The incredible USS Trout story …lives on through Tim McCoy

Over the last 20 years, I have had the chance to meet a number of members of the CHARLES TIM MCCOY USNGreatest Generation. It’s been a mission (if not an obsession) of mine. My purpose for the large part has been to find and meet people who knew or were somewhere near my grandfather, Lt Cdr Minter Dial, after whom I was named. So, it was only natural that, since I was headed to Austin Texas for SXSW 2014, I connected with a USN veteran of World War II. His name is Charles “Tim” McCoy, who served in the US Navy, aboard a number of submarines, before becoming a prisoner after the USS Grenadier was sunk (April 1943).

I came across Tim thanks for an article published in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, written by Ray Westbrook.

Charles Tim McCoy

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim McCoy, who is 90 years old (born in 1924), showed that he is in great mental and physical health. For two hours, I listened to him talk about his experience in the Pacific, including his captivity as a prisoner of Japanese for over two years. Anybody who has come across the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrad (soon to be a film, directed by Angelina Jolie), or any other book about the Japanese POW treatment will know just how horrible that experience was. During our chat, I was lucky enough to hear directly from Tim, about his participation in a truly epic and well-documented mission aboard the USS Trout.  Continue reading

Long-term vision with bold actions – is it your mantra?

Bringing sense to business

At the Freedom & Solidarity Forum, taking inspiration from Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings, Brian Gallagher, President and CEO at United Way, said:

“We need a long-term vision with bold actions. Our endeavors must be values (or purpose-) based”

This phrase resonates with me, even more so as an entrepreneur. However, I think it’s an issue for most people in many companies, where the purpose is either non-existant or it may be published but not lived. Companies suffer from an oversized need to cater to short-term pressures. Finally, without the entrepreneur/founder at the helm, too often businesses lack boldness. And, I might add that actions speak louder than words…

In search of purpose

Mr Gallagher said that Operation Overlord was a success in large part because it embodied that phrase. As an NGO, United Way is inhabited by purpose. It is normal. In business, however, purpose is too often reduced to creating shareholder value. Interestingly, Mr Georges Plassat, CEO and Chairman of Carrefour, the second biggest retailer in the world, said the same thing about bringing “meaning” to his business and resisting the short-term ratrace (my term, not his). I wonder to what extent his comments resonated with the Carrefour employees? Mr Philippe Wahl, CEO of LaPoste France, echoed Mr Plassat, talking about the need to create products (and service) that are “useful” for society. Mr Wahl talked about the need to have “meaning” in business, which he translated as the need to contribute to society in each country in which one is operating, invoking the need to pay taxes in each country (a lightly veiled attack on Google and Amazon, etc.).

The big question I have is: how much does “purpose” fulfill shareholder value over time?

What do you think?

Arlington Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknowns Jeopardy Question with some Surprising Answers

Arlington Cemetery Jeopardy Question:

There has been an email circulating for well over 13 years (I found a 2001 reference to this email in a brief Google search).  The email starts:

“On Jeopardy the other night (MD: !), the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed it! This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington CemeteryThe email goes on to give a prolonged and largely true answer. However, thanks to the good work at Snopes, I wanted to put out a cleaner and more accurate version out there.

Working through the Jeopardy archives, the only specific question and date I could find was in episode #4751 on April 11, 2005, which makes the initial email confusing since it would seem to ante-date the Jeopardy question:

“ARLINGTON’S TOMB OF UNKNOWNS: Sentinels at the tomb walk exactly this many steps at a time before they stop & turn”

In terms of my own discoveries, I wasn’t sure if the Tomb is called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns. It turns out that it is commonly known by both, but there is no official name.

Continue reading

Happy spring and happy birthday grandpa! RIP NMD1

Today would have marked my grandfather’s 103rd birthday. Three years ago, we celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday with a magical 24-hour global social experiment!  Here was the result by the way…

Nothing quite as grand today. However, in a case of multiple things to celebrate, it’s also time to celebrate Spring and Twitter’s 8th birthday. Looking back at my very first tweet in April 2007, I was quite surprised to find:

Minter Dial @mdial first tweet NMD1

Glad to know that my first tweet was meaningful (at least to me!). It starts with purpose, I should say. In the realm of lessons learned along the way, I was missing a hashtag (e.g. #WWII) and a link! I can now add the right link! Here’s my grandfather’s story in case you haven’t read about it — in the Smithsonian magazine.

As a sign of appreciation, please do go like my grandfather’s page in honor of the greatest generation!

P.S. if you want to discover your first tweet, go here.

Interview with Jan Thompson, filmmaker: “Never the Same, The Prisoner-of-War Experience”

Jan Thompson, Never the Same, Bataan Japan POW WWIIJan Thompson, Professor of Radio-Television at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the producer of a new feature-length documentary, “Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,” which is going to premiere this Saturday (April 6) in Chicago, at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  The timing of the premiere is great, as April 9 is the anniversary of the Bataan Death March and National POW Recognition Day.  I am very excited about this film, as I have been long been personally involved in this part of the WWII Asia-Pacific history.

“Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,”

From the Chicago Tribune article

Jan’s documentary features narration by Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Swit (“Hot Lips” of MASH fame), and the voices of an all-star cast of actors including Alec Baldwin, Ed Asner, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston.  The film celebrates and commemorates “courageous men who used ingenuity, creativity and humor to survive one of the most notorious times in history,” said Thompson, whose late father was a POW after his capture on Corregidor (like my grandfather – see my Facebook page in his memory) in the spring of 1942.

You can sign up to the Minter Dialogue podcast here via iTunes.

 

To KNOW MORE ABOUT “NEVER THE SAME”:

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST

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Further resources for the Minter Dialogue Radio Show:

iTunes RSS Minter Dialogue Podcast - Branding Gets Personal

Meanwhile, you can find my other English-speaking interviews on the Minter Dialogue Radio Show on Buzzsprout or via iTunes. Please don’t be shying about rating this podcast on iTunes! And for the francophones reading this, if you want to get more podcasts, you can also find my radio show en français over at : MinterDial.fr, on Buzzsprout or in iTunes.

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers: Timeless as Life itself

This week in 1938 (August 22), Hollywood’s most famous dancing duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, were featured on the cover of Life magazine.  With the US still in the grips of the Great Depression and with war heating up in Europe, Astaire and Rogers were grace and elegance personified.  Pictured below, Astaire and Rogers are dancing the Yam, a dance (and song) written by Irving Berlin and which was featured in a 1938 film called “Carefree.”

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire LIFE Magazine, Minter Dialogue Myndset Digital Marketing

Thanks to Blog Critics Redux for some background information on Carefree and the Yam.  It was in this film that Fred Astaire famously planted an unprecedented kiss on Ginger Rogers’ lips.

Here is a clip from YouTube of Astaire and Rogers doing the famed Yam.

Astaire was also featured on the cover of LIFE in August 1941 with his son.

Astaire and son LIFE, The Myndset Digital Marketing

And, finally, Ginger Rogers for her part, was also featured on several other covers (1940, 1942 and 1951), including this one below in 1942, where she was photographed fly fishing on her ranch in the Rogue River Valley, Oregon.  A rather beguiling photo.

life cover Ginger Rogers, The Myndset Digital Marketing

Please Help Celebrate Minter’s 100th Anniversary on March 21st, 2011

PERSONAL LETTER TO READERS OF MINTER DIALOGUE

Dear readers,

I am asking you to join in a 5-minute social experiment. It is for a good cause, I believe you will agree.

Minter Dial and Lisa Porter Dial

Minter and his wife, Lisa, in New York (c 1938)

In just over a week, on March 21st 2011, it will be the 100th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather, Minter Dial, after whom I was named.   Lt Cdr Minter Dial was 33 when he was killed in 1944 in the Philippines, after having been awarded the Navy Cross and having been a POW of the Japanese for 2 1/2 year. In honor of his life, I would like to invite you to join me in a rather novel communal action.

The objective is to see if we can, together, rally more people to join in and sign up for his fan page. Ultimately, I hope that we can use this page to launch the film and find the lost Annapolis ring!

Here’s the idea (It will take no more than 5 minutes of your time, I guarantee).

You have just 3 quick things to do:

  1. Join my grandfather’s fan page here: Lt Cdr Minter Dial 1911-1944.  You can just click LIKE here.
  2. Send me an email (send Minter an email) to sign up for a time slot, before March 21st, 2011.
  3. Then copy & paste a sentence onto the fan page on March 21st, 2011.

Here’s how you participate in this social experiment:

Some time this week, you sign up for a specific time slot on March 21st (the anniversary day).  To do so, you just need to click on this link to send Minter an email (dialfamily AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll send you a link via Doodle so that you can book your slot.

You will then just need to fill in your name and choose a specific 15-minute time slot between midnight of the 20th to midnight of the 21st March.  Please note that the timing is based on Paris Time, GMT +1.  For New York, for example, you need to subtract 5 hours (DST has just happened in the US), meanwhile for the Philippines, you must add 7 hours, etc.

Minter's Last Letter written Dec 12, 1944

At the chosen time, you will be asked to copy & post on the fan page wall a sentence from the LAST LETTER (see on the FB page for a readable version) that my grandfather wrote on the eve of his death from Old Bilibid Prison (Manila), December 12, 1944. It is a moving letter and contains the reference to a poem (that will also be part of this communal activity). The idea is that the “LAST LETTER” letter is “published” in morcels by each of us IN ORDER all along the day.

To make it super simple, I will custom send to you, privately and in advance via Facebook, the sentence for you to copy and post, and if possible, with an Outlook meeting request to serve as a reminder!

I hope that you will consider signing up and, if you can think of anyone who would be motivated to particpate, please consider sharing and/or passing along this post to them.

I trust you will find this an enjoyable and memorable little social experiment. Thanks for having read this far in my post and, for those of you who do sign up, thank you and see you soon.

Warmest regards, Minter

Salute – A Testament to the Human Race

Salute Film - Mexican Olympics 1968On January 20th, 2009, while flying back from Las Vegas after having watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I watched the film “Salute,” a documentary of the Australian, Peter Norman (1942-2006).  Norma was the “other” man on the podium, a white man who split Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 200m final at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  Smith and Carlos received their medals and raised their hands with the famous black gloves, the Black Power salute.  What is less known is that Norman wore a badge on the podium (above his heart) to show his tacit support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR).  While both Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games, Norman was “severely reprimanded,” explaining himself, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.”

One of the most striking things I learned was that the Aussie athletics team had been given three rules for competing in those controversial and violence-plagued Olympic games:

1. Repeat the form you had achieved to get to the Games. (not too much to ask).
2. Never to finish last no matter the race.
3. Never to finish behind a Pom (aka English).

Among the other anecdotes, for the black salute, Smith held up a gloved right hand (
with, momentarily, a white track shoe in the other hand) and Carlos a gloved left hand because they had to share the only pair of black gloves they had on them (the other pair had been left in the lockers).  The black athletes were shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to represent black poverty.

As a track athlete, it is great to see the film because you see the classic elements of athletic endeavour.  The psychology of the pre-race preparations.  Carlos looking over his left shoulder that cost him the silver medal (reminiscent of the Roger Bannister 4 minute mile in which he overtook the Australian, John Landy, who was caught looking over his left shoulder in the final stretch).  

Having seen the film, Salute, I have new found appreciation for the boldness of those two Americans and, clearly, a surprising new found respect for the evident implication of Peter Norman. 

I had no idea that the man singing the Star Spangled Banner while the men were on the podium stopped singing 4 bars into it. 

And here we are, forty years later after the Mexico City Olympics — basically as predicted by Robert Kennedy, saying that an African-American could be President of the USA in 30 to 40 years — which he said in 1961.  (MLK said in a 1964 interview that it could happen within 25 years). 

Although “…Peter Norman did not race a fist, he did lend a hand.”  And, unbelievably, Norman’s time that day of 20.06 seconds flat still stands as Australia’s 200m record, and would have won the 200m at Sydney Games, 38 years later. 

Not for the first time, Australians and Americans shared a common battle.  I read these holidays “The Ghost Mountain Boys,” by James D. Hornfischer, a gripping [and true] tale about the war (WWII) in Papua New Guinea where Americans fought with Australians to keep their hold on that island.  And a second fascinating story is
Ship of Ghosts,” by James Campbell, about the fate and survivors of the USS Houston and the Australian HMAS Perth, sunk in the early morning hours of Feb 27, 1942, and their 3+ years of imprisonment thereafter (some might say the real story behind the Bridge over the River Kwai).  It is an odd coincidence that I read both these books over the holidays and that both shared the
word Ghost… not to be mixed up with Ghost Soldiers, the story by Hampton Sides, also about the allied POWs of the Japanese.


Peter means rock.  Peter Norman was a silent rock in the protest and the courage that was encapsulated in those black fists. 

Smith says in the film, “I would die for [Peter]“…an “interesting old guy.”  That is a testament to the human race.  Read Norman’s obituary in the GuardianWikipedia’s version of the Black Power Salute here.

Guam – A family visit and things to do on Guam island

Pacific War Museum in GuamWe visited Guam to celebrate this past Christmas with my sister and her family, along with my mother who flew in all the way from Florida. Notwithstanding the jetlag and length of the journey (it felt like half way around the world, Guam to Paris is 13,316 kilometres or 8,274 miles)*, we had a lovely visit to Guam, albeit I would say that it is difficult to justify as regular tourists since we enjoy neither hiking nor scuba diving. The other alternative is to go there on your honeymoon as witnessed by the large number of romantic Japanese couples.

On the tourism front, we hit the newly minted Pacific War Museum (near the US Navy Hospital), complete with artefacts from the Japanese soldiers who had lived in isolation in the forests continuing to believe that the war had not ended; a most resourceful survivor, Major Shoichi Yokoi, only surrendered in 1972, while a couple of stragglers held out until 1962. And if the subject of Japanese holdouts interests you, I found this chronology of other situations rather fascinating (if certainly not complete and unsure of all the facts). More here about the longest holdout, Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974 in the Philippines. We did some snorkelling in shallow waters off the Guam Hilton Hotel — which is a very good Guamanian address — and saw scores of tropical fish. There was enough to explore to get our backs scorched by the sun in short order. The ordering out of food at the local “gourmet” Indian restaurant gave us a good insight into Guamanian service and sense of ‘island’ time. After placing an order by phone, we arrived ‘as requested’ 30 minutes later, at which point, we were informed that our order would only be ready in another 15 minutes. We waited at the bar. It was 10 minutes before we realized that the ordered drinks would not be coming. Going to pay, we waited a further ten minutes before seeing that a box to the side was sitting placidly, cooling off. We finally reappeared at home with the family, aside from being well past hungry, wondering what happened to us. Dinner at Firefly, 138 Martyr Street in Agana (+1 671-688-4145), hosted by the welcoming Randy Reyes, was a good address. However, don’t forget to come with extra jumpers for greater comfort (massive air conditioning).

Got in some cracking tennis with some members of the Guam national team (thanks to Lisa Miller for setting that up) including the #1 ranked Justin Dugan, Bill and Wendell.

Nuclear Submarine Docked in GuamOur highlight “tourist” activity was getting a first class visit of the USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender, courtesy of LCDR Dr. Rod Hagerman, the senior medical officer on the ship. Parked off its stern were two submarines (photo), while a third sub was across the inlet. The tour from the Docs (not at the docks) was very memorable for all the family. And, while we were some seven decks up, we witnessed some tuna fishing, whereby for some 3-4 minutes, a tuna hunted a smaller (2 foot) fish, zipping in and out of the water, at the ship’s water line. Better than any waterpark attraction.

* The earth’s circumference is 40,075.02 KM or 24,901.5 miles at the Equator, so to be fair, we travelled just 1/3 of the world’s circumference.

Corregidor – A Rocky, Whirlwind Visit on New Year’s Day 2009

Corregidor Island Map - PhilippinesThe least I can say for our New Year’s, is that it started off with a bang for us. A thriller in Manila, to coin a phrase a little literally (and litorally). For the first two days of 2009, I took my family to the island of Corregidor in the mouth of the Bay of Manila. On this my 3rd visit to Corregidor, “the Rock” in the unarguable form of a tadpole, I can begin to say that I now know the lay of the land. The island of Corregidor — the site of devastating bombing* in WWII and the capture of 11,000 US and Filipino military personnel, including my grandfather on May 6, 1942 — is a fascinating historical place [see here to read about the Battle of Corregidor]. This 3rd visit to Corregidor, armed with my wife and children, turned out to be most particular, if not spectacular. It all started out rather well. Arriving via ‘banca’ (pictured below right) from Cabcaben on the southeast of Bataan, we landed in a port of shamefully polluted waters (washed in from Manila). Once ashore, we then enjoyed a lazy afternoon at the Corregidor Inn, in which we were stay the night.

Banca Philippines - Pollution BayActivities included attempting to swim in the cold pool, having the run of an empty playground and then swimming in the warmer sea at the nearby beach. Fortunately, the water where we swam on bottomside was distanced from the banca landing spot (other side of the island). As we swam, we noticed the ever increasing wind, but cast caution aside in pursuit of gaiety and exercise. Apparently, we were feeling the perimeter effects of the typhoon off Palawan, many hundreds of miles southwest of us (364 miles to be more exact).

A little nervously, I also watched as the Sun Cruises ferry boat departed mid afternoon, returning to Manila loaded with all the other tourists on the island. We were the only remaining tourists on the island. That evening, in by now blustering winds, we met up with newly installed residents of Corregidor, Steve and Marcia Kwiecinski. Steve and Marcia decided to retire to Corregidor to pursue the footsteps, to a certain degree, WWII Battery Way, Corregidor Philippinesof Steve’s father (Staff Sgt Walter Kwiecinski) who was commander of the last functioning major gun (at Battery Way) on the island. Like my grandfather, Steve’s father (who was an uncommonly tall 6’6 and height was looked down upon by the Japanese captors), was then captured on Corregidor and imprisoned in a series of Japanese POW camps. Fortunately, Sergeant Kwiecinski survived the war and was able to share, later on in his life, some of his travails with Steve (link no longer functioning). Over drinks and dinner, Steve and I shared our stories and mutual interest in Corregidor. Certainly, one of the most interesting stories about Sgt Kwiecinski is that he was imprisoned in POW camps 12&17 in Kokura and saw Bockscar, the B-29 bomber loaded with an atomic bomb, circle overhead and then unload on Nagasaki. Had it not been for smoke coverage, the city of Kokura was to have been the initial target. For those who might wish to contact Steve in a quest to know more about the US history on Corregidor, you can use steveontherock AT gmail DOT com.

After dinner, we retired to our rooms to find our shutters fluttering on their hinges. Repairs were hastily done, but as we were to find out, to no avail. The wind was now blowing full force. The windows and shutters shook and banged and clanged all night long. Sleep was virtually hopeless. If the prior night’s new year’s experience (night of December 31) with the firecrackers going off outside our windows all night long were not enough of an experience in itself (the celebratory handheld firecrackers are a Filipino tradition), perhaps it was just practice for this next night of banging shutters.  (Photo of palm in the wind courtesy of Steve).

Palm Trees in the Wind in Hurricaine on Corregidor

The following morning, to help roust us out of any overnight fatigue, we were informed that, based on the Manila Bay Coast Guard’s decision, the ferry (capable of carrying 150 pax) would not be coming from Manila (48 kilometres away) to pick us up. This was an issue.

To start with, our plane back to Paris (non-refundable, non-changeable tickets) left that evening. To continue, the next available plane out was 10 days later…and one way tickets for the family would have to be repurchased. Moreover, because of the galeforce winds, the ferry would be cancelled for up to three days, meaning that we would have become more than familiar with island life, its 9 km2 (1,735 acres) terrain, solitary hotel, 130 island lodgers and the “karaoke café” on bottomside. On top of that, we would have had a surprise extra week to visit Manila, replete with extra hotel and board expenses. Once we absorbed those issues, there were still the intervening questions of the beginning of school, work, numerous medical rendez-vous and a non-refundable trip to London
.

In sum, not good.

Many calls later, and helped by our travel agent Teresa and the Corregidor Inn staff, we were able to scramble a helicopter, with a pilot committed enough to fly through the typhoon winds to our island to evacuate us. Having already paid for the chopper, we were then informed that they could only take 3 pax. Sophie’s Choice is a grippingly tragic WWII film, but wrong war… and they were mistaken in thinking that my Hollywood-style looks and link to the Pacific War through my grandfather, would cause me to enjoy a replay. We were going to all go together or not at all. Of course, I dramatize a bit. All we had to do was pay for two helicopter rides. Despite my protestations that we had clearly and knowingly checked in as a family of four, our backs were somewhat up against the wall. Force majeure they kept telling me.

The solution, throwing total caution and dollars to the wind: not one, but two whopper chopper bills.

The organizing (and monopolistic) tour operator (Sun Cruises) participated in the [financial] damage fortunately. Despite some harrowing gusts, we were safely whisked away in two separate loads. And, we made our plane not without a little emotion.

WWII Battery Hearn, Corregidor Island, Philippines

Post Scriptum: In the morning, despite the commotion, we made a private visit of the island with Bryan, our kindly tour guide, accompanied by Steve and Marcia. The island is well arranged for a visit if you want to know more about the second most bombed ever piece of land in history (behind Malta). The 30-minute Light & Sound show in the famed Malinta Tunnel is not high quality, but is quite vivid and worth it as long as you don’t have to pay outright the full fare (2500 pesos or $54). The Corregidor guns are certainly impressive and story surrounding them highly engaging. For more on the battle of Corregidor, read here at HyperWar Foundation as well as the personal account of a soldier, Roy Edgar Hays, who was taken prisoner at Corregidor. Malinta Tunnel Entrance, Corregidor Philippines As for historical sites, there is a Foundation that is looking to save Corregidor’s crumbling ruins: Save Corregidor Foundation.

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* From Nationmaster: “Japanese bombing and shelling [of Corregidor] continued with unrelenting ferocity [after the fall of Bataan]. Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions dropping 1,701 bombs totaling some three hundred sixty-five tons of explosive. Joining the aerial bombardment were nine 240 mm howitzers, thirty-four 149 mm howitzers, and thirty-two other artillery pieces, which pounded Corregidor day and night. It was estimated that on May 4 alone, more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.”