Spend August Washington DC or Somewhere Else?

Would you like to spend August in the soaring temperatures of Washington DC and its environs? It gets miserably hot and humid in DC during the summer and especially in August. I often see overweight tourists sitting in the sun like so many dumplings and turning pink. Not a pretty sight. So, take my word for it, you don’t want to be here.

Desperately hot tourists in Washington, DC in August find in the wading pool at the World War Two memorial on the mall in DC.

This is against the rules but World War Two was a war to preserve individual liberty and I don’t think the tourists are being disrespectful although the Park Service thinks they are. (You can wade in the reflecting pools between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial).

I’ve interviewed dozens of World War Two veterans and I don’t think they would see this as disrespectful—especially those who served in the North African campaign. They would see it for what it is: the living enjoying the liberty these men died to preserve as well as connecting the living to the dead in the cycle of life.

(Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr)


Or, would you rather spend August at Lake Garda in Northern Italy shown below?


This magnificent hotel is on Lake Garda in Riva del Garda in Northern Italy. Cool and salubrious breezes would stimulate the creativity of any writer. Someone make reservations for me here, please.

(photos courtesy getawaytravelservice)

I saw these photos on the Weather Channel and decided it would be far preferable to be in one of these places than stuck in DC like I am.


california coast

Along California’s central coast, the Santa Lucia Mountains rise in steep cliffs along the ocean, creating a closer-to-home version of a sun-soaked Grecian paradise. McWay Fall is a gorgeous hideaway. (Flickr/Don Graham) Courtesy of the Weather Channel.

Alaska's Denali National Park

If trying to climb glorious, ice-capped peaks is your thing, check out Alaska’s Denali National Park. Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, is the park’s centerpiece. At less than 10,000 feet shorter than Everest, it might be a good (closer) place to start. (Flickr/NPS/Jacob W. Frank) Courtesy of the Weather Channel.


No need to try to compare Hawaii’s most gorgeous and least-developed island, Kauai, with anywhere else in the world. You may recognize the lush, mountainous landscape as a backdrop for Jurassic Park. America’s own paradise may require hopping on a plane to get there, but the stunning scenery is well worth the ticket price. (Flickr/Paul Bica) Courtesy of the Weather Channel.

Because one of the many ways I make a living is as a historian, I will add that Washington DC is so hot that in the era before air-conditioning, British diplomats received hardship pay as they would have in other very hot countries. People have heard of this and have asked me from time to time if this is true. Yes, it is.


Playa Flamenco in Culebra Island

Playa Flamenco in Culebra Island in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Diueine) Courtesy of the Weather Channel.

Mount Rainier

 Mount Rainier in Washington state. The ice-capped berg west of Seattle may look like a gentle giant, but it is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Thinkstock) Courtesy of the Weather Channel.


author Charles McCain pointing out how high the drifts are two blocks away. Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA.  winter 2016.


Charles McCain is a financial writer, speaker, independent journalist, voice-over narrator, and published novelist. As an 8th generation South Carolinian he often writes about his native region and his Southern Gothic youth.

His first novel, An Honorable German, was published in 2009 by Grand Central Publishing/Little Brown, Ltd./Hachette Book Group. An Honorable German is a World War Two naval epic uniquely told from the point of view of a heroic yet deeply conflicted German naval officer and U-Boat commander in the only such novel ever written. (No one else was foolish enough to spend years doing the research).

You can buy various editions of the book here:



8 People Made Honorary Citizens of the US


1 of the 8 is Britain’s greatest leader and the savior of Western Civilization, Sir Winston Churchill.



Churchill greeting President Franklin D Roosevelt at the Quebec Conference in Canada, 11 September 1944.

photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum


I have seen numbers ranging from 2 to 6 but according to this official page of the US Senate, there are eight honorary citizens of the United States.

One of the eight, and the most important as far as I am concerned, is Sir Winston Churchill.



They are:

Bernardo de Gálvez
Casimir Pulaski
Marquis de Lafayette
Mother Teresa
William and Hannah Callowhill Penn
Raoul Wallenberg
Winston Churchill

The Turkey, the Pharaoh and the One Dollar Bill


(photo courtesy of the US Treasury)

 You probably have a one dollar bill in your pocket. It is so familiar to us that we don’t notice the symbols on the bill yet if you look at them closely, the early history of the United States of America will appear before your eyes.

On the front of the bill is a portrait of the first President of the United States, George Washington. To his right, is the seal of the Department of the Treasury, which name encircles the top half of the round seal. On the bottom is “1789,” the year the Treasury Department was established.

If you take a magnifying glass and examine the middle of the Treasury seal, you will see a scale with balanced arms which symbolize justice. Under the scale is a chevron with thirteen stars which represent the original thirteen states, the number thirteen appearing five times on the one dollar bill. Below is a key, which represents the authority of the government.


The front or obverse of the Great Seal of the United States. According to the US Department of State, the seal itself is used 2,000 to 3,000 times a year to seal treaties, proclamations, appointment commissions for members of the Cabinet and for US Ambassadors.

Turn the one dollar bill over and you note see both sides of the Great Seal of the United States. On the right is the obverse, or front, of the Great Seal. This depicts an eagle holding thirteen arrows in his left talon which signifies war— as well as the original thirteen states— and in his right talon he is holding an olive branch which signifies peace.

Benjamin Franklin was strongly opposed to the depiction of an eagle, a bird of “bad moral character,” he said. Instead, he wanted a wild turkey, “a more respectable bird and…a true original native of America.” (Some historians question whethere Franklin said this). He was overruled. The shield on the eagle’s breast has thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original states as does the constellation of thirteen stars above the eagle’s head.


Reverse of the Great Seal of the United States which only exists as a drawing. No die has ever been cut so while it is officially part of the Great Seal it isn’t on the actual Great Seal itself. 

To the left is the reverse of the Great Seal. Oddly, according the US Department of State which is the official keeper of the Great Seal, only a drawng of the reverse was made. This drawing was approved by the Congress as the official reverse side of the Great Seal. Yet no die was ever cut and one has not been cut to this day. Hence, while a part of the Great Seal, the reverse isn’t actually on the Great Seal itself.

Two of our most prominent founding fathers, Jefferson and Franklin, who were on the committee which designed the Great Seal (and took six years to do it), demanded the reverse of the Great Seal show an Egyptian pharaoh in a chariot chasing the Israelites through the divided waters of the Red Sea. They did not prevail.

Instead, the reverse of the Great Seal depicts an uncompleted Egyptian pyramid built with thirteen rows of stone. On the bottom tier of stones are Roman numerals which mean 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was issued. In a semi-circle under the pyramid are the Latin words: Novus Ordo Seclorum. This translates in English as “A New Order of the Ages,” meaning a democracy without a monarch, a form of government unknown in the world in that era.

At the top of the pyramid is an eyeball and above that is the Latin inscription, Annuit Coeptis, which means “Providence (Or God) Has Favored Our Undertakings,” meaning the United States. However, given the age of suspicion we live in, I tell people that the Annuit Coeptis means “we’ve got our eye on you.” And they believe me.

Admiral Dudley Pound Wouldn’t Take His Own Advice



iwn pound and SC

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS Queen Mary. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)


Early in his tenure as First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound wrote to a close friend in the navy and said, “why have Commanders-in-Chiefs and do their work for them? If they are not capable of doing it they must make way for someone who can.” 1

Unique amongst the respective British service commands, the Admiralty had command, organizational and administrative responsibilities of a standard service ministry but also had operational control over the fleets.

Unfortunately, Dudley Pound didn’t take his own advice during the war since he often went over the heads of his C-in-Cs and gave orders to formations under their command.

During the disastrous campaign in Norway beginning in early April 1940, Pound went over the head of both the senior Royal Navy officer on the scene (Admiral Jock Whitworth) as well over the head Whitworth’s C.O., the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Pound even sent orders to individual ships. This caused immense confusion as you might imagine.

While many of the orders sent to RN ships fighting in the Norwegian campaign by Dudley Pound were thought to have originated with then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, many other times during the war Pound needed no prodding from Churchill to interfere in fleet dispositions during action with the enemy.

This could cause serious problems and occasionally disaster such as the infamous scattering order issue to convoy PQ17.

As an aside, the Chief of Naval Operations in the US, has no operational authority over US naval ships. He, or she, is responsible for everything concerning the navy but he doesn’t exercise command over fleets or ships. This has always been the case in the modern history of the US Navy.

In World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt picked Admiral Ernest King out of  a dead-end post which Admirals took a few years before retirement and made him Chief of Naval Operations. However, this gave King little power over the dispositions of the actual naval ships themselves since those were in fleets or other units under the authority of Commander in Chief US Fleet. This title had the unfortunate acronym of CINCUS.

After a spell, this did not suit Roosevelt who wanted one person in charge so he elevated King to the position of Commander in Chief US Fleet while allowing him to also keep the office of Chief of Naval Operations. This gave King immense authority over the entire US Navy. (And he sometimes went over the heads of his commanders such as Nimitz, not to change any of their fleet dispositions but to fire some of their subordinates).

Upon assuming the position of Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Admiral King immediately changed the acronym to COMINCH. King is the only man ever to have held the position of Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief US Fleet simultaneously.

1 Roskill, Stephen “The War at Sea”