Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
When I lived in Bilbao, Spain, my friend and local counterpart, Gonzalo Galan, told me that when I could read Don Quixote in Spanish and understand it I could then speak Spanish. I bought a fancy leather-bound edition of the book and read…at least the first few pages. Gonzalo, Director of Marketing, Firestone Hispania, was my main business point of contact when I lived in Spain. In the office I spoke only Spanish, helped also by my friend, Oscar Fandino from Buenos Aires, the Chief Engineer, who complicated my efforts with his unique vocabulary and accent.
My life has had some elements of fighting windmills, always on a journey to the next place, the meadow on the other side of the hill. I enjoy my personal continuing journey but fear the journey my country has embarked upon.
Our military power has no effect on the agenda of the Islamic states. Oil prices crashing will make Iran and Russia find new directions on their journeys while Americans max out their credit cards on Christmas shopping.
NATO has lost US leadership and interest to the point Putin could attack…let’s say, Latvia, and so what? Not our journey. US tanks on the Polish border pointed toward Russia?
“Pedros” who have accompanied America on our quixotic journey--like Australia, Britain, Japan, Canada and the Philippines--get few rewards while hostility has few consequences. Instead we court Turkey and Iran.
While we ride an old horse and carry a broken lance, China is rising like Japan did leading up to World War II. It took a great war to stop Japan; it will take a greater war to stop China. I do not think we will bother to fight that war.
I do not even mention here imminent jousts with North Korea and Ukraine along our Quixotic journey.
To carry a concealed pistol was no big deal in the old days. I carried my German-made Walther PPK all over the USA and all over the world during the 70’s and 80’s. Nobody asked.
I bought my Walther Politzeipistole-kurz in Germany and legally registered it as my personal firearm with the US Military Police in Kitzingen. I carried that Walther PPK while assigned in Germany with the US Army and then stored it at my parents’ home in Ohio while I was in Viet Nam with the First Air Cav.
My trip home from ‘Nam was interesting because I went around the world in the opposite direction of most returning soldiers. I had to pick up my wife and new baby son in Izmir, Turkey. Instead of personal clothing I carried in my duffle bag with their barrels extending out the top three AK-47 and four SKS that we had taken from the enemy. They were so new they still were covered with factory grease.
Good souvenirs, I thought. I registered them as war trophies and was allowed to carry on military aircraft and could check in as luggage on commercial flights.
I flew from Hue to Saigon on tactical aircraft then was allowed by my orders to fly space available on US military flights on my return to the US and my next assignment. My wife’s father was also a West Point graduate and at the time was Deputy Commander CENTCOM based in Izmir, Turkey. I “hitchhiked” on medevac flights from Saigon to Bangkok, Bombay, Karachi, Istanbul, Izmir, picked up my family, and we continued together to Athens, Vicenza, Torrejon, Frankfurt, and New York.
I arrived in upstate New York with only two AK-47 and three SKS--one SKS was taken as “import tax” in Karachi and one AK-47 as “duty” in Istanbul. I arrived in New York with the other five weapons, loaded them into the car I had waiting for me and drove to New York City to pick up my wife and son who had flown civilian from Frankfurt after having suffered the hitchhiking with me.
I locked up the war souvenir weapons on my parent’s farm and continued on to Fort Sill with only my family and my Walther PPK, which I kept with me for the next three years as I transitioned from military to civilian.
My first overseas civilian job was as a Field Rep for Firestone, responsible for sales to the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, based in Vienna. Of course, I was still carrying my Walther PPK, but knew it was not legal in Austria, so I smuggled it in taped under my IBM Selectric typewriter. I was sure any X-Rays at customs check-points would not catch the weapon below the steel frame of the typewriter. HOWEVER, I did not know that is was also not legal to import typewriters into Austria without paying duty, and when the customs officials flipped the Selectric upside down to get the serial number of the smuggled goods, their jaws dropped and my Walther was officially confiscated and held in the customs warehouse pending a judicial decision on how to proceed. (Think “The Trial” by Kafka). I later received a letter from the Austrian Customs Control certifying that my Walther had been “officially stolen” or words in German to that effect.
I bought a new Walther PPK as a replacement and continued to carry it most of the time. Not on trips through Eastern Europe, no need, it was safe there, then. But I carried it all the time while in the US, reporting back to Firestone headquarters or back and forth to Fort Sill and other military locations on my reserve assignments. How did I get away with this? I made sure I always had a copy of a classified document with me. “Confidential” was a high enough classification. By military regulation, “When carrying classified documents, the carrier must be armed.” I was seldom questioned and never inconvenienced. At that time only the state of New York was tough on concealed weapons. I called the New York State Patrol, explained my situation and asked if I could get in trouble. They told me if I got into trouble to “Just tell it to the judge.”
When I moved to California I gave most of my guns to my son born in Izmir who now lived in Texas where there was no problem with having guns and the rest of them to my youngest son who lived in California where there was a problem with having guns, and he got into trouble for having them.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.