Saturday, December 3, 2016


Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

Rangers lead the way!

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Technique for Learning Foreign Languages

I have always considered speaking foreign languages a requirement for professional soldiers . . . S.L.

Growing up overseas, I was exposed to several languages through environment and of course formal study in school. While this experience is a definite advantage, it is not an absolute requirement. My father grew up in Australia, didn't leave the country until he was in his thirties, and by the time he was in his forties he spoke Indonesian and Thai.

Over the years I developed a system to gaining limited working proficiency in any language in a relatively short period of time – a couple of weeks to a couple of months. During the course of my career I shared this technique with my colleagues and it works.

This is my technique:

I take five 5”x8” index cards (because in the Army I learned that the world revolves around 5”x8” cards) On the first card, I write the greetings; hello, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good night, etc., please and thank you, prepositions (in, on, below, above, near, far, behind, in front, out of, etc.) and conjunctive adjectives (before, after, now, later, yesterday, tomorrow). On the second card, I write the number system, phrases associated with simple arithmetic and money, days of the week and months of the year. On the third card, I write questions and answers associated with asking and receiving directions - to include the cardinal directions - and phrases involving airports, train stations, taxis, and checking in and out of hotels. On the fourth card, I write phrases associated with shopping – to include what to ask for at a pharmacy - how to buy food in a market, and how to order a meal in a restaurant. On the fifth card, I write useful phrases involving who, what, where, when, why and how many.

Nowadays there are numerous translation resources available online, but in pre-Internet era, doing this involved the use of a dictionary and a good phrasebook. In some ways, the old way was more effective; it required a bit more focus and effort, which seemed to intensify the learning process. Study your cards daily and learn the ‘helper’ phrases. The goal is to be able to experience basic day-to-day situations without breaking into English.

Advantages of learning foreign languages include widening your horizons; it’s becoming essential, you’ll meet new people and it’s great for traveling. After learning one language, it’s a thousand times easier to learn the next one. When you study languages you become smarter, by definition, and you’ll stay smarter for longer. Speaking a foreign language boosts your creativity, builds up your self-confidence, and as an added bonus, employers love it (and they’ll love you more). Anyone can learn a foreign language – consider; an infant can do it – and my technique really is this simple.


Friday, November 4, 2016


I wrote this story this past summer when I was on the road 'Down South', to coin a phrase. It is one of the collection of stories that I will soon self-publish as an e-book - The Long Bar - I've been talking about it for awhile, so maybe its time to give everyone a preview. This fantastic tale is narrated by a patron in the Long Bar, telling his story to Mike, the bartender. - S.L.

© Sean Linnane, June 2016

San Cristobal, capital of the Republic of El Cristobal, lies at the foot of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Mayan name of the volcano that looms ominously over the sleepy city. The ancient Mayans worshiped Xiuhtecuhtli, offered it human sacrifices – virgins were thrown in there annually. The soil on the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli was particularly fertile for the cultivation of corn, manioc, cacao, potatoes and coffee. And for the Mayan’s offerings and adoration, Xiuhtecuhtli would periodically reward them with eruptions that wiped their fields and villages away, and caused widespread havoc.

And then the cycle would repeat and the Mayans would start over again.

San Cristobal is a throwback to a better time, a time before the hustle and bustle of modern life and all the complications that come with it overtook once pastoral Central American backwaters. The Economic Officer at the American Embassy suggested to me it’s the success of agrarian programs. “There’s more money in the countryside, the volcanic soil is incredibly fertile,” he indicated the volcano through his office window. “Why go to the city? For a campesino to leave the farm and move to the city is to be sentenced to a life of poverty, a permanent slot on the lowest class of society.”

And so San Cristobal remains a unique destination, a quiet provincial town, almost a time portal to the Good Old Days. Somehow I didn’t take the concertina wire and the sandbagged fighting positions on all the official buildings seriously.

Meanwhile Xiuhtecuhtli smolders. The sacred mountain is a forgotten god, a looming presence, overlooking the activities of the mere mortals below...

* * *

“You had one job to do, Linnane. Get your team down to this dinky little place nobody has ever heard of - Cristobal - and ride herd on them while they do what they it is they do. One job! So how the hell did you end up in the middle of a revolution and overthrow the government... on YOUR FIRST NIGHT IN TOWN???

“Well, Chief, it really all started back here in the States, at the airport, when I met my future self - or at least one of my future selves - getting on the airplane...”

“Huh?” Chief stared at me in consternation, and damn near bit through the butt of the half-smoked cigar that hung eternally from his lip.

* * *

We are all ghosts, haunting our past selves as we look back at them in our memories. There is the sensation of someone ‘walking on our grave’. It comes with a shudder, and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Time and space are not a linear progression of course – Einstein explains this to us. There are intersections and it is inevitable that people cross over; possible evidence of time travel or forms of ‘immortality’ are not unheard of. And so it was the day I encountered my future self, as I boarded my flight to Republica de Cristobal.

Making my way down the aisle I noticed a tattoo on a gentleman’s right arm; a Chinese dragon. The same Chinese dragon I have on my right arm. I mean, EXACTLY the SAME tattoo as mine ...

Glancing over the gentleman I noticed he was tanned, dark hair without a trace of gray - this despite the fact he was evidently several years older than me, and dark piercing eyes. For all the life of me it seemed I was looking straight at an older version of myself. I was tempted to get his attention, roll up my sleeve and reveal MY dragon.

Then I noticed something else. The gentleman – if indeed he was my future self, somehow physically present in this plane – was missing his left arm, directly above the elbow...

* * *

The night I checked into my hotel there was some kind of gathering outside in the street. It was a big crowd, with a woman leading the crowd, giving some kind of speech on a megaphone. Well I had reason to go outside. I wanted a bottle of wine, so I was making my way down the street to a local tienda de vinos. Coming back with my bottle of wine under my arm, I made it less than a block when it became evident the sidewalks were non-navigable, and so was the street, with all the people.

Somebody bumped me sideways and then I was in the middle of the crowd. The crowd was getting ugly, people were yelling at me in Spanish and I couldn't understand a word they were saying and things were on the verge of going out of control. When people started putting their hands on me I realized I had to do something to turn the sentiments of the crowd in my favor so I did the only thing I could think of - I hollered out at the top of my lungs:


Those were the magic words, apparently, because right away everyone started yelling: "¡VIVA! ¡VIVA!" They picked me up and then I was crowd surfing as the mob made their way to this huge imposing building which I presumed was the Presidential Palace. All the while, you gotta understand, all I was doing was trying to stay alive.

There was a momentary lull at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the imposing edifice, so to keep the spirit of the thing alive I did the only thing that seemed natural at the time: I hurled my bottle of vino rojo. It shattered at the entrance of the marble wedding cake of a building, the crowd surged forward and the Presidential Honor Guard dropped their rifles and ran for their lives.

I guess you could say I christened the beginning of a new era...

* * *

The human wave that was the popular revolution busted down the doors of the Presidential Palace and poured in like a flood, dragging me along. Everywhere you looked they were ransacking the place, until we reached the offices of El Presidente himself; the Inner Sanctum of Power of the Republic. An uncomfortable quiet fell over the crowd, and one by one the rioteers dispersed until it was only the leaders of the mob - and myself - who remained. There was no sign of the former occupant of these ornate offices.

My comrades-in-arms looked about in wonder as it all sunk in, what they had just accomplished. Incredibly, they’d overthrown the hated dictator... with my help, apparently. Then the woman who had led the chanting with the megaphone - not one hour before - looked to me, excited.

“Señor, now YOU are the new EL PRESIDENTE ! ! !” All her colleagues beamed, their smiling faces showing their approval at this logical conclusion.

El Presidente... the title had a nice ring to it. I felt a momentary surge of power go straight to my head.

Meanwhile the smoke had not yet cleared out in the palace grounds, they were still manning the barricades in the streets. In the palace courtyard my predecessor was being given the customary retirement ceremony for dictators who fail to make the last flight out of the city to the South of France... complete with blindfold and last cigarette... occurred to me that I’d just won the booby prize...

“Er, I think a better idea is for la Republica to have its first WOMAN ‘La Presidente’ - think of the legitimacy in the eyes of the international community - much more beneficial for leveraging grants and loans from the World Bank and the international community, no? - versus a gringo like me who can only order a beer in Spanish. I think I can serve the Republic better in a more utilitarian role... Minister of Agriculture, perhaps?

Agriculture means farmland, and as far as I was concerned, the further away I could get from all the madness going on in the capital city, the better. As soon as possible I caught the train to the interior, way up in the mountains, to inspect the state of agriculture in Republica de San Cristobal.

There was much to see in the countryside. An afternoon was spent exploring an ancient Mayan pyramid. It was fascinating to clamber about its step sides, to climb the steep staircase up its center. I imagined the priests and acolytes conducting the Ceremony of the Sun. Did they actually perform human sacrifice, and were these volcanic stones once drenched in blood and gore?

Meanwhile the thing about the arm had been bothering me; the premonition was weighing on my mind. I was really anxious about the possibility of losing my arm. It was a tricky thing. What does one do when one has had such a vivid premonition? Such a significant indicator of a future mishap?

We finally arrived at our first destination and los campesinos were waiting, their bright smiling faces beaming as they presented their harvest. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. I was looking at more cannabis than I’d ever seen in my life! Marijuana, Mary Jane, hemp, reefer, dope, more weed than I could ever imagine existed even, dried and cured, bales and bales of the stuff. I mean, there was a LOT of grass! Enough to stone an army...

“But where are the food crops?” I asked, incredulous.

“Bah!” they snorted and hissed. “Thees ees better Señor! Thee ees mucho dinero!” And of course they were right. Any poor bastard can slave away growing corn and beans – this was a cash crop. But how could I apply for grants from the World Bank? “And there ees MORE, Señor!” they exclaimed as they walked me over to the poppy fields and the coca plants growing on the mountainside.

Of course I took notice of the scowling hombres with the military-style caps and crossed bandoliers, toting assault rifles and shotguns. As of any drug-producing operation, this was far from any sort of pastoral idyll.

I put my face in my hands and shook my head; no, no, no a thousand times no, this was not happening to me. Somehow I’d gone from a trip to the bottle shop to the de facto leader of a street revolution to candidate for El Presidente to the head representative and ministerial administrator of a national level drug growing operation. How the hell was I going to get out of this mess?

My senior staff assistant sensed my stress and anxiety. “What you need Señor, where you must go, are los aguas termales minerales – the mineral hot springs.”

This didn’t sound like a half bad idea. Anything to get me away from the drug fields and those heavy rifle-toting characters.

We made our way towards the mineral hot springs, first by truck until the trails became almost impassable. We then took an ox cart up the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli, the smoldering volcano which presided over the entire countryside like a sulking god. A guide accompanied us, one of the camposinos, who prattled on in a dialect that I assumed was a mix of Spanish and Mayan.

My assistant translated; “This flowering tree is a powerful hallucinogen, if you take this flower you will go directly to the mental hospital. But the flower is very good; if you place the flower beneath your pillow you will sleep soundly, the deepest most restful sleep.

“This plant is inedible, it is poisonous. If you take the seeds and eat them, you will transform into a crazy animal and you will endanger yourself. One time, a campesino took the seeds and the next day they found him naked, trying to outrun a diesel locomotive. The locomotive won, of course, and he died.

“This little animal,” our guide picked up a tiny snail, its shell smaller than the small buttons on a button-down collar shirt, with a curious purple stripe that followed the spiral pattern around its yellow shell, and held his finger out allowing it to travel to my hand. “This little animal can enter the body.” At least that’s what I thought I heard the translator say – he was speaking Spanish, after all, which I barely speak.

I imagined he meant the premature form of the snail? Entering the body through the mouth, or the ear perhaps? I hated to think he meant the urethra, or the other orifice. “It enters the body and it will live inside the mind.” He must have meant the brain but he used the word mente which means the mind, the consciousness. I shuddered at the thought of a snail occupying my consciousness. I placed my finger to the hallucinogenic tree and observed the little fellow making its way across.

And then we arrived at the hot mineral springs, a primitive spa featuring bamboo huts and many pools constructed of haphazardly placed stones and mortar. The jungle canopy provided shade, and the steam of the hot springs rose up. It was impossible to see the entire area as it wound around the mountain. The springs were quite hot, but there were also pools for cooling off. Our guide took us up the mountain to the beginning of the springs, where a large placard announced:

(The Sulphur-Rich Waters)

“Embellacen la piel, el cabello y las uñas y mejoran la circulación sanguínea. Sus efectos analgésicos ayudan a disminuir grandamente el estrés y los Dolores musculares y artricos ya que mediante el proceso de Osmosis el azufre y le resto de minerales medicinales son absobidors por las células del cuerpo...”

It went on:

“...logrando asi beneficiarnos con sus propiedades antiinflamatorias, inmunoestimulantes y regeneradoras las cuales están cientificamente comprobadas desde hace más de 2000 años.”

As I continued to read the unusual Spanish verbiage I strangely began to completely understand every word:

"Embellishes the skin, the hair and the nails and aids the circulation of the blood. Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects greatly help decrease stress and muscular sickness and arthritis because through the process of osmosis, sulfur and the rest of the medicinal minerals are absorbed through the skin into the body cells thus achieving benefit with its anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulants and regenerative properties which are scientifically proven over 2000 years."

We entered the waters and it was indeed very restful and relaxing, but the heat eventually drove us to the cooler pools. Then we’d return to the hot sulphur to soak some more and enjoy its rejuvenative effects which were quite noticeable.

My intent was to remain in the countryside for a week or more, as long as it would take to do a complete tour and determine the needs and capabilities of the plantations. By now my Spanish was perfect, which was odd because all I’d studied in school was French and Latin but there you have it. Odd because I was picking up more than just vocabulary and grammar, I was getting the slang and the local idioms and I even understood the Mayan dialect of the campesinos. There was something more; vivid dreams that seemed to follow into the waking state. Visions of strange creatures from the bas-relief carvings around the pyramids, come alive and talking to me, advising me in my affairs in the countryside.

The volcanic rumblings and tremors were increasing in tempo, to almost daily, and yet the seismic instruments of the meteorological station located halfway up the volcano gave no indications in the signals they transmitted. The fantastic creatures that now spoke to me constantly – an enormous rooster-like bird, a surreal jaguar, a dog-headed man, an enormous feathered serpent – insisted it was necessary we climb the volcano.

Our ascent of Xiuhtecuhtli, the ancient Mayan god, took over six hours, and every inch of the way I was totally out of my skull. I knew they were hallucinations, but they were absolutely real. As real as this bar we’re standing in now, as real as the people around us even now as I speak.

When we got to the instrument station the problem with the transmissions was immediately obvious. A large volcanic boulder lay squat on top of what remained of the station – angle irons and wires and the steel instrument housing protruded out like a large insect squashed beneath a giant’s toe.

To my affected vision the sky was yellow and the mountain was deep purple. There was a rumbling, quite a shaker, and Xiuhtecuhtli coughed a large red hot missile that landed like a mortar round less than half a football field away. Xiuhtecuhtli coughed again and this time a cloud of volcanic ash spilled over the crater and rolled towards us. To my wildly hallucinating mind, a vivid purple cloud of volcanic ash, pulsing and breathing as it rolled downhill toward us.

Xiuhtecuhtli was in eruption. We ran for our lives, of course.

* * *

The evacuation was chaos. The railway was an early casualty of the volcanic ash and the red hot, semi-molten boulders Xiuhtecuhtli was spitting out. The dirt roads and trails out of the hinterland were jammed with ox carts and donkey carts and ancient trucks overloaded until their suspension groaned and hundreds of thousands of campesinos on foot, some pushing bicycles laden with possessions, some beating hapless horses and donkeys.

It took us the better part of two weeks to make our way out of the disaster area. At night we slept under the open skies with the campesinos. None of them seemed aware it was el Ministro de Agricultura with whom they shared their food and drink. Not that it mattered; the only authority that held any power or influence over the affairs of men anymore was Xiuhtecuhtli, the angry God of Fire.

The situation in the capital city was just as chaotic. Between the clouds of volcanic ash plastering the outer suburbs and the almost continual tremors, existence had relegated to daily survival and supplies were running out. Rivers of red hot lava were pouring down the slopes of Xiuhtecuhtli, and the capital city lay right in their path.

I made it to the airport and flashed my passport to a gentleman who was obviously an official of the US embassy. “I gotta get on that plane!”

“Who are you?”

“I’m a US citizen!”

“Yeah, but are you connected to the embassy?” he shouted over the noise and confusion. “This is an official flight. Embassy officials only.”

To hell with that. “I’m the Minister of Agriculture!” I shouted.

He must have thought I said I’m involved with working with the Ministry of Agriculture, some kind of humanitarian operation. Whatever he thought didn’t matter, the man waved me by and I was able to get a seat on what turned out to be the last flight out of there. My last sight of San Cristobal through the passenger window was what looked like a barrage of red hot boulders landing on the far side of the runway and exploding, sending shards of volcanic debris in all directions. I felt sorry for the poor souls left behind. Who wouldn’t? It was like the Last Days of Pompeii.

Back in The World my employers didn’t have much to say to me. The back-pay they owed me made the ass-chewing bearable, and I still had my arm. Still do, in fact. The hallucinations seemed to have quieted down a bit, or at least they’re manageable, which makes me wonder how much of the whole thing really happened and how much was some kind of waking dream – going right back to the beginning, the encounter on the plane, the one-armed man?

* * *

“You still worried about losing an arm?” Mike asked, pouring his guest another beer.

“Nah,” he said, looking at his arm as he flapped it like a wing. “The only thing I’m worried about is the when and where, and the pain. I lose this arm and I win the lottery.”

“How so?”

“I got it insured.” He coughed, a bit of a hack, and a gob of some kind spittle flew out, landed at the foot of the bar. Mike glanced down and saw ... a tiny little yellow snail, with a purple line that followed the spiral of its shell ...


Wednesday, November 2, 2016


STORMBRINGER is about Honor, items of military interest, literary and artistic themes, and the international security situation. I am a professional soldier, a writer and a thinker. I try not to let politics intrude . . . S.L.

This summer I told a dear, old friend that I am not a political creature, that I do not post politics on social media. This is true, however I have since begun posting a few political images & memes on Twitter, FB, etc. This is as a counter to the unbalanced propaganda I've seen long-time friends post on their social media. I never go along with the crowd, I am a free thinker and I instinctively question the popular wisdom. I certainly do not trust what the talking heads on the squawk box dish up for us, especially when it is endorsed by the powers-that-be.

AND SO I post anti-Hillary material. For what its worth I am not a Republican - I am an American first, a Conservative second and I only vote Republican because voting the other way is simply unthinkable. I do not especially care for Donald Trump - he is not a Conservative, he was a Democrat for a hell of a lot longer than he's been a Republican and I honestly do not care for his style. He turns me off as much as he turns off all the liberals I know.

But this election is not about whom we vote FOR . . . it is about whom we vote AGAINST. For a long, long time I have said that if Mussolini was running against whomever Team Obama / Clinton put up there, I'd vote for him. Hell, I'd vote for Daffy Duck before I voted for Hillary Clinton. Well maybe I spoke too soon because look who we got.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, I can't wait for this election to be over. This is the craziest political season since the Emperor Caligula made his horse into a senator, and the senator's wives into whores. When it is all over this time next week I will take down all the political propaganda I have posted to date.

This is the craziest political season since the Emperor Caligula made his horse into a senator, and the senator's wives into whores.

Now if you think right, you can go out and do your part to Make America Great Again. And if you think the other way then you must deal with the knowledge that you have voted for the only candidate to run for the Presidency while currently under criminal investigation by the FBI, and that your candidate Hillary is the single most unethical, corrupt, dishonest individual to run for the office of President of the United States . . . EVER.

That is all.

Take Due Notice Thereof and Conduct Yourself Accordingly,


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rangers vs Special Forces: Hostage Rescue

A prospective client asked me all about scenarios involving airfield takedowns - all the who-where-what-why-when's & how many's . . . I told her it all depends on so many factors & variables, to include what kind of troops available . . . this led to a conversation regarding the difference between Rangers and Special Forces, and so I shared with her the following parable from the ancient sagas of US Army Special Operations . . . S.L.

The Chief of Staff of the Army asked his Sergeant Major - who was both Ranger and Special Forces qualified - which organization he would recommend to form a new anti-terrorist unit. The Sergeant Major responded to the General's question with this parable: If there were a hijacked Boeing 747 being held by terrorists along with its passengers and crew and an anti-terrorist unit formed either by the Rangers or the Special Forces was given a Rescue/Recovery Mission; what would you expect to happen?

Ranger Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If the Rangers went in, they would send a Ranger company of 120 men with standard army issue equipment.

Mission Preparation: The Ranger Company First Sergeant would conduct a Hair Cut and Boots Inspection, while the officers consulted SOPs and held sand table exercises.

Infiltration Technique: They would insist on double timing, in company formation, wearing their combat equipment, and singing cadence all the way to the site of the hijacked aircraft.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived, the Ranger company would establish their ORP, put out security elements, conduct a leaders recon, reapply their camouflage, and conduct final preparations for Actions on the OBJ.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would be completed within one hour; all of the terrorists and most of the passengers would have been killed, the Rangers would have sustained light casualties and the 747 would be worthless to anyone except a scrap dealer.

Special Forces Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If Special Forces went in, they would send only a 12 man team (all SF units are divisible by 12 for some arcane historical reason) however, due to the exotic nature of their equipment the SF Team would cost the same amount to deploy as the Ranger Company.

Mission Preparation: The SF Team Sergeant would request relaxed grooming standards for the team. All members of the team would spend a grueling afternoon at a quality spa ensuring physical abilities would be honed.

Infiltration Technique: The team would insist on separate travel orders with Max Per Diem, and each would get to the site of the hijacking by his own means. At least one third of the team would insist on jumping in HALO.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived , the SF Team would cache their military uniforms, establish a Team Room at the best hotel in the area, use their illegal Team Fund to stock the unauthorized Team Room Bar, check out the situation by talking to the locals, and have a Team Meeting to discuss the merits of the terrorists' cause.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would take two weeks to complete and by that time all of the terrorists would have been killed, (and would have left signed confessions); the passengers would be ruined psychologically for the remainder of their lives; and all of the women passengers would be pregnant. The 747 would be essentially unharmed, the team would have taken no casualties but would have used up, lost, or stolen all the "high speed" equipment issued to them.


Friday, October 14, 2016


In Thailand, one witnesses the deep respect given King Bhumibol and the Royal Family by the Thai people. That respect was earned; everywhere one looked was evidence of the King's great works and his love for his people. I wish to show my respect & to honor His Majesty on the occasion of his passing . . . S.L.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช - pronounced P'humip'hon Adunyadet) known as King Bhumibol the Great, was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he was, at the time of his death, the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, serving for 70 years, 127 days. He held Thailand together during VERY difficult times, and helped lead Thai people to prosperity. His story is very unique, and quite remarkable. He was one of the greatest kings of all history.

His Majesty led Thailand during extremely challenging times - throughout the Indochina Conflict - and personally helped bring prosperity and stability to Thailand and throughout the region. For the many difficult decades following World War II, Communist insurgencies existed in every country in Southeast Asia. Thailand was an anchor of stability, the keystone that held the region from total collapse. This was due in large part to King Bhumibol's direct influence, thanks to his remarkable character.

Westerners who have never visited Thailand cannot fully appreciate the King's influence. In Thailand, they had a Communist insurgency, but the majority of the Thai people never supported this despite the difficulties & extreme poverty experienced in the provinces. This was directly due to the King's personality. He was revered as semi-divine. As Communist guerrilla movements took hold and even prevailed in neighboring countries, in Thailand the Communists failed to gain traction.

In Thailand, democracy is not like in the West. There are many coup's-de-etat - most of them bloodless, thank God. When a coup - or a counter-coup - takes place, the leaders seek the official blessing of the King. Without this blessing, the leaders of the coup (or counter-coup) must pack their bags and go into exile. As such, King Bhumibol practiced much more direct influence over the political affairs of his country than his royal counterparts in the West.

Thailand emerged from the difficult war years and rode a wave of economic development as one of Southeast Asia's 'tiger economies'. When I returned to Thailand in the late eighties, I observed that a middle class had emerged. In large part because of the King's personality and tremendous influence, Thailand has no enemies. Everybody loves Thailand.

In recent years there has been trouble within the Kingdom. Following years of domestic political strife, the military took power. There have been human rights issues - it is not my intent to discuss this here. Ironically, it is the heavy-handed military government that may actually ensure a seamless coronation of the Crown Prince.

There will be difficult days ahead. The Thai people pray for King Bhumibol . . . I pray for the Thai people . . .


Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I've carried one for over twenty years - S.L.

The kukri, or khukuri (in the Nepalese pronunciation) is the distinctive curved Nepali knife that is synonymous with the Gurkhas of Nepal. The kukri is respected around the world for its fearful effectiveness as a close combat weapon but it is also an humble multi-purpose tool has been using in centuries in Nepal for everyday tasks. It is the symbolic weapon of the Gurkhas throughout the world, signifying courage and valor in battlefield. It is a part of the regimental weaponry and heraldry of the Nepal Army, the Royal Gurkha Regiment of British Army, and Gurkha Rifles in Indian Army. It is known to many people simply as the ‘Gurkha knife’. Many famous knives of the world - the Bowie knife, stiletto, scimitar, Roman short sword, samurai katana and Filipino bolo - all share a role of great historical significance because of their cutting edge over other weapons, but the most famous of them all is the kukri.

A Nepali boy is likely to have his own kukri at the age of five or so and necessarily becomes skillful in its use long before manhood. By the time a Gurkha joins the army, the kukri has become a chopping extension of his dominant arm. This is important because it is not the weight and edge of the weapon that make it so terrible at close quarters so much as the skilled technique of the stroke; it can claim to be almost impossible to parry. But it is important to remember that the kukri is a tool of all work; at home in the hills and on active service it will be used for cutting wood, hunting and skinning, opening tins, clearing undergrowth and any other chore, even digging holes. From this it is plain that there can be no truth in the belief that a Gurkha must draw blood every time he unsheathes his blade.

t is difficult to imagine a more honorable saga in all the annals of war than the story of the Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies . . . I had the honor of serving with these consummate professionals in Kowloon & the New Territories, 1989 -S.L.

Some western historians believe that the kukri was based on European weapons brought to Central Asia by Alexander the Great. Other researchers trace its history further back to the domestic sickle and the prehistoric bent stick used for hunting and later in hand-to-hand combat. Sir Richard Francis Burton, the famous British explorer, soldier, orientalist and spy (1821–1890), ascribes this semi-convergent origin to weapons from several regions such as the Greek kopis, the Egyptian kopsh, the Iberian falcata, the Illyrian sica, as well as the kukri. Similar instruments have existed in several forms throughout Central Asia and were used both as weapons and tools, and for sacrificial rituals. Burton writes that the British Museum housed a large kukri-like ancient Indian falchion inscribed with Pali characters. Among the oldest existing kukri are those belonging to Drabya Shah (circa 1559), housed in the National Museum of Kathmandu.

The kukri came to be known to the Western world when the East India Company came into conflict with the Gurkha Empire, during the Gurkha War of 1814–1816. It gained literary attention in the 1897 novel Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker. Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart, Mina's narrative describes a climactic battle between Dracula's bodyguards and the heroes, at the conclusion of which Dracula's throat is sliced through by Jonathan Harker's kukri and his heart pierced by Quincey Morris's Bowie knife.

All Gurkha troops are issued with a kukri. In modern times members of the Brigade of Gurkhas receive training in its use. The kukri gained fame in the Gurkha War for its effectiveness. Its continued use through both World Wars enhanced its reputation among both Allied troops and enemy forces. Its acclaim was demonstrated in North Africa by one unit's situation report: "Enemy losses: ten killed, ours nil. Ammunition expended: nil." Elsewhere during the Second World War, the kukri was purchased and used by other British, Commonwealth and US troops training in India, including the Chindits and Merrill's Marauders. The notion of the Gurkha with his kukri carried on through to the Falklands War.

On September 2, 2010, Bishnu Shrestha, a retired Indian Army Gurkha soldier, alone and armed only with a kukri, defeated 40 bandits who attacked a passenger train he was on in India. He killed three of the bandits, wounded eight more and forced the rest of the band to flee.

The Origin of the Kukri knife

The oldest known kukri appears to be one in the arsenal museum in Kathmandu, which belonged to Raja Drabya Shah, King of Gorkha, in 1627. It is interesting to note that it is a broad, heavy blade. However it is certain that the origins of the kukri go far further back. There is one tenable story that Alexander’s horsemen carried the “Machaira”, the cavalry sword of the ancient Macedonians, in the fourth century BC on his invasion of north-west India. Its relationship with the kukri is plain. A third century sculpture, of which only a much later Greek copy exists, shows what is probably a Scythian prisoner of war lying down his arms. The weapon looks amazingly like a modern kukri.

In 1767 Prithwi Naraayan Shah, King of Gorkha, invaded the Nepal valley: In September 1768 Kathmandu surrendered and Prithwi Narayan became the first King of Nepal. That his troops defeated much larger forces must be credited at least in part to their unusual weapon, the kukri. It is reasonable to suppose that this was the beginning of the universal custom of Nepalese troops carrying the kukri, a custom that spread in time to Gurkhas serving in the British and Indian Armies.