War

Meisy's Resistance

Jun 2, 2020
R/DV/RS / Flickr

The Battle of the Bulge had not gone well for a California kid named Ralph Ellis, who, like countless others in the fog of war, had lost track of his outfit. He was in awful shape, as so many were when the Hitler sprung an immense December surprise and bullied their way through Allied lines in France and Belgium. Ellis was alone, wounded, frozen and famished, hiding out in an uninhabited house in a town pummeled--for the second time--by the Nazi advance. He thought he was dying.

Albert Colgrave [Public domain] / Wikimedia Commons

I was tired. Not sure why, but I was; and even though we'd been gone for little more than a day, I was anxious to get home. Besides, it was July-hot, thick and humid. We were alone on a two-lane highway, coming back from a small-town Fourth fest. Hardly anybody else was out on the road, which made driving nice, so nice I didn't want to stop.

I had planned to. I knew the old battlefield lay there right along the highway. I could have been in and out in a quarter hour, if I wanted to; but we just drove right on by. It was hot, too--not in the car, but outside.

The Exchange The Exchange 030619

The retaliatory Chinese tariffs on soybeans and corn are still causing a lot of financial trouble to farmers, some of whom are being forced to default on their loans, but low commodity prices are also causing problems for farmers.  Also, after nearly a year of threats of closure, the University of Iowa Labor Center has a bright future ahead. And, on this Ash Wednesday, we talk with Morningside Professor Emeritus Bruce Forbes about the traditions of Lent.

That and more coming up on The Exchange.

Buffalo Soldiers

Feb 28, 2019
Chr. Barthelmess

Jim Schaap shares about all black cavalry units created by Congress in 1866. These units were called Buffalo Soldiers, and their purpose was to clear lands for white settlers. They were sent to places like Florida, San Juan Hill, and the battlefields included in both World Wars. 

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Almost a year passed before she heard anything at all from her brother. Not that she didn't try. She did, hard and often, writing letters that would return stamped, "Addressee Transferred" or "Return to Writer." One has a note penciled-in: "wounded 8/7/18. We have no further record of this man," then a date "4-2-19," six months after the First World War ended. 

She must have been worried sick. The war, people claimed joyfully, was over. But what did she know of her brother? Nothing. A profound, inconsolable emptiness must have left her sleepless in a nightmare.

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I was a boy in the 1950s, forty long years after November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, when the unimaginable carnage of the First World War finally ended. As a kid, I knew very little about my great uncle, who, by way of a grenade thrown 100 years ago next month, met his death in some battlefield gully in France. What I knew is that he'd been killed in the Great War, and that my parents had better attend Decoration Day rallies in the cemetery south of town.

Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Those in the know were not particularly surprised to see Kaitlin Bennett come on campus around graduation dolled up as she was--her mortar board darlingly decorated with a dare, and her brother's assault rifle, with scope, slung over her shoulder. News stories claim that she was an outspoken 2nd Amendment advocate during her tenure as a student and that she wasn't at all shy about shooting off her mouth about guns.   

Howard Chandler Christy

Willa Cather’s My Antonia is 100 years old, published the same year tens of thousands of doughboys were killed in France and Belgium, thousands more dying of epidemic influenza even before they arrived in Europe. Cather’s classic novel brings the region alive, just as does “Roll Call on the Prairie,” an essay she published in the Red Cross magazine.

Today, Willa Cather’s tall-grass people are the “small wonders.” Here’s what she wrote.

Caroline Fraser says that what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote down about Kansas, long ago, says a great deal about her, even though the Kansas prairie was home to her very first memories. She wrote those memories down on "Big Chief" tablets and never intended them for publication, unlike so much else she put to writing. Just for the record, Caroline Fraser's Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, just won the Pulitzer. It's a great read.

German born in 1934, Inge Auerbacher was taken to Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp in Czechoslovakia at the age of 7. Of 15,000 children imprisoned at the camp, about 1 percent survived. Miraculously, her parents, who had also been transported to Terezín, lived. Upon returning to the place that had been their home, the family discovered thirteen close relatives had been slaughtered by the Nazis. They soon immigrated to the United States.

Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) Library

It was a highly fashionable method of getting across the Atlantic, a cruise ship bigger and faster than any other. A cruise ship with its own electrical system. elevators, and lavishly advertised passage space, especially for those hosted in first-class passage.

And it was May, May 7 to be exact, and while early May can sometimes feel alarmingly like late February, it so happened this this May 7 was mild, as was the sea. People were out of their cabins that day, out and about, anticipating arrival in England after a delightful voyage from New York.

Public Domain Pictures

Some psychologists want to drop the last initial in PTSD. They claim that to call PTSD a “disorder” makes the condition appear unusual. It isn’t. They claim that if you’ve been to war, you have post-traumatic stress because war is trauma.

I can’t help thinking such distinctions wouldn’t have mattered to the woman in the casket yesterday. Her husband took Nazi fire at the Battle of the Bulge and came home with a purple heart from wounds that were visible–and some that were not. “He just wasn’t the same when he came back from the war,” one of his relatives said.

Lully Lullay

Dec 31, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Coventry, an English city of 250,00 in the West Midlands, was home to significant industrial power when World War II began, a line of industries Hitler wouldn’t and didn’t miss. When the Battle of Britain began, a specific Coventry blitz started immediately and didn’t end for three long months--198 tons of bombs killed 176 people and injured almost 700.

But the worst was to come. On November 14, 1940, 515 Nazi bombers unloaded on Coventry’s industrial region, leaving the city in ruins. Its own air defenses fired 67 hundred rounds, but brought down only one bomber. It was a rout.

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Okay, it’s time to get serious. Before you talk about miracles and magic, let's have a good cold look at what happened in No Man's Land between British and German troops, December, 1914. Before you grab the Kleenex or get all teary and sentimental, you should remember that perfectly good reasons explain why peace broke out amidst war, why, for one unforgettable Christmas, a battlefield became an enchanted cartoon.

Be reasonable. The magic of that moment is perfectly explainable.

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The only picture we have of the guy makes him look like a criminal. His nose seems overlarge, as if swollen, as if he might have been beaten. If it weren’t for the thin moustache, he’d pass for a boy, a kid, someone more than slightly afraid of whoever held the camera. His hair is tousled, as if he’d not slept.

He doesn’t look like a criminal, although the picture itself looks like a mug shot, which it might have been.

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Some may believe that standing, hand over heart, for "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a profoundly patriotic gesture, but as a measure of homage to homeland it out-and-out pales in comparison to the giddy excesses America--and the world--took when going off to war a hundred years ago. 

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Some may believe that standing, hand over heart, for "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a profoundly patriotic gesture, but as a measure of homage to homeland it out-and-out pales in comparison to the giddy excesses America--and the world--took when going off to war a hundred years ago. 

James Schaap

We visited Stratford-upon-Avon, toured Shakespeare's house and watched the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Julius Caesar in the Royal Shakespearean Theater. I vaguely remember the grave of Jane Austin, but Piccadilly Circus is gone completely.

For reasons I can't explain, nothing in jolly old England left as hearty an impression as the bombed-out hulk of Coventry Cathedral. For a moment, the Battle of Britain was more than a grainy newsreel or a whole album of old black-and-whites.

Wikimedia Commons

There's very little to see now but row after row after row of foundations, a procession of rectangles angling down a long slope toward where there once stood a front gate. If you get there in June, the whole expanse will be awash in wildflowers, a bright yellow smiley face on a place you can’t help but grimace to remember.

When he was a kid, his father was killed when a rifle somehow discharged. A bloody fight for leadership ensued between him and his brother, and Little Crow was wounded in both wrists, scarring his arms so badly he kept them covered for his entire life. But he became the leader of the band of Dakota into which he was born. 

I love Audiobooks.  Having someone read me a story, even as an adult, is one of my favorite things. I suggest you check out City of Thieves by David Benioff and narrated by Golden Globe winning actor Ron Perlman.

[David Benioff is an American novelist, screenwriter, producer, and co-creator of the HBO series Game of Thrones.  City of Thieves is a novel based on his grandfather’s stories about surviving World War II in Russia.]