Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Steve Hawkins, The Rings

Our wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving Day to all of our friends in the United States and those everywhere who celebrate the holiday.

On Friday Steve had the honor of giving a private tour to Steve Hawkins, the director of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. Hawkins (to distinguish one Steve from the other) is a native of Idaho and graduated from Utah State with an engineering degree. He is a retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Army, and had many interesting experiences to share, some of which we can highlight. While on active duty, Hawkins was the man responsible for first getting the lights back on in Baghdad – Operation Fajr, “Arabic for “first light” – which he accomplished in 12 days, and then he continued through all of Iraq, restoring power to 17 of the 18 areas in only eight months.

Hawkins was the personal military escort for then First Lady Hilary Clinton when she went to Bosnia, and said of her, “She is the smartest person I ever met in my life.” His position at the ABMC, which previously included all of the U.S. monuments and cemeteries in the Western Hemisphere (primarily Europe), has now been expanded to include responsibility for all sites not on U.S. soil. Thus his job expanded to include the cemeteries in Manila, Panama, and Mexico City, as well as monuments in Saipan and Guadalcanal. In this position, he hosted President Obama on his June 6 D-Day visit to France, and had a one-on-one chat with then President Bush for a whole hour during Bush’s D-Day visit last year. Hawkins currently resides in Paris with his wife of 35 years. They have one son who lives in the United States.

The Steves had several interesting conversations. They hold similar views on Douglas MacArthur, feeling that he was a great general who also made his share of serious mistakes. Hawkins did express concern that MacArthur left his men on the battlefield, something that just isn’t done, but then agreed that Mac had to obey the direct order from the President. It left MacArthur in a bad position if he in fact wanted to fight with his men to the death.

Steve also asked him why so many families left their deceased sons overseas, laid to rest in military cemeteries, when they had the choice to have them brought back home at government expense. He said that it is customary to do so, and that families who have brought their sons home and then later visited an overseas cemetery often express regret, since the military cemeteries are kept in such pristine condition. By the way, the American Cemetery in Manila is the largest American cemetery anywhere in the world outside of the United States, and is the burial place of more men killed in World War Two than any other cemetery anywhere. Hawkins enjoyed his tour and is looking forward to a return trip in a few months, bringing some of his staff and possibly staying overnight.

We love interesting and heartwarming stories, and were very recently reminded of one of our favorites. Mario “Motts” Tonelli, Notre Dame football star and Death March survivor, had his Notre Dame National Championship ring taken from him by a Japanese guard at the start of the march. (The guards took everything of value, sometimes cutting off fingers and knocking out gold teeth in the process, severely beating or killing any who resisted.) The ring was given back to Motts by a Japanese officer who had witnessed the incident. The man, who spoke perfect English, had been a University of Southern California student. He was in the stands and had seen Tonelli play in the Notre Dame-USC game four years earlier, watching as Tonelli scored the winning touchdown. Warned by the officer to hide his ring, Tonelli managed to successfully do so in spite of repeated searches during captivity, returning home with the ring after 40 months in prison camps. The story was featured a few years ago in Sports Illustrated, upon Tonelli’s death in Chicago.

The previous story was brought to mind by the following one. Some of you may remember that last January we had a family stranded on Corregidor, having to hire a helicopter to travel from the island to Manila in order to catch their return flight to France. In our newsletter we wrote about Minter Dial’s grandfather, in part saying, “He also entrusted the man with his Naval Academy class ring to give to his wife, which the man lost before the war was over. Through an amazing set of circumstances, the ring eventually ended up with Minter’s father, but he had it stolen from a French hotel room five years later.” Minter has written this amazing story and posted it on the web at: We encourage you to read this story and pass it along to anyone who might be interested. Minter is offering a very generous reward to the person who manages to find and return the ring.

Gilbert, the on-island photographer, captured pictures of a rare, early morning rainbow over Bataan, taken from Corregidor’s Bottomside. We include one for your viewing pleasure.

Concerning the basketball tournament, postponed indefinitely due to lack of funds, Tess from Houston wrote: Sorry to know that there will be no basketball league this year. It must be a letdown for the players and everybody involved. How about next year? I would love to make a monetary donation to the league. How many friendly readers do you have on this blog? I would like to challenge them to donate and make the basketball league possible.

Yes, Tess, it is quite a letdown for everyone involved. We appreciate your offer to donate and your challenge to our readers to consider doing the same. We would ask anyone interested in helping to email us, and we will send the mailing information. Donations for this would not be tax deductable, but rest assured that they would be very much appreciated by the players and their spectators. If we reach our goal we will make plans for next year’s basketball league and tournament. Remember that a uniform is only about $10. We (Marcia and Steve) also plan a donation to help the league.

No comments:

Post a Comment