The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

The Art of Tetman Callis header image 1

In case you’ve been wondering

May 28th, 2016 · No Comments

“Life’s a war zone. Death’s the sanctuary. You want to be safe?” – Gordon Lish (interviewed by Christian Lorentzen in Paris Review)

→ No CommentsTags: Lit & Crit · The Gordon Lish Notes

Better that than the devil’s playground

May 27th, 2016 · No Comments

“Work really is the answer to so many problems, and it’s a form of play, too, that you take very seriously and keep trying to expand.” – Diane Keaton (interviewed by Meg Grant in “Diane Keaton Can’t Stop”)

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Verandah

Justice is served

May 26th, 2016 · No Comments

“Seventy-four defendants were tried in a Dachau courtroom for murdering GIs and Belgian civilians at or near the Malmédy crossroads during the [Battle of the] Bulge, and forty-three of them received death sentences, including their commander, Colonel Joachim Peiper. But confessions had been coerced, by threats to defendants’ relatives, physical force, and other wrongful inducements; all capital sentences were commuted. Released from Landsberg prison on 1956, Peiper found a job managing American sales for Porsche. Later he worked for Volkswagen and as a translator, remaining active in Waffen-SS veterans associations. In 1976, Peiper burned to death when his house in Alsace was fire-bombed by a killer who had also slashed the hoses of the local fire department. The crime remained unsolved.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Politics & Law · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Still working on it

May 25th, 2016 · No Comments

“The war was a potent catalyst for change across the republic. New technologies—jets, computers, ballistic missiles, penicillin—soon spurred vibrant new industries, which in turn encouraged the migration of black workers from south to north, and of all peoples to the emerging west. The GI Bill put millions of soldiers into college classrooms, spurring unprecedented social mobility. Nineteen million American women had entered the workplace by war’s end; although they quickly reverted to traditional antebellum roles—the percentage working in 1947 was hardly higher than it had been in 1940—that genie would not remain back in the bottle forever. The modest experiment in racially integrating infantry battalions ended when the war did, despite nearly universal agreement that black riflemen had performed ably and in harmony with their white comrades. A presidential order in 1948 would be required to desegregate the military, and much more than that would be needed to reverse three centuries of racial oppression in America. But tectonic plates had begun to shift. ‘Glad to be home,’ a black soldier from Chicago observed as his troopship sailed into New York harbor. ‘Proud of my country, as irregular as it is. Determined it could be better.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Politics & Law · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Last man standing

May 24th, 2016 · No Comments

“The United States emerged from World War II with extraordinary advantages that would ensure prosperity for decades: an intact, thriving industrial base; a population relatively unscarred by war; cheap energy; two-thirds of the world’s gold supply; and great optimism. As the major power in western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, possessing both atomic weapons and a Navy and Air Force of unequaled might, the United States was ready to exploit what the historian H. P. Willmott described as ‘the end of the period of European supremacy in the world that had existed for four centuries.’ If the war had dispelled American isolationism, it also encouraged American exceptionalism, as well as a penchant for military solutions and a self-regard that led some to label their epoch ‘the American century.’ ‘Power,’ as John Adams had written, ‘always thinks it has a great soul.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

The tally

May 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

“By the time Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, the Second World War had lasted six years and a day, ensnaring almost sixty nations, plus sundry colonial and imperial territories. Sixty million had died in those six years, including nearly 10 million in Germany and Japan, and more than twice that number in the Soviet Union–roughly 26 million, one-third of them soldiers. To describe this ‘great and terrible epoch,’ as George Marshall called it, new words would be required, like ‘genocide’; and old words would assume new usages; ‘Holocaust.’ The war ‘was a savage, insensate affair, barely conceivable to the well-conducted imagination,’ wrote Lieutenant Paul Fussell. ‘The real war was tragic and ironic, beyond the power of any literary or philosophic analysis to suggest.’ To one victim, Ernie Pyle, this global conflagration had been simply ‘an unmitigated misfortune.’ For the Allies, some solace could be derived from complete victory over a foe of unexampled iniquity. An existential struggle had been settled so decisively that Field Marshal Brooke, among many, would conclude ‘that there is a God all-powerful looking after the destiny of the world.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Breakfast is served

May 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

“Hitler ate a late lunch with his two secretaries and his dietician. Dressed in a uniform jacket and black trousers, he then shook hands with his staff, murmuring a few words of farewell before retreating to his study. Eva Braun, wearing a blue dress trimmed in white, joined him at 3:30 p.m. [April 30, 1945.] Only a rattle of ventilator fans and the distant grumble of artillery broke the silence. Ten minutes later, aides opened the study door to find Braun slumped on a sofa, dead from cyanide. Next to her sat the lifeless Führer, a bullet hole from a Walther PPK 7.65mm pistol in his right temple. Twelve years and four [sic] months after it began, the Thousand-Year Reich had ended. Humanity would require decades, perhaps centuries, to parse the regime’s inhumanity, and to comprehend how a narcissistic beerhall demagogue had wrecked a nation, a continent, and nearly a world. ‘Never in history has such ruination—physical and moral—been associated with the name of one man, the chief instigator of the most profound collapse of civilization in modern times,’ wrote Hitler’s biographer, Ian Kershaw. Stalin, upon hearing the news, would need but a moment to compose the Führer’s epitaph: ‘So—that’s the end of the bastard.’ Henchmen wrapped the two bodies in blankets, carried them up four flights to the shell-pocked garden, doused them in gasoline, and let them burn for three hours, a small, pleasing blaze within the larger conflagration. ‘The chief’s on fire,’ a drunk SS bodyguard called down into the bunker. ‘Do you want to come and have a look?’ A chauffeur later complained that the ventilation fans wafted a stench of seared flesh through the labyrinth. ‘We could not get away from it,’ he said. ‘It smelled like burning bacon.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Adolf Hitler · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Arbeit macht frei

May 21st, 2016 · No Comments

“The vanguard of the 42nd Infantry Division arrived at the main gate to be welcomed by the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei signage and, a brigadier general recounted, ‘a yelling, seething mass of prisoners who broke through the steel wire fence at several places. . . . In this process several were electrocuted.’ Sixteen Germans were rousted from a guard tower near the Würm River canal. Witnesses subsequently disagreed on whether any resisted, but upon being disarmed and assembled in two ranks the men were gunned down by soldiers from both the 42nd and 45th Divisions. Seven bodies lay like bloody bundles on the canal bank, with others heaved into the water ‘amidst a roar unlike anything ever heard from human throats,’ an Associated Press reporter wrote. The rampage spent itself. Medics arrived, and grave diggers. ‘I haven’t the words to tell you how horrible it really is,’ an Army nurse wrote her husband.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Shine a light

May 21st, 2016 · No Comments

“Prisoners cornered kapos and suspected informers, clubbing them with shovels. Howling inmates pursued remaining Waffen-SS troops, some of whom were masquerading in prison garb. ‘They tore the Germans apart by hand,’ a soldier reported. Rabbi Eichhorn, who arrived at Dachau that afternoon, wrote, ‘We stood aside and watched while these guards were beaten to death, beaten so badly that their bodies were ripped open. . . . We watched with less feeling than if a dog were being beaten.’ Inmates desecrated dead and dying Germans with sticks and rocks, crushing skulls and severing fingers. One guard’s ‘body was strewn all over the place,’ a witness reported, ‘arms out of sockets.’ After entering the compound, soldiers from I Company herded several dozen Germans against the eight-foot stucco wall of a coal yard where, without warning, a gunner manning a light machine gun on a tripod opened fire. Others joined in with carbines and a Browning Automatic Rifle. By the time an officer halted the fusillade, seventeen victims lay dead. A battalion surgeon refused to treat the SS wounded.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Summary Justice

May 21st, 2016 · No Comments

“On a chilly, sunless Sunday morning, April 29 [1945], the 45th Infantry Division, bound for Munich and badly frayed after vicious gunfights in Ascheffenburg and Nuremberg, arrived in Dachau town. ‘There are flower beds and trees, small shops, bicycles on the ground, churches with steeples, a mirror-like river,’ an Army physician wrote. There was more, as I Company of the 157th Infantry discovered upon following a rail spur toward the prison compound. Thirty-nine train cars—gondolas, passenger carriages, and boxcars—sat on the siding. Either in the cars or scattered along the tracks lay 2,310 decomposing corpses, some naked, others in tattered blue-and-white camp livery; most were Poles who had starved to death after being forcibly evacuated from Buchenwald. While GIs wept at the sight, four Waffen-SS soldiers emerged from hiding with hands high. A lieutenant herded the men into a boxcar and then emptied his pistol into them. Another GI pumped rifle rounds into those still moaning. ‘You sons of bitches,’ the lieutenant shrieked. ‘You sons of bitches.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Piling on

May 20th, 2016 · No Comments

“A final monstrosity awaited discovery by American soldiers, further confirming not only the Reich’s turpitude but the inexorable moral corrosion of war, which put even the righteous at risk. Ten miles northwest of Munich, a former gunpowder factory of the Royal Bavarian Army had, in March 1933, received the first of 200,000 prisoners. In the next twelve years, nearly a quarter of them would be murdered there and at the 170 subcamps to which Dachau metastasized. By the evening of April 28 [1945], when swastika flags were lowered and white flags raised at the main compound, 31,000 inmates from forty-one nations remained behind the electrified fence. Another 13,000 had died in the previous four months, mostly from typhus and starvation.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Matters of identity

May 20th, 2016 · No Comments

“Shocking evidence of German torture and murder had been emerging for many months as Allied armies overran crime scenes at Breedonck prison in Belgium, or in camps like Natzweiler in France and Majdanek in Poland. Yet not until the revelations of April 1945 did the vast criminality of the Nazi regime spark enduring outrage in the West. Hyperbolic propaganda about World War I atrocities ‘had left an enduring legacy of skepticism,’ the U.S. Army acknowledged; a survey in early December [1944] found that barely one-third of British citizens believed atrocity stories about the Germans. Graphic film footage from Europe had been suppressed because Hollywood worried about nauseating moviegoers or creating ill-will toward newsreel companies. But photography and eyewitness accounts from Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and other hellholes now filled newspapers and cinema screens. Warner Bros. and other studios collaborated with the Pentagon in releasing atrocity documentaries. By mid-April, another survey showed that more than four in five Britons were convinced that the Reich had done evil on a monumental scale. Even war-weary soldiers felt a new sense of purpose. ‘What kind of people are these that we are fighting?’ an anguished GI in the 8th Infantry Division asked after viewing Wöbbelin. If the answer to that question remained elusive, the corollaries—What kind of people are we? What kind of people should we be?—seemed ever clearer. Complete victory would require not only vanquishing the enemy on the battlefield, but also bearing witness to all that the war had revealed about the human heart. ‘Hardly any boy infantryman started his career as a moralist,’ wrote Lieutenant Paul Fussell, ‘but after the camps, a moral attitude was dominant and there was no disagreement on the main point.’ A rifleman in the 157th Infantry agreed. ‘I’ve been in the Army for thirty-nine months,’ he said. ‘I’ve been overseas in combat for twenty-three. I’d gladly go through it all again if I knew that things like this would be stopped.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light (emphasis in original)

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Those SS guards were such wits

May 20th, 2016 · No Comments

“An intricate, awful world soon was revealed [at Buchenwald]: the cement cellar ‘strangling room,’ where the condemned were garroted and hung on forty-five wall hooks, those still struggling to be bashed with a wooden mallet; Block 46, where gruesome medical experiments were conducted; the dissecting room, where inmate tattoos were excised, tanned, and fashioned into lampshades, wall hangings, and a pair of gloves for the commandant’s wife. ‘Inmates were beaten with fists, sticks, clubs, dog whips, riding crops, rubber hoses, ox-tail whips, leather belts, rifle butts, shovels, spade handles, and rocks,’ an Army report noted. ‘Also they were bitten by dogs.’ Others were strung up by their hands for hours from tree boughs in a grove known to SS guards as the ‘singing forest’ because of the victims’ cries. Music blared from the loudspeakers to mask gunfire at the camp stables or rifle range by the execution squad, ‘Detail 99.’ The SS had murdered at least 56,000 inmates in Buchenwald and its subcamps. Many then were consigned to six brick ovens that could reduce a ‘charge’ of eighteen bodies to bone and ash in twenty minutes.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

My country, wrong or wrong

May 20th, 2016 · No Comments

“For the U.S. Army, the camp at Buchenwald offered a uniquely searing epiphany of liberation because of its size and the clear evidence of systemic evil. Built in 1937 outside Weimar, a city that had once been home to Goethe, Schiller, and Franz Liszt, Buchenwald and its satellites had grown to more than 100,000 inmates by March 1945, with offenders categorized by triangle insignia on their uniforms: red for political prisoners, pink for homosexuals, green for criminals, yellow for Jews. Just after noon on April 11 [1945], a warning over the public address system advised, ‘All S.S. men leave the camp immediately.’ Sentries ‘ran with long strides into the forest,’ a witness reported, and at 3:15 p.m. a white flag rose above the camp. An hour later, outriders of the Third Army’s 6th Armored Division burst through the main gate, which stood beneath a large sign proclaiming Recht oder Unrecht, mein Vaterland. Right or wrong, my Fatherland. They found twenty-one thousand survivors from thirty-one nations—engineers, lawyers, professors, editors, and a thousand boys under age fourteen—living on six hundred calories a day. As one liberator said of the liberated, ‘They were so thin and so dried out that they might have been monkeys or plaster of Paris and you had to keep saying to yourself, these are human beings.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

April showers

May 19th, 2016 · No Comments

“On April 15 [1945] when the 11th Armored Division stumbled upon the Bergen-Belsen camp, fifty miles south of Hamburg . . . Over forty thousand men, women, and children jammed a compound designed for eight thousand; since January they had survived on watery soup, fourteen ounces of rye bread a day, and a kind of beet called magel-wurzel, normally used as livestock feed. But for the past four days they had received neither food nor water and were reduced to eating the hearts, livers, and kidneys of the dead. Plundered bodies lay in such numbers that it was ‘like trying to count the stars,’ a medic reported. Ten thousand corpses littered the camp: two thousand lined a pit on the southern perimeter and others were stacked four deep around the crude hospital. ‘Both inside and outside the huts,’ the British Army reported, ‘was an almost continuous carpet of dead bodies, human excreta, rags, and filth.’ One soldier recounted seeing ‘a woman squatting gnawing at a human thigh bone. . . . In war you see humanity at the end of its tether.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Clarification

May 19th, 2016 · No Comments

“Soldiers who in years of combat had seen things no man should ever see now gawked in disbelief at the iniquities confronting them. ‘There was no fat on them to decompose,’ Major Ralph Ingersoll wrote after viewing corpses at Landsberg. ‘You are repelled by the sight of your own leg, because in its shape it reminds you of one of those legs. It is a degenerating experience.’ At the Wöbbelin camp near Ludwigslust, General Gavin ordered local civilians to open the mass graves of camp victims and lift the dead into wagon beds lined with evergreen boughs; they were to be reinterred in graves dug on the town square. ‘Each body was pulled out, handed up and wrapped in a white sheet or tablecloth,’ an 82nd Airborne lieutenant wrote his sister. ‘We were united in a bond of shame that we had ever seen such things.’ Gavin arranged for a film crew to record the proceedings, and years later he wept while watching the footage. ‘It was a defining moment in our lives,’ a paratrooper said. ‘Who we were, what we believed in, and what we stood for.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Shame to spare

May 18th, 2016 · No Comments

“Nordhausen was overrun by the 3rd Armored and 104th Infantry Divisions, which found what one witness described as ‘a charnel house’ of several thousand corpses. ‘Men lay as they had starved, discolored and lying in indescribable human filth,’ a medic reported. ‘One hunched-down French boy was huddled up against a dead comrade, as if to keep warm.’ In nearby tunnels used to assemble V-weapons, GIs beat up a captured German scientist, then beat him up again for the benefit of a Signal Corps photographer. General Collins ordered two thousand German civilians to carry Nordhausen’s dead half a mile for burial in two dozen mass graves. ‘There is no greater shame for any German,’ Collins told them, ‘than to be a citizen of this town.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

No laughing matter

May 18th, 2016 · No Comments

“As Allied forces had approached [Ohrdruf] from the west, Patton informed his diary, SS guards ‘had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them,’ leaving ‘bones, skulls, charred torsos.’ Most guards then fled, disguised in mufti, although a few were beaten or stabbed to death by vengeful inmates as the first Americans arrived. ‘You search the face to find what it is that is lacking, to find the mark of the beast,’ a reporter wrote after scrutinizing SS visages. The camp still reeked of feces and burned hair. Another burial trench dusted with lime ‘was almost filled with ash and human debris from which, here and there, emaciated limbs projected,’ wrote Osmar White, the Australian correspondent assigned to Third Army. ‘Patton,’ Bradley noted, ‘walked over to a corner and sickened.’ When a young GI giggled nervously, Eisenhower fixed him with a baleful eye. ‘Still having trouble hating them?’ he asked. To other troops gathered round him in the compound, the supreme commander said, ‘We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now at least he will know what he is fighting against.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Hitting the jackboots’ jackpot

May 17th, 2016 · No Comments

“In [the Merkers mine] ‘Room No. 8,’ a chamber 150 feet long and 75 feet wide, more than 7,000 bags of gold and other loot recently transferred from Berlin—in some cases by double-decker bus—lay in neat rows under lights dangling beneath the twelve-foot ceiling. In addition to 8,307 gold bars and 55 crates of bullion, the repository included 3,682 sacks of German currency, 3,326 bags of gold coins—among them 711 filled with U.S. $20 gold pieces, each sack worth $25,000—8 bags of gold rings, and a pouch of platinum bars. At the back of the room, in more than 200 satchels, suitcases, and trunks, each tagged ‘Melmer’ after a kleptomaniacal SS captain named Bruno Melmer, were valuables stolen from concentration-camp victims: pearls, watch cases, gold toothcrowns, Passover cups, cigarette cases, spoons. Much of the metal had been hammered flat to save space. Other galleries and shafts nearby yielded two million volumes from Berlin libraries, 400 tons of patent records, 33 wooden cases of Goethe memorabilia from Weimar, paintings by Rubens and Goya, and costumes from the Berlin state theaters. ‘If these were the old free-booting days when a soldier kept his loot,’ [General] Bradley told [General] Patton, ‘you’d be the richest man in the world.’ Patton facetiously proposed converting the 250 tons of gold—most of the Reich’s reserve—into medallions ‘for every son of a bitch in the Third Army.’ Eventually valued by SHAEF in excess of half a billion dollars, the treasure in the Merkers shaft lay within what soon would become the Soviet occupation zone. There was not a moment to lose, and plans already had been made to spirit the booty to Frankfurt—in the American zone—using thirty ten-ton trucks guarded by two MP battalions, seven infantry platoons, and air cover from P-51 Mustangs. The artworks were to be wrapped in German army sheepskin coats, thousands of which were also found in the mine.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

The Final Solution

May 16th, 2016 · No Comments

“ ‘I sincerely believe that I have served a criminal,’ [German Field Marshal] Model mused. ‘I led my soldiers in good conscience . . . but for a criminal government.’ Sealing his wedding ring and a letter to his wife inside an envelope, he walked to a gnarled oak tree. ‘You will bury me here,’ he told a subordinate, then blew his brains out with a Walther service revolver.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light (ellipsis in original)

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Bespoke

May 16th, 2016 · No Comments

“Fate is definite and there is no altering—the suit always fits.” – Major General Edward F. Witsell, United States Army Air Forces (quoted by Rick Atkinson in The Guns at Last Light)

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War · Verandah

The facts on the ground

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments

“Resistance to integrating combat regiments ran deep. ‘A colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor,’ [General] Patton told his diary, and some argued that teaching black riflemen to shoot white Germans would lead to the shooting of white Americans at home. ‘We were going to make liars out of the whites,’ a black soldier later said. Another wrote, ‘I am an American negro, doing my part for the American government to make the world safe for a democracy I have never known.’ For many white combat soldiers in Germany, the simple truth was voiced by an artillery forward observer in the 394th Infantry: ‘We were short-handed and they were welcome.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Unintended consequences

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments

“Among those crossing the Rhine on March 12 [1945] was the 5th Platoon of Company K of the 394th Infantry Regiment. Singular only because they were black, these GI riflemen were among fifty-three platoons of ‘colored’ infantry mustered from volunteers to help remedy manpower shortages. Many had surrendered sergeant’s stripes earned as cooks, drivers, and laborers in black service battalions for the privilege of fighting as privates. ‘Hitler was the one that got us out of the white folks’ kitchen,’ one black observer later said.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Gang aft agley

May 14th, 2016 · No Comments

“All planning was not just likely to recoil ironically; it was almost certain to do so. Human beings were clearly not machines. They were mysterious congeries of twisted will and error, misapprehension and misrepresentation, and the expected could not be expected of them.” – Lieutenant Paul Fussell, 103rd Infantry Division, U.S. Army (quoted by Rick Atkinson in The Guns at Last Light)

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Dead heroes, buried far from home

May 14th, 2016 · No Comments

“ ‘Everybody shares the same universals—hope, love, humor, faith,’ Private First Class Richard E. Cowan of the 2nd Infantry Division had written his family in Kansas on December 5 [1944], his twenty-second birthday. Two weeks later he was dead, killed near Krinkelt after holding off German attackers with a machine gun long enough to cover his comrades’ escape. ‘It is such a bitter dose to have to take,’ his mother confessed after hearing the news, ‘and I am not a bit brave about it.’ Cowan would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of thirty-two recognizing heroics in the Bulge. Like so many thousands of others, he would be interred . . . along with his last full measure of hope, love, humor, and faith.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

This way

May 13th, 2016 · No Comments

“Nobody gets out of a rifle company. It’s a door that only opens one way, in. You leave when they carry you out.” – Lieutenant Paul Fussell, 103rd Infantry Division, U.S. Army (quoted by Rick Atkinson in The Guns at Last Light)

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Daddy’s gone to war, and baby brother’s gone, too

May 13th, 2016 · No Comments

“Selective Service exemptions for fathers were belatedly abolished: one million would be drafted in 1944-45. The average age of draftees had climbed from twenty-two in 1940 to twenty-six in 1944, and many new privates were over thirty-five. A ban on shipping eighteen-year-olds overseas was rescinded in August [1944]. Induction standards for ‘physically imperfect men,’ already loosened, were further relaxed in October. Draft examiners were advised that ‘such terms as “imbecile” and “moron” will not be used,’ but 330,000 inductees, some of whom could fairly be classified as at least dull-witted, were subsequently discharged for sundry mental defects.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

The city in a different light

May 12th, 2016 · No Comments

“Eisenhower’s provost marshal estimated that in December eighteen thousand American deserters roamed the European theater, plus another ten thousand British absconders. The equivalent of a division of military fugitives was believed to be hiding in the Parisian demimonde, often joining forces with local black marketeers to peddle K rations for 75 cents from the tailgates of stolen Army trucks—hundreds of such vehicles vanished every day—or simply selling the entire deuce-and-a-half for $5,000. Eventually four thousand military policemen and detectives worked the streets of Paris. From September through December [1944] they arrested more than ten thousand people, including French civilians caught selling marijuana to soldiers. A five-story French army barracks on the Boulevard Mortier became a detention block capable of holding more than two thousand miscreants, while the merely AWOL were rounded up and trucked back to the front in lots of sixteen under MP guard. Many soldiers in an Army railway battalion in Paris were arrested and court-martialed en masse for pilferage; nearly two hundred of them drew prison sentences, some as long as fifty years—later commuted for those who agreed to combat duty. Still, the malfeasance and misconduct would thrive through the end of the war, to the point that Paris, the city of light, the city of learning, the city of love, earned yet another nickname: ‘Chicago-sur-Seine.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Hi, soldier . . .

May 12th, 2016 · No Comments

“A typical transaction cost three packs of Chesterfields, and a survey found that among soldiers who spent two days or more in Paris, two-thirds had intercourse at least once, often in what were called ‘Where am I?’ rooms. . . . Soldiers excused from duty while being treated for syphilis or gonorrhea were said to be ‘whores de combat,’ and the Good Conduct Ribbon became known as the ‘No-Clap Medal.’ Women who swapped sex for rations or chocolate were called ‘Hershey bars,’ while a brothel was a ‘house of horizontal refreshment.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War

Worn out, torn down, broken, shattered, wasted away

May 12th, 2016 · No Comments

“Most [combat exhaustion] patients were treated as temporarily disabled and kept close to the front, to preserve their self-respect and emotional links to their unit. Division clearing stations now usually included a psychiatrist . . . exhausted patients often were put into a deep sleep, sometimes for days, with ‘Blue 88s,’ sodium amytal or nembutal capsules. Of every one hundred exhaustion patients hospitalized in the European theater, ninety returned to duty in some capacity, although many were finished as killer riflemen. . . . neither competent treatment nor all the Blue 88s in Europe could efface war’s capacity to fracture men’s psyches. . . . Most experts concluded that soldiers wore out for good after 200 to 240 days of battle, although two psychologists monitoring the advance into Germany posited that a GI’s combat skills began to decline after a month of fighting, with many ‘close to a vegetative state’ after forty-five days.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

→ No CommentsTags: Economics · Rick Atkinson · The Second World War