Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

Thursday, December 22, AD 2016

 

 

Seventy-two years ago at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

 

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather. The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

 

 

 

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle. Massively outnumbered, battle weary from already having done more than their share of fighting in Normandy and Operation Market Garden and short on food and ammo, they stopped the advancing Germans cold in their tracks.

On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101st troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops:

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7 Responses to Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

  • The Lutheran Minister aptly provides the answer to us as to what we need to do about Islam. Thanks for the clip. Battleground is a great movie, one well worth watching. I believe it is on Netflix. Thank you, Donald. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • I think of those hard men (cold, hungry, giving them Hell) whenever I hear the Christmas song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” The older I get, the less I can stand cold weather.
    .
    These men that had fought through D-Day and Market Garden were highly effective soldiers. Still, The Bulge was “above and beyond . . . ”
    .
    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • If any have not read the first-hand eye-witness account of “7 Roads to Hell” (which aptly describes Bastogne and the fulcrum of The Bulge battle) by Donald R. Burgett, it is highly recommended. It is a great read, actually part of a 4-part set, starting with his air-drop behind the Normandy beaches on D-Day. But “7 Roads”, for its sheer honesty, shock-effect, and rawness, is the best of them all.

    The author, at the time a 19-year-old battle-weary paratrooper (101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Reg.), and his equally worn 1st Battalion, were hustled into the Bastogne cauldron —- after having been so certainly promised a 6-week R&R—and then the Bulge offensive hit.

    They had pretty much been fighting constantly since June 6th (they also participated in the disaster of Operation Market Garden)—but because they were so effective, the US Army couldn’t leave them out of so many of the engagements that followed. Including Bastogne and the Bulge.

    Burgett was (ostensibly) a life-long atheist, but was so moved and bothered at the dead that had to be left where they were killed in the woods, strewn on the snow, that he thought that was a grave wrong to the men who gave their lives in this maelstrom. He made it a point to help the recovery corps find the snow-covered frozen dead. Even atheists respect the sacrifice of a life for a desperate cause.

    By the way, Burgett is still living, age 91, and lives in Howell, MI, and has often contributed to a number of History Channel productions.

  • The speech at 1:45-2:11 seems applicable to the American Left today.

  • Sorry, I was referring to the bottom clip from Battleground. Forgot to add that.

  • I was a K9 MP in Germany for three years during the Cold War. How cold was it ? The official rule stated that if it got down near Zero, the dog ( my K9 friend’s name was “Ex”) stayed in his nice warm kennel. We went out on Post without the dog !
    I would like very much to move to Arizona; but, we have eleven Grand children, and three
    Great Grand children here. Whenever I bring up that subject, I get “The Look” from the Misses. I describe all of this in my book, “Wings held up by Hope”
    Timothy

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Dunkirk

Thursday, December 15, AD 2016

 

A new movie coming about Dunkirk next summer.  If the British army had been destroyed at Dunkirk in 1940, which might very well have happened, rather than sucessfully evacuated to fight again another day, Hitler’s long shot Operation Sea Lion invasion of Britain might have succeeded, and the world today might be a truly nightmarish place.  It brought to mind this poem I read as a school boy:

 

Dunkirk (A Ballad)

Will came back from school that day,
And he had little to say.
But he stood a long time looking down
To where the grey-green Channel water
Slapped at the foot of the little town,
And to where his boat, the Sarah P,
Bobbed at the tide on an even keel,
With her one old sail, patched at the leech,
Furled like a slattern, down at heel.

He stood for a while above the beach,
He saw how the wind and current caught her;
He looked a long time out to sea.
There was steady wind, and the sky was pale,
And a haze in the east that looked like smoke.

Will went back to the house to dress,
He was halfway through, when his sister Bess
Who was near fourteen, and younger than he
By just two years, came home from play.
She asked him ‘Where are you going Will?’
He said ‘For a good long sail.’
‘Can I come along?’
‘No, Bess,’ he spoke.
‘I may be gone for a night and a day.’
Bess looked at him. She kept very still.
She had heard the news of the Flanders rout,
How the English were trapped above Dunkirk,
And the fleet had gone to get them out –
But everyone thought that it wouldn’t work.
There was too much fear, there was too much doubt.

She looked at him, and he looked at her.
They were English children, born and bred.
He frowned her down, but she wouldn’t stir.
She shook her proud young head.
‘You’ll need a crew,’ she said.

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6 Responses to Dunkirk

Pearl Harbor Lessons

Wednesday, December 7, AD 2016

 

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the date which will live in infamy in F.D.R.’s ringing phrase, happened 75 years ago today.  Less than 2500 of the 42,000 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen stationed there that fateful day are still with us.  Time has done what the forces of Imperial Japan could not, and soon the memories of that attack will be only a page in history.  The lessons of Pearl Harbor are however as timely today as they were on December 7, 1941:

1.  It Takes Two to Avoid a War-Today, too many people speak the most dreadful rubbish that boils down to the contention that the US can avoid war if it simply adopts a peaceful policy to all other nations.  Nations, like people, have their own goals, and they will pursue those goals as they will, whether the US adopts a “smiley-face” foreign policy or not.

2.  Peace Time Mentality-Pearl Harbor was such a disaster largely due to a mindset that gripped too many in the military that it was sufficient to simply go through the motions.  This is a common enough attitude in the world, and in peace time it becomes all too common in the military.  Pearl Harbor teaches us how disastrous this mentality is in war-time.

3.  Peace or War can be a Matter of Seconds- Throughout its history the US has often had wars start quite quickly:  The Revolution, The Civil War, Korea, World War II and 9-11.  George Washington warned us that: To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.   Too often in our history we have forgotten that sage advice and paid for it at our peril as we learn the old lesson that war can come upon us with the speed of  summer lightning, especially in our modern age.

4.  Assumptions-Behind every great disaster there are usually a string of bad assumptions.  We assumed that the Japanese if they attacked would likely not attack Pearl Harbor.  We assumed that a Japanese fleet could not sail from Japan to Hawaii unnoticed.  We assumed that our air power, especially with the new-fangled technology called Radar, would be on alert, and that in any case our fleet could defeat anything that Japan could send against it.  Pile enough bad assumptions on top of each other and a debacle is in the making.

5.  Killing More People Won’t Help Matters-That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure.  The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms.  In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan.  Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacificism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life.  I give her the courage of her convictions.  However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy.  The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later.

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2 Responses to Pearl Harbor Lessons

  • St Jude tells us in his verse 3 to “contend” for the faith. We have to fight for the right.
    Each of your lessons learned… can apply in all our conflicts—in the Church, in society and in the world. staying shy of assumptions, not going lax but staying at the ready; with fortitude or resolve, in just engagement.

    🙂 Jjustice, prudence temperance and fortitude.

  • In post-Constitutional America things are different. In 1941 (real) America, the people didn’t argue about why the Japanese hated them or about not angering the enemy by how we named them. Real Americans put behind them squalid politics (essentially deceit and coercion) and unified to fight.

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Wednesday, December 7, AD 2016

The US Naval Academy Glee Club singing Eternal Father aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.  The dastardly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,402 American servicemen and wounded an additional 1247. About one hundred civilians were killed or wounded.

For most Americans living today the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, seems like ancient history.  It does not seem like that to me.  As I was growing up in the Sixties I was surrounded by adults who recalled Pearl Harbor.  My father, who was 8 years old at the time of the attack, remembered the long lines the next morning in our small town of men waiting outside of the recruiting offices of the Army and Navy to join up.  He also conveyed to me the shock of a nation one moment at peace, and the next morning at war.  Until September 11, 2001, I really didn’t fully comprehend what my father was talking about. 

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One Response to A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

  • I remember watching a History Channel documentary on Pearl Harbor. And a Marine bugler on one of the battleships said, “I was a nineteen year old boy at the beginning of that day. But I became a nineteen year old man before that day ended.”

Billy Mitchell Predicts Pearl Harbor Attack in 1924

Tuesday, December 6, AD 2016

“This officer is an exceptionally able one, enthusiastic, energetic and full of initiative (but) he is fond of publicity, more or less indiscreet as to speech, and rather difficult to control as a subordinate.”

From General John J. Pershing’s 1923 efficiency report on General William Mitchell

Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell did not suffer fools gladly.  Dismayed that his demands for the development of air power were ignored in the post World War I era, he became increasingly caustic in his comments against his superiors.  After the deaths of several airmen in 1925 flying obsolete equipment, he castigated the heads of the Army and Navy for an almost treasonable administration of the national defense.  Court-martialed, he was found guilty and suspended from the Army without pay for five years.  President Calvin Coolidge amended the judgment so that Mitchell would receive half pay.  Mitchell left the Army, his military career at an end.

In 1924 General Pershing, perhaps to keep Mitchell out of harm’s way, sent him out on an inspection tour of the Pacific.  In his notes of that tour, later reduced to a 323 page report, Mitchell took a look at the weakness of the US in the Pacific and the rising power of Japan.  He predicted war between Japan and the US, and a Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field in the Philippines:

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2 Responses to Billy Mitchell Predicts Pearl Harbor Attack in 1924

  • Billy Mitchel’s critics. “Airplanes flying off of ships? That’s just crazy.” And, yes, we always fight the last war.

  • Along with Douglas MacArthur, my father (Lt. Col, US Army, 6th Army, Artillery, inducted in 1940, served 20 years) also ‘worshipped’ Billy Mitchell, and said of Mitchell, quietly however, that the Army worked hard to rehabilitate and reverse itself in the war years 41-45 and the post-war era to incorporate nearly all his truly visionary observations.
    ..
    The greatest “war-mongerers” are the demagogue military-types, the ones (think of now -forgotten Wesley Clark, or Colin Powell, or the scores who signed a puff-piece attack on Trump during the election cycle—and those who worked hard to court-martial the sharp-tongued Mitchell) who really missed their vocation to be a full-blown left-wing politician.
    ….
    They are indeed—as they have shown during the past 8 years of this disastrous administration— the greatest threat to our peace. I hope Trump retires them all.

Review of Hacksaw Ridge

Monday, November 21, AD 2016

 

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary?
There is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint;
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall:
but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

William Tecumseh Sherman, address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy (June 19, 1879)

 

 

 

My bride and I went to see Hacksaw Ridge last Saturday, Mel Gibson’s tribute to conscientious objector Desmond Doss who earned a Medal of Honor for heroism on Okinawa, and I was bowled over by it.  It wrenched more emotion from me than any film I have ever seen, except for Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.  My review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in effect.

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9 Responses to Review of Hacksaw Ridge

  • Say what you will about Mel Gibson, he is an artist par excellence. He is a superb actor and an equally superb director.

  • “As the hearing officer concludes as he dismisses the court-martial, Doss is now free to enter the hell of a battlefield with no weapon to defend himself.”
    .
    I am not a pacifist, and I do not understand such behavior, but truly only a man utterly devoted to Christ could have such faith and do such a thing.

  • Very powerful. Do you want to change “…and the trucks baring the bodies of their dead…” to bearing?

  • Thanks for catching that Tom. Correction made.

  • Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

    Beautiful weapon and shields; The Armor of God. The quote you used made clear the weapon Doss possessed. The one unseen by most. Trust in God.

    I can’t wait to see this movie.

    Mel Gibson has a thirst that is challenged by the world’s allurement of satisfying said thirst..but through struggle, prayer and fortitude Mel is trying. Productions like this is testimony that Mel’s thirst is lining up with that of our Lord’s thirst.

    God bless you Mel Gibson.

  • Some make you wonder how God could love man at all.

    Some inspire you to believe God could not help but love man.

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  • Outstanding movie. I’ve seen it three times and every time it’s better. My father fought in this campaign and it just amazes me that he survived.

  • Violence is evil. Armed force is divine , angelic and human . So if the evil guys won who would protect our minor children, our constitutional Posterity? Our minor children are morally and legally innocent, our standard of Justice for the state. Why aren’t the enemies of truth and Justice concerned about their legacy to all future generations?

Martyr Priests of Dachau

Wednesday, September 28, AD 2016

 

(I posted this last June.  It seemed appropriate to post it again today.)

 

 

A very brave man has died:

The last surviving Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 102, more than 70 years after surviving a Nazi death march.

 The Rev. Hermann Scheipers died on June 2 in Ochtrup, Germany, the Catholic website Aleteia said.

 He spent more than four years at Dachau after being arrested in 1940, reportedly for supporting Polish forced laborers. “Here, you are defenseless, without dignity or rights,” Scheipers recalled being told on arriving at the Nazi camp.

Go here to read the rest.

2,579 Catholic priests, seminarians and brothers were thrown by the Nazis during World War II into Dachau.  1,780 of these were from Poland.  Of these, some 868 priests perished, 300 in medical “experiments” or by torture in the showers of the camp.

The remaining priests, seminarians and brothers came from 38 nations.  Besides the Poles the largest groups were 447 German and Austrian priests, 156 French priests and 46 Belgian priests.

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5 Responses to Martyr Priests of Dachau

  • This makes me wonder why God has stayed His hand with us, yet Sodom and Gomorrah were pulverized into ash. We had better be careful when we ask for God’s mercy because God just may decide to execute His mercy on us and it won’t be pretty.

  • I know this is not relevant to the post itself. I don’t know Bishop Carmody; I don’t know anything about Bishop Carmody; I have no reason to believe he is anything but a fine Bishop, a good priest, and a truly excellent man, and I absolutely have no wish to say anything bad about him or demean him…but , dang, that picture at the top of the post is the spitting image of Hannibal Lecter. He really needs to grow a beard.

  • I know Bishop Carmody. A very humble man, good priest,wonderful bishop,retired now here in Tyler Texas

  • Tyler? Perhaps I’ll get to meet him someday and tell him this story.

  • Like Jesus Christ, they died for us.

The Seabees

Monday, September 5, AD 2016

 

A 1945 Navy film on the Seabees.

At the outset of World War II, the Navy faced a task of unbelievable difficulty.  Around the globe, and especially in the Pacific, the Navy would be fighting in regions practically untouched by the modern world.  Everything to support military operations would have to be built from scratch:  bases, ports, airstrips, and an endless parade of other facilities.  The task was daunting, perhaps impossible.  However, the Navy had a secret weapon:  the American worker.

Forming Navy Construction Battalions, (C-Bs), the Navy turned to the civilian construction trades and asked for volunteers.  The response was overwhelming with civilian workers flocking to the task, and placed under the leadership of Navy officers.  These were older men, the average age of the volunteers being 37, and masters in their trades.  They formed the bedrock of the eventual 325,000 men who would serve in the Seabees during the War.  By V-J Day they had completed construction projects on six continents and 300 islands, many of the islands bearing strange and unfamiliar names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, Saipan, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.  They went about their work often under fire, sometimes participating directly in combat, and usually in conditions that were miserable beyond belief.  Tropical jungles, deserts, alpine mountains, arctic wastelands, nothing stopped them from doing their jobs, and usually completing their tasks ahead of schedule.

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2 Responses to The Seabees

  • When I was a kid, the museum at the Seabees’ base in Port Hueneme was a favorite stop of mine. The best part was the cultural section, with currency, clothing and especially artwork from all the parts of the world where the Seabees have served. A lot of the art pieces were done by local craftsmen to thank the Seabees for their civilian building projects. I remember a particularly beautiful thank-you plaque from Vietnam that was done with inlaid shell.

  • Ty as a former Seabee 1972-1978 I really enjoyed this tribute

Rosie the Riveter

Saturday, September 3, AD 2016

 

Something for a Labor Day weekend.  Rosie the Riveteer.  Written in 1942 the song celebrated the fact that with some sixteen million American men being called into military service, American women were going to have to pick up the slack if America was to win the battle of production, the decisive battle of World War II.  Women, especially young women, were absolutely critical in this task.  In 1944 1.7 million unmarried men were involved in war production, compared to 4.1 million women.  The war of the factories was won for the US by middle aged married men, many of them World War I veterans, and young women, many of them daughters of the older men they labored beside.  Below is a film, Women on the Warpath, made in 1943 by Ford honoring the women involved in assembling B-24 bombers at the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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2 Responses to Rosie the Riveter

Florence Foster Jenkins

Friday, August 19, AD 2016

 

One of the more curious cultural artifacts in the history of this country is the very odd musical career of Florence Foster Jenkins.  A rich heiress, she loved music.  She was a talented pianist in her youth but stopped taking lessons when she married in 1885 at age 18 Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins.  The marriage was a rocky one, characterized by her contracting syphilis from him.  They parted after three years.  He passed away in 1917, but she retained her married name for the remainder of her life.  Moving to New York with her mother in 1900, she founded the Verdi Club in 1917, to share her love of music.  It was through this venue that she embarked upon her career as a singer, giving recitals to small groups of fans, with musical critics carefully excluded.  Jenkins was convinced she was a great singer.  In truth she was an an appallingly bad singer, with virtually no sense of rhythm or pitch.  She was a generous patron of various causes, most of them musical, and her audiences treated her with kindness, any titters being drowned by applause.

She would be forgotten today but for a memorable concert she gave for charity at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944.  The tickets for the event sold out immediately and about 2000 people were turned away the night of the performance.  Ticket prices were $20.00, the equivalent of $274.00 today.  (Privates in the US Army, with combat pay, earned $50.00 per month in 1944.)  Many celebrities attended.  As in her past outings, her fans covered over laughter during her performance with applause.  Alas music critics were among the crowd and their reviews were scathing.  She passed away a month and a day later of a heart attack.  She had been crushed by the bad reviews but, considering that she was in the tertiary stages of syphilis her death may well have had nothing to do with her reaction to the reviews.

Remarkably, in the past two years there have been two films about Jenkins, one in French and the other in English, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep in the title role.  I saw this film last Saturday with my family and the Godmother of my children and my review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect.

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2 Responses to Florence Foster Jenkins

  • She was a great singer because she sang with the gift of the voice that God gave her, God Don’t Make No Junk, and she shared His gift with many people; as we are all called to share the gifts He has given each of us to help Him bring others to Him forever, happy in Heaven. God bless all in this house, eveyone. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Guy your comment is wonderful.
    I am touched and lifted to hear those earnest people singing near me who have no musical ear, but obviously a heart for God.
    I think of a saying – “how silent the woods would be if only the best birds sang”

Hills Are For Heroes

Thursday, August 11, AD 2016

 

My favorite TV show when I was a boy was Combat!  In 152 grittily realistic episodes from 1962-1967, the experiences of an American infantry squad fighting in France in World War II were detailed.  Most of the cast members had served in the military, several in World War II.  The men were not portrayed as supermen, but ordinary men trying to survive while doing a necessary, dirty job.  The series won accolades from World War II combat veterans for its unsparing look at what fighting had been like for them.  The series hit its artistic peak on March 1, and March 8, 1966 with the two part episode Hills Are For Heroes.  Directed by Vic Morrow who starred in the series as Sergeant Chip Saunders, the episodes detail the battle of the squad and the platoon of which it was a part to take a vital hill.  At the end of episode two, after incurring heavy losses, they succeed, only to heartbreakingly having to abandon the hill due to a German breakthrough.  As they march away from the hill, Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley grimly tells his men to remember every feature of the hill for next time.  Television does not get any better than Combat!

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6 Responses to Hills Are For Heroes

  • Must be a metaphor

  • Another mostly-fair (given Hollywood’s widespread perversion to depict Vietnam soldiers as psychopaths, losers, or baby-killers) early 1980’s TV series is “Tour of Duty.” I catch it on rare occasions on a secondary cable network.
    .
    Here’s a (unsolicited) book recommendation. A Shau Valor by Thomas R. Yarborough. The valley was famous/notorious throughout the VN war years for hill fights, sacrifices and uncommon valor. The movie “Hamburger Hill” comes close to getting it.
    .
    Hemingway: “War is a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.” When you meet them, if you meet them, greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • Thanks for the memories. One of my regular favorites, along with the “Victory at Sea” series.

  • Don,
    Agree on Combat!. I own the DVD series. Did you ever watch the 1990s series “Space — Above and Beyond”? I found it very enjoyable and it was often (fairly I think) compared to Combat!.

  • I have it on DVD Mike! I love that series.

633 Squadron

Saturday, July 30, AD 2016

Squadron Leader Adams: Well, at least the rockets won’t happen.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: Of course they’ll happen. But they won’t start tomorrow, or this month or on D-Day, and that’s important.
Squadron Leader Adams: Then what’s it all add up to? All their sacrifice?
Air Vice Marshal Davis: A successful operation.
Squadron Leader Adams: But they’re probably all dead. All 633 Squadron.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: You can’t kill a squadron.

Ending, 633 Squadron (1964)


 

 

Something for the weekend.  The theme song from 633 Squadron.  In my misspent youth I spent endless hours watching old war movies on TV.  One of my favorites was the British flick 633 Squadron (1964) which recounted the fictional tale of a British Mosquito bomber squadron and their self sacrificial attempt to take out a well-defended Nazi V2 rocket fuel plant in occupied Norway.  The film won praise for its aerial sequences, cutting edge in 1964, and George Lucas has cited the squadron’s attack on the plant as influencing the trench run sequence attack on the Death Star in Star Wars.

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4 Responses to 633 Squadron

First Trailer for Mel Gibson’s Movie Hacksaw Ridge

Friday, July 29, AD 2016

The first trailer for the movie Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s tribute to conscientious objector, and Medal of Honor awardee, Desmond Doss.  The film is out in November.  Go here to learn more about Doss.  In an election year it is easy to get cynical about humanity,  but when we contemplate a man like Doss we begin to understand why God bothered to make us in the first place.

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3 Responses to First Trailer for Mel Gibson’s Movie Hacksaw Ridge

  • Thank you, Mel Gibson, for perspective when it’s most needed.

    His other Great War movie, We Were Soldiers Once, is the best ever made in my opinion. Because it’s not really about war so much as the human virtues of courage; faithfulness; honour; fortitude. All refined and purified and crystallized by combat. He does it again here it appears.

    Both of these are true stories. As Catholics are prone to do, he focuses on virtuous lives lived, and holds them up as a beacon of light.

    Do this! Be like this! This is how you do it!

    Thanks.

  • It’s been too long since he made a movie like this. I can only hope he continues. How about his next feature being on the battle of Lepanto? Don Juan of Austria would make a great lead.

  • A Mel Gibson tale of Lepanto would be the crown jewel of his oeuvre. The hinge point of Western Civilzation; the turning of the tide against the Saracens; a great example of Papal wisdom and leadership. And something Gibson seems to love, the mystical side of the Faith, in which Mary actively appears and intervenes on behalf of her Son.

    There may be no other director who could properly tell that tale. A perfect story for our times in so many ways. I agree.

    I’ve read he was considering a movie on Judah Maccabee and his brothers’ fight for liberation from Greek rule and persecution. That has potential, too.

    But this would be better.

Catholic Priests of Dachau

Saturday, June 18, AD 2016

 

A very brave man has died:

The last surviving Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 102, more than 70 years after surviving a Nazi death march.

 The Rev. Hermann Scheipers died on June 2 in Ochtrup, Germany, the Catholic website Aleteia said.

 He spent more than four years at Dachau after being arrested in 1940, reportedly for supporting Polish forced laborers. “Here, you are defenseless, without dignity or rights,” Scheipers recalled being told on arriving at the Nazi camp.

Go here to read the rest.

 

2,579 Catholic priests, seminarians and brothers were thrown by the Nazis during World War II into Dachau.  1,780 of these were from Poland.  Of these, some 868 priests perished, 300 in medical “experiments” or by torture in the showers of the camp.

The remaining priests, seminarians and brothers came from 38 nations.  Besides the Poles the largest groups were 447 German and Austrian priests, 156 French priests and 46 Belgian priests.

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6 Responses to Catholic Priests of Dachau

  • Hero’s all, these Holy souls that managed through hell lasting “five years a day.” What a description. To have so many priests and deacons suffering along with the Jews imprisoned, I can only imagine that the offerings made during those horrific years helped countless souls. Redemptive suffering. May those who benefited from their prayers and sacrifices continue the offerings.

    Today one of our deacons, Chris Jarvis, is being ordained into the priesthood.

    Please say a prayer for his vocation.

    May Blessed Karl Leisner and St. Kolbe help guide his future flock to the glory of God’s love.

  • Many years ago, Mother (RIP) gave me Bennett’s Book of Virtues. I have as a bookmark at Father Kolbe’s pages the NYT obituary for the Polish man whose life Father Maximilian Kolbe saved with his death. In a moment, I will take out the book and prayerfully read both.
    .
    St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
    .
    “Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever.”
    .

  • Polish sergeant Francis Gajowniczek.

    His life was the life given him by Christ through the gift of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

    He travelled the world giving his testimony about a stranger who sacrificed himself to save his own life. By his testimony and the free gift of Kolbe, I have come to experience God’s Love and forgiveness.

    Glory to God in the highest!

  • In recent years much has been made of the death toll of Catholic priests in Dachau. It remains a fact that more priests died in the other German camps and prisons combined than in Dachau. Sometimes I wonder if the recent fixation by non-Christian historians is an attempt not to recognize the true numbers but to deflate them.

  • Sometimes I wonder if the recent fixation by non-Christian historians on Dachau…

  • I am not sure that the work of preparation for the re-establishment of the Diaconate to the Church as a distinct ministry in Dachau is known of very well. Fr Otto Pies was among the group of clerics and others which considered the question, “How will we rebuild the Church in Germany after the war?” The Diaconate was seen as a definite pathway to follow. The issue was raised with Pius xii who reportedly said that “the time was not yet right”. The work of discernment went on and the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) were asked the question and responded positively. As a result the College of Bishops have over 30,000 extra pairs of hands to assist them today.

Ernie Pyle on Omaha Beach

Friday, June 10, AD 2016

Normandy - American Cemetery (1)

There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”
Colonel George A. Taylor, commander 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

Now that it is over it seems to me a pure miracle that we ever took the beach at all. For some of our units it was easy, but in this special sector where I am now our troops faced such odds that our getting ashore was like my whipping Joe Louis down to a pulp.

In this column I want to tell you what the opening of the second front in this one sector entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.

Ashore, facing us, were more enemy troops than we had in our assault waves. The advantages were all theirs, the disadvantages all ours. The Germans were dug into positions that they had been working on for months, although these were not yet all complete. A one-hundred-foot bluff a couple of hundred yards back from the beach had great concrete gun emplacements built right into the hilltop. These opened to the sides instead of to the front, thus making it very hard for naval fire from the sea to reach them. They could shoot parallel with the beach and cover every foot of it for miles with artillery fire.

Then they had hidden machine-gun nests on the forward slopes, with crossfire taking in every inch of the beach. These nests were connected by networks of trenches, so that the German gunners could move about without exposing themselves.

Throughout the length of the beach, running zigzag a couple of hundred yards back from the shoreline, was an immense V-shaped ditch fifteen feet deep. Nothing could cross it, not even men on foot, until fills had been made. And in other places at the far end of the beach, where the ground is flatter, they had great concrete walls. These were blasted by our naval gunfire or by explosives set by hand after we got ashore.

Our only exits from the beach were several swales or valleys, each about one hundred yards wide. The Germans made the most of these funnel-like traps, sowing them with buried mines. They contained, also, barbed-wire entanglements with mines attached, hidden ditches, and machine guns firing from the slopes.

This is what was on the shore. But our men had to go through a maze nearly as deadly as this before they even got ashore. Underwater obstacles were terrific. The Germans had whole fields of evil devices under the water to catch our boats. Even now, several days after the landing, we have cleared only channels through them and cannot yet approach the whole length of the beach with our ships. Even now some ship or boat hits one of these mines every day and is knocked out of commission.

The Germans had masses of those great six-pronged spiders, made of railroad iron and standing shoulder-high, just beneath the surface of the water for our landing craft to run into. They also had huge logs buried in the sand, pointing upward and outward, their tops just below the water. Attached to these logs were mines.

In addition to these obstacles they had floating mines offshore, land mines buried in the sand of the beach, and more mines in checkerboard rows in the tall grass beyond the sand. And the enemy had four men on shore for every three men we had approaching the shore.

And yet we got on.

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Padre of Guadalcanal

Thursday, June 9, AD 2016

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(This is a post I did in 2009.  It seemed appropriate to repost it today in tandem with my Halsey post.  Father Gehring pray for us that we may have the courage to face our challenges in life and win victories over them.)

 

Frederic Gehring was probably lucky that he was born and reared in Brooklyn.  It has always been a tough town and it prepared him for the adventurous life he was to lead.  Born on January 20, 1903,  he went on to attend and graduated from Saint John’s Prep.  Setting his eyes on being a missionary priest, he entered the minor seminary of the Vincentians, Saint Joseph’s, near Princeton,  New Jersey.  Earning his BA in 1925, he entered the seminary of Saint Vincent’s in Philadelphia.

Ordained as a priest on May 22, 1930, he was unable to immediately go to China due to military activity of the Communists in Kiangsi province.  For three years he traveled throughout the US raising funds for the missions in China, and, at long last, in 1933 he was able to pack his bags and sailed for China.  Laboring in the Chinese missions from 1933-1939 in the midst of warlordism, civil war and the invasion of China, commencing in 1937, by Japan must have been tough, but Father Gehring was always up to any challenge.  For example,  in 1938 Japanese planes strafed a mission he was at.  Father Gehring ran out waving a large American flag in hopes that the Japanese would not wish to offend a powerful neutral nation and would stop the strafing.  The Japanese planes did fly off, and Father Gehring was pleased until someone at the mission pointed out that maybe the Japanese had simply run out of ammo!  In 1939 Father Gerhring returned to the States to raise funds for the missions.

 

Immediately following Pearl Harbor, Father Gehring joined the Navy as a Chaplain.  In September 1942 he began an unforgettable six month tour of duty with the First Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal.  Marines, although they are often loathe to admit it, are a component of the Department of the Navy, and the US Navy supplies their support troops, including chaplains.  (One of my friends served as a Navy corpsman with a Marine unit in Vietnam.  After his tour with the Navy he enlisted with the Marines, was commissioned a Lieutenant, and spent his entire tour with a detachment of Marines aboard an aircraft carrier.  As he puts it, he joined the Navy and spent his time slogging through the mud with Marines.  He then joined the Marines and spent his time sailing with the Navy.)

Guadalcanal marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.  In August 1942 the US went on the offensive for the first time when the First Marine Division, the Old Breed,  landed on Guadalcanal and took the Japanese air base there.  This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.  The importance of Guadalcanal is well captured in this quote from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey: “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.

Guadalcanal

Upon arrival on Guadalcanal, Lieutenant Gehring quickly became known as “Padre “ to the men of the Old Breed, the title usually bestowed upon chaplains, especially if they were Catholic priests.  He soon became known for wanting to be where the fighting was in order to help the wounded and administer the Last Rites.  Initially this took some of the Marines by surprise.  Jumping into a foxhole during a heavy fire fight, a shocked Marine already in the foxhole, noticing the crucifix dangling from his neck, cried out to him, “Padre, what are you doing here?”  Gehring calmly replied, “Where else would I be?”  He would routinely say Masses so close to the fighting, that the Marines said that he would say Mass in Hell for Marines if he could drive his jeep there.  The Marines quickly decided that it was a lost cause asking the Padre to stay behind the lines.  They were doing well if they could convince him to stay within friendly lines!  Three times he went out on behind the line missions to rescue trapped missionaries on the island, mostly Marist priests and sisters, rescuing 28 of them, assisted by natives of the Solomons.  For this feat he was the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Legion of Merit by the President.

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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Thursday, June 9, AD 2016

There are no great men, there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.

Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Earlier this week I was watching the movie The Gallant Hours (1960), starring James Cagney as Admiral William Halsey, Jr.  (Halsey hated the nickname “Bull” that the press fastened upon him during the War.)  The film focuses on the time in late 1942 to 1943 when Halsey was theater commander during the Guadalcanal campaign.  This was in tandem with my reading of the latest bio of Halsey, Admiral Bill Halsey:  A Naval Life, by Thomas Alexander Hughes.

Halsey is an interesting figure partially because his public image is so at odds with the reality.  During World War II Halsey was the “Patton of the Pacific”, a fighting Admiral who swore as he viewed the carnage of Pearl Harbor on December 7,  that by the time the US was done the only place that Japanese would be spoken was in Hell.  Halsey in the popular perception was a rampaging bull in a Japanese china shop.

The reality was different.  Halsey, who got his wings at the advanced age of 52, was an inspired commander of carriers.  Strike quick and run was his method in the early days of the War, when his daring carrier raids on Japanese held islands in the Pacific gave a very badly needed boost to national morale.  (“I hauled ass with Halsey” was a fond remembrance of veterans of those raids for decades after the War.)   However, unlike his unwelcome “Bull” image, Halsey was a thoughtful and careful planner, who paid close attention to such un-glamorous, but essential, topics as logistics and intelligence as he plotted every move his forces made.  He was also an officer beloved of his men because of his reputation of making sure that they were taken care of regarding food, leave and mail.  Throughout his career Halsey was known as a sailor’s officer who always looked out for the enlisted men under his command.  (A typical story told about Halsey by his sailors.  On board a carrier sailors were waiting in line for some prized ice cream.  An Ensign decides to cut to the head of his line.  He suddenly hears a stream of profanity directed at him.  He turns around to chew out the sailor cussing him.  He finds out that the man yelling at him is four star Admiral Halsey who has been patiently waiting his turn in the line with his men.)

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One Response to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

  • I saw that gerdunk story in a Naval Institute publication. In that account it was two Ensigns, and they only saw Halsey when they demanded “Who said that?” and the Admiral stepped out of line and said “I did!”. The two then ran off.