Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Antidote To Fear: FDR Address To Congress January 6, 1941

I remember 1941. My father was in the US Army Air Corps, stationed at what became McDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

When we went to a movie, the highlight was the news reels. We saw strutting German soldiers goose-stepping along the streets of conquered countries. We saw scenes of Japanese soldiers in China fighting the Chinese Nationalists. We saw scenes of London burning.

What I don't remember is fear.

If the adults around me had been fearful, I think I would have noticed.

War was in the air, but there was no sense that this was someone else's job. It was everyone's job.

A sense of the national attitude at the time was expressed in President Roosevelt's address to Congress on January 6, 1941. It is worth reading the whole speech, but here is an excerpt:

"....there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

"Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

"These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

"Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.

"As examples:
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

"I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

"A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

"If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

"The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.

"The third is freedom from want - which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.

"The fourth is freedom from fear - which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

"To that new order we oppose the greater conception - the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Century Ago: Battles In Picardy; Beginning Of Trench Warfare

The pre-war German plan wasn't working. Belgium was supposed to have stood aside and let the Germans pass. It didn't happen.

That's often a problem with war plans. The enemy fails to cooperate.

Antwerp failed to fall on schedule. German generals kept trying to turn the cornerto surround the French. Each side just kept up the end run of the other, until, in late October, the trenches reached the North Sea.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Day At Arnhem: A Bridge Really Too Far - September 19, 1944; Some Heroic Tales

Anyone who has ever seen the movie, "A Bridge Too Far," knows something of the heroics of British, Polish and American paratrooperes, with very light equipment, attempting to hold a road through Holland leading to the Bridge at Arnhem.

These were very determined men. They had a job to do: hold the bridge for two days, until the tanks arrived. They did their very best, even when the tanks didn't come. They lasted four days.

In some respects, the operation was, as the Brits say, a "shambles." Still they persevered. Some say they fought for their country. Maybe so. But more importantly, they were fighting for their fellow soldiers.

None would ever to claim to be a hero. They just did what had to be done, and none fought for any kind of personal gain or glory. They had a job to do.

Here are some of the stories.

RAF aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge on 19 September, showing signs of the British defence on the northern ramp and the wrecked German vehicles from the previous day's fighting.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: Another Day On Peleliu

*World War II Today: 16 September 1944: Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge:
It was already apparent that the landings on Peleliu were not going to be over within the four days originally anticipated. Despite the blasting that the entire island had received prior to the landings on the 15th most of the Japanese defenders had survived in their bunkers. Eugene B. Sledge, with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division, was keeping notes of his experiences in his New Testament Bible. He was later to develop it into one of the classic memoirs of the war. After being selected for officer training he and many others had deliberately ‘flunked out’ so that they didn’t ‘miss the war’. So it was that he found himself as a Private in the middle of one of the bloodiest operations in the Pacific. After a sleepless night under shellfire they were all desperately thirsty, but men fell ill after drinking from a well. When water reached them in old oil drums it proved contaminated with rust and oil. That day it would reach 105 in the shade and, as Sledge points out, they were not in the shade. Their job was to attack across the airfield:
“Let’s go,” shouted an officer who waved toward the airfield. We moved at a walk, then a trot, in widely dispersed waves. Four infantry battalions — from left to right 2/1, 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5 (this put us on the edge of the airfield) – moved across the open, fire-swept airfield.

My only concern then was my duty and survival, not panoramic combat scenes. But I often wondered later what that attack looked like to aerial observers and to those not immersed in the firestorm. All I was aware of were the small area immediately around me and the deafening noise.
Bloody Nose Ridge dominated the entire airfield. The Japanese had concentrated their heavy weapons on high ground; these were directed from observation posts at elevations as high as three hundred feet, from which they could look down on us as we advanced. I could see men moving ahead of my squad, but I didn’t know whether our battalion, 3/5, was moving across behind 2/5 and then wheeling to the right. There were also men about twenty yards to our rear.

We moved rapidly in the open, amid craters and coral rubble, through ever-increasing enemy fire. I saw men to my right and left running bent as low as possible. The shells screeched and whistled, exploding all around us.
In many respects it was more terrifying than the landing, because there were no vehicles to carry us along, not even the thin steel sides of an amtrac for protection. We were exposed, running on our own power through a veritable shower of deadly metal and the constant crash of explosions.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

The sun bore down unmercifully, and the heat was exhausting. Smoke and dust from the barrage limited my vision. The ground seemed to sway back and forth under the concussions. I felt as though I were floating along in the vortex of some unreal thunderstorm. Japanese bullets snapped and cracked, and tracers went by me on both sides at waist height. This deadly small-arms fire seemed almost insignificant amid the erupting shells.
Explosions and the hum and the growl of shell fragments shredded the air. Chunks of blasted coral stung my face and hands while steel fragments spattered down on the hard rock like hail on a city street. Everywhere shells flashed like giant firecrackers.
Through the haze I saw Marines stumble and pitch forward as they got hit. I then looked neither right nor left but just straight to my front. The farther we went, the worse it got. The noise and concussion pressed in on my ears like a vise. I gritted my teeth and braced myself in anticipation of the shock of being struck down at any moment.

It seemed impossible that any of us could make it across. We passed several craters that offered shelter, but I remembered the order to keep moving. Because of the superb discipline and excellent esprit of the Marines, it had never occurred to us that the attack might fail.
How far we had come in the open I never knew, but it must have been several hundred yards. Everyone was visibly shaken by the thunderous barrage we had just come through. When I looked into the eyes of those fine Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester veterans, some of America’s best, I no longer felt ashamed of my trembling hands and almost laughed at myself with relief.

To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The attack across Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war. It surpassed, by the intensity of the blast and shock of the bursting shells, all the subsequent horrifying ordeals on Peleliu and Okinawa.
See E. B. Sledge: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


Sherparick said...
E. B. Sledge's book I have come to see as the Great Book of WWII. If you have not read it, please do.
Today, September 17, is also the 152 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
"I had just got myself pretty comfortable when a bomb burst over me and completely deafened me. I felt a blow on my right shoulder and my jacket was covered with white stuff. I felt mechanically whether I still had my arm and thank God it was still whole. At the same time I felt something damp on my face; I wiped it off. It was bloody. Now I first saw that the man next to me, Kessler, lacked the upper part of his head, and almost all his brains had gone into the face of the man next to him, Merkel, so that he could scarcely see. Since any moment the same could happen to anyone, no one thought much about it."
Christoph Niederer, 20th New York Infantry, 6th Corps"
For us historically minded humans, with our lives of numerals that end in "0" and "5," we have 200th anniversaries of the War of 1812 (Star Spangled Banner), the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (Sheridan's victory at 3rd Winchester is on 19 September), 100th anniversary of the Great War (the 1st Battle of Aisne had ended and the Race to the Sea has begun as the Western Front stalemates), the 70th and 75th anniversaries for WWII (a six year war produces such terrible double anniversries for "live blogging"), and now the beginning of 50th anniversaries for Vietnam, and next summer the 25th anniversary for the Gulf War I, and we have been in war continuously since September 11, 2001
And we are now going to do it again, and again, and again.

KenL said...
Don't forget the section where Sledge runs into Paul Douglas. Yes that Paul Douglas. The fighting economist.

The Best Laid Plans Gang Aft Agley

Scotland votes today on the referendum to leave the United Kingdom. Yes or No?

The polls don't reveal how the vote will go. Earlier this week opinion seemed to run slightly in favor of staying in the UK.

I sympathize with the Scots who want independence. Staying in a union run by Tories isn't a great prospect. On the other hand, leaving the union while keeping the British Pound (as the proposal would do) is madness. The fate of an independent country with no currency of its own is in the hands of others. Every experiment along those lines in the past has turned out badly, including the present European experiment with the Euro.

Staying in the union is a more rational choice.

Then work to rid the UK of Cameron.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: A Bridge Too Far (Market Garden)

Imagine you are dressed in your best parachute, flying over Holland enroute to a bridge over the Nederrijn at Arnhem. 70,000 years earlier, Neanderthals had lived nearby. It seems like the war in Europe is coming to an end.
It is September 17, 1942.
Landing at Arnhem, the objective deepest into German occupied territory, were the British First Airborne Division. John Frost, commanding 2nd Parachute Battalion who were to spearhead the attack, was pleased to find that the landings had gone nearly as well as could be expected. He and the Parachute Regiment had come a long way since the Bruneval Raid in 1942. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and he reflected how the countryside and the neat Dutch houses were not so very different from the outskirts of Aldershot, home town of the British Army. He describes the early stages in the operation as the paratroopers collected together at their rendezvous point in a wood:
It was by now about half-past two in the afternoon and quite hot. The sweat was pouring off the cheerful faces of the men as they filed past me into the wood. Wireless sets seemed to be the only casualties from the drop, among them the brigade set, but fortunately a spare was available. Just as I was beginning to feel that on the whole things could not be going better, the sound of firing broke out in the woods not more than three hundred yards from where I was standing and I moved to a track junction in the middle of the wood, which was where we had planned to set up Battalion Headquarters.
A battle at our rendezvous in the woods was one of the things to be feared most of all. It was vital that we should be able to move off without delay and equally vital that our ammunition should not be expended unduly early when we had so much to do. At first it was hard to tell what the trouble was, but we didn’t let it interfere with the process of forming up and getting ready to move. The troops and anti-tank guns allotted to us arrived punctually, also most of our airborne transport, consisting of five jeeps and a bren carrier. I passed some anxious moments while they were being sorted out. All army drivers have a predilection for driving into the middle of a headquarters, thereby causing the utmost confusion, and our drivers were no exception to the rule. To the tune of vigorous cursing, order was restored.
The companies reported in over ninety-five per cent, and the firing turned out to be caused by a small party of Germans who had driven up in a lorry with one armoured car as escort. By the time I thought of moving off, the armoured car had fled, leaving the lorry and several prisoners. Soon after three o’clock a message came from Brigade Headquarters telling us to move on with all possible speed, without waiting for stragglers, and just as the message went to ‘A’ Company, who were the vanguard, firing broke out afresh from their area. However, there was no delay, and as we passed their old positions we found two lorries and three motor-cars in various stages of destruction, also an untidy little bunch of dead and wounded Germans. It seemed a pity that the vehicles were now unusable, but there had been no time to arrange a road-block.
It was however a very encouraging start. Approximately thirty Germans, including officers among them, and valuable transport, accounted for without loss to ourselves. We marched towards Arnhem. A man and a woman on bicycles made as if to ride on past the column and seemed quite surprised at being ordered to turn back.
See Major General J. Frost: A Drop Too Many

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: USS Houston At Peleliu, September 1944

USS Houston, assigned to RADM Bogen's Task Group 38.2, left Eniwetok August 30 to screen aircraft carriers against Japanese aircraft while they attacked the Palaus on September 6. The TG then provided naval gunfire support on Anguar, Ngesebus and Peleliu islands.

First wave of LVTs moves toward the invasion beaches - Peleliu.jpg

Houston provided naval gunfire support to forces invading Peleliu from 17 to 19 September. She then went to Saipan to replenish her ammunition magazines and proceeded to the vast anchorage at Ulithi, recently captured from Japan.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oriental New Town Dock - What Might Have Been

Three years ago, the Town of Oriental submitted a grant proposal for Federal Boating Infrastructure funds to build a pier for transient recreational boats at the end of South Avenue.

The plans show six boat slips and a width on the water of 80 feet. Plenty of room for visiting boats to go around other boats to get alongside either side of the dock.

Just take a look here, download the proposal, and compare the proposal to what we have.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Senate Race As Of Early September

PEC - Princeton Election Consortium; Dkos - Daily KOS; WaPo - Washington Post; 538 -Five Thirty-Eight; Upshot - New York Times