Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Every Day's A Holiday, And Every Meal's A Feast.

When I was much younger, it seemed that I was always working in jobs that always took me away from my family on special days like Thanksgiving. When I was in the Marine Corps, there were a few Thanksgiving Days that I spent with other Marines instead of being at home on leave with my family. There was one particular Thanksgiving when I was an Instructor at Correction Custody ("CC") that I spent Thanksgiving with my training platoon. 

I'll never forget how we observed a "Holiday schedule" of allowing the prisoners, which we called "confinees," to write letters home, read their Bibles, work on their gear, attend church services, and of course, later have Thanksgiving dinner. I remember marching them to chow that day. I purposing gave them a little leeway that day since it was Thanksgiving. No, marching 85 prisoners to their Thanksgiving meal was not the time to jump down their throats for being too out of step. That sort of thing could wait for a little while until marching back from chow.  

We had two platoons of more than 80 prisoners each at Correction Custody. It was a "Re-motivation" facility, a place where bad attitudes could be adjusted and brought back into line with the needs of the Marine Corps. It was the place where Marines who had gone astray were "rehabilitated." 

It was a tough place where Marines regained discipline, again found their sense of pride, and again found the bearing that they needed to be Marines. And yes, the men sentenced there were already Marines. Most were there because of minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. At the time, all were non-violent offenders who got 90-day sentences. And frankly, it was 90-days of Hell for the most part.

I remember one senior Instructor joking once about how we were in the "salvage business" to see if we could help those who the Corps could salvage instead of simply booting them out with Bad Conduct Discharges. With the classes in essential-subject, close order drill, almost daily inspections, physical training, and personal counseling, it was an effort to see if they could be salvaged as Marines. Some called Correctional Custody a "Boot Camp" refresher for Marines already in the Corps. All in all, looking back on those days so many years ago, I really believe that it was a successful program.

I became an Instructor there in February of 1976 just a few months after coming home from deployment overseas. As with all Instructors, I started out as a Section Leader under a Platoon Sergeant. As I said before, we had only two platoons at "CC" which were made up of an average of 85 men each. We had one Platoon Commander who oversaw operations of both platoons. Of course, the facility did have a staff of senior Staff NCOs and an Officer in Charge. But for all intense and purposes, the Platton Sergents was responsible for the training and rehabilitation of the men in their platoons. I became a Platoon Sergeant in April of that year. And for the next year and a half, because of long hours and strain, it would be the toughest duty of my time as an active duty Marine. 

As for Thanksgiving of 1976, when we got to the Chow Hall, I remember turning the platoon over to a Corporal so that I would be able to check on progress in the Chow Hall. My platoon stood at attention waiting for me to tell them to "Enter," as I walked into the Chow Hall ahead of them to check to see if the Chow Hall was ready to serve them. 

One of the aspects of being an Instructor at "CC" was that all of us were trained to have a keen eye, for attention to detail, to notice overt acts, suspicious movements, anything out of the norm. On that day, I remember seeing the cooks and servers behind the chow line take food such as turkey and mash potatoes off the serving line. I watched as they replaced the "Holiday Meal" with cold spam and beans. 

By my watch, I needed to get my platoon into the Chow Hall by then. So yes, I gave the signal to my Corporal to bring them in. As my platoon entered, I stopped them at the point where they would pick up their meal trays. 

I then walked up the serving line and looked at each Marine serving on the line. I found a Corporal and asked him if he was in charge of the Chow Hall? He said that he wasn't, but there was a Gunnery Sergeant who was. I asked to speak to that Gunny. 

Knowing that the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of the Chow Hall was a Gunny and that he out-ranked me made me watch my words as I spoke to him. I certainly didn't want to be hit with "disrespect" charges, so I measured my words as I spoke to him. Yes, always be courteous.  

I still remember what I said to him. I first, very politely, asked him why the hot turkey and mashed potatoes were removed from the serving line? He told me it was none of my business. I then asked if there was a reason that my platoon was being denied a "Holiday Meal"? 

He was very straightforward and didn't beat around the bush with his answers. He first told me that I needed to remember that I was just a Sergeant and that he was a Gunny, and that I should not question how he runs his Chow Hall. He then said, "Sgt., your prisoners don't deserve turkey and mash potatoes on Thanksgiving. They get spam and beans!"  

I remember nodding to acknowledge that he outranked me. I remember saying, "Yes, Gunny. You are obviously right in the fact that you outrank me, Gunny." And yes, I watched a smile appear on his face when he heard me say that. 

Then I watched that smile disappear when I informed him, "You do know that there is a Marine Corps order specifically regarding 'Holiday Meals' for prisoners?"  

My men waited and later I found out they witnessed my encounter with the Gunny. I didn't know until later that they overheard me asking that Gunny for his name so that I could make a report of who refused my platoon of their prescribed "Holiday Meal." I found out later that I was overheard telling him that I witnessed turkey and mashed potatoes being purposely removed from the serving line -- so as to intentionally deny them their Thanksgiving meal. And yes, I learned later that the Gunny did not like the fact that I went to bat for my men -- prisoners or not. 

After calling me a few choice words, he then told me that he would speak to my NCOIC about my behavior which he called "borderline disrespect." I nodded and informed him that that was his choice. I also informed him that I had a responsibility to my men -- prisoners or not. It was then that he told his Corporal to bring back out the turkey and mashed potatoes. 

After the turkey and mashed potatoes replaced the spam and beans, I told my men to proceed and side-step through the chow line. I also had my Corporal follow suit and also get his meal. He ate while I "walked the floor" to maintain order. 

It was a very memorable Thanksgiving for me. For one reason, I later found out that my going to bat for my men actually motivated them to work harder, march better, and want to follow orders. Of course, later I found out they all had a laugh about it as well. Their laugh was not about my going to bat for them. It was about what happened after my Corporal finished his meal and relieved me on the floor so that I could get my dinner. 

You see after my Corporal relieved me, I went up to the chow line to get my meal. The Gunny Sergeant in charge of the Chow Hall waited until I had my tray in my hand before he told his Corporal to remove the turkey and mash potatoes from the serving line. I watched as he had them remove pans of food just so his men could give me a single dried piece of spam and some cold beans. 

I will always remember how that Gunny smiled at me as I put my tray out for each server to plop a spoon full of beans on my tray. I still remember how he smiled when he had the bread rolls taken off the line. He seemed especially content when he was able to tell me that he hoped that I enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner. 

I also remember saying "Thank you. Every day's a holiday, and every meal's a feast." That was a saying that we had in those days, especially when things turned a bit sour. We would simply remind ourselves that things could be much worst than they were at that moment. We Marines did that by jokingly saying, "Every day's a holiday, and every meal's a feast." And yes, it's something that folks will still hear me say today for all of the same reasons.

So now, looking back on those days, it was probably one of the most memorable Thanksgiving meals that I've ever had. And yes, because I was taught as a kid that I should be grateful for all that I have even if it is a piece of spam and a spoon full of cold beans, I gave thanks to God for all of my blessings.  

I still do. 

Tom Correa

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Democrats Again Attack Thanksgiving

Why do Democrats have such hostility toward Thanksgiving? Is it simply a matter of their same problem with Christmas which stems from their whole Atheist Communist view of how society would be better off without any Christian observances? Are they really threatened by Thanksgiving when it's simply about being grateful to God for all we have? 

Thanksgiving is an American tradition, as one president put it, Thanksgiving is "rooted in a story of generosity and partnership." It is a day that "offers an opportunity to us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear." He went on to say, "Today, as we give of ourselves in service to others and spend cherished time with family and friends, we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us." 

Today's Leftist dialogue doesn't agree with what he said when he reminded America of how "Our modern celebration of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early 17th century. Upon arriving in Plymouth, at the culmination of months of testing travel that resulted in death and disease, the Pilgrims continued to face great challenges. An indigenous people, the Wampanoag, helped them adjust to their new home, teaching them critical survival techniques and important crop cultivation methods. After securing a bountiful harvest, the settlers and Wampanoag joined in fellowship for a shared dinner to celebrate powerful traditions that are still observed at Thanksgiving today: lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have."

He was right when he said, "Carrying us through trial and triumph, this sense of decency and compassion has defined our Nation. President George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in our country's nascence, calling on the citizens of our fledgling democracy to place their faith in 'the providence of Almighty God,' and to be thankful for what is bequeathed to us. In the midst of bitter division at a critical juncture for America, President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged the plight of the most vulnerable, declaring a 'day of thanksgiving,' on which all citizens would 'commend to God's tender care' those most affected by the violence of the time -- widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers of the Civil War. A tradition of giving continues to inspire this holiday, and at shelters and food centers, on battlefields and city streets, and through generous donations and silent prayers, the inherent selflessness and common goodness of the American people endures. In the same spirit of togetherness and thanksgiving that inspired the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country's story. Each of us brings our own traditions, cultures, and recipes to this quintessential American holiday -- whether around dinner tables, in soup kitchens, or at home cheering on our favorite sports teams -- but we are all united in appreciation of the bounty of our Nation. Let us express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without. Together, we can secure our founding ideals as the birthright of all future generations of Americans."

How can anyone not agree with that? Well, believe it or not, those words which I have quoted came from former-President Barrack Obama. And today, his view as he stated in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 2015 is in complete contrast with several American universities and the Left that controls those schools. So now the question becomes more than simply why don't they agree with Obama since they laid so much adoration upon him while he was president. The question becomes why is it that the spirit of thanking God doesn't sit right with American universities? 

Right now, the alumni associations of the University of Maryland, Florida Gulf Coast University, Washington State University, University of Central Arkansas, Hiram College in Ohio, and California State University at Long Beach, all want Americans to "reconsider" our Thanksgiving holiday? They want us to consider renaming Thanksgiving, "National Day of Mourning."

While the vast majority of Americans think the Left is "full of shit" and will certainly honor European explorers like Christopher Columbus, a man who never in his lifetime set foot on North American soil, by giving him his day of recognition, the Left wants to call that day "Indigenous Peoples Day." The Left, those who loath everything about America, believe that changing such days and bringing down statues "reflects our national mood." Of course, as usual, they are wrong.

Today, those Leftists ask if "Thanksgiving should be rededicated as a 'National Day of Mourning'"? Yes, as if to dedicate Thanksgiving Day as a day of reflection, as they put it, "on the centuries-long displacement and persecution of Native Americans." According to the Democrats, we should not celebrate Thanksgiving because "it represents the colonization of Native Americans, the theft of their land, and the genocide that was committed against them." 

Of course, whenever I read something like that, I immediately ask myself why is it that those on the Left know neither history nor the facts of life in pre-contact America. Granted, many horrible acts were perpetrated against Native American tribes by various European groups. Not all, but there were some who were ruthless. That's true and it's important that we acknowledge that fact. 

But if are to paint our European ancestors as murderous criminals, let's be fair about things -- so were the Native Americans since tribes waged war upon each other to the point of genocide long before the first European ever stepped foot on North American soil. It is also important that we acknowledge that fact as well. Does that negate what the Europeans did? Of course not. But wouldn't it be honest to acknowledge that the tribes suffered as greatly under siege from other tribes as they did from Europeans in pre-contact America? It would if one were trying to be real about what took place instead of depicting pre-contact America as some sort of place where war, slavery, and genocide did not take place. 

Europeans did not introduce the concepts of war and genocide to the Americas. Just as Europeans did not introduce the concepts of war or genocide, they also did not introduce the concept of conquest. In fact, pre-contact tribes waged bloody wars of conquest that pushed others off lands and slaughtered them to the point of genocide. 

Also, the false claim that America was stolen from Native Americans is a lie that has been perpetuated over the years. But it is false. The fact is, even experts on Native American Indian law admit that the United States federal government has never eliminated a tribe's title to lands. Let's not forget that the federal government paid for lands while also providing reservations. It's true, even after the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase from France, the federal government still had to buy the lands from the tribes that occupied them. But then again, no one usually mentions that fact.

Did creating this nation go smoothly? Not hardly. And yes, the Indian Wars prove that out. But in fact, there were attempts to make things go smoother. For example, The Nonintercourse Act is the collective name given to six statutes passed by Congress in 1790, 1793, 1796, 1799, 1802, and 1834 to set "Amerindian" boundaries of reservations. Those various Congressional Acts tried to regulate commerce between settlers and the tribes. But it also criminalized land purchases between settlers and tribes in order to protect them from land swindlers and other crooks. Does this sound like theft? Does it sound like what tribes did to each other in pre-contact America with their wholesale slaughter of their enemies, revenge killings, human sacrifice, and taking of slaves as the fruits of conquest?

So really, when the Left says they want to rename Thanksgiving and call it "National Day of Mourning," are they talking about what the federal government did -- or what the tribes did to each other? And as for teaching all of history, both sides, before and after arrival, sadly the history lessons taught in most universities are pathetically political and don't reflect the truth of what took place.

As for my quoting Obama earlier, I'm not going to be a hypocrite here. I didn't agree with very much of what that president said when he was in office. In fact, I hated his domestic and foreign policies, just as I hated how he seemed to work to divide us across racial lines. 

But yet, just as my grandfather said that "Even a broken clock can be right twice a day," and yes Obama was correct when he spoke about how Thanksgiving is about, "lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have." Most will agree that Thanksgiving is a day when we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us.

As for the Left's disdain for America, their latest attack on Thanksgiving? It has gotten old. As a friend recently said, if we were to say that something "never gets old" then we are talking about something in an extremely encouraging, energizing, something very positive in nature. In contrast, the Left's constant attacks on America have gotten boring, monotonous, extremely tedious. Frankly, the same old attacks that Democrats come up with are always the same old saw of how they hate us. 

And as for what comes out of universities these days, there is nothing new about American universities attacking American traditions and values. It's simply expected. And really, maybe that's why most universities today are viewed with less prestige and importance than brothels are in Nevada. As one college instructor wrote to tell me recently, "Brothels were once seen as places that fulfilled a need in the Old West. While today their social status is not as endearing, even Nevada's brothels are placed in higher regard than American universities these days."

I agree, and understand why that's the case.

Tom Correa

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Irish Potato Famine, 1845 to 1852

'Emigrants Leave Ireland,' engraving by Henry Doyle (1827–1892),
from Mary Frances Cusack's Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868

Most know it as "The Irish Potato Famine." But in fact, it was also known as "The Great Hunger" and "The Great Famine." It was, all in all, a horribly painful period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland that started in 1845 and lasted into 1852. In the end, it is believed that at least a million people died as a result of the famine while another million fled the country. 

Believe it or not, the potato was not native to Ireland. It is believed that England's Sir Walter Raleigh brought it to Ireland from the New World (America) around 1570. When it arrived in Ireland, it was found easy to grow, produced a high yield per acre, and absolutely thrived in Ireland's damp climate. Because of those factors, the potato was described as being almost "Heaven-sent" and a "gift from God." 

As a result, during the period from 1780 to 1845, the potato is responsible for helping to double the Irish population from approximately 4 million people to 8 million. With the population explosion also came an increased demand for land. Because Ireland was a British colony at the time, the British solution was to divide the available parcels into ever-smaller plots for each succeeding generation. With that, the smaller plots of land farmed by tenant farmers meant that planting potatoes became the only crop that could produce a sufficient enough yield of food grown on such limited acreage.

What created the potato famine was a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans that spread rapidly throughout Ireland. Brought to Ireland aboard ships, the infestation blight spread almost instantaneous to the potato fields where it quickly destroyed the crops. In reality, in no time at all, the infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop during that first year. This escalated to a loss of three-quarters of the crop in each of the next seven years. And of course, as one would think, smaller tenant farmers were immediately impacted and suffered the worst. 

Why did the potato have such an impact on the Irish? Well, it is said that by 1840, over one-third of the Irish population was totally dependent on the potato for its nourishment. Because the tenant farmers of Ireland, were so dependent on the potato as a source of food, the infestation had a catastrophic impact. Because of the Irish dependency on the potato, the blight created starvation combined with increased susceptibility to diseases such as typhus, dysentery, and cholera. All of which devastated the population. 

An Irish newspaper announced the arrival of the blight on September 13, 1845. By 1848, the British government tried to say that the worst was over. But in fact, the devastation lingered for years. 
Of course, from 1570 to 1845, no one could have imagined how the potato would be responsible for a disaster that would devastate the Irish economy, kill at least a million people, and create the Irish Diaspora of the 1800s -- a period when the Irish people would be scattered around the globe. In fact, by 1890, 40 percent of Irish-born people lived somewhere other than in Ireland. And by 1911, Ireland's population had dropped to half of what it was in 1845.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 8, 2021

Gen. Lejeune's Marine Corps Birthday Message

On November 1, 1921, Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921), regarding a Marine Corps Birthday Message was issued by Major General John A Lejeune, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. The annual reading of General Lejeune's Marine Corps Birthday Message is a tradition that is near and dear to the Marine Corps and has been upheld for 100 years. 

Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921), Marine Corps Birthday Message, reads as follows: 

The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence, the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it, we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General, Commandant
United States Marine Corps

Ever since Gen. John A Lejeune released the first official Marine Corps Birthday message on November 1, 1921, this same birthday message is read at each Marine Corps birthday celebration in whatever clime and place Marines are deployed. It is one of our traditions as Marines. It is part of what gives Marines our sense of esprit de corps. It is part of what forms our sense of pride, honor, fellowship, solidarity, and loyalty to our Corps and our fellow Marines.

Happy Birthday, Marines! 

Tom Correa

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Incalculable Cost of One F-U

by Kelly Brothers
News 93.1 KFBK
December 17, 2020

As Covid descended on California in March and April of this year [2020], economies began to shut down and the debate raged over what businesses were deemed “essential.” There was a rather public dialogue between Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and Alameda County authorities regarding the forced shutdown of the Tesla plant in Fremont.

This dialogue was punctuated by a pithy tweet from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who describes herself as a Progressive Latina Democrat, "F*ck Elon Musk."

At that time, we had no idea how much that tweet… and attitude… would cost us.

Elon Musk threatened to leave the state. The Governor was dismissive, saying "Elon Musk isn't leaving California anytime soon."

Six months later, Elon Musk has left California. He has sold (or is in process of selling) all his personal real estate in the state. He is now a resident of the state of Texas. He has moved his philanthropic foundation to Texas. One of his companies, Space X, is based in Texas and Tesla is building a new plant outside of Austin, TX.

Consider the unfathomable irony of progressive democrats forcing Elon Musk to give up on California. Musk came to this state as an immigrant and proceeded to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through Solar City and Tesla than all the "progressive" politicians in the state combined. Anyone can make a proclamation or talk about climate change. Musk didn’t talk about it. He simply brought products to market that benefitted the consumer, the environment, and his shareholders. He should have been the "poster boy" for the green agenda, but instead, they turned on him because he refused to buckle to arbitrary regulations based on flimsy medical data. (By the way, automobile manufacturing is now deemed “essential” in CA.)

There is no way to know for sure what Mr. Musk will pay in California state tax this year, but it would surprise no one if he paid the most of any individual resident. Next year, he will be a resident of another state.

The damage goes much deeper than the tax revenue of one person. Musk didn't just leave the state. He "turned" on the state. It is now his mission to get other innovators to leave as well. According to the Governor of Texas, he is on the phone with Musk once a week, strategizing about how to get other CA companies to relocate to Texas. In the last few weeks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Oracle have moth announced they are moving their HQs to Texas, with other potential moves in the pipeline.

That is not to say this was all caused by one tweet. Plenty of other factors are in play:
  • Companies are realizing they don’t need a highly centralized HQ, with their employees being productive from wherever they choose to live.
  • The high cost of living in the bay area.
  • Government's inability to deal with highly visible issues like homelessness. Executives have grown tired of stepping over syringes and feces in the streets of San Francisco.
But the fact remains, CA state income tax is the highest, CA's ranking for "business friendliness" is lowest, and we have elected representatives who would lob crass, vulgar f-bombs at the people who are paying the freight.

Half the tax in this state is paid by the top 1%, and many in that category are realizing they can make their living from anywhere. Try to add up the lost tax revenues of having the second wealthiest man in the world and the executive teams of great companies like HP and Oracle depart the state. We’re talking billions of dollars in lost revenue. Not to mention the philanthropy, which is gone too.

Any Progressive agenda only has value if someone can pay for it.

The next time the state raises your taxes to make up for the taxpayers who have left CA, try not to use the language employed by Ms. Gonzalez. But no one would blame you if you did.

-- end of story which originally appeared in The Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal

Kelly Brothers Op Ed on Elon Musk Leaving California
By Kitty O'Neal, News 93.1 KFBK
December 17, 2020

KCRA-TV website states Kelly Brothers bio as follows: 

"At various points in his 30-year broadcast career, Kelly Brothers has anchored the No. 1 evening newscast in Sacramento on KCRA 3 and the No. 1 morning news show on News 93.1 KFBK. He is currently a Principal and Advisor for CAPTRUST in Sacramento, an independent RIA with more than $500 billion under advisement.

Kelly has a BBA and MBA from the University of Notre Dame. He also did post-graduate work at the London School of Business and earned his Certified Financial Planner designation, as well as holding multiple security and insurance licenses. 

Kelly is a lifelong resident of Sacramento. He and his wife Augusta have four children and live in Carmichael. Kelly’s passion is helping KCRA viewers "make sense" of global markets and their own personal financial planning."

In December of 2020, Kelly Brothers took on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on her reaction to Elon Musk leaving California. This story is presently making the rounds on social media in an effort to show just how infantile and out of touch the Democrat Party really is in California. 

Tom Correa

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Girandoni Air Rifle -- Something From The Gods

I was very surprised when I was handed an air rifle that a friend showed me the other day. Besides showing me how out of the loop I've become when it comes to modern technology and guns, especially air guns, I was extremely impressed by what I saw.

My friend showed me his .50 caliber Umarex Hammer air rifle. And no, the Umarex Hammer is not just another air rifle. It is high-tech, ingenious, and has a very large .510 caliber barrel. But, unlike firearms that use gunpowder, its use of compressed air puts out 3,000 psi behind its projectiles. This innovative, patent-pending system has the capability to propel a .510 caliber 550-grain lead slug at a muzzle velocity of 760 feet per second and a 250-grain slug at over 1,000 feet per second. 

While I did not fire it, I was told that its recoil is more like a strong push instead of a kick as would be expected from a long bore rifle. And really, for a "big-bore air rifle designed for hunting big game," that's all very impressive. Of course, the very modern Umarex Hammer air rifle isn't the same as the Benjamin air rifle that my grandpa gave me when I was a kid. And no, it's surely not the .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle. 
The 1780 Girandoni Air Rifle
So what was the Girandoni air rifle? 

Using fairly large calibers, pneumatic weapons are said to have been used in Europe by the very wealthy to hunt large game such as wild boar, deer, and even bear back in the 1700s. By 1780, an Austrian gunsmith named Bartolomeo Girandoni developed a revolutionary air rifle in .46 caliber. 

The butt of the Girandoni air rifle was an iron flask that could be detached, pumped full of air, and then reattached to the weapon. Each rifle was issued three air reservoirs, was four feet long and weighed 10 pounds. That meant the Girandoni air rifle was about the same length and weight as a musket of the times. Of course, unlike a conventional musket, the Girandoni air rifle had advanced features that muskets and rifles would not see for decades. 

Those features were why the Girandoni air rifle was adopted by the Austrian military. One feature is the use of a tubular magazine. In fact, it was one of the first rifles to use a tubular magazine. And with that, it was able to be loaded with 22 lead rifle balls that were propelled out of the weapon individually by controlling each burst of compressed air. 

So yes, believe it or not, the Girandoni air rifle is considered one of the first "repeating rifles" invented. It was used in the Austrian military from the 1780s to 1810. And that makes it the first "repeating rifle" used in military service. With the 22 lead rifle balls fed into a tubular magazine built alongside the barrel of the weapon, these rifle balls were loaded into the weapon individually by a simple steel block. The block slid back and forth at the base of the breach. As a shooter held the muzzle of the weapon upright as the bullets rolled down toward the breach, the rifle balls were fed into the breach using gravity. This also meant that a shooter could actually lie on the ground and simply hold the weapon up vertically to reload. No, he didn't have to stand. 

And think about this, during a period when a contemporary musket was considered accurate to only about 50 yards, the Girandoni air rifle and its muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second could put a lead ball through a one-inch pine board at 100 yards. And remember, since it was a "repeater," its full tubular magazine could be completely fired in less than 30 seconds. 

There is something else. Unlike muskets that produced a great deal of smoke, the Girandoni air rifle shots produced no dense smoke. That means the rifle used on the battlefield would not lend to the gunpowder fog that obscured battlefields of the time. And also, since it was an air rifle and did not have the explosive report of a musket, the position of a soldier using the Girandoni air rifle was not exposed to enemy fire. Of course, one of the features that endeared the rifle to shooters was the fact that the rifle was also limited by rain. After all, let's remember that rain makes gunpowder ineffective when using a musket.

Sounds great? Well, even with all of those positives, believe it or not, it was not the perfect weapon because of what it took to operate. Let's remember, those were the days when it took about 1,500 strokes of a hand-operated air pump to fill each air canister. As for its military use, this meant that wheeled air pump carts were placed behind the lines. Along with this, specially trained gunsmiths were a necessity. In fact, I read where the military needed one gunsmith for every 100 riflemen equipped with the Girandoni air rifle just to keep those rifles in operation. And since they needed specialized spare parts such as mainsprings, replacement seals, and extra air flasks, they became a pain to maintain. 

Think about this. In a time with soldiers were mostly uneducated peasants who couldn't read nevertheless have an understanding of technology, they were responsible for keeping the Girandoni air rifles in working order. And yes, it's said they were very difficult to keep in operation. Mechanical problems and seal leaks plagued the air rifles and the troops at the time were not capable of fixing them. So all in all, it is said that despite the deadly accuracy and firepower provided by the Girandoni air rifle, it proved to be technological that was too far ahead of its time. Because of problems pertaining to maintaining them, by 1810, the Girandoni air rifle had been entirely phased out of the Austrian military. 

What did the Austrian military do with all of their surplus Girandoni air rifles? Well, it is said that a few were saved as museum pieces. Many were sold to civilians by the Austrian government. The military gave some to militias. Many were lost or destroyed. And then there is that one that history tells us made it across the Atlantic Ocean to a brand new country known as the United States of America. 

Of course, when most of us think about Mountain Men and expeditions to explore America, we don't usually think of air rifles. We might think about Kentucky and Pennsylvania long rifles, but the Girandoni air rifle is not what usually comes to mind. And no, it's surely not the .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle that Lewis and Clark took along with them on their 1803 expedition. Yes, even if most believe that it was in effect the secret weapon that enabled the Lewis and Clark expedition to accomplish its mission. 

As most know, the Lewis and Clark Expedition took place from 1804 to 1806. It was the first overland expedition from the East of the United States to the Pacific coast and back. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Its official mission, the expedition was to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and to establish an American presence in this territory before European powers attempted to establish claims in the region. 

It did in fact have a secondary objective which was both scientific and economic. That meant that the expedition was to study the area's plants, animal life, geography, natural resources, and to establish trade with local Indian tribes. Initiated by President Thomas Jefferson, he hand-picked U.S. Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition. Captain Lewis picked Second Lieutenant William Clark as his second in command. 

The Lewis and Clark Expedition had about 40 soldiers who were all skilled in various trades. The unit was designated a Corps of Discovery and all were volunteers. They left St. Louis in 1804 and traveled up the Missouri River into present-day North Dakota. From there they sketched and documented everything imaginable about what took place and who they came in contact with during their exploration through the new Louisiana Purchase. 

After wintering in present-day North Dakota, they left the next spring. To assist them, they hired Toussaint Charbonneau and his Indian wife, Sacagawea, who served as guide and interpreter. It is said that they "traveled through Montana and by horse over the Continental Divide to the headwaters of the Clearwater River. They built canoes to carry them to the Snake River and then to the mouth of the Columbia River, where they built Fort Clatsop (later Astoria, Ore.) and spent the winter. On the journey back the group divided, then reunited to canoe down the Missouri River to St. Louis." 

They returned to a great celebration in September 1806. All but one member of the expedition survived. The journals kept by Lewis and others documented Indian tribes, wildlife, and geography and did much to dispel the myth of an easy water route to the Pacific.

Before leaving, it is believed that Captain Meriwether Lewis obtained his Girandoni air rifle between May and June of 1803 at a supply house outside of Philadelphia. The story goes that Capt. Lewis was headed to Pittsburgh when he found the air rifle in a shop. As for how it arrived there, no one knows for sure. It is possible that it was one of the surplus rifles that had been phased out of the Austrian military. But really, no one knows for sure. 

We do know that on the very first page of Capt. Lewis' personal journal, he recounts how he took every opportunity to demonstrate his Girandoni air rifle's capabilities to the Indians that he encountered. He wrote, "The Indians considered the rifle something from the gods."

For that Girandoni air rifle, it came into its own whenever a new tribe was encountered. In fact, it's said that Lewis and Clark would stage an extravagant entrance all meant to impress the local tribe. And if you don't think it was extravagant, think again. All of the party were said to have "donned their most colorful military uniforms." With their frock coats, shined swords, formal headgear, polished muskets, and gleaming bayonets, all with flags blowing in the wind while fifes played, they would march boldly into each meeting with a new tribe. The explorers greeted the assembled tribesmen with formal gravity and then proceeded to hand out gifts such as bolts of colored cloth, beads, and commemorative medallions. 

If you think that such pomp and ceremony would help to dissuade potentially hostile actions by a tribe, that was what they were betting on while trying to do their utmost to impress the tribesmen. Of course, it was during this time that Capt. Lewis would produce and confidently demonstrate the remarkable power of his Girandoni air rifle. 

One member of the Lewis and Clark party was Private Joseph Whitehouse. In his journal, the Private described how Capt. Lewis demonstrated his rifle. That took place on August 30, 1803, at a Yankton Sioux village located along the Calumet Bluffs of the Missouri River. 

Pvt. Whitehouse wrote, "Captain Lewis took his Air Gun and shot her off, and by the Interpreter, told them that there was medicine in her, and that she could do very great execution. They all stood amazed at this curiosity; Captain Lewis discharged was done the Air Gun several times, and the Indians ran hastily to see the holes that the Balls had made which was discharged from it. At finding the Balls had entered the Tree, they shouted aloud at the sight and the Execution that surprised them exceedingly.”

During the expedition, Capt. Lewis repeated this demonstration for every tribe the group encountered. And yes, there are 39 separate entries in the expedition's journals noting the Girandoni air rifle leaving all there amazed at the power that those men possessed. 

Capt. Lewis' Girandoni air rifle played a major role in what can be considered a pivotal period of American history. And while that rifle was initially thought lost to history, it was discovered and today is on display at the Pentagon.

Tom Correa