"Capra knew that the only way to earn an ending this happy would be to send the audience through utter, bleak horror, so everything before George gets to live again is shot to maximize the sense of his confinement, before breaking loose into rapture. It’s the story arc the country itself had just lived through for the four years prior." It’s A Wonderful Life shows the unending cost of being good - Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club
"The bohemian aspect, in terms of style and decor, was clearly part of the beachcomber look—the guy in tattered clothes who built his shack from found objects and natural materials like bamboo and driftwood. It became this escapist thing for urbanites to go to these places and feel bohemian for a while. If you look at 1930s photos of restaurants like Trader Vic’s in Oakland or Don the Beachcomber in Los Angeles, these places were full of jetsam and flotsam that didn’t exist in the normal, mid-century home at the time." Tiki Hangover: Unearthing the False Idols of America's South Seas Fantasy (Hunter Oatman-Stanford, Collector's Weekly)
On April 3, 1946 a young girl was photographed looking out over the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto. Sixtynine years later this picture has gone viral in Poland leading to a search for this unknown woman, who if still alive, would be in her eighties and could be living anywhere in the world.
An interactive look at the deaths of WWII and the relative peace that has followed Highlights include the sacrifices of the Soviet Union, the toll of past atrocities and a breakdown of holocaust deaths. Numbers are adjusted to world population at the end.
The Stonehill Jewish Song Collection is a website by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance containing songs sung by Jewish refugees in Hotel Marseilles in New York in 1948. All songs include the original lyrics and translations into English. Not all the songs have been digitized and translated already, but there is a variety of themes already, with more on the way soon. The songs were collected and recorded by Ben Stonehill who went to the refugees and asked them to sing anything they like.
Colour footage of Berlin, July 1945. Aerial colour footage of the destruction of Berlin, 1945 (II, III.) Colour footage of Trümmerfrauen in front of the Reichstag.
A research team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen claims to have finally found the wreckage of the Japanese Yamato-class Battleship Musashi, sunk at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea October 23-24, 1944, part of the largest naval battle of World War II. [more inside]
Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth.
"On June 3 and 4, 1942, Japanese military forces conducted air strikes on U.S. Army and Navy facilities at Dutch Harbor, in what is now the city of Unalaska. Several days later, they occupied Kiska and Attu islands, the latter the location of an Unangax village. Within a short time, the 42 Unangax residents of Attu and a non-Native teacher were taken to Japan, where they served as laborers for the Japanese for the duration of the war ... For the Unangax [or Aleut] of most other villages, World War II brought a different fate:" internment camps in the United States [more inside]
"Normal return route canceled. Proceed as follows: Strip all company marking, registration numbers and identifiable insignia from exterior surfaces. Proceed westbound soonest your discretion to avoid hostilities and deliver NC18602 to marine terminal La Guardia Field New York. Good luck." [more inside]
Richard Edes Harrison was a trained architect, artist and mapmaker whose maps in the years leading up to and through WWII gave Americans a new perspective on the world. World War II Led to a Revolution in Cartography. These Amazing Maps Are Its Legacy [more inside]
Creating a portable survival kit is a popular project for which you can find many examples online. There have been a great many different items in military survival kits over the years. The Paratroopers on D-Day were apparently well equipped, and pilots in the Pacific Theater had their own special manual. Many soldiers in WWII famously received chocolate bars for their kits, though they were apparently not all that welcome. Finally, if you really want an authoritative source for what to pack, ask Major Kong.
As England was fighting for its life against the Nazis, the British government sent its most charming spies — including Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Noël Coward and David Ogilvy — to America to blackmail, bully and cajol the U.S. into the war effort. [They were part of a] British spy ring that operated in Washington, D.C., during World War II.
Winston Churchill famously said, "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". And although Winston never had contend with an invasion force on the streets of London, he was not entirely successful in keeping the Germans from occupying British soil. [more inside]
Works by Monet, Picasso, and Renoir are among the 60 additional works found in the Salzburg home of Cornelius Gurlitt, who made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had more than 1400 works stashed in his Munich apartment that had been lost or stolen during WWII. This comes just weeks after Gurlitt indicated for the first time that he is now willing to consider returning works that are determined to have been looted by the Nazis. Determining rightful ownership of the works is an ongoing and complicated process. (Previously)
In 1959, MOSFILM released "Ballad of a Soldier," made during the Khrushchev Thaw . It chronicles a young soldier, Alyosha, and his six-day trip home from the front during World War II, which "sweeps you, with feeling, into the physical and psychological world of Russians at war." And it is on YouTube. [more inside]
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper "Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper credited with 309 kills—and an advocate for women's rights. On a U.S. tour in 1942, she found a friend in the first lady." [more inside]
"The essential aspects of democracy are the freedom of the individual, within the framework of laws passed by Parliament, to order his life as he pleases, and the uniform enforcement of tribunals independent of the executive. The laws are based on Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, the Petition of Right and others. Without this foundation there can be no freedom or civilisation, anyone being at the mercy of officials and liable to be spied upon and betrayed even in his own home. As long as these rights are defended, the foundations of freedom are secure. I see no reason why democracies should not be able to defend themselves without sacrificing these fundamental values."
What we knew of Angus was this: Angus—the only name we had for him—was a flight surgeon our mother had fallen in love with during World War II, planned to marry after the war, but lost when the Japanese shot him down over the Pacific. Once, long ago, she had mentioned to me that he was part of the reason she decided to be a doctor. That was all we knew. She had confided those things in the 1970s, in the years just after she and my father divorced. I can remember sitting in a big easy chair my dad had left behind in her bedroom, listening to her reminisce about Angus as she sat with her knitting. I remember being embarrassed, and not terribly interested. I was interested now. Even 30 years before, her affair with Angus had been three decades old. Now, 60 years after he had fallen into the sea, she wanted to follow him.[more inside]
"Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of the U.S. history that most Americans have been taught.... [Such history] is consoling; it is comforting. But it only tells a small part of the story." Instead of clips of modern people pondering the past, Oliver Stone's ten-part series relies heavily on archival footage and clips from old Hollywood films, with narration by Stone. Towards the end, he gets into the assassination of JFK, "but that should not detract from a series that sets out to be a counterweight to the patriotic cheerleading and myth-making." [more inside]
Veterans Administration hospitals performed lobotomies on more than 2,000 mentally ill soldiers during and after World War II. Today, the Wall Street Journal published the first part of a story extensively documenting the lives of the men who underwent this procedure, and those who performed it.
Researchers have located a sunken World War II Imperial Japanese submarine on the ocean floor off the coast of Hawaii. [more inside]
Why You Can't Travel Back in Time and Kill Hitler. (SLio9) io9 takes on the Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act trope, from a classic episode of The Twilight Zone to Desmond Warzel's Wikihistory. [more inside]
If you're curious about the Eastern Front in World War II, the Russian produced, English spoken Soviet Storm: World War II in the East is obligatory viewing and now all eighteen episodes are available on Youtube. [more inside]
If someone mentions the state of Jefferson that existed in an alternate universe, the question should be: which one? The western neighbor of the Kansas Territory, the eastern portion of Texas, the later effort to split off a western portion of Texas, or the new state composed of parts of Oregon and California? [more inside]
An English-subtitled trailer is now available for Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's latest film, The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), which will premiere to English-speaking audiences at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. [more inside]
Seventy years ago today, in the midst of World War II, St. Louis citizens and dignitaries gathered at Lambert Airport to watch a VIP demonstration flight of the CG-4A glider, which had recently entered service. Aboard the glider were William Becker, the Mayor of St. Louis, several other high-ranking city officials, the founder and the vice-president of Robertson Aircraft (a St. Louis company producing the glider for the war effort), as well as two pilots. Immediately after being released by the tow aircraft, the right wing of the glider sheared off, sending the glider plummeting to the ground and killing all ten aboard. [more inside]
""He just went out to the shop, and my mum was waiting for him to come home, and he never came," Linda Davis said of her father." -- During World War II tens of thousands of Chinese seamen served in the UK's merchant navy, many of whom had settled in Liverpool and some of which developed relationships with local women. Yet in 1945, as soon as the war was won, Liverpool police forces, on orders of the Home Office mounted razzias and deported the majority of the 20,000 Chinese men living in the city, leaving behind their wifes and children. [more inside]
The most well known of New Zealand's World War II home-built tanks was the Bob Semple tank, designed by New Zealand Minister of Works Bob Semple. There was only one made, but it served its purpose of "showing the people that something was being done to meet the enemy. It rumbled around, took part in parades, and inspired confidence." One problem: the tank, built on a Caterpiller tractor and armored with corrugated steel, would momentarily pause while changing gears, unless it was already headed down hill. During parades and public shows, its driver was instructed to change gear as little as possible, to prevent people from thinking their tank was stalling. The other New Zealand-built tank was the Schofield tank, built on the chassis of a Chevrolet heavy-duty truck, with the ability to drive quickly on wheels, then operate on treads, the transition only taking 7 to 10 minutes. Two prototypes were made, but neither the Bob Semple nor the Schofield tank were mass produced, as New Zealand started receiving tanks from abroad by 1943.
You Are Not So Smart: Survivorship Bias, demonstrated through Abraham Wald's work at the Statistical Research Group in World War 2. [more inside]
PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
In 1974, Leon Leyson was one of a group of Jews who greeted Oskar Schindler when he visited Los Angeles. It was the first time the two had seen each other since the war. He began to introduce himself, but Schindler interrupted: "I know who you are," Schindler said, grinning at the middle-aged man before him. "You're Little Leyson." On Sunday, the youngest name on Schindler's List passed away at the age of 83. "The truth is, I did not live my life in the shadow of the Holocaust," he told the Portland Oregonian in 1997. "I did not give my children a legacy of fear. I gave them a legacy of freedom." [more inside]
Dr. Gisella Perl was a gynecologist living in what is now Sighet, Rumania, when in 1944 she and her family were transported by the Nazis to the death camp at Auschwitz. There, she was forced to work under Joseph Mengele in the camp hospital. After seeing the horrors and abuse leading up to the murder of pregant women, she "decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz." Gisella Perl: Angel and Abortionist in the Auschwitz Death Camp [more inside]
Danish author Sven Hassel (Wikipedia, official site) has passed away at the age of 95. (Danish - Translation) Hassel fought for the Germans during WWII and became famous after publishing Legion of the Damned, a semi-autobiographical account of the war. He went on to write thirteen more books following the adventures of his convict battalion, incuding Wheels of Terror which in 1987 was made into the movie The Misfit Brigade staring Bruce Davison and David Patrick Kelly (clip). He will be remembered fondly by all who browsed the bookshelves of charity shops as young men.
"A post-World War II documentary, banned by the military in 1946 but lately released online, is one of the earliest depictions of psychotherapy." Let There Be Light, a film by John Huston. [more inside]
How Jean Borotra won 19 Grand Slams, escaped a Nazi prison, and stole a Davis Cup.
Tomorrow is remembrance day in the Netherlands, as the dead and victims of World War II and beyond are honoured. Each year at the national memorial service at the Dam square in Amsterdam a poem is read by the winner of the school competition organised by the remembrance committee. This year there was controversy as the winning poem was about a Dutch volunteer for the Waffen SS, which was not appreciated by the Auschwitz survivors organisation, which threated to boycott the procedings. In the end therefore the poem was scrapped, but it had already laid bare a sore spot in Dutch history. [more inside]
We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment - George Takei on the the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and Allegiance, his new musical. Previously.
Noel Perrin, "The Best American Novel about World War II": Guard of Honor is a classic (I think), but it is a hard one to put in an American literature course. Why? Because [James Gould] Cozzens was not a romantic. ... Its rightful place is as one of the greatest social novels ever written in America. [more inside]
Cartoon images of "worshiping cats" on the Chinese 100 yuan RMB banknotes, "the equivalent of the 'Eye of Providence' on the US dollar," probably weren't designed as cartoon cats. A coin expert noted that there were no cat's whiskers on the bank note, as shown on the "clarified" image. But if you're looking for hidden images in Chinese currency, World War II era Chinese currency has many cases of hidden messages and over-printed propaganda (part 2 of a series on WWII Allied banknote propaganda).
In 2004, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. Author Terese Svoboda's uncle checks into a pyschiatric ward. [more inside]
World War II in Photos "A retrospective of World War II in large-size photo stories. 900 photos in all, over 20 chapters, telling many of the countless millions of stories from the biggest conflict and biggest story of the 20th century." [via mefi projects] [more inside]
I am not going to try now to open the eyes of the world to the Leningrad Blockade. What I will write about here is less ambitious and somewhat more promising: the literature of the siege. [more inside]
Nearly seventy years ago, 10,000 Japanse Americans were forcibly relocated to Heart Mountain, just outside Cody, Wyoming; they were part of a larger group of more than 120,000 men, women, and children incarcerated in War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps due solely to their ancestry. This past weekend, about 100 survivors of the camp -- led by the delightfully named Bacon Sakatini -- returned to this remote corner of Wyoming to celebrate the grand opening of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center. Of the ten WRA camps, Heart Mountain had the only organized resisters movement, which was started in 1944 by seven men who formed the Fair Play Committee to protest the drafting of Japanse American men while their families remained imprisoned -- leading to the largest draft resistance trial in U.S. history.
Smithsonian Magazine's new blog Past Imperfect has already told some interesting stories in its first weeks, but none more compelling than that of Lt. Commander Minter Dial's Annapolis class ring.
World War II: Before the War. Part 1 of a forthcoming weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II from The Atlantic's In Focus.