Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Meet John Elledge

A little personal interest stuff we wanted to share with our readers ...

John Porter Elledge is the Great-Grand Father of Charles Schuster, who is the Chair of the Berkeley Republican Breakfast Club.

This photo was taken in 1864, while he was serving in a Confederate battalion.

Humor and the Cold War: Ben Lewis' "Hammer and Tickle"

The use of satire and humor as forms of political critique is nothing new. In fact, they’re very much key means by which points are made right here in the Blogland, but they have a history that goes well beyond and before yours truly decided to curse the internet with his ramblings.

The book Satire TV, which was recently reviewed on this blogsite, followed the history of political satire on American television. Another good study of the use of political humor to critique and challenge political power can be found in “Hammer and Tickle: The story of Communism, a political system almost laughed out of existence”, by Ben Lewis, a writer for Prospect magazine in London.

Lewis’ book was based upon research conducted for a BBC documentary directed by Lewis in which he traveled the nations of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, studying how private citizens used humor to mock the communist system and challenge the power and competence of ruling Communist figures from the early days of the Soviet Union until the communism imploded in the late 1980s. In this book, he argues that Communism was "the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy".

If you’re like many Blogland readers who want to skip to the good stuff and move on to the next 3-4 paragraph blog article on the web, we’ll tell you this book was a great read. For those who want to learn a little more, keep reading.

Prisoner 7: What happened to Raoul Wallenberg?

News of the tragic Polish airplane crash while transporting many of Poland's high-ranking officials to visit the site of the Katyn Forest Massacre isn't the only recent news about a Soviet-inflicted WWII tragedy.

Recent news about the fate of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps, has come to light, suggesting he did not die shortly after his arrest, but rather may have been kept prisoner by the Soviets for many years.

Pete Reino's birthday gift to the Blogland

Occasions like birthdays  are great opportunities to relax, spend time with friends and family, and indulge a little.  But sometimes, they should be times in which we reflect upon how far we've come, and what we should be thankful for.

Fellow blogger Mike Reino over at SC6, recently talked about his Uncle Pete, PFC Peter Reino, who was killed in action 65 years ago this weekend (February 7) while serving in the U.S. Army's 76th division, which was deployed in Europe and quicky plowed across Germany in early 1945:

From what I know, no one in my family knew any details about Pete's death, just after his 19th birthday. All I knew was his Service Number, Division, Infantry Number and the day he died. Well, there are people out there who know enough military history that the info I had was enough - and he happened to run across my blog post.... Just 3 days before what would be Uncle Pete's 84th birthday, I now know where he died, and the important battle he fought in...

Pete served in the 76th Division, 417th Infantry Regiment, under General William Schmidt and the 12th Army Group under General Omar Bradley

Tell a Marine "Happy Birthday" today

It is on this date in 1775, Major Samuel Nicholas was commissioned by the Continental Congress to begin recruiting for what would become the United States Marines:

"That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant-Colonels, two Majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of Privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalion of Marines."

It is a date which may be remembered in infamy by many of America's enemies, but one which all Americans should remember with pride and appreciation.

So if you see a Marine today, don't forget to say "Happy Birthday" ... and thank him or her for their service to our nation and the cause of freedom for all.

"Tear down this wall" ... and it was done

Ask yourselves this question: Will they be content in such a state of slavery? If not, look to the consequences. Reflect how you are to govern a people who think they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme yields no revenue; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience

- Edmund Burke, 1774

Today, we recognize the day that, twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall came down, followed by the fall of the Soviet empire which envisioned the wall, both in physical and figurative terms. This had much to do with the words and the deeds of President Ronald Reagan, who stood before the wall two years before its fall, challenging those who built it to tear it down:

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe , if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

- Address from the Brandenburg Gate

As discussed previously on this blog, two Berlin Wall segments can be seen in Spartanburg, in front of the Menzel plant, which is near Mile 3 of the I-85 Business route. We encourage our readers to include a pilgrimage to this location next time they're in the Upstate.

If you go, think about the courage of those who defied the wall, by overt acts as well as by refusing to allow those who built it to crush their dreams of freedom. We'd also ask you to remember the 136 who died along that wall, as well as several hundred who died while attempting to escape East Germany elsewhere during the Cold War.

For those who haven't seen it, here's Reagan's 1987 Berlin Wall address:

What if Operation Valkyrie succeeded in killing Hitler?

One of the biggest "what if" scenarios historians ask about World War II relate to the final - and most dramatic - assasination attempt on Adolf Hitler. The recent movie by Tom Cruise examines the Stauffenberg plot in some depth, showing a plot which was on the cusp of succeeding, but was foiled at the last minute when Hitler survived.

While some may assume a plot would have led to a best-case scenario of the Nazi Party folding in the wake of Hitler's death, alternative history authors Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson consider a very different outcome of a successful assasination effort. They consider the possibility that Hitler's death would have allowed more rational and ambitious Nazi Party officials, such as Himmler, to outmanuever Stauffenberg's plotters and seize power, overturning some of Hitler's irrational policies in an attempt to allow Germany to attempt to salvage a rapidly-deteriorating strategic picture.

In two books - "Fox on the Rhine" and "Fox at the Front", Niles and Dobson look at how a Himmler regime might have sought to reverse its decline by rationalizing Germany military decision-making and unleashing its best generals to make the best use of what is left. These two books examine the role which might have been played by General Erwin Rommel, pitting him in a series of battles in the West, including a military historial dream match of a Battle of the Bulge between Rommel and George Patton.

In addition to considering the potential for Stauffenberg to become a victim of his own success, they also consider the possibility that, no matter what deals are cut and undersupported high-tech weapons programs are accelerated, Germany may already be past the point of no return.

There are a lot of plot twists and turns that make these books rather enjoyable summer reading - but you'll have to look these titles up on Amazon to get them.

The Worst President Ever?

American political culture is full of angry and hateful people these days, many of whom signify themselves by their hatred of President Bush, who they derisively call the “Worst President Ever”.

Sure, we all know Bush doesn’t win opinion polls, and there have been plenty of mistakes, but does he qualify as the Worst President Ever? Not hardly.

It has been our experience that most of the shit-for-brains lefties rabidly raging about the performance of the Bush administration have little or no background with American history upon which they base their judgments.

Look at how the Bush-hating crowd excitedly embraces Barack Obama, whose “Change” mantra is based upon a shallow political resume and a tendency to duck important issues, dodge critical questions about his associations and change his positions. They don’t worry about a history because history means nothing to them. Who was President in 1918 means as little as the content of the America-hating sermons to which Obama cheered or the numerous issues he has flipped on, or has been silent about.

We see the Bush-haters are spoiled brats who aren’t happy with what they have, don’t appreciate the freedom others sacrificed for, and just want to pound the table, squalling like babies for more, more, MORE!!!

But history is important here. It’s hard to assess the Bush administration without finding a comparative measure to hold it next to, so we’re going to give you our list of the Worst Presidents Ever:

  • President Buchanan (1857-1861): This one-term Democratic President not only failed to resolve the continual controversy over slavery, he allowed these issues to reach a point to where the first and only secession of states took place. The war that resulted from these failed policies left many cities in ruins and killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
  • President Grant (1869-1877): This two-term Republican President presided over an administration rife with corruption and numerous scandals. Known for being a drunk, Grant’s administration bungled the Reconstruction of the former Confederate states, with Reconstruction officials often viewed as corrupt, inept, and heavy-handed. Reconstruction failed to rebuild the South economically, prepare freed slaves for full participation in society or integrate the former Confederate states into the rapidly-industrializing nation. As a result, the South largely mired in poverty, ignorance, corruption, voter disenfranchisement and racial hatred for over a century. Elsewhere in the nation, the social problems stemming from industrialization went largely ignored during Grant’s watch.
  • President Wilson (1913-1921): President Wilson kept the United States out of a costly war in Europe until his failure to convince Germany to leave American interests resulted in numerous attacks against American shipping and citizens. Abroad, he failed to convince the victorious Allies to not punish Germany in their surrender, and at home, he failed to convince the United States Senate to allow the United States to join the League of Nations. His inability to lead effectively not only help get the US of A into the First World War, his leadership failures helped to fuel the second. (Thanks, Waldo, for correcting me on the dates.).
  • President Hoover (1929-1933). This one-term Republican President failed to take the Depression seriously, which did much to end the natural majority the GOP had enjoyed for most of the post-Civil War period. He stood back and did nothing as an unregulated stock market destroyed the savings of millions of families, putting millions out of work and on the streets. This depression became a global economic crisis during which many of the world’s democracies were toppled by dictators, many of whom played roles in instigating the Second World War.
  • President Johnson (1963-1969): President Johnson’s administration saw the nation begin to tear itself apart, with the assassinations of several prominent public figures and riots which burned in many of America’s inner cities. The Vietnam War, which Johnson pursued, became a no-win conflict in which half-a-million American troops were fighting a war in which generals were operating under tightly-controlled conditions that left over fifty thousand Americans dead. Johnson did nothing to challenge South Vietnam’s corrupt regime or force it to hold elections, which did much to help the nation fall shortly after American forces gave up and went home, unable to achieve a decisive military victory. The conflict also severely undermined it’s security obligations elsewhere in the world.
  • President Nixon (1969-1974): This administration inherited a mess and somehow found a way to make it even worse. The Nixon administration promised to conclude the Vietnam War, bring stability back to the country, and renew confidence in the government, but ended with the nation’s first energy crisis and Watergate. Enough said.
  • President Carter (1977-1981): Promising “change”, this former Georgia Governor swept from nowhere in the polls to securing the Democratic nomination, and on to win a close victory over GOP President Gerald Ford. In spite of a heavy Democratic majority with which to push a domestic agenda, the country facoed double-digit inflation and unemployment. His efforts to meet and placate the world’s dictators were just as much a failure, as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, threatening the Middle East, Iranian Islamic militants took the American embassy and kept its staff hostage for over a year, and Carter meekly handed the Panama Canal over to a regime headed up by a corrupt general well-known for drug trafficking.

What do we find when we actually look at our history, instead of just throwing out more hate? Other Presidents who tried to play nice with dictators and failed, others who had corrupt administrations, failed to promote domestic tranquility, started depressions, and got tens and hundreds of thousands killed in wars. Those who would argue that this administration is the worst ever would be hard-pressed to show how this administration compares to any of these prior administrations.

The day everything changed

We talk a lot about bold moves made by campaigns and political figures as if they have some great meaning to our lives, or some major impact upon the course of human events. But even the best of the planning, scheming and calculations that are part of South Carolina's political process pale in comparision to those which took place in the run-up to the day which we have come to know by simply as "D-Day".

That's a small name for an event which changed the world.

For us political hacks, June 10 may seem important, but for those of us who love liberty and have high hopes for the future of mankind, June 6 is the day that really matters.

Take a minute to reflect upon their courage and be thankful for what they did, and what they gave up, on that day. For all they did, it's the very least we can do.

Remembering #161253

Number 161253 was the number given to Pincus Kolender when he was in Auschwitz. It was the number he carried with him for the rest of his life, tattooed on his arm.

Tomorrow, he will be buried with that number. His funeral will be tomorrow at 11 a.m. (Sunday) in Brith Sholom Beth Israel's Maryville cemetery.

When World War II came to Poland, Pincus Kolender was a teenager. He watched his mother shot by German soliders and survived captivity in Auschwitz. When the war ended, his entire family - parents and siblings - were dead, victims of Nazi atrocities.

Having escaped while en route to another death camp, he escaped and was liberated by American soldiers. Five years later, as an American citizen, he was in uniform as a solider serving in the United States Army.

While many survivors were content to put the past behind and attempt to resume some degree of normalcy, Kolender spoke about his experiences whenever he could around the Lowcountry.

Thanks to Pincus Kolender, thousands bore personal witness to the reality of the Holocaust. The light of his life, which he shared with us, shone far brighter than the darkness of the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

We are forever grateful that he had the courage to bear witness of what he endured, to remind us of the evil that men can do. Let us hope that these lessons are not forgotten.

NAWB preview: On the road in Virginia

Today was a long day on the road in Virginia. To break the monotony, the Blogland took a few side trips.

The first was to the Petersburg National Battlefield. For those of you who don't know, Lee and Grant faced off along a relatively static front line on the outskirts of Peterburg for nearly a year, until Lee evacuated Richmond and Petersburg in an attempt to withdraw to regroup, resupply, and buy time.

What was probably the most spectacular moment of the siege took place near the present-day junction of Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 460 in what became known as "The Crater".

Union forces attempted to tunnel under Confederate siege lines. The tunnel was packed with explosives. The intended plan to rush Confederate lines and cut the Petersburg forces in half failed as Confederates realized the unsupported attackers were sitting ducks at the bottom of the blast crater. The result was a costly defeat for Union forces.

The second noteworthy stop of the day's ramblings was a visit to the site of the Battle of Sayler's Creek. About an hour's drive west of Petersburg, in rolling rural farm country, Lee's rear guard caught in their retreat from Richmond and Petersburg.

Outnumbered, outgunned, and exhausted, the Confederates turned and attacked pursuing forces, under the command of General Sheridan, and almost broke through. The outcome turned when blistering Union artillery attack turned what could have become a last victory into the tragic los
s of most of Lee's rear guard - nearly a quarter of the 35,000 troops remaining in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Stunned by the rout at Sayler's Creek and cornered by two Union armies, Lee surrendered his command to General Grant three days later at Appomattox Courthouse. This battle was considered by some to be the last stand of Lee's army.

Here are some pics from the visit:

The Confederate starting position east of the creek

The Union starting position west of the creek:

A house converted to a Union field hospital:

Tomorrow, the conference starts. Stay tuned.

"A date which will live in infamy"

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech to Congress, December 8, 1941:

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

"Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Fellow blogger Mike Burleson reminds us that twenty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate and demanded:

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe , if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
- Address from the Brandenburg Gate

For those my age and older, the Brandenburg Gate, which stood on the other side of the Berlin Wall from the free city of West Berlin, was a powerful symbol of just how divided Europe had been, and how radically different those two Europes were.

You can click here to listen to the speech.

When Mr. Gorbachev failed to answer Reagan's challenge, the people of West and East Germany came together to tear it down themselves. In doing so, they reclaimed their nation and changed the course of human events.

For my generation, Germany was powder keg, divided against itself, which threatened to become the flash point for a devastating global conflict. For my children, Germany is a unified nation, peaceful, prosperous, and a key partner in Europe.

What a change twenty years can make, with a little vision and the courage of a nation whose people were "yearning to breathe free".

Pictured are two portions of the Berlin Wall which were removed and brought to Spartanburg. They were erected in front of the Menzel plant on I-85 Business (the green I-85).


Thanks to World War II History for this photo

"For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history."
- Ronald Reagan, Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1984

Protecting the Camden battlefield

Flat Rock Road is a two-lane rural road that runs from Heath Springs to come into U.S. 521 north of Camden. For regional travelers who know the route, it's a welcome bypass around Kershaw. When I go to that part of the Upstate, sometimes looking to hear the seals, I'll go that way, after stopping down in Manning for D&H Barbeque.

Near the southern end of the road is a collection of a few markers in a nearly-overgrown and forested area marking the location of the Battle of Camden. Unlike other South Carolina battlefields from the Revolutionary War, such as Fort Moultrie, Cowpens, and Kings Mountain, this is one that is hardly marked at all.

That might have something to do with the fact that it was probably the most stunning battlefield defeat for the American army in the war (not counting the capitulation of General Lincoln's beseiged army in Charleston).

Just north of Camden, at what became known as the Battle of Camden, Cornwallis' British Army routed the Americans, infliting heavy casualties and virtually ending organized American military presence south of Virginia. Were it not for the rise of strong popular resistance, through organized and unorganized militias, this battle might have well ended the hopes of independence for the southern colonies - the primary mission of Cornwallis.

Fortunately, Camden, following the fall of Charleston, was the high tide of British fortunes, to be followed by the rise of widespread resistance in the Upstate, which culminated in staggering defeats for the British Army first at Kings Mountain, and then at Cowpens.

Congressman John Spratt, who I campaigned against often when I lived upstate, has put forth a commendable bill seeking to designate the Camden battlefield as a National Park:

“The Camden battlefield has been a National Historic Landmark since 1962, but it is not permanently protected,” said Spratt, “and the threats from encroachment loom larger with each year. Development interests are changing the use of surrounding land from forestry to residential and commercial. Only through National Park status can this historic site be protected by the National Park Service.”

This bill, H.R. 1674, is well worth supporting, so let's get behind it and protect this important place in the long march to independence for South Carolina.

For more information about this battle, you can check out this website with resources from the Kershaw County Historical Society.

Boris Yeltsin, we thank you

Yesterday, the news broke that Boris Yeltsin, first President of the Russian Federation, and the first Russian head of state since the murder of Czar Nicholas, died.

As we look back on his legacy, we find a checkered history and a Russia that to this day, remains torn between its authoritarian past and a Western future. But were it not for Yeltsin's defiance against the communist old guard, things would be far worse, and freedom less certain in Russia. Indeed, it is likely that without his bold stand upon the tank in 1991, a Soviet Empire would have continued on for a number of years, in the hands of the old generals who had attempted to ousted then-Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

It would have been likely an empire under siege, continuing to rot from within and without, and losing client states to creeping popular resistance and democratic risings that had started to set in by the early 1990s. Those desperate enough to oust their leader and make a show of force in their own nation may well have responded to dissent with force elsewhere, and may even have challenged the West in a much larger conflict.

While much that has been learned about Soviet military capabilities suggested the threats may have been overrated, and that NATO may have prevailed in a land war in Europe, the conflict would have been so devastating as to be unthinkable. Even worse, such a conflict could have gone global, perhaps even nuclear. In such a world, the only wars that are truly won are those which are never fought.

Thanks to Yeltsin and his supporters, who had the courage to tear the rotting Soviet structure down before its collapse could imperil the West, as well as the rest of the world, we'll never know how bad it could have gotten. While freedom still faces great challenges in Russia, at least it is now a possibility - without Yeltsin, it is likely Russia, or the Soviet Union, would only face the certainty of tyranny, and the world an uncertain peace, or worse yet, certain war.

This one accomplishment for his people, as well as all of humanity, towers far above anything else he did, or did not, accomplish. For that, I am grateful.

May his memory be eternal.

Flight 93 on A&E

For those of ya'll who have cable or satellite, I would encourage ya'll to watch their movie on Flight 93.

The movie wasn't full of special effects or big stars. Just a plain and straightforward movie about plain and ordinary folks who did extra-ordinary things. Perhaps that style of production is one of the best tributes that could have been made.

Years later, words still can't express the things I think and the things I feel about that day, or when I think about the courage of those who taught those terrorists and the world that when the chips are down, the ordinary American will stand up and be counted.

There are moments in American history where brave men and women made their stand, even in the face of certain defeat or death:

  • The Alamo defenders were wiped out, but bought time for the Texas Army to rally and win their freedom from Mexico,
  • The marines at Wake Island fought against overwhelming odds against the Japanese, but held up large numbers of Japanese troops and ships to buy time,
  • ... and now, we are have the legacy of those brave Americans on Flight 93, who made their stand and denied those terrorists their victory.
May we always remember their courage, and work to emulate it in our lives.

Two Shots: The Battle of Cowpens

Tuesday, January 17, marks the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens. Few, even in South Carolina, are aware of the battle, and its significance to the outcome of the War for American Independence.
While few are familiar with the name, the battle was recreated as the big battle scene in the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot". True to what really happened, led by Gen. Daniel Morgan, a rough-and-tough farmer turned solider (sound familiar?), the militia fired two rounds on the over-confident British regulars, who charged with bayonet right into American regular soliders. While the rest of the battle in the movie differed somewhat, the outcome was the same - a major defeat for the British.

General Cornwallis, angered by the loss of his dragoons and seeking to avenge defeat, as well as at
King's Mountain the previous fall, defied orders to keep his army in South Carolina. He pushed northwards into North Carolina and then Virginia, allowing a coalition of militia and regular Continential forces took advantage of his departure to push the British to evacuate the entire state, with the exception of the vicinity of Charleston.

Cornwallis' quest led him to a draw at Guilford Courthouse, then to resupply his diminshed and exhausted army at the small Virigina port of Yorktown. I'm sure you know the rest of the story from there.

On Tuesday, take a moment to reflect on this important battle, and the sacrifices made here in South Carolina by so many that would help allow these remote British colonies to win their independence, and go on to have such a major impact upon the course of world events.

"Let's Fight a War Game ... Everybody Dies": A Bridge Too Far & Operation

One of my favorite World War II movies is "A Bridge Too Far", focusing on the Allies' ambitious Operation Market Garden. This movie was based upon a bold Allied plan to cut off a large part of the retreating German forces in Belgium and Holland, and position the Allies to launch a push eastwards across the north German plain country before the end of 1944.

The operation, planned by British General Bernard Montgomery, unfolded in September of 1944, with three airborne divisions, the US 82nd and 101st, and British 1st (joined by the Polish Airborne Brigade) assigned to seize several critical bridge chokepoints along a highway corridor that extended halfway across Holland, northwards to the critical Rhine River crossing at Arnhem. The British 30 Corps would push northwards, connecting the "islands", and the US First Army would then push across Belgium to catch a large part of the German forces in the West in a pocket.

If the operation had worked, the war could have been shortened by months as Allied forces would have poured into Germany months before the Western Allies finally managed to cross the Rhine River, maybe even reaching Berlin ahead of the Red Army.

But that's not quite how it worked.

Overconfidence and errors in planning and intelligence led to Allies underestimating the strength, quality, and morale of German forces. Of the many errors, none were more tragic than the dropping of the British and Polish Airborne troops into the Arnhem area, where they faced two crack SS Panzer divisions and were massacred.

While most of the advance planned by Montgomery was completed, the effort to seize Arnhem failed as German resistance to the south of Arnhem put 30 Corps nearly a week behind schedule. This allowed the Panzer divisions to focus on eliminating the airborne forces before reinforcements could arrive. The result was a fifty-mile dead end that did little to effect the strategic situation, or to position the Western Allies to punch into Germany.

Based on a book by Cornelius Ryan, this movie was one of the last "ensemble" movies with large number of well-known actors. Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, and others were in this film. Ryan also wrote the book and then screenplay for "The Longest Day", an other WW II classic movie about the D-Day invasion.

Much of this film centers around the experience of the doomed British 1st Airborne. As opposed to many movies which depict the Allies as overly-competent heroes, and the Germans as bungling villans, the movie fairly showed both sides, complete with bungling by British planners, and Germans who fought back with skill and determination, as well as mercy towards the British who surrendered.

Check out this BBC report on the battle and this memorial website for more information.

The title quote is attributed to Polish Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski, the commander of the Polish Airborne Brigade, in a rather blunt assessment of the operation.

Arbeit Macht Frei: Return to Dachau

In my email this morning came a rather moving story of the celebration of Pashcha (Easter) by Orthodox faithful in the Dachau death camp shortly after the liberation of in Nazi Germany by the United States' Seventh Army. In an amazing act of improvisation, Orthodox faithful of many nationalities came together to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, with the help of imprisoned Catholic clergy and U.S. Army officials.

Regrettably, the Russians who were liberated from Dachau were turned over to Red Army and Soviet Communist officials, and many of them were branded traitors and sent to gulags in Russia. Today, a Russian Orthodox chapel, built by Russian Army soldiers prior to their 1994 withdrawal from Germany, graces the grounds, including the pictured Icon of Christ setting the prisoners free.

In addition, several other churches and chapels are located on the Dachau grounds.

Over 200,000 were imprisoned in Dachau since the death camp opened in 1933. Of those who spent time at Dachau, 43,000 died and only 67,000 remained alive to greet the liberating American soldiers on April 29, 1945. The Orthodox faithful celebrated Pascha on the Orthodox Easter Sunday on May 6th, 1945.

"Dachau - the significance of this name will never be erased from German history. It stands for all concentration camps which the Nazis established in their territory." - Eugen Kogon