Why Is a Soldier’s Mom Sending Silly String to Iraq?

Because it might be a lifesaver: a soldier can spray the Silly String to look for trip wires around bombs. According to this A.P. article, “Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.”

Silly String is not standard military issue (yet), but rather one of many improvisational tools that U.S. troops have come up with in Iraq. Here are a few more that the article cites: “U.S. soldiers have bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has come to be known as ‘Hillybilly Armor.’ Medics use tampons to plug bullet holes in the wounded until they can be patched up. Also, soldiers put condoms and rubber bands around their rifle muzzles to keep out sand. And troops have welded old bulletproof windshields to the tops of Humvees to give gunners extra protection. They have dubbed it ‘Pope’s glass.'”

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. My father, like thousands and thousands of others, rushed to join the Army in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor. I do not have any data on this, but doesn’t it feel as though Pearl Harbor is remembered less and less each year? This makes sense, of course, as the event recedes further into the past. But it also seems as if 9/11 has replaced it as a national day of infamy. There’s also the fact that the ongoing war in Iraq may have simply blunted the American appetite for war remembrances.

There is a really interesting Pearl Harbor article on the OpEd page in today’s N.Y. Times. It is a collection of excerpts of contemporaneous reports filed by Robert Trumbull, the Times‘s correspondent at Pearl Harbor, detailing the U.S. effort to quickly rebuild the Pacific Fleet after the attack. Trumbull’s reports were never published because they could not pass military censors. Even better than the single OpEd is this page on the Times‘s website, which includes PDF’s of Trumbull’s original dispatches.


speed

C-SPAN Radio:
"The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor marked the entrance of the United States into WWII. This week hear recordings from a National Park Service oral history project being conducted with Pearl Harbor veterans and survivors. We'll also talk with Daniel Martinez, National Park Service historian at the USS Arizona National Memorial."
Originally aired on December 2, you can listen to it here:
http://www.c-span.org/Search/advanced.asp?AdvancedQueryText=pearl+harbor&StartDateMonth=12&StartDateYear=2006&EndDateMonth=12&EndDateYear=2006&Series=&ProgramIssue=&QueryType=Match+Phrase&QueryTextOptions=&ResultCount=10&SortBy=bestmatch

prosa

I'm sure the insurgents in Iraq are busy figuring out new ways to set booby traps that can't be discovered by use of Silly String.
As much as I believe in freedom of the press, I cannot help but think that maybe the Silly String story should not have been published.

Anonymous Coward

I think it will take them a while to figure out how to translate "Silly String" into Arabic. Besides, the cleverness that the use of silly string for this purpose indicates is more important than this particular countermeasure.

If only we hadn't lost the recipe for flubber...

jon

The condom trick dates back to the amphibious landings in WWII. I believe that they were part of the standard personal hygiene/luxury items kit of the time. Along with cigarettes and cigars.

Veda

I planned to disagree with you, SD, regarding the oblivion that observing Pearl Harbor Day seems to be reaching due to the years that have passed, etc. I've seen the opposite - due to 9/11, there seems to be a higher awareness of the rememberance as both of the incidents (Pearl Harbor and 9/11) resulted in the United States' involvement in war. The simple similarity of attack on U.S. soil binds those two days for many people.

But then I read the comments and it's clear that the other information in the post is of higher interest. (And, #2-Prosa, I agree.) Then again, it is the secondary interest-point of the post...

TheQuitter

Hey Veda,

All of my friends were born way way way after even the Vietnam war. None of us know which day Pearl Harbor falls on unless cnn mentions it.

bsci

When I was a counselor in Boy Scout summer camp over 10 years ago, tampons where standard issue in all first aid kits distributed around the camp. They are sterile very good at soaking up blood. Not sure how long that was going on, but it's definitely not a new idea.

ray

Just finished reading the Trumbull articles,can you picture a current NYT journalist going into the Oklahoma? If you ever get to Hawaii you have to go to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial,it is a must see.

dburris

The Quitter,

Your statement about you and your friends having no knowledge of Pearl Harbor day is a sad commentary. My 5 year old helped me hang our flag outside yesterday and now knows that brave men and women died at Pearl Harbor and we hang the flag for them. Do yourself a favor, take responsibility for learning the history of our great nation. You are the future and you cannot plot our countries future unless you know our past.

TheQuitter

dburris,

It's commendable that you take an active role in teaching history to your son. I've been a public school baby all my life until college, and all of my schools have done a good job in teaching me about Pearl Harbor. My commentary was simply to state that for an event like 9/11, the date is in the name and it was 5 years ago. While as Pearl Harbor happened a long time ago and we have to lookup the date. I don't think my generation (Y) or the younger generations look to turn a blind eye at history. The lack of due diligence to remember a date doesn't diminish my perception of the importance of Pearl Harbor.

dburris

TheQuitter,

Thank you for clearing that up, and more importantly, for recognizing such a significant event. I too grew up in the public school system and thankfully had a few teachers who were passionate about relating historical events to young minds.

All the best,

Doug

Veda

Not that either of you would catch this, but I've kept up reading and agreed with dburris re: TheQuitter's comment to me. (Thanks, btw, dburris - for your words, I kept mine.)

TheQuitter, I'm not that much beyond the Y-gen (an X-er) and did public school as well. I didn't get half of what I think I should've through that particular system so I have taken the responsibility in the later years for my own knowledge as well. You're right - 9/11 is a current memory as opposed to a memorized date in history. My point was that regardless of time passed, both dates deserve similarly significant recognition. And yes, thanks for clearing up the fog. :)

speed

C-SPAN Radio:
"The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor marked the entrance of the United States into WWII. This week hear recordings from a National Park Service oral history project being conducted with Pearl Harbor veterans and survivors. We'll also talk with Daniel Martinez, National Park Service historian at the USS Arizona National Memorial."
Originally aired on December 2, you can listen to it here:
http://www.c-span.org/Search/advanced.asp?AdvancedQueryText=pearl+harbor&StartDateMonth=12&StartDateYear=2006&EndDateMonth=12&EndDateYear=2006&Series=&ProgramIssue=&QueryType=Match+Phrase&QueryTextOptions=&ResultCount=10&SortBy=bestmatch

prosa

I'm sure the insurgents in Iraq are busy figuring out new ways to set booby traps that can't be discovered by use of Silly String.
As much as I believe in freedom of the press, I cannot help but think that maybe the Silly String story should not have been published.

Anonymous Coward

I think it will take them a while to figure out how to translate "Silly String" into Arabic. Besides, the cleverness that the use of silly string for this purpose indicates is more important than this particular countermeasure.

If only we hadn't lost the recipe for flubber...

jon

The condom trick dates back to the amphibious landings in WWII. I believe that they were part of the standard personal hygiene/luxury items kit of the time. Along with cigarettes and cigars.

Veda

I planned to disagree with you, SD, regarding the oblivion that observing Pearl Harbor Day seems to be reaching due to the years that have passed, etc. I've seen the opposite - due to 9/11, there seems to be a higher awareness of the rememberance as both of the incidents (Pearl Harbor and 9/11) resulted in the United States' involvement in war. The simple similarity of attack on U.S. soil binds those two days for many people.

But then I read the comments and it's clear that the other information in the post is of higher interest. (And, #2-Prosa, I agree.) Then again, it is the secondary interest-point of the post...

TheQuitter

Hey Veda,

All of my friends were born way way way after even the Vietnam war. None of us know which day Pearl Harbor falls on unless cnn mentions it.

bsci

When I was a counselor in Boy Scout summer camp over 10 years ago, tampons where standard issue in all first aid kits distributed around the camp. They are sterile very good at soaking up blood. Not sure how long that was going on, but it's definitely not a new idea.

ray

Just finished reading the Trumbull articles,can you picture a current NYT journalist going into the Oklahoma? If you ever get to Hawaii you have to go to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial,it is a must see.