Posts Tagged history

D-Day +1

June 6th was the 71st anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings of 1944., dubbed the largest amphibian military assault in history. 156,000 troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of the French Normandy coastline on the morning of June 6th.  A large complex deception plan was enacted to deceive the Germans about exactly where and when the invasion would take place. This plan included fake equipment, a phantom army and fake radio transmissions. (Read more here.)

How much do you know about D-Day? Take a quiz here (I got 60%. How about you?)

I  recently read some excellent children’s stories about the European theatre of WWII, but first, here’s a remarkable video of statistics about military and civilian deaths in WWII:

I recommend the following books about WWII:

  • Ian Serrailler’s “The Silver Sword”, a fictional story but based on real accounts, this tells the tale of 4 children from Warsaw, Poland, whose parents are suddenly arrested by the Nazis, leaving the children to fend for themselves. The father is sent to a prison camp in the south of the country, but he escapes and makes his way back to Warsaw where he hears that his wife was packed off to work as a slave in Germany, and his house was blown up by the Nazis. And the children? Nobody knows anything about them, but while visiting the site of his home, the father  finds a small silver sword, a paper knife he’d given to his wife, and then he meets a strange wild boy named Jan who picks his pockets of food and demands the silver sword. On a hunch, the father gives the sword to Jan on condition that if ever Jan meets his children, he will tell them to go to Switzerland where his wife’s parents live, and where they had agreed to meet should the family be separated. Jan later does meet the 3 children and gains their trust by showing them the sword. The four of them decide to go to Switzerland. The rest of the book is about their extraordinary journey. Written for children, it avoids over-graphic descriptions, yet remains grim and realistic and does not sugar-coat anything. As such, it makes a moving and enjoyable read for adults as well. Serrailler was a school teacher, and during the war was a conscientious objector, yet his descriptions of war-torn Poland are remarkably detailed and convincing. I first read this story when I was 11, and never forgot it.
  • Parallel Journeys, by Eleanor Ayer. The personal experience of WWII, told by a German teenager who joined the Hitler Youth then the Luftwaffe, and a German Jew who “escaped” to Holland in 1939. Author Eleanor Ayer ties the two stories together and acts as an editorial voice connecting quotes from the original books by each participant, Alfons Heck and Helen Waterford, in their own words. Each chapter recounts the events in one of the two’s lives. The chapters alternate between the two characters and are in chronological order.Points that struck me: the fatal hesitation on the part of so many Jews even after the writing was on the wall; the shock when Helen realises this talk of “labor camps” must be a lie; the sickening yet totally believable naivety and fanatic enthusiasm for Hitler and his mad plans on the part of teenaged German youths; the angry good-sense from… (read the rest of my review on Amazon Japan).
  • Resistance 1, a graphic novel by Carla Jablonski (story) and Leland Purvis (illustrations), about some children living in “Free” France who hide a neighbouring Jewish boy when his parents are arrested by the Nazis. Realizing they can’t keep him hidden forever, they decide to contact the Resistance to see if they can help get him to Paris where he learns his parents are in hiding. The book is a light read for adults, but may be a good introduction to this period of French history for younger English readers. There is just one death – a Resistance fighter is killed right in front of the children – but the brooding menace of the times is felt, and the difficulties of getting children to understand the situation.
  • There’s No Escape, by Ian Serrailler. This is more of an adventure story than a war story, and everything is fictional, although the countries’ are obviously similar to European countries in the time of WWII. I inlcude it here because it is a thoroughly enjoyable read and showcases Serrailler’s extraordinary powers as a story-teller. The story is a string of upsets and unexpected twists (more or less believable). A British scientist is persuaded to rescue another scientist from behind enemy lines in Europe. He is trained in parachute-jumping and given false papers and a rendez-vous in 10 days. Everything goes wrong: he lands in a tree and wastes valuable time extricating himself. He buries his parachutist’s clothes, only to discover that he has left his map in them by mistake. He hurries back, but his clothes have disappeared! He is given refuge by a local farmer and tells them of his plans, hoping for their aid, only to fall ill and be laid up in bed for a week! One day, a “doctor” pays a visit; the doctor turns out to be the scientist our hero was supposed to look for! The farmer’s son found him. The rest of the story describes how the two manage to get themselves to the rendez-vous, only to be arrested there and miss the plane that comes to pick them up. There is another way out of the country, but it involves a high mountain pass, and the two must bring along the farmer’s wife and children or leave them to certain death.

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BBC News – What Britain used to look like from the air

The BBC is soliciting personal reminiscences related to places in the UK photographed from the air by a company called Aerofilms (nothing to do with Aeros -hmm, yumm) in the 1920s and 1930s. Click the photos to see the video. High-quality photos of Britain before WWII. Amazing. Plus commentary in that “quaint British accent”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News – What Britain used to look like from the air.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Triumph of hope over experience

Now that all eyes are on Japan’s new “leader” and his fellow “leaders”, and expecting great things from them, namely the swift cleaning up of all radiation contamination, reconstruction of the tsunami/earthquake devastated areas, putting the Japanese economy back on the path to growth, lowering the strong yen, and generally leading the Japanese into the land of milk and honey, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the track record of government officials in the area of truth-telling. Hmm, the track record does not appear to be good.

First, from economic analyst Mish, comes the following:
Can Government Lies Calm the Markets?:

The question of the day (for which everyone should know the answer) is Can Government Lies Calm the Markets?

In spite of the fact most of us realize lies will not help, and most often makes matters worse, governments repeatedly resort to lies, platitudes, and wishful thinking.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg PM and Head Euro-Zone Finance Minister admitted as such in his statement “When it becomes serious, you have to lie”

Things are clearly serious, so everyone should expect lies, and lies we have in spades.

MarketWatch reports G-7 seeks to calm market fears on Europe, banks

via Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.

Item B is a reminder of what happened many years ago to the Daigo Fukuryuu Maru (mouse-tip to EX-SKF):

Daigo Fukuryū Maru (第五福竜丸?, Lucky Dragon 5) was a Japanese tuna fishing boat, which was exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on 1 March 1954.

Aikichi Kuboyama, the boat’s chief radioman, died less than seven months later, on 23 September 1954, suffering from acute radiation syndrome. He is considered the first victim of the hydrogen bomb of Operation Castle Bravo.

The fallout, fine white flaky dust of calcined coral with absorbed highly radioactive fission products, fell on the ship for three hours. The fishermen scooped it into bags with their bare hands…

The US government refused to disclose its composition due to “national security”, as the isotopic ratios, namely percentage of uranium-237, could reveal the nature of the bomb. Lewis Strauss, the head of the AEC, issued a series of denials; he went so far to claim the lesions on the fishermen bodies were not caused by radiation but by chemical action of the calcined coral, that they were inside the danger zone (while they were 40 miles away), and told Eisenhower’s press secretary that Lucky Dragon was a “Red spy outfit”, commanded by a Soviet agent intentionally exposing the ship’s crew and catch to embarrass the USA and gain intelligence on the test. He also denied the extent of contamination of the fish caught by Fukuryu Maru and other ships. The FDA however imposed rigid restrictions on tuna imports.The United States dispatched two medical scientists to Japan to limit the public disclosure and study the effects of fallout on the ships crew, under the pretense of helping with their treatment.Even publications of the fallout analysis were a thorny political issue.

The track record is not good, but hey! Perhaps this time around, things will be different. Or, perhaps not.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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government officials and ministers involved, have already shown a lack of foresight and judgment…

From a 1947 speech by British former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, some excerpts that seem relevant to Japan today:

In our immense administrative difficulty, the Prime Minister and his colleagues should have concentrated upon their immediate practical tasks, and left the fulfillment of party ambition and the satisfaction of party appetites, at least until we… stood on firmer and safer
ground.

the state, that is to say the government officials and ministers involved, have already shown a lack of foresight and judgment which plainly reveals their incapacity as compared with private traders competing with one another, animated by the profit motive, and corrected constantly by the fear of loss and by the continual elimination of the inefficient. That is a general principle.

via “Winston Churchill’s England Now: Excerpts from his bitter speech in the House of Commons on the economic situation” in American Affairs, Vol. IX, No. 3, July 1947. (pdf)


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors – Yahoo! News

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

via Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors – Yahoo! News.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Scenes from the Battleground – a secondary school teacher reveals the horrors of British classrooms

Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, ...
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I’ve just spent the last few hours reading the Scenes from the Battleground blog. Andrew Old is old-school: a believer in teaching facts and knowledge, in the importance of effective discipline, and he does not believe in progressive education.

He writes well, with zest and humour. Here’s a good example: someone sent him an email asking him to review the trailer of a documentary about education called We are the People We’ve been Waiting For.

After copying the original emailed request into his blog entry, Andrew provides his review:
Why Lord Puttnam Can Stick His Stupid Documentary Up His Arse

Andrew is not going for shock value here, he is genuinely furious:

But it takes the insanity of the zealot to blame educational failure on the academic focus of the education system, when anybody familiar with our schools can see that there is no academic focus for these children. This is a rant against authority in education, by the kind of people who do have authority in education. This is an argument for failed orthodoxy by presenting it as a radical departure. This is a polemic against academic standards by the kind of people who have already lowered the standards to nothing. This is an attack on the curriculum by the people who gave us the curriculum we have. This is an attempt to blame the failure of the educational system on the very values the system has already abandoned. This is a prolonged assault on a strawman education system that not only doesn’t exist, but would be far better than what we have now if it did exist. This is shameful lies combined with self-righteous sermons.

OldAndrew is intelligent and eloquent and knowledgeable (I’ve bookmarked his brief history of British education since WWII), but his blog entries pall after a while: it’s all rather negative – there are no success stories. It may be that success stories are impossible, given the kind of environment he describes (few serious consequences for children who misbehave, for instance, little or no backup from administration, and a steady stream it seems of arrogant, snivelling, rude young people who are never held responsible for their actions), yet I can’t help responding, “If you’re so clever, why can’t you make your approach work?” Maybe it does, but Andrew doesn’t seem interested in telling us the things that work. It’s more fun slagging off the students, or the staff, or the administrators, or the parents (everyone gets some stick at some time or other on his blog, including commenters).

He does a service, I think, to blow the lid off the “phony” approaches, such as Brain Gym and others that might be lumped together under the heading Snake Oil. (Here are similarly critical examinations of Learning Styles. The dominant philosophy of the times is in favour of such approaches, so it comes as a bit of a (healthy) shock to read a contrary opinion.)

A fairly frequent commenter on Andrew’s blog is Newsisgood. Here’s a question posed by Newsisgood to Andrew, with Andrew’s response:

Is it at all possible that a students’ misbehaviour could be down to unfair punishments from the teacher, or unfair discipline from the system?
If it is possible, would you still blame the student anyway? (You have said before that you must presume that the teacher is always correct when a teacher and student disagree). by Newsisgood June 4, 2007 at 10:11 am

“Is it at all possible that a students’ misbehaviour could be down to unfair punishments from the teacher, or unfair discipline from the system?”

No.

Strangely enough a student’s misbehaviour is down to the student. (The clue was in the word “student’s”.)

by oldandrew June 4, 2007 at 10:29 am

Andrew seems a mite intransigent. I don’t think the situation is as black-and-white as he sees it. For a start, he’s dealing with children, who by definition are not fully formed adults. In other words, it seems non-productive to insist that young people take full responsibility for their behaviours and choices as one might expect of adults. A lot of children’s behaviour, particularly in school, is a playing out of child/parent roles, in other words it is often a response to adult behaviour (tho the adult in question may not be in the classroom).

Andrew has repeatedly stated on his blog that he considers the bad students as people who bring their bad behaviours with them to school: he recounts experiences of students being rude and abusive to him or to other teachers whom they did not know. He feels stung by the (apparently) often repeated suggestion that teachers whose students behave badly are responsible, and that the solution lies in a better relationship with the students. Andrew dismisses this out of hand: “there IS no relationship” and yet students behave badly.

I feel Andrew is stuck in his situation. His attitude seems to preclude any satisfactory solution. I haveto admire his fortitude in staying instead of giving up. He sounds more intelligent than most of his fellow-teachers, which must make it increasingly galling when he is called to account by some dippy higher-up.

Update: here is another example of Andrew’s negativity andclosed-mindedness. What would be more helpful, then? “Focus on the negatives! Let the buggers get you down!” perhaps?

I think we all struggle with the attitudes of students and SMT alike. The trick is NOT to let it affect you. Life becomes a lot easier in schools if you can go around with a smile on your face and attempt to focus on the positives…after all, most kids are great.

It seems rather self defeating to allow the misery of a few morons to determine your own mood.

Who are the adults here?

     by treeman December 7, 2007 at 10:43 am

 

“The trick is NOT to let it affect you. Life becomes a lot easier in schools if you can go around with a smile on your face and attempt to focus on the positives…after all, most kids are great.”

Thanks, I forgot to mention that one.

That’s definitely one of the most unhelpful things you could ever say to somebody working in a stressful environment and only somebody who really didn’t get it could ever say it.

     by oldandrew December 7, 2007 at 2:32 pm
 
 

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Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Learning from history

Head of a bearded man. Glass, 4th–3rd centurie...
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Does history repeat itself? Can we learn anything from ancient civilizations, especially the ones that declined and fell? Nah!

Thanks to scribd, I’m reading Ayn Rand-contemporary, Isabel Paterson’s “The God of the Machine”, which begins with a brief history of the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans, and asks, for instance, why the Romans beat the Phoenicians in naval supremacy:

with the strongest fleet on the seas, and with a naval experience gained though centuries, the Carthaginian admirals lost six out of seven of the naval battles, despite the fact that the Romans had never possessed a quinquireme before this time (the first Punic war), and very few Romans had ever set foot on shipboard.

Later, the Roman civilization also declined and fell, though for different reasons (Paterson writes) than the earlier ones of Egypt, Carthage and Greece. Here’s how it happened:

The exactions of the bureaucracy increased, and the number of officials multiplied. More and more of the flow was diverted from production into the political mechanism… the bureaucracy took such a large cut, at length scarcely anything went through the complete circuit. Meantime, the producers, receiving less and less in exchange for their products, were impoverished an discouraged. Naturally, they tended to produce less, since they would get no fair return; in fact, effort from which there is no net return must automatically cease.  They consumed their own products instead of putting them up for exchange. With that the taxes began to dry up. Taxes must com from surplus. The bureaucrats inevitably came down on the producers, with the object of sequestrating the energy directly at the source, by a planned economy. Farmers were bound to the soil,; craftsmen to their workbenches; tradesmen were ordered to continue in business although the taxes and regulations did not permit them to make a living [see Atlas Shrugged]. No one could change his residence or occupation without permission. The currency was debased. Prices and wages were fixed until there was nothing to sell and no work to be had.

Those silly, silly Romans. How could they not see that would never work! No wonder the Romans were left on the rubbish heap of history. Now US, we would never go down THAT road, would we?

Oh, wait.

A letter to the Chinese Premier, from a free-market-loving U.S. businessman’s blog:

An increasing number of citizens in this country have had enough of the BS and, having been ignored when EESA/TARP was debated (by over 100:1 we told Congress not to bail out those bastards who ripped both us and you off) are intentionally reducing their output.  This of course reduces the tax base against which our government can extract money to pay you with.  Further, our government has over the space of more than 30 years embarked on programs that allow any US Citizen to effectively live for free, paying nothing.  There’s not a thing you can do about this, and we both can and are de-funding our government’s ability to tax.  Have a look at tax receipts – the government is running a near-$2 trillion deficit for this reason above all others.  Attempts to raise taxes on the remaining productive citizens simply cause more of them to decide to join those who erect their middle finger toward Washington DC, choosing Food Stamps and Medicaid over hard work.  There’s a phrase for this: “Going Galt.”  I recommend you read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – I’m sure there’s a Chinese translation somewhere.

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