"Here are ten lesser-known heroes of WW2 who are a reminder to us all that even when it feels like it’s hopeless (or when it feels like the world is being run by a madman) that you are not powerless: there are always things you can do." [more inside]
Keiko Horikawa is a Japanese freelance journalist whose work, unknown in English translation until now, deals with the value of life and the weight of death. Her two subjects are the death penalty and the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, which has gained new urgency as bomb survivors, the hibakusha, die out after 70 years. Here is a translation of an event promoting her book about the Genbaku Kuyoto, the mound containing the unclaimed remains of approximately 70,000 bomb victims, and her effort to reunite the 815 identified remains with their families.
A year after the bomb was dropped, Miss Sasaki was a crippIe; Mrs. Nakamura was destitute; Father Kleinsorge was back in the hospital; Dr. Sasaki was not capable of the work he once could do; Dr. Fujii had lost the thirty-room hospital it took him many years to acquire, and had no prospects of rebuilding it; Mr. Tanimoto’s church had been ruined and he no longer had his exceptional vitality. The lives of these six people, who were among the luckiest in Hiroshima, would never be the same.--originally published in The New Yorker, August 31, 1946.
RIP Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, Royal Navy officer, Battle of Britain survivor and test pilot who flew a record breaking 487 different types of aircraft. [more inside]
"[In May 2014] some 72 years after his ordeal in the Black Sea, David Stoliar, the sole survivor of the Struma explosion, died on dry land, in Bend, Oregon. He was among the hundreds of men, women, and children who had been abandoned to their fate by a confluence of war, hate, and international politics. In a strange confederacy, Nazis, Communist officials, British Foreign Office personnel, and Turkish politicians all played various roles in one of the worst maritime tragedies of the previous century."
Double Genocide: Lithuania wants to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration - by accusing Jewish partisans who fought the Germans of war crimes.
"After Lithuanians got independence,” he told me, “we hoped that Lithuania would give us help.” But it was not to be. In one of its very first independent actions, before even fully breaking free of Moscow, Lithuania’s parliament formally exonerated several Lithuanian nationalists who had collaborated in the Holocaust and had been convicted by Soviet military courts after the war. The right-wing paramilitaries who had carried out the mass murder of Lithuania’s Jews were now hailed as national heroes on account of their anti-Soviet bona fides.
The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120m... The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection – widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.
The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front, the 20-episode documentary of the Nazi-Germany/Soviet Union conflict, first aired in the United States in 1978 but was subsequently pulled after the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. "The footage was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet camera crews from the first day of the war, 22 June 1941, to the Soviet entry into Berlin in May 1945. Most of these films have never been seen outside this documentary series." It is available in full (1040 minutes). [more inside]
Putting on a brave face. It isn’t easy to do without, but to do without while giving the impression that little has changed offers necessary courage to one living in an otherwise terrifying situation. Women had no power over the volatile state of the world, and after conscription was introduced, they also lost control over which jobs they held and where these jobs took them; if they could succeed in appearing strong and unruffled on the outside, perhaps on the inside they might also feel capable of succeeding in the midst of the uncertainty that had become their lives
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.
WW2 & The Origins Of Radar :World War II led to an explosion of new technologies that would have profound effects in the postwar period. Although advanced Nazi aircraft, guided weapons, and long-range rockets are well known, in reality the Allies led the Germans in many fields, and not only had more resources to draw from but were much better organized to exploit their new inventions. The atomic bomb is the most spectacular example of Allied technical superiority, but just as significantly, the Allies developed radar and other new "electronic warfare" technologies at a rate that left the Axis in the dust. Winston Churchill called the race for electronic superiority the "Wizard War". This document provides a history of the Wizard War.
PTSD and Gene Kelly's lost wartime star turn: For the last six decades or so, a copy [of "Combat Fatigue Irritability"] has been filed away, along with thousands of other films, at the National Library of Medicine. The only people it has been lost to are the public and Gene Kelly’s devoted and still numerous fans. But now the National Library of Medicine is featuring Combat Fatigue Irritability in Medical Movies on the Web, and the film will be given a well-deserved, though very belated, New York premiere, on October 5, 2013, at the New York Academy of Medicine. [more inside]
"It’s not often that one finds buried treasure, but that’s exactly what happened in Wayland High School’s History Building as we prepared to move to a new campus. Amidst the dusty collection of maps featuring the defunct USSR, decades-old textbooks describing how Negroes are seeking equality, and film strips pieced together with brittle scotch tape, was a gray plastic Samsonite briefcase, circa 1975."
Letters From A Private: "...[19 year-old Pvt. D. Bruce Hirshorn] was in the Army in 1944 and 1945. He wrote home almost every single day.... Today, Uncle Bruce is the same upbeat, funny guy. He’s 87 and he loves syrup and ships!" [more inside]
"Bobby grew up in Calicut on the Malabar Coast, part of its tiny community of Parsis, or Indian Zoroastrians. I knew that he had trained to be an engineer, and in 1942 had taken a commission in the British Indian Army. He had gone to war with the Bengal Sappers’ 2nd Field Company. Two years later, he had evidently run out of luck near Imphal." [more inside]
"Voice over of Mickey Rourke rambling platitudes over images of soldiers and/or rare birds at magic hour may be out there somewhere."
Use the enemy's own films to expose their enslaving ends. Let our boys hear the Nazis and the Japs shout their own claims of master-race crud—and our fighting men will know why they are in uniform.
Why We Fight is a series of seven documentary films commissioned by the United States government during World War II whose purpose was to show American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S. public to persuade them to support American involvement in the war. Each of them is in the common domain having been produced by the US government, available online, and linked below the fold: [more inside]
"Two years before Hannah Arendt declared evil banal, Vonnegut was staking it out for stand-up treatment."
In the spring of 1945, three weeks after VE Day, Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut, Jr wrote a letter home to inform his family that he was alive. His infantry unit had been smashed by Panzer divisions in the Ardennes; his unmarked POW train attacked by the RAF; miraculously, he and a handful of fellow prisoners escaped incineration by American and British bombers. "Their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden – possibly the world’s most beautiful city", Vonnegut wrote. "But not me."- Survivor: How Kurt Vonnegut created a novel, a cult following and one of the most loyal readerships in American Fiction by Thomas Meaney in The Times Literary Supplement.
67 years ago today, 150, 000 allied troops landed on 5 beaches on the coast of France that were defended by Rommel and about 60,000 troops of the Nazi Wermacht. Today is the D-Day landings anniversary. Lest we forget.
The Coventry Blitz was seventy years ago today. The German Luftwaffe, in an operation they codenamed "Moonlight Sonata", bombed the city for over eleven hours, killing 600, injuring a thousand, and damaging or destroying over 43,000 homes -- just over half of the existing housing stock. The raid was so devastating that Joseph Goebbels later used the term Coventriert ("Coventrated") to describe a particularly satisfactory level of destruction. [more inside]
World War II was a time that called for many things from many different people. However, one Polish soldier stepped above and beyond the call of his nature. He carried ammunition, he helped his squad members get better at wrestling, and he drank and smoked with the rest of them - Wojtek, the soldier bear. [more inside]
(seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot). single-link LiveJournal via Making Light
During WWII Allied soldiers were taught how to smash jawbones while gouging eyes, crush windpipes and snap necks, and generally apply deadly force to the weakest, most vulnerable parts of the human anatomy in order to kill or disable the enemy quickly and efficiently. Current American military unarmed combat is heavily influenced by the popularity of mixed martial-arts and puts great emphasis on grappling with/controlling the enemy. Not a single neck-snapping technique is taught. Some current members of the military think that this is teaching our soldiers to die rather than kill the enemy, and that it would be better if our soldiers were taught to straight up kill the enemy rather than try to wrestle him to the ground while wearing 70+ pounds of gear. [more inside]
Operation Cornflakes was an action by the United States OSS in World War Two to distribute propaganda in Germany, using the Germany's own mail system with forged stamps and bombed mail trains.
Night witches. "Russia's three all-female air regiments flew more than 30,000 missions along the Eastern Front in WWII. At home they were known as Stalin's Falcons, but terrified German troops called them the Night Witches." [more inside]
The Letter Repository contains hundreds of personal letters from the early 18th Century through the Second World War. A large portion of the letters are from periods of conflict, the largest chunk being from World War Two, though there are also sizable numbers from the First World War and the American Civil War. There are also quite a few love letters. You can both see scans of the letters (and photographs or other materials) as well as transcriptions, which you can edit should you spot errors. One of my favorite collection of correspondance is the one between a Herbert Beyer, who served in the Air Force in World War Two, his darling Cleo and his parents.
Charley Fox, two-time recipient of the Distinguished Cross, died on October 18th in a car accident. Another WWII veteran gone, and as with many, an interesting tale exists in his past. Credited with injuring Rommel (although he didn't know it at the time and it was denied by Germany), it's often thought that the loss of Rommel from Hitler's strategy team helped sway the war for the Allies (though it's wondered if has Rommel lived the July 20 plot against Hitler might have succeeded). After the war, Charley was an advocate for veterans and trained many. He died wearing his uniform.
Voices and Music of World War I and Voices of World War II: Experiences From the Front and at Home both feature spoken word, sheet music and songs galore (all audio RealPlayer). The Great War site has plenty of stuff, but the core is the collection of songs, anti-war, patriotic, France-themed, Kaiser-knocking and so forth. The WWII site also has a whole bunch of music, demonstrating the changing mood of the US, from conflicted feelings about the start of the war to conflicted feelings about the atomic bomb. Among the artists are Nat King Cole, Leadbelly, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. But in addition the wonderful songs there are newscasts, speeches, propaganda and other radio broadcasting of all kinds.
JARDA: Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives is a collection of photographs, diaries, letters, camp newsletters, personal histories and a wealth of other material relating to the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The site is divided into four categories: People, the men, women, and children who were incarcerated. Places, prewar neighborhoods and wartime camps. Daily Life, eating, sleeping, working, playing, and going to school. Personal Experiences, letters, diaries, art and other writing by internees. Among the photographers hired by the War Relocation Authority was famed dust bowl photographer Dorothea Lange. 855 of her photos are on the site. Even though she was working as a propagandist many of her images captures a starker reality, for instance this picture of a glum little girl.
New Zealand War Art showcases about 1,500 images of New Zealanders at war beginning with World War I. Lots and lots and lots and lots of images in a wide variety of media by a long list of artists. [more inside]
Helen Duncan was the last woman to be convicted of witchcraft in Britain. This was in 1944. British authorities "were alarmed by reports that she had disclosed - allegedly via contacts with the spirit world - the sinking of two British battleships long before they became public." Her descendants still smart from the trial and there is a campaign to pardon Mrs Duncan, who some consider a martyred medium who could regurgitate ectoplasm out of her mouth. More than a decade before her trial legendary psychic researcher Harry Price exposed Mrs Duncan as a fraud in his essay The Cheese-Cloth Worshippers. If you want to judge for yourself you can take a look at the photographs Mr Price took of a séance performed by Mrs Duncan.
The Soviet Army fights its way into Berlin and then, in a Very Special Episode, Uncle Joe drops in for a visit.
warnings: YouTube; violence followed by extreme melodrama
warnings: YouTube; violence followed by extreme melodrama
'Films from the Homefront' is a (new) collection of amateur documentaries, newsreels, government films, and home movies documenting life for the ordinary people in Britain during World War II, with background text descriptions/explication. Browse the themes. The films are QT and wmv format. I found it both poignant and funny, for instance, seeing kids don gasmasks during air raid drills then attempt to continue writing in their lessons. [via Glasgow School of Art Library]
I didn't know there were POW camps in the US during World War II, let alone so many of them. The list of camps is extensive, but not on any list I've seen so far is the former Wright Field (currently Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). The base is preserving the walls of the former mess hall where German POWs left a cool set of freaky demonic murals filled with old germanic folklore. The story behind them is a interesting read.
Hitler's "fountain of life." In 1935, Heinrich Himmer and the SS launched a network of Lebensborn maternity centers to increase birthrates among Aryans, where German soldiers were encouraged to mate with genetically desirable local women in occupied countries like Norway. These women were given the option of raising their kids themselves or turning them over to SS-run homes where they would be "Germanized." The lives of these kids was hell after the war, when they were shunned and worse by the Nazis' previous victims. To those who are nostalgic for the Reich, like this veritable eBay of Nazi memorabilia, the Lebensborn program represented " wonderful social experimentation."
Munich Bans Memorial Plaques Munich has decided to ban memorial plaques to Jewish, Sinti and German citizens deported and murdered during World War Two. Jewish leaders, fearful that the plaques would stir up anti-Semitic fervor, supported the ban. These plaques are the work of a German artist, Gunter Demnig. ”He first had the idea in the early 1990s when he was unveiling a memorial for the Sinti and Roma victims of the Holocaust. “An elderly woman approached him and insisted that "no Gypsies ever lived here". "It is so easy for people to deny something. I wanted to ensure that this would not happen," he says. (BBC).” This reminder of the holocaust brought to mind the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, as well as the Viet Nam Memorial and the AIDS quilt -- monuments that really changed me.
"Where are the ships?" and 59 other WWII-era illustrated envelopes are now available for viewing through the Veteran's History Project. Another smaller set of gorgeous illustrated envelopes from the same era is available here, all depicting scenes from the life of G.I.s stationed in the Pacific.
360 photographs of Allied-occupied Japan after World War Two, taken by anthropologist John W. Bennett, arranged in portfolios with comments by Bennett and links to large images, such as hotel umbrellas drying in the sun. The exhibition includes selections from Bennett's journal and letters with his first impressions of Japan. Portfolios include views of Tokyo, children in the park, women of the night, traditional architecture, and Japanese resorts.
"In 1942 my father, George Rarey, a young cartoonist and commercial artist, was drafted into the Army Air Corps. During his service he kept a cartoon journal of the daily life of the fighter pilots. His journals are a part of his legacy to me - one that I want to share with others through this web page. Browse through his drawings and words. Their joyful spirit dwarfs the background landscape of war." via gmtplus9
Two survivors of the Auschwitz death camp are suing the American government for not bombing the death camp and are seeking $40 billion in damages. (via Fark)