Monday, May 20, 2013

"Banzai, Stumpjumpers!"

I'm living where it's often still 1950. My email note to the editor of the Forks Forum:
Hi, Mark -
I couldn't resist. With an author who writes historical fiction in the house, and a history geek making comments across the room, you know we had to do it.

Have fun (I know you can't use it, but I couldn't resist).

Dan was the one who said, "Banzai, stump-jumpers!" He's from Ohio. I keep trying to tell him the PROPER term for Washingtonians is Webfoot. "Stump-jumper" is for Oregon.

BTW, my college Japanese teacher disappointed all of us when she told us "banzai" only means "hooray!"
The letter itself: 

"Banzai, Stump-jumpers."

I know I work for the Forum, but the controversy over the supposed Japanese airfield on the Ozette prairie reminds me of my own long experiences in writing historical fiction.

One of my writing rules is, "If it's funny, it's right." That includes weird, strange, unexpected, or just silly. It applies to writing, historical research and science, especially astronomy - the goofy story is going to be the real story.

Of course, the job of the military is to have attack plans ready, in case the peace negotiations fall through. All governments with a military do it that way; it's their job.

Just for musing - what if the Japanese had actually had contingency plans that included an Ozette airfield? Those of you with military experience can imagine what might have happened.

The Admiral knows he needs a staging area, even in obscure coastal areas, that include airfields. So he assigns the project to his Commander. The Commander passes it along to an area Captain. Some Lieutenant - with, say, art classes in college because - well, they draw, right? - gets the assignment. The Lieutenant grabs some sailor to sharpen pencils.

"Hm," mutters the young officer, looking over old 1899 maps, or if he's really lucky, 1920's surveys. "Well, this place has a sort of harbor look to it. I think this is deep water. What do you think, Watanabe?"

The sailor pauses in setting out the tea, and scratches his head. "I guess so, sir. But is that a cliff? No, wait, sir - I think there's a low place here. Would that work?"

"I wish there were forest or swamp symbols on this map. But I think it was for minerals or something. Well, at least it's flat. We'll use this."

The Lieutenant writes his report. The Captain is happy, and the Commander is happy, and the Admiral is already thinking about something else, and the maps and report are still in a dusty cabinet someplace.

I'm not saying it happened this way - but if any such plans ever existed, I'll bet a sushi dinner at that nice place in Port Angeles that there's some old sailor someplace who could say, "Oh, hai - I remember Lieutenant Rioku had me doing something with maps."

I'd bet dessert that somebody's trying to get out of paying reparations for interning the coastal Japanese, but I'm full.

Pass the saké.

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