Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Searching for Charles Gerhardt

5 Nov

A while back, I was appointed Historian for the City of Lebanon. In that role, I have attempted to learn as much as I can about the town. There are stories that I have heard all of my life, and I am steeped in the lore of the area. However, there are gaps in my knowledge.

Learning about the city requires research. I have gone through documents at the city museum and have spent some time in our county archives. I also get on the computer at home to see what can be found on the Internet.

It was an Internet search that led me to an online copy of Tennessee County History Series: Wilson County by Frank Burns, the man who knew more about the history of this area than anyone else I have known. Through a gradual reading, I made my way to the 1940s and World War II, where I found a passage that drew my interest. It reads:

Charles Gerhardt was the only Wilson County soldier to hold
the rank of major general in World War II. June 6 was more than
D-Day to Charles Hunter Gerhardt. It was his 49th birthday.

He went ashore with his troops, inched up the cliffs and the
high bluff with them, and spent the night of D-Day in a rock quarry
just 300 yards from the beach. It was the luck of the 29th to draw
the sector where the German army had concentrated its heaviest
defenses. One company lost all of its officers but one before its
assault boats ever landed on the beach. Within minutes after an-
other company touched the beach, it was out of action, every man
killed or wounded, huddled weaponless against the base of the
cliff. But it was not to be a day of defeat. Slowly the men edged off
Omaha Beach. By the end of the day the 29th was a mile inland.
Omaha Beach was followed by Isigny. There General Gerhardt
moved among his troops as they advanced on the outskirts of the
town, disregarding land mines, rifle bullets, and machine gun fire.

It caught my eye because I have never heard of Charles Gerhardt and never heard of a Major General from Lebanon leading his troops at the D-Day Invasion. This is an interesting part of our history that has apparently been forgotten, and I was determined to find out more. This led to the search for Charles Gerhardt.Gerhardt

A Google search brought up several links, but Wikipedia was the first stop. I know Wikipedia has issues, but I am not writing a scholarly paper. It is only a blog post. Anyway, I learned that Charles Gerhardt played baseball, polo and football at West Point. In 1916, he quarterbacked the football team to a victory of Notre Dame, which was coached by Knute Rockne and led by George Gipp. Some may remember that Gipp was immortalized on film by Ronald Reagan.

The Wikipedia page continues with Gerhardt’s other accomplishments. He served in World War I and was an equestrian judge at the 1932 Olympics. While Frank Burns praises him, this page says that he was a controversial figure who oversaw high casualty rates and opened a brothel for his men after the invasion.

Wikipedia says a lot about Gerhardt, but it does not say where he was born. For that information, I had to click more links. The next stop was the website for Arlington National Cemetery. It contains some of the same information and provides additions to his military record. However, it does not say where he was born.

This is when I began thinking that Frank Burns was wrong. There is no way this man could be from Lebanon. I know of no one who has heard of him, and his birthplace is omitted from every website. That is when I noticed a link to his father, who was also named Charles Gerhardt. The older Gerhardt was also a military man and reached the rank of Brigadier General.

While searching his life, I discovered that “he was detailed to Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, 1894-1897.” While here, he became Secretary of the Military Wheelmen. Have you ever heard of that? Neither have I. It was an organization that designed bicycles for military use. He also designed a uniform to make them less visible. Yep, he was on the cutting edge of camouflage.

All of that was great to find out. Charles Gerhardt was in Lebanon when his son was born in 1895. However, why was a career military man “detailed to Cumberland University?” It has never been a military school.

To find that, I had to return to the writings of Frank Burns. It turns out that the elder Gerhardt taught military science and tactics at the university.

Through all of that, I learned something new about the history of Lebanon, Tennessee. Major General Charles Gerhardt, who led his men onto the beaches of France, was born here. He also went on the defeat the Gipper and found a whorehouse. Overall, he led an interesting life, and it all started here.

The Life and Times of Brother Baker

10 Aug

On August 3rd, our community lost one of its finest citizens. W.L. Baker, a Baptist preacher known to everyone as Brother Baker, passed away on his 105th birthday. He was truly a great man who lived by his convictions and helped everyone who he came across. In fact, he was a pastor who inspired me each time I heard him speak.Brother Baker

Brother Baker’s specialty was reciting the Sermon on the Mount by memory. As he got older, he did it less and less. However, I was lucky enough to hear it. He was a great preacher and a greater man. Everyone who knew Brother Baker will say the same thing. A lot of people also have a favorite story about Brother Baker, but this post isn’t one of the stories.

When I heard about his passing, I thought about all of the things he saw during his lifetime. Imagine how much the world has change since 1908, and Brother Baker witnessed it all. He was born in the latter days of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. That means that he lived during the administrations of 19 presidents. Considering that there have been 44, that means Brother Baker was around for 43% of our nation’s leaders.

Some other things that happened during Brother Baker’s lifetime.

He was a few months old when the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.

The United States entered World War I when Brother Baker was 8 years old.

He was 18 years old when Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Japan attacked Pearl Harbor when Brother Baker was 33 years old.

The United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima when he was 37 years old.

Brother Baker was 52 years old when the Berlin Wall went up and was 81 years old when it came down.

He was 55 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon when Brother Baker was 60 years old.

When Ronald Reagan was shot, Brother Baker was 72 years old.

He was 93 years old on September 11, 2001.

Brother Baker saw a lot of events and a lot of changes in the world. Through it all, he held firm to his beliefs and shared good will with everyone. That’s something that everyone should strive for.

Freedom

19 Nov

That’s a word that has been stuck in my mind, and I don’t know why. It keeps shooting around in my brain like a pinball, and, each time it hits a bumper, another question pops up. What does it mean? Does it really exist? Why do we hear it so often?

Here in the United States, people see freedom as one of the foundations of the nation’s structure. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of the Press. People fight to protect our freedom. Freedom is everywhere, but, then again, it’s not. People are not free from responsibilities. People are not free to pack up anytime they want and move. People are not free to drive on the left side of the road.

Some people say that our freedoms are being taken away because religion has been taken out of schools. Those same people believe that women should not be free to have an abortion. Can we pick and choose our freedoms? Who decides what freedoms are right?

Some people say that freedom used to exist but has been slowly eroded. They look into history to prove that the good old days were filled with something that has been lost. Often, they will point to my area of study, the American West, and use cowboys as examples. They had the freedom to get on their horses and ride the plains. They didn’t have a care in the world except where they were going to camp for the night.

Guess what. They weren’t free either. Cowboys worked difficult jobs for little pay. They would have done another job if they could have gotten the work. Cowboys didn’t have freedom. They had paychecks.

I don’t know what freedom is, but I know the following:

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose – written by Kris Kristofferson and famously sung by Janis Joplin

Freedom is defined as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action – Merriam-Webster

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction – Ronald Reagan

A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – Jim Morrison

Nobody can give you freedom – Malcolm X

Freedom lies in being bold – Robert Frost

Punk is musical freedom – Kurt Cobain

Freedom to joke; Freedom to hope; Freedom to win; Freedom to be in – Simply Red

Freedom, that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone – The Eagles

So, what is freedom? I reckoin freedom is being able to put all of that in a blog post.

Brought to You By the Number 20

7 Feb

Count von Count makes his return on a milestone day in the world of “Surrounded by Imbeciles”, as of this moment 20 people are following the blog. I realize that’s not a great amount in comparison to many of the blogs out there, but that’s around 19 more than I thought would ever click the follow button. What makes it more special is the fact that no one in my non-internet life knows this blog exists. So, I appreciate everyone who follows this blog. With that in mind, here is a tribute to the number 20 HA HA HA HA!

20/20 – Obviously, this is the measurement for perfect vision, which is something I do not have. It is also the basis for the old saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” However, this represents the television newsmagazine 20/20. Actually, I should narrow it further. This represents 20/20 in its original form with Hugh Downs as the host and reporters such as Geraldo Rivera and John Stossel. When I was a kid, I thought it was a cross between 60 Minutes and Real People. Looking back, I may not have been too wrong. Just remember, “I am Hugh Downs, and this is… 20/20.”

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – The book? I have never read it. The movie? James Mason is cool, but Kirk Douglas is miscast. I am talking about the old ride at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It could have been the lamest ride ever. At least with “It’s a Small World” you know what you are going to get. “20,000 Leagues” faked you out with these cool looking submarines sitting in a lagoon. Once you climbed in there were these uncomfortable benches and the distinct smell of a locker room. Then, you look out of the windows at fake looking fish and plants. I changed my mind. It was the lamest ride ever.

$20 – This denomination honors Andrew Jackson, who lived down the road from my town. We hear a lot about “Old Hickory” in these parts, and I teach with a couple of Jacksonian historians. Jackson is a controversial figure of presidential history due to his policies toward Native Americans. In fact, the 20 is not a welcome denomination on many reservations. So, take some other money if you ever find yourself on one. There is some irony to Jackson’s portrait. He hated paper currency and shut down the national bank that issued it.

20 Questions – People say this is a fun game, but I have never had the patience for it. Once I get past “is it bigger than a breadbasket” I am throwing guesses out there.

20th Century Fox – The movie studio came into existence in 1935 with the merger of (surprise) 20th Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation. It produced classic musicals such as The King and I and The Sound of Music. It got in trouble when management offered Elizabeth Taylor $1 million to star in Cleopatra, and she took it. However, there was a rebound in Science Fiction with Fantastic Voyage and Planet of the Apes. Of course, the studio reached Sci-Fi perfection in the 1970s with Star Wars. As a major studio, there are too many movies to list.

1920 – A big year in history, the 19th Amendment was ratified and gave women the right to vote, an event that my state played a major role in. Warren G. Harding was elected president of the United States. Bill Cullen, the host of more game shows than anyone in history, was born. George Gipp, the football player immortalized on film by Ronald Reagan, passed away.

There you have it. In honor of the 20 blog followers, a short dedication to the number 20.