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N: THE FIRE THAT CLINGS TO EVERYTHING, PART 2

3.

- 6.25 – the Korean war. Operation Snowball, named with typical Yankee humor. Going back here to Davy Crockett’s autobiography. Referencing chance of said product of cold weather and children’s hands of surviving in Hell. Snowball, as in. ‘During the early days in Korea it was delivered in 100 gallon plastic jugs that cost about 40 dollars each. During the war an average of 250,000 pounds of N. was dropped each day in support of United Nations troops...”

N. proved its worth in Dugway, then in Tokyo, Dresden, Osaka, Hamburg, and other cities where there were tatami mats and/or children’s toys. It was to prove itself America’s hope and prime weapon in Korea, where it was thought the Asiatic had a particular fear of the thing, or as director John Ford put it, casting an affectionate eye on the airplanes dropping their loads: “Fry em, burn em out, cook em.” The folksiness of the phrase, its roots in American self-regard, the country’s legendary can do, the Indian fighting. N. had gone from being a bureaucratic agent of “de-housing”, stripped of any ethical regard, to the GI’s friend. “N. Jelly Bombs prove a blazing success in Korea”. However, N. was not always regarded from the grunt’s level as a blazing success. “...I’ll never forget the sight. There were hundreds of burned bodies in it. The snow was burned off the ground and Chinese bodies were lying in heaps, all scorched and burned from our N., their arms and  legs frozen in grotesque angles. Our air force used a lot of N. on them, and it is almost beyond belief that they continued to fight in broad daylight, so exposed like that. But what I saw in the draw was only the beginning....” Lynn Freeman, army officer.

4.

Did L., who arrived in the States just after the Civil War, have any feeling about the Germany he left? He made his pile in milling grain – he invented a milling mechanism that made him a fortune, he had a factory in Chicago, a flattering newspaper reporter wrote a profile about how he was always down on the floor, tinkering. It was the Republic of tinkering. L. had children, he built a mansion, he threw himself into various scientific hobbies. Astronomy – he designed a lens for larger telescopes. Rainmaking – he designed a surefire method which involved shooting … into the clouds, he wrote a book about it. And finally, perhaps through meditating on rainmaking, gunmaking. The problem was how to design a long range projectile that would not simply penetrate armor but would, on impact, direct an explosion worthy of the twentieth century. The century of science, and scientific war.  Eventually, unable to persuade the powers that be in the War Department to buy his plans, he sold his designs to the German government. A government that was much different from the one he had left behind so long ago – it was a state, forged by Bismark (there was a force, a force like a projectile stuffed with guncotton!) which could well appreciate a technological breakthrew. And so those projectiles stirred up the mud and knocked down the cathedrals in Northern France.

5.

It was I.F. Stone who reported on the song the helicopter pilots were singing on Flag Day in Vietnam, June 29, 1970

 

 

N sticks to kids, N. sticks to kids,

When're those damn gooks ever learn?

 We shoot the sick, the young, the lame,

We do our best to kill and maim,

Because the "kills" all count the same,

N. sticks to kids. 

 

-         Japan had demonstrated that N. could “trample out the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are stored.” In Korea, there had been setbacks, in the way of presenting the Freeworld’s case for the American way of fighting the war, but the success of N. was indisputable. By the end, some estimates show 2 million deaths in North Korea. Not all from N., of course, but N. had blazed a mighty path.

-         “It was my intention and hope … [to] go to work on burning five major cities in Korea to the ground” – Emmet O’Donnell, commander of bomber forces in Korea, quoted by Robert Neer. Pyongyang. Shinuiju. Hoeryong. Carthage. Babylon. Would we sow salt on the embers? Would victory be ours? Or would we have to split the difference? “Forward air controllers report that the enemy usually stays in his holes when ordinary bombs are dropped or rockets are fired, but when N. comes anywhere near his position he takes off and runs. The Communists have found that it has a similar deadly effect on tanks!”

-         The Korean war, it is generally agreed, has been forgotten. Except for the Koreans. American wars are generally judged on their goodness or badness, their memorability or their insignificance, in proportion to their impression on the American collective consciousness. In as much as American media became dominant in the post-war years – the movies -the rock n roll – the American impression of history became history for a whole tuned-in global class. But, stubbornly, those who bore the brunt of the wars refused to concede their history, which caused infinite puzzlement, when it was noticed, among American policymakers. It caused hard feelings, which could be exploited by the communists.

-         The Vietnam war, on the other hand, was infinitely memorable. Everything came together: good and evil, photogenic presidents and non-photogenic ones, hippies and straights, the Stooges and John Wayne, levitating the Pentagon and the silent majority, the RAF and the Green Berets. N. emerged from the specialized magazines (Armed Forces Chemical Journal) and Congressional testimony to stalk the land, figuratively. Its maker, Dow Chemical, became a target of protest, or as Rogue Magazine for Men put it in September, 1969: “In recent months the name Dow Chemical has become synonymous with the Vietnam war, napalm and campus recruiting. There have been bitter diatribes and stinging accusations hurled at this monolithic corporation which, despite numerous and often violent outbursts, goes about Its own business, a mirror of cool Indifference apparently deflecting the barbs.” Also in September, 1969” “Keep your eye on Kusama: Rouge goes to a public Nude Happening.”

-         It was Dow’s baby in the late sixties. N beta was created by adding polystyrene to the incendiary mix. Who did this? Its authorship is mired in muddle. But Dow had employed Ray McIntire, who invented Styrofoam, and so had a sort of elective affinity to N. The super N. was a hotter “fire that sticks”. At the Stockholm Tribunal in 1967, Doctor Gilbert Dreyfus testified about the affect on skin. “If the victim does survive, the dermatological consequences of N. burns are especially serious. After the surgery there exists extreme risk of superinfections. Poor grafting also leaves serious aftereffects. Retractile skin and contraction of scars form huge welts which will require further treatment. Keloid and hypertrophic scars will form to limit and inhibit the normal elasticity of the skin, which in turn inhibits the normal movement of the member.”

-         “Everything ended, as usual,  on a happy, naked note with a highly psychedelic Star Spangled Banner being played in the background.” – Rogue magazine


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