Category Archives: History

Killing The World’s History

Just read an interesting article in the Doctor’s office a few days ago – and  being a Doctor’s office, it was a 3 year old magazine. I was aware of the Taliban’s intolerance of the twin 1,700 year old Buddha statues – 165 feet tall –  dynamiting them in 2001 – (and others have tried to rebuild to the best of their ability).

What I didn’t realize was the extent of the world’s heritage – mainly in the Middle East – radical Islamists have destroyed since 2001. Take a look at the widespread destruction (.pdf file; starts on page 35). They have even destroyed historic mosques for not having their own brand of radical Islam.

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Rommel

I just finished watching on Amazon Prime a German production of Erwin Rommel’s last 7 months of life.

I have heard it said that of all the Nazi generals, Rommel was if not the only one, one of a small handful of Nazi high officers that the allies respected. He got a reputation in North Africa of being tactically brilliant, but he is remembered for his humaneness in treating POWs.

Many others were justifiably hung after their trials at Nuremberg.

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This Day

By lex, on June 6th, 2011

Sixty-seven years ago.

This Day 062011

From Ronald Reagan’s “Boys of Point du Hoc” speech:

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D-Day Plus 75 Years : A Short Story

At this precise moment 75 years ago – 9 hours ahead of Pacific time – the first amphibious landings started at Normandy.

By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches code named Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.

He’s been gone about 20 years, but I still remember him stopping by my late father’s office every Wednesday at 1200 for lunch, in that big 70s Lincoln.

I can’t remember him without a smile and some pleasantries when he arrived. Never knew him by anything other than his nickname, which was Dusty. Outside of his family, I doubt that anyone else did, either.

He and my father would then head off for restaurants unknown. They were 2 Army veterans of that era. Neither talked much about those times.

He was wounded in that war and recuperated in a British hospital. As he was recuperating, there was an Army nurse at his side.

And from that time for over 50 years that nurse never left his side.

One Thanksgiving they invited us to their home. I had to decline, having a prior invitation.

It is a dinner I have regretted missing for 20 years. My parents told me that after dinner over desert and wine, the conversation got serious. After all those years, he opened up for the first time and talked about his day on that beach 75 years ago.

Since I wasn’t there, all I have are the few things I was told afterwards.

He was in the second wave.

What he remembered most that day were the drownings. Not all of the Higgins Boats  could get to the shoreline. If the feet couldn’t find the bottom with all of the equipment carried – 90 lbs in some cases – you were in big trouble.

And you couldn’t stop to help them.

You were trying to stay alive and get ashore. He watched his best friend drown.

When my mother asked him if he was worried about dying, he replied that “you never think it will be you“.

Allied victory wasn’t certain that day. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, gave it 50% odds of success *. Eisenhower had an alternative letter ready in the event of failure.

Winston Churchill went to bed that evening worried that by next morning, he would learn that 20,000 were killed. That was the number of British killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He also remembered the Dieppe Raid just 2 years earlier. After 6 hours and 60% casualties, the British were forced to withdraw.

(Then) Lt. General Omar Bradley was very close to ordering a withdrawal at Omaha.

“…by mid-day on June 6, caused Gen. Omar Bradley, a competent and “unflappable” commander, to fear that his 29th and 1st Divisions had “suffered an irreversible catastrophe.” He came within an inch of ordering withdrawal of the Omaha force — representing the main bulk of the American D-Day effort.”

“…The beaches of Omaha were a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down, while the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment.”

I’ve always kept to a rule of not using people’s names in my posts unless I have their permission, but in this case I’ll make an exception. They’re both long gone now.

He left us shortly after that dinner and she left soon after.  I think too of the anonymous thousands who have already left us, taking their own stories of that day with them.

They deserve more than to be forgotten.

They were Dusty and Doris Miller.


 

 

* The Secret of D-Day, by Gilles Perrault. (1965 – out of print). 

More on the 2nd wave here.

 

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Virginia Hall

Since writing about her yesterday, curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I read a bit more on her. What an amazing woman.

As to David Holahan’s statement that ” James Bond had nothing on her”, Bond of course was some fantasy of Ian Fleming. To think that some spy would arrive with a self-confident (arrogant?) attitude in an Aston Martin and tux, well, of course real spies are the opposite. Most times a person who one would least suspect. When the best have disappeared the world is left wondering who they were, or at least what they looked like.

When the Manhattan Project was started, “an informant in the British civil service notified the Soviets. As the top-secret plan to build the bomb, called the Manhattan Project, took shape in the United States, the Soviet spy ring got wind of it before the FBI knew of the secret program’s existence.” It was 4 years after the war before  the identity of one, Klaus Fuchs, was discovered.

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A Highway 50 Story

In all my years of driving, I try to take the roads less traveled, unless I have to get there reasonably fast. My one exception – where beautiful scenery and Interstates converged – was Interstate 70 when I was driving through the San Rafael Reef at sunset a couple of years ago. It was so breathtaking that I had to pull off to a rest stop and take this picture:

 

A Highway 50 Story

I-70 going though the San Rafael Reef at dusk

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Virginia City NV Part 4

History has always fascinated me because how we are today is because how we were. Economic forces, which in large measure affected political measures, and add a pinch of personalities to the mix.

So how did the Comstock Lode affect us today?

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