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Sort of an electrical arbitrage.

So why does it face resistance?

Ohm's Law.

Is there a potential difference between currents and currency?

Yes, on the order of 120 Volts. Ba-dum tshshsh!

The world falls into two areas with regards to electricity: Systems that use 120V AC at 60 Hz (North American standard) and systems that use 240V AC at 50 Hz (European standard). Further differentiation comes from different grounding practices.

North America used to make a ground pin optional and it has been standard on outlets since the 1960's. It's now mandatory. In Europe some areas like the Netherlands still have a lot of two-pin outlets in common use.

Until cell phones people the only appliances people carried between electrical areas were razors, blow dryers and curling irons. As they are much simpler and cheaper, you could get a cheap adapter or buy a domestic appliance if you were moving permanently.

The difference in mains standards is due to history. North America chose 60Hz as the optimal frequency to make incandescent light bulbs appears to be constantly on; 60 isn't a standard Metric size so Europe chose 50 Hz. 120V was once the worldwide standard for outlet voltage but you can transfer more power through the same grid if you increase the voltage. North America never did this because electrical devices sensitive to voltage level were too widespread by the 1960's to make it feasible, Europe however had less of these so the voltage was raised.

Grounding practices are always a trade-off between safety, reliability and cost. A third pin means a third conductor which increases costs and manufacturing complexity. North American standards always made provision for a ground connection and it was optional for decades, not it's standard. You also need the ground connection tied off in a building as well, either the water pipes or a dedicated copper conductor. Such conductors are expensive as that's a lot of pricey copper.

"that's a lot of pricey copper."

I read that with an Italian accent.

As a Brit, Watt I like are the puns.

Oooh, Determinant, those were brutally awesome! :)

Determinant: "Until cell phones people the only appliances people carried between electrical areas were razors, blow dryers and curling irons."

The greater issue is trade in electrical products (yes, it's possible to put on a new plug, but not ideal), and also people moving between countries.

Frances:"yes, it's possible to put on a new plug, but not ideal". I remember when, first as a student and then when familly members lived in England, various plugs came with the appliance and you had to screw in the appropriate plug for your area. And the fires resulting from badly wired appliances.

The greater issue is trade in electrical products (yes, it's possible to put on a new plug, but not ideal), and also people moving between countries.

Those are minor issues. A product destined for a particular market has the appropriate plug installed by the manufacturer. All those factories in China that make consumer electronics install North American NEMA plugs. Ordering and installation is not the issue. A plug is a plug is a plug, from the manufacturer's POV. NA cell phones also have to be compatible with NA wireless standards which are different from European standards.

The number of people moving between countries is small, negligible when compared to the size of market that stays put. Thus unification of standards benefits a minuscule proportion of consumers.

The benefits disappear when you remember that different plug shapes are a feature, they prevent plugs for appliances designed to work at a different voltage and frequency standard from being plugged into the wrong standard of supply. That's why domestic stove outlets have a different plug shape for their 480V supply in this country.

Your cell phone cannot and will never be able to plug into a European outlet, it cannot function correctly at that voltage, double NA standard. It's a fire hazard, which is why the plugs are incompatible.

Determinant: "Those are minor issues"

They might seem minor to North Americans, who are part of one of the world's largest plug areas. But what about a country like South Africa? South African plugs aren't like European, or British, or North American plugs. The market is small enough that manufacturers may simply not bother.

That it's a non-trivial issue in smaller, poorer plug areas is evidenced by the fact that the cell phone I bought here in Johannesburg came with a European plug - which, no, does not fit into South African electrical outlets.

And what about trying to sell electrical appliances in Europe, where the (grounded) plugs for Italy, France, Germany and also, I think, Switzerland are all incompatible? Think about what a hassle it is for distributors to keep all of the appropriate plug types in stock. The barriers plugs create for people who want to do some cross-border shopping.

One of the arguments made in the optimal currency area literature quoted above is that borders matter a lot, and seemingly insignificant costs can have surprisingly large impacts on trade flows.

The solution is a cheap adapter or a locally fitted plug (market localization happens).

Given the evidence that plug problems do not affect trade in Europe, I would say that manufacturers don't sweat over a 30 cent plug and the same amount of labour for each unit, regardless of plug. A plug is a plug is a plug.

They have to print different manuals in various languages. They don't seem bothered by that either.

The trend is toward power supplies that work everywhere, The only change needed is the plug. This is easier for the manufacturer. It became more practical with the change from linear to switching power supplies (the old linears are much heavier for the same output).

As for the plugs, it's the tyranny of the installed base. There's a peculiarity in a part of Unix that exists because someone didn't want to disturb the existing users:

"Why the tab in column 1? Yacc was new, Lex was brand new. I hadn't tried either, so I figured this would be a good excuse to learn [writing make using them]. After getting myself snarled up with my first stab at Lex, I just did something simple with the pattern newline-tab. It worked, it stayed. And then a few weeks later I had a user population of about a dozen, most of them friends, and I didn't want to screw up my embedded base. The rest, sadly, is history."

-- Stuart Feldman

Nobody's mentioned that the invention of the Europlug itself was a large step forward. Notably, the sole standard it cannot meet in Europe (the British BS1363 plug, still used in Cyprus) cannot be met, due to different approaches to house wiring. British plugs must have per-appliance (i.e., per-plug) fuses, to save on WW2-era copper, whereas European countries delegate this to more elaborate house circuitry.

Even so, it is quite physically possible to force an Europlug in a BS1363 socket; the pins are only offset by 1mm or so. Voltages are the same, so the only danger is the lack of fuse and grounding. This doesn't help with American plugs at all though.

Plugs are hard to standardize - it would be far easier to obligate a different type of socket (which would not, alas, help with the great 120v/240v divide).


when I grew up, it was 110 vs 220 Volt, and 380 Volt for 3 phases, like sqrt(3) * 220 (not 480, like determinant above, and that is not a typo, interesting).

Now I measure 229 Volt here, most power supplies for mobile stuff work from 100 - 240 Volt. Traveling a lot, I only forgot a few times to take the converter plugs with me.

We got the explanation, that the 110 Volt should usually be not deadly, but with the 220 Volt you save a little bit on wiring material.

The transformators, you need for real (kilo Watt) power transformation, have become a lot more expensive. The converter I built for myself in the US, back in 1996, about 40$, now would cost about 250 Euro = 400 USD.

The 60 vs 50 Hz, since the light emission goes with 2x the frequency out, flickering should not be the reason.

The cost of a plug by itself is more like 1 cent for a producer (http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/power-socket_2.html). I think all the additional logistics, work, etc. makes the real cost.

With respect to optimal currency areas, ....., I do not really recall local cash to be such an issue. And now with plastic cash even much less so.

It is not really a problem to write today international contracts in some kind of currency mix, lets say 1/3 Euro, Dollar, and Yuan each, and let everybody then decide by himself, whether to hedge potential currency fluctuations with a bank, or not.

The hard, material hedge is anyways to distribute your factories around the globe. I remember the Siemens guy to tell, that they have offices in 2 more countries than belong to the UN. One was Taiwan, ...


Was the other the Vatican?

@ W. Peden


How did you come up with that?

Funny, how one remembers such statements more than a quarter century ago.

There's another interesting point lurking here, which is the effect of international standards on manufacturing. ISO standards on drawings, quality control etc. have put global manufacturing on a truly international basis. Put the Internet together with ISO standards, and you get 1 cent plugs and Alibaba.com as Genauer noted above. It's worthwhile taking a look at ISO's history at http://www.iso.org/iso/home/about/the_iso_story.htm

Consider also the dramatic effect on shipping from the standardization of the ISO shipping container. The old steamers unloading boxes of cargo with onboard cranes, boxes and slings have almost vanished from the major ports of the world. Another example of an international bureaucracy that works quietly and efficiently in the background is the Universal Postal Union. The name makes me think of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, but for more information, see 'Its in the Mail' at http://somewhatlogically.com/?p=67

The last chance we had for reasonable standards for international currency was Keynes 'Bancor' which the US refused to endorse at Bretton Woods as it would have meant giving up its huge financial advantage at the end of WWII

@ determinant

a question for you, as the resident electrical engineering guy on this blog:

There was an argument, why wiring a 3rd phase to relatively small consumers made economic sense. Somehow the mechanical wear on electrical motors was reduced by a factor of 3 x 3 = 9 by that.

@ JR Hulls
Your mentioning of the universal postal union just reminded me somehow of "The Postman" when even the alleged renewed contact to the outside world induced some kind of return to civil order.

It's a barrier to immigration/emigration. Think of "sticky" migration. Why do you think the CBC and governments pump up the hockey loving brand and Canada? if they didn't we'd just move to a higher paying job somewhere else. What could be a bigger downer than getting a mid-6-figure Econ job at Harvard than to have to get a new charger because your new Verizon phone can't reuse your old one?

There was an argument, why wiring a 3rd phase to relatively small consumers made economic sense. Somehow the mechanical wear on electrical motors was reduced by a factor of 3 x 3 = 9 by that.

It depends on what you mean by "small". Residential consumers receive three-phase on the street, which is transformed to dual phase for the home connection from the pole or pad transformer, in NA. One phase is used as the ground and this transforms the other two phases into +/1- 120V, or 240V across both.

Most residential connections are 120V, larger appliances like stoves or washing machines use 240V.

Three-phase is preferred for industrial motors because it provides at least one active phase at all times and thus delivers constant power. With two-phase you can only use a single-phase induction motor which are confined to small-scale uses.

Having the return connection be in phase with the feed is preferable (ground and return aren't the same in three-phase) because it provides a smoother voltage difference than just a ground. The wear comes from harmonic power, which causes electrical motors to shake, rattle 'n roll instead of doing useful work. Again, with an in-phase return you have less chance of a harmonic difference between the feed and the ground.

JR Hulls "There's another interesting point lurking here, which is the effect of international standards on manufacturing. ISO standards on drawings, quality control etc. have put global manufacturing on a truly international basis."

It's interesting that the relatively large plug zone of US/Canada/Mexico/some points south and west was based on a commercial standard, that of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The German or Schuko plug, which is another standard widely used internationally " goes back to a patent (DE 370538) granted in 1926 to Albert Büttner" - so that's another one with commercial origin.

The UK and Italian standards, on the other hand, seem to stem more from governmental actions. It seems that the UK standard was the result of a government committee in 1947, the Electrical Installations Committee, Italy's plugs have a spectacularly convoluted history: "The double standard was initially adopted because in Italy, up to the second half of the 20th century, the electric power used for lamps and the one used for all other appliances were sold at different tariffs, charged with different taxes, accounted with separated electricity meters, and sent on different wire lines that ended with different sockets." (all quotes from Wikipedia).

Any generalizations one can draw from that?

genauer: "Bingo!"

What, no Swiss office?

It's zombie technical nationalism. From the ISO Timeline I referenced earlier..."In 1969 Olle Sturen becomes Secretary General of ISO. In one of his first speeches he says International Standardization is the end of 'technical nationalism'. We'll still have to wait a bit. I guess there are still a lot of zombies walking around trying to plug in from the earlier and more widely adopted plug standards, but universal solid state voltage converters for cell phone charging seem to be coming along. By the way, I was surprised to learn that the widespread growth of ISO containers dates only from the 1968 standards, but that is probably ancient history to most of your students.

@ K

I didnt get your joke, and I am curious!

@ JR Hulls,
did those 20 (called TEU: Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) and 40 foot (FEU) containers really originate with an ISO norm, or did the norm just codify, what was more or less industry standard, as it is so often?

@ all
The reason to use AC alternating current historically was that it allowed for transforming in up and at the end down, not just more efficiently, but at all.
There was some famous battle in the US market between Tesla (AC) and Edison (DC).

For long distances high voltages were a must for economic reason.
Since High Voltage direct current (HVDC)has become feasible now, and is even much better for really long distances, like Sahara - Germany, I do expect some global new DC standard (48 V, like for new trucks?) to evolve.

"There was some famous battle in the US market between Tesla (AC) and Edison (DC)."

The AC/DC war. Edison invented (well, one of his employees did) and marketed the electric chair using alternating current as a way to highlight the dangers of the competing technology. They used to tour around electrocuting animals to highlight the relative safety of DC. No doubt it's one of the first time in history one party went around advertizing for his competitors technology (call it the "Pepsi Challenge" of the 1880s). Well, he sold the electric chair, but no amount of marketing could overcome the advantages of AC technology.


Incredibly, Switzerland joined the UN in 2002. Twenty five years ago they only had "observer" status, like the Holy See.

The shipping container as we know it evolved from American origins in the 1950's. The current basic design was done by Malcom McLean who used them in coastal trade from New Jersey to Texas. By the mid 1960's the New York Central Railroad was using them on the first intermodal trains.

The American origin of the standard is shown by the foot (Imperial) measurements rather than Metric.

Shipping containers were the greatest logistical invention of the century. They mechanized loaded and unloading, vastly reduced the need for longshoremen and allowed fast, easy shipping across modes without opening the original container. They also decreased the need for warehouses and also decreased theft as the cargo was always locked up and never exposed.

Shipping containers were a lifesaver for the North American railway industry. Deregulation of rates took place at the same time as containerization. The result was incredibly easy cross-shipment and the new ability to engage in special contract rates, free bargaining and time incentives, all formerly banned. New York to LA was now competitive with the Panama Canal for trans-shipment or for landing of cargo destined for the other coast.

Long-haul in North America, it's cheaper to use containers on railcars instead of trucks all the way.

@ K,

LOL, your are damn right. They had an "Büro" in the Vatican, but a "Niederlassung" (which counts) in Switzerland, according to my "Die Grundordnung des Hauses Siemens" (Fundamental Order of the House of Siemens), in the version V 18/69 (published 1969, still valid in 1987, just to give you some impression how things worked in those times : - )

It was worth to ask!

@ Determinant
that we had a 3-phase washing machine and tumbler, was probably more a pecularity. We were in 1968 the first all electric household in this village, no fossile fuel consumption, clean and at this time seen as the way into the future.

Sitting as a boy cozy and warm on my nuclear power electricity driven night storage heater, reading Clausewitz, Nietzsche, and Mao "Theory of guerilla Warfare", looking at our 1000 year old castle across the valley, through which many armies came and went, the Huns, the Hussits, the catholic counter revolution, Napoleon, the Americans, all came and went.
Our united neighbor towns slaughtered > 90% of us in 1553, after we had thoroughly ransacked their places, not to play innocent here.

Supersonic fighters flying below my eye-level through the valley, "keeping me safe from the russians".

I write this stuff here, because I believe that this kind of different historic experience is actually key to different world views here in Europe compared to , let's say Manitoba. And I also think, my place is similar to the majority of Europe, not some special case.

@ determinant

I still dont understand, how the 480 Volts are distributed in Canada

In reply to Genauer. The stackable/twist lock invention that enables easy securing and unloading was invented when (from Wikipedia) "In 1955, former trucking company owner Malcom McLean worked with engineer Keith Tantlinger to develop the modern intermodal container. The challenge was to design a shipping container that could efficiently be loaded onto ships and held securely on long sea voyages. The result was a 8 feet (2.4 m) tall by 8 ft (2.4 m) wide box in 10 ft (3.0 m)-long units constructed from 2.5 mm (0.098 in) thick corrugated steel. The design incorporated a twistlock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the container to be easily secured and lifted using cranes. After helping McLean make the successful design, Tantlinger convinced him to give the patented designs to the industry; this began international standardization of shipping containers.[5]"

There are a lot of interesting stuff and container history and economics from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board magazine at:


You have to scroll all the way down to get to the articles in TR News. They don't link from the index.

I got carried away with the Revolution.

It was the catholic counter REFORMATION. They still killed 50% at the next turn, just 70 years later.

"Supersonic fighters flying below my eye-level through the valley, "keeping me safe from the russians"."

Actually, I think NATO fighters used to buzz German towns to remind them that they hadn't originally been invited to Germany.

@Frances Woolley

Any generalizations one can draw from that?

Not really. The UK impetus was driven by domestic copper shortages after WW2. Arguably any private-sector solution would have wandered to a non-Schuko plug anyway.

Determinant: "Your cell phone cannot and will never be able to plug into a European outlet, it cannot function correctly at that voltage, double NA standard. It's a fire hazard, which is why the plugs are incompatible."

Um.....no. When travelling to Europe, Switzerland, the UK, Australia, etc, I plug my laptop, cell phones, etc. into the local outlets using only plug adapters (which do not adjust the voltage or cycles). Pretty much any transformer/adapter you own is already designed to work with any national standard (110V-220V, 50-60 cycles/sec.), you just need the $5 (retail) plug to connect to the local wall socket.

Note that cell phone manufacturers are also increasingly moving away from proprietary plug designs towards the standard micro-USB plug to allow for standard chargers. (Among other things, they figure this will allow them to stop supply a charging with every new phone.)

My computer electronics are increasingly coming with a two-part charger; a transformer (the bulky part that gets warm when you plug it in) that accounts for most of the cost and works everywhere in the world, and a very cheap adapter or cord that connects the transforms to the local type of wall socket.

Simon, yup, I've been using an old unlocked Cdn cell phone in Europe for years without trouble also (unfortunately it's too old to run on SA networks).

@ Bob

It was mostly our own pilots. Back in the 60ties we lost nearly 1/3 of the Starfighters during peace times, but kept flying.

In Alliances as in most marriages there are some things which are better kept unsaid. Many countries insist, that military bases are operated jointly (google Sigonella, Achille Lauro), and we insisted that our allies operated closely interspersed with us, just in case they would show some lacking enthusiasm.

Bringing this back to Standardization, my knowledge is, that ISO is not that popular in most areas, where it is different organizations, like JEDEC who are setting the de facto standards. Our IBM colleagues were pretty adamant about not letting people into the deliberations there, who didn’t have financial skin in the game.
To keep a careful eye on standards has become very critical (google "JEDEC wars") how Rambus got a few billions from companies very determined to not get into this situation. And there is even some more story behind that. I remember that at some point our folks came back from there, and it became important enough to talk on an all-hands meeting (about 400 highly paid engineers and managers) about what was going on.
Fighting about 1 nanosecond in some latency time for the DDR2 memory, most of you use in your PCs, which would have cost us some 50 million (vague number from many years ago) per year AND factory.

You don’t want some "wouldn't it be nice" folks in that.

Furthermore, things like ISO 9000 (Quality Management), which I considered positive, 18 years ago, are apparently fostering a check-box mentality. Today I get actually really worried, if corporations more than mention that qualification.

When you look on the Schuko plugs today, this is a cost monster.

My laptops since 1996 are fine with 100 - 240 V, and cell phones of course. The need for a plug adapter is actually a good protection against law suits.

Um, Simon, I was only speaking of plugs into wall sockets, not plugs into power supplies.

@ bob and genauer: on the NorthShore during the late stages of the Cold War,Italians, British and West German Tornado crews came for training stints at CFB Goose Bay. During the week-end they would sometimes flew a hack to here and thy were great funto be with in bars. But RAF and BdLw had the nasty habit of buzzing the Innus hunters tents. Very bad for community relations as people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the North Shore had to deal with the aftermaths, including frightened and sometimes wounded children. AMI were more restrained in their flying habits.


did they target the Innuit on purpose, or did they just train at lower altitude?

"wounded"? please explain!

btw, I do not recall having seen "BdLw". I figured it out of the context. And I did serve in the German Air Force, Radar.

We would have shot down those from the other side, who couldn't fly fast enough and especially deep enough, to not show up on our screens.

Most were accidental as they where told the area was empty but some took pleasure in seeing the tents fly off from the reactor blasts. People were wounded when objects were tossed around. I doubt anybody did it out of malice but young pilots behaved as young pilots are wont to do without realizing the impact.
It was not a german or british thing per se. Canadian and american flyers had done it in the '50's and were disciplined and it was in their procedures to avoid known hunting grounds. It took time for the newcomers to understand the peculiarities of the local environment. Things were discussed and evrything ended well.
I was busy and didn't remember the exact abbreviation so I made one up that could be easily understood...it worked.
Your job would have been facilitated by the fact that your opponent essentially never trained. I was at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa last June and I was almost amused by a war game they had where a Soviet army was supposed to reach the North Sea in 3 days. What? They never stopped to refuel? Already my students don't understand when I explain the 50's. Nuclear shelters? Fighter-bomber pilots wearing an eye patch so they would blinded in one eye only and could throw a second nuke? They don't see me as old and wise, merely senile...

Inuus, inhabiting central Québec and Labrador, as distinct from Innuits of the North, a totally different ethnic-linguistc group, more recentlt arrived, about 1200 years ago while the Innus ancestors arrived some 5-6000 years.

A difference between flyers: candian and american detached to Goose were interceptors, flyinf high and far to check the Air Defense Identification Zone

while the Tornado crews were practicing low-level penetration. New routes were mapped,apologies offered and accepted, beer was shared and it is rumored that some guys got a back-seat ride as compensation. All in all, NATO flyers are missed as they were an interesting part of the restaurant-bar scene.

We knew this as NORAD.

Your description our pilots pretty precisely fits my expectations. After all, those pilots were more the upper 10 % of the general population. And a field trip to Goose Bay was a privilege, 2nd and 3rd price Sardinia and Crete. Last question from me: ANY barfights specifically with Germans?

Without refueling? In pure geometric terms: Hamburg was 20 km = minutes for a T-72, North Sea 70, The Rhine, Koblenz, through the Fulda Gap 150 minutes, they could sweep all Germany without refuel, take all the NATO Atlantic coast with one refuel, in one day. If there wouldnt be some resistance in between : - ) And this was the 1980ties. 8000 tanks,over a distance of 650 km Hamburg - München, would be every 80 m one.

So they put them into 3 waves, and we had to take out the bridges over the Oder, Weichsel, Bug, keeping the 3rd waves and the supplies from coming. There weren't that many brigdes to drive many tanks over, and we knew, and they knew, and everybody pretty much knew what the others knew.

Their game plan was 3 days to the North Sea (first wave of over 100 divisions dead, the canadian deployment was 1 division, for comparison), 1 week to the Rhine (2nd wave dead), 2 weeks to the Atlantic, with the 3rd wave, game over, there wouldn't be another D-Day, even if 2/3 of them are dead too.

Our game plan was, to keep the 3rd wave from coming for at least 2 weeks, and wear down the first 2 waves, with tactical nukes on our own people, after 2 weeks likely.

All that stuff was relatively broad known, there were not really that much chances for "strategic surprise" on either side. Over X-mas, they sometimes send personal wishes from the other side, making clear, that they knew the shift plan down to the very last 6 men bunker.

Our calculations were more like: 200 of our pilots attack in our first wave, 100 reach target, 50 get a shot at, 25 can turn around, and 12 come back, covered by the second wave, starting 2 hours later. The 3rd wave gets instruction on the latest in the local air defenses by the survivors, and starts after another 2 hours later, covering the survivors of the 2nd wave, and finishing off, what the first 2 waves missed.

After the first day the majority of our pilots in these waves are dead or captured, but if 2/3rd of the bridges are down, the soviets have something to think about.

The guys you met in the bars in Goose Bay, were the chosen few, the spearheads and wing commanders.

for most of the younger ones of you my post above probably sounds like Tic-Tac-Toe in "war games". But that was how things were thought at that time.

See Paul Kennedy "The Rise and the Fall of the Great powers"

The Soviets decided to not attack, and to not longer spend 15% of their GDP (vs our 5%), the wall came down, the bridges are today in our (NATO) hands, and when "The Russians come", especially between our 24.12 and their Xmas 06.01., there are many of them, with fat wallets, and we roll out the red carpet in the shopping malls, with cyrillic menus and signs : - )

@ Jacques,

your post sparked something in my mind.

I am very interested, if you could tell a little more about what you remember with those pilots, especially the Germans.

I remember, in the local pubs here (errrm, my then time here: Dutchess County) one of my visitors was a little irritated, when on St. Patricks Day the locals swiped on a thoroughly greased lane on their beer belly through an otherwise not that cheap (3.75 $ for a beer in 1997) bar.

In the Tir Na Nog pub in Boston in 2000 (10% chance for 1999) the collection box for the provo IRA went around. The bar is closed now, so no "secret" stuff told here : - )

Bar fights? No. As you said, the guys sent here were probably patrol leaders on their way up to higher command. Guys who wouldn't waste their career on some stupid fights.
In a demo movie, a couple of tanks move fast. Put 300 of them together plus 5000 support vehicles and 15 000 men, and the whole things turn to mush. During WWII, for both sides, armored units ,on a daily and weekly average,moved no faster than non-mechanized infantry.
I agree with you. The 21st century is way better than the 20th. My students simply can't comprehend a lot of things we found logical during the Cold War ( and I don't regret a single one of those things like home-made nuclear shelter in our basemant...)

For those interested in electricity standards, you can safely forget all of the following.

@ Jacques,

we had here more the other 10% of the distribution (there were reliable reports, that they got reading lessons in the barracks), so bar fights were not uncommon.

Over Xmas, I was at the 30th year founding concert of my local Punk band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30I-dAoMzKs actually 2 (Euroschäck and Between the Sheeps) of them playing in double occupation, not so easy) and remembered the story (30 years ago) of one of the drummers, being beaten up by a superior number of US whitey's before. Next time they showed up in sufficent numbers, called the German Police (known to be on short circuit with German M.P. (Feldjäger) and U.S. Military Police (M.P.) for an alleged fight with US blacks before the disco, (so it had to be US military, and the fights were often black on white US) and shortly before they arrive, provoke some US redneck with "Zupfer" (cotton picker), get it going, and then enjoy watching black M.P. beating up the US whitey's, thoroughly. Yeah, the joys of the average folks in border town : - )

We knew pretty precisely what we (would have) fought about, which trail my father came home from a suicide mission, as a 14 year old.

But what about the morale of the Americans, and those little contigents from others? What did some semi-literate from Alabama fight for, here, and how hard? In hindsight, probably good that we never had to find out.

The pilots you met were most likely NOT on a path to “higher command”, as you assumed. They were the chosen few meaning “morituri”, those of us with the shortest life expectancy, when things get hot. A good fighter Ace is not necessarily a good general (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Hartmann). Btw, I heard about them only in 2000 in the Smithosian in Washington D.C., somewhat ironic.
I tried to hear you out in an as unbiased as possible way, about how much they said about that aspect. If you could try again, to remember about that? Now somewhat lead by me?

I am interested in that specifically, because of some much more general thoughts about how fast people forget, how much they realize their situations. So,

Jacques, please try hard to remember a s much as possible.
These pilots reflect a pretty unique social group, in several aspects.
What your post somewhat triggered for me, was looking at the whole situation from like 30 years later. I spent a few hours looking things up, like how many bridges, how many tanks and fighters of what quality, all this old stuff ….. What did who think and calculate at what time.

And you are right, in hindsight we had probably more than the chance to just fight them to a stalemate. The battle of France was won in 5 days, this stuff did work like that, and the supply issues you mentioned, would have made a wonderful trap, for those who do not walk their own trails and do not fly their own valleys.

Closing my eyes, and thinking back 40 years, the supersonic vroom through my valley is now a sweater sound than the clarions on Sather tower at Berkeley. The roar of OUR engines : - ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PE5V4Uzobc

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