Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Man Killed (In the Great War)

When we lived in Belgium and traveled in northern France, we soon learned that Frenchmen had little to say about World War II. After all, we finally understood, to France, WWII consisted of two brief periods: one from the German invasion until Dunkirk and surrender, and eleven months between Normandy and the German surrender. The rest was German occupation.

The war of vivid French and Belgian memory was the "war of 14-18" as they call it. In 1980, we attended a wedding feast in Belgium, sitting across from an octagenerian who had been a young woman of twenty when the Germans (les Boches, she called them) invaded.  Her memory of those four years was as clear as if the events had happened yesterday. And she had no use for "les Boches."

Today's New York Times  has an article by Richard Rubin (author of The Doughboys) describing his search in the Argonne forest region for a monument he had seen years earlier. Finally, with the help of a local woman, he found it:

"It’s an unassuming marker, a stone just a few feet high. Someone had placed a bench next to it since the last time I’d visited, but [my guide] didn’t sit; perhaps she felt that would be irreverent. This, after all, was the very spot where the very last man was killed in the Great War: Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther of Baltimore, 23 years old, shot through the head at 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918."

There is surely a story here. The Armistice was to begin at 11:00 a.m. November 11, 1918. Surly the Sergeants told their soldiers to keep their heads down. Why did Gunther stick his head up? What was the German shooter thinking? What was the point of pulling the trigger?

Rubin's article is worth reading for many reasons. He tours the battlefields and is impressed with the formidable and technologically advanced German installations. "How could Germany have lost?" He asks repeatedly.

Historians still grapple with that question. But when Rubin asks local Frenchmen how the Germans lost, their answer is succinct: "Les Americains."

It is worth reading Rubin's other New York Times articles touching on the same subject:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'm Thinking It Over

From the March 24, 1948 broadcast of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM.

--Hey, bud. Bud.
--Got a match?
--Match? Yes, I have one right here--
--Don't make a move, this is a stick-up.
--You heard me.
--Mister. Mister, put down that gun!
--Shaddup. Now, come on--your money or your life.
--Look, bud! I said your money or your life!
--I'm thinking it over!

 Friends ask me what I am going to do about Judge Alford's dismissal of my complaint against the Town about the closing of South Avenue.

On top of that, there's the Town Attorney's threat to file a motion for sanctions and Judge Alford's e-mail declaring that he would be receptive. (The mugging).

Right now, I can only offer Jack Benny's reply.

More to follow.