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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Twin Peaks Restaurant

Nearly two years after a deadly and horrific shooting it remains clouded with mystery, is intriguing and familiar, all at the same time.

There are unexpected admirers, hundreds of legal proceedings and thousands of investigative hours completed to date.  There is an on-going “outlaw motorcycle gang” task force and there was an interesting book written by Donald Charles Davis aka. “The Aging Rebel” about Texas law enforcement, the clubs, the personalities and the event.

Photo sampling of Twin Peaks shooting

Of course, I’m talking about the Twin Peaks Massacre — the deadliest biker violence in U.S. history that took place on May 17, 2015.

Make no mistake, some motorcycle clubs never shy away from flaunting their brutal pedigree, and in Waco, TX the shootout left 9 dead (four by police) and 18 wounded in or near the popular Central Texas restaurant.  Reportedly a dispute broke out, escalated to include knifes and firearms and then spilled into a shooting rampage in the restaurant parking lot.  Remarkably, law enforcement was aware of the large “gathering,” along with the potential for trouble and were pre-positioned in a show of force to address or stamp down any violence.

Shooting aftermath…

If only the parking lot could talk…

Once the deadly shooting brawl subsided, law enforcement arrested 177 persons (173 male and 4 females) from a variety of motorcycle clubs as well as everyday motorcycle enthusiasts/patrons who were in attendance.  Some may have rode in for fine dining, but they didn’t ride out.  Instead they were arrested on organized crime charges.

Yeah it’s Texas, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives retained and have in possession more than 475 weapons from the scene, including at least 151 firearms.

Sure, it can be a messy world, but this was no motorcycle episode of Sons of Anarchy debating how the biker life is too short for would-haves and the need to follow your own compass.  This was a disgustingly brutal and super bloody mass killing on full display during a public motorcycle “gathering.”  Is there any doubt why the press and media continue to push a negative biker narrative?

Sadly, the nine dead were members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs.

Within a few hours accusations that the shootings were an aggressive overreaction by law enforcement began.  Then within days the conspiriacy rumors surfaced that it was a Federal agency tactic, motivated to bring the 1% clubs down.  And if that didn’t spark enough law enforcement skeptisim, many of the mass arrests were misclassified and have created severe consequences to innocent people not to mention the potential for numerous civil rights violations.

Jump forward nearly 2-years after the gathering and shooting spree or massacre, there remains 154 persons, currently under indictment. Nobody has been cleared.  38 people, including women, are still “under investigation.”  One indictee and one potential indictee has died during this lengthy delay to find justice.

There’s been a number of national and international publications “explaining” the event.  From the beginning, authorities in Texas have worked to control the narrative of what happened at Twin Peaks.  Almost 200 people potentially face long prison terms for conspiring to act criminally although prosecutors have refused to state what each of those defendants actually did other than what looks like they were trying to survive a mass shooting event.

Over the years motorcycle enthusiasts have become familiar with government entities nibbling away at their freedoms and this has a Déjà vu feeling.

I wasn’t there, but can imagine this event being a “change your life” moment.  I do recall instances of being in a public setting with riding buddies, other motorcycle enthusiasts along with various motorcycle club members enjoying the rally experience.  Only to witness a spark of personality that ignites a “bring it on bigger” a‘tude and the flaunting of an aggressive remedy putting everyone at risk.

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night and being attentive to your surroundings can be just as important to protecting yourself as putting on a helmet.  I like riding motorcycles and the overall rally/group experience, but I also like my life away from it.

But I’ve digressed.

I’ve been monitoring the bits of information about this shootout as well as the legal proceedings and am reminded of that carney (Anderson) in the Twin Peaks TV series.  Every summer the Carnivàle came to town.  The strange little fellow spoke in an unusual manner.  He would speak backwards and used phonetically reversed speaking as a “secret language.”

It’s as if there is some type of “secret language” being used in Waco.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but according to Katherine K. Young who wrote in her book“every real conspiracy has had at least four characteristic features: groups, not isolated individuals; illegal or sinister aims, not ones that would benefit society as a whole; orchestrated acts, not a series of spontaneous and haphazard ones; and secret planning, not public discussion” — all of this seems to imply that nothing with the Twin Peaks Massacre happened by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected.

Photos courtesy of Waco Tribune-Herald (Jerry Larson) and Google Image Search

Some references in developing this post:

Motorcycle Profiling Project

One Percenter Bikers

Daily Mail

GQ Article

Texas Monthly

Aging Rebel

Waco Tribune-Herald

 

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Mac (L) and Father (R)

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam war.

Occasionally I wander and this post has nothing about motorcycles.  However, it has everything to do with appreciating veterans.

You may recall that the U.S. entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. The southern city of Saigon – later renamed as Ho Chi Minh City – was surrendered on 30 April 1975 to Vietcong troops when several tanks smashed through the gates of what was then known as Independence Palace and the last of the Marines were evacuated from the embassy roof.

But I’ve gotten way ahead of myself.  The year was 1962 in the hot dry desert of White Sands Missile Range and the Hawk Missile Training Program at the Air Defense School in Fort Bliss, Texas…

The 6th Missile Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery was activated by General Order 17, dated 19 February 1962, Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Defense Center, Fort Bliss, Texas. The HAWK – from the Latin name Accipter (birds that are known as hawks) – were made by Ratheon, and was an all-weather, surface-to-air, medium-range/medium-altitude missile system.  All HAWK missile artillery battalions served under the 97th Artillery Group (Air Defense Artillery) — “Hoomau i Luna” (Always On Top).

Golden Dragon Voyage - 1965

It would be three years later in July 1965 that the Battalion received Alert Orders for overseas deployment to U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) South Vietnam. The alert order initiated a series of actions to qualify the crews and readied the equipment for deployment.  In less than a month, the Battalion had multiple successful missile exercises and by 15 August 1965 the equipment was ready for shipment.  The PRD (Personnel Readiness Date) was established as 1 September 1965 and all personnel were POR qualified. The Battalion’s personnel were alerted for movement from Fort Bliss, Texas to Oakland Army Terminal, Oakland, California.

The main body (including my father) of the 6th Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery departed Oakland Army terminal aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) on 11 September 1965.  My father mailed me the above card which I’ve saved as a reminder of that voyage.  And in a twist of irony the ship turned out to be the very same troop transport ship that he traveled to Asia when deployed to serve in the Korean War some twelve years earlier.  Go figure.  At any rate, on the card above (name intentionally blocked out) you’ll note that at departure my father wore a Specialist E-5 Insignia, indicating the rank of Specialist E-5, or Spec 5 as it was commonly called.  It was phased out after the Vietnam War and today, all E-5’s are Sergeants, but during the Vietnam War, Spec 5’s were sometimes squad leaders or in charge of technical groups.  Most E-5’s in a Hawk Battery were senior radar or missile technicians and they reported to an E-6 or above maintenance Sergeant.   Interestingly an E-5 was the highest rank a draftee could receive without re-enlisting.  The E-5 in charge reported directly to the Maintenance Warrant Officer and functioned as the Sergeant in their chain of command.

So, why were HAWK missiles in Vietnam? It turns out that in 1965 the U.S. significantly increased the scale of its air strike operations against North Vietnam, and in response the North Vietnamese were using Mig-17’s with a top speed of over 1300 MPH and could suddenly pop up on radar screens without much notice.  In addition they deployed Russian Il-28 bomber aircraft which had the potential for first strike.  The heightened air threat from North Vietnam and the lack of allied low altitude radar coverage in the region meant that if the enemy wanted to exploit this weakness it was estimated that the bases in South Vietnam and north-east Thailand would be open to decimating attacks in minutes.  As a result, the 6th Missile Battalion men were deployed in various locations across Vietnam to defend their assigned air bases, fuel and ammo dumps, cities, major troop concentrations areas and free world ports in the Republic of South Vietnam.

My father along with rest of the 71st Artillery debarked at Qui Nhon after 17 days aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) on 28 September 1965.  In November 1965, Battery C, 71st Artillery became the first fully operational HAWK unit in Vietnam.  In 1966 the battalion relocated to Cam Ranh Bay where it remained until departure.  During the first six-months my father served as an Engineer Equipment Technician and Supervisor, however, in the final six-months he was assigned to the 41st Signal Battalion as a M60 “Door Gunner” on a UH-1 “Slick” Huey.  The “Slick” version was the configuration used for carrying maximum troops and other than the M60’s was not fitted with external weapons to save on weight.  The unit received numerous Vietnam citations ranging from Defense; Counteroffensive; Tet Counteroffensive and Consolidation.  My father returned to Fort Bliss, Texas in September 1966 and retired some ten years later.

Many of you know that the polished black granite of the Vietnam War Memorial is engraved with 58,256 names of fallen soldiers.  It unfortunately includes my cousin “Mike” who was KIA on Saturday, 08 April 1967 along with seven other men in his squad from Co. F, 2nd Bn., 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.  The following excerpt is from PFC James Popp’s Navy Cross which explained the situation:

“Private First Class Popp’s squad was conducting a squad-size patrol against the Viet Cong forces in Quang Nam Province. While moving along a trail in search of the enemy, the squad was suddenly taken under a murderous volume of small-arms, hand grenade and 40 millimeter grenade fire. The heavy volume of fire rained in from three sides,…continuation HERE…or HERE”.

But, what about that ship you ask?

It turns out the Admiral W.S. Benson-class troop transport – USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey (T-AP-121) – was built at Bethlehem Steel in Alameda, California and its history dates back to WWII where Admiral W. L. Capps made several trans-Pacific voyages to the Far East with troops between November 23, 1944 and August 4, 1945.  Then from September 1945 to December 15, 1945, it made three trans-Atlantic voyages returning troops to and from Europe.  In the 1950 – 60’s, the ship had a diverse service record where it spent almost two decades carrying men and material to American installations throughout the Far East and the Pacific Ocean during the Korean and Vietnam War support.

The ship was placed out of service and struck from the Naval Register, 9 October 1969 and then transferred to the Maritime Administration for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet.  The ship was then reacquired and reinstated in the Naval Register on 1 November 1978 and was placed in service as a barracks hulk in Bremerton, WA., to serve as a barracks ship for the crews of ships undergoing major overhaul.  Later the ship was laid up in the NISMF Pearl Harbor, HI., and struck from the Naval Register on 25 October 1993.  In the ultimate irony, her final duty was a missile target North of the Hawaiian Islands during the RIMPAC 2000 EXERCISE where she sank on 16 June 2000, at location, in a depth of 2,730 fathoms.

Sure I’m proud of our family’s military service, but this post is more than that.  It’s about remembering the fallen of the Vietnam War.  Many came back to a non-welcome committee and deserve a major shout out.  There are Veteran Motorcycle Clubs and many independent riders across the U.S. who are dedicated to helping and honoring veterans.  If you are one thank you.  If not, then when you see a Vietnam Vet or any Vet for that matter, try and make a point to thank them for their service to our country.  Believe me they’ll appreciate hearing it!

Research for this post courtesy of: Army; BBC; 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery; GruntsMilitary.com; Global Security Org; General Orders and Code of Conduct; Military Personnel Records; Wikipedia; Navy; and family history.

Note: Photo of me above taken in El Paso, TX., circa; 1969 or ’70 and I’m in a ROTC uniform.

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The title reference is to the George Strait concert – called the “Twang” tour — as if the Texas Troubadour didn’t have that in spades!

In keeping with the music theme I started earlier in the week… a few days ago I attended the George Strait concert which included Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack.  There were no moving catwalks, trap doors, lasers or fireworks to boost up special effects.  It was simple.  A lean and minimalistic square stage in the middle of the Rose Garden arena with a handful of large video screens above the musicians.

Lee Ann Womack

Ms. Womack opened the night with 30-minutes of “San Antonio Rose” and of course “I Hope You Dance” then Reba performed a 90-min set which included tear-filled ballads (hers not mine!), a tribute to her father with “The Greatest Man I Ever Knew” and a “Fancy” encore complete with an oversized yellow taxi.  The concert took on the feel of a TV variety show in parts when co-star Melissa Peterman brought on stage her wacky Barbra Jean character in a cameo that segued into the TV theme song “I’m a Survivor.”  The red-head is a tough act to follow and arguably the most successful of the three given her many years of experience on Broadway, film and television!

Reba McEntire

After all these theatrics the soft-spoken and somewhat one-dimensional Strait felt a bit mellow in contrast.  In fact, for an artist whose gift to the public is singing, the first few songs were poorly mixed as the vocal track was crushed by the 11-piece Ace In The Hole band.  Who travels with 11 band members?!  They finally got the mix correct and we were treated to a generous assortment of classics, “The Seashores of Old Mexico”, “Amarillo by Morning” and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” as well as some of his new material.  Performing in the round as it were, means the most expensive seats on the floor had the worst view at least part of the time.  We we’re just off the floor and had great views.  At heart Strait is a roadhouse country singer, the ‘ol school mold of Merle Haggard.  He sang into four mikes on stands set up on each side of the square stage and rotated to a new mike every couple of songs.

George Strait - Portland "Twang" Concert

Anthony Smith is a famous songwriter for Strait and his writing credits are a list of country’s greatest hits.  One song which Strait ask Smith to write for him was about motorcycling with friends.  Strait rides a Harley and about every year adventures with friends to Mexico.  Smith started it, then had a writing session with Bob DiPiero to finish and then Strait cut the song “Cowboys Like Us” which he performed and it included a video loop of H-D riders rolling along on their “steel horses.”   It was cool.  Strait is also a fan and big supporter of the Love of Kids and Harleys charity.

If the arena crowd was any indication, motorcycles are a social machine that identify you and draw you into contact with other like-minded people – friends – who share a similar passion.  Not the case with automobiles.  When’s the last time you’ve seen two guys gas up their Toyota SUV and chat about road conditions or Triple-D’s (diners, drive-ins & dives)?

It was a great concert… whether you ride or not!

Photos taken at the “Twang” tour in Portland, OR.; Western theme Sportster courtesy of H-D

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