SHREVEPORT — New Orleans flooded this weekend. Again.
A heavy deluge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Saturday flooding homes, cars, businesses and creating havoc throughout the city. People in New Orleans realize that their city is basically a below-sea-level bowl and flooding is always an issue, but there is also an extensive system of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what happened this weekend from happening.
Last year the New Orleans City Council approved $3 million to work on drainage infrastructure and repairs, however the Landrieu administration has not yet started repairs because they’ve been waiting on an environmental review…for over a year.
The Department of Public Works contends that just because the $3 million hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignoring daily repairs and cleaning of catch basins.
Obviously drainage was not a Landrieu priority last year; Mitch was much more focused on monuments and equity circles.
“These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life,” Landrieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins.”
It’s admirable and expected that citizens to take responsibility for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:
The Department of Public Works’ maintenance department is responsible for cleaning and clearing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City budgets resources to clean approximately 3,500 catch basins.
Sewerage & Water Board officials have said city’s drainage pumping system is designed to handle an inch of rainfall during the first hour of an event and a half-inch each hour thereafter. Officials said all 24 pumping stations were on and working on Saturday. The temporary pumping stations at the ends of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only operate when the floodgates blocking water from Lake Pontchartrain are closed, and thus are not operated during a rainfall event. The three permanent pumping stations under construction at the ends of those canals are not yet complete, but will operate in the same way.
Officials said the city’s public safety agencies, including police, fire and emergency medical services, responded to more than 200 emergency calls related to flooding.
City residents are not satisfied with their capacity, however, as the social media outrage reflects. Even the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, which seldom floods, was inundated and several beloved restaurants took in up to three inches of water.
Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s priorities are askew. We can’t fault him for a significant rain event (can we?) but certainly it is under his leadership and responsibility that the pumps and drainage system are properly maintained. And to send his minions out to blame the mess simply on climate change and tell people to clean out their own drains is, well, just typical of him.
If what’s in my catch basins are termites and dead bodies, I’m probably not going to be too excited about that project.
SHREVEPORT — I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving in this space over the past months about the rising crime rate in New Orleans. I don’t live in New Orleans, but the city is one of our top tourist spots in the state and is known for many wonderful things like music, a diverse and fascinating culture and history, beignets, Mardi Gras, the best food in the world, and on it goes. The city (and our state for that matter) has certainly had its share of corrupt and/or inept leaders through the years, and Mitch Landrieu certainly falls into the inept category in my opinion.
Landrieu’s focus has been on things like removing Confederate monuments and building Equity Circles instead of fighting the rising crime rate in his city. Infrastructure crumbles, citizens grumble, but Landrieu continues with his own agenda.
The Advocate reported last week that as of this point, 400 people have been shot in New Orleans. And I’ve often pointed you to the murder map, which as of this morning tells us that 103 murders have occurred in the city this year. This makes New Orleans one of the most dangerous places in the country. Simply unacceptable.
All that being said, there is no shortage of crime in my part of the state, either. The City of Shreveport, also led by a Democrat mayor, for what that’s worth, is in a spiral of crime and daily shootings; there is much senseless violence in this town.
Not a day goes by when we don’t wake up or turn on the news to hear of another shooting or murder. And what’s our mayor working on? She’s lobbying to build a new arena (we already have two, by the way) in hope of recruiting a D-league basketball team to town (a couple of which have come and gone for lack of support).
The latest act of senseless violence in Shreveport occurred Saturday night at a Mexican restaurant. The family is known and much loved by loyal customers. The parents are immigrants, they and the kids are hard-working. The children have assimilated beautifully: one attends Baylor Law School and another Louisiana Tech University. The father died tragically last year so they’ve struggled onward, the boy left school to help run the restaurant with his family. They are a beautiful example of the American Dream and what you can attain through hard work and dedication.
Saturday night, the boy’s mother was leaving the restaurant around 11 p.m. Two thugs were waiting for her outside and demanded her purse. She screamed and her son, Juan, ran to her defense. The armed robbers shot him two times in the chest. He’s now in critical condition and has had his right lung removed. It’s a horrible tragedy.
Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up for the family which have raised almost $40,000 in about 24 hours. One is here and the other is here.
But what are we worried about? A basketball arena. Our city is working under a huge shortage in the police department, much like New Orleans.
I’m not sure what the answer is: if it’s the mismanagement of city resources, the lack of jobs and a struggling economy, or maybe we are just more aware of these things these days. Maybe it’s a combination of all of this and more. We still have our Confederate monument – maybe that’s what it is.
What I do know is that the wide open spaces of neighboring Texas is looking better to me every day. Give me five acres of land in the middle of nowhere, a few cows, a couple of goats, some dogs, and I’ll be perfectly happy.
I don’t want to live in a city where young, bright kids with a fine work ethic is shot down for defending his mother.
SHREVEPORT — Last week Mark Rougeau at Rolling Stone wrote about the “hardcore” Pokemon Go players in the Los Angeles area. A casual player, Rougeau found himself in the world of hardcore Pokemon Go players after a post he made on Reddit begrudging gym turnover in his neighborhood brought him more attention than he intended.
Many are under the impression that Pokemon Go died after the initial flurry of play when the game launched but one look at ticket sales at the embarrassingly epic fail of Pokemon GoFest in Chicago this weekend would belie that. Thousands of players descended on Grant Park in Chicago hoping to catch rare Pokemon and capitalize on special bonuses released just for the event. Sadly, Niantic, did not plan well. Servers crashed, players were shut out, and the CEO of Niantic was booed from the stage when he came out to apologize for the problems. Epic fail.
Scoff if you will, but some of these players came from all over the country and even from other countries. They bought airline tickets, hotel rooms, planned vacations, only to be stuck in long lines waiting to get into Grant Park and then shut out of the game once they got in.
By mid-afternoon Niantic was refunding ticket prices due to the “degraded experience” and giving players $100 in Pokecoins which can be used in the store to purchase a variety of items such as Pokeballs, extra storage, and incubators for hatching those eggs you get from Pokestops. When problems persisted and the live stream wouldn’t even work, Niantic finally released two of the “legendary birds” in Chicago and then the rest of the country to appease wildly disgruntled players who were burning up social media in disgust and frustration with the mismanagement and poor planning.
Pokemon Go players are indeed hardcore. The casual players have moved on but the ones that are left are serious:
When Pokemon Go launched in July 2016, it became an instant cultural phenomenon. It seemed like everyone was playing it, and if you weren’t playing, you were marveling about how it had caused the world to go crazy. Mainstream news outlets covered the “Pokemon Go craze” while players gathered in the hundreds and thousands to hunt for rare Pokemon in large cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.
By the fall, the world appeared to have moved on, their precious Pokemon trapped forever in Poke Balls that would never again be tossed.
There are people that have become mini-celebrities over this game, famous on YouTube or famous in their own community for hitting top levels and holding down gyms for extended periods of time.
Intense rivalries can sometimes arise between teams (Mystic, Valor, Instinct) in areas and most players are hardcore angry about “spoofers” or cheaters.
I’m sort of a casual player of the game and have been since its launch (level 34, Mystic); most players I’ve met watched the show when they were kids and collected cards. I’m too old for that but I did buy cards for my son who collected them. He’s twenty-five now and he plays the game, too. We play it together and it’s been a sort of fun thing we do together. Even Rougeau notes that aspect of it:
In a game with players as dedicated as those who love Pokemon Go, it’s inevitable that some ugliness will emerge. But many of the players I spoke with also said Pokemon Go is their social life. It’s how they met their friends. It takes them to places they’d never normally go, and they’ve gone on adventures that they cherish.
After Niantic’s release of the “legendary birds,” my son and I spent the day with 50 or 60 local players in a Telegram call-out group running from gym to gym to battle and collect these pixelated creatures. It’s crazy, I know. But somehow it’s fun, too. From a cultural aspect it is simply amazing to me to see literally 50 or 60 people (just in OUR group, there are others) descend from locations all over the city on one gym to battle a Lugia or Articuno. It’s intense. Are there better things we could be doing? Maybe. Are there worse things we could be doing? Definitely. Is it any different than the guy going out to play golf or the lady going out to shop garage sales? Nope.
The people I’ve met on these runs are great people and are of all ages and professions. There’s a chef, a marine, a commercial fisherman, a landscape man, a couple of stay-at-home moms, a teacher…it’s not just pimply kids that live in mom’s basement.
And it’s fun.
Niantic has invested a lot in this game and has worked hard to keep it engaging for players with special events, a slow rollout of Pokemon creatures, various challenges and now the epic fail event. Hopefully they will figure out what went wrong with the Chicago event and do better next time. Meanwhile, people are still spending money to play the game. You can play for free but I doubt you’ll find a hardcore player who hasn’t bought an incubator or some Pokeballs in the shop.
As the initial infatuation with the game has faded, the hardcore players remain and Niantic is cashing in. The subculture of players is huge and they are serious.
SHREVEPORT – The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race qualifying period has closed with a total of 18 candidates, only three of which are considered major candidates.
As most are aware, New Orleans has been the center of much turmoil and negative attention in the past few months. During Landrieu’s term crime has risen dramatically and what is different about that is that it is now in the tourist areas around the French Quarter which has never been more dangerous than it is right now.
The Confederate monuments controversy has also pulled a great deal of attention to the city both positive and negative, depending on your perspective of the issue. At the very least, removal of the four historical monuments has made the city a little less unique and has pulled Landrieu’s attention away from more pressing matters, like police staffing, infrastructure, and crime.
The major candidates in the October 14 primary are “former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.” Crime is certainly going to be the top topic in this election. “Crime is ravaging our city,” said Bagneris, who first ran for mayor in 2012. “Crime is up because police manpower is down, and criminals know it.”
There are no Republicans on the ballot:
Fellow businessman Frank Scurlock, who announced at about the same time as the “Big 3,” also could get a little traction using his own financial resources from his inflatable bounce house empire and his public opposition to the removal of the Confederate monuments to carve out a niche.
Scurlock is one of six white candidates in the field to lead a city with a population that is about 60 percent black. Eleven of the candidates signed up as Democrats, three are running as independents, and four others are running without a party affiliation. There are no Republicans on the mayoral ballot.
As of today, there have been 100 murders in New Orleans this year and countless shootings, muggings, assaults, and other violent crimes.
The primary is October 14 with a November runoff; Landrieu will remain in office through May. According to pundit Stephanie Grace:
[Landrieu] hinted that he hopes to help guide the choice of his successor, perhaps through the political action committee he has set up. While he hasn’t endorsed a candidate, Landrieu has bemoaned New Orleans voters’ history of focusing on change and has advocated for philosophical and policy continuity from his administration to the next.
This race will be closely watched throughout the state as many who have objected to Landrieu’s Confederate monument position have vowed not to visit the city until he is gone.
If a Landrieu clone is elected that tourism ban may continue.
SHREVEPORT – Shortest summer ever. I report back to work Thursday with a series of workshops and on our new high school ELA curriculum and students report back to class August 2. When I first started teaching twenty years ago, my first report date was August 25; seems like it backs up every single year. I suppose year-round school is the ultimate goal but nobody is saying that.
At any rate, I’ve made the most of my summer with a couple of little trips and tending to some chores that get neglected during the school year. I’ve read some books – probably the one that has had the most profound effect on me was Beautiful Boy by David Scheff, which tells the story of his son’s battle against addiction. I can’t imagine what it took to write this book. Raw pain on every page, but such a beautiful story of love.
What I should have been reading is all of the new material in our new ELA curriculum. Most of the selections we are now required to teach are things I’ve never read or have not read in thirty years. I am now required to teach, for example, chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is about the effect of pesticides on the environment; also on our required list is “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage” by Carrie Chapman Catt, excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, countless speeches and essays, poems I haven’t read since college…and I’ve got to find a way to make this relevant and meaningful to 10th grade inner city students.
I’m a little concerned.
But, I like a good challenge, so I’m sure it will be fine.
What I find disturbing, as a teacher, is the scripted lessons that come with this new curriculum; I suppose this might be helpful to a brand new teacher, but for years we’ve been told that all students learn differently – I’ve been to countless workshops on various learning styles. Now, apparently all kids learn the same and from the same teacher script. Thank you, Common Core.
Well, I have three more days to procrastinate and I won’t worry about that now. For the next three days, it’s still summer.
SHREVEPORT – Now that the Confederate era monuments have come down in New Orleans, one would expect the crime rate to drop as well, at least that is the case if you subscribe to the Mitch Landrieu theory of crime control.
But of course that is not the case and residents and sick and tired of it. Last week surveillance cameras caught an attack on video of two Boston tourists in the French Quarter. The attack was brutal and hard to watch, but it serves to show us that it’s not just in the neighborhoods where we expect there to be crime that this happens. New Orleans is a city that is supported in large part by tourism and when tourists go there they go to the French Quarter. If you’re not safe there…
What is the mayor of the city doing about this rampant lawlessness in the city? Not a whole lot. He’s giving speeches in south Florida at the Conference of Mayors where he declared
“So let’s be honest. In these moments of uncertain, chaotic and sometimes frustrating times, the families we represent cannot look to Washington for answers,” Landrieu said. “In this political climate, we as mayors must fight to occupy the radical center, where idealism meets reality and where we put people over politics.”
The mayor restated his position that though the Civil War was a brief period in the city’s history, the monuments had lingered as symbols for too long and had no place on a contemporary New Orleans public thoroughfares. He called the former situation “absurd.” He put a finer point of the subject when he described the proximity of the now-removed Robert E. Lee statue to the Convention Center. “Just think about it for a moment,” he said, “having the Confederate monuments stand less than 300 yards from where the Essence Festival meets, that juxtaposition seems like it just doesn’t work.”
While Landrieu is positioning himself for a national bid of some sort when his term ends later this year, the city is in the grips of a terrible crime wave which is certain to affect tourism. This has nothing to do with monuments of course, but more with the fact that Landrieu has refused to pay police officers a decent wage and implemented a two year hiring freeze on police officers which dropped numbers by 400 officers, a 40-year low.
As of this writing, there have been 96 murders (many more shootings, muggings, robberies, rapes, etc.) in 2017 as compared with a total of 175 in 2016. The numbers are higher each month this year than in comparable months for 2016.
The French Quarter is safer, right? It’s the tourist area so it has extra protection. It has extra taxes to pay for State Police protection, because while Landrieu told NOPD he couldn’t pay them more or hire more of them, he simply added a tax to hire state officials – an inexplicable paradox. It’s the area that has barricades to prevent Nice- and London-style attacks on innocents. We’re supposed to be safe there, right?
No. We’re supposed to be safe everywhere.
Realistically, of course, that’s not possible. Crime happens, and it happens everywhere. What should not be happening, however, is that a city is so overrun with lawlessness that people are beaten nearly to death in the streets, that literally hundreds of people are shot – fatally or injuriously—or that children catch stray bullets while thugs roam free. What shouldn’t happen is that the leader of a relatively major city gives speeches 1,000 miles away in which he says that statues are “virtual murders,” that the Paris Accords are the responsibility of America’s cities now, that Russians interfered with the presidential election (and, therefore, with his appointment to a Cabinet post).
As Landrieu positions himself on the national stage in the coming months we need to know the kind of leader he is. Under his tenure a once beautiful, thriving, unique city is somewhat diminished. It will take more than Mitch Landrieu to kill New Orleans, but he certainly has done her no favors.
MIAMI, OK: As I mentioned last week, we are on the road this week and as of this writing find ourselves on Route 66 in Miami, OK.
One of our travel stops today was pretty fabulous and worth sharing with you. It may never have crossed your mind that a 311 foot, Balao class submarine could be found in the middle of Oklahoma, but sure enough, that’s where you can find the USS Batfish at the War Memorial Park in Muskogee.
The sub is open to the public and is lovingly tended and kept in tip-top shape through private donations; the state of Oklahoma doesn’t fund the project (and therefore there is no sign on the turnpike or highways alerting tourists to the park).
The Batfish was commissioned in 1942 and was in service for 26 years and is known primarily “for the remarkable feat of sinking three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in a 76-hour period, in February 1945.”
The sub sits now in a depressed area of a large field at the War Memorial Park in a shallow basin of water. After touring the museum, visitors then can walk outside and go aboard the sub. The first thing that hits you is the smell of the oil and machinery of the sub, but once you descend the ladder into the Batfish, you can see the torpedo holds, banks of brass gauges, dials, and levers; you can see the bunks where the crew rotated sleep shifts, the officer and the enlisted mess, a couple of office areas, and all along the tour are either guides or video monitors with information.
If I lived closer to Muskogee, I’d take part in some of the cool events that the park offers like Bands on the Batfish, or the overnight stays that they do to raise funds to support this fascinating piece of history.
What impressed my husband almost as much as the USS Batfish was the large section of the mast of the USS Oklahoma which was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. It was sobering to stand next to that mast and realize its role in history.
Read more about the USS Batfish here, and about the park that has given her a home here. And if you find yourself in Oklahoma, go by and see it. If you want to donate to the upkeep and maintenance of the sub, go here. The park goes beyond just preserving the submarine, but also works to educate young people and to bring history alive.
For me, it was fascinating to walk through the submarine and think about the masterful engineering involved in putting so much equipment in such a small space. It is well worth the trip.
SHREVEPORT — It’s officially summertime and many of us are looking toward to vacations and hitting the great open road to discover America, or other parts of the world.
For us, we head to the Midwest. There’s some truth in the old adage about the grass being greener, and all that; the living is always better where you aren’t.
Every summer we travel to Iowa. Now I know there are some people in Iowa wondering why in the devil dog would anyone want to come to Iowa, but we love it. My husband’s family is there but it’s not just that. It’s the road trip along the way. We take the backroads whenever we can and avoid interstates.
One year we left for the Midwest from the Dallas area after attending my grandson’s birthday and we ended up on Route 66 in Oklahoma which we rode out as far as we could, stopping to see all the cool Americana, road stops, signage, that we could. It was one of our more memorable trips.
To me, it’s the things you discover by accident as you roam, it’s not having a fixed plan or a rigid time schedule. When I was a child my father would throw us in the car and we’d head for the beach, but there would be only one stop along the entire fourteen hour trip. Maybe two. And they were fast. Get it and go. Now I prefer to take things slower.
We love the Midwest, especially around the Fourth of July holiday because truly that’s where the heart of America can be found. The small town parades are the best. In Shreveport, where we live, the Fourth is celebrated with a huge fireworks extravaganza and massive crowds, traffic jams, in the hot, humid Louisiana night. Give me the small town tractor parades any day.
Maybe it doesn’t matter where you go, just that you go. Sometimes we all need to get away and recharge our batteries, have some real down time. What I’ll be doing next week is sitting in my sister-in-law’s backyard in the evenings while kids roast hotdogs over a fire pit, watching fireflies light up the dark corners of the yard…in the morning the tornado siren will go off at 7 a.m. for it’s daily test (and again at noon). The Amish buggies will clap down the streets and at the Sale Barn down the road the farmers that fill up America’s bread baskets will meet to solve the world’s problems over eggs and coffee. We will drive up to my husband’s family’s generational farm, breathing in gravel dust from the road as we traverse some of the prettiest rolling hills I’ve ever seen.
The biggest decision I will have to make all day is if we want to drive to the WalMart in the next county to pick up a few things.
The people are nice, friendly, and as down to earth as you’ll find anywhere. They want to know where you’re from, who your people are, and they’ll wish you a nice stay.
SHREVEPORT — Let me open this week by apologizing for missing my post last week; a friend of mine died suddenly and the funeral was Monday. It all happened so quickly that I never even thought about my post here until Wednesday. Note: if you are a diabetic, please take care of yourself and do not ignore symptoms or skip medications. That disease is serious business. Take care of yourself.
Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, local and state government continues to be the hot mess that it has been for decades and an issue for which Louisiana has become famous. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly the ineptitude that is local government in New Orleans: Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to attempt to reinvent his legacy and image in the face of daily shootings and murders in the city while he was spending millions to remove four Confederate era monuments.
The city says about $2.1 million was spent to remove the three Confederate monuments in May and the Battle of Liberty Place monument in April, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had not anticipated.
My question: how could Landrieu have been so clueless as to not realize security would be needed? Did he really not think people would protest this? Ineptitude at its finest.
The city said $1.04 million of the monument-removal costs came from budgeted city funds, with $1.07 million coming from private donations through the Foundation for Louisiana, which is keeping the names of donors secret.
Secret? Seriously? I would love to know who is funding cultural genocide in New Orleans. FOIA, anyone? Be sure to read this post from The Hayride for more about Landrieu and his friends at Foundation for Louisiana.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said “racial extremists” forced the city to spend $710,000 on a safety and intelligence contractor named Trident Response Group. Invoices show that Trident, a Dallas-based company, provided advice developing operational plans with consultants charging up to $425 an hour.
Trident also provided two security advisers, listed on invoices only as “Bob” and “Gary,” at $275 and $250 per hour, respectively. About a half dozen other security analysts monitored threats on social media and other sources as known white supremacy groups and opposing Antifas encouraged online followers to amass in New Orleans, Berni said.
Again, this wasn’t anticipated? And “racial extremeists” forced the city to spend this money? This is incredible. I would suggest Landrieu would be more to blame than “racial extremeists.” As for Trident Security, they are self-described as “elite risk and threat solutions firm of Veterans and Special Ops to anticipate and solve problems for influential decision-makers.”
This is serious secret-agent stuff, isn’t it?! And all for what? What was accomplished?
Mayor Mitch Landrieu had said there would be no city funds used the remove the Liberty Place monument and statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis.
Berni emphasized no city funds were used on actual removal work, only logistics, security and storage. For example, the city was forced to spend about $52,000 building a shed for the monuments — and another $12,000 in security there — after they were moved to a storage yard because of attempts to vandalize them when they were left outside, Berni said.
Semantics. Word-play. Of course city funds were used in this demolition. And again with this “forced” business – the city “was forced to spend…”. When did this shed get built because last time I saw photos of the monuments they were outside in a maintenance yard. Perhaps Landrieu should have left them where they were until he had a plan to place them someplace else – then he could have saved $52K on “a shed.”
And by the way, there is still no plan for the monuments that anyone knows about.
After WWL-TV reported earlier this week that the city spent $173,000 deploying 221 NOPD officers to the three Confederate leaders’ statues, the full amount paid for all four removals and the protests was released Friday. The total NOPD cost was nearly $220,000. Fire Department personnel were paid $20,000 and EMS employees made about $5,500 to be stationed at the monuments.
The Regional Transit Authority also spent about $7,500 to remove and reinstall overhead streetcar lines at Lee Circle to clear the way for the especially challenging removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The graphic from The Advocate breaks down regular and overtime hours. All could have been avoided. Trident received $710K for this gig. Would anyone say that Mitch Landrieu has been a good steward of the city’s money? I don’t think so.
I feel certain at some point the Democrats are going to attempt to put Landrieu’s name out there for the next presidential election and it’s incumbent on all of us to know what you’re getting with that.
Meanwhile, New Orleans continues with daily shootings and murders, potholes go unfixed, the city’s infrastructure declines, tourism declines and problems amass. The city is more racially divided than ever – a city that was once known for its acceptance of diversity and tolerance.
But at least there are four less pieces of public art. There’s that. At least now nobody will have to drive by a statue of Robert E. Lee and feel the trauma of remembering that our country was once divided by a civil war over issues much more complex than just slavery. At least nobody will have to walk past a Jefferson Davis monument (even though they will still have to travel of Jefferson Davis Boulevard).
He has protected us from that trauma. Now if he could figure out how to protect us from the violence in the streets of New Orleans that would be something.
SHREVEPORT — On this Memorial Day 2017, I am re-posting my traditional Memorial Day post about a local family that lost three sons in World War II. The story of the Kelley family always gives me pause and causes me to be thankful for the freedoms and blessings we have today. They were truly The Greatest Generation. I started researching this family years ago when my husband and I began visiting a local veterans cemetery — one of the oldest cemeteries in Shreveport, and we saw these two brothers buried side by side, one of whom died on D-Day. Their graves are always tended with fresh flowers (well, artificial but never faded and always in time with the season). I became curious about them and about the person who was still paying honor to their graves. I found a couple of family members, one in particular, who was very generous about sharing their story.
So today, I’m remembering the Kelley brothers:
It’s probably safe to say that Saving Private Ryan is all over your television menu this Memorial Day weekend. It’s difficult to escape the endless rebroadcasts of the moving story of Private First Class James Francis Ryan lost behind enemy lines after the Normandy D-Day invasion and the ensuing quest to save him.
The film is fiction but there is a real life version of this story right here in Shreveport. In fact, this sort of scenario existed across the nation for multiple families during that turbulent time. As we observe Memorial Day today, let me share with you the story of the Kelley family who lost three sons in less than two years.
Like all of America, Shreveport watched the unfolding events at Pearl Harbor in 1941 with horror. In February 1942, William G. Kelley (his friends and family called him “Bob”) felt the call to service and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He had graduated from the local high school, attended Louisiana College, and was attending seminary. He was ordained at the First Baptist Church in Shreveport by Dr. M. E. Dodd. When he enlisted, Bob was preaching at the Evangeline Mission, a new church in town that he helped build with the assistance of the Queensborough Baptist Church.
Bob Kelley went to officers’ school and became a bombardier; he went with the Eighth Air Force to England. Lt. Kelley had been overseas only six weeks when his plane crashed near Fontainebleau, France and claimed his life on November 10, 1944. He was twenty-four years old.
The Evangeline Mission, where Bob was a preacher, was renamed for him as Kelley Memorial Baptist Church.
A second Kelley son, Bose, Jr., died in the D-Day invasion. Al McIntosh, writing for the Rock County Star Herald, wrote on June 8, 1944, after learning that the expected invasion of France had finally taken place:
“This is no time for any premature rejoicing or cockiness because the coming weeks are going to bring grim news. This struggle is far from over – it has only started – and if anyone thinks that a gain of ten miles means that the next three hundred are going to go as fast or easy he is only an ostrich.”
He was correct: the grim news was only beginning.
Bose Kelly, Jr. enlisted in May 1942. Bose graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport. He was married to Betty Miller and working as a mechanic at Central Motor Company, a car dealership. Bose volunteered for the Army Airborne, went to jump school and became a paratrooper. Bose was part of the 507 PIR which became attached to the 82ndAirborne in 1943. The 507 PIR was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 1942 and trained there and in Alliance, Nebraska. In 1943, the 507th PIR shipped out to Northern Ireland, then England, and it was in Nottingham where they prepared for the coming Allied invasion of France. They studied sand tables, drop zones, and were given Hershey’s chocolates and a carton of cigarettes.
Bose was on a C-47, number 13 in his stick, as the plane lumbered through the fog banks toward Drop Zone T, near the west bank of the Merderet River. Because of the fog and the incoming German flak, the C-47s flew faster and higher than anticipated which caused almost all of the paratroopers to miss the drop zone. They were scattered over a 15 mile area. The 507th was the last regiment to jump and by the time Bose Kelley’s C-47 was over the Cotentin peninsula the entire area was stirred up with flak coming from every direction. There were sixteen men in Bose Kelley’s stick and at least eight of them were killed that night. The Germans had flooded the valley as a defensive tactic and some paratroopers, weighted down by equipment and unable to swim, drowned. Bose Kelley was killed by a direct hit from an artillery shell.
“This regiment unquestionably received the worst drop of the six US parachute regiments dropped that night.”
Howard Huebner, who was number 3 in Bose’s stick, survived that drop. He wrote:
I am a Paratrooper! I was 21 yrs old when we jumped into Normandy.
We knew the area where we were supposed to land, because we had studied it on sand tables, and then had to draw it on paper by memory, but that all faded as our regiment was the last to jump, and things had changed on the ground. Most of us missed our drop zone by miles. As we were over our drop zone there was a downed burning plane. Later I found out it was one of ours. The flack was hitting our plane and everything from the ground coming our way looked like the Fourth of July.
When I hit the ground in Normandy, I looked at my watch. It was 2:32 AM, June 6, 1944. I cut myself out of my chute, and the first thing I heard was shooting and some Germans hollering in German, “mucksnell toot sweet Americanos”.
We the 507th, was supposed to land fifteen miles inland, but I landed three or four miles from Utah Beach by the little town of Pouppeville. I wound up about 1000 yards from a French farm house that the Germans were using for a barracks, and about 200 feet from a river, an area that the Germans had flooded. If I would have landed in the water, I may not be here today as I can’t swim. A lot of paratroopers drowned because of the flooded area.
Local writer Gary Hines spoke to Bose’s widow, Betty, for an article he wrote for the August 2000 issue of SB Magazine. She told him, “He was going to win the war and come back home.” Betty was married at 18 and a widow at 20. She told Mr. Hines “We were both young enough to feel that he was coming home. He wasn’t going to be one of the ones who was lost.”
A third Kelley son, Edgar Rew, was drafted into the Army in 1943. He was sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi where he died five weeks later from an outbreak of spinal meningitis. He never made it out of basic training. He was 27 years old; he left behind a wife of five years.
The remaining Kelley brother was Jack. Jack Richard Kelley was serving in the medical corps in Washington at Fort Lewis. His father, Bose Kelley, Sr., wrote to U.S. Representative Overton Brooks and pleaded with him to prevent his oldest son from going overseas. It is reminiscent of the scene in Saving Private Ryanwhere General Marshall reads the Bixby letter to his officers. In this case, in a letter dated December 8, 1944, Mr. Kelley received word that his son Jack would remain stateside for the duration of the war. Jack Kelley died in 1998.
The bodies of Bose Kelley, Jr. and his brother William (Bob) were buried in separate military funerals in France but were returned to the United States in September 1948. Bose and his brother now rest side by side in the veterans section of Greenwood Cemetery in Shreveport. Their brother, Edgar Rew Kelley, is in a civilian cemetery across town, the Jewella Cemetery on Greenwood Road. Their father, who pleaded for his fourth son to be spared, died just one month after Bose and William’s bodies were buried in Greenwood Cemetery. It’s as if he was just waiting for them to come home.
For sixty-five years their sister, Ruby, tended the graves of her brothers. There has never been a time that I visited the graves that there was not a crisp American flag flying over each and flowers. Ruby died last year and the graves are now tended by Ruby’s daughter. I visited the graves of Bose and William last week and sure enough, there were two new flags and flowers steadfastly in place.
As we observe Memorial Day today, we remember the sacrifices of young men like the Kelleys all across the country. Their name belongs alongside the Sullivan brothers, the Borgstrum brothers, the Niland brothers, and the Wright brothers. It is their heroism and their sacrifice, along with that of so many others, that we remember and honor each Memorial Day.