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Humpty Dumpty and History

I want to start Our blog by posting a family picture. At the same, this is also a thank you to all our Veterans from Saturday’s Veterans Day. A picture that my parents forwarded to me. It’s my grandfather during World War II.


He is here speaking to the troops in Belgium, as a military chaplain. Most were bomber pilots about to fly into Germany. One of many reasons that I am proud of him!

And now some war history. It’s the story of Humpty Dumpty. You know the rhyme:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

No where in that rhyme does it say that he is an egg. But this is what he looks like to us. Right?


 Humpty Dumpty did not start out as a nursery rhyme. The first theory of “his” origin relates to the English Civil War in 1648 when the town of Colchester was under attack.

As the story goes, a man named Jack Thompson was stationed on the walls of the church of the Tower of Saint Mary.  He was firing a cannon nicknamed “Humpty Dumpty.” Thompson and his one-eyed war machine managed to do a lot of damage to the advancing Parliamentarian troops.

Then… the cannon tumbled to the ground. Because of the size and weight of the cannon, the King’s calvary (horses) and the infantry (men) couldn’t put Humpty back together again. They were soon overrun by the Parliamentarians, led by Thomas Fairfax and his soldiers.

There is another theory that King Richard III, known as the “Humpbacked King”, was also nicknamed Humpty Dumpty. History really tells us that he actually suffered from scoliosis, which made his right shoulder higher than the left. So I don’t believe that story. Plus a cannon on a wall is much more exciting!

Although, a smiling egg on a wall is a bit unusual too.

And for our pic o’ day, this “hiding cat” makes me smile!


Working Together… And Then Not!

From the History Channel ( comes a story from September 13, 1942, that is a feel good story until it becomes a feel bad story!

A German submarine (U-boat) sunk the British troop ship, the Laconia, killing more than 1,400 men. The commander of the German sub, Capt. Werner Hartenstein, then realized that also on that sub, there were Italians prisoners-of-war being transported among the passengers. So, he gave an order to attempt to rescue their sunken allies.

The Laconia, a former Cunard White Star ship that was being used to transport troops, including prisoners of war, was in the South Atlantic bound for England. There, it encountered  U-156, a German sub.

The sub attacked and sank the troop ship, while also sinking more than 2,200 passengers. But as Commander Hartenstein, the sub commander,  learned from survivors that they began taking on board, there were 1,500 Italians POWs still below on the sunken ship. Realizing that he had just endangered the lives of so many of his fellow Axis members, he put out an emergency call to an Italian submarine, and two other German submarines in the area, to ask for help in rescuing the survivors. (Italians)

In the meantime, a French and two British warships sped to the scene to also assist in the rescue. The German subs informed the Allied ships that they had surfaced to the top “for humanitarian reasons”.

The Allies assumed it was a trap. Suddenly, an American B-24 bomber, the  Liberator, saw the German sub and bombed it—despite the fact that Hartenstein had draped a Red Cross flag prominently on the hull of the surfaced sub.

The sub, damaged by the air attack, immediately submerged under water. Admiral Karl Donitz, Supreme Commander of the German U-boat Forces, had been monitoring the rescue efforts. He ordered that “all attempts to rescue the crews of sunken ships…cease forthwith.” As a result of the attack and then subsequent order, more than 1,400 of the Laconia‘s passengers, which included Polish guards and British crewmen, drowned.

The stick that lit the firecracker. No one trusted, despite attempting to work together for one moment during the war. No good!

And for pic o’ day, how about some funny politics!


Looking Backwards Forward

A great way to plan ahead:


Do something today that your future self will thank you. (Sean Patrick Flannery)

For whatsover a a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

I saw a story ( about a World War II bomb that exploded at a construction site in Euskirchen, Germany. A bulldozer driver was killed when he hit a bomb that had been buried since the war. Another 13 people were injured because of the explosion.  Window, roofs, and doors over 400 meters away (quoting the article since I’m too lazy to do the metrics mathematics) were also damaged in the blast.

Another explosion occurred in Goettingen, Germany. The explosion happened at a site where they knew that a bomb existed and needed to be removed.  About 45 minutes before the men planned to take the final step to remove the bomb, they had to wait to allow a passenger train to go past. Moments later, the bomb went off.

The team had been working on explosive removal for years and were highly experienced in defusing buried bombs from World War II. More than 2,000 tons of American and British bombs; as well as German grenades and Russian artillery shells, are unearthed in Germany each year. The great majority are defused without incident. The reminder is that the past still catches up, whether positively or negatively.

I suspect that you didn’t think I would be blogging about a World War II story. Bombs in the past that are dangerous in the present.

Sometimes I think it would be more fun to blog that Kenny Rogers has announced, “You can count your money. The dealing is done“.  Or maybe “chicken in the bread pan picking out dough“. Something like that.

Instead, just a reminder of the principle that can be positive or negative. It can be a disconcerting thought… or a comforting thought. We reap in the future what we are sowing today. As Uncle D likes to say, “You need to wear work boots, if you want to make footprints in the sands of time”.

And for pic o’ day, I am guessing that the editor took the day off:


Charles Whittlesey: What Happened?

     Wednesday’s Our Daily Bread , with a look toward Labor Day, briefly recited the story of Charles Whittlesey.


      Whittlesey initially graduated from law school and joined a law firm partnership. However, he felt a duty to join the military when the United States entered World War I. He left his partnership and shipped to France as a captain.

     At one point, he and his battalion were behind enemy lines as he commanded 554 soldiers. They were cut off from supplies. At one point, his unit was dubbed the “Lost Battalion” because all contact with the U.S. Army had been lost.

     On October 7, 1918, the Germans sent a blindfolded American prisoner of war carrying a white flag toward the battalion. He was carrying a letter that said the following:

 “The suffering of your wounded men can be heard over here in the German lines, and we are appealing to your humane sentiments to stop. A white flag shown by one of your men will tell us that you agree with these conditions. Please treat Private Lowell R. Hollingshead [the bearer] as an honorable man. He is quite a soldier. We envy you. The German commanding officer.”

     Whittlesey would not allow his men to surrender. Instead, he ordered that the white sheets that had been placed as signals to the Allied troops be removed, just in case the Germans would think that they were surrendering. That night, a relief force arrived and rescued the Battalion. Whittlesey received a battlefield promotion to lieutenant-colonel and ultimately received three medals of honor.

     He was considered a war hero of heroes. .

     His Wikipedia story summarizes the ending of his life with the following:

In November 1921, Whittlesey acted as a pallbearer at the burial of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, along with fellow Medal of Honor recipients Samuel Woodfill and Alvin York. A few days later he booked passage from New York to Havana aboard the SS Toloa, a United Fruit Company ship. On November 26, 1921, the first night out of New York, he dined with the captain and left the smoking room at 11:15 p.m. stating he was retiring for the evening, and it was noted by the captain that he was in good spirits. Whittlesey was never seen again. He was reported missing at 8:00 a.m. the following morning. He is presumed to have committed suicide by jumping overboard, although no one reported seeing him jump and Whittlesey’s body was never recovered. Before leaving New York, he prepared a will leaving his property to his mother. He also left a series of letters in his cabin addressed to relatives and friends. The letters were addressed to his parents, his brothers Elisha and Melzar, his uncle Granville Whittlesey, and to his friends George McMurtry, J. Bayard Pruyn, Robert Forsyth Little and Herman Livingston, Jr. Also in his cabin was found a note to the captain of the Toloa leaving instructions for the disposition of the baggage left in his stateroom. He left the famous German letter asking for surrender to McMurtry.

     This life story of this hero is fitting as a remembrance, as we head into Labor Day. As Our Daily Bread referenced, Charles Whittlesey was publicly strong. Because he took his life, inwardly he must have been dealing with such emotions of despair.

     Maybe it’s a good reminder to us that just because someone says that everything is great, doesn’t mean that “everything is great”. That they sure could use a word of encouragement. Also, that those returning from the battlefield many times need more than a welcome home.     


     I hope you have a great weekend. Back on Tuesday. 

     And for pic o’ day, I felt the need to go a bit on the light side… in changing places:

changing places

The Power of Coffee

Coffee is a bit of a running joke at our firm. I decided long ago to purchase good coffee. Specifically, I order Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee for the office. Normally, we have about 3 pots going at any given time in the Richmond office. Accordingly, we joke that the productivity of the firm has dramatically increased since our jump in coffee expense.

This past weekend, I was visiting family in Wilmingon, North Carolina, and stayed at a hotel that provided free coffee. Unfortunately, it seemed to live up to the value of free. I guess I am also a bit spoiled by the Jamaican Blue work week coffee. I even commented  that I was feeling a little sluggish. Then, I stumbled on an article that suggests that coffee may have played a role in the Union winning the Civil War.

From the New York Times opinion pages comes an article titled How Coffee Fueled the Civil War. In it, it discusses the diaries of soldiers who regularly wrote about their coffee. As the author notes, one battle victory was directly effected by coffee delivery. In September 1862, Union soldiers were lagging. Suddenly, a 19-year-old William McKinley appeared, under heavy gunfire, with vats of hot coffee.

One soldier noted that, “It was like putting a new regiment in the fight”. This was the same coffee bearer who ran for President some three decades later. Some suggest that his coffee heroism helped his election effort.

The article later cites that Union soldiers were individuallly issued 36 pounds of coffee per year. Meanwhile, the Union was successful in setting up blockades that kept coffee from getting to the Confederacy. One observer wrote that the loss of coffee, “afflicts the Confederates even more than the loss of spirits”.

While coffee may not have won the war… it may have influenced it. And so, I continue to order our many pounds of coffee for the office!

And now some unusual TV trivia for DID YOU KNOW. In the TV series The Addams Family, John Astin played the family patriarch character of Gomez. In one episode, he acknowledged being a lawyer who had never won a case. As part of his character, Astin would place lit cigars into his pocket. To accomodate this character trait, the prop department lined his suit pockets with asbestos.

And pic o’ day:


Some Lincoln Storytelling

For the Friday blog , I recite a story within a story, with an ending that you might consider a bit sideways. Still, under the excuse of reciting history, I include the following story for thought.

Abraham Lincoln ‘s patience was greatly tried during his Presidency, when favor seekers would consume his time. This was especially true during the trying times of the Civil War. On one occasion, he gathered a number of  would-be-office holders and “time-consumers” to tell them the following story:

“There was once a King who wished to go out hunting, so he asked his minister if it was going to rain. The minister assured him that it would not. On the way to the woods, the King passed a farmer who was working the land with his donkey. The farmer warned the King that it would rain soon, but the King just laughed and continued on. A few minutes later it was pouring, and the King and his companions were soaked to their skin. Upon return to the castle, the King dismissed his minister and sent for the farmer. He asked the man how he knew it was going to rain.

“”It was not me, your Majesty. It was my donkey. He always droops one ear when it is going to rain.”

“So the King bought the donkey from the farmer and gave him the position of minister at court. This was where the King made his mistake.”

“How was that,” asked several people in the audience.

“Because ever since then,” Lincoln continued, “every jackass wants an office. Gentlemen, leave your credentials and when the war is over you’ll hear from me.”

DID YOU KNOW that tennis was originally played with bare hands. And yes, without rackets, I also wonder what people threw when they got angry.

And for pic o’ day, here’s one from Stacey that has a message in a message:

seas the day

The Franklin/Adams Cold Air Night

We all have been on trips where we ended up sleeping in less than ideal conditions or even failed to plan ahead.  When we think of the country’s founding fathers, it’s real easy to have a mental image of  crowd-stirring speeches or the drafting of documents that would govern our nation in its infancy.

I was reminded by, that the background stories were as colorful as the lessons in our history books. This is a story of a night in September of 1776 as recorded by the diary of John Adams; It shows the thinking and persuasion of two historical figures as well as why even the smallest of details makes for intersting historical perspective.

Just months after the thirteen American colonies announced their independence from British rule, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were sent by the Continental Congress  as part of a small delegation, to travel from Philadelphia to Staten Island for the purpose of negotiating with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy. Their hope was to bring a possible end to the Revolutionary War.Franklin Adams

According to Adams, as they passed through New Brunswick, New Jersey, the negotiators of the delegation – Frankin, Adams and South Carolina representative Edward Rutledge decided to stop for the night and find a place to sleep. Without Priceline or Expedia, they soon learned that without prior planning, all the inns and local lodging taverns were full except for one establishment that had two available rooms. Unfortunately, this left only two beds for the three men.

As described by Adams’ writings, “One bed could be procured by Dr. Franklin and me, in a chamber a little larger than the bed, without a chimney and with only one small window.” It turned out that the small window would become the bone of contention. The diary went on to describe the night’s events:


     Adams described himself as “an invalid and afraid of the air in the night,” so he closed the window before they got into bed.

“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated.”

What Adams had meant by “invalid” was that he could not stand cold air. When Adams explained to Franklin that he didn’t want to catch a cold from the night air, Franklin countered that the air in their room was even worse.   “Come!” Franklin said. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”

Contrary to the general population of that day, Franklin was convinced that no one had ever gotten a cold from cold air. Instead, it was the “frowzy corrupt air” from animals, humans and dirty clothes and beds that resulted in a cold, when they were “shut up together in small close rooms.”  It was cool, fresh night air that had many benefits.

Franklin’s opinion was inconsistent with Adams’ own experiences, Adams noted, but he was curious regarding Franklin’s theory. So, even at the risk of a cold, he opened the window again and hopped into the lone bed.

As they lay side by side, according to the diary, Franklin “began a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration.” Adams watched Franklin catch a cold.

“I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together,” Adams wrote. “But I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep.”

Unfortunately, the ending of the trip was not a successful negotiation. Still, Adams was able to later tell others that Franklin may have understood lightning and electricity but he did not understand the components of the common cold.

DID YOU KNOW that when people are offered a new pen to try, 97% of them try it by writing their own name.

And for pic o’ day, here are two mischevious  friends that got into it:

two friends


A Real Story of Relationship

   Mail call was exciting for the soldiers of Vietnam. I suspect that they would have even appreciated an envelop of coupons, just to receive and open. I am told that there was always great hope for a letter from back home. Plus, if you had been “out in the bush”, you had the possibility that there might be several letters waiting for you.

     One Georgia boy received a letter that was address to “Dear Soldier”. A teenage group, from a church in Chesterfield, Virginia, decided to try a letter writing campaign. It was their way to try to encourage the Vietnam soldiers. They didn’t exactly know who they were writing to, so they would just address their letters to “Dear Soldier”.

     On the day when the 18-year-old boy from Georgia received his “Dear Soldier” letter, others were also receiving letters from the same youth group. This one was just randomly handed to him; it had been written by a 15-year-old girl in that Virginia church. She wrote to say thank you for serving; and that she was praying for the soldier that received it.

     When that Georgia soldier left Vietnam, and got out of the army, he went home to see his family in Georgia. Then, he decided to visit that church in Chesterfield, Virginia. He had kept the letter for almost 3 years, as an encouragement during tough times.

     When he arrived in Virginia and visited the church. He was also introduced to the girl who had written him the letter of encouragement. By now, she was 18 years old.

     Yep, the story doesn’t end there. They ended up dating and then got married, a little over a year later. They made their home in Virginia and still go to that same church. Now, the husband is getting close to 70.

     A few months back, his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Together, they are battling it. At home, he helps to administer the chemotherapy. That same church is an encouragement to both of them. 

     I am greatly impacted by the story of this couple. For many years now, they have traveled life’s journey together, because he was the one that received that “Dear Soldier” letter.

     I  am told that some insurance adjusters read my blog. I hope that they are able to remember that the value of a claim and the things in life should not be just measured by computers and numbers. 

     Marie Dressler, an actress born in the 1800’s, said that life is learning that “only a few things are really important”. The love story of this couple is a reminder of what is important.  

Thought I would include what happens with arguing neighbors (I know, a little borderline), for pic o’ day. 


Jury Verdict Reminders

     When discussing leadership, General George C. Patton said the following as a reminder about accomplishment and ego:

     “For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars, enjoyed the honor of triumph…. a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories; together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments.

     The conqueror rode in a triumphant chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes, his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting”.

     Last year, I was involved in 12 cases that went before a jury for trial. Some involved significant medical bills with permanent injury; and other cases were considered soft tissue, connective tissue injuries that resolved with therapy, and without permanent injury.

     Cases go to trial for different reasons including a difference in each side assessing case value; a question of prior injury or a battle over who is at fault for the crash. If lawyers do post results about their trials, the State Bar requires that such advertisements or discussions also include disclaimers that remind people that each case is different and that prior results are not a guarantee of a future recovery.

      Each of those jury trials were an example of that statement. They all had special circumstances which were partially responsible for why a jury had to decide on the value or facts.     

     One trial was especially satisfying because one of the defense lawyers had put in a letter that, the amount that we were seeking was unrealistic. He went on to say that there was not much of a chance that the verdict would be in excess of 100K.

     Later, when the case was tried, the jury returned a 7 figure verdict. I recognized that the client was a special person, who had suffered from a significant injury. However, I have to also admit that I was feeling pretty good about me.

     The very next trial, my client and I did not accept a 50K offer . The defense lawyer basically told me that I had to be out of my mind to turn that offer down. The jury returned a verdict of about 28K. I remember walking to the parking lot and not feeling so good about me, on that one.

     Patton’s words are good reminders for any lawyer who thinks that some amazing trial skills automatically result in a great jury verdict. In fact, those back to back verdicts were a good personal reminder that it’s still always about the client, hard work, and the evidence that makes up about 95% of a successful verdict.

     History records the fall of Rome, with its many reasons. Sometimes we wonder how our leaders and politicians get off the rail in their public and personal lives. Those words whispered to the conquerors are a good reminder to focus on the perspiration instead of the parades.

A Soldier and PTSD

      George S. Patton, Jr. was a World War II General, known for his leadership and hard work. His website attributes quotes to him that describe the kind of man that made him a General. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”. 

     He considered himself a soldier. Such quotes as “In case of doubt, attack”, and “May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won’t”; is the kind of thinking that even appeals to us today.

     It is undisputed that he was a driven man. However, his toughness on soldiers, became his downfall. The event was known as the “Patton slap”, but was basically the “slap heard round the world”. His Wikipedia description provides a pretty good account of what happened that effected his career and how he was viewed as a soldier. The entry is called the “slapping incident”.

     In the summer of 1943,  General  Patton’s Seventh Army  was engaged in a campaign to seize control of Sicily from the Germans and Italians. History records that the heat and the pace of the “Sicily campaign”, so frustrated Patton that he wrote that he was eager “to get out of this infernal island.”

     On the afternoon of August 2,  a 27-year-old Private,  named Charles H. Kuhl, checked into the aid station, with a diagnosis of “exhaustion”. According to the medical records still available today, it was the 3rd time that Private Kuhl had been admitted.

     On August 3, 1943, Kuhl’s medical note indicates that he was in a “Psychoneurosis anxiety state- moderate to severe”.  His medical record indicates that he was given “sodium mytal” , (sodium amytal). It is a drug that is used to combat insomnia. Recipients typically become very drowsy and it lasts into the next day.

     While Kuhl was receiving this medical attention, General Patton was making his rounds among the wounded soldiers; He came across Kuhl,  and Patton saw a 1st Division infantry man,  who showed no apparent wound or injury.

     In a 1970 interview, after the movie “Patton” was released, the “South Bend Tribune” reported that Kuhl remembered that when Patton entered the hospital tent, “all the soldiers jumped to attention except me. I was suffering from battle fatigue and just didn’t know what to do.”

     Patton went around to each soldier and individually asked about their specific injuries. Patton questioned Kuhl about why he had not stood and saluted. Kuhl told The Tribune, “I told him my nerves were shot and, of course, I didn’t feel like getting up to salute him.”

     The above attachment records that the furious General began swearing at Kuhl; calling him a coward and ordering him to leave the hospital tent that was occupied by brave soldiers who had “real” battle wounds.

     The frightened Kuhl did not move, which only further enraged Patton. Patton then, according to an eyewitness, slapped Kuhl’s face with a glove, raised him to his feet by the scruff of his neck and forced him out of the medical tent, with a final “kick in the rear.” Patton ordered the private to return to his unit and told the doctors not to re-admit him to the hospital.

     Kuhl fled from the tent and hid until Patton left the hospital. The soldier was then picked up by Corpsmen and returned to the ward tent and was admitted for acute anxiety, chronic diarrhea, malaria and a  fever with a 102.2 temperature. He suffered with malarial parasites and diarrhea for over a month.   Two days later, Patton ordered that Seventh Army soldiers alleging shell shock, not be admitted to hospitals; and that those who refused to fight would be court-martialed “for cowardice in the face of the enemy.”

       Word of the slap, did not make it back to the United States for a few months. History indicates that this allegedly was not the only soldier that Patton had slapped.

     Realizing that striking an enlisted man was a court-martial offense, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Patton’s senior commander, needed to both punish Patton and prevent the incident from causing a stir back home. Eisenhower was faced with a dilemma. He didn’t want to lose a general,  so crucial to the war effort. At one point, radio reports claimed that Eisenhower was attempting to cover it up.

      Eisenhower then knew that he had to take public actions. As part of Patton’s punishment, Eisenhower formally censured him, saying that he did not condone brutality or uncontrollable temper in front of the enlisted men. Eisenhower ordered Patton to publicly apologize for his actions.

     On Aug. 22, Patton summoned all of the Seventh Army to Palermo to publicly apologize for his actions. Beyond his public apology, Patton also personally apologized to Kuhl. He told the private that his slapping and verbal abuse were intended to motivate Kuhl to fight. General Patton asked Kuhl to shake his hand in forgiveness. An observer noted that Kuhl grinned enthusiastically and shook Patton’s hand.

     The slapping incident nearly ended Patton’s military career. He remained in the European war theater, but was never given a major command. Patton died in December 1945 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Luxembourg. Charles Kuhl returned to the Michiana area and worked at Bendix. He died in Mishawaka on Jan. 31, 1971, and is buried in Mishawaka’s Fairview Cemetery.

     Next Monday, we will honor and remember our war heroes. One book “Shell Shock to PTSD“, considers many of the injuries that soldiers suffered, from 1900 to 2005; Many of those injuries were like those that were suffered by Private Kuhl, that went undiagnosed during and after all the wars during that period.

     Trauma and psychiatric injuries were undiagnosed, when war Veterans returned back to society. Brain injury and long lasting effects were not treated because these injuries couldn’t be seen.

     It is estimated that 30 out of 100 Vietnam veterans, suffered the effects of PTSD, At least 15 out of every 100 that returned from Iraq, were dealing with symptoms of PTSD.

     In WWII, they were just treating soldiers, like Private Kuhl, with something to help them sleep. Then, they were sent right back out to the battlefield, which is why someone like Kuhl, returned to the battlefield again and again.   The indication is that, perhaps, even General Patton was suffering from symptoms of exhaustion that could have been PTSD. 

       What we now recognize as PTSD, used to be called or simply known as “shell shcok”, “combat fatigue” or “war neurosis”. We now know that these conditions  need continuing and long term care.

     In facing budget issues and what kind of medical care that our military and our Veterans deserve; politicians and the public are now aware of the need. It’s just a question of what can and will be done.  As a nation, what are we really going to do for those that we honor on Memorial Day.

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