Thursday, May 25, 2017

Defiance by L. R. Burkard

Defiance is book three in the Pulse Effex series. The series has followed three teen-aged friends after an EMP has taken down the electrical grid in the United States. It details how they live and survive in a world that has gone mad.

This book picks up where Resilience left off and brings the reader along to a satisfying end to the series. It's a set of books that make you think about what it takes to live through difficult times, both physically and spiritually. You will be challenged in your faith as you read this series.

You won't want to put it down.

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fried Chicken Fit for a Picnic

Memorial Day heralds the summer picnic season. Whether tail-gating at an event or going on an outing at the lake, beach, or mountain trail, a well-stocked picnic basket is a must.

The picnics of my childhood are some of my favorite summer memories. Way back in the woods, a deep spring connected to the river by a winding ice-cold, mossy brook. How we endured the chilly water I don’t know, but when the air temperature reached a humid 100 degrees, nothing was more refreshing.
As soon as we arrived at the swimming hole, a big, Georgia grown (best in the world) watermelon, complete with seeds for spitting contests, was lowered into the spring. It would stay there until we’d turned blue and our parents had pulled us out of the water. After we’d devoured our fill of all the other food, the usual fare of salads and desserts, we'd return to the water for awhile before slicing the watermelon.

I’m sure there was a variety of meat dishes at these picnics, but all I remember is the fried chicken my mother brought.

Fried chicken is one of those dishes where the cooking depends on technique and experience more than ingredients. I still can’t make it as well as Mama did, but here’s the recipe, and the result is a lot better than KFC. Notes in parenthesis are from my experience.

3-4 lbs whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin on. (Best to cut up your own chicken. Butchers do it wonky these days. If you eat low fat, wait until it’s cooked to pull skin off. Breast meat, especially, will be dry if skinned.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups buttermilk
Self-rising flour for coating
Vegetable oil or peanut oil

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a zip top bag and add buttermilk. Seal and chill for at least 2 hours. (Overnight is OK. Buttermilk is a great tenderizer and commercially raised chicken is tougher than home raised.)

Pour oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches in a deep iron skillet or Dutch oven. Heat to 360 degrees. (Measure temperature. If it’s not hot enough, chicken will absorb too much oil.) Add flour coated chicken a few pieces at the time. (Don’t coat until ready to cook and don’t crowd.) Cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken, cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 5-9 minutes. (Larger pieces need longer cooking.) Turn the chicken the last 3 minutes.
Drain on paper towels spread over a wire rack.

Pack when cooled to room temperature. You’ll lose the crunch if you pack it hot. (This chicken is better eaten cold in my opinion, so it’s especially good for picnics.)

Enjoy your Memorial Day picnic.

What’s your favorite picnic food? Comment for a chance to win Cinderella’s Boots by Darlene Franklin. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ghosts Helped Win WWII

Imagine being a German field commander and hearing a tank battalion crank up a mile away, or an infantry regiment on the move just beyond that rise up ahead. What would you do? Chances are, what you heard was merely a sound recording.

Ghost Army logo

The U.S. Ghost Army was a 1,100-man unit officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The tactical deception unit impersonated other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy during World War II. They used fake tanks, aircraft, and artillery, equipment pioneered by British, and used giant speakers to broadcast the sounds of men and artillery. Their ruses made the Germans think they were facing large forces, and deflected German units from the locations of actual allied combat units.
The American unit sailed for the England in early May 1944, and participated in Operation Fortitude, the British-designed and led D-Day deception of a landing force designated for the Pas-de-Calais. They then went to France and, until the end of the war, put on a “traveling road show” utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions, and pretense. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines.

93 pound inflatiale tank

Many of the ghosts had been actors, set designers, artists, and engineers, recruited from occupations that required creative thinking. Others were meteorologists and sound technicians. Among them were fashion designer Bill Blass and movie star Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
For visual deception, their equipment included inflatable airplanes, cannons, jeeps, tanks, and trucks that they inflated with air compressors. Imperfect camouflage allowed enemy air reconnaissance to see them. In a few hours, they put together dummy airfields, artillery batteries, motor pools, tank formations, and troop bivouacs, complete with fake laundry hanging out to dry.
Sounds of armored and infantry units were recorded, and mixed for each deception to match the desired scenario they wanted the enemy to believe. Played on powerful amplifiers and speakers mounted on halftracks, they could be heard fifteen miles away.
The Signal Company handled spoof radio, creating phony traffic nets and impersonating the radio operators from real units. Special operators were educated in mimicking a departing operator’s idiosyncratic method of sending Morse Code so that the enemy would never detect that the real unit and its radio operator were long gone.
Divisional insignia of units deployed elsewhere were applied on vehicles. To create the illusion of long convoys, trucks were driven in looping routes with two soldiers seated in the rear to suggest an entire infantry unit being transported under the canvas covers.

Since the dummy equipment was positioned in the dark, an inflated tank would sometime be discovered in the morning facing the wrong way, a dead giveaway to aerial reconnaissance. The morning sun could cause trouble, too. One day some rubber planes began collapsing with a series of loud reports because the sun heated air had expanded. There was trouble with leaks, too. The troops dreaded the sight of limp gun barrels at first light, when the German reconnaissance planes usually flew over.

The actors in the Ghost Army spent time at French cafes near the war’s front, spreading gossip among enemy spies who might be there. Some dressed up as Allied generals and visited towns where the spies would be likely to see them.
How successful were the effects of the 23rd's operations? Sometimes they seemed to have no impact whatsoever. Other times they confused other Allies more than the enemy. Often enough, though, the Germans were completely bamboozled. Axis Sally, the radio propagandist, reported an entire Allied division was preparing for battle in a spot that actually contained, at the time, no troops at all. Prisoners spoke in awed terms of an "elusive" division. A map overlay captured before one engagement showed that the enemy had mistakenly positioned a U.S. unit right where the 23rd wanted them to think it was.
An adverse effect of their successful illusions resulted when the Germans believe they were real combat units and called down fire on them. Operating so close to the front lines left them as battle scarred as the troops they impersonated. 

The Ghost Army’s role was to create the illusion that their military force was bigger and more powerful than it actually was. They were to create chaos and confusion. They are estimated to have saved many thousands of soldiers’ lives with its deceptions, and to have been instrumental in several Allied victories in Europe. Yet the story of the Ghost Army remained a military secret until its declassification in 1996, and aspects of it remain classified.
In the words of one veteran who served alongside them in their most impressive performance at the Battle of the Rhine, “These men are real heroes―not heroes because they killed a lot of Germans―heroes because they saved thousands of American lives.”