Archive for the ‘greatest generation’ Category

Kilroy was here!

March 7, 2008

Kilroy was here! 

     I was a WWII baby, born in Oct. 1938.  I remember the war years remarkably well for being so young during this time.  One thing I remember was KILROY he popped up everywhere even in rural Missouri.  I remember seeing him on passing boxcars of when  steam locomotives trains rolled by.  I was always fascinated with him.  In news reels at the movie theater he would show up in clips on the sides of tanks and painted on bombs being loaded on to planes.  Later when I was a little older he showed up during the Korean conflict (no one called it a war, Police Action was the correct term).  He made a appearance in Viet Nam, and had shown up on fighting vehicles in the gulf War and is ridding along side of our people in the current conflict in the Mid -East.  The following post is taken from a site I receive weekly devoted to Marine Corps related subjects.  I found it quite interesting, and since the author gives permission for it to be passed around I asked my daughter to  place it into a draft for your enjoyment. 

     Below is an excerpt from The Sgt. Grit Newsletter I subscribe (and occasionally contribute) to: Sgt Grit American Courage Newsletter #169 – 6 Mar 2008 .

     It is preceded by a comment from my daughter. 

      Hi Dad – I remember Kilroy, I thought he came from the hippies or during the psychedelic 70’s. Goes to show ya what I know! I remember I had a red rubber kilroy that I could put in a pocket and have him peeking out. It’s neat to read about the ties to the armed forces. Love ya!!


My first brush with “Kilroy” was in 1950 as a youngster in Athens, Greece, where at the Anglo-American School the children of war-time multi-national expatriates attended classes. Our mixed lot was comprised of a far ranging and diverse group. Most were American children, but included were Brits, Indians, Turks, Egyptians, Italians, Spaniards and others from respective embassies, military services and even missionaries.

Kilroy was more legend than fad, the small drawing and inscription was ubiquitous and in the most unusual places. It was found on black boards, on the walls of restroom stalls, on the playground walls and basketball backboards. At that early age, it bugged me that “Kilroy” had been someplace ahead of me, but I soon got in the spirit and although too young to grasp its significance, like many of my cohorts, I would occasionally adorn some spot with the famous, or infamous depending on ones perspective, sketch and statement.

A few years ago my bride and I had the privilege to ride the USS Iwo Jima on its maiden voyage from its birthplace at the shipyards Pascagoula, Ms. to Pensacola, Fl. There were about two thousand guests aboard the ship and many sat on the flight deck to enjoy the sun and breeze. As we strolled by one lady whose leg was in a cast, we noted among all the greetings was the well known image and inscription, “Kilroy Was Here.”

Few people reading this today are old enough to remember how very important “Kilroy Was Here” was to GIs in WW2, Korea, and is today in the Gulf War and Iraq. The best legend of how he started is that James Kilroy was a rivet inspector on ships in Salem MS during WWII. To prove he had inspected, he would scribble the words throughout the ship.

Often the ships were sent to sea before painting or cleaning up (one Liberty ship was actually built in four days), GIs and sailors found the graffiti in impossible places. Soon Kilroy became the super GI who always got there first and survived. They began placing him in the most unlikely places. He has been reported on enemy beaches as landing GIs approached, on the Arc De Triomphe and even scrawled in the sand on the moon. As Owen Edwards said in the Smithsonian; “‘Kilroy Was Here’ appeared almost everywhere American soldiers went.”

There is one story of Stalin after emerging from a “porta- potti” at the Malta Summit, asked, “Who is Kilroy?” Kilroy was in all likelihood the forerunner of modern graffiti which itself has a long and illustrious history.

But why did this crude drawing and scrawled words become the super GI of WWII, Korea, the Gulf War, and Iraq? We know how it probably started but why the “movement?” I see the Kilroy phenomenon as a manifestation of absolutely amazing sense of humor. GI’s were always able to find something funny to say and do under stress that those of us today can only imagine. I also see Kilroy as a comfort to GI’s suffering through a world gone mad. No matter how bad it got, no matter what the danger, no matter how exhausted, scared or fed up they got, Kilroy was there first and survived. Only those who have “been there,” “done that,” can really appreciate and understand their motivations.

Finally, “Kilroy Was Here” was an effort by millions of GI’s to be a little rebellious when their whole life was controlled by others. It broke the horrible tension and provided a little fun. “Kilroy Was Here” persisted in spite of efforts by several commands to stamp it out. Certainly several occupied territory commanders issued orders that Kilroy not be scribbled and that it be removed wherever it was found. Such orders were always greeted with monumental indifference.

He was an outward demonstration of rebellious GI’s insisting on some individuality! “Kilroy Was Here” was duty – duty to their country; duty to their buddies. These were not warriors but simple guys who were caught up in forces far beyond their control. But warriors they became! By 1945 they were the most skilled warriors in the world. But, they never thought of themselves as such. They were just guys who wanted to get the job done and go home. Actually, they felt the only way to go home was to get the job done. This was a powerful motivation! Griping was taken to an art form but whining was never heard.

Kilroy still lives everywhere GIs have passed, including courthouses, places of worship, markets, and undoubtedly other, less respectable places limited only by ones imagination.

The generation that made Kilroy famous is now going to its eternal reward at the rate of a thousand a day; it won’t be very long before its members are gone. But our memory of them will live on for their legacy of sacrifice, bravery and wit. The torch has been passed to a new generation of American servicemen and women who are equal to any challenge, adversity and enemy. If politicians would but listen to and permit them, they can and will keep this nation safe and free for another generation, until their time too has passed. Static memorials grace Washington, State Capitols and even towns across the country, but few things are as ubiquitous as a US postage stamp, and consistent with that it is fitting that a stamp to commemorate past and contemporary heroes be issued so that wherever they travel and mail follows, Kilroy will always be there.

My good friend, Pat Tillery and I call on you to make a difference by sending a postcard or letter urging the Postal Service to issue a stamp to commemorate “Kilroy Was Here.” Send you notes, cards, and/or letters to:

Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee
Stamp Development
US Postal Service
1735 North Lynn Street, Rm. 501
Arlington VA 22209-6432

Or send an email, letter or petition to

Semper Fidelis

If you wish to send a comment or ask a question of Bob Pappas please use: pappas @

If you wish to read PREVIOUS ARTICLES by Col Pappas, please see:

Copyright © February 24th, 2008, by Patrick Tillery and Robert L. Pappas. With proper attribution, this essay may be quoted and redistributed. It may not be used in any way, in conjunction with any advertisement without the authors expressed written permission.  

Contact info for the author is noted in the excerpt above.

The direct link to the article in Sgt Grit’s newsletter is:
*scroll near the bottom of the page to find the above article by Col Pappa.

      There is very little I can add to this post Col. Pappa has covered it all.  I simply found it fascinating, and felt some might enjoy it who would not ever have found it otherwise.  In addition to my daughters comment I too at various times in my long life also had the little pocket Kilroy figure to stick in my pocket.  I have seen Kilroy make his appearance in Iraq on the sides of fighting equipment.  I am glad that he still exists to day and is doing his globe trotting as if he still possesses eternal youth.

     On a  more somber note my grandson who is in the Marines has just finished his Communications training at Twenty_Nine Palms and has reported to Camp Lejuine, North Carolina.  He arrived there this last Sunday evening and caledl us on Tuesday to let us know he had arrived safely and called again last night.  This time he reported that he has already been told that he will deploy to Iraq in October (2008).  This is not the kind of news we like to hear, but he is just one of thousands who have been placed into harms way by this conflict.  No matter how any of us feel about this mess, we owe the men and women who are sent there our whole-hearted support.  I fear that there is no end in sight for this damn thing no matter who gets the vote this November.  I simply hope in my deepest heart that our people get to come home whole and with their souls intact. 






February 9, 2008


 When I started to school way back in 1944 (Yikes), one of the first ditty’s they taught us was,

I’m Capt. Jinks of the Horse Marines,

I feed my horse corn and beans.

I teach my horses how to prance,

and I teach young ladies how to dance.

     And that was all the history I ever got about the Horse Marines.  I often wondered what inspired such a song.

     I recently treated myself to two large books on the Marine Corps the first, U S M C a complete history, is a huge 665 page volume of Marine Corps history.  It has a day by day chronological order of Marine Corps events, beginning in 1775 to the Gulf War.  There are many photos and paintings from history and detailed accounts of many marine events.  The second book is sponsored by the Marine Corps League.  Unfortunately I discovered that most of the photos and paintings are included in both volumes.  However the text and format are different.

     While exploring the books I found a photo in the 1920’s section on china of a column of Horse Marines on patrol, however there was no accompanying text just the caption below the picture.  the picture was a long shot of a single file group of mounted men on small horses.  They appeared to be dressed in white pants and blue jackets with white garrison hats.  I could count twenty-nine men in the patrol.

     A visit to google revealed a little more information, though not much.  Reference was made to some mounted Marines during the Mexican War and mounted Marines in Haiti, but not in an official capacity.  Some Marines of the 4th division in China in the 1920 -44 period were assigned to a mounted unit.  Originally they were formed as a ceremonial unit.  However they were soon put to patrol duties.  It was stated that they wore the dress blue uniform and were issued a straight saber.  The photo I alluded to showed the riders to be somewhat proportionally large for their mounts, which were listed as the small Mongolian ponies.   On a following page I discovered a Painting of a Horse Marine in 1937, and a photo of a Crpl.   jumping his horse over an obsticale  in Peking in 1937.  On a preceding page is a photo of Horse Marines mounted for inspection in front of the embassy in Peking.  This is about all I could find on the Horse Marines.  On one of the Websites I visit regularly devoted to the Marines I posted this information.  Today I had a reply from a older guy who wrote that it is said in his family his grandpap was a Horse Marine.

The B-24 Bomber

     Now I must confess my knowledge of the Marine Corps Air Wing is limited to John Wayne’s movie “FLYING LEATHERNECKS”.  I was surprised to find that there photos of Marine Aircraft all the way from 1916.  Planes were used in Nicaragua in the 1920’s.  (more…)


June 18, 2007

     Well am I a gowboy?  Heck no just a wannabe.  Lord knows I’ve played at it all my life, I can sit a saddle, but not too well.  Yeah I have a saddle in my bedroom sitting on top of my artillery limber ( the ammo chest on a casson, mine is 3/4 scale) however it is a 1918 McCllean, I also have a 1903 horsehair chinch strap.  I just missed out on the bit and briddle at a street fair antique show in Techemucla.  I purchased a tin rope case in a antique store that had four coiled rodeo ropes inside it.  I have so many article laying around I have picked up around diffrent places, I cannot keep track of all of them.  I have spurs purchased and ones I made myself, both cowboy and calvary.   I have hobbles, quirts, wrist guards and what not.  I won’t even get into the Native american articles laying piled all over the place.  My daughter and I have one trate in common be both are pack rats among other things.  As you know I have a large library on western and civil war books.

     But as I am beginning to write about the shootest of the old west I suppose most of you are more interested in my shooting collection.  From my Mountain Man days I have two muzzle loading rifles, .45 and .50 cal., I also have a short barrled double barrel muzzle loading shot gun.  I have two flintlock pistols and two           percussion pistols, .45 and .50 cal.s.  Add to that the tommyhawks and large knives, I could fill one wall.  Next on to the civil War, a .577 cal 1836 Springfield muzzle loading rifled musket.    As to pistols a  .44 cal. 1860 Colt Army, .44 cal. Remington 1858 New Army, and a 1858     .44 Colt Sheriff’s new model all presucion’s.

    As for the cowboy action shooting I use a Ruger Vacaro .45, 7 1/2 in barrell foor my primary pistol.  the backup is a Uberti Thunder, a 3 1/2 inch in .45 cal. .  My rifle is a Winchester saddle ring carbine in .45 cal. with a twenty inch barrel.  For my scattergun I use a twenty inch double in .12 gauge.  As I mentioned in my last chapter I carry the big Ruger in a right hand cross draw over my left hip bone.  the little brother rides high up on my right hip in a standard stubby little conventinal belt holster.  I have never been one for a lot of flash and glitter.  My holsters are both made by myself.      As the characture I potray, (called a alias, in action shooting) is based on a ancestor of mine, is not a cowboy, but a former farmer turned a vingance hunter after the Civil War. ( He and two brothers tracked down and killed 11 of 13 killers of another brother, after the war).  I expanded his charcature to becoming a scout and wander.  My big holster is a deep brown trimmed with twisted buckskin fringe, and the smaller is rough out leather with a single loop,  decorated with two small silver buttons.  I deleberatly made them mismatched to reflect aqusistion at diffrent times.  Rather than using leather bullet loops I use a canvas millitary cartrage belt to carry spare shells when needed.  Also carry extras in a small canvas bag in my plunder, including a large oold brass compass and a pair of Civil War bionoculars.  I could sit and bore you all day with this crap but now will launch into another fellow of intrest from to olden days.


       Black Jack was not a person anyone could look to with admeration.  He seemed to have all the qualities that people admired in a person like Bill Hickok, he was physicaly strong , tall with dark skin, pericing eyes and the usuall handelbar moustache.   However he was smart in a cunning way and deadly in the sense of callousness and brutality.  There is no question he had nerve.  He just fell short of the stuff of ledgends.  His burst into the stage of the herioc robber legends came too late in the game.  Citizens were coming to view the “Robin Hood” robbers for what they were hoods.  Also Black Jack lacked the one thing that made so many before him great, he had no style.

     Black Jack was kinda hapless in his pursuit of a criminal career, in the end he could not even die right.  It is the gruesome nature of his death that elevates him into histories rememberence.

    Born in San Sab, Texas around Oc.31, 1863.  After a short career of petty crimes he and a few fellows shot and killed John N. “Jap” Powers, a rancher living near Knickerbocker, Texas.  Powers wife helped in the murder and went to jail.  Tom (Jack’s real name) and his friends fled to New Mexico.

     A bandit named Will Christian known as “Black Jack” Christian, operated along the Arazonia-New Mexico border.  In a twist of fate Christian and Ketchem became confused by the law officers pursuing them and many of Ketchems crimes were atributed to Christian.  Upon being shot and killed by authorities in Grahm County, Arazonia Christian was identified as Tom Ketchem.  From then on Tom Ketchem became Black Jack Ketchem.  A title he never asked for but never refuted either.

      In 1896 the Ketchem gang rode into Liberty, New Mexico and robbied the  United States Post Office of the princley sum of $44.69 and fled town.  Postmaster Levi Herzstein organised a posse and pressed pursuit, supprising to everyone involved, the posse came upon the gang and gunfire insued.  Herzstein and another man was killed.

     Afew months later the gang stopped the Texas Flyer and blew the safe open when the express crew could not open it.  The gang excaped with $2,000.   Chased back to New Mexico by a large force of Texas Rangers the gang lay low for a few months.  Then thay again hit the Texas Flyer when simular attemps to open the safe failed they placed fourteen stick of dynamite under the safe and lay a quarter side of beef over it to contain the explosion.  They demolished the express car and opened the safe.   they once again excaped with $3,000 of mostly mangled  money.

    Laying low untill Dec. of 1896 they struck the Sothern Pacific at Stein”s  Pass, New Mexico.  The railroad had anticipated a robbery and had the express car packed with Wells Fargo agents.  When the train stopped the cars doors eploded with shotgun fire.  the battle raged for about half of a hour with either side doing little damage.   Then a outlaw named Ed Cullen leaned out to grab a dropped cartrage and exposed his head,  “boys I’m’, dead ”  he screamed as he fell.  the gang then lost their nerve and fled.

     The Stien’s Pass afair was the end of the gang.  Sam Ketchem , Tom’s Brother and Will Carver and Elza Lay struck out on their own in July they robbed another train and made a get away.  A few days later law officers caught up with them.  One was killed, Sam was wounded in the sholder and eventually lost his arm and died a little later.  The third was eventually captured and served a long prison term.

     Black Jack was a prime suspect in the so-called Yavapai County Massacre, two men were killed senselessly..  He denied it but evidence  indicated otherwise  

     On the night of August 16, Ketchem acting alone stopped the  Folsom, New Mexico train.  He forced the crew back toward the baggage car and called for the doors to open.  A mail clerk a few cars away not knowing what was going on stuck his head out a window and was shot through the jaw. 

     Condutor Frank Harrington, armed with a shotgun crep as close as he dared.  Stepping into the open he and Ketchem fired at the same time.  Ketchem’s slug grazed Harrington,  while Harrington’s  shotgun blast peppered Ketchems right arm.  Ketchem fell to the ground, rolled under the train and crawled away.

     The train left and about seven the next morning Black Jack flaged the next train down by waving his hat in the air on the end of his rifle.  He surrendered and was taken to the next town, Trinidad , Colorado where he was turned over to the authorties.  Transfered to Territoral prison in Santa Fe,  New Mexico,  his mangled right arm was amputated.

     In Sepetember of 1901 Jaack was pronounced fit for trial.  The territory charged him with felonious assult on a train.  Jack did not deny guilt,  in fact he wanted to plead guilty.  His plea as denied because a court conviction carried a automatic death penalty.  The trial had it’s high and low points, includinf humor and boredom.  Jack testified candidly about his exploits accepting blame for the robberies..  At its conclusion the Judge pronounced the death sentense with ,  “Between now and the day of your said execution, you prepare yourself by repentance for your past evil deeds to meet your God, and may god have mercy on your soul”

   Appeals were filed and denied.  As the territorys best know prisinor he gave numerious interviews, most of them on the subject of death and the here after.  He fully expected to go to hell, remorse and repentance were not part of his nature.  He bitterly said, I never killed anybody, and all that I spared testified against me with ill will.    He wrote a short paragraph on the morning of his hanging.

     “My advise to the boys of the country is not to steal horses or sheep.  But either to rob a train or a bank when you have got to be a outlaw.  And everyman who comes your way, kill him;  spare him no mercy for he will show you none.  This is the way I feel,  and I think I feel right about it. 

        On the day of his exicution he bounded up the thirteen steps with vigor.  His hair was cut and his moustashe trimmed and wore  a new black suit.  He viewed the crowd of on lookers, offical witness, editors, and photographers.  He posed for a final potograph with his left arm manacled to his side.  When asked if he had any final words he said  “Let her rip”.

    To trip the trap door it was necessary for the sheriff to cut a rope with a axe.  the sheriff was drunk and missed the rope and buried the axe into the wood of the gallows.  It took a few minutes to free the axe, and Ketchem cursed them while he waited.  Finally the sheriff managed to cut the rope and Black Jack fell through the door and kept on going.  While langushing in jail he had ate often and well and had put on a lot of extra weight, also the unblance of the missing right arm caused the body to twist.  Jacks head had been ripped off.  A enterprising photographer  quickly snapped a photo of the headless body lying under the gallows and sold them for $1.00 apeice.

     Even in death Black Jack Ketchem could not die with style.

Well I’m through hanging around for the day. pun fully intended.


My Part in the Greatest Generation

March 23, 2007

     The local newspaper has been running a series of articles this week remembering the greatest generation.  The columnist that has put it together is Tom Hennesy.  Mr Hennesy has written many such articles in his tenure at the Press Telegram.  He is a huge supporter of Americas fighting men and women.  He has also been very active in the erection of monuments here locally and on some of the islands on which our servicemen have fought.  This series of articles focused on local men and women during WWII.  He had a overwhelming response to his request for remembrance’s  from living veterans and the thoughts passed on by wives, children and others.  Some of them have been heart wrenching, others proud to read.  I was a product of that time and I thought I might take the time to recount some of my youthful remembrances.

     The first thing I remember occurred while living on Limestone St. (the first house I can vividly remember) I could have been no older than four at the time (and yes I have many memory’s of this time).  It was night time and we had the lights on and a man in a raincoat wearing a steel round,white helmet came to the door caring  a flashlight and told my father that we were having a blackout and he had to turn out the lights.  I of course did not understand and asked my day why?  He said so they could not drop bombs on us.  This was in Missouri!!That led to more questions which I probably never understood at the time but I can remember it plainly.

     A little later we moved to Walnut street, this was the location a few chapters back where Pearline the baby sitter took me to the graveyard.  I was five then and had a better understanding of war.  I had the toys of the day wooden rifles and handguns, chalk and lead soldiers.  Boats and tanks and such were what boys played with in these war years.  My uncles all four of then were involved by then.  I remember shopping with my mother at the five and dime store for a Christmas gift to send to her youngest brother who was in the Marines.  She finally bought him a small bible with a steel back to carry over his heart.  At the time I did not know about the other three uncles who were serving as they were all living out of state before but I knew my Uncle Bud.  When he came home later he bought a Purple Heart and a Jap rifle and two swords.  I lived with him and grandma before and after my mother died for a while. (more…)