Day: May 7, 2016

The misunderstood military multitudeThe misunderstood military multitude

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:44 pm

“On they marched, south, east, and west: past stone barns and mules hauling milk in copper urns, past shops that still peddled perfume and silk scarves, past collaborators with crude swastikas swabbed onto their shaved heads. When the trucks halted for a moment and GIs tumbled out to urinate in squirming echelons on the road shoulders, civilians rushed up to plead for cigarettes with two fingers pressed to the lips, a gesture described by Forrest Pogue as the French national salute. Others offered tricolor nosegays made from blue hydrangeas, red roses, and white asters. ‘Heep, heep, whoo-ray!’ the Frenchmen yelled, repeating phrases learned from doughboys a generation earlier. ‘I speeg Engless. Jees-Christ, cot-damn!’ Soldiers replied in schoolboy French or with handy phrases published in Stars and Stripes, among which was the French for ‘My wife doesn’t understand me.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Death in the forenoonDeath in the forenoon

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 2:13 pm

“In the Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks on Birdcage Walk, across from the former pig meadow and leper colony currently known as St. James’s Park, a full-throated congregation belted out the ‘Te Deum’ and prepared to take communion from the bishop of Maidstone. ‘To Thee all angels cry aloud,’ they sang, ‘the heavens and all the powers therein.’ At 11:10 a.m. [June 18, 1944] an annoying growl from those same heavens grew louder. Ernest Hemingway heard it in his Dorchester Hotel suite, where he was making pancakes with buckwheat flour and bourbon; from the window he looked for the telltale ‘white-hot bunghole’ of a jet engine. Pedestrians in Parliament Square heard it and fell flat, covering their heads. Clementine Churchill, the prime minister’s wife, heard it in Hyde Park, where she was visiting the gun battery in which her daughter Mary volunteered. The Guards Chapel congregation heard it and kept singing. Then they heard nothing—that most terrifying of all sounds—as the engine quit, the bunghole winked out, and the black cruciform [V-1 missile] fell. Through the chapel’s reinforced concrete roof it plummeted before detonating in a white blast that blew out walls, blew down support pillars, and stripped the leaves from St. James’s plane trees. A funnel of smoke curled fifteen hundred feet above the wrecked nave; rubble ten feet deep buried the pews even as six candles still guttered on the altar and the bishop stood unharmed. One hundred and twenty-one others were dead and as many more injured. Two thousand memorial plaques accumulated by Guards regiments during eons of war lay pulverized, although a mosaic donated by Queen Victoria remained intact: ‘Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

A lion in winterA lion in winter

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 9:25 am

“The Führer and his entourage flew from Berchtesgaden in four Focke-Wulf Condors to Metz, then drove 175 miles in armored cars to Margival. . . . This was Hitler’s first return to France since 1940, and he looked like a man who was losing a world war: eyes bloodshot and puffy from insomnia, skin sallow, the toothbrush mustache a bit bedraggled. Aides reported that even his passion for music had waned. ‘It is tragic that the Führer has so cut himself off from life and is leading an excessively unhealthy life,’ wrote his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Often he checked his own pulse, as if fingering mortality; a quack dubbed the Reich Injection Minister frequently administered sedatives or shots of a glandular concoction. He shunned bright lights and wore a cap with an enlarged visor to shield his eyes. ‘I always have the feeling of tipping to the right,’ he complained. He spoke of retirement, of a life devoted to reading, or meditating, or running a museum.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light