Jesus wept.

I saw a version of what you will see in the link on Facebook this morning. Crying and outrage don’t make good mornings. But that’s ok because people seem to have fifteen-minute memories and this is vitally important.

Our resident historians will have much to add, I suspect, and I look forward to their reactions to the article and pictures in the link. I watched the FB version four times. The first reaction was shock and horror. The second reaction was crying. The third reaction was outrage. The fourth reaction is this article I’m writing.

[There’s quite a bit more of this anti-Semitic death porn at the link above and below. Neo]

I tried really hard to keep an open mind about the tourist pictures, tried to find excuses – they’re young; they’re on vacation; this is the selfie generation to which I have no connection and no understanding; young people are thoughtless at this age. None of it worked. I can find no excuse that makes their selfies youthful exuberance or plain thoughtlessness. There is a distinct and pointed deliberateness about them that is unforgivable.

Again I have to refer to the documentary by Ken Burns, The War. The staff interviews with some of the men who were actually there, who actually helped to liberate the death camps, are indelibly printed on my brain and my heart. The documentary was filmed in 2006 if I remember correctly, and the men well deep in age, and even then, all those years after, their eyes and their faces register the horror of what they saw – the inconceivable brutality of true evil.

I am so grateful to the young Israeli, Shahak Shapira, (who lives in Germany) for creating the translation of what those ‘tourists’ were actually doing. If a picture speaks a thousand words, imagine what his images speak. Ignorance, disrespect, callousness, self before anything or anyone. I think he did a brilliant piece of work and should be commended.

Indeed. Jesus wept.

[Audre saw the TV series (as did I) but I also knew men who liberated Ohrdruf Concentration Camp. The first camp liberated by the US Army. They were armored infantrymen in the 4th Armored Division who came into France at Utah Beach on 11 July 1944 and became the spearhead of Patton’s 3d US Army. Amongst other things, they were the men who relieved Bastogne. They ended the war at Strakonice,  Czechoslovakia. They saw all the horror that the European Theater had to offer. When I knew them twenty years later, they tried to explain KZ Ordruf to me, knowing my interest in the military. All three of them failed, just sitting there at lunch with tears streaming down their faces, and the most haunted look I have ever seen. That’s what the very foolish kids are making light of here. I can think of nothing more despicable. Jesus indeed wept, and I thank God my friends and co-workers died without seeing this new horror. Neo]

The Voice of an Angel

Three years ago on Vera Lynn’s 100th Birthday and the release of her last album, I wrote this>

Yesterday we regretted the loss of Chuck Berry, whom so many of us loved and enjoyed. Today is a happier occasion for today is the 100th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn, DBE, OStJ, CH, honorary citizen of Nashville Tennessee, holder of the British War medal, and the Burma Star. She is known worldwide as the British Forces Sweetheart. Quite a career for a girl from Wales.

And besides, all here know of my weakness for British, especially Welsh, redheads, so any excuse to feature one is welcome.

Her first recording was Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire, recorded on Crown Records in 1936.

 

Her greatest fame came during the Second World War when she became the Force’s Sweetheart with songs such as these

No doubt some purist will miss the point, saying that so many of those pictures were of American soldiers, and indeed they were. And yet, while Dame Vera was the British Forces Sweetheart, our musical tastes became so entwined together that we still haven’t sorted them out.

Many of you know that my normal music here is a couple of British stations that mostly broadcast music from the forties, and indeed that is my favorite popular music. So yes, I hear a good bit of Vera Lynn and other British singers and bands, but I hear an awful lot of the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Major Miller, and other Americans, too. Strikes me that we finally got to know each other and we found rather liked each other. It’s still true.

Yes, sometimes we despair of each other, but we’ve been there before, and we muddled through. I think and pray we shall again.

To me, this always brings back the British North African campaign culminating at El Alamein, with the Tommies and Germans romancing the same B-girls in Tobruk in their turn. I think it originally a German song, but hey, when haven’t Brits and Yanks stolen a good tune.

And this

This

For me, this song has to be accompanied by the sound of the Rolls Royce powered Spitfire, for it is the sound of those few that saved us all. Truly a

This is interesting

This is the only footage I’ve found of her during the war

 

Eventually, it was over

But she kept right on singing, this was the very first #1 on the American charts, in 1952, by a British artist.

Welcoming the troops home from the Falklands.

And still, she pressed on, Decca released a new album,  Vera Lynn 100, just three years ago. Here is the trailer

 

So, how do we end this glorious retrospective? There is only one possible way, in my mind.

And there will truly always be:

Even if sometimes we fear it will only be in our hearts. But I doubt that –

But maybe we best learn to teach our history better.

The band of The Coldstream Guards remember.

The b side of her smash hit Auf Wiedersehen, Sweetheart on both sides of the pond rather says it all, I think.

Till we all meet again, rest in peace, Dame Vera.

 

 

Joe Medicine Crow

Joe Medicine Crow –
The last Crow War Chief, and
the winner of the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Bronze Star Medal, and the
French Légion d’honneur

The other day, the internet was out for almost twelve hours. I have ‘bundled’ service for my phone, television, and computer so nothing of importance was working. I would prefer a sharp stick in the eye to being without my computer – my window on the world, my contact with friends far and wide, my shopping aid, my distraction from relentless, hammering news about ‘you-know-what’. What’s a woman to do? I toddled over to the ‘little room’ (a spare bedroom) and grabbed a DVD. Well, it was actually a boxed set that cost me a handsome sum at purchase. It’s proven itself to be worth the investment.

The War is a six DVD set of the Ken Burns documentary about World War ll which aired on PBS (Public Broadcasting System – educational tv). I still have two more DVDs to view to finish it but the images and the personal stories can get to you after a while and I need a little bit of a break from it. But I watched DVD number four all the way through because it has one of my favorite personal stories in it. The interview with Joe Medicine Crow.

The elderly gentleman is a delight to watch and listen to. He must have been in his seventies at the time of his interview but his eyes were bright and sharp and his memories of the War clear and focused. The aged body held within it the twenty-something young man who went to war for his country.

Mr. Crow tells the story of being camped just outside German lines in France. He and his team watch a group of German soldiers riding horseback to a farmhouse in the woods. The team is going to take the Germans in the farmhouse but Mr. Crow has an idea. Shades of old western movies, Mr. Crow sneaks around the farmhouse and manages to stampede the horses away from the farm and then joins his group to take the Germans.

As he finishes his interview, he says he went back to his camp in the woods and sang songs of praise. (Ok; I get weepy – sue me!). At the prompting of the production staff, he sings his song of praise in Crow and the pride and the history of his people glows warmly in his face and sparkling eyes.

You can read about Joe Medicine Crow here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Medicine_Crow

You can watch each episode (small rental fee) here https://www.amazon.com/Necessary-War-December-1941-1942/dp/B002W65HIA/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+war+-+ken+burns&qid=1589629701&sr=8-2

What stays with me is his final sentence, uttered in both humility and pride. He says, “I guess you’re looking at the last Plains War Chief”.

75 Years Ago Today

At 0001 hrs BDST 7 May 1945 the mission of this Allied force was accomplished.

signed Eisenhower.

75 Years ago today, Genera; Eisenhower sent that message to General Marshall.

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995.

A Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drops poppies over London during the 50th Anniversary of the VE Day Celebrations in 1995. The 75th will be much quieter what with the house arrest and all. But once again we can feel the satisfaction of a job well done. And I personally will raise a glass of single malt tonight in honor of al;l those we left behind.

And so it ended. The war in Europe. Hitler had committed suicide. The Germans had surrendered unconditionally. Interesting that today will be largely a British holiday, although America will mark it, as will the Canadians and others. The Germans will mark what they have come to call ‘Liberation Day’, which while not entirely wrong strikes me as a bit misleading at best. The French will celebrate tomorrow something called ‘Europe Day’. Well whatever, they’ve always been ungrateful to the Anglo-Saxons. Probably we shouldn’t expect more from them.

And that is meet and proper, the British and the Empire stood alone for two years, till the Japanese pulled our heads out of our fundaments, and stood the damage and the loss of life, including almost all the equipment of their premier expeditionary force at Dunkirk.

French Marshal Philippe Pétain, the future leader of the collaborationist Vichy French government was convinced that Germany would successfully invade Britain as it had done France. He told Churchill that in three weeks Britain would “have its neck wrung like a chicken.”

On December 30, 1941, the Prime Minister answered, speaking to the Canadian Parliament, in good short Anglo-Saxon words, “Some chicken, some neck.”

And that brings up something, Churchill may have been the best orator to have ever led an English speaking country, very few from any of our countries compare. When in 1963, he was made an honorary citizen of the United States, President Kennedy said this:

In proclaiming him an honorary citizen, I only propose a formal recognition of the place he has long since won in the history of freedom and in the affections of my — and now his — fellow countrymen.

Whenever and wherever tyranny threatened, he has always championed liberty. Facing firmly toward the future, he has never forgotten the past. Serving six monarchs of his native Great Britain, he has served all men’s freedom and dignity.

In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men, save Englishmen, despaired of England’s life  — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage of his countrymen.

And that he did superbly, in mostly short words, of Anglo-Saxon origin that every native speaker of English understood deep in his bones. They still echo in the soul.

Here is the document, and then a very small part of the story.

This was the result in London.

Here is the Prime Minister Winston Churchill

On 4 April 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.

When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.

During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.

Read the entire account.

Most of the American, British, and Canadian forces having defeated the Germans were soon preparing to be transhipped to Asia to assist in the invasion of Japan, with the realism of veterans few expected to survive. But President Truman saved the allies perhaps one million casualties and possibly the entire population of Japan with his decision to drop the Atomic bomb.

Thus ended the war that Hitler had started on 17 Sept 1939, soon another and greater foe of liberty would arise in Europe, and the Allies would face that one down until it disappeared in 1990. Thus lending point to the old adage: “If you would have peace, prepare for war”.

American troops went on to occupation duty, soon General Patton at a review in Berlin would pronounce the 82d Airborne as ‘America’s Honor Guard’. In 1950, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland would be formed and would soon become the eastern bulwark of NATO, along with the Norwegians, British, Dutch, Italians, Turks, Canadians, and Americans. thus would freedom be sustained in western Europe and in God’s own time the Soviet Empire would fall, restoring freedom to all of Europe. The Americans and some British are still in Germany, no longer as an occupation force but, as an ally, and as a friend.

The result of the Second World War was thus the Liberation of Europe as a result of what was in Eisenhower’s term The Mighty Endeavor.

Thusly:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

And so, as we face another dark time, this time not, as yet, on the battlefield it would a good time to recall the heroism and steadfastness of those whom we call our cousins: the British.


75 Years: The Mighty Eighth and American Exceptionalism

Something we don’t talk about too much is that while almost any nation will defend itself, one of the ways that America is exceptional is our willingness to defend freedom for other people as well as ourselves. This has been quite evident in the last century. It was brought to my attention by this from Vassar Bushmills at Unified Patriots 

[…]

    Why is it conservatives never come right out and say that the willingness of American men and women to die for the cause of not just liberty, but other men’s liberty, is a defining characteristic of American spirit? I know Ron Paul doesn’t agree, nor do Libertarians, for that matter.

But I can say this…go tell Putin’s new generation of America-haters that those 250,000 white crosses in Europe are shoulders they stand on as well. While Europe bears even more Russian graves than American, no slander ever accused any Russian of dying for the liberty of the French. But the fact that Americans have, and have shown in recent history they are still willing to ensures that none of their generation will ever die trying to repeat what their forbears did so well.

For that you owe America, not Putin, moi priyatyel.

And because of that willingness to die for other’s freedom, we now have the amazing sight of Europe, for most of us, our homelands, becoming not proud countries as before, but willing colonists, no longer willing to stand on their own feet, for all their whingeing, they are simply a protectorate of the United States. All those famous names, with only a few exceptions like Britain and Poland, have sold their sovereignty to us, and increasingly to Brussels. Sad, but the truth.

Vassar is absolutely correct, in neither 1917 nor 1942 was there any essential American national interest in the European war. In fact, it’s is quite possible that if we hadn’t stood with China in the 1930s, Japan might not have attacked us at all, we probably would have lost the Philippines, which if I recall correctly, were scheduled for independence on 4 July 1942 anyway, but, not a lot else.

In other words, we made it our business. And when Americans do business, we damned well do business. Göring’s Luftwaffe had a propensity to bomb civilians, and there’s an old rule about that, it’s called

Dresden in 1945

Dresden in 1945

Sow the Wind: Reap the Whirlwind

and on 13 February 1945, it came true as the US 8th Army Air Force in combination with the RAF Bomber Command burned down (in the first man-made firestorm) the city of Dresden. It caused far more casualties than Hiroshima, by the way.

But that’s toward the end of the story, 75 years ago today, that same Air Force, the Mighty Eighth mounted the first of a series of strikes which have become known as Big Week. The targets included:  LeipzigBrunswickGothaRegensburgSchweinfurtAugsburgStuttgart and Steyr but, the real target was the Luftwaffe, all of these cities were crucial in aircraft production.

The time would come, on 4 June 1944 when General Eisenhower would be able to tell the forces assembled for Overlord that “if you see aircraft, they will be ours” and it was nearly true, anywhere in Europe that summer.

But it was expensive, many of those crosses that Vladimir spoke of above are here, in Cambridge, England. Most of these men were in the Mighty Eighth. And these were only the ones that made it back to base, many others were in those aircraft that blew up, or crashed, or just plain never got home. In fact 75 years ago today, we lost sixty aircraft, that is 600 hundred men, and many more were wounded and killed in aircraft that came home. To the point that 8th AAF took higher casualties than any other like size unit in Europe. And higher in World War II than the whole United States Marine Corp.

Cambridge American Military Cemetery, England

And so, it went until the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945.

And here is a clip from one of my all-time top five favorite movies Twelve O’Clock High, that speaks to what it took.

Little Easton St. Mary’s Church, Essex England

And interestingly, this story was supposedly based on the 100th Bombardment Group H, which came to be known as “The Bloody Hundredth” because of its losses. If you happen to be around Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk, England, you will find that their control tower and some other buildings are now a museum dedicated to the 100th. This is how we and the British really established that special relationship that the politicians like to talk about, but it has much more to do with our peoples than our governments. For more about how the English remember the 8th USAAF go to The Eighth in the East.

But, you know the story doesn’t end on VE and VJ day does it. On VJ day America had 14,000,000 men in uniform, a navy far stronger than the rest of the world combined, an incomparable strategic bombing force, not to mention the world’s only atomic bomb, and over half of world domestic product. Never before or since has one country so dominated the world as on that September afternoon on the deck of the USS Missouri.

So what did America do?

It demobilized just as fast as it could, started making civilian goods and loaning giving money to Europe and Japan to rebuild their industries to be far more modern than American ones. It’s what we do.

But think about this, if we had been the imperialists that everybody wants to call us today, well who exactly was going to stop us in 1945. The British, who came out of the war probably second best were exhausted, and everybody else was flat on their back, except maybe the Russians, and the German army was more than willing for a rematch backed by the United States.

And when the Soviet Union started threatening Europe, the old names came back, for the 8th United States Air Force is still here, still the premier strategic bombing (and now missile) force in the world, even now, after the defeat of communism, still on guard.

But the time is coming when the world is going to have to take care of itself when we have to concentrate on getting our own house in order, and that time may be coming soon. So if you’re one of those NATO countries that we’ve been defending for the last century, you might want to think about defending yourselves, America may not always be there to cover you.

Heed not the sighs and sermons,
Go, gallant lads, again.
Let some folk think of Germans—
We think of Pole and Dane.
March 19, 1944

 

Wednesday Video

Ennui has set in with me. I just don’t see anything I really want to write about today, so  let’s have a video. How about a complete change of pace? How about Victor Davis Hanson on World War II? Yeah, that works for me, and probably you, as well.

Enjoy!

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