Grandfather Willegal’s Experience in World War 1

June 20th, 2014

My Grandfather was a World War 1 veteran. I only talked to him once about his war experiences. He was a truck driver and told me how he used to get those old trucks up to a speed of 60 miles an hour. I also remember him saying that the army in World War 1 was the last good army or something to that effect. I’m not exactly sure why he held that opinion, but he wasn’t bashful about making the claim. My Grandfather also showed me some trench art that he had made out of some cartridge cases. I wish I knew where that trench art was. Hopefully someone in the family got a hold of it, after he passed away.

Grandpa Willegal - circa 1960

Grandpa Willegal – circa 1960

I learned a little bit about my grandfather from my dad. He once told me that Grandfather mentioned that when they were being shelled by the German artillery, that they would take cover in the ditches by the side of the road. I was once visiting Circus World Museum with my dad, and he mentioned that the trucks in the circus train display would be similar to those trucks my Grandfather drove in World War 1. I think the Circus World trucks are Mack AC’s, which were indeed, used in World War 1 by the British and Americans. I don’t know for sure that this is the type of truck he drove, but it’s possible. The Mack AC’s have a rated speed of 18 miles per hour. Another army truck of the time, the famous Liberty Truck, was only supposed to reach 15 miles per hour. I wonder what my Grandfather was doing to get up to 60 miles per hour.

My sister did some online searches and found a few records, including this certificate of service which she found at the Wisconsin’s Veteran’s Office.

grandpa Willegal's Certificate of Service

grandpa Willegal’s Certificate of Service

It turns out that he was a member of the Sixth Infantry Division. The medal depicted at the top of the certificate is the World War 1 victory medal. He is given credit for participating in Vosges Sector (Aug 31, 1918 – Oct 18, 1918) and the Meuse-Argonne Defensive Sector (November 2-6, 1918). The other interesting thing is how quickly he was moved into the combat zone. He joined the army on May 4th, 1918 and was overseas by July 14, 1918. By August 31st, the 6th Division was on the front lines.

There is some information on the Sixth Infantry Division in World War 1 at this site. The Sixth Infantry Division site focuses on the World War II, but there are a few tidbits about the Division’s activities in World War 1. The interesting thing is that this brief history mentions how the division was involved in marches that were subject to German artillery fire, just like my grandfather told my father.

My research on the Sixth Infantry shows that they did a lot of marching, during which time, they picked up the nickname, “The Sightseeing Sixth”. Like most new American divisions, after training they were moved to the relatively quiet Vosges Sector in order to become adapted to actual combat conditions. Here is website with some information about the Vosges Sector. They were in reserve at the end of the war. Apparently they were about to be committed to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when, rather unexpectedly, the war ended.

The Meuse-Argonne offensive was a very bloody affair. Who knows, I may not be here, if the war had lasted much longer and the Sixth Infantry ended up being committed to that fight. I plan upon putting together a blog entry comparing the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War 1, with the biggest American battle of World War II.

SCELBI 8B Backplane Progress Being Made

June 10th, 2014

Lately. I’ve been making some good progress on the 8B backplane. Hopefully in a few more weeks and I’ll have it in good enough shape in order to declare it finished. I’ll probably just go ahead and get it made when it’s ready, even though I have a lot of work to do on the other 8B specific cards.

There is quite a bit involved in building an 8B chassis and 8B builders can start on the chassis while I finish the rest of the cards. Anyway the CPU can be checked out by jamming in instructions, without memory being present. The front panel, CPU, DBB, and input boards are completely identical to the 8H design and I still have some of those PCBs in stock.

One thing I’m going to have to think about a bit, is whether to make a batch of SCELBI custom sized chassis or not. A BUD AC413 can be made to work, as it is nearly the correct size, just a 1/2″ short, other dimensions being right on.

Status of the other 8B specific cards are:

  • memory expansion – I haven’t started on this one, but it is the most basic of the 8B specific cards, so should take the least amount of time to do
  • 4K SRAM- designed to accept 2102 static ram – this card is pretty far along, maybe half done.
  • EPROM – designed to accept 1702 EPROMs – I have a tested, working layout for this card done by someone else. The original layout artist did a good job, but there are a few things I want to change. I will completely go through it to make the layout details match the original as much as possible.
  • So Who Wrote that Anti-Bellum (Pre Civil War) Love Letter?

    June 3rd, 2014

    It was U. S. Grant, future leader of the Union Armies during the Civil War and President.

    So what kind of man was Grant.

    As you might guess, all accounts indicate his family life had an almost storybook quality about it, always being faithful to his wife, Julia, and being a loving father.

    Grant was a no-nonsense type man. As a general during the war, he formed strong opinions of the people around him and whenever possible, acted upon these opinions, putting those he trusted in positions of authority, and casting aside those he didn’t trust. He was extremely demanding, and had high expectations of those under him. I believe his success as overall leader of the Union armies was largely due to his ability to find and promote people of great ability to execute his plans.

    Though known as a poor president, his politics were those of a radical republican, and his administration was challenged by the extreme difficulty of reconstructing a shattered nation. Though the Confederate soldiers put down their weapons, most of them never changed their political views. His liberal views toward the freedman, and strong will, rubbed many people the wrong way. Though he was extremely popular in his time, once the “lost cause” movement gained a toehold, his generalship and politics were roundly criticized. Recent scholars have been more kind to him.

    Remembering Original D&D, TSR and FITS

    May 30th, 2014
    D&D Reprint

    D&D Reprint

    I recently picked a reprint of the original version of TSR’s Dungeon’s and Dragon’s. It’s a reprint of what many people call the white box version of D&D. Actually the first few printings of D&D came in wood grain cardboard boxes. After a few printings they changed to a white box.

    D&D 3rd printing

    D&D 3rd printing


    This image is a third printing that I sold for $1600 a few years ago. My first copy was a first printing that I bought from Brian Blume. This was right after spending a Sunday afternoon in Gary Gygax’s basement exploring Greyhawk, his fantasy land. At that time, they sold the game by inviting people to play it. I believe that Brian told us at the time that they spent several thousand dollars printing that first 1000 copies. I think I learned later that Brian’s father financed the early TSR projects. I don’t know what happened to that 1st printing copy of D&D. I’m sure it was pretty well worn out, as we played the game quite a bit, back in the day. The 3rd printing copy I sold for so much, was a replacement for a worn out first printing that I picked up directly from Gary Gygax who often manned the TSR booth at GENCON.

    Batwing - D&D circa 1975 & 2014

    Batwing – D&D circa 1975 & 2014


    My kids and their friends have recently enjoyed a few trips down into my old dungeon, which is called “Batwing”. Amazing that this old game still can capture the imagination of young people. Maybe more amazing that I held onto that binder for all these years.

    FITS Box Cover

    FITS Box Cover


    Now if I could only convince them to give “Fight in the Skies” a try. “Fight in the Skies” is a World War 1 air combat game that has an element of role playing. FITS is said to be the one game has been played every single year at GENCON. Back in the day, I know I played FITS more than once at GENCON with Mike Carr, the author of the game.

    Speaking of FITS, GENCON, Brian Blume and Mike Carr, I’ll never forget the first GENCON South in Jacksonville, Florida in 1978. At this time I was friends with a number of the TSR staff, but living far away in South Florida. Mike Carr and Brian Blume made the trip to Jacksonville to represent TSR. Some friends and I drove up to Jacksonville from South Florida. We ended up going out to diner with Mike and Brian. At one point, I told them that computer gaming wasn’t likely to take off, as the interactive social element wasn’t as strong in computer games as other forms of gaming. Most computer games in 1978 pitted you against the computer, or required multiple players to take turns at the controls. Boy, was my vision wrong. I hope I didn’t affect their business plans too much with my bad advice.

    FITS Rules Book and Pilot Cards

    FITS Rules Book and Pilot Cards


    Speaking of FITS. I still have my pilot cards. My two best pilots are a German Albatros DIII pilot with 21 missions/1 kill and a Brittish Sopwith Camel pilot with 14 missions and 3 kills. By the way, during one of the reprints TSR or Wizard’s of the Coast renamed the game, “Dawn Patrol”. There appears to be an active group of people still playing it.

    Model Railroad Foundation/Benchwork

    May 25th, 2014

    Here is my first attempt at building a benchwork foundation for the first section of the City Point layout. Main motivation is light weight while maintaining maximum rigidity in order to allow for portability. My last layout used an L-Girder design. While the L-Girder design was very suitable for a stationary layout, because of space considerations, I need to make this layout movable. A L-girder design would be hard to make portable.

    Benchwork

    Benchwork-Foundation

    It is made of plywood underlayment. It is cut into 3 & 1/2″ strips and notched to interlock on 16″ intervals.

    notch in plywood

    notch in plywood

    While it is light, I’m hoping that when fastened to the bottom of the plywood layout that it becomes rigid enough that I don’t have problems with damage to the track work and scenery during moves.

    Which Civil War General Wrote this Letter to his Sweetheart.

    May 23rd, 2014

    I had to share this – I have changed some of the names to make it harder to figure out the answer..

    Corpus Christi Texas
    Jan. 12th 1846

    My Dear Nancy,

    I have just been delighted by the receiving a long and interesting letter from the one I love so much and from the tone of her letter I am left with the hope that for the remainder of the time that we two are not one, she will be punctual in answering my letters. You do not know the pleasure it gives me to receive letters from you my Dear Nancy or you would write oftener. I write to you very often besides answering all your letters. You beg of me not to resign: it shall be as you say Nancy for to confess the truth it was on your account that I thought of doing so, although all the letters I get from my father are filled with persuasion for me to resign. For my own part I am contented with an army life, all that I now want, to be happy is for Nancy to become mine, and how much I would sacrifice if her parents would give now their willing consent. By Spring at farthest I hope to see the 4th Infy (You know that I have transferred from the 7th to the 4th) settled and that too on the Mississippi river, unless something should take place to give us active employment. Has Mr. Reeves ever delivered you the letters sent by him. It is astonishing Nancy what a place Corpus Christi has become. Already there are two Theaters and a printing office every night there is a performance play at one or the other. It seems strange to hear you talking of sleigh riding, for here we have although it is January weather warm enough for light clothing. Such a thing as a sprinkle of snow is rarely seen at Corpus Christi.

    From my last letter you will see that I have been on a long trip through Texas and that I think the country beautiful and promising. If it should turn out after all that my Regiment should be retained here (it is not the opinion of any one that it will be kept) I could have but little to complain of. Your letter. and indeed all your letters, show your willingness to accompany me to any permanent Military post. It is very pleasant to hear such confessions from the one we love and in return I have to say that I would make any sacrifice for my Nancy’s happiness. But what an uninteresting letter I am writing you it seems to me that the more I write the worse I get.—I have not heard from Fred, since I have been in Texas. I have written to him once and I think twice since he wrote to me last. Tell him he must write soon. Fred is now about 3d for promotion. There has been two resignations at Corpus Christi that he has not heard of.—Mr. Ridgely and Mr. Sykes have gone to St. Louis on a sick leave; if I had known sooner that they were going I would have sent a letter by them.

    I have written you several letters that remain unanswered so I shall look for another letter in every Mail. Give my love to all at White Haven. Soon I hope to see you again my dear dear Nancy and let us hope that it will be to never separate again for so long a time or by so great a distance.

    Your Devoted
    Ronald

    A Clue…
    Mary Lincoln supposedly once said of this man
    “He is a butcher and is not fit to be at the head of an army. Yes, he generally manages to claim a victory, but such a victory! He loses two men to the enemy’s one. He has no management, no regard for life.”

    In case you can’t figure out who the author of the letter was, I’ll add another post in a day or two with the answer.

    Why Does Someone Recreate the Apple 1 in Exacting Detail with Original Parts?

    May 23rd, 2014

    This is the essence of a question someone asked on Applefritter.

    Here are my thoughts on this topic.

    It’s really not that complicated, people do this stuff cause it’s fun for them. This hobby is not for everyone. It’s about personality, if you don’t get it, you either haven’t been exposed to enough of the possibilities, or you have a different personality.

    This question is really applicable to many different vintage systems with similar followings – the Apple 1 gets a lot of press because it’s the very first computer of a very successful company that, at the moment, happens to be near the top of it’s game.

    There are three main activities in this hobby, with a little different motivation for each.

    1) The collector – For some people, it is a lot of fun to own an item of significant historic value.
    2) The operator – For some people, it is a lot of fun learning how to build or restore and operate a vintage computer.
    3) The developer – Some people find it fun to expand the capabilities of vintage computers, providing capabilites to vintage machines that could not be dreamed of, back in the day.

    There is a lot of crossover between the people participating in each of these activities.

    For some of the rarer computers, you may decide it’s better to use a reproduction, rather than risk damage to an original machine or you may not be able to find or afford an original machine.

    The reasoning behind installing date code original parts and making the reproduction as accurate as possible, is two fold.

  • First- tracking down these parts is like a scavenger hunt and can be a lot fun in itself.
  • Second- making a reproduction more like an original, raises the level of pride and satisfaction in the end result to a significant degree.
  • In case you are trying to decide whether you might enjoy the hobby or not, consider this: how could you decide whether you might or might not like swimming, without going in the water?

    Engine House Mock Up

    May 18th, 2014

    Using photoshopped, colorized images of the side, entrance and roof of the real engine house, I have created a HO scale mock up of 2 sides of the engine house and one side of the roof. Images were printed on matte paper on an inkjet printer and glued to foam core board. The engine house was actually 150 feet long by 50 feet wide – this is a true HO scale mock up, so its a little over 20 inches long and 7 inches wide. I will likely improve the look of the mock up in the future with a thinner roof made with cardboard or plastic instead of foam core and some detail parts and add the cupola that belongs on the roof. I have found that Grandt Line makes 6 over 6 windows that should made a nice upgrade over the printed windows. Any edges of the foam core that show will be painted over.

    engine house mock up ii

    engine house mock up ii

    A front view gives a little better perspective of how the mock up looks next to a Mantua General.

    engine house mock up with track plan

    engine house mock up

    Finally a view of this section of the layout with the rough track plan highlighted in yellow with photoshop. This gives an idea of the proportions of this part of the layout. The water tanks would be just to the side of the engine.

    engine house mock up track plan

    engine house mock up track plan

    The open space towards the bottom of the image will contain a bit of the bluff that was on both sides of the cut that lead to the wharf. The next module to the right side will contain a piece the end of the trench line that protected City Point, as well as some crossovers on the incoming tracks.

    Engine House colorization version 2

    May 17th, 2014
    engine house side-version 2

    engine house side-version 2

    I hope that this is the final version, as I have other projects to pursue. Changes include coloring railroad trucks, the engine and most noticeably the wagon. I also slightly “weathered” the roof and tweaked things around the foliage. The color I’m least confident of, is the wagon box. I made it blue to match quartermaster wagon colors, but it’s just a wild guess. The red wagon and railroad wheels were very common at the time, so at least they are plausible.

    Next thing I’m going to try to do is to build a model engine house with foam core board covered with printed (colorized) images of the actual engine house.

    Colorized City Point Engine House Picture

    May 13th, 2014

    Just learned how to colorize a black and white image with photoshop. It’s easier than I thought it would be. Though this image is just a hack job, it shows what it possible. It also can be used to help pick the colors in my actual model.

    Colorized Engine House Picture

    Colorized Engine House Picture

    Let me know what you think of the color choices.