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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

American Women Competing in 2014 Winter Olympics Giant Slalom Event

The Women's Giant Slalom race took place to day (February 18, 2014) at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Five American women alpine skiers competed with four of them members of Team USA the official team of America's National Olympic Committee (NOC) with the fifth skier, Jasmine Campbell, skiing for Team U.S. Virgin Islands.
Alpine Skier
Source: Public Domain Graphic from WikiMedia Commons

While the 22 year old Ms Campbell is an American citizen who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands territory and has lived in Idaho since her family moved there when she was nine years old she is actually representing a the U.S. Virgin Islands which, as a non-self-governing territory is entitled to have its own National Olympic Committee and field its own teams in both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

While none of the American women skiers qualified for medals in the Giant Slalom four of them did successfully complete the event by making the two required runs down the course successfully.  The fifth American skier, Julia Marie Mancuso, was among the 27 skiers who encountered problems on the course and were unable to complete the event.

The other four finished as follows:

For more on skier Jasmine Campbell and the U.S. Virgin Islands team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia click here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Remembering Vietnam War Aviators

U.S. air power played a major role in the Vietnam war.  Like previous wars, aviation played a supporting role for the infantrymen on the the ground who actually took and held the real estate needed to win a war.

However, it was air strikes which helped force enemy forces back when they threatened to over run a ground position.  Fighters and bombers also carried out both strategic and tactical attacks against enemy movements and supply depots and helicopters supplied munitions and other supplies as well as reinforcements to troops in the field.

F-4 Phantom Jet on Display at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ
F-4 Phantom Jet flown by Triple ACE and Red River Fighter Pilots Association founder, Col. Robin Olds in Vietnam War (Photo copyright by Chuck Nugent)
As in all wars, prisoners were taken and in the Vietnam War the majority of the American POWs (Prisoners of War) were aviators whose planes were shot down while on missions over North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Just inside the main gate of Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona is a small park dedicated to aviators and the planes they flew during the turbulent last half of the twentieth century.

One section of the park is dedicated to the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (with the Red River Valley referring to the Hong River that flows through the old North Vietnam from the Chinese border to the Gulf of Tonkin).

The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association is an organization whose original membership was limited to U.S. aviators who had flown combat missions over Route Pack 6 a combat area over North Vietnam that included the port city of Haiphong and the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.  The air defenses in the Route Pack 6 area were the strongest in the entire combat theater.  Membership has since been opened to anyone who has flown as an aircrew member on any U.S. military aircraft.

Sculpture Honoring Vietnam POWs at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ
Sculpture Honoring Vietnam War POWs at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ  (photo copyright by Chuck Nugent)
Given the the heavy air defenses in the Route Pack 6 area and the thousands of U.S. combat missions flown in that area it is not surprising that many of the Vietnam POWs were aviators who had been shot down on missions over Route Pack 6.

For more information on the park at DMAFB and the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association click here

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

London Bridge in the Arizona Desert

The bridge was originally built across the River Thames in London, England and opened to traffic in 1831.  

The original London Bridge was built of timber and was later replaced by a stone bridge that was built between 1176 and 1209.

This masonry bridge that was started in 1176, lasted until the late eighteenth century.  Despite its having lasted over 600 years, the uneven construction of that bridge resulted in its need for regular repairs.  This may be one reason for the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down as, without the frequent repairs, it would have fallen down.

London Bridge - Lake Havasu, Arizona  
(photo Copyright © 2013 by Charles Nugent)

In addition to carrying foot and horse traffic this original stone bridge was home to many people and their shops.  With their homes and shops built on the bridge many people literally spent their lives living on the bridge.  In addition to the living, the bridge was also a place where the severed heads of prominent political prisoners and other notorious criminals were displayed.

In 1799 plans began being developed to replace the 600 year old bridge as it was not aging gracefully.  The new bridge was completed and opened in 1831.  However, by the mid-twentieth century, this bridge was straining under the heavy twentieth century London traffic.

In 1967 the London Common Council decided to sell the bridge and build a new one.  

When Robert Plumer, real estate agent for Robert P. McCulloch, the Chairman of McCulloch Oil Company and the man who was trying to develop a retirement community called Lake Havasu City located in what was then a remote area in the Arizona Desert, saw the announcement that the City of London was trying to sell the bridge and suggested to McCulloch that he purchase the bridge.  

Plumer's idea was to use the bridge in the middle of the desert as a tourist attraction to draw people to the Lake Havasu City project which, at that time, was not turning out to be a profitable venture.

Although he initially scoffed at the idea, McCulloch did reconsider and put in a bid for $2.4 million and won.  The bridge was then disassembled, stone by stone, each stone numbered and then shipped from London to Houston, Texas by ship and then overland to the Lake Havasu City project site where it was reassembled across a canal that had been built for it to span.

The gamble paid off with the publicity and uniqueness of a historic British bridge in the middle of the Arizona desert drawing tourists and retirees in droves to Lake Havasu City.  The project was a success and the profits were more than enough to cover the cost of buying, transporting and re-building the bridge.

The re-building of the bridge was completed in 1971 and ever since Lake Havasu City has been a popular tourist attraction and a year round population of families and retirees.

Bridge's Role in Salvation Army Aiding the Homeless

Plaque Commemorating Start of Salvation Army's Shelter Program for the Homeless
(Photo copyright © 2013 by Charles Nugent)
The Plaque above, located on a stone by one of the bridge's arches, commemorates the bridge's role as inspiration for the founding of the Salvation Army's building shelters to aid those in need.  

Upon seeing a crowd of poor people seeking shelter under the London Bridge on a cold night in London in November of 1887, William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in London in 1865, decided to expand the Salvation Army's mission by building shelters  to aid those in ned.