Tag: WWII

Voices from the Past

 

General Patton, Corps and Division Commanders, 4th Armored Division C.P., England, June 1944.

These are the generals of the Third Army. Patton stands in front. My great uncle Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack stands in the back row, second from the right. This photo was taken in June 1944 in England shortly before the landing at Utah Beach in July.

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WWII:Democrat President declares war on Germany and Japan after Japan attack’s US.We beat the German Axis and Japan. We remain in Germany, Italy and Japan to stabilize and protect them, even today, 75 years later. South Korean:Democrat President enters war with South Korean to push out North Korea.Republican President, and war fighter, takes over as […]

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Witold Pilecki: The Polish Spy Who Led a Resistance Against the Nazis

 

Like many of the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising, nearly no one in the Anglosphere has ever heard of Witold Pilecki, a deeply Catholic member of the Polish resistance. However, his heroism is inspiring far beyond his actions during the largest single act of Polish resistance to the Nazi regime.

When we speak of resistance against the Nazis by occupied nations, we speak almost exclusively of the French and sometimes of the Dutch. Rarely mentioned are the Poles, despite the fact that they had a functioning government in exile coordinating with an underground government on the ground with its own military arm, the Polish Home Army.

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The United States of America can take pride in a number of things, among them arguably the two greatest cultural and scientific achievements of human history: The moon landing and atomic power. It is the latter that we will focus on in the article, the unleashing of the power of the atom, for good and […]

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The Computer Age Turns 75

 

In February 1946, the first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIA, was introduced to the public. Nothing like ENIAC had been seen before, and the unveiling of the computer, a room-filling machine with lots of flashing lights and switches–made quite an impact.

ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was created primarily to help with the trajectory-calculation problems for artillery shells and bombs, a problem that was requiring increasing numbers of people for manual computations. John Mauchly, a physics professor attending a summer session at the University of Pennsylvania, and J Presper Eckert, a 24-year-old grad student, proposed the machine after observing the work of the women (including Mauchly’s wife Mary) who had been hired to assist the Army with these calculations. The proposal made its way to the Army’s liason with Penn, and that officer, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine, took up the project’s cause. (Goldstine apparently heard about the proposal not via formal university channels but via a mutual friend, which is an interesting point in our present era of remote work.) Electronics had not previously been used for digital computing, and a lot of authorities thought an electromechanical machine would be a better and safer bet.

Radar Wars: a Case Study in Expertise and Influence

 

In today’s WSJ, David Mamet writes about expertise and influence, pointing out that experts who get important things wrong, sometimes causing great harm to millions of people, often pay no personal price whatsoever. One example he mentions is the pre-WWII secret British debate on air defense technologies and especially the role played by Churchill’s scientific advisor, Professor Frederick Lindemann.

It is an interesting and important story, and is discussed by the scientist/novelist CP Snow in his 1960 book Science and Government…which, he says, was inspired by the following thought:

Harry Truman and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

 

Harry Truman

Peter Robinson expressed his opinion on Twitter today that President Truman did not approve the use of the nuclear bomb. “Truman never approved the use of the bomb–or disapproved it,” He wrote. “The military considered it one more weapon, like a new submarine or aircraft. They kept Truman informed. But they did not ask his approval.”

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America is definitely not Europe, but we can find a number of parallels between European history and contemporary America. For example, we’ve previously written about the Italian Years of Lead as a possible template for urban unrest and low-level inter-tribal warfare in the United States. Another example of how things might play out in the […]

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QOTD: Ride onward, hero, into legend

 

“If I should be killed, I want you to bury me on one of the hills east of the place where my grandparents and brothers and sisters and other relatives are buried.”

“If you have a memorial service, I want the soldiers to go ahead with the American Flag. I want cowboys to follow, all on horseback. I want one of the cowboys to lead one of the wildest of the T over X horses with saddle and bridle on.”

Group Writing: Myron Ferch’s Poems

 

Myron J. Ferch is not a household name, perhaps even among the Ferches. But Myron Ferch served as a private from 1941-1945 in World War II, notably in Papua New Guinea. He wrote a slim book of poems, Wartime and Other Poems. The cover shows him and his dog in front of a sheep wagon (Myron was from McCone County in Montana). His niece, Sally, owned a copy, signed by the author and autographed, “To a very nice niece. I hope your trail is a pleasant one.” Sally gave the booklet to her daughter, who gave it to me.

Myron set his down his war experiences in verse. I’ve chosen this one to share, entitled “The Letter from Mother”:

Peanut Butter Crackers, Gunsmoke, and His Rubix Cube: In Search of My Grandfather

 

Growing up, I only had one grandparent. My mom’s mother, who, for a variety of reasons, my dad wished to largely keep my sister and I away from, and who died when I was 7. I’m never quite sure of how much this difference from others my age affected me; on the one hand, there was little point in pining after something I had never had, but that didn’t always mean that seeing my peers bring grandparents to every significant school occasion, and excitedly report on all of the neat adventures they got to go on with them, didn’t sometimes rankle. That vague feeling of a missed connection has waned over the years, as I was lucky enough to be kind of informally ‘adopted’ by one of my best friend’s maternal grandfather, and to have been given a second family in a community of (mostly 50 and over) Benedectine monks. Still, questions linger, questions that I didn’t really feel comfortable posing to my parents past a certain age. 

Most of them centered around my paternal grandfather, Charlie. My dad was always full of stories about his mother, who he compared to me (when I maybe wasn’t meant to be there) in terms of devotion and bullheadedness to his siblings, and the little aquatinace that I had with my maternal grandmother didn’t really leave me wanting more. My mom’s dad, meanwhile, had passed in the late ‘70s, and seemed a distant, somewhat painful memory even to her. Charlie, though, existed as a kind of aura around my dad’s stories, a cheerful and mischievous but indistinct presence who bore 7 kids and 50 something years of marriage with equanimity and good humor. The most I concretely knew about him was that he drove my grandmother crazy playing with a Rubix cube at the dinner table, ate peanut butter crackers by the thousands, and died a few months before I was born.

Death of a Sweetheart

 

Dame Vera Lynn dead: We'll Meet Again singer dies aged 103 | Metro ...Dame Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103.

Vera Margaret Welch was born on March 17, 1917, and was just 22 when she began driving herself to London Underground stations to sing to people taking shelter from the German air raids. Her biggest hit, We’ll Meet Again, was recorded in 1939, and was followed by years of selfless service to “her” troops as she’d go anywhere, at whatever danger to herself, to perform for them, including a tour of Japanese-occupied Burma to perform for the British guerilla troups there.

In this episode, British author and filmmaker Damien Lewis sits down with Dave to discuss his new book, Churchill’s Shadow Raiders: The Race To Develop Radar, WWII’s Secret Invisible Weapon. The discussion (and the book) centers on a Top Secret mission to “snatch and grab,” Adolph Hitler’s prize possession; a rather highly advanced radar that enabled German anti-aircraft guns to decimate British bombers and otherwise run roughshod over anything and anyone that stood between the Third Reich and Hitler’s dreams of conquest. The daring courage and relentless tenacity of fledgling airborne commandos, spurred on by Winston Churchill over the objections of senior government officials, literally saved the war effort and became the genesis of the SAS. It’s a fascinating book, and a riveting conversation that you don’t want to miss.

Dave also welcomes Ricochet Member and Moderator Randy Weivoda onto the program to talk about various happenings with Ricochet Members, including plans for a large Ricochet Member Meet Up, next year in Louisiville, Kentucky.  Interested? Listen for details!

Friday Digging (and Cooking) for Victory Post: V-E Day +75!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen of Ricochet, I bring you across-the-pond greetings from Auntie Pat (97 in July, may she live forever). She wishes you a very happy V-E day, thanks those of you with WWII service members in your families, hopes you are well, and that you have a very nice summer and Fourth of July. She’s currently locked down and holding her own in a facility in Birmingham in the UK.

National Former POW Recognition Day

 

Today, April 9, 2020, is National Former POW Recognition Day. President Trump issued the annual proclamation yesterday. This may seem like an odd day, disconnected from familiar weekends or events, but it is a very specific date, fraught with terrible significance.

March 28, 1988, President Reagan signed Public Law 100-269, “A joint resolution designating April 9, 1988, and April 9, 1989, as ‘National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day.’

Whereas the United States has fought in many wars;

History and the Vector of Shame

 

Perhaps you have seen the meme that shows WWII soldiers and says something along the lines of “they stormed the beaches for us, we’re just being asked to stay on our couches.” As far as exhortations to stay home go, I suppose it is one of the less annoying and more anodyne ones, but it’s still full of a smug, pompous, and scornful shame directed at us today, extolling the virtues of our honored ancestors over and against the alleged sins of our current generation.

It absolutely reeks of the sort of derision that says “not only are you no better than them, but you’re actually likely a great deal worse since we have to nanny you into staying in your own home.” It is an appeal to heroic nostalgia for a sepia-toned and non-existent past, where somehow the people were “more real,” more manly (or womanly) than today. Putting aside my general annoyance with such nannyism, as a perpetual student of history, I also have to cry foul over the comparison and call it what it is: bilge.

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SF authors are generally viewed as being mainly concerned with the future, but Connie Willis is more interested in the past…and, particularly, the way in which the past lives in the present. Her novels and short stories explore this connection using various hypothetical forms of time displacement. In Lincoln’s Dreams, a young woman starts having […]

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John Garand: The Forgotten History of the Man Who Invented the Iconic M1 Garand Rifle

 

“In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” —  General George S. Patton

Today is John Garand’s Birthday! Any gun nut – er, “firearms enthusiast” – worth their salt has heard of the M1 Garand (it rhymes with “errand,” by the way). This .30-06 semi-automatic rifle is one of the most iconic American firearms of all time, and was the standard-issue weapon for American infantry troops during World War II and the Korean War. Drill teams and honor guards continue to use this in the present day, such is its role as a symbol of the American military.

Fewer, however, know about the life story of the man behind the weapon – John Garand, a Canadian-American engineer and weapons designer. Born one of a whopping 12 children on a Quebec farm, Garand’s father relocated the entire family to Connecticut following the untimely death of the clan’s mother in 1899. All six boys in the family had the official first name St. Jean le Baptiste, however, John Garand was the only one of them who used “Jean” as his first name. The other five used their middle names.