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And then they come for the bookstores

Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis is the oldest independent science fiction bookstore in America, founded in 1974. It shares (shared?) space with its next-door neighbor, Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Books, founded in 1980.

Over the weekend, the store was lost to fire, a victim of the riots in the Twin Cities.

Store dog Echo is doing fine but, as noted by owner Don Blyly, who responded to the burglary and smoke alarms in the predawn hours of 30 May to find dancing rioters and no police for blocks in any direction, “I’m pretty sure the insurance policy excludes damage from a civil insurrection, so I suspect I won’t get a cent for either the building or the contents.”

Sci-Fi writer Larry Correia, the Monster Hunter Intl guy, noted, “Uncle Hugo’s never hurt anyone,” while fellow sci-fi writer and Army CWO Brad Torgersen opined, “The Mecca of independent SF/F bookstores fell to a mindless siege. As if Covid-19 panic shutdowns and scare-offs were not bad enough, the Minneapolis riots torched Uncle Hugo’s to the bare walls. A mighty pillar of the SF/F literature world has been burned down!”

Can we just leave the bookstores out of this?

The Oldest Gun Store in the U.S. is Now Gone

The John Jovino Co. gun shop opened in 1911 in Manhattan in the middle ground between Little Italy and Chinatown, just a block over from NYPD Headquarters.

Purchased in the 1920s by the Imperato family– who ran the shop and their Henry Firearms Company from its location until they pulled stumps for New Jersey in the 1990s– the store was iconic.

It was featured in films including Mean Streets and Serpico, as well as television shows such as Law and Order.

Crime scene photographer Weegee even lived in a studio apartment directly over the shop in the 1930s and 40s and captured the storefront, with its distinctive revolver sign, in at least one gritty nighttime image of Gotham.

Now, the shop has gone, killed by a combination of rising rents, ever-tougher NYC regs on gun sales, and the COVID-19 lockdown.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Remember, today is not about saving (up to) 40 percent on select items

It’s a small plot of land that’s never left unguarded. The Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are a small and exclusive group. They stand their post 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather. Hear the Sentinel’s Creed and you’ll know why. DOD video edited by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Bunn

Museum ships hanging out their shingles again. Others may hang it up

Sadly, as a side effect of the worldwide economic crisis sparked by the COVID 19 response and the extended shutdowns in some areas, it is estimated that one in eight museums currently closed will never reopen.

While not quite a descent into the Dark Ages just yet, that is still a big blow if you think about it. For instance, the Historic Naval Ships Association (HNSA) counts nearly 200 vessels in their “fleet,” which simple math would lead you to deduce that at least 16 will no longer be viable at the end of this crisis, a figure that in reality could be much higher as some museums have numerous ships.

For sure, with everyone sheltering in place, there are no visitors, the key to any museum’s survival. Ships located in states/countries with very strict lockdown seemingly extended forever are surely under the gun.

Last month the Mystic Seaport Museum closed and laid off 199 employees, with no date on the horizon to reopen. At the USS New Jersey (BB62) Museum, with the termination of visitors, and withheld funds from the State of New Jersey, ship managers are almost out of money to maintain the historic Iowa-class battlewagon, the only one that fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Everett, Washington’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, originally established by Paul Allen, announced, “The current global situation is making it difficult for us to serve our mission and we will spend the months ahead reassessing if, how, and when to reopen.”

How long can large, aging ships located in areas like New York City (USS Intrepid) and San Diego (USS Midway) survive if everything stays shut down in those areas with no expected relaxation of the lockdown rules in the near future?

With all that being said, many vessels have taken advantage of the past couple of months to restore compartments and areas that have long been neglected due to offering 364 days of yearly access to the public.

For instance, check out the USS Alabama/USS Drum‘s social media pages which have detailed an extensive before-and-after restoration of several areas of both the battleship and submarine. They even removed the 30+ planes from the Aircraft Pavilion for deep scrubbing.

USS Alabama’s recently restored sickbay

The Alabama Battleship Memorial Park will open to the public on Saturday morning, May 23, at 8:00 a.m., with new social distancing and hygiene standards in place. The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the USS Razorback (SS-394), opened on May 22. 

The South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia is reopening June 1. Likewise, the USS North Carolina Museum is opening on Tuesday, and Patriot’s Point in South Carolina is reopening Friday.

Hopefully they are the first of many.

Battleship No. 36’s final resting place, visited 15,000 feet down

USS Nevada (BB-36) survived the hell of Pearl Harbor and was famously the only battleship able to get underway that day. Repaired and returned to service, she earned seven battlestars from France to Okinawa and, in the end, was subjected to far more damage post-war.

From DANFS:

Nevada arrived at Bikini atoll on 31 May 1946 and was one of 84 targets used in Crossroads. The tests consisted of two detonations, the first Test Able, an airburst, on 1 July, and the second, Test Baker, an underwater explosion, on 25 July. Despite extensive damage and contamination, the ship survived the blasts and returned to Pearl Harbor to be decommissioned on 29 August. She was sunk by the cumulative damage of surface gunfire, aerial bombs and torpedoes, and rocket fire off Hawaii on 31 July 1948. Nevada was stricken from the Navy Register on 12 August 1948.

Nevada being sunk in ordnance tests off Pearl Harbor on 31 July 1948. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-498257 National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Now, over 71 years since she took her plunge to the ocean floor over 15,000 feet down, she has been discovered and documented.

SEARCH, Inc. and Ocean Infinity are pleased to announce the discovery of USS Nevada, one of the U.S. Navy‘s longest-serving battleships. The wreck was located 3 miles deep in the Pacific during a joint expedition that combined SEARCH, Inc.‘s maritime archaeologists and Ocean Infinity‘s robotic technology and deep-water search capability. The veteran battleship, which survived Pearl Harbor, German artillery, a kamikaze attack, and two atomic blasts, is a reminder of American perseverance and resilience.”

The stern of the wreck has the remains of “36” and “140.” Nevada’s designation was BB-36 and the 140 was painted on the structural “rib” at the ship’s stern for the atomic tests to facilitate post-blast damage reporting. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

By the end of World War II, Nevada carried thirty-two 40mm Bofors antiaircraft guns. The airplane had changed naval warfare and guns like this helped the crew fight off enemy attacks from the air. This 40mm gun, still in its gun “tub,” is mounted next to a partly fallen, standard-issue Mark 51 “gun director” used by the crew to direct the fire of these guns. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

USS Nevada, like other ships at Bikini, was a floating platform for military equipment and instruments designed to see what the atomic bomb would do to them. One of four tanks placed on Nevada, this is either a Chaffee or Pershing tank that survived a 23-kiloton surface blast and a 20-kiloton underwater blast and remained on Nevada until the ship was sunk off Hawai’i on July 31, 1948. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

Last minutes of Saigon, 45 Years Ago today

29 April 1975: As NVA tanks were moving into the city, the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam, Graham Martin, sent the below telegram to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, at the White House, during the evacuation of Saigon during the Vietnam War.

This primary source comes from the Collection GRF-0330: Backchannel Messages (Ford Administration). National Archives Identifier: 7367441

Martin states that he is, “well aware of the danger here tomorrow and I want to get out tonight.” He asks that the President send an order to finish the job quickly, evacuating the rest of the Americans and their children.

The American Ambassador to Vietnam resisted limiting the evacuation to Americans, as 10,000 locals were crowding the compound’s gates. In this cable he asks repeatedly for 30 CH-53 Sea Stallions:

“Perhaps you can tell me how to make some of these Americans abandon their half Vietnamese children?”

The helicopters did come, shuttling away the non-combatants all night. In all, some 7,000 people, mostly newly homeless refugees of the now-former South Vietnam, were airlifted from the Embassy complex by the Marines and from a series of other sites around Siagon by CIA-front company Air America.

A CH-46D, Swift 2-2, of HMM-164 lifted off with Marine detachment commander Major James Kean and the 10 remaining Marine Security Guards, leaving at 07:53 on 30 April. Just 37 minutes later Swift 2-2 landed on USS Okinawa (LPH-3) just offshore.

The last members of the Marine Security Guard land on USS Okinawa USMC Photo by GySgt Russ Thurman 

By noon, NVA regulars were in possession of the abandoned former U.S. Embassy. A mix of about 350 loyal Vietnamese employees and South Korean citizens still awaited a rescue that would not come.

The remains of MSG detachment 21-year-old Corporal Charles MCMAHON, Jr, 023 42 16 37, USMC; and 19-year-old Lance Corporal Darwin L. JUDGE, 479 70 89 99, USMC; killed on 29 April by an NVA rocket attack at the Tan Son Nut Airport, were, unfortunately, left behind during the withdrawal. They were later recovered via diplomatic means in 1976 and buried with full military honors.

Maj. Kean’s after-action report is available, here. 

ANZAC Cove at 105

The landing at ANZAC, Apr 25, 1915, Charles Dixon, New Zealand National Archives AAAC 898 NCWA Q388

On 25 April 1915, the Gallipoli landings to open up the Dardanelles and force the Ottoman Empire out of the Great War began in earnest with the landings at what became known as ANZAC cove.

The campaign was to showcase the Royal Navy and “the colonials” with the bulk of the British force drawn from the Australian and New Zealand Corps (ANZAC) along with several regiments of Gurkhas and Sikhs, the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, two divisions of Scots, one of Irish, some Canadian units, and the newly formed Royal Naval Division.

The French likewise contributed a mixed division composed of a Foreign Legion battalion, North African Zouaves, and Senegalese infantry.

Major Sherman Miles, in his work on amphibious operations in the 1920s, later concluded that, while the mighty battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth, Cornwallis, Albion, and other ships battered the Ottoman defenses for a full 24 hours before the landings– “still the Turkish rifle and machine-gun fire broke out whenever the big guns laid off,” and the Entente forces remained pinned to the ground by what were deemed to be greatly inferior Turkish forces.

An ANZAC soldier trying to spot Turkish snipers during the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915 Turkey

“One can only conclude,” Major Miles continues, “that there are few organisms in the world weaker than an army when its feet are still wet with saltwater.”

A lesson still likely very applicable today.

For resources on those teaching the Gallipoli Campaign at home, try here and here.

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