My annual update of the piece I wrote for Veterans Day and why we shouldn’t forget its original commemoration.
Anyone who went to war will have their own personal sacrifice to live with, if they were fortunate enough to live through it in the first place. One does not have to serve in a front line unit to end up in harm’s way, but only the veterans who served in actual combat know the full measure of such service. And yet, we can all know that such events give good reason to mark the end of wars, lest we forget what happens in them.
That fact has never been more important than right now…
Amazing detail created out of Rubber for the D-Day Landings
Utah Beach down the individual house
On June 4th, 1944, the day before the original date set for D-Day, a 27 year-old U.S. naval officer stood before this Top Secret three-dimensional relief map and nervously briefed the top brass of the allied armies, on the upcoming seaboard assault at the Normandy coastal areas code named Utah. His audience included British Field Marshall Montgomery, commander of the entire sea and land assault (Operation Neptune), and American General General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander for the European Theater of Operations.
At that the time it was a brand new technology, created in secrecy and kept that way until after the war had ended. Made at Camp Bradford, Virginia, and completed less than three days before it was flown to England, it was derived from stereo photos taken from reconnaissance planes. The map then went aboard ship after that first briefing, where it was used to instruct of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division that would be making the assault.
That officer was Charles Lee Burwell. He held onto the map and in later years donated it to the Library of Congress. He is quoted as saying he felt it was an important technology, because the 3D aspect of the map allowed soldiers to better know where they were going and what they should expect to see there, in terms of buildings, trees, and hedgerows.
The map consists of two halves, each 4 feet square, made of rubber on top of foam. The numbers on the map correspond with other more traditional maps developed for the invasion. Up close, it reveals tide lines, slope of the beach, buildings beyond the beach, and the location of anti-landing craft hazards known as Czech hedgehogs. The depth of the water is represented by bathymetric tints and the color of the land was approximated from black white photos.
With Extreme Prejudice
This traditional map is code named Bigot, which was the highest level of secrecy possible. Many thousands of lives depended upon the success of the operation – millions in fact, if one considers those suffering and dying under Nazi occupation. Like the rubber map, this tactical map was created in two sections. This one shows the extreme left of the Utah Beach area, but it includes the actual invasion location.
This detail below shows photographic representations of the waterline view of the coast represented on the map. These photos would have been taken from midget submarines with a crew of two, and sometimes four men, at great risk to their lives. These British sailors were among the relatively unknown heroes of D-day.
A Wrong Turn with Destiny
The small inland hamlet of La Madeleine is pictured to the left of the Utah landing areas, code named Uncle Red and Tare Green (designated as Red Beach and Green Beach in the map above.) But the strong tidal currents forced the landing craft more and more eastward, so they actually landed at le Grande Dune on that fateful morning.
Although the First Wave arrived in the wrong place, their commanding officer, Deputy Division Commander, U.S. 4th Division, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., famously decided to start the war from there, and reinforcements were directed to land at his location. This inadvertently saved many lives, as first assault waves would have encountered greater and more deadly resistance had they landed where intended.
Not that they were not subjected to genuine peril. General Roosevelt was put in for the Distinguished Service Cross for his gallantry on D-Day. He lied about his poor health to insure he would be allowed to lead the First Wave, and then repeatedly led troop concentrations off the beach and toward their various objectives, while often under heavy fire from mortars and small arms. After he suffered a fatal heart attack in July, while still in the field, his decoration was upgraded, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously.
Here is an overlay I created, with a strategic map for the 8th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 4th Division, superimposed over the rubber map from 1944.
Time in BDST (British Double Summer Time) and relative to H-Hour
H – 05:42
Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division are dropped inland, around Sainte-Mère-Église. Drops continued 00:48 – 01:40.
H – 04:39
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division are dropped inland, around Sainte-Mère-Église. Drops continued 01:51 – 02:42. These airborne drops were followed by glider landings with support troops and anti-tank guns.
H – 02:00
A raiding party armed only with knives swims ashore at Îles Saint-Marcouf, 6.5 kilometers off the coast, to silence the anticipated German observation post before it can raise an alarm over the approaching invasion fleet. However, it turned out to be unoccupied.
20 LCVPs, Higgins Boats or standard landing craft, each with a 30-man assault team from the 8th Infantry Regiment.
H + 00:02
32 LCVPs, each with a 30-man assault team. This included some combat engineers and eight naval demolition teams to clear away underwater obstacles.
H + 00:15
8 LCVPs, with tanks bearing bulldozer blades.
H + 00:17
Mostly detachments of the 237th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions, to clear the obstacles between the low-water and high-water lines.
By early afternoon, elements of the 4th Infantry Division had moved inland and linked up with elements of the 101st Airborne Division. By the end of D-Day, 23,250 troops and 1,700 vehicles had been safely landed on Utah Beach. Casualties were relatively light on Utah Beach. However, this was due in part to the inland actions of the 13,000 Airborne troops who suffered heavy losses. The 101st Airborne Division lost about 40% of its forces on D-Day.
And here is a portion of the rubber map superimposed over a Google map of the same area. Note that just beyond the top of the rubber map is found the location of Brecourt Manner, where elements of the U.S. 101st Airborne destroyed a battery of four 105mm cannon that were firing on the troops at Utah Beach, as made famous in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. This shows just how accurate and detailed the rubber map is and how invaluable it must have been to the success of operations on and around Utah Beach on D-Day and afterwards.
Arlington National Cemetery is reserved for members of the armed forces, their families, and other special dignitaries
Lest We Forget
Memorial Day is set aside to commemorate all members of the armed forces who died in the service of their country. Many of those whose remains are interred at Arlington gave their lives in such a manner. Other war dead are buried in private cemeteries, and in military cemeteries around the globe, in the foreign lands and U.S. territories where they fell.
Others who lived beyond their time in the service may find a final resting place at Arlington as well. But the space is limited, so such an honor has required a particular application process since the 1990s.
In the darkest days of the American Civil War, the military cemetery near the nation’s capital was nearly full. The former estate of Robert E. Lee and the ancestral home of his wife Mary Custis was chosen as the first burial ground exclusively used for federal soldiers killed in battle during recent fighting.
This was done partly because the location on a hilltop in Virginia was visible from the Mall in Washington D.C. and partly to insure that the leader of the most high-profile army fighting in rebellion against the U.S.A. could never again live there. The officer in charge made sure to put burials as close to the Custis mansion as possible, including the grave of his own son.
Some twenty years after the war, the cemetery started to gain a special aura as a national shrine, as revered generals and other famous heroes of the conflict began to pass away. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was installed in 1921, and eventually remains from service personnel who perished in every major conflict going back to the American Revolution have been interred in grounds of the cemetery.
Among the few buried there who did not serve in the Armed Forces or were not one of their dependents is William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States and the 10th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the only person to have held both offices.
A Day to Remember
Memorial Day has its roots in local commemorations for Civil War dead, often referred to as Decoration Day, when citizens would decorate local graves with spring flowers. After the First World War the idea was expanded to include graves from any conflict and ultimately included those who died while on duty, whether that was related to warfare or not. It was observed on a national level on May 30, beginning in 1868. It became a federal holiday in 1971, officially taking place on the last Monday in May.
Schoolchildren and other less-informed people often confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. The latter was once called Armistice Day, and still is in other nations, as it was originally its own Memorial Day, honoring those who lost their lives in the First World War. In America, that practice was transferred to Memorial Day, and Veterans Day became a time to salute and pay homage to all who have put on the uniforms of the Armed Forces defending the United States from foreign foes.
Now that so many veterans of World War Two, Korea, and Viet Nam are passing away years after they left the service, the lines between the two days are beginning to blur. But officially, Memorial Day is for those who died while in the service of their country. Veterans Day is for those living or dead who did not give their lives for their country but still served their country with honor.
The “Last Spike” connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads took place on May 10, 1869. It took seven years from the time Congress approved the creation of a Transcontinental Railway in 1862. But it was being planned and discussed for decades beforehand.
Construction began in 1863, as the horrendous Civil War tearing the nation apart. But just as the war changed the USA from being a bunch of separate states into nation indivisible, the transcontinental railway unified the nation geographically. According to one university history site, before the railroad’s completion, it cost approximately $20,000 in 2021 money to travel from St. Louis to San Francisco by stagecoach. Afterwards the price was a fraction of that cost, and continued to drop as more rail lines were completed off of the original route.
Talk of such a project goes back at least to 1830, when the first steam engine locomotive arrived on this side of the Atlantic. In 1845, the adventurer and businessman Asa Whitney petitionedCongress to provide land grants necessary to create a railway across the northern swath of America, to Oregon Territory, where he had already made a fortune trading with the Far East. Evoking the spirit Lewis and Clark, Whitney commissioned this map to entice investment in his grand scheme.
Thirty years later, it was other entrepreneurs who realized this long outstanding dream. But there were many competing propositions as to where exactly the route should end up, as seen in this map from the early 1850s.
Underway at Last
Even after the two companies received the go-ahead, work was nearly completed and the eastern Union Pacific Railroad Company and the western Central Pacific Railroad Company still could not agree on where the their routes should meet. Maps from the time show all proposed routes running south of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Eventually the government under President Grant threatened to withhold further funding until the two companies came to terms as to exactly where they would join together to create the single route from east coast to west. And it ended up being Promontory Summit, Utah, north of the lake.
Despite the Central Pacific having to cut their way through the mountains, and the harsh working conditions of their laborers, including many Chinese immigrants, it was the Union Pacific that suffered the greatest loss of life. Many hundreds died on both sides, from accidents, exposure, disease, and attacks from Native American tribes, who couldn’t quell the tied of westward expansion that ultimately led to formation of the lower 48 states as we know them today.
Here is another map, from 1882, of a proposed southern route that didn’t end up being created as envisioned.
Lest we forget, millions upon millions lost their lives the world over because Fascism was allowed to take over the governments of multiple nations and then was not stopped before it was too late. While many people remember how and why Nazi German and Fascist Italy were ultimately confronted and defeated, it is often forgotten hat authoritarian governments continue to this day.
The man credited with inventing the term Fascism was an early intellectual architect of what ultimately led to the rise of Mussolini in Italy. He defined Fascism as the marriage of the Corporation and the State. And the hallmarks of Fascism include the government protecting corporate power while eliminating protections for labor and individual citizen, a fervent nationalism and squelching of political decent, a zealous investment in the industrial-military complex bolstered by overblown rhetoric of “national security” against undefined foreign threats, along with a militarized police force and expanded powers of the security services to spy on the citizenry.
Human evils like racism and antisemitism are not necessarily facets of Fascism, but the extremist nationalism that is at the heart of Fascism always seems to include an elitist us vs. them strategy on its way to taking root and then taking over a society. And it attracts those who require someone else to look down on to feel worthwhile or powerful, and gives them moral permission to exercise their bigotry, while distracting them from the fact those they support politically are actually reducing their personal power and freedoms.
Therefore, Nazism is not the same thing as Fascism. Rather, Nazism can be viewed as a form of Fascism. This is an important point; as assuming one must be a “nazi” to be a fascist has allowed genuine fascist elements to legitimize themselves in the eyes of their countrymen, including right here in the so-called Bastian of Democracy, the USA. This was never more clear than over the previous six years and in the continued efforts of those trying to disenfranchise the will of the majority of the people by the lies spread to sow distrust in the electoral process that endangers their grip on political and economic power.
This blog rarely deals with political thought or opinion. But on this day, VE Day, when fewer and fewer people are around to bare witness to the atrocious misery inflicted on so many innocent people by Fascism and the great loss of life and treasure required to defeat it in the 1940s, it is important to speak up and out about the fact that Democracy is once again under assault. And this time it is under assault in America, by those who would cripple the democratic process because the last thing they want is for the will of all Americans to have an equal voice in deciding who is running their government, and that those who are sent to Washington D.C. and to statehouses across the USA are elected to be the SERVANTS of the people, not their “leaders” or their dictators.
And so, we have posted below the recent public statement made by a sitting member of Congress, who we do not in anyway endorse politically, but who is herself currently under a propaganda assault by those in her own party who continue to undermine the will of the American people.
Strange bedfellows indeed when we can agree with or support someone remotely related to Dick Cheney
“In public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.
The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.
History is watching. Our children are watching.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.
I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.
The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”
While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.
For Republicans, the path forward is clear.
First, support the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack. Those investigations must be comprehensive and objective; neither the White House nor any member of Congress should interfere.
Second, we must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress — with an eye to the upcoming election cycle — should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission should be focused on the Jan. 6 attacks. The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.
Finally, we Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality. In our hearts, we are devoted to the American miracle. We believe in the rule of law, in limited government, in a strong national defense, and in prosperity and opportunity brought by low taxes and fiscally conservative policies.
There is much at stake now, including the ridiculous wokeness of our political rivals, the irrational policies at the border and runaway spending that threatens a return to the catastrophic inflation of the 1970s. Reagan formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity, and we need to do the same now. We know how. But this will not happen if Republicans choose to abandon the rule of law and join Trump’s crusade to undermine the foundation of our democracy and reverse the legal outcome of the last election.
History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”
Pancho Villa and others at the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía
Rare photo recently discovered
A contemplative Villa (left) and a glum Zapata (2nd from right) face an uncertain future
In Mexico during the time of the Revolution, mayonnaise was a national obsession. More of the condiment was consumed there than anywhere else on earth, with Hong Kong a distant second.
In fact, leaders on both sides of the conflict were crazy for the stuff. But it was Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata who spread the spread among the common people, as it were, so that its popularity soared, circa 1910.
In those days, England was the mayonnaise capital of the world, with Cross & Blackwell’s, and Hellmann’s as the most popular brands, and the largest shipment of all time, some tens of thousands of jars, set out from Southampton by steamship on April 10, 1912, bound for Vera Cruz, by way of Cherbourg, New York, Charleston, and Havana.
But as history showed, the vessel was none other than the ill-fated H.M.S. Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on April 15th. When news arrived in Mexico twenty days later, the war-torn people were devastated.
Their anguish was so great across the nation that a truce was declared between the Federales and the rebel factions, for one day of mourning. And thus was held the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía (Feast of the Empty Jar.)
(photo: Museos de México)
It has been observed ever since, on this very day, now known colloquially as Sinko de Mayo.
William Shakespeare died on April 23rd. We do not really know when he was born. But his christening date implies it happened sometime during the same week, fifty-two years earlier. So, we celebrate it on the 23rd, which seems poetically suited to poet.
Kristin Scott Thomas is currently featured in the PBS series “My Grandparent’s War,” where she learns about her amazing grandfather’s heroic service during WWII.
Check out here! https://www.pbs.org/show/my-grandparents-war/
What is the Super League and Why It’s a Horrible Thing
Using baseball as an analogy, to help Americans understand
Imagine last year’s Major League Baseball division winners playing their MLB season this year, while also competing in a year-long tournament that includes the division-winning teams from eight nearby nations whose Major League Baseball is as good or better than in the USA.
The top prize being tons of money and a trophy considered more rare and special than the World Series. That is the Champions League.
The Super League was supposed to be the richest clubs (i.e. Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs) starting an Only Rich and Powerful Teams Allowed League from all those nations, which would vacuum up all the future top talent and TV revenue, destroy the Champions League that many “little David” clubs get to now and again, and degrade and possibly destroy the 180 year old leagues in the various nations.
Now imagine if the last place teams from each MLB division got “relegated” to the minor leagues each year and were replaced by the top teams from the minor leagues. That is how all the European leagues operate. But the Super League would do away with that. It would only be for and about whoever is rich enough to afford the Super League dues, regardless how many games they lose.
It is nothing less than a plot by American hedge fund managers and Emirati sheiks to create a money mine beyond the wildest fantasies of the NBA’s and NFL’s greediest owners, and with complete disregard for the impact on local populations supporting hundreds of smaller pro and semi-pro teams that enrich the cultural fabric of millions of common people.
Manchester City was the first of six English Premiere League teams to announce they were backing out of the Super League, after the public backlash from fans and politicians. Chelsea and the other four soon followed. Less than a week later, the project appears to be doomed, as clubs in other nations have either backed out or declined their secret invitations. But there may be legal challenges going forward to try to force the Super League into existence.
While executives of some European clubs claim the project will continue to develop, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) and their world-governing body FIFA have threatened to expel any Super League teams from their domestic leagues, and block their professional players from representing their home countries in international competitions like the World Cup. Fortunately, most players and coaches came out against the Super League when the secret plans were made public.
In England, where soccer was invented, there are 72 professional teams (including 3 from Wales.) But there are actually 140 individual football leagues, with over 5,200 clubs, all part of the same divisional pyramid system, where the top teams of a league are promoted to the next tier for the following season, theoretically able to advance all the way to the top 20 teams of English Premiere League. And the revenue sharing from the top tiers trickles down a good ways into the lower divisions.
Similar systems exist in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, and to a lesser extent in other nations like Russia, Portugal, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Super League threatens to destroy or at least greatly cripple and disfigure European football as we know it and as it has evolved from its earliest organizations of the mid-1800s.