Each of the insignia represents a different military unit, and each obviously is the subject of significant unit pride. They’re all cool, but my favorite is the “Bully Beef Express” emblem found in the upper left quadrant of the doorway. The “Bully Beef Express” refers to the Sixth Airlift Squadron, a unit that was formed in 1933 and that got its nickname flying boiled beef to American troops in the Pacific during World War II. The distinctive patch with the snorting bull was developed shortly after the Squadron received its nickname.
Posts Tagged ‘World War II’
Posted in America, sports, tagged America, Apollo 8, Big Ten, Big Ten basketball, Buckeye Basketball, Carrier Classic, college basketball, Marquette, Military, Ohio State, Patriots Point, sports, United States Navy, USS Yorktown, Vietnam War, World War II on November 9, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Tonight the Ohio State men’s basketball teams kicks off its season with a game against the Marquette Golden Eagles. The game should be especially interesting, and not just because the Buckeyes and Marquette are two big-time programs.
The added interest comes from the game’s location. It will be played outside, on the deck of the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned aircraft carrier. The players will have to deal with the wind, and the different sight lines, and adjust to playing in a fundamentally different setting than your normal college basketball arena. It will be a test of the players’ focus: can they shoot as they normally do, or will they be distracted by the carrier’s bridge superstructure, looming just behind one of the baskets?
The setting is not only novel, but also historic. The Yorktown is a fabled ship, built in only 16 1/2 months during the heart of World War II to replace a prior Yorktown that was sunk at the Battle of Midway. The new Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and fought valiantly during the Pacific offensive that defeated Japan. The Yorktown went on to serve during the Vietnam War and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts when they returned to Earth in December 1968. The ship was decommissioned in 1970 and was towed to Charleston, South Carolina in 1975 to become part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
I’ll be watching tonight to see how this year’s version of the basketball Buckeyes look — but also to take a gander at the Yorktown and think about the sailors who served on her and did so much for the country. Fittingly, the proceeds from the game, called the Carrier Classic, will benefit armed forces charities.
Today is the 68th anniversary of D-Day — the Allied invasion of Europe as part of the great campaign to wipe the scourge of Nazism off the face of the Earth and restore peace and democracy. It was a bloody, terrible day, but the beachhead was secured, the invasion went forward, and ultimately the enemy was defeated.
In 1984 President Reagan used the occasion of the 40th anniversary of D-Day to give one of the greatest speeches he ever delivered. He stood on the soil of Normandy, faced a group of Army Rangers — the “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” — who had acted with unbelievable courage in fulfilling their role in the battle plan on June 6, 1944, and talked about the deeply felt beliefs that motivated those men, and the brave citizens of every participating nation, to endure the sacrifices necessary to rescue the people of Europe from tyranny. The speech was deeply moving to anyone who felt pride in those sacrifices and profound appreciation for the Boys of Pointe du Hoc and their fellow Allied soldiers.
The RealClearPolitics website reprinted the speech today to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day. It’s well worth reading, and contemplating. As with so many great speeches, its meaning remains fresh, even though the Iron Curtain and the challenge to peace that existed in 1984 has passed, to be replaced by the challenges Europe faces today. It remains important for us to remember what happened 68 years ago, and why, and to ask anew: “Who were these men?”
Posted in Books, Movies, TV, World, tagged Books, Fatherland, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Inglourious Basterds, Iron Sky, Movies, Nazi Germany, Nazis, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Trek, TV, World, World War II on February 16, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
The hottest ticket at this year’s Berlin Film Festival is a self-proclaimed “B Movie” called Iron Sky. Its consciously over-the-top plot features Nazis trying to conquer Earth from a swastika-shaped base on the far side of the moon.
I doubt Iron Sky will ever make it to our local multiplex cinema, but the movie’s popularity shows, once again, that people are endlessly intrigued by Nazis. Books, movies, and TV shows involving Nazis always seem to find an audience.
The original Star Trek had two episodes involving Nazis — one in which a drug-deranged Dr. McCoy goes back in time and changes history so Germany wins World War II, and another where a famous historian tries to help a culture by modeling it on Nazi Germany, with predictably disastrous results. Nazis make great bad guys (and often comic relief), as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Inglourious Basterds, among many others, have demonstrated. Some years ago the book Fatherland, about a detective who uncovers a dark secret in a triumphant Nazi Germany, was a best-seller. Alternative histories in which Germany prevails in World War II also are a staple of that genre.
Nazi Germany was one of the most brutal, bloody, awful regimes in the history of the world. Why is it such a popular subject for fiction — to the point where it can even be the subject of humor? Why does Nazi Germany seem to be a far more popular setting for fiction than, say, Imperial Japan?
Perhaps it is just because Nazi Germany, with its goose-stepping soldiers, stiff-armed salutes, and elaborate uniforms and ceremonies, already seems so fantastic that it is especially well-suited to whatever embellishment a creative mind could supply. I also wonder, however, whether fictionalizing Nazi Germany is just a kind of cultural defense mechanism. If you routinely depict Nazi Germany as a setting for outlandish activities, maybe it is easier to forget that a racist, bloodthirsty, soulless government actually existed, slaughtering Jews by the millions and dominating Europe, only 70 years ago — within the lifetimes of millions of still-living people.
Posted in Family, Travel, tagged Battle of Normany, Bois de Boulogne, Eiffel Tower, Eurotrip 2011, Family, Hotel d’Angleterre, La Grande Arche, Le Corbusier, Le Havre, Monet, Notre Dame, Paris, Peace & Love hostel, Poissy, Richard Webner, Rouen, Saint-Ouen, Travel, UNESCO, Villa Savoye, World War II on May 12, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
After Dad left, Roland and I lugged our stuff to the other side of Paris, where we had a reservation at the Peace & Love hostel for two nights. Unfortunately, Roland’s first hostel happened to be the worst one I’ve stayed at so far. The room was crowded and dirty, with three beds in each bunk, leaving you too little room to sit on your bed and increasing your chance of being awoken in the middle of the night by your bedmate climbing the ladder. The only common area was a bar that doubled as the reception desk, where people partied all hours of the day. There was no kitchen, and the bathroom was dirty. The staff seemed more interested in pouring shots for the partiers than making your stay comfortable.
Alas, we were stuck with the hostel – we had pre-booked it not only for those two nights, but for another after returning from Rouen three days later to fly out of Paris the next day.
I decided to devote my last day in Paris to seeing Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. However, the train going to Poissy, the Parisian suburb where the building is located, was shut down - something I discovered only after a lot of frustrated waiting and wandering. By the time I found an employee of the Metro system who spoke enough English to explain to me that I had to take a different route to get there, it was early afternoon and I was too tired to go. Instead, I checked out Paris’s strangely peaceful central business district (where I happened to be when my plans were sidetracked). It wasn’t very charming, as you can see, but I liked La Grande Arche, a modern counterpart to the Arc de Triomphe.
I spent most of the day reading next to a beautiful pond at the Bois de Boulogne park on the outskirts of the city. Like the Villa Borghese park in Rome, it was bereft of tourists.
The next morning, Roland and I took a train to Rouen. There are no hostels in northern France, for some reason, so we were forced to stay in a hotel. Going without the social atmosphere of a hostel would have been a big problem if Roland hadn’t been with me. We ended up really liking the hotel – the Hotel d’Angleterre – thanks to its location next to the river, its friendly staff, and the fact that it costs only slightly more than the average hostel.
Rouen was a big change for me after staying in Paris for ten days. It was less crowded and noisy and fast-paced. We seemed to be some of the only tourists in the city. The people were less beautiful and stylishly dressed, which isn’t a complaint, because it means they were also more approachable. I was surprised to see so much Norman architecture there.
Rouen has three wonderful Gothic cathedrals – the Notre Dame, the Saint Maclou, and the Saint Ouen. The Notre Dame is well-known as the subject of a series of paintings by Monet, who tried to capture its colors at different times of the day.
That evening, with the help of our hotel’s receptionist, Roland and I devised a brilliant plan to rent a car the next morning and use it to see Mont Sant-Michel and Saint-Malo in one day. We walked to the car rental store the next morning with optimistic smiles, having already fixed our lunches for the trip, only to have our spirits crushed by the employee who informed us that no cars were available that day.
Roland decided to stay in Rouen to do sketches. I debated the pros and cons of the three nearby cities I could get to for free with my Eurail pass: Caen, Dieppe, and Le Havre. I chose Le Havre, even though everyone told me it was an ugly city that wasn’t worth visiting. I was attracted to it for a few reasons: because its downtown, rebuilt with reinforced concrete after being destroyed in the Battle of Normandy, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; because I had had enough of pretty French coastal cities after Nice and Marseilles; and because it was the underdog.
My day in Le Havre was one of the most interesting of my trip, but the buildings there are horribly ugly. It was sad walking into town from the train station; as you get closer to the city center, there are fewer old-style buildings and more post-war ones made of exposed concrete. Even the city’s cathedral was rebuilt in that style. It was a powerful reminder of the destructiveness of World War II, which I haven’t seen much evidence of in the other cities I’ve visited so far.
Although the post-war structures are ugly, their architects constructed them with modern materials so that they could rebuild Le Havre and provide comfortable housing to its citizens as quickly as possible.
Le Havre is clearly eager to make sure its few tourists have a good time. It’s tourist office was the best I’ve seen, with English-speaking employees who gave me a free map and suggestions for a walking tour. Everyone seemed to be happy that I was visiting the city. I felt like an honored guest when I was there.
After returning to Paris the next day, I had enough energy to make the many little train and bus trips necessary to get to the Villa Savoye in Poissy. It was a beautiful counterpart to Le Havre’s ugly modern buildings. Le Corbusier’s design looks clean, light and interesting. Thanks to windows that span almost the entire exterior walls, it was so sunny inside that I had to wear my sunglasses. There is a garden in the courtyard on the second floor and on the roof.
My trip to the Villa Savoye was also like the one to Le Havre in that afterwards I was glad I had strayed from the popular tourist spots and had a more personal experience as a result.
When Roland and I went to the Peace & Love hostel at 6 P.M. to check in, they told us they had given our beds away because we’d arrived more than three hours after the arrival time listed in our reservation – something that the other hostels I’ve stayed at haven’t paid attention to. We found a cheap room at a nearby hotel and tried to forget that the Peace & Love hostel existed.
We took one final walk through Paris to the Arc de Triomphe and the beautifully-lit Eiffel Tower, where we stayed until late at night drinking wine. Although I had spent ten nights in Paris, I wasn’t tired of it at all, like I was when I spent the same amount of time in Rome.
Yesterday Kish, Richard and I went to see The King’s Speech. The film is every bit as good as the critics are saying, and maybe better. It is the best movie I have seen in years.
The King’s Speech is a simple story about a man who is struggling to overcome what he considers to be a humiliating affliction — a ferocious, disabling stutter — and the connection he forms with a speech instructor who helps him to overcome it. That story is told powerfully, and well.
But the film is much more than that. It works as a historical drama because the story is set against the backdrop of the death of a king, the abdication of another, the rise of Nazi Germany, and an increasingly inevitable war that everyone is dreading. It works on a deeper level as a human story because the stutterer, a royal, has never really formed a human connection with anyone, much less a commoner from Australia who calls him Bertie and insists on being called Lionel. And it works because the performances — by Colin Firth as George VI, by Geoffrey Rush as the king’s speech instructor, by Helena Bonham Carter as the king’s wife, and by many, many others — are stunningly good. Firth is astonishingly effective in communicating the frustrations and embarrassments of a stutterer who strives bravely to overcome his condition and who, in the process, learns about himself, and Rush creates an instantly memorable character who insists on an equal relationship and, when that relationship is formed, radiates warmth and support for his pupil.
The result is an intensely moving film that packs a tremendous emotional impact. Who would have thought that an American audience would find itself pulling for a British king who must give an important speech? But pull for him we did. The King’s Speech is a movie that is well worth seeing.
As I mentioned several weeks ago, Kish and I have been hooked on The Pacific, the miniseries on HBO, and we watched it to the end. I thought it was some of the best television I have ever seen.
The last episode aired on Sunday, and it was powerful stuff indeed. In fact, the tremendous power of the episode was especially surprising, because after weeks of watching people getting shot and blown to bits, dealing with soul-searing horror, and struggling — not always successfully — to maintain their essential humanity, we got to see them come home to a peaceful, bucolic America that had not really changed since they had left. The prior weeks of bloody carnage and terror made the poor, ravaged veterans’ return all the more poignant, as they struggled to find jobs, get grounded, and deal with loved ones who could not possibly understand what they had lived through. How unreal and bizarre America must have seemed! The scene where Private Sledge sat under a beautiful spreading tree on the lawn of his sprawling family home in Mobile, Alabama, politely yet firmly explaining to his mother that he had no plans and no interest in looking for work for a while, was especially memorable in that regard.
The clincher was the last few minutes of the broadcast, where the actors depicting the characters morphed into the actual soldiers, and we saw what they went on to achieve. Most of them married, raised families, had successful careers, and somehow dealt with the nightmares and ingrained terror. How did they do it, and how can our country ever repay the debt it owes to them?
Kish and I have enjoyed The Pacific, the new drama series on HBO. It is extremely well done, and I particularly like the idea of using interviews with actual World War II veterans about the battle that will be portrayed to provide the introduction and framework for each episode. With The Pacific, as with any realistic “war movie,” I am shocked and amazed by the violence, the bloodshed, the hours of boredom alternating with the long adrenalin-drenched minutes of freakish horror, and ultimately the simple heroism of the American boys — and boys they were — who were shipped to unknown overseas lands to fight and die in the most brutal conditions imaginable.
The Pacific theatre of World War II is interesting on many levels, not the least of which is the clash of two cultures that really didn’t understand each other. One of the only drawbacks to The Pacific I have noted (and we’ve only watched the first two episodes so far) is that there is no representation of the Japanese point of view. That is too bad, because the Japanese perspective on the war truly is fascinating. If you want to get a good sense of how and why the Japanese fought, and what their culture was like leading up to and including the war years, read The Rising Sun by John Toland, which is one of my favorite books.
Posted in America, World, tagged Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, America, American History, Military, Osama bin Laden, Pearl Harbor, President Obama, President Roosevelt, World, World War II on December 7, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Sixty-eight years ago, the Imperial government of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack on America’s main Pacific Ocean naval base was just one of many attacks launched by Japan that day, but it is the one that Americans remember most. President Roosevelt called it a day that will live in infamy, and he was right. Americans still remember the attack, still burn inwardly at the iconic photographs of tilting, sinking battleships partially obscured by smoke, and still visit the Arizona monument and think somberly of the sailors below, trapped forever in their watery tomb.
I mention Pearl Harbor not merely because today is the 68th anniversary of the bombing, but because I think our national response to the attack is worth remembering. Under President Roosevelt’s leadership, America — which was horribly unprepared for war — geared up for an enormous struggle, fought a two-front war that featured bloody battles on virtually every continent, and eventually forced its enemies to accept unconditional surrender. America did not ask for war, but when war was thrust upon it, it accepted that burden, made the necessary sacrifices, fought the war, and won.
I recognize that fighting an elusive terrorist network like Al Qaeda is not like fighting the Japanese Empire or Nazi Germany. Al Qaeda’s minions do not wear uniforms or fight conventional battles. Instead, they hide in remote, lawless areas, like the wild, mountainous territory along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and wage war through suicide bombers and other terrorist devices. Nevertheless, Al Qaeda attacked our country just as surely, and with results as devastating and deadly, as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The only appropriate response to that attack is to find our enemies, engage them, and ultimately kill them on the field of battle.
This seems self-evident to me. The first obligation of any nation must be to ensure its own security, and no nation can be secure if it allows deadly attacks to occur without finding and defeating the attackers. The United States therefore must find and defeat Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. If, as our government currently suspects, they are in Afghanistan, then that is where we also must be. For that reason, I support President Obama’s decision to send in more troops, and I think we should stay in Afghanistan — or wherever Osama bin Laden and his terrorist gang is found — until we get the job done. This is not a war that America asked for, but it is a war that we must win.
It is hard to imagine that, nearly 65 years after the end of World War II, there are many new secrets to learn about Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, historians think they might learn something new from the memoirs of Fritz Darges, who died recently at age 96. Darges was Hitler’s last SS adjutant, serving from 1940 to 1944, and was present for all major conferences on the war during that time.
What I found surprising about this article is that some revisionist historians apparently have argued that Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust. Therefore, there is interest in whether Darges’ memoirs will confirm that Hitler in fact was aware of the Holocaust.
It is hard to believe that a compelling case can be made that a rabid anti-Semite who was the absolute leader of a totalitarian regime could be completely clueless about an operation on the magnitude of the Holocaust, with its specific purpose of addressing the “Jewish problem” that Hitler himself had repeatedly discussed. How could Hitler be unaware of a program that involved the construction of multiple work camps and death camps, the organized round-up of millions of Jews throughout occupied Europe, the use of dedicated trains to transport Jews to Auschwitz and other hellish locations, and countless other indications of organized murder on an unprecedented scale? Does anyone really believe that the Nazi officials directly involved in planning and executing the Holocaust did not boast of their activities to the Fuehrer whose crazed writings and speeches on the subject demonstrated that he would be a receptive and enthusiastic supporter of what they were doing?
September 1, 1939 — 70 years ago today — is generally regarded as the date World War II began, with the German invasion of Poland. (Some might argue, taking a broader view, that the world was at war for most of the 1930s, whether it was the Japanese in Manchuria and China, the Italians in Ethiopia, or the Spanish Civil War, among other armed conflicts.)
Spiegel online is running a two-part series on how World War II began. Part I is here. The overwhelming, and tragic, message is that the war could easily have been avoided had France, England, and other European nations called one of Hitler’s various bluffs — but they didn’t, and the war began. It did not end until six years had passed, entire cities and cultures had been destroyed, 60 million people had died, and the Holocaust had wiped out millions of Jews. No one could have foreseen that result when, for example, France and England made the decision to accept Hitler’s reoccupation of the Rhineland.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Posted in Columbus, Movies, tagged Brad Pitt, David Bowie, Giorgio Moroder, Holocaust, Inglourious Basterds, John Travolta, Kill Bill, Movies, Nazis, Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman, World War II on August 22, 2009 | 1 Comment »
Yesterday, my friends and I went to the Arena Grand to see Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Inglorious Basterds, which he has supposedly been working on for almost a decade. At the very end of the movie, after carving a swastika into a Nazi’s forehead, Brad Pitt’s character turns to the camera and says “I think this is my masterpiece.” Obviously, Quentin Tarantino was speaking to the audience with this line, and is quite proud of this movie.
Tarantino should be proud. He took his usual routine – humorous violence, cool villains, non-stop cheesy pop culture references – and made it work in the setting of the Holocaust, a historical event that few like to joke about, at least openly. Tarantino’s style is toned down slightly, since the 1940s didn’t have the cheesy pop songs or fast food orders of the late 20th century, but everything is still there. When one character, known for killing dozens of Nazi SS officials, is introduced, his name shoots across the screen in bold, bright letters that look like they came from the seventies, and a power guitar chord is sounded. The movie also features a montage set to David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder’s early eighties hit “Cat People”.
Despite Tarantino’s sarcasm, I never felt that the gravity of the Holocaust was disrespected. Brad Pitt’s crew of American Jews intent on killing as many Nazis as possible is always understood to be on a righteous mission, despite their ruthlessness. If anything, the Holocaust setting makes Tarantino’s formula work better. Tarantino’s movies have always glamorized violence, and the fact that most of the violence in Basterds is affecting Nazis makes it easier to enjoy. The scenes that show the violence and hatred of the Nazis are intense and could upset some people, but they served to make Brad Pitt’s murderous acts more excusable and, frankly, enjoyable. They are certainly easier to root for than John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction and even Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill.
The movie is flawed, mostly in the same ways all of Tarantino’s movies are flawed. The dialogue sometimes drags on too long and feels awkward, some characters (including Brad Pitt’s) are underdeveloped, and the movie itself is too long. But it is good, and Tarantino should get credit for presenting the Holocaust from a new, bold perspective, and doing so quite masterfully.
D-Day was 65 years ago today. The U.S. Army has an interesting website with information, photos, and a transcript of General Eisenhower’s famous speech to the troops. The successful invasion of Normandy marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi regime in Germany and changed the world — not forever or unalterably, but for the better.
D-Day was a day where ordinary men who had trained to be soldiers did extraordinary things. I think the photo above helps to capture — admittedly, in a very limited way — what it must have been like to be on one of the landing craft on that fateful day. I cannot imagine, however, what it must have been like to leave that craft, to jump into the water as the bullets flew and the artillery fire raged, to make your legs move and keep your head as friends were being killed, and then to take the beachhead. When the beachhead was taken and the pillboxes had been knocked out and the adrenalin flow began to return to normal, what was it like to stand on the heights and look back on the carnage? Did the men reflect with pride on their achievement, or mourn their dead friends, or pray, or just want to smoke a cigarette and thank their luck and their God?
We should never forget their sacrifice.