The sweet smell of napalm

One of my favorite all-time films is Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 classic Apocalypse Now. Towards the beginning of the movie there unfolds a spectacular air attack involving the use of napalm ordinance that incinerates several acres of dense jungle. After witnessing the devastating attack, a shirtless Robert Duvall (brilliantly playing the character Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore) squats down in the sand and delivers this unforgettable line to his soldiers (offensive words removed):

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. That smell, you know that gasoline smell. It smells like…….victory”.

Developed and used during World War II, the napalm bomb represents a liquid incendiary device used primarily as an anti-personnel weapon. Napalm bombs are composed of two gel-like chemicals: Naphthenic acid and Palmitic acid (forming the word na-palm) mixed with a volatile fuel. During the Vietnam War, napalm bombs were frequently dropped to clear thick jungles or destroy challenging targets.

Unlike conventional bombs, the napalm bomb represented a far more superior weapon to use during warfare. Because it is a liquid explosive, it can spread with tremendous efficiency to overwhelm and incinerate the intended target. Once the device canister ruptures against the earth, the bomb’s chemical agents instantaneously ignite. This chain reaction releases an unimaginable fiery hell with temperatures reaching 1,500-2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a devastating weapon that leaves nothing behind but scorched earth.

On November 16th, my wife and I found out that we had lost our due process hearing case (see blog post dated August 29th). While heartbreaking and devastating, we both knew we had the better case. Without a doubt, we had the better attorney and expert witnesses. Our case was solid and on task. The facts are now abundantly clear: the special education system within California is severely broken and must be repaired immediately. Our state system is managed by lame-duck administrators and overseen by puppet judges. Most due process cases are tilted towards school districts and not the parents. Unfortunately that’s just the way it rolls in California today.

Court cases are often compared to battles with each side manipulating legal weapons. In my honest opinion, our side had the more superior weapons. Their side clearly did not. We used napalm. They used conventional bombs. We should have won this battle but we didn’t. Fortunately, our biased case has now become public record for all to see. In addition, my wife has been waving a hardcopy of our case around for any interested attorneys to read. Our story needs to be told and heard. We are currently contemplating an appeal.

To further add to the drama, there has been much scandal and upheaval within our school district. Recently, a principal was convicted of using methamphetamines and a district administrator convicted of accounting fraud. In addition to this, our district superintendant abruptly resigned while two new board members were being installed.

Yesterday, my wife also found out that our school is implementing a program called Circle of Friends. This program will be implemented by an inclusion specialist that my wife knows personally and respects. All of this will be funded by the school district and will begin in January. Our school principal is on board with this program and wants our son Jeremy to succeed in his present classroom placement. We might have lost the battle but we might just be winning the war. I’m starting smell the aroma of napalm again.

I’m with you Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore; I also love the smell of napalm…every victorious whiff of it.


Robert Duvall smellin’ that napalm.

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