Back in 1965, fifty years ago, the brilliant music satirist Tom Lehrer, in the introduction to So Long Mom, a song of World War III, said this: “This year we’ve been celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War and the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of World War I and the twentieth anniversary of the end of World War II. All in all it’s been a good year for the war buffs.” (With a different intro, LISTEN to So Long Mom.)
As D-Day approaches, all I can think about are 90-year-old men who saw awful things, but sucked it up to get through the events, and then stoically never talked about them. That is until 50 or 60 or 70 years later – goaded by family members or in recognition of their own mortality, as at least 600 WWII vets die EVERY DAY in the US – they start telling their stories. And while unique, they are the same story Continue reading D-Day; Maya Angelou
There’s a blogger called Altonian, who is writing a lot about The War Years in England, most recently: “Alton received its fair share of evacuees during the war, most of which came from London.” With my life proceeding as it has, I had not sought to follow any more bloggers. But I saw him comment on the blogs of both Berowne AND Sharp Little Pencil; both of them I met on ABC Wednesday, which, BTW, you can join too.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
I was thinking about this around 9/11 this year. Of course most Americans don’t remember Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago, directly anymore, as the population ages. But if we did, what lessons are we to glean now? Continue reading Infamy
Back at the end of February 2010, I did a presentation for the Underground Railroad conference about Black Soldiers in Post WW II Germany. I’m certainly not to replicate it here, but a few points I’ll mention.
Even though the first casualty of what would become the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre of 1770, the American colonial powers fighting Great Britain were resistant to allowing black soldiers to serve. It wasn’t until the British offered freedom to black fighters that ultimately got George Washington’s attention. Ultimately, blacks fought on both sides of the conflict, but their reason was singular: freedom.
Again, in the American Civil War, many black men felt that serving in the military was a way they might gain freedom and full citizenship. As Frederick Douglass asserted that if blacks fought, “no power on earth can deny that he has earned the right” to freedom.
General David Staunch took it upon himself to free slaves, not just on islands controlled by Union forces, but in south Florida, where he recruited men capable of bearing arms to form the first black regiment. This was ultimately opposed to, and disbanded by President Lincoln, fearing moving more quickly than “public opinion would bear.”
There was a modicum of freedom for the newly emancipated but this was negated by the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions. During World War I, WEB DuBois wrote in The Crisis magazine, “First your Country, then your Rights”. A by-then familiar refrain.
So, most of the wars fought by the United States, starting with the Revolutionary War, included a subtext, even the promise, of justice for, and fair treatment of African-Americans. World War I and especially the Civil War brought the issue to the fore.
But it was with World War II, with large numbers of black soldiers in uniform, that the contradiction between fighting for freedom for others and a lack of freedom back at home reached a tipping point. Continue reading V is for Veteran