Category Archive 'WWII'
22 Aug 2022

WWII, Wagner, and Burnt Njal

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Trinity College Library, Dublin.

Vanderleun quoted from Lee Sandin’s Losing the War, a fine essay on WWII, Bayreuth during the war years, war in general, and the Saga of Burnt Njal.

So while their colleagues fell into daydreams of imminent victory, the few remaining rational men of the Axis bureaucracy grew just as convinced that surrender to the Allies on any terms was tantamount to suicide. As far as they were concerned, every additional day the war lasted — no matter how pointless, no matter how phantasmal the hope of victory, no matter how desperate and horrible the conditions on the battlefield — was another day of judgment successfully deferred.

This is the dreadful logic that comes to control a lot of wars. (The American Civil War is another example.) The losers prolong their agony as much as possible, because they’re convinced the alternative is worse. Meanwhile the winners, who might earlier have accepted a compromise peace, become so maddened by the refusal of their enemies to stop fighting that they see no reason to settle for anything less than absolute victory. In this sense the later course of World War II was typical: it kept on escalating, no matter what the strategic situation was, and it grew progressively more violent and uncontrollable long after the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The difference was that no other war had ever had such deep reserves of violence to draw upon.

The Vikings would have understood it anyway. They didn’t have a word for the prolongation of war long past any rational goal — they just knew that’s what always happened. It’s the subject of their longest and greatest saga, the Brennu-njalasaga, or The Saga of Njal Burned Alive. The saga describes a trivial feud in backcountry Iceland that keeps escalating for reasons nobody can understand or resolve until it engulfs the whole of northern Europe. Provocation after fresh provocation, peace conference after failed peace conference, it has its own momentum, like a hurricane of carnage. The wise and farseeing hero Njal, who has never met the original feuders and has no idea what their quarrel was about, ultimately meets his appalling death (the Vikings thought there was nothing worse than being burned alive) as part of a chain of ever-larger catastrophes that he can tell is building but is helpless to stop — a fate that seems in the end to be as inevitable as it is inexplicable.

For the Vikings, this was the essence of war: it’s a mystery that comes out of nowhere and grows for reasons nobody can control, until it shakes the whole world apart. Njal’s saga ends with a vision of war as the underlying horror of the world, always waiting underneath the frail mirage of peace. In a final dream image, spectral women are seen working an occult and horrible loom: “Men’s heads were used in place of weights, and men’s intestines for the weft and warp; a sword served as the beater, and the shuttle was an arrow. And these were the words the women were chanting:

    Blood rains
    From the cloudy web
    On the broad loom
    Of slaughter.
    The web of man
    Gray as armor
    Is being woven.

Do read the whole thing. It’s a fine essay.

09 Aug 2022

The Wit and Wisdom of Sergeant Stan W. Scott

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Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife.
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We all went for a Burton.”

yellow jersey.. Tour de France

Trossocks!”

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“Those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing
violence on their behalf.”
 –George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism (1945)”

01 Aug 2022

A History Lesson

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03 Jul 2022

100 Year Old Veteran: “This Is Not The Country We Fought For”

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Original article link

30 May 2022

My Father’s War

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WGZInduction1942
My father (on the left, wearing jacket & tie, holding the large envelope), aged 26, was the oldest in this group of Marine Corps volunteers from Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, September 1942, so he was put in charge.

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William G. Zincavage, Fall 1942, after graduating Marine Corps Boot Camp

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WGZBillyClub
Military Police, North Carolina, Fall 1942
He was only 5′ 6″, but he was so tough that they made him an MP.

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3rdDivision
Third Marine Division

1stAmphibiousCorps
I Marine Amphibious Corps

First Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Solomon Islands Consolidation (Guadalcanal), Winter-Spring 1943
New Georgia Group Operation (Vella LaVella, Rendova), Summer 1943
“The Special Troops drew the first blood.” — Third Divisional History.

“We never saw them but they were running away.” — William G. Zincavage

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3rdAmphibious-Corps
III Marine Amphibious Corps

Third Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Marianas Operation (Guam), Summer 1944

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5thAmphibious-Corps
V Marine Amphibious Corps

Fifth Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945

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Navy Unit Commendation (Iwo Jima)
Good Conduct Medal
North American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Four Bronze Stars

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While recovering from malaria after the Battle of Iwo Jima, he looked 70 years old.

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But he was back to normal in December of 1945, when this photo was taken shortly before he received his discharge.

30 May 2022

Memorial Day

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All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

JoeZincavage1
Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
(No wartime photograph available, but he’s sitting on a Henderson Motorcycle in this one.)


William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps


Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps


Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps.

28 Jan 2022

Nice Story

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Via Opb:

Nobuo Fujita, a Japanese pilot, was the only person to ever bomb the contiguous US. After the war, he was invited back to the same town he bombed (Brookings, Oregon).
Once there, Fujita offered his family’s katana to the mayor, as a token of remorse and humility.
_
Hours before sunrise off the coast of Oregon in September of 1942, there was movement on a submarine. It was nine months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and a team of Japanese sailors were quickly assembling a seaplane on the deck.

Next to them was a catapult for takeoff and a crane to pick the wheel-less plane from the sea after the mission – they were going to bomb the coast as retaliation for what was known as the ‘Doolittle raids’ which had struck Tokyo months prior.

30 year-old fighter pilot Nobuo Fujita had wanted to bomb LA or San Francisco – but had been told by his superiors to target Brookings, Oregon.

Fujita would ignite the forest, engulfing a chain of towns, drawing valuable resources away from battle and inciting fear throughout the West Coast.

But Oregon conditions wouldn’t allow it. It was wet and the bombs fizzled in the damp woods.
The crew packed away the plane and headed back West.

20 years later, a group of Brookings businessmen invited Fujita back for the towns’ Memorial Day celebrations.

When Fujita arrived, he gifted his families prized 400-year-old samurai sword to the town.

Brookings and Fujita forged a bond that lasted the next 3 decades. The town made him an honorary citizen in 1997. He passed away just days later at 85 years old.
A tree had been planted in the place where Fujita dropped the bombs, his daughter spread his ashes at the location. She said she felt his soul would be flying over the forest forever.

RTWT

31 Aug 2021

“Two Photos: Two Different Americas”

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Warren Kozak, in the NY Sun, points to two images as metonymies for the change in American leadership over the last three quarter century.

Both wars began with unprovoked, surprise, and devastating attacks against the United States. In 1941, the Japanese destroyed much of our Pacific fleet and killed more than 2,000 Americans, mostly servicemen. Sixty years later, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed 3,000 Americans, mostly civilians.

That is where the parallels end. The two adversaries were not remotely alike. The Japanese were a major military power with a large, unified, and advanced population. Afghanistan, which harbored the al Qaeda terrorists that attacked on 9-11, is a small, backward, failed state run by 7th century jihadists.

To achieve our victory in World War II over Japan and its ally, Nazi Germany, America focused its entire economy for four years, built a military of over 16 million men, mostly civilians, and maintained its will, even with the loss of more than 400,000 of its sons. In the latter war, with an all-volunteer military, Americans felt little economic hardship.

Many didn’t even know a single serviceman or woman who died, much less fought, in the war. America’s military today constitutes less than one percent of our population. In World War II, practically every family had someone serving, and that included the nation’s wealthiest families, from the Rockefellers to the Kennedys to the Bushs’.

The greatest change we have witnessed has come in the leadership of our country. Consider how the earlier military and political officials conducted themselves after their extraordinary achievement in World War II. The head of our entire military, General George C. Marshall, declined from Time Life’s Henry Luce an offer of $1 million, $15 million in today’s money, to publish his memoir.

One of the signers on the deck of the Missouri, Admiral Chester Nimitz, chief architect of the naval victory in the Pacific, also declined every lucrative offer to tell his story. Nimitz spent his retirement as an advisor to the Navy and served as a Regent for the University of California.

Another officer — he requested not to be at the ceremony, but was ordered to be present — was Admiral John McCain Sr, grandfather of the senator. The 61 year admiral pushed himself so hard during the war that after the signing he immediately flew home. He died four days later, probably from heart failure and exhaustion.

General Curtis LeMay developed the devastating air war against our enemies. He took a humble view of the proceedings, though. Instead of feeling any personal glory or accomplishment, LeMay was thinking about all the young men under his command, who did not live to see the day. “Seemed to me that if I had done a better job, we might have saved a few more crews,” he wrote later.

The man at the top of the chain-of-command, President Truman, was barely known when he took over the presidency following the death of FDR. Yet Truman proved to be one of the most capable leaders this nation has ever produced. On a mind numbing number of vital decisions that came his way in hurried order, “Given ’Em Hell” Harry made the right choice every single time.

When Truman retired in 1953, he went back to the same home he and the First Lady lived in long before they went to Washington. He was given no pension (presidential pensions were conveniently set up by Lyndon Johnson just before he retired). Like Marshall and Nimitz, Truman turned down numerous offers that certainly would have made his life easier. His reasons now seem so quaint. He thought it undignified.

No one figure or political party today can be singled out for the terrible decisions and exceptional greed that we have witnessed in recent years. Or for the cringing face of our diplomacy. Can one even imagine Truman begging the Iranian ayatollahs for a nuclear deal not in our favor? Or handing over the keys to a country to the same terrorists who used it to launch an attack on America only 20 years ago?

Which presents the question: How did Americans come to simply accept the million dollar gigs, the mansions, and the celebrity parties that are now considered a well-earned perk of government service? From the rear-view mirror, those World War II leaders now seem so antiquated … and so missed.

RTWT

31 May 2021

Memorial Day

,

All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

JoeZincavage1
Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
(No wartime photograph available, but he’s sitting on a Henderson Motorcycle in this one.)


William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps


Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps


Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps.

31 May 2021

My Father’s War

,

WGZInduction1942
My father (on the left, wearing jacket & tie, holding the large envelope), aged 26, was the oldest in this group of Marine Corps volunteers from Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, September 1942, so he was put in charge.

————————————


William G. Zincavage, Fall 1942, after graduating Marine Corps Boot Camp

————————————

WGZBillyClub
Military Police, North Carolina, Fall 1942
He was only 5′ 6″, but he was so tough that they made him an MP.

————————————

3rdDivision
Third Marine Division

1stAmphibiousCorps
I Marine Amphibious Corps

First Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Solomon Islands Consolidation (Guadalcanal), Winter-Spring 1943
New Georgia Group Operation (Vella LaVella, Rendova), Summer 1943
“The Special Troops drew the first blood.” — Third Divisional History.

“We never saw them but they were running away.” — William G. Zincavage

————————————

3rdAmphibious-Corps
III Marine Amphibious Corps

Third Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Marianas Operation (Guam), Summer 1944

————————————

5thAmphibious-Corps
V Marine Amphibious Corps

Fifth Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945

————————————

Navy Unit Commendation (Iwo Jima)
Good Conduct Medal
North American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Four Bronze Stars

——————————————————–


While recovering from malaria after the Battle of Iwo Jima, he looked 70 years old.

——————————————————–


But he was back to normal in December of 1945, when this photo was taken shortly before he received his discharge.

03 Feb 2021

The Four Chaplains

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A painting by Dudley G. Summers depicts the Four Chaplains in prayer together on the deck of the torpedoed USAT Dorchester Feb. 3, 1943.

The Dorchester went down 78 years ago today.

Chaplain Corps History:

It was Feb. 3, 1943, and the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was one of three ships in a convoy, moving across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. A converted luxury liner, the Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers.

It was only 150 miles from its destination when shortly after midnight, an officer aboard the German submarine U2 spotted it. After identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire. The hit was decisive, striking the ship, far below the water line. The initial blast killed scores of men and seriously wounded many more.

Others, stunned by the explosion were groping in the darkness. Panic and chaos quickly set in! Men were screaming, others crying or franticly trying to get lifeboats off the ship.

Through the pandemonium, four men spread out among the Soldiers, calming the frightened, tending the wounded and guiding the disoriented toward safety. They were four Army chaplains,

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist;
Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi;
Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest;
and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains worked to bring calm to the men. As soldiers began to find their way to the deck of the ship, many were still in their underwear, where they were confronted by the cold winds blowing down from the arctic.

Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, reeling from the cold, headed back towards his cabin. “Where are you going?” a voice of calm in the sea of distressed asked. “To get my gloves,” Mahoney replied. “Here, take these,” said Rabbi Goode as he handed a pair of gloves to the young officer. “I can’t take those gloves,” Mahoney replied. “Never mind,” the Rabbi responded. “I have two pairs.” It was only long after that Mahoney realized that the chaplain never intended to leave the ship.

Once topside, the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. It was then that Engineer Grady Clark witnessed an astonishing sight. When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains simultaneously removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did Fox or Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line. One survivor would later say, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains — arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers and singing hymns.

Of the 902 men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, only 230 survived. Before boarding the Dorchester back in January, Chaplain Poling had asked his father to pray for him, “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

RTWT

03 Dec 2020

Wilhelm Furtwängler’s 1939-1945 Radio Broadcast Recordings

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There is a perverse kind of romantic interest in sharing via Wilhelm Furtwangler’s 1939-1945 Berlin Philharmonic Radio Recordings the great conductor’s unique and astoundingly intense performances all taking place in the damned and doomed atmosphere of WWII Berlin and the living presences of Hitler and Goebbels and many of the other principal figures of the Third Reich.

This 22-SACD set is accompanied by a 184-page hardcover book.

The earliest broadcasts (1939) were originally recorded on shellac discs. Beginning in 1942, the broadcasts were preserved on magnetic tape invented by AEG/ Magnetophon.

Every Furtwängler concert would be taped and edited for broadcast during one hour every Sunday night.

At the close of the war, the broadcast tapes were captured by the Soviet Union. It was not until 2017 that the original tapes were finally returned.

Needless to say, it is an expensive set (currently $245.25 at Amazon, and gradually increasing in price as it sells out), and is likely to produce some duplication for any serious fan of Furtwängler.

It was clearly issued originally last year, as there is this May 2, 2019 New Yorker review by Alex Ross.

The German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler has long held an exalted place among practitioners of the enigmatic art of waving one’s arms in front of an orchestra. A tall, willowy man with the air of a distracted philosopher, Furtwängler led the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922 until 1945, and again from 1952 until his death, in 1954. Many of the recordings he left behind are so charged with expressive intensity that comparing them to modern accounts of the same repertory can be invidious. Consider a performance of Beethoven’s “Coriolan” Overture, which the Berlin Philharmonic has released as part of a new box set titled “Wilhelm Furtwängler: The Radio Recordings, 1939–1945.” It begins with an octave C in the strings, followed by a loud, curt F-minor chord in the full orchestra. Few orchestras fail to shake up the audience with this gesture. Furtwängler’s players unleash a sound that falls somewhere between the musical and the geological—a seismic rumbling followed by a concussive crack.

There is no way to avoid thinking about the circumstances under which this recording was made. Furtwängler was Hitler’s favorite conductor, and the Philharmonic’s wartime concerts were taped, according to minutes from a meeting with Joseph Goebbels, “in accordance with the Führer’s wish.” … What did the music mean to him? To the audience? To Furtwängler? The conductor’s defenders profess to hear an anguished defiance in his Nazi-era performances. Surely this borderline-deranged account of the “Coriolan” cannot be in accord with Hitler’s ideology. But you could also hear it as a defiance of the enemy—a willingness to fight to the death. …

[T]he nimbus of greatness around Furtwängler arises not in spite of the historical situation but because of it. The conductor and his musicians were working “as if there were no tomorrow,” Taruskin writes, in discussing the last item in the set—the final movement of Brahms’s First Symphony, recorded amid the inferno of January, 1945. “The music builds unbearable tension, abjures all ‘Brahmsian’ restraint or relaxation, and its raging subjectivity hits dumbfounding extravagances of tempo at both ends of the scale. . . . The bloodiest of all wars brought the foremost classical musician in the country with the most distinguished tradition of classical music to the pinnacle of his career, setting a standard neither he nor any other symphonic conductor was ever moved to duplicate.” …

Nor are Furtwängler’s legendarily explosive accounts of nineteenth-century repertory beyond criticism. As the hours went by, I found myself tiring of his determination to wring significance from every phrase. The atmosphere is always dire; there is a dearth of pleasure, grace, and wit. Furtwängler often criticized what he called an “American” manner of orchestral playing—soulless, machinelike, monotonous. He associated that style with Toscanini, whose fame obsessed him inordinately. But he, too, was prone to a certain hectoring relentlessness. He brings an astonishing demonic energy to the final movements of the Beethoven Seventh and the Schubert Ninth, but the effect is more battering than it is uplifting.

That said, these recordings are precious documents, from which there is much to be learned. In an age of note-perfect digital renditions, what’s most striking is Furtwängler’s willingness—and his musicians’ willingness—to sacrifice precision for the sake of passion. The conductor had a famously wobbly, hard-to-read beat, which inspired many jokes. A member of the London Philharmonic quipped that one should wait until the “thirteenth preliminary wiggle” of the baton before beginning to play. Furtwängler’s renditions of Beethoven’s Fifth tend to begin not with “bum-bum-bum-BUM” but with “b-bumbumbumBUM.” The inexactitude was by design. It’s the roughness of the attacks at the beginning of the “Coriolan” that provides a sense of catastrophic power. As Taruskin points out, Furtwängler was entirely capable of eliciting unanimity when he wanted to, as rip-roaring accounts of Strauss’s “Don Juan” and “Till Eulenspiegel” attest. One never knows quite what to expect: spontaneity is the rule.

RTWT

John Fowler’s Amazon review is useful and valuable.

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