared for the greater tests.
And I personally don't think we would have the time. So, I always keep my father, and his generation, in the forefront of my mind.
The second reason that I mention my father is that he turned me on to Kipling. I spent about a day of my week's leave after Airborne school at home (hey, there were girls and bottles out there pining for me). And just before I left, my dad handed me this really beat-up old book. He told me that his dad had given it to him before he went to England in 1944 and that it was time to pass it on. I didn't really think anything of it at the time (girls and bottles) but later, after I settled in at my permanent party, I pulled it out and gave it a look.
The Mandalay Edition of the Works of Rudyard Kipling, Departmental Ditties, Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses/Five Nations and the Seven Seas by Rudyard Kipling. Doubleday, Page & Company, Garden City, NY, 1925. Note the last poem is "To Wolcott Balestier," the dedication to Barrack-Room Ballads.
For the longest time I thought I was the only person in the world who still read Kipling. Then an old Vietnam Vet first sergeant (a guy I didn't even know could read) dropped a quote. Then I heard a general "kipple." A battalion commander. A sergeant. A visiting SAS sergeant major presented a bound collection to our battalion CSM. And I found out a little secret; there are damn few warriors in the world who don't like Kipling. There are some who don't know about him, but the ones who do are fanatics. It's almost a way to separate the sheep from the goats.
For anyone who has never read Kipling, if you like my books get a Kipling collection. Rudyard could say it as no one before or since has been able to say it. He speaks to the heart and soul of the soldier. In the end, we're all Tommies (or M.I. or Sappers or Oont drivers) at heart.
And that is the other reason I bring up my dad.
* * *
William Pryor Ringo,
Captain US Army Corps Of Engineers (ret.) P.E.
Born: July 24, 1924
Died: September 10, 1998
Me that 'ave been what I've been—
Me that 'ave gone where I've gone—
Me that 'ave seen what I've seen—
. . .
Posleen Senior Battlemaster (Brigade commander).
A nearly impossible to eradicate small pest on Posleen landers.
Federation world on the far side of space from the Posleen invasion.
Indowy Master Craftsman.
Armored Fighting Vehicle. Heavily armed personnel carrier or tank.
Fast Frigate in Earth Defense Region.
Motivational or "battle" cry.
Air Cavalry. Helicopter-borne scouts.
Advanced Infantry Weapon.
Demons or sky gods of the Posleen pan-theology. Reputed to give great gifts but to also cause great harm.
Posleen battalion commander subordinate to Ardan'aath.
Posleen Scoutmaster subordinate to Alrantath (eson'antai).
Region on Barwhon where majority of US expeditionary force is engaged.
Armored personnel carrier. Lightly armed, lightly armored metal box on tracks.
Posleen name for the star the Federation calls Diess.
Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV). Crew of two, holds eight infantrymen. Armed with a 25mm chaingun and a TOW-2 Missile Launcher.
Home of the Airborne. Located in central North Carolina.
Design of assault rifle. Places the ammunition magazine behind the firing hand thus shortening the overall length of the weapon.
25mm chaingun mounted on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Four-pointed spike device designed so that one point always faces up.
The manager of a Posleen estate.
Command Dodecahedron. Holds the senior God King of a Posleen "B-Dec" conglomerate and its most heavily armed normals. Is usually the center ship of a B-Dec. Has interstellar drive. Holds 1400–1800 Normals and 3–6 God Kings along with some light, simple armor.
British Navy word for tea.
Surrounded by fortifications.
Detonation device for a claymore directional mine. So called because when compressed it makes a distinctive "clack" sound.
Directional mine. Consists of a convexly curved box with two ports for detonators on the top. The rear is a thin metal plate, then a sheet of explosive, then 750 ball bearings.
Continental Army Command.
Chief of Staff.
Detonating explosives so as to cause a large crater. This is primarily used as an obstacle.
Combat Space Patrol.
Elite information warfare unit. Extremely secretive.
Indowy Megascraper Deushi Megalopolis. Refuge for mobile forces.
Galactic Federation race.
Posleen information network. Very similar to the internet except without any indexing tools.
Primary military base on the moon. Hidden on the backside in a crater to reduce ehance of detection by the Posleen.
Primary plateau of the country of Iran.
Heavily defended base where artillery is concentrated.
Artillery Coordination Network.
Posleen: Damned. (Lit. "Eaten" reduced from "Eaten by sky demons.")
Finned metal dart.
To turn in the air like a hummingbird.
Town in central Virginia.
Fort A.P. Hill
Military base in central Virginia.
Posleen: Demons. Part of a wordy curse that translates more or less as "Demon Feces."
Name of an Israeli assault rifle.
Galactic Medications. General name for a wide variety of medications the Federation has supplied to Earth.
Galactic Technologies. General name for a wide variety of technologies the Federation has supplied to Earth.
Clan of the Po'oslenar.
Type of automatic weapon that has multiple barrels.
Type of camouflage suit used to break up the outline of an infantryman or sniper. Introduced by Scottish gamekeepers (or poachers alternately) during WWI.
Elite Nepalese Mercenary Infantry.
Type of pistol.
Rare but extremely unpleasant pest of the Posleen. Resembles a very large ant and forms colonies.
Galactic drug that causes almost instantaneous unconsciousness and places the user in a state of virtual suspended animation for up to 180 days. Combines pharmacological substances with nannites. Dosage is managed internally to the substance so that there is no chance of an over- or underdose.
Federation race. Racial cowards and long-ranging
Town outside of Fort Indiantown Gap.
High Mobility Multi-Use Vehicle (HMMV).
Indiantown Gap, Fort
Military post in Pennsylvania near Harrisburg.
Galactic race. Short bipeds with apparently innate ability with technology and tools.
Galactic planet under threat of invasion by the Posleen.
Town in central Iran. Famous for its rugs.
Town in Morocco where the US Army suffered an early defeat in WWII at the hands of the German Afrikacorps.
Posleen: Senior battlemaster. Equivalent to a colonel or brigadier general.
Gene derivative of Kenallai. Equivalent to a lieutenant or captain.
Posleen: Term for a castellaine. Castellaines are a lower "caste" God King and are formed from God Kings that have either voluntarily stopped fighting or were incompetent or cowardly.
Posleen: Battle honor.
Posleen: God King (translates literally as "Philosopher" or "Thinker").
Aramide fiber used in body armor. Also used to refer to the helmets made of it that are worn by US Ground Force personnel.
Short for "kilometer."
Grouping of tanks or other fighting vehicles.
Laser detection system.
Type of flashlight often preferred by police and special operations personnel.
Town in north-central Virginia.
Automated machine gun.
Major city in northeastern Iran.
City and naval base in northeastern Florida near Jacksonville.
Small military base near the much larger Fort Bragg.
Military internet interface and analogue.
Galactic Technology glasses. In appearance simple "wrap-around" sunglasses. Provide full light enhancement ability.
Type of bullet used by both sides during the Civil War.
Single very large molecule. A substance that is not only incredibly strong but also almost infinitely thin and therefore sharp.
Large hill overlooking Richmond, VA.
Large hill overlooking Richmond, VA.
Meals-Ready-To-Eat. Military combat rations. Come in plastic packaging.
Military base near Washington, D.C.
Very small mechano-electric machines that are used for a wide variety of purposes by the Galactic Federation.
River, town and reservoir in northern Virginia.
Posleen: Group or company. (Lit. "Pack")
Posleen: Battalion or brigade. Used interchangeably. (Lit. "Big Pack")
Posleen: Battalion or brigade commander. (Lit. "Big pack leader")
Posleen: Battalion or brigade.
Posleen: Posleen normal. (Lit. "Pack member")
Posleen: Command Dodecahedron. Holds 1400– 1800 Normals and 3–6 God Kings along with some light, simple armor.
Posleen: Final battle or Ragnarok. A scramble for dwindling resources that leads to destruction of the world and extinction of all the Posleen on it.
Long, thin cigars.
German Mechanized Infantry.
Planetary Defense Center.
Galactic armor material.
Posleen: "The People of the Ships."
Posleen: Lander. Holds 400–600 normals and one God King.
Enemy aliens. Yellow-grey centauroids. Thirteen to fifteen hands high at the shoulder. Arms jut from a combination shoulder. Sauroid head with multiple teeth is mounted on a long, snake-like neck. "Hands" are four-fingered talons with an opposable talon, similar to a fish-eating bird of prey. Feet are foreshortened talons adapted for running and slashing.
Term for current generation of manjacks.
Manufacturer of the world's leading detonators, preferred by professional demolition personnel and terrorists the world over.
Rifle that accelerates its projectiles magnetically.
River in central Virginia.
155mm wheeled mobile artillery.
Military acronym that starts with "Rear" and "Echelon" and goes downhill from there.
"Like a net." Military plan that called for distributed forces so that no single force would be landed upon and destroyed by the Posleen. Referred to as "victory in detail" by its proponents and "Ridicuplan" by its opponents.
Microbrewery in Richmond, VA.
Commander of the 229th Engineering Battalion,
Light. Fredericksburg, VA.
Restored home in Occoquan.
Destroying structures to produce rubble for defenses.
Posleen Battalion commander.
An area of late 19th-century factories in Richmond,
Secretary of Defense.
10th Corps Commander.
County in Virginia.
Posleen Battalion commander.
Posleen Command ship/battalion commander.
Tactical Actions Officer for Continental Defense Command.
Tactical Systems Officer for Continental Defense Command.
Name often used for Timur, a Mongol invader of Iran who destroyed the last remnants of the Persian Empire.
Barbed wire stretched taut at knee height designed to catch and "tangle" assaulting enemy troops.
Galactic race. Pseudoarthropods with a remarkable resemblance, other than being blue and red, to a Dungeness crab. Renowned scientists and philosophers.
Battle Demons. Part of a wordy curse. (Demons ofbattle eat and defecate their souls!)
Posleen company commander.
Posleen God King's saucer vehicle. Has a heavy weapon mounted on it and a suite of sensors.
One trillion watts.
A famous defense in ancient Greece. Also, a primarily automatic close defense system for battleships.
Posleen: Enemy. (Translates literally as "food with a bite.")
Air Force aerobatics demonstration team.
Clan of the Darhel.
Intermediate rank Darhel.
Tir Dol Ron
Darhel senior executive.
Posleen: Fecal matter.
Primary god of the religion that preceded Islam in Persia.