February 2, 2014, I discovered that the military base I served on Crete had been abandoned.  The amateur photo collection is worth a look.  The Air Force just walked away from it,  The site is now in the hands of local developers and I am sure will become another resort like those that now dot the shoreline of the island.  Check out: 6930th RGM, Crete, Greece

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Taking flight late in life…..

Taking flight late in life…...

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A Christmas message for family and friends.

Many of you may live in large cities, others in the prairie country or mountain states.  I think we take for granted the surroundings that shape us and I offer a morning of thoughts from Montana in December 2012.

It has been a dry month with the only snow already piled deep in the mountains.  Television commentators are full of doom and gloom about the lack of moisture.  It could certainly be a problem for ranchers if the snow pack is insufficient but it looks like it will tumble out of the mountains as usual in the spring of 2013.

Last night, my 12-year-old Golden Retriever wasn’t up to his old self and I watched him closely for signs of arthritis or seizures.  We had a house full of family yesterday including a very active retriever who probably pushed my dog to his limits.  When I found him sleeping at the head of the stairs I tried to coax him up but he seemed dazed so I covered him with a blanket and talked to him as I always have when he is ailing.  He did come outside with me and our Cavalier Spaniel named Cooper and was content to go for a short walk.  I made sure the deer were out of the area so there would be no chase.  I will be a good nurse for this guy because we are more than owner and animal.  Butch has gone around the pasture with me every day for 12 years and we know each others behaviors  in very predictable ways.  When I lose him, it will be my third dog of this amazing breed.  I know in my heart that he is strong and has just suffered sore muscles and sensory overload from yesterday.

As I sit in the dining room looking out at the bird feeders, I am glad the weather has cooperated so the suet boxes could be filled.  I cook up about 5 quarts of peanut butter, butter flavored Crisco, corn meal, oatmeal, raisins and song bird seed twice a winter which I freeze and store. When I fill the cages with cakes of this mixture, a lot falls to the ground which the deer and squirrels enjoy.

It has been an awful period of death and destruction on the east coast.  I find myself so numbed by the senseless slaughter of children that I can’t stand to turn on the television.I support my wife in her deeply held belief that there is no reason for anyone to own an  assault rife.  I add the thought that the incredibly violent video games that several generations have grown up with has also contributed to the insanity.    Finally, I also agree with the idea that we must remain vigilant.  When the child across the road from me was constantly alone I was concerned.  When I talked to the mother, she informed me that the young man had been bullied on the school bus and she had chosen to home school him.  Her hours with him are inadequate because she works away from the home most of the day.  The father has included his son in outdoor activities but has a hard time understanding his son. I am concerned about the child, his social isolation and lack of contact with other children so I am doing what I can to be a visible presence in his life.  I have provided him with several subscriptions to magazines, i.e., National Geographic and the Smithsonian so his world gets a bit larger and recently provided him with a model airplane part collection. The gamble was simple.  Is he too isolated? Will his lack of socialization lead to a life of confrontation? I will continue to watch and offer help where I can.

I wanted to provide positive thoughts here but I find myself overwhelmed by the violence in our society.  I do know that the recent birth of several children in our family and the grandchildren and their children are my primary source of joy in the world.  My daughter and her family from Norway will be here for Christmas and we will have many laughs and late night hours getting caught up in each others lives.

Your families are beautiful, intelligent, terribly busy and ready to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I will join you in that celebration with Butch at my side.

 

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The Nazi Exterminator

His boyhood was less than remarkable.  He was asked to clean the fishing nets and look in on his grandparents, but other than that, things remained calm in the fishing village of Tvetestran Norway.  There had been talk, uncomfortable talk about rumblings in Europe about various countries experiencing violence in their streets and in the first part of the century, the assassination of a crown prince had led to the deaths of millions of able young men fighting in trenches all across Europe.

He  had been a kind and loving child, named Edvard, who enjoyed the sights and smells of the ocean, watching tremendous waves in February bring flotsam into the harbor..  His grandfather visited him regularly with stories of the sea and his grandmother was a matriarch of a large Norwegian family intent on keeping the traditions of their ancestors alive.  In later years she had loved the monarchy beyond all else because of their benevolence.                          .                                                                                                                                          The country was sorely in need of establishing agricultural and fishing reforms so Edvard’s parents had insisted that grandma and grandpa return to farming their mountainside potato field and milking a few cows for cheese.

Thus, Edvard’s early schooling had been in the two things he loved most: gathering potatoes and entering the sweet-smelling barn to watch his grandfather milk the docile cows.  A burning desire to grow to manhood and become a leader in the village, would provide the impetus to be a staunch defender of Norway.   His father was the first to put a weapon in his hands and explained to him, “Don’t point that thing at someone unless you need to defend yourself.”  His excellent eyesight had provided him hours of marksmanship on the beach as he plinked away at wary seagulls and an occasional sea-lion.

On his many walks around the village, he would pause and look at the church steeple, high on the hillside.  The family seldom attended services, but found the high holidays and traditional dress of their region to be a strong beacon to worship.

Of course, the bakery that served sweet bread and jam was high on his list of Saturday visits because the village elders gathered to discuss the current state of affairs.  Highest on the list was the awareness of ships cruising southward in the Atlantic.  Some were passenger vessels, others of undetermined purpose.  He really didn’t know the difference until one Saturday morning, a learned gentleman passed around a photo of an ominous gray ship bearing the German flag on its tower. The man told his audience that the ships seemed to be possible war vessels but he hoped not.   The increase in German ship traffic had been noticeable to the population who were unaware that many of the them never made it to Oslo, but took abrupt turns into hidden harbors of off-loading.

Edvard reluctantly did his school work, visited his grandparents, continued his target practice and relished his time with his father in repairing nets and listening to tales of the sea.  He was proud to have gained knowledge of the current state of affairs in his country but also worried that he did not fully understand the complexities of the economics of a country besieged by political unrest and failing potato crops.  His grandfather told him that the two were related because the politicians failed to provide assistance for small plot farmers when their crops failed.  After all, the country needed the lowly potato for its dinner tables and Edvard’s family had them for supper each evening.

Some of the young men from the village had gone off to war.  Edvard didn’t understand which war they were fighting but his grandfather had told him that the “Big War” was over.

The turning point for Edvard had been a visitor who had called a meeting in the village community center to discuss the unrest in Europe. His father had taken him to the meeting and he sat quietly, mesmerized by the messenger who voiced concern over the expansionist thinking of Germany.

Edvard found that he had stirrings in his heart and mind that he didn’t understand.  What if the village people lost their rights to a better life.  “Father, we have a good life here don’t we?”  But his father had explained that the unseen was more than even he understood at times.  He knew his fishing nets were full, the potato crops were in decline and his taxes were higher than ever but people were still warm and content in their small village life.

By now, Edvard had become an expert marksman, recording his progress in a small pocket diary he carried.  At first the number and type of birds he had removed from the planet numbered a dozen or less, but in the last months, as his approaching passage into manhood had assured him of excellent senses, particularly his eyes, his log book had filled with one shot memories.

He was friends with the local pastor so he sought his counsel on what was going on. The man informed Edvard that he was becoming an adult and that he might  be required to perform in the service of his country.  Edvard didn’t know how that worked, but had heard young men discussing their conscription in hush-hush tones.  The pastor opened the door to an interesting leadership role.  There were young men and women meeting in the village on most evenings to discuss their role in protecting the village should it come to that.  The pastor thought Edvard should join them.

When he found a flyer on a light post announcing the next meeting at the church, Edvard planned to attend. Meetings like this were becoming more and more frequent with the adults in the village looking perplexed and angry.  He didn’t like the feelings that were prevailing but he did begin to grasp the reason for the fear.  Oslo had sent warnings throughout the countryside that everyone should be prepared to protect their property and livestock from invaders.  Edvard didn’t understand who or why another country would invade Norway but the very thought of the loss of freedom kept him awake at night.

Pastor Runquist had approached Edvard several times since their first meeting and now he searched for Edvard near the fishing boats to suggest that he contact farmer Olson about firearm practice.  The pastor knew of an organization of young marksmen with strong political feelings that were under the tutelage of the farmer in the event that an underground movement might become a reality.  There was one goal in mind: To protect the villages from invaders and to spread the word of strength and unity.

Edvard had come to understand common cause and the tension was mounting in the village each day with the daily news about sightings of German warships off the coast of Northern Norway.  So, the truth was in the open.  Germany was looking at Norway for its invaluable water resources that could be used in the development of “Heavy Water”.  The Hydrogen producing plants would be built in the western mountains.  Edvard learned the Germans could only reach the hydroelectric plants by landing somewhere in the country and occupying it to their advantage. Even if the north was convenient for beach landings, Oslo was a long ways away and would probably be saved.

The meetings in the village continued, the marksmanship classes were attended by many of the area youth and finally the challenge was issued.  You are the life line to our freedom and if you sign the oath of loyalty to the King, you will be assigned to villages along the coast as part of the underground movement.

By this time, Pastor Runquist had continued to talk to Edvard and had helped him come to the reality that Tvedestrand could be occupied as a strategic point for the invasion.  But, he also told Edvard that he had great concern for the health of his grandparents.  Their small patch of farmland was improving in its potato crops, but they were getting very old and would probably have to soon leave the farm for a small apartment or nursing home if their health failed. Edvard’s parents were strong, independent Norwegians and continued to fish, preserving much of the catch in salt or kept on ice in the cellar.  The news of invasion had sickened Edvard’s father and in turn, his grandfather.

When Edvard attended the marksmanship classes at farmer Overgaard’s farm he performed better than any of the other young men.  His eye was keen and his determination to be the best was noticed by the instructor.  As Edvard sat reviewing his targets, the farmer sat down beside him and said, “Edvard I believe you are ready to serve your country  as a village militia  and I will inform pastor Runquist and your parents.” What Edvard soon learned was that thousands of young Norwegian men had volunteered to be a part of this underground militia, apart from the military, that would be charged with the defense of their villages and families.

When Edvard returned home, his parents were looking dismayed and he noticed the tears in both their eyes.  When he asked his parents why they were so upset, they replied, “Your grandfather has died.”  Unable to believe his ears, he felt a pang of grief tearing at his heart.  His grandfather had been the reason Edvard’s character had blossomed at an early age into a true patriot.  Grandfather was so honest and compassionate that Edvard had vowed that he would be just like him.  His parents knew of his love for “papa” and felt truly blessed that he had been such a strong role model for Edvard.

Pastor Runquist visited the family the next day and took Edvard by the shoulder and led him out into the yard.  “I think you must now honor your grandfather by serving our country in the ways you have been trained.  There will be a final meeting at farmer Overgaard’s farm next week and you will be given your assignment.”  Edvard could feel his grief lifting for he could now honor his grandfather in his service to the king.

Edvard kept his rifle and scope in the fishing hut and had kept it in pristine condition because of the salt water corrosion.  He had loved the weaponry training but feared his reaction to actually firing it at a human target.  He had resolved this in his mind when farmer Overgaard clearly showed the young marksmen the results at shooting a stag that wandered into his field during class one morning.  His aim was true and the animal fell like a sack of bricks to the ground without any further movement.

When Edvard had approached the animal, he felt a calming come over him because the animal showed  no pain, no pawing of the ground, no effort to escape.  The farmer had explained that they must all remember this lesson. ” When you fire at your first human target,  your aim will be true and the result predictable as the stag.” It had helped Edvard cope with the inevitability of taking a human life and he felt strong of heart and purpose.

Pastor Runquist had found Edvard repairing nets and as he approached, Edvard saw a map in his hand. The Pastor had come with Edvard’s assignment.  He was to become the sniper for his home village and would occupy the church spire which overlooked the harbor.  From that perch, he would attempt to fire at and destroy any target he was given. It would always be at dawn when his muzzle flash would be undetectable and he was to leave the tower as quickly as possible and head towards his grandfather’s farm to avoid detection from the village.

Edvard loved his bedroom loft in the 200-year-old sea captain’s home that his parents had painstakingly restored and preserved.  The house was perched at the far end of the harbor and provided a view of the channel leading to the harbor in Tvedestrand.  From here he could watch the incoming ships and spot the lights of vessels at sea.  When he would climb the almost vertical stairs to the loft, he saw the influence of the ship builder’s craft in the construction of this Norwegian fisherman’s home. The rest of the home was cozy, but terribly small in size and room number.  The kitchen was a laughing matter but had served everyone well over the centuries.  Edvard’s mother amusingly referred to it as a “Two butt kitchen” which described it perfectly.

At first, the word “invasion” had not been fully understood by Edvard.  Did it mean ships in each harbor, German soldiers in the village, would Oslo escape intact? In the village meeting the speaker had said, “The moment of occupation is close.  German troop ships are approaching from the North and we expect them to offload in every harbor along the Atlantic coast.  You will be given sufficient warning to assume your posts.  The communication from the Norwegian coastal stations in the north will be copied to each of you.” Edvard felt no fear, just the excitement of knowing he would be tested as a sniper and experience the “lesson of the stag” in the days ahead.

The beginning of the horror of occupation became a reality in early October.  As Edvard lay in his bed looking out over the harbor, a startling apparition appeared out the window.  A single glow of a very small light was moving slowly into the harbor.  With no way to identify what he was seeing, he flew down the vertical stairs out to the hut where his weapon was stored.  He knew immediately that this was the beginning.  Ships never came into the harbor with out running lights at night.

Edvard’s map had detailed instructions concerning his role as a sniper.  He was not to open fire at anything until he had received communication by messenger to begin his attack.  He was at a loss as to what to expect.  Should he look for the messenger, keep his eye on the ever approaching war ship, climb the spire stairs or look for the pastor?  He just knew he must observe and record what he was witnessing and pray that his parents and grandmother would be safe.

His post was 8 stories above the village and on a hillside so his view was all-encompassing and the ship he feared was now stopped 500 yards from shore.  Small lights could be seen dropping from the ship and moving slowly to shore.  Edvard could hardly contain himself but he knew he had to remain calm and await the messenger.

Suddenly, there were footsteps on the spire stairs.  Edvard slowly raised his rifle, aiming directly at the door.  To his amazement, it was the pastor. He quickly approached Edvard and handed him a small yellow sheet of paper.  On it was the description of the ship in the harbor, its contents and purpose.  At the bottom was the name of the captain of the ship: Admiral Schmidt, his physical description and the orders he was under to occupy the harbor at Tvedestrand. One thing stood out.  The Norwegian intelligence service had provided a shadow drawing of the Admiral to aid in his identification at night.

The shadows that had off-loaded the ship were now ashore and began moving slowly through the village.  There were only a few street lights so most of the village remained dark.  Edvard watched silently for several hours until the dawning light proved to unveil the German soldiers now rounding up villagers in the town square.  This particular spot would be a pivotal place for the ending of the occupation but Edvard did not know this at the time.

Edvard was surprised to find food, blankets and medical supplies in boxes in the tower.  He knew he could only leave his post under the cover of darkness so the long day ahead would not be totally uncomfortable with the supplies at hand.

The German soldiers were simply checking documents and questioning merchants.  Edvard had not spotted the Admiral but felt he might never see him because of his role as commander of a very large German destroyer who would have no reason to go ashore. At sundown of the very first day, Edvard could not believe his eyes.  A heavily varnished, wooden boat was being lowered over the side of the ship.  It was filled with sailors and one very distinctive gold braided figure who was taken to the city dock where Edvard watched in amazement as the city officials greeted him as if he were an honored guest.

Now Edvard had a look at the size and shape of his target. He could only hope that the Admiral would remain in the village until dark and then Edvard would act.With the approaching darkness, Edvard could see that the target had remained in the village, enjoying a meal at a sidewalk cafe.  He had been instructed to remain under cover until dark before he found his target which he found seriously unsettling.

All of a sudden, the gold braided Admiral was moving back to the ship.  Heavily escorted, he was stopping and talking to villagers while his escorts nervously paced around him.   Edvard was troubled.  If he terminated his target  now, there were too many people in the square and Edvard needed the Admiral isolated and clearly defined.

By the time the everyone had left the area, Edvard knew  he would have to wait.  The night provided only moments of sleep and very little movement in the village.  As Edvard thought about the previous sighting of the Admiral he hoped he might come ashore again tonight.

Edvard would not get a second chance to eliminate the Admiral.  He was captured shortly after his first attempt and sent to Oslo Krfetsfengsel prison.  His treatment was inhumane but he survived and was sent back to Tvedestrand at the end of the war.  The Nazi’s knew of the young man’s exploits and brought him to the official flag ceremony as the Nazi flag was lowered and replaced with the Norwegian flag.  His picture was taken as he proudly handed the Norwegian flag to the mayor.  His dream for freedom had been realized in that moment.

In the years ahead, he would grow to manhood and be highly respected for his attempts at freeing his village from tyranny.  His adult life was spent as a fisherman and he would later tell tales of his skills with the harpoon and drop lines.  Whales, tuna and other great fish were part of his fishing diary in later years.

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Windmill tilting in Crete

It was October of 1959 and I was standing on the tarmac of Idlewild airport in New York, on my way to a tour of duty with the Air force on the island of Crete.  The huge  propellers of the aircraft in front of me were the remnant of troop transports to England in World War ll.  Soon to be retired, the military was still using the beasts to move peacetime troops across the Atlantic.  The Constellation or “Connie” as they called them, were huge, noisy and cold to ride in.

Later in life, I would read that the pilots of these aircraft had a “point of no return” on their gas gauges that warned them of the impending turn around mark to safely return to the mainland.  The roar of the four engines lulled me to sleep until I was awakened by turbulence over Greenland.  Looking down, I witnessed a panorama of ice and water that startled me. We were getting closer to the finger of land in Scotland that would be our welcoming point to Europe.

Prestwick, Scotland marked the first refueling station for Atlantic flights that continued on to various airports in Europe.  After stepping off the beast for a breath of fresh air in Prestwick, which smelled wet and was foggy and green, we continued on our journey to Frankfurt, Germany.  The airport was the hub for transport activity to Berlin in the war and was freshly painted and clean.

The 150 troops disembarking in Frankfurt had the same puzzle of departure points and long distance concourses of modern airports.  I had been told that I would fly a Greek Airlines, French “Caravelle” to Zürich and on to Athens.  This was my first introduction to jet flight and the beautiful aircraft with its engines tucked tight to the fuselage had been plagued with incessant mechanical failures.  We had no awareness of problems and enjoyed the look and smell of the new aircraft.  Today, I think about the arrival of the jet age and how incredibly smooth and fast the early jets were, considering their lack of time in the sky.  Even the German fighter jets that never played a role in the war were studied  by our engineers and found to be relatively sophisticated.

Feeling eager and proud to be in the military headed south to the Mediterranean we began our journey to the hedge-rowed farms of Switzerland.  I can clearly recall flying at less than 12,000 feet before our descent into the airport at Zürich and marveling at the lush, green countryside below me.  Our approach was quick and accurate and when we were on the tarmac, I noticed an aircraft I had been trained to recognize, a Russian Il-14 cargo plane.  I took pictures and would later use them in my work as an analyst for the Security Service.

Our Alpine crossing into the airspace of Greece went smoothly except for one thing.  This was a time of “Smoking Allowed” on commercial aircraft and the stewardesses passed out complimentary Turkish cigarettes.  What a stench!  Little wonder we don’t all have lung damage from those years!

Imagine my excitement at finally arriving in Athens.  Our moments at the airport were short before boarding a military C-47 for the short hop to the island of Crete.  My assignment had come about through a series of miscues in my testing ability.  I had failed a complicated 3 day test that involved reading intercepted Russian radio messages and determining troop movements around the country.  We had been taught to speak limited Russian, memorizing the mountain ranges and major cities across the vast country.

On test day before receiving our assignments, I looked incredulously at the volume of material I was going to have to digest.  Aircraft movements, potential missile installations and railroad and truck traffic were piled high on the desk in front of me.

Working through the material hour after hour, I felt I was developing a correct solution  for the test but I had unknowingly turned a troop train south instead of north and the rest of the problem was totally wrong.  I left the classroom thinking I was o.k., but when the scores were posted, I had failed and would have to retake the test as my buddies received their assignments to Japan, the South Pacific and Alaska.

My instructor called me into his office and told me that I had done a good job on the test except for the wrong turn and that he would provide me with a correctly completed test to study before redoing the exam.

I immediately found the mistake and started the exam confident I could correct the mistake.  I was successful, exhausted and ready for the excitement of assignment. Posted on the board were the current  destinations.  Several were headed to Shimya, Alaska, a rock outcropping within spitting distance from the Siberian shoreline, others to Hawaii, etc.  I stopped in my tracks as I found my name and a posting to THE ISLAND OF CRETE, GREECE!  I cried! How incredibly fortunate that the angel on my shoulder had seen fit to send me to a lush island in the Mediterranean.  My test failure could have found me on a storm lashed Arctic rock cropping!

As we approached the airport at Heraklion, Crete, I saw an incredible coast line with sandy beaches, little or no development and scruffy olive orchards dotting the country side.  Mountains on the inland spine of the island were dotted with villages and small farms and I would soon explore all of it.

We were directed to a bus for transport to our base as I noted the variety of aircraft at this small airport.  The C-119 aircraft used for paratroop and cargo transport were present as were the popular C-46 smaller transports. In a few months, the C-124 would arrive and on its heels, the C130..

As we rolled westward to our base, the tiny villages we traveled through were full of whitewashed stucco homes, a tavern and bicycle rental shops.  Our route took us through the flanges of mountains, protecting beautiful bays of blue Mediterranean water and past a Greek Army base.   A short Japanese airman and a burley supply Sargent were to be my new family.  They helped me understand the procedures for entering the compound and we were ready to go to work!

If you can imagine a climate warmed by the North African desert and cooled by the Mediterranean breezes, this picturesque 120 mile long finger of what was once a land bridge to the mainland of Greece. had not yet been discovered by the travel industry. Today, in an effort to provide the “Greek Experience,” you can spend time in a vineyard, stomp some grapes, dance the circle dances of the culture,  enjoy lamb on a spit and visit the Palace of Knossos (the birthplace of European Civilization).  We explored the interior and coastline of the island, stopping for espresso in village coffee shops and visiting Greek Orthodox chapels that dot the roadside.  Nothing was staged, nothing spruced up for the camera.  A village elder would usually appear at the coffee shop to visit about his time in the U.S.  Many found work abroad after the war and returned to spread their new-found wealth around and become the elder spokesman for the community.

My first day at work was confusing and exciting.  I worked alongside linguists who were generally very bright college graduates and willing to show off their language skills. The warned me of the potential for long hours and the need for rest and relaxation on the beach, etc.  It wasn’t long before I was put to the test in an interesting fashion.  I have always been a fast typist and I think it something to do with the analyst training I received.  I would daily prepare perforated tapes for transmission back to Washington D.C. but that was the extent of my typing.  A fellow analyst had fallen off the wagon and been missing from work for several days so the work was piling up.  They tapped me for the job of getting back to a normal level of processing so I sat down and went to work.  The first twelve hours got me half way through the material.  By the second shift I was exhausted and headed back to my room for some badly needed sleep. Tossing and turning in fits of restless sleep, apparently I began to talk in code in my sleep!  My room mates woke me up and proceeded to tell me that I would have to report to the base commander because my babbling might be a breach of security.

Sitting at the desk of the commanding officer, I explained what had happened.  He looked at me rather strangely and said, “I think we have two options here.  The military code requires you to report your behavior, which you have done.  You can either be shipped back to the U.S. or we will change your roommates to the same level of clearance as you!”

By the time I returned to the barracks, the bedding and personal belongings of both men were moved to another room and two new individuals with the same level of clearance as me were moved in.  The theory was, that if I continued to talk in my sleep, these two men could listen to me.  The project that had been so tiring was over and I was permanently assigned to a desk where I would analyze traffic and write reports of my findings.

The work became boring so I volunteered for truck driving duty to meet the aircraft and boats bringing supplies for the base.  I had to be trained in driving the freight trucks and learning to fit into tough spaces at the airport and the dock in the harbor. There was an interesting risk navigating the mountain roads and villages.  Cab drivers believed they would save their batteries if they drove without lights and the villages had flocks of chickens darting in front of the trucks and becoming road kill. You now had to pay the owner the sum he demanded.  The price included the cost for the meat, the eggs and the off spring of each bird. I literally crawled through the village for fear of sending someone’s kid to college!

My leisure time included motorscooter trips to historic sites and unique villages. I visited  the Church of St. Titus which had 3 walls remaining at the front of the church and I recall thinking about St. Paul preaching from this very spot as he traveled to the island to condemn the bad behavior of the residents of Crete. The biblical reference calls them, “mischievous liars and thieves”, but I didn’t find that to be true today. The newer version of the church stands in Heraklion and has wonderful colored glass windows and precious icons of the Greek Orthodox faith.

I loved the visits to the villages where I could enjoy an espresso with the village elder who acts as official greeter .  Many of them had worked in the auto factories of Detroit after the war and brought substantial earnings home to share with their families.

We also contracted with a local fisherman to take several of us to Dragon Island, due north of Crete.  One of our group had chosen to consume copious amounts of vodka the night before our trip and couldn’t be found in the morning.  Someone found him sitting, fully dressed, in the shower with the cold water bringing him back to life!  The journey to the island would prove his undoing as he spent the entire time in the hold thinking he had died and was on his way to hell!

When we reached the island, we found German land mines in the sand along the beach area and knew that they could still be exploded after all these years, so we stayed alert for rusted metal land mines.  Among our discoveries, was a cave with a large opening and plenty of light for exploration.  Because of the mines, we remained vigilant but discovered several pieces of pottery, one of which I took and shipped it home when we returned to the base.  I didn’t survive the trip but I still have shards of what may be an ancient cooking pot.

My experiences on the island of Crete have remained vivid in my mind over the years and were certainly reawakened when my grandson and his wife visited the island for their honeymoon.  They asked me for a CD of my slides from 50 years ago and they used this on their computers to visit the same spots.  They did an amazing thing when they located one of the marble corner stones at the Acropolis that I had posed near in 1961.  Each were photographed the same way  and now the 3 photos stand together where I can see them each morning.

The time on Crete was a milestone for me and remains a favorite travel subject.  I encourage readers to make plans to visit this marvelous gem in the Mediterranean.  Resorts now dot the shoreline but the interior of the island remains free of development.  The local liquor favorite is called “Ouzo” and should be treated with respect but is a nice addition to a dinner of lamb and vegetables.  I’ll be thinking of you!

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