Thursday, December 30, 2010

Five Reasons to Measure Your 2011 Wellness Program’s Marketing.

This is not about bottom-line results. Not about the contribution of wellness efforts to company health benefits cost-cutting. It’s about quantifying how your internal wellness marketing is doing – the top five reasons to be measuring.

Reason #1: So management can tell stakeholders the good ROI news about wellness.  Even though you’re thinking, “This one’s a no-brainer,” setting up metrics to deliver hard evidence that your firm’s growing investment in wellness programs is paying off is Marketing 101. Whether you’re a marketer or not.*

Writing in Managed Healthcare Executive last March, Kimberly Bonvissutto reported a survey that found 27% of companies do NOT measure the outcomes of their wellness programs. And 65% have no measurable goals for their wellness initiatives.

Without measuring, how are you going to know how you and your program are doing? Proof of performance is seriously important whether you call what you’re doing wellness promotions, or marketing, or just plain “my job.” Fine. Maybe it is a no-brainer – but you still have to work at it.

Reason #2: So you can learn which incentives worked – and which failed miserably. Incentivizing participation does work wellness wonders. It’s been noted that, across a variety of large and small company programs, incentives run the gamut:

…from lower deductibles and copays, which can move a population toward healthier behaviors in the long run, to cash or gift cards, which might drive short-term, immediate behavior, such as participating in a seminar or challenge.

Prove to management that some incentives performed better than others and you’ll have the opportunity (in theory) to keep fine-tuning…and build better participation.

Reason #3: So you can tell people you told ‘em. Several clients have told me that employees occasionally complained, “…the company didn’t tell me” about this or that element or requirement of a wellness program. These clients keep track of the frequency of employee communications about wellness in great detail. So they were able to quote exactly when the complaining employee got communications. And in what formats, too: online communications, print, audio-visual, seminars, and so on.

Do not underrate the self-satisfaction value of told-you-so!

Reason #4: So you can convince people that change is possible. This is the dream goal. The biggest roadblock to employees’ adopting wellness activities is their unwillingness to change their behavior. Of course, this is connected to a lack of commitment by employers – employees will know this. There’s more to measurement here than numbers. Prism Design principal Susan Reeves says:

It's a long process to effect change of people’s behaviors. We need examples, stories to help us marketers, and employees understand realistic results.

Without quantified results, though, you can’t demonstrate change…and changed behaviors is how you prove [3] to everyone that this marvelous wellness thing can in fact be done. Here the stakeholders are both employees and company managers or owners.

Reason #5: So you’ll have something to show for your own efforts. Certainly, as one of the people responsible for promoting your firm’s wellness programs to employees, it’s your goal.

*It’s possible marketing is not actually in your job description – you could be a Human Resources professional or a Corporate Benefits administrator. But demand for program measurement is growing. Maybe my five reasons will give you grounds to add marketing metrics to your wellness roadmap...and pat yourself on the back.

Graphic: Wiki Commons, with thanks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oil closed over $91/bbl today? Bring on 2011!

Oil is such a volatile issue in America and the world. Oil and gas markets are complex, sources are controversial and opinions of how we produce natural gas or petroleum products are never ever moderate.
By mid-summer (June 29), reported: According to Market Strategies’ E2 (Energy + Environment) Index, which measures consumer perceptions of the energy industry’s economic contribution to the US economy, environmental performance and credibility on environmental issues, the oil industry’s image has plummeted from a score of 40 in December 2009 to 30 in June 2010 – a 25 percent decline in six months.

The energy industry itself can be…deprecatory. Remember the ’84-’85 bumper sticker? “Lord, send us another oil boom – we promise not to screw it up next time.”

I have created marketing and advertising programs for the energy industry for quite a while now. I’ve branded in it, direct-mailed about it and built websites for its participating companies and corporations. Why, I’ve even written blog posts about it, like the crisis communications piece here. So I know that the need to market in the energy industry today has never been stronger...even during challenging times.

The amount of information about new opportunities, products and services in “energy” continues to grow overwhelmingly – that calls for marketing programs to focus attention efficiently, to find qualified prospects and long-term customers for everything from seismic interpretation software to the lubes for drill collars and tool joints operating under extreme conditions.

Marketing to the ‘patch means creating compelling arguments in favor of new technologies, or innovative ways to improve old ones, in old fields and new fields, from the wellhead to the refinery and way beyond. It means advocating for drilling permits when the Feds have a serious case of the slows, just like ATP Oil & Gas is doing now.

The energy industry powers the creation of American jobs, upstream and downstream. Whether it’s in recruitment or safety training or healthcare benefits, every one of these people demands and deserves effective communications, with social media leading the list of new-tech methods.

Here at year-end, Signalwriter is cheerleading. Thanks to my energy industry clients for the work this past year. Today oil closed at $91+ a barrel. I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.

PS: If you feel like you need a new bumper sticker, let me know and I’ll see what I can do...RLB.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hoping Christmas ‘10 Is Way Merrier – and Wishing You a Super-Fine 2011.

I read that North Carolina artist Joseph Cudd roughed out the designs of these “Winter Holiday” stamps by hand, then fine-tuned them via computer, just so the United States Postal Service™ could deliver them to the public in October, 2009.

Out came USPS with the 44-cent reindeer, snowman, gingerbread man and toy soldier without really knowing just what kind of business and economic conditions we the “public” were going to see here in that year, and in this one too.

It’s possible to use each of these wonderful winter figures to underscore our challenges:
 “It never reins but it pours, deer!” for example.
 “That’s the way the (gingerbread) cookie crumbles.”

And let’s get real: that’s not a “toy soldier” lower right – that’s a nutcracker. (Know what I mean?)

I’m soliciting more holiday puns from you, based on these stamps – I’ll post them in the COMMENT section if and when you send them in.

Much more important, this display is Signalwriter’s own way of wishing all of you – clients and colleagues, family and friends and utter strangers – a wonderful Christmas season and an outstanding year ahead.

My life’s been filled with pleasure and delight thanks to the part you’ve played in it.  Thanks to you, I’ve had another year’s worth of meetings, adventures, programs, visits, conversations, developments and successes; an entire 12 months of engagement, with laughter (and beer) on the side.

In this fine Houston, TX season where the only snowflakes appear on stamps…the very best of everything to you and yours!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wellness Centers of America Launches – Using Blue Sky (and Wong and Me)…

With its first retail location opening soon, Wellness Centers of America reached out to Blue Sky Marketing for the go-to-market strategy and point-of-sale programs that’d power its initial launch and deliver success.

Blue Sky principal Michelle LeBlanc has focused on independent marketing strategic planning and business development. That’s just what she brought to the new program for Wellness Centers of America (called WCOA for the rest of this post). At the same time, LeBlanc had to meet the retail launch deadline with plenty of marketing communications executions, including TV, point-of-sale and marketing handouts.

For these, LeBlanc tapped Betty Wong Creative (Betty Wong) and Signalwrite Marketing Communications (c’est moi: Richard Laurence Baron) to develop initial graphic design platforms and copy positions.

I’ve been working on wellness projects and programs for the past 20 years. Only very recently have strong figures and trends been available to underscore the value of what some people describe as “the positive health of an individual as exemplified by quality of life.” The last time I covered wellness on this blog, I noted:

…wellness needs to be marketed as effectively as possible, from the aging of the American workforce to our cultural search for the Fountain of Youth.

This is under way with WCOA: effective wellness marketing at retail. I’ve had the opportunity to work under Blue Sky’s direction on WCOA branding and key selling points from the outset. You can see some of the POS expressions created by Wong and me at the top of the post.

There’s more: Dave Henry of iFilmProductions created TV in time for the Grand Opening, using personal-approach video storytelling to convey WCOA’s “Five Pillars of Wellness” offer.

The TV spot’s now running in the Atlanta area. The initial WCOA location is open in Deerfield Place Shopping Center – that’s in Alpharetta, GA, a northside ‘burb. And the entire effective retail marketing effort is supported by bright, fresh creative – including Wong’s sunny new logo mark.

Thanks to LeBlanc, Wong, Henry and WCOA for letting me play a role in this new retail effort. Believe me, promoting wellness is worth it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cream of Wheat Advertising Proves A Couple of Timeless Truths.

That phenomenal Minnesota snowfall? The one that crushed the 580,000-pound, Teflon-coated, inflatable fiberglass Minneapolis Metrodome roof? My first non-sports-guy thought was, “Where are the Timberwolves going to play?” Then I realized that this stadium was where the Vikings hang out.

Still, I could have sworn I’d seen an ad years ago for…what? Wolves? Cereal? Sure enough, I searched my shelves and found the art work in a superb book. The Nabisco Brands Collection of Cream of Wheat Advertising Art started 30 years ago, when archivist David Stivers discovered that Cream of Wheat (which became part of Nabisco in ’62) had kept detailed records of each and every piece of art, illustration, photo and media schedule.

This led to re-discovering the artworks themselves, 1,600 pieces that “included original oil on canvas, oil on board, watercolors, sketches, premiums and proofs.” It is a superb book that dramatizes just how much “art” went into advertising in the so-called old days.

In one sense, it was one of advertising’s golden ages, when a major company could line up and use work from some of the most accomplished painters of the day – which stretched from 1902, when the Cream of Wheat Company dedicated $10,000 to its first ad budget; to 1962. During the first few decades, EV Brewer, Katherine Richardson Wireman, the incomparable Roy Frederic Spreter and Maud Fangel, among many others, contributed to the Cream of Wheat advertising pool.

Oh, you’re thinking: Nowadays it’s all stock photos and royalty-free illustrations, not much chance to commission and use such superb artists and illustrators on contemporary work. But that’s not the complete case. In fact, some features are kind of...timeless.

There are just as many – if not more – fine artists crossing media today. Perhaps more. The illustrator working right now on her computer is just as accomplished as a Brewer or a Rockwell in his studio. And clients can be persuaded (depending on the company and the market) to go with custom work.

Even going through the Cream of Wheat advertising art collection, you can see how the company used the same images repeatedly in different ad formats and media – even if they were commissioned. Copyrights and usage agreements? Hah! Opportunity and appearances in national magazines and newspapers. You betcha.

Because of the weekend’s Minnesota snow, I picked the wolves as the art appeared in Stivers’s book. It’s “The Yukon Freighter” by NC Wyeth, created in 1908. It was the great artist’s third painting for cereal adverts. The 40” x 35” oil-on-canvas earned Wyeth $500. Truth!

Friday, December 10, 2010

After Refreshments, Lucy Moves from Drafty Studio into Good Home.

Howard Sherman scored a residency several months back at Vermont Studio Center, the self-described “…largest international artists’ and writers’ Residency Program in the United States.”

Off he went to the northern Green Mountains (having been awarded a grant by the Dedalus Foundation). When he came back he had a whole new line of works: Blind Contour Lines, Marker on Paper 2010.

Which he showed off in early October at his studio. His invitation pronounced:

My recent residency gave me an opportunity to grow and experiment in unusual ways. My intention was to spend my time there painting. Upon arrival, my plans changed. Using the figure as a point of departure, I ended up investigating drawing in new ways. I'd love for you to stop by my studio to see the results. Refreshments will be served.

We went to see. Consumed refreshments. And enjoyed the work – so much that we purchased one, which apparently is a hard habit to break; it reinforces our status as “multiple Sherman collectors.” (Maybe some day he’ll list The Baron Collection on his Biography page, huh?)

“Lucy,” just arrived via the McMurtrey Gallery frame shop, is now at home. The black-and-white effect is a departure from Sherman’s advancing work which is filled with color explosions. But the line is all the artist’s. Pretty soon, we’ll figure out just where she’ll be hanging. Meantime we’re enjoying the new piece, thank you Howard!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Why Is It We Can Rescue a Minion but Not Save Face?

Whether it’s to the specific credit of the writers or the directors of Despicable Me, I’d like to extend my personal appreciation to all of them for saving the word minion. What Group 243 couldn’t really do for Domino’s Pizza and the Noid, this movie will do, I hope, for the rising generation of youngsters: offer them an excellent epithet.

Let’s review. Here’s a pointed English word (even if it comes from French) that means a servile or fawning dependant, a cringing agent – mainly of evil. It’s quite different than henchman, you know. Any Chicago politician can have henchmen. Being a minion demands somewhat more class.

Not to put too fine a point on it, minion started out meaning, “a beloved object, darling.” This was about 500 years ago. It didn’t take more than a couple of centuries, however, before Jonathan Swift was writing, “I had no Occasion of bribing, flattering, or pimping, to procure the Favour of any great Man, or of his Minion” (1726). You know, once Swift starts stabbing, there’s no turn back to the side of light; minion as “creature” is where we’re at today.

Nevertheless, the word will come back into everyday use – I believe this after seeing a photo of a costumed minion (from the movie, you understand) on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

I bring this whole thing up because a certain well-known social network intends to get a registered trademark on a largely innocent four-letter word soon – unless that WKSN is stopped by public outrage. Which seems to be in rather short supply at the moment. On this particular issue.

Can someone from the movie industry please step forward and assist?

The animated movie trailer notes, “To take over the world, you need an army of ruthless, menacing minions.” To save a great word, it takes a Hollywood studio.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hanyel Helf, the Hanukkah Visitor, Comes to Every Jewish Boy and Girl.

Listen, Hanukkah begins tonight. And for you that means a…story!

For centuries, children have gathered around their elders hoping to hear about the holy holiday forebear that today is a great big secret while we publicly celebrate our Festival of Lights with the menorah and such like. (“Forebear” is like “ancestor.”)

This Signalwriter post isn’t about the eight-day celebration commemorating the rededication of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple 2,200 years back. It’s not about the strength of the Maccabees whose fight led to that triumph – read all about that in the Talmud – nor the story of the oil that miraculously lasted for those eight days.

No, not even about the menorah and the dredl, though both of these are part of the real story of our celebration.

This is about the Hanukkah Visitor, Hanyel Helf – the angel of Hanukkah who has come to good Jewish boys and girls in the alleys of ancient Judean cities and the 19th Century shtetls of Eastern Europe, in New York’s Riverdale today and, yes, even in Texas. (Although you may not believe this.)

Hundreds of years before some jolly fat man was jammed into a red suit to become a mostly secular Christmas figure, Jews have known Hanyel Helf and kept him secretly in their hearts.

Maybe that’s because he could be an Angel of the Lord. Literally. Hanyel (Hebrew: הניאל‎, “Joy of God” or חַנִּיאֵל‎, “Grace of God”) is frequently identified as one of God’s seven archangels.

Now whether Hanyel Helf is really an archangel or even a man, well, the ancient sources are silent. But still, she or he is with us every day that Hanukkah is celebrated, visiting Jewish homes throughout the world.

He searches out each one of us – particularly the boys and girls – by the light of his menorah. (I told you I’d get back to this.) Then…then he spins the dredl.

Alright. Why does he spin the dredl? To determine just how you will be rewarded, or what you’ll be asked to contribute, in the Hanukkah days ahead. There are four Hebrew letters, right? Nun stands for the Yiddish word nisht or nichts (“nothing”). Hei stands for halb (“half”). Gimel for gantz (“all”) and Shin for shtel (“put”). Think of this as balancing out your life with rewards and contributions. No-Limit Texas Dredl doesn’t count although it’s good practice.

According to the scholars, Hanyel is supposed to be numbered among the Order of Principalities. Batting third in the angelic standings, the principalities are supposed to be caretakers over every nation on earth. So a little sharing doesn’t hurt that mission at all. That’s where the other name comes in – Helf or Helfe, for helping. Yes, that part’s Yiddish, sue me.

Not Santa Claus, see, but Hanyel Helf.

In what form will Hanyel Helf visit this Hanukkah? A literal angel of light and beating wings? An Iraq War veteran? A shaineh maidel? A deeply religious Hasid? It is possible you won’t immediately know Hanyel Helf when he comes. That’s alright, he will know you.

And so…happy Hanukkah!

*NOTE 1: The one-day world-spanning travels of Santa Claus are properly revealed as early High Church one-upmanship – it takes an archangel of God eight days to visit all the Jews and we are far fewer in number.)

NOTE 2: Oh, oh – can’t have Hanyel Helf visiting without a joke. A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Hanukkah cards. She says to the clerk, “Please let me have 50 Hanukkah stamps.”

The clerk says, “What denomination?”

The woman says, “Oh my God, has it come to this? Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform.”

Thanks to Harry’s Black Hole for this, not such a fancy website but really funny jokes. Top photo: Group of Jewish Children with a Teacher, 1911, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Bottom: Shabbat, © Rob Swanson,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Softness Worth Sharing: It's the Most Genuine Kleenex® Brand Campaign.

As of this morning, my Kleenex Brand Share Package – a small pack of “America’s Softest Tissue” – joined the 718,280 packs already sent free during this outstanding and warm-hearted campaign.

If for some reason (career death, wiping your nose on your sleeve, whatever) you haven’t reviewed this pitch-perfect marketing pitch, start with the TV commercial. Then go on to the Kleenex Brand website.

Note, among other things, the interactive graphics. The charm. The honest smiles. The nod to Norman Rockwell’s “Gossip” – look down there at the bottom of the web page. Check under the hood, too: the detailed operation of the Kleenex brand send-a-pack program is great. You can even track the “Chain of Sharing” online.

The program is also fully supported by print, like the most recent ad I’ve seen – and shown here. When you undertake a justifiably thorough review of the Share Package campaign, you will see that the print executions are not just knock-offs of the TV commercials or adaptations of web graphics, but have a gentle little edge. I’m wishing I had created “Get well, Mr Snufflepottomus.” Honestly.

This is outstanding thinking and outstanding creative. It proves again that you don’t need heavy metal or exploding cars to make a great campaign. This is what being a “Big Brand” is all about and I thank Kimberly-Clark Worldwide for bringing it to us. Gesundheit!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let the Turkey Drive: Thankful with the Barons in 2010.

Happy Thanksgiving. May today be the start of your own personal trip to a bountiful 2011…Signalwriter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tricon Precast Gets a “Fighting Grade” Website from Barrett-Wehlmann.

When you pay any attention to it at all, it seems like “bricks and mortar” – the old infrastructure stuff. Precast concrete is nowhere compared to, say, tablet computers and social networks, or sex-appealing wind turbines.

In the NAICS 327390 world of “Other Concrete Product Manufacturing,” it’s an industry that makes its living manufacturing concrete products like barriers and bridges, sound walls and traffic dividers.

Except when highway construction interrupts your commute, though it is effectively invisible.

It’s no invisible business for Tricon Precast or for its web agency, Barrett-Wehlmann. Tricon Precast actively participates in precast concrete products. Its end-users are mainly infrastructure people, from state highway commissioners and roadway engineers to contractors of all sizes.

Whether the economy is hot or cold; whether civil engineering projects are shovel-ready or on hold, Tricon Precast works with professionals all over the region. Tricon Precast is rather like the man behind the man behind the gun and, as a result, its business is far more about technically rich information than brand presence.

That’s how Barrett-Wehlmann created the new fighting grade website for Tricon Precast. “Fighting grade” is a term not much used these days; but a few years back, it aptly described the roll-up-your-sleeves world of products and services whose benefits far outweighed the need for hype…quality-conscious and price-conscientious.

It ain’t fancy, this new website; it is tremendously functional. Barrett-Wehlmann principal Darrell Wehlmann, who’s also responsible for the SEO on this site, names the website attributes:

…in-depth information about its products and services...clear communication about the benefits of its precast concrete solutions….rich with content, technical data and downloads…easy to navigate and use.

On this project, James Grantham is the Creative Director; Carl Glatzel is the designer. Artist Mike Guillory created the 1950s-style illustrations on the HOME page, an excellent touch. And I wrote the copy – I’m always grateful to Barrett-Wehlmann for involving me in clients and projects that are just different enough from the everyday to be completely involving.

In Henry V, Shakespeare described what I take the Tricon Precast site to represent: “We are but warriors for the working-day.”

Thanks to clients B-W and Tricon Precast, I got to be this kind of warrior myself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

QR Codes for Mobile Marketing on Deck – Extinction of Dinosaurs Continues.

I was struck by the inevitability of mobile-phone access a decade or two ago, in Zurich. I sat with colleagues at dinner (Veltliner Keller in Old Town if you have to know) and a question came up about the cost of a new BMW of some arcane description. The owner of the German ad agency, Karl Woerlen, whipped out his “handi” and called a car-dealer friend in Freiburg, asked a question and then turned to us with the answer – at the time, in Deutschmarks.

This sounds dinosaurial today: an iPhone 4 delivers the world to your hand in about three seconds; price quotes for Beemers from not one but a dozen sources in half a dozen states is dead easy. There’s nothing I can write here that hasn’t been written a thousand times over – about smartphones and netbooks, tablet computers and apps out the wazoo.

Access to info (and gratification) is instantaneous, or at least as fast as your network. And now there are QR codes. See them in magazine and newspaper ads. Business cards. Drums of chemicals (for fast access to MSDS information via workers’ mobile phones).

What are these? Let’s ask

A QR Code (it stands for "Quick Response") is a mobile phone readable barcode that's been big in Japan forever, broke into Europe a while back, and is now getting traction in USA. In its simplest sense think "print based hypertext link" - simply encode a URL into the QR Code and then point a mobile phone (or other camera-enabled mobile) at it. If the device has had QR Code decoding software installed on it, it will fire up its browser and go straight to that URL.

Where are you going to put your QRs? (My website’s url, courtesy of, appears at the top of the post.) As a test, I emailed my QR to my “expert” in this stuff, Barrett-Wehlmann principal Jim Proctor:

I’m not sure the QR is a good thing to use in an email. Might as well use a link to the content you want someone to go to. If I receive the email with an embedded QR on my laptop I have to scan it with my phone and then it’s just little content.

I see the QR making most sense in an offline mobile environment, like tradeshow graphics’ link to more content. Magazine ad links to motion graphics. Brochure links to video. Press release to VNR. It should be a way to bring something to life. The first good use of this I saw was in Golf Digest. It was an article on a certain swing technique and when you scanned the QR, it took you to a lesson with motion.

You and I are going to see a lot more QR codes as the technique makes its way from geek-stream to mainstream.

Most important, for the moment, you better believe that appropriate expansion of this on-demand technology falls right back on the shoulders of “wanna-know-that.” Think [1] fans: QR on a wine label gratifies with winery notes delivered to the mobile platform; QR on a car ad delivers in-the-driver-seat motion graphics. Think [2] information-critical: QR on freight containers sending content descriptions direct to security screeners’ phones.

Think [3] about the only constant: it’s going to be change and every time you laugh at photo of some guy with a QR code on his shaven head, it could be one more nail in techno-dinosaurs’ coffins.

PS: There’s a concise post, with how-to video, from Marion Group Advertising and Marketing – access it here, it’s worth a look. (Thanks to Brian Bearden for this link.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

SunGard Advertising – Wherever You Don’t Care Who Knows What Business You’re In…

I wish SunGard’s new ads told me faster what the business does. I saw a version of this ad in The Wall Street Journal. I had never heard of SunGard.

It’s an arresting photo-illustration, visually faster than the other new SunGard executions. But none of them quickly tell what the company sells. Neither does the slogan, “Wherever the mission is critical.”

In fact, it’s only in the second sentence that I discover SunGard sells software and technology services. That seems to be enough for SunGard and its ad agency, Young & Rubicam.

If you’ve just spent big bucks on creating a new advertising campaign and spiffy new website, with all kinds of customer photography; and you’re running a four-month buy in eight of the world’s broadest business publications, wouldn't you want a more obvious link between brand and business arena?

On top of that, those creative Y&R guys have a little visual letter-play going on the ads – and online, too. Various shapes and alphabetic initials are buried in each of the photographs which, when you know they are there, will enable you to spell out (ta-da!) S-U-N-G-A-R-D. In case you didn’t notice.

This technique is named steganography – writing a hidden message so that nobody, except for the sender and intended recipient, knows there’s a message. It’s what Wikipedia calls a form of security through obscurity. Perfect for expensive advertising, no? Uh…no. (The aggressive website uses Flash to reveal the letters buried in each major photo-illustration to make the gag more understandable.)

There’s a secondary theme: LOOK FOR US. Appearing modestly in ads and far larger on the website, It’s a more directive thought which – I suggest – might have made a stronger campaign, given the visuals with the cutesy code.

To wrap up here, according to that same site, SunGard is:

…one of the world’s leading software and technology services companies.  SunGard has more than 20,000 employees and serves 25,000 customers in 70 countries. SunGard provides software and processing solutions for financial services, higher education and the public sector.

I didn’t know that. Probably would have enjoyed learning it. But not from these ads – even if the fire scene got me looking. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harold Borenstein in North Africa: A Veterans Day Post.

I was…invited to join the Army on December 2, 1941. The draft was already going and my number came up. From Madison, I went down to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with a bunch of other guys. I took a draft into the 1st Armored Division and I’d never heard of them before. I was born in 1916 so I was already 26 when I shipped out.

Harold Borenstein, 94 this year, served with the US 1st Armored Division in North Africa and Italy.

We left Fort Knox, April 5, 1942 for Fort Dix, and left there on May 10 for Northern Ireland. I’d been to New York and of course, Sioux City, Iowa – for a whole day – but not any further. Sailing across on the Queen Mary, I was numb: seasick as could be, couldn’t eat a thing. I was one of a million guys…to the Army, I was just another piece of equipment.

After Ireland, I was loaded on another boat, Durban Castle. I didn’t know where I was headed so I thought I was going to France – that wasn’t it, thankfully. I never thought about North Africa ‘til I was on that ship and I landed in Oran as part of Torch.

The 1st Armored was part of the Allied invasion of North Africa - Operation Torch – on November 8, 1942. Division units met unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but invasion forces suppressed all resistance in the beachhead area within three days.

We landed at Oran and drove 700 miles east to Tunisia. I was with Combat Command B headquarters, a driver of a White half-track (see photo). I greased that half-track, changed the oil, everything.  When we first landed, we went ashore and drove inland, past an airport. I thought the French would turn their guns on us because they knew where we were…either we’re going to get it or we not going to get it – it was out of our hands.

I was at Kasserine Pass and I was lucky, I got through it without a scratch. We spent a year in North Africa, two years in Italy. The best part was demobilization – I came back from overseas, through New York, trained to Chicago and then I was home.

You know, I traveled up and down Tunisia, many a night ride I had, trying to stop the Germans. And I went through dive-bombing in Tunisia. I said, Harold, if you live through this you’ll be the nicest person in the world for the rest of your life.” That was the biggest lie I every told.

Today’s the day we remember: Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz and Sam Slavik. Tom Ritter. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Frank B Foulk. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. John Naumann. James Hairgrove.

Herman L Eisenberg. Phillip Becker. George A Schuler, Jr., Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. The names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. Charles Rose and Bill Krull. Gary Bearden. Bernard Mazursky. Clarence Everett Latham and Irene Helen Phillippe. Meyer Horwitz. Irving Kaplan. Columbus D Reeves and Jimmy Reeves. And me – USN, ’68-’72.

Every year this list grows longer – you’re welcome to add names of your own, so we’ll always remember.