Louis Zamperini [previously], subject of Laura Hillenbrand's popular biography Unbroken, died on July 2 at age 97 (link to NYTimes obit). A movie of Unbroken, with a screenplay by the Coen Brothers and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for a Christmas release. Zamperini was an Olympic distance runner who survived weeks at sea in the Pacific and a Japanese prisoner of war camp after being shot down while serving in WWII. [more inside]
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.
Experience D-Day like your grandparents did, if they weren't in the military on June 6, 1944. Archive.org has the the complete D-Day broadcast from CBS radio.
Today, June 5, would be the 70th anniversary of D-Day if not for the last-minute prognostication of British meteorologist James Stagg. The planners of the Normandy landings originally designated June 5, 1944 as D-Day, basing their decision on a favorable combination of tide patterns and a full moon, which would help with pilot visibility. On the evening of June 4, however, Royal Air Force meteorologist Captain James Stagg met with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower with a dire last-minute warning: a large storm brewing just north of Scotland would bring heavy winds, turbulent seas, and thick cloud cover over the English Channel. Ike's decision to change the invasion to June 6, on the advice of a lone meteorologist practicing an emergent and unreliable science, may have been the turning point of the war. Historian John Ross, author of The Forecast for D-Day and the Weatherman Behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble, contends, "Had Ike listened to his countrymen's predictions and launched D-day on June 5, it would have failed with catastrophic consequences for the Western Allies and world history."
The U.K. newspaper The Guardian combines photos from today and D-Day to show what's happened on and around the D-Day landing beaches in the seventy years since. [more inside]
In all the discussion over gun collections, one subset is often overlooked - the few, the rare, the heavy armament collectors. With a television presence, they are beginning to get more notoriety - but among them all, one stood out - the eccentric Jacques Littlefield. He passed away in 2009, but his estate has now listed several of his tanks for sale. If you've got a cool 3 mil, you could pick up this fully restored Panzer tank. On a budget? Try this Sherman tank instead, for only $250,000.
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]
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister were the victims of medical and genetic experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele in Auschwitz. She recently did an AMA on Reddit.
Joe Bell is 95 years old, and a World War II veteran. He wears his uniform to the senior center on Veterans Day or to meet with other vets. This past weekend, he put on his uniform to cheer on runners in a race that benefits the foundation for fallen Army Ranger Pat Tillman. His neighbor, Julia Prodis Sulek, a reporter for the Mercury News, captured what happened next. [more inside]
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.
December 7--The war opened with the attack of Japanese aircraft on Oahu. So begins the Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, now available online as part of the U.S. Naval War College's Naval Historical Collection, in eight pdf volumes. Downloading is currently a little slow, as demand for site access has been high.
Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor and subject of the film "The Lady in Number Six" has died at the age of 110. Before World War II, Alice was a concert pianist who travelled across Europe. During the war, Alice's mother and husband were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered, and Alice and her six year old son were sent to Theresienstadt. Alice performed more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt, and immigrated to Israel with her son after surviving the camp. [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)
Marc Wilson’s series The Last Stand documents the remains of coastal fortifications that lined Northern Europe during the Second World War — bunkers swallowed by the sea, pillboxes barely clinging to land, buildings ripped from their foundations and wrecked on the rocks — from Allied positions on England’s east coast and the far tip of the Northern Isles, to the once German-occupied archipelago of the Channel Islands and the remains of the Atlantikwall, the colossal Nazi defense network which stretched from Norway to Spain.Slideshow
What happens to a nation that's suffered a great crime? What happens when the wrong can't be made right?
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]
"Nude is a concept album released by English progressive rock band Camel (wiki) in 1981. It was their eighth studio album. The album (lyrics) is based on a true story of a Japanese soldier (Hiroo Onoda) marooned on an island in World War II who doesn't know that the war is over. 'Nude' derives from his family name 'Onoda.'" [more inside]
Russell Johnson, beloved of many as Professor Roy Hinkley of Gilligan's Island, has died at the age of 89. Perhaps lesser known among Johnson's achievements, he flew 44 B-25 bombadier missions as an Air Force Second Lieutenant. In March, 1945, he was shot down over the Philippines, earning a Purple Heart. By the time of his Honorable Discharge later that year, he had earned the rank of First Lieutenant, and had earned the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. In 2004, Johnson gave a 2 hour interview to the Archive of American Television, detailing his guest roles on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, as well as the role for which he is best remembered.
In 1945, the 153 Soviet POWs of Fort Dix disappeared into a void. Their ultimate fate is unknown. [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]
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]
"In 1945, Hitchcock had been enlisted by his friend and patron Sidney Bernstein to help with a documentary on German wartime atrocities, based on the footage of the camps shot by British and Soviet film units. In the event, that documentary was never seen." A truncated version of Alfred Hitchcock's Holocaust documentary was aired on Frontline in 1985 under the name "Memory of the Camps" (YouTube mirror), but now the restoration work on the film is nearly complete and set to be released later this year. The film is "much more candid" than other documentaries, and Hitchcock himself was reported to have been so disturbed during production that he stayed away from his studio for a week. (Given the subject matter, disturbing content throughout.) [more inside]
A Japanese Holocaust rescuer, it is estimated that Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania in WWII, facilitated the escape of more than 6,000 Jewish refugees to Japanese territory, risking his career and his family's lives. The profoundly moving story is now on YouTube: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6. [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]
For over a year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been digitizing old photos from its far-reaching library and putting them on a Tumblr called The Digs. [more inside]
TV's longest-running World War II drama, Combat! aired on ABC between 1962 and 1967. "It was really a collection of complex 50-minute movies. Salted with battle sequences, they follow [US Army King Company's travails during the invasion of France, starting with the landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 -- D-Day. It's] a gritty, ground-eye view of infantrymen trying to salvage their humanity and survive." [more inside]
It was 1942 and pork was one of several commodities to be rationed by the U.S. government. Navy recruiter Don C. Lingle made a deal with a farmer friend for chops. What he received instead was a piglet which would go on to become an American hero: King Neptune, a stocky red-and-white Hereford hog who served as a mascot for the Navy's war bond effort, and who raised over $19 million (more, even, than did Betty Grable). [more inside]
65 years ago Vincent Speranza filled his helmet with beer to provide refreshment to some wounded in Belgium in WWII. Visiting in 2009 to commemerate the 65th anniversary of the battle, Vince learned that his act was immortalized on the label of Bastogne’s Airborne beer. The beer is typically served in ceremonial helmets.
The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
"At the height of World War II, [Elizabeth] Black abandoned a promising Pittsburgh art career to join the American Red Cross effort overseas. She proposed a project to sketch soldiers and send the portraits to worried families in the United States. For two years, she sketched her way across Europe, choosing her subjects through a lottery and completing as many as a dozen portraits a day." A footlocker full of her work was discovered recently by family members, and is now the subject of a documentary, “Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black.” [more inside]
About 1,500 modernist masterpieces – thought to have been looted by the Nazis – have been confiscated from the flat of an 80-year-old man from Munich, in what is being described as the biggest artistic find of the postwar era.
"Knowing of Dina's artistic ability, Freddy asked her to paint a mural on the wall of the barracks to cheer up the children. She agreed, although she expected she would be executed if the Germans caught her. This was some time if February 1944. Using paints that were smuggled from various sources, Dina set to work painting a scene of Snow White looking out over the Swiss countryside. Dina knew that some of the children had seen the movie and would recognize the character. She had seen the movie 'seven times in a row' back in Czechoslovakia."
The amazing, sad, triumphant story of Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebová)—artist, animator, concentration camp survivor. [more inside]
The amazing, sad, triumphant story of Dina Babbitt (née Gottliebová)—artist, animator, concentration camp survivor. [more inside]
On November 9th, 2013, the four remaining Doolittle Raiders will perform their final Toast Ceremony.
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
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]
Taxonomy: The spy who loved frogs. "To track the fate of threatened species, a young scientist must follow the jungle path of a herpetologist who led a secret double life." [Via]
Photographer and historian of the New York Press Photographers Association Marc Hermann searched the New York Daily News archive to find historic NYC crime scenes, and superimposed them on photographs of the same locations today. [more inside]
John Banvard, 95, Gerard Nadeau, 67, were married Thursday at a Chula Vista, CA Veterans' senior living facility. Mr. Banvard, a World War II vet, and Mr. Nadeau, a Vietnam vet, have been together for 20 years, and were married at the facility despite the opposition of some residents. In response to the opposition, Mr. Nadeau said, "Oh, that's their problem not mine, but you know what this will do, open the door for other people." [more inside]
"Brigitte Höss lives quietly on a leafy side street in Northern Virginia. She is retired now, having worked in a Washington fashion salon for more than 30 years. She recently was diagnosed with cancer and spends much of her days dealing with the medical consequences. Brigitte also has a secret that not even her grandchildren know. Her father was Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz." [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]
"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."
Powstanie Warszawskie/Warsaw Rising is a new Polish movie about the 1944 Warsaw Uprising that makes use of contemporary footage, colourised and dubbed.
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]
One of the last remaining copies of Schindler's List has been posted for sale on Ebay, with a starting bid of $3,000,000 USD. [more inside]
The Nazis called them “Night Witches” because the whooshing noise their plywood and canvas airplanes made reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch’s broomstick. Ms. Popova was a member of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Forces during WWII. Composed entirely of women, most in their teens and early 20's, the Night Witches flew over 23,000 missions with only 40 2-woman crews. Popova herself flew over 850 missions and was shot down several times.