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From my friends in Australia
June 21, 2015 by Henry Benjamin

Five Sydney women, who were little children in April 1945, were  traveling on a train en route from Bergen-Belsen to Thereseinstadt when it was abandoned by the Germans and discovered by the advancing U.S. forces. 

Around the table l-r: Ilonka Blair, Judith Handley, Eva Reed, Lexie Keston. Ana Deleon , and Lea Farkas

Around the table l-r: Ilonka Blair, Judith Handley, Eva Reed, Lexie Keston. Ana Deleon  and Lea Farkas    Photo: Gaby Deleon

 

The five recently were joined by a sixth survivor to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their rescue by the U.S. troops.

It was the first time the five passengers in the abandoned train had sat down together.

Six years ago J-Wire told the story of the rescue when some of those liberated as children met their liberators for the first time.

You can read it here…   http://www.jwire.com.au/a-school-holocaust-project-re-unites-liberated-with-liberators/

Judith Handley,  Eva Reed,  Lexie Keston, Ana Deleon, Lea Farkas were joined by Ilonka Blair who survived Bergen-Belsen. All are members of  the Sydney Child Survivors Group.

The train at Magdeburg - Pic:  Major Clarence Benjamin - 743rd Tank Battalion

The lunch, hosted by Ana Deleon, gave the women an opportunity to exchange memories of that April day in 1945 when German troops mysteriously disappeared having abandoned the train abandoning their prisoned in Magdeburg, Germany…only to be replaced by the advancing Americans troops who were to liberate them.

Lexie Keston told J-Wire: “Our Liberation was on 13 April 1945.  We were liberated by the 9th US Army Tank brigade, at Farsleben which is 16 km from Magdeburg in Germany.  Apart from  Ilonka Blair  who was liberated at the Bergen-Belsen Camp we were all on a train from Bergen-Belsen and had been travelling since the 7th April. Ana Deleon organised our re-union lunch to celebrate 70 years since our Liberation.  Amongst our little group, we had girls from Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Poland.”

Judith Handley and Lea Farkas were new to the group having been “discovered” living in Sydney by Ana Deleon. They have joined the Sydney Child Survivors group.

76-yr-old Lexie,  the “baby” of the group, added: “We had all gone our separate ways after the rescue as we had come from different backgrounds. Somehow fate has brought us all together.”

Frank Towers is the last surviving veteran of the 30th Division that had any hands-on experience with this event. He told J-Wire: “I have been in contact with Lexie and Ana.”

http://www.jwire.com.au/on-a-train-to-australia/

April 15th 1945                                                                                                                   Somewhere in Germany

You will probably be wondering who I am and what business I have, writing to you.- I am one of the millions of soldiers of the United States Army, who is fighting for all the oppressed peoples of the world and hopes to have reestablished decency and honor to all mankind, with the defeat of Hitlerism.

*****

My friend Varda in Israel sent me a copy of this letter she recently received from the widow of  Mr. Shmuel ‘Tommy’ Huppert of Israel. In it, an American soldier is taking the time to write to the husband of a Holocaust survivor to let him know that his wife and young son (Tommy) have been liberated, and that they have survived the horrors of the Holocaust and the carnage of ‘Hitlerism’.

Young Tommy and his mother, Mrs. Hilde Huppert,  were liberated at Farsleben on the transport from Bergen Belsen on April 13th, 1945. They managed to get to Palestine shortly after liberation, bringing with them many, many orphaned children, including my friend Lily Cohen.  Hilde’s manuscript, Hand in Hand with Tommy, was one of the first Holocaust memoirs completed after the war and a cathartic way for her to attempt to come to terms with what had happened.

It took years to be properly published, as it was originally rejected because it was ‘too soon after the war’. Later, at 93 years of age, Hilde was asked if there was anything specific she wished to convey to American readers of her book. She replied, ‘Tell them I will never forget those American GIs who liberated us from the Germans…I can still recall their amazed faces in that dusty jeep and the U.S. Army symbol. I remember kissing one of them, and I want the American people to know that I am grateful to them.’

One of the soldiers, on the Sunday following the Friday liberation, took the time to send this note on her behalf to her husband in Palestine. It now resides in the collection at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Authority.

4-15-45 Gartner to Huppert 1

April 15th 1945                                                                                                                      Somewhere in Germany

Dear Mr. Huppert,

You will probably be wondering who I am and what business I have, writing to you.- I am one of the millions of soldiers of the United States Army, who is fighting for all the oppressed peoples of the world and hopes to have reestablished decency and honor to all mankind, with the defeat of Hitlerism.

Two days ago, it was the priviledge (sic) of our unit, to be able to liberate a trainload full of people of all nations imaginable, who were being transferred from a concentration camp near Hannover, to some other place. Our advances were so swift, that the SS guards, left this particular train where it was and took off.

That is how I became acquainted with your wife, Mrs. Hilde Huppert, who asked me to drop you this note, saying, that both she and your son Tommy, are both healthy and well and now being well taken care of by our military governmental authorities. In actual fact, your wife wrote a message for you on a piece of paper in pencil, which she asked me to convey to you. Unfortunately, however, the penciled lines faded in my pocket, and I can no longer read what was written on it. The contents of the message, though, was to let you know that your wife and son are both safe and sound.

I am sure that your wife will soon be able to get into contact with you directly through the Red Cross, and I hope that in a none too distant future, your family will once more be peacefully united.

Sincerely yours,

Cpl. Frank Gartner

Fluent in many languages, Gartner was the translator for the 743rd Tank Battalion’s commander, Col. Duncan. He was originally from Estonia, and resided in Los Angeles, California. If anyone knows more about him, please leave a reply on this page. More can be found about the 743rd Tank Battalion in their regimental history, which can be downloaded here.

Transcribed by Alanna Belanger’15 and Alexis Winney ’15.

In 2003, I set out to interview a retiree living on the quiet boulevard leading up to our high school. I sat on his backporch with him for a few hours on a late spring afternoon. Born in 1922, he was in the Navy, serving as a radioman on a destroyer escort, and he seemed to be everywhere in the Pacific during World War II. Like John A. Leary, he also spent a great deal of time supporting the Marines, and saw his first action in the South Pacific in the reduction of the massive Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain.

Mr. Peachman turned 93 this past March. He was my high school history teacher.

[This story below is an excerpt from my upcoming book. It will be out early this summer for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. For more information, go to the bottom. Thanks for stopping by.]

Alvin Peachman

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.

I am from the coal-mining district of south western Pennsylvania, from a remote rural setting. I do remember Herbert Hoover and I think when I was very young, a little bit about President Coolidge, too. When I was a boy we had the Great Depression, in which things were very rough. So I do remember that.

Most people then spoke of World War I. My father and his brother and my two other uncles were there. They had gone to France, many of the other people there, and they all spoke of the western front in World War I. My great-grandfather was in the Civil War, but I didn’t ever meet him. But at that time when I was a boy they still had Civil War veterans who were alive. I have a book from my hometown that shows them marching, and then they went by wagon, parading when they got a bit older, and then finally a few of them were in a truck or car, and then there were not any of them left, they got too old.

I was educated at a small country schoolhouse with two rooms. And then I walked to high school, three miles, each way. I graduated in a class of 50; it was a fairly big school. The discipline was quite exact. I found our teachers were quite efficient.

When I heard about Pearl Harbor, I was playing ping-pong. I had just come into New York City because I had to get work. I found work on merchant ships, really as a longshoreman. I was doing it for about a week and a half when the war started. And so it didn’t last long until I enlisted.

Since I had worked on ships, and got to meet people, I thought I might like to be on a ship. So I enlisted in the Navy in 1942. I thought they were having a pretty good fight in the Pacific and I was ready to get into it at that time. I was just about 20, not quite, yes, I was just about 20. A year after I got out of high school.

I went to Great Lakes, Illinois, to the University of Chicago where I got my training, and then they gave us a lot of tests there and they determined it would be better for me to be in radio. I wanted to go into gunnery. But, they gave you aptitude tests and they determine what field you should go in. I wasn’t enthused about anything connected with radio at the time, but I then went into radio school, they said that was the best place for me. And I stayed there about four months for learning, and one month for guard duty; it was a very well operated school.

Naval training was very exact. You had to march to class. You had to stand at attention before you sat down. You had to do everything just right. You couldn’t speak or talk to anyone marching. I learned to swim there. And you learned how to live with people both through boot camp and school.

The Vast Pacific

From there I was shipped to California. And I got there and was very disappointed because I landed in what they call an ‘ACORRN’ outfit. It meant aviation, communication, ordinance radio, radar, navigation. What it involved was to get us ready for land invasions. We then were trained by the Marine Corps for rifle range and bayonet. Just like Marines, we practiced a lot of landings off the California coast and then we set sail for the island of New Caledonia, which is a great big French island off the coast of Australia.

You see, the Pacific Ocean is so large that it encompasses about 1/3 of the surface of the earth. It is an enormous ocean; I think the Pacific would have more water than all the land combined in the world. It’s really big! I know my first trip was 6,500 miles from California to New Caledonia.

It took us about 3 weeks to get there and I know we all bathed in salt water the whole time; it was very difficult to stand it because it was like a suit of armor on you. I did not like New Caledonia because the French people there were very indifferent. They were not welcoming hosts at all.

We were jungle trained there. One day, the President Adams, a big troop ship manned by the regular Navy, came in. We were slated to go into Guadalcanal with the 3rd Marine Division. And they were very well equipped at that time, very fine soldiers. So, we got into Guadalcanal, which at that time was pretty well over—the battle had started a couple of months before that. As a matter of fact, two boys I grew up with who were brothers were killed in Guadalcanal.

We were on constant aerial attack for quite a while. The Japanese at that time were very powerful. They had big airbases in Rabaul and they even controlled Bougainville. Now Bougainville was just north us, about 20 miles, which was invaded by the Marines about oh maybe, a week or two later . The island is about 90 or 100 miles long, maybe about 40 miles wide of rugged rainforest. They only took a small part, about 12 sq. miles. There was a very mountainous volcano, just a very rough country out there. The natives there were third world. They were Melanesians and black people, they were very fine looking people. They loved us and we traded with them. They got along very well with us. Only men could trade because the women were owned by the men. Boys and men would come down. They were very good at dickering.

One day, a friend and I bought an outrigger canoe so we could go out in the bay when things got safer. We stayed there from, I think it was October [1943], until early summer. And things did get better there. We fell behind the lines, things got too tame for me there. And one day, a ship came in called the USS Witter and some of our men we were being transferred and the captain told me and buddy we were going to have to leave. One of us would go to New Guinea to practice what we were doing [landings] in the Solomon Islands. And the other would go aboard the ship. So I wanted to go aboard the ship, I wanted to get some sea action—I’d had enough of this jungle.

The Destroyer Escort

The ship duty was a lot harder than I had anticipated. On a ship you only had four hours on duty at a time and eight off as a rule. Every morning an hour before sunrise, , you had an hour duty at ‘general quarters’, which was ‘ready for action’, same thing in the evening, an hour after the sun went down. That’s the two most dangerous times to be aboard a ship because of the cast of the ship’s shadow and the silhouette out in the water, you were most apt to be attacked at that time, especially by U-boats [submarines]… however, I was on a ship that was very deadly to U-boats. The destroyer escort had wonderful gear on it for that time. We had a crew of about 325—not a big ship, thinly armored, we had about 26 guns on there.

Four hours on [duty] and eight hours off didn’t last too long because often we’d go 1000, or up to 2000 miles into enemy waters. Then, you would have four on, four off. Now at four off, you relieved your buddy for meals, we’d call that ‘chow’, general quarters, or anything at all. You weren’t off at all. Now if they put stores aboard for your provisions or ammunition, all hands had to show forth. So, if they pulled into the place at midnight you had to get out of bed and help load these groceries or these bullets and whatever else you had. It was a lot of work. You could not backslide on anything. You had a lot of responsibility. Therefore, I found it harder than being on land.

I had a commander whose name was “Fearless Freddy.” He was a very unique character who a lot of people thought was psychologically off. He loved battle extremely and he expected you to be that way, too. He wanted you to be a red blooded American. He loved battle more than any man I’ve ever met. I would rank him with General Custer or General Patton or someone. He wasn’t afraid of the devil. He won a big medal in the beginning of the war on the Lexington, and I think he was aboard every one of our group of ships when they were hit in Okinawa! They said he jinxed everything. But he loved fighting.

Rescue

I think the first thing we did, after working around Bougainville and Emirau Island, [was a rescue operation]. We got a call one day to rescue a downed Marine plane in near Truk in the Caroline Islands, one of the great Japanese forward bases. This Marine plane went up there and bombed it, and it was hit by anti-aircraft fire and fell at sea. Our mission was to go and rescue them and we were about 1500 miles away, so we went up into that region and made a search. We would go a couple square miles in each direction, in a box-like direction. And we had no results after three days because we got another call, there had been a big wind and the plane was seen about two hundred miles to the west. So we steamed in that direction and again, we could not find them. After the fourth day we were told to leave, but our captain was a very fine gentleman and he said he could not do that. He said, ‘We’ll cut our power to conserve our fuel and we’ll keep looking.’

On the fifth day, at night, we thought we had a submarine scare and so we started to fire depth charges; I guess it made a great big flame at night, and way out in the far distance, we noticed a flare! So, we headed out and found these Marines! Two had been killed. I believe there were five of them and their faces were three times the size of normal. They were all in the water, except for the officer who was alive but injured, and all these guys struggling with sharks! So, we put them aboard and they were very happy and we were happy, too. One of them had my bed, later. They told us they would never criticize the Navy! It took about three or four days to bring them back to base.

Matthew Rozell: You said their faces were larger or swollen?

Yes, you see, with the sun and the water in the equatorial region. They were almost on the equator.

I would say I crossed the equator sixty times, being on the Witter. Then we took part in the New Guinea operations. In New Guinea, like everywhere else in the war, we had the hop, skip, and jump philosophy. And that meant you maybe took one island out of ten, and neutralized the rest by air and sea. In New Guinea we just hopped along the coast. Now New Guinea is a very large, mysterious, beautiful island. I had been all over the coast. And it would be about from here [upstate New York] to Denver, Colorado in length, extremely big and that includes great big mountains that you can see from the shore, and enormous rain forests, just tremendous amounts of rain. The rain we have here is nothing. You could get a few feet in the ground in no time! I know when we lived in the tents on that island we were always wet, extremely wet. They also had large meadows and big rivers and all kinds of natives and some of them were very black and very different.

Setting Sail for Okinawa

We then set sail for Okinawa in March of ’45, which was over about 2,000 miles, patrolled by Japs. See, things happen quickly; we had the Japanese on the run, we were hitting them hard. The Philippines were still going on when we hit Okinawa-there were troops in Luzon, still in battle. As I remember it must have taken five or six days. We had such a force; I thought we’d go right to Japan! It was 60 miles long, protected with submarines and DEs like ours, for Japanese U-boats.

The Japanese spotted us, we knew it, and we could see that they were here. We pointed them out on radar, but they didn’t dare attack. We shot a few planes down on the perimeter and knocked off a few subs. So I thought, boy we’re going to take on Japan now, this will be the end. But when we got up there near Okinawa, it was on my birthday on March the 25th, there was a big bombardment. Okinawa was protected by the Japs for fifty years before we came! They had seven huge airfields there at that time. So we bombarded that that day and created quite a few fires, I think we hit oil tanks. Then we’d leave at night and come in early in the morning. One morning when we came in, they were taking off in the airstrips, and we gave them all the anti-aircraft fire we could. We got a few—not only our ships were firing, but so were many others.

We were the escort ship for the Indianapolis, you might have heard of it.* As a matter of fact, we would go in like a beagle dog, close to the shore, and if a shell was fired, the Indianapolis fired a big one in. Our heaviest gun was only three-inch, that’s about as heavy a shell as you can carry. It’s nothing compared to what naval shells are. The Indianapolis had eight-inch. You couldn’t handle an eight-inch shell yourself. So the Indianapolis was with us and we were with a sister ship, the Bowers, and two of the Japanese suicide planes aimed for the Bowers and us on the Witter, they were concentrating on our escort ships. One came for the Bowers, he came in a straight drive. Just before he hit, the Bowers made a quick turn, so just part of the wing hit it. And when the plane meant for us came, our ship did not fire quickly enough, and the Indianapolis did. Aboard the Indianapolis was Admiral Spruance, who was the Commander of the 5th Fleet. He gave our captain heck, so he got it for us that day, though we had gotten other suicide aircraft ourselves in the Philippines, under big attacks.

‘We’re Going to Be the Target’

USS BUNKER HILL hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu.  Dead - 372.  Wounded - 264.  (Navy) NARA FILE #:  080-G-323712

USS BUNKER HILL hit by two Kamikazes in 30 seconds on 11 May 1945 off Kyushu. Dead – 372. Wounded – 264. (Navy)
NARA FILE #: 080-G-323712

On Easter Sunday, it would have been April the 1st of 1945 as I remember, the big invasion started, and on that day it wasn’t too bad from what I would have expected, because troops and Marines were able to cut straight across the island. But now, pretty soon we found ourselves all alone. We were assigned to what was called ‘roger [radar] picket duty’. We had to protect the island against the Japanese coming in to attack our troops; the attacks started getting worse and worse by kamikazes. One of my friends told me that battle was not so bad. He had only come onboard two months before, just coming from the States. I said ‘Yeah, that’s true, until you’re the target. We’re going to be the target one of these days’.

On April the 6th we were under great attack all day. Our ship had to have oil [refueling], and we finally got it on. We had lunch about four o’clock, and right after that we had a big attack. Two of them came out of the skies and we fired like mad and got the first one. The other one was coming straight for us and we had him on fire. He hit into the engine room, fire room and kitchen. He blew out about a half of the ship with a thousand-pound bomb in the plane! Luckily he missed where I was, because on the other five ships in our group, most of the radiomen were dead, unless they were manning guns. You see, the kamikazes would aim for the bridge because it was the communication part of the ship, and they wanted to exterminate or get rid of all the destroyer escorts and destroyers so that they could come in and torpedo everything else. It was a good idea, but it didn’t work out.

 

Matthew Rozell: Now were they flying off the island? There weren’t any Japanese carriers….

No, they were coming from Japan. Okinawa might be a few hundred miles from Japan, very close to Japan. So we were hit heavily and I saw quite a bit of action that day. One or two suicide planes went right through the noses of our ships, but several were shot down. When our ship was hit, I helped the gunners out all I could. One of our sister ships came up and towed us in to a little anchorage called Kerama Retto. Kerama Retto was not really controlled by us, except we used it for our ships. The Japanese planes would show up, and we’d fire at them. So we had the bait, and if we were under attack there, the Navy would use PT boats and make a big smoke ring, put in white smoke; you couldn’t see anything, so they couldn’t see us. But some of our ships would open up on the planes right through the smoke-our radar was so good that we’d shoot them right down. As a matter of fact, the radar on our ship was so efficient, we could spot a plane three hundred miles away! And we just traced them; if they came within twenty miles, we were all ready. That was a very good thing, we had good radar.

So we were in there from when we got hit at the beginning of April until June of 1945. There were so many ships that had been hit that we could not get a guy to weld it good enough to take us back to the United States. Finally, my lieutenant came up to me one day and he said we were going to take casualties back to the United States on the troop ship USS Hocking, a big ship, and that I could go with them because I had been there the longest. He said, ‘When you get to California, you will take a leave, and then you will come back to California and our ship will be ready, and you will take it through the Panama Canal with the men who are [going to the East Coast]’. So I went back on the Hocking, we were under great attack in a big convoy. We brought back a lot of amputees to Tinian to a big hospital there. Many of the men had legs off, arms off, maybe even all limbs off, a pitiful sight.

We got down there and we also put aboard the Seabees. We then went to the island of Kwajalein and then to Hawaii. We got off on a little base and they gave the destroyer escort men two beers every day. That’s all I needed, I was drunk on two beers! I was ‘landsick’; instead of being seasick, I was landsick. I was aboard a ship too long; I thought the land should hit me in the teeth! Then we came to San Francisco, and I had leave and came across the country, which I had to pay for, by the way. When I came back I found out the Witter had beaten me and had made it to California [and then departed for the East Coast], so they had to send me back again across the country!

Right about that time, World War II ended. And on September 28, 1945, I had enough points. I was in Philadelphia when the Witter came in, and I asked to get out. I got out and on October 1st, I was in college! I wasted no time, one weekend.

 

Matthew Rozell: So what did you think about the atomic bomb?

Best thing that ever happened to us. If it wouldn’t have been for the atomic bomb, I think we would have had a catastrophic amount of men killed, and probably the elimination of the Japanese nation as a whole. It would have been a terrible thing to conquer. I think it did a great deal in helping to save a million or two men, as well as the Japanese. I believe Harry Truman was a wonderful president in that regard; he really did a great favor to us. But I do not understand why we had to wait so long to figure things out! We shouldn’t have gone into Okinawa if we knew we had the atomic bomb because in Okinawa, we had 50,000 casualties! Our whole division was hit, except for the Wilmarth, as I told you. 250 ships were hit at Okinawa by kamikazes. The day we got hit, 26 ships got hit, 6 were sunk to the bottom! I believe the Japanese had over 500 aircraft against us that day, suicide aircraft. Have you ever been startled by a partridge suddenly trying to fly into you? It is really a scary thing. Although you weren’t thinking of it at the time, it was a scary thing that these people would give up their lives like that. It was the most Navy lives lost in one battle. I lost many friends.[i]

 

USS WITTER after attack.

USS WITTER after attack.

As the land battle for Okinawa raged toward its crescendo with the fury of a storm, the kamikaze attacks would claim over 15,000 American casualties for the Navy alone.

*************************************************************

[i] Interview with Alvin Peachman, June 16, 2003. Interview by Matthew Rozell. Mr. Peachman turned 93 in March 2015. My interview conducted with him at his home occurred 25 years after having had him as my high school history teacher.

 

* The USS Indianapolis was the heavy cruiser which would go on to deliver the parts for the first atomic bomb to the take-off base at Tinian Island. Sailing later for Leyte, she was torpedoed on July 30, 1945, sinking in less than 15 minutes with 300 men. The 900 other crew members spent the next five days in a nightmare of battling sharks, exposure, and thirst and hunger. Only 317 survived the ordeal. [http://www.ussindianapolis.org/story.htm]

*************************************************************

Excerpted from “The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA“. Available July 2015. Details at teachinghistorymatters.com.

 Book Description: At the height of World War II, LOOK Magazine profiled an upstate New York community for a series of articles portraying it as the wholesome, patriotic model of life on the home front. Seventy years later, a high school history teacher and his students track down over two dozen veterans residing around ‘Hometown, USA’ who fought the war in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the surrender at Tokyo Bay. They resurrect firsthand accounts of combat and brotherhood, of captivity and redemption, and the aftermath of a war that left no community unscathed. Here are the stories that the magazine could not tell, from a special generation of Americans speaking to the youth of America today.  270 pages.

About the Author: Matthew Rozell’s teaching career is now spanning 4 decades, beginning as a quiet kid returning to teach in his own hometown to being recognized as a national History Teacher of the Year and as a recipient of a national Medal for History Education. Rozell is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, has had his lessons filmed for NBC Learn, and has even been chosen as the ABC World News Person of the Week. He is also a recipient of several state and local awards for history education. He writes on the power of teaching and the importance of the study of history at his website,teachinghistorymatters.com.

He can be reached at marozell at gmail dot com.

This story below is an excerpt from my upcoming book. It will be out early this summer for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

My friend Jimmy Butterfield used to come to my classroom with his bride of 60+ years, Mary. She would joke with him, and us, and call him by his high school nickname, “But”. Maybe it was “Butt”, I don’t know, but they had fun playing around with each other in front of 17 and 18 year olds.

Jimmy, of course, was blind and hard of hearing. Mary had to yell at him, he would crack a grin under the dark glasses and flirt with her. The girls loved it. When the hearing aide was cranked up to eleven, we would get some echo and feedback, which didn’t seem to bother him, or the students in the class listening to his story. He just liked to talk to the kids.

Several years ago, after the two of them and Danny Lawler (another First Marine Division veteran of really hard fighting in the Pacific at Peleliu and Okinawa) came to my room for an afternoon, I came home to an email from one of my senior girls, telling me how meaningful meeting Jimmy and Mary and Danny was to her and her classmates. I still have it.

You see, Jim Butterfield got struck not once but twice in the head by enemy fire at Okinawa about this time in May  1945 (that is 70 years ago this month, if you are noticing). He was evacuated first to Guam, then to Hawaii and later stateside for over 18 months, and as many operations, for reconstructive surgery.  When he did realize that he would never see again,  he was ready to tell his high school sweetheart to leave him be. Not to get attached to him, a blind man.

Well, she told us what she thought of that. They ran a small mom and pop store back in Glens Falls together until they retired.

Why is Jim’s story important? Well, you’ll have to listen to him tell it. You have the sense of the unfolding realization of the loss he is feeling, but at the same time, wonderment at his and Mary’s resilience in making a successful life afterwards. The sacrifices made by this and other generations of veterans becomes real. We need to also note that Jim came home. Chappy and many others others did not.

Jim never looked for sympathy or pity- and of course would be the first to point out that Memorial Day is for those who did not return. But still, if we are to pause as a nation for one weekend to remember, we can’t forget what this nineteen year old from Hometown USA gave up as well.

Mary and Jim have since passed on. What obstacles they overcame together…

Rest on Jimmy and Mary. Thanks for letting us witness your story.

******************************************

From "The Things Our Fathers Saw" by Matthew Rozell.

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.

On April 1st, 1945, the U.S. invasion of Okinawa began. Sixty miles long, the island hosted  well over 100,000 Japanese defenders. It was nearly the last stand, a mere 330 miles from Tokyo, and was big enough to support 800 American heavy bombers. It is no surprise that kamikaze attacks at this stage claimed over 15,000 U.S. casualties.And within the space of seven weeks, the band of First Marine brothers from the counties— who had forged their bond at Peleliu— would be broken up for good. Jack Murray of Hudson Falls was stateside with his knee wound sustained on Peleliu; Harold Chapman of Gansevoort and Jim Butterfield of Glens Falls would be the next to fall.

Jim Butterfield:  When you looked back on Buckner’s Bay at night, you would see all our ships would go back out to sea— because it was dangerous to stay around. We had two hospital ships there. The hospital ships would be lit up at night, and the Red Cross was supposed to be on them. These guys [the Japanese] weren’t supposed to hit the hospital ships. But I was up on the ridge, and I said to my friend Chappy, ‘If I get hit, Chappy, you make sure they don’t put me aboard one of those things.’ But Chappy got it before that.

Harold Chapman and Jimmy had been through boot camp together, and were in the same outfit, G Company, Second Battalion, First Marines, where Jimmy was the squad leader. Jim usually checked in with his friend every morning, but on May 5th, Jim was tending to one of his badly wounded men and did not see him. Word came to him later in the day that Harold was killed.* The loss affected him deeply. 

 Still on the Shuri Line, Jim was severely wounded in the head two weeks later. Over 60 years afterward, he came to my classroom with his wife Mary and Dan Lawler to talk to our students. His humor still intact and on display, Jim recalled with Mary, poignantly, the experience of struggling to accept the fact that he would never see again.

Jim Butterfield: I lasted 61 or 62 days up to Okinawa before I got hit. Danny was fortunate— he got all the way through. Right, Dan?

Dan Lawler: 98 days I was there.

Matthew Rozell: Mary, do you remember getting the news that Jim was wounded?

Mary Butterfield: Yes, I remember. This girl that lived on our street went with this Navy corpsman, and he wrote a letter to her, telling her that Jimmy was very bad, that he was wounded through the eye. She came over that Saturday morning, I remember, and she told me. I was surprised, and I called his mother. And she said that she got a letter from the government only telling her that he was wounded. But that’s the way that I found out about it, about how he was wounded on Okinawa.

Jim Butterfield: Well, the first letter that they got was telling them that I was temporarily blind at the time. When I got hit, we were going to take Shuri Castle because the 6th Division was already in there, and they were catching it real bad. So they decided to put us in there to pull some of the people away from them. To give them a hand.

We were doing very well. It was a beautiful day when we started out. I had gotten seven Japs when they attacked the perimeter that night, and I thought I had a good day in front of me. So as we were moving along, somebody behind me yelled, ‘Whitey* just got it!’ He was a friend of ours. So I turned around, and I saw him rolling down the ridge. He got it in the head, and the face too. So I told this Marine next to me to take the squad, I’ll be right back. I figured it was an easy job to do because it was downhill. So I ran down and grabbed Whitey by his belt. We went over a little ridge, and I thought we had enough shelter.

Then a couple of other guys came. I said, ‘Look it, we have to get a corpsman up here, I think Whitey’s going to go into shock.’ You see when you got hit, you didn’t always die from the wound. Sometimes you went into shock. Shock could kill you. So I turned around to say something to him, and that’s the last I remember. I don’t know where that guy, the shot came from. I got it with a rifle [shot].

I lost part of the right side of my face. I don’t know if it was a day, or two days later— I don’t even know really what happened to me— the enemy laid a mortar barrage when I was on my way to the hospital at the beach, and I got hit again, in the face! That took care of the other side of my face.

This is a small world we live in. A guy named Joe Gavita from Glens Falls was the corpsman at that station. Of course I knew Joe before that, and Joe was taking care of me! I don’t remember this at all. He said I carried on a conversation with him. I was telling him how bad it was up there. I don’t remember that. The next thing I remember is: I woke up in that station and what a head ache I had! Oh! Talk about a hangover!

The corpsman came and said ‘How are you doing?’ I said, ‘How about loosening up these bandages, they’re killing me.’ He said, ‘No can do.’ So I sat up in the sack and started to unroll it myself. The next thing I know, I got a shot in the arm and I was knocked out again. The next time I woke up, I woke up in an aircraft. A C-54 transport. I never flew before. I had no idea where the hell I was! I put my hand out on the deck, and I just could not put it together— that I was in a plane! Someone must have had a word out to keep an eye on me, because the next time I reached out there, there was a patent leather shoe. I moved my hand a little bit, and there was a nice ankle with a silk stocking! [Some laughter.] I thought, ‘Jesus, I have died and have gone to heaven!’ [Much laughter from students.] I started running my hand up that leg, and she said, ‘I think you’ve gone far enough.’ [More laughter.]

She said to me, ‘Jimmy, would you like a turkey sandwich and a glass of milk?’ I said ‘Real milk?’ She said, ‘Real milk.’ I said, ‘You bet your life!’ She brought it down, and there had to be something in it, because I was out again. I woke up in Guam, in the hospital. I was there about three weeks, I guess. I got an operation there. I didn’t know they did it. But what was left of my left side of the eye and face, they took out. Now see, these people knew that I was not going to see again.

The doctor came up. I said, ‘How am I doing Doc? I have to go back up there. They’re short of people.’ He said, ‘You’re doing fine, my young boy.’ That was all I would get, see? Do you want to hear this whole story? [Class responds: Yes!]

They took me to Honolulu. The nurse said, ‘You’re going to like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that will be nice. Now how about a cigarette?’ [To the young people] We smoked them then; we didn’t know they killed you…  So she said, ‘No you can’t. They’re putting fuel in the plane.’ I said, ‘I’m dying for one— let me have one.’ Then she let me have one.

We flew into Hawaii, and it was a beautiful hospital. It was overlooking the Pacific. Down below you could see Diamond Head. Now, I couldn’t see any of these things. But I was told all of this stuff.

Jim Butterfield.

Jim Butterfield.

I still had the bandages on. They were teaching you little things: like to sit down at the tray, how to eat. Now, the first thing they teach you is: you work by the clock— like your milk would be at 1:00 o’clock, your bread at 9:00 o’clock, your potatoes at 6:00 o’clock. Things like that you had to start learning, see…  I went along with this, still not thinking— and this is how stupid that you can be— that I wasn’t going to see again. Nothing in my mind thought that[being blind] was going to happen to me. I was getting around. I always had somebody with me.

So this one day, we were sitting there, and this guy said, ‘Jimmy, I bet you five bucks you can’t go to the head and back in five minutes.’ Five dollars is pretty good money. I had done it before already, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll bet you.’ So I did a good job— I got to the men’s room, the head. But when I came back, I took a quarter of a step wrong, and I ended up in a long, not-too-wide closet and I didn’t know how the hell to get out of there! Then I start sweating. I was all bandaged up, and underneath my bandages was Vaseline, gauze. I thought, ‘Geez, I have got to get out of here!’ Five bucks is five bucks, and I had lost it already.

I finally got out of there, and I went over and sat down. I said, ‘How about a cigarette?’ Someone handed me a cigarette. There was a Zippo lighter. Guy goes like this [holds hand up, makes flicking motion with thumb]. My whole face goes up in flames! [Laughter.] I had this guy who was nearsighted next to me, trying to put it out [he laughs], and all he did was fan the flames… you’d think you were back in the foxhole again! The nurse comes running over, and off goes the bandages. Fortunately, I did not get burned. So she says, ‘Give me your lighter. Give me your cigarettes.’ She took them away from me. So all day long, I’m bumming cigarettes and a lighter. Then I’m going over and putting them underneath my mattress. Now that nurse is standing there watching me do this, and I don’t know she’s doing this. So I get up about 4:00 o’clock— I look under the mattress. There was no lighter, no cigarettes. The nurse says, ‘You want a cigarette, Jimmy?’ [Laughter.]

 I’m sitting there one day with one of the guys that was just in from Okinawa. I was asking how they were doing and stuff, and this guy sticks his head in the door. He says, ‘I’m looking for Jim Butterfield.’ I said, ‘He’s right here, what do you want?’ He says, ‘It’s Dick Barber, Jim.’ Now this is Dr. Barber* from Glens Falls. I had no idea how he knew I was there. He was stationed there. I get a nice lieutenant-colonel walking into my room— my stock automatically goes up! He says, ‘Let me look at your face.’ I said, ‘Dick, you can’t do that. This is a Navy hospital, I think they’ll frown on an Army guy doing this.’ He said, ‘I want to see what they’re doing to you.’ So he looked. This man knew right there that I was never going to see again. He never said a word to me. I don’t think he ever told anybody back here at home.

I didn’t know, until they told me there.

So here’s the climax. Every morning there was inspection with the doctors. So the doctor came around that morning. He said, ‘How are you, Jim?’ I said, ‘Fine.’ He said, ‘You need anything?’ I said, ‘Nope, I’m doing fine.’ He says, ‘Well, are you used to the idea?’ I said, ‘Used to what idea?’ He said, ‘That you’re not going to see again.’

Well, you could hear a pin drop. I said, ‘I don’t think I heard you, Doc.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to see again.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Didn’t they tell you in Guam?’

I said, ‘No! But it’s a good thing that [first] doctor isn’t here, because I’d kill him!’ I got so mad! I couldn’t really grab the idea. I’m not going to see again? … What the hell did I know about blindness? Nothing!

I said, ‘How about operations?’ He said, ‘You’ve got nothing to work with, Jimmy.’ So a pat on the shoulder, and he just walks away. The nurse comes over and says, ‘The doctor wants you to take this pill.’ I said, ‘You know what the doctor can do with that pill?’

Mary Butterfield: Don’t say it.

 Jim Butterfield: I’m not going to, Mary. So I had a hard… two months, I guess. I kept mostly to myself. I wouldn’t talk to people. I tried to figure out what the hell I was going to do when I got home. How was I going to tell my mother this? You know what I mean?

So they come around and said, ‘You’ve got a phone call.’ So I went in to where the phone was. They were calling me from home. They got the message, see…  This one here was on the phone [points to Mary]. I said, ‘Looks like things have changed, kiddo.’ She said, ‘No, we’ll discuss this when you get home.’ She was already bossing me around! [Laughter.]

But that’s how I found out, and that’s how it happened. And after a while, I just started to live with it.

There are not days— even today— I go to bed and I wish I could see. So much I miss. I miss watching a nice girl walking down the street. I miss seeing my daughter, my wife. I even miss looking at Danny. [Laughter.]

Mary Butterfield: But you see, I’m only 17 to you now. That’s a good thing.

Jim Butterfield: Since we got in the conversation, when I dream, and I do dream, everything is real. Everything I knew before, I see it as it was then, not today. My wife and daughter would never get old in my eyes. When I dream of Mary, she’s still 17 years old.

Mary Butterfield: But you never saw your daughter.

 Jim Butterfield: I dream about my daughter. Mary’s caught me doing this. We lost our daughter a year and a half ago. But I sit right up in bed and I’m trying to push away that little cloud of fog in front of her, but I can’t quite make her out. Mary says, ‘What are you doing?’ I say, ‘Just dreaming.’*

 

Jim Butterfield was 19 years old at the Battle of Okinawa. 

In the final push at the Shuri Line that cost him his eyesight, the Marines lost over 3,000 men and the U. S. Army even more. When the island was declared secure near the end of June, in Lawler’s K/3/5, only 26 Peleliu veterans who had landed with the company had survived Okinawa. It had been the bloodiest campaign of the Pacific, with over 12,500 Americans killed or missing and nearly three times that number wounded.[ii] For the Japanese, no accurate counts are possible, but perhaps 110,000 were killed.

 

********

* Harold Chapman’s remains were repatriated nearly 4 years after he was killed on Okinawa. He joined the Marine Corps in 1943 at the age of 17. He was survived by three sisters and his mother, whom Jimmy Butterfield and Danny Lawler visited upon their return home in 1945. ‘Body of U.S. Marine Being Returned Home’, The Glens Falls Post Star 7 March 1949.
* Marine Corporal ‘Whitey’ Hargus.

* Well-known Glens Falls doctor Charles Richard Barber (1914−1999).

* Mary and Jimmy Butterfield were married for 67 years. After the war, they were the proud owners and operators of Butterfield’s Grocery Store on Bay St. in Glens Falls for 40 years. Mary passed in Oct. 2012; Jim passed the following summer. This segment was taken from a classroom interview with Dan Lawler, James Butterfield, and Mary Butterfield on Jan. 11, 2007.

 

[i]Sloan, Bill, The Ultimate Battle −Okinawa 1945 −The Last Epic Battle of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2007. 257.

[ii]Miller, The Story of World War II. 151.

 

Mary and Jim Butterfield Jan. 2007

Mary and Jim Butterfield in my classroom, Jan. 2007.

*************************************************************

Excerpted from “The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA“. Available July 2015. Details at teachinghistorymatters.com.

 Book Description: At the height of World War II, LOOK Magazine profiled an upstate New York community for a series of articles portraying it as the wholesome, patriotic model of life on the home front. Seventy years later, a high school history teacher and his students track down over two dozen veterans residing around ‘Hometown, USA’ who fought the war in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the surrender at Tokyo Bay. They resurrect firsthand accounts of combat and brotherhood, of captivity and redemption, and the aftermath of a war that left no community unscathed. Here are the stories that the magazine could not tell, from a special generation of Americans speaking to the youth of America today.  270 pages.

About the Author: Matthew Rozell’s teaching career is now spanning 4 decades, beginning as a quiet kid returning to teach in his own hometown to being recognized as a national History Teacher of the Year and as a recipient of a national Medal for History Education. Rozell is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, has had his lessons filmed for NBC Learn, and has even been chosen as the ABC World News Person of the Week. He is also a recipient of several state and local awards for history education. He writes on the power of teaching and the importance of the study of history at his website, teachinghistorymatters.com.

 He can be reached at marozell at gmail dot com.

 

 

Photographs.

A project by a student in my colleague Sara Kollbaum’s 12th grade class in Nashville, Ill. It was inspired by a story I posted last month.
‘This song was inspired by an individual of the Holocaust, liberator Robert Hays. Please read his story  and spread his story so that we can remember him and all other individuals [affected by] that horrible event.  Enjoy and remember those who fell victim to the Holocaust. To listen to a witness is to become a witness.’
Agreed. As a liberator once told me, ‘I am a “survivor” of World War II, too.’

Photographs

Composed and performed by Easten Hoepker

Verse 1

We grow up and get old

We grow wise and get bold

And we learn while we go

And we think we know

We go fast and go far

We stay near and work hard

We remember our scars

Make us who we are

Pre-chorus

But as time goes on we get caught in the moment

Don’t look back, we’re not going that way

But every once in a while we need a reminder

Not to forget our past

Chorus

A picture can speak a thousand words, they say

But a thousand words can’t explain how it felt that day

So we remember the smiles and tears

And carry them on for others to feel

When words aren’t enough to keep memories alive

We look at our pictures

And they survive

Verse 2

We live on and live strong

We progress and make best

Of the things we can not control

We forgive and we love

We look back and we trust

Our mistakes teach us more than success does

Bridge

We need the past to guide the future

The lessons we learn we never forget

*****************************************************************************************************

Dachau Will Always Be With Us

by Tony Hays

This is not so much a post about writing as one about a writer’s education, about one of those experiences that molds us, shapes us into storytellers.

My father, Robert Hays, was the son of an alcoholic tenant farmer in rural west Tennessee. If the appellation “dirt poor” fit anyone, it fit my grandfather’s family. Daddy served in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 30s. He and my mother, who was in the woman’s equivalent of the CCC, working as a nurse’s aide at Western State Mental Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee, met on a blind date in early 1940 and married in September of that year.

But just over a year later, Pearl Harbor happened. America was in the war. My father was among the first of those drafted in 1942. I won’t bore you with the details, but he participated in the North African, Salerno, Anzio, and southern France invasions, saved by the luck of the draw from Normandy. But they slogged through France and on to Germany. On April 29, 1945, Allied troops liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I don’t know whether he entered Dachau that day or the next, but that he was there within hours of the liberation is beyond dispute. A few months later, after more than three years overseas, he came home.

In later years, he would talk occasionally about the war, providing anecdotes that showed the chaos and random chance of battle. He spoke of driving through Kasserine Pass in North Africa just hours before the Germans killed thousands of Allied troops in a stunning attack. He spoke of a friend, defending his position from a foxhole, who was thought dead after an artillery shell landed right next to him. When the dust cleared, the friend was buried up to his neck in dirt, but did not have a scratch on him. He spoke often of Anzio, where he was wounded, and of the massive German air assaults on those soldiers clinging to that tiny sliver of beach along the Italian coast.

But he never spoke of Dachau.

The bodies of former prisoners are piled in the crematorium mortuary in the newly liberated Dachau concentration camp. Dachau, Germany, April 29, 1945.

The bodies of former prisoners are piled in the crematorium mortuary in the newly liberated Dachau concentration camp. Dachau, Germany, April 29, 1945. USHMM.

 

Ever.

When he died in 1981, we found a photo in his wallet. An old sepia-toned shot like others he had taken during the war, pictures that he kept in an old brown bag. But this one was different.

It showed a pile of naked bodies. Well, really more skeletons than not, with their skin stretched pitifully over their bones. On the back, as had been his habit, was typed simply “Dachau.”

I was confused. Why would he keep this one photo in his wallet all of those years? Especially a photo of a place and event that he never spoke about. It obviously had some deeper meaning for him than the other photographs. If it had been a shot of the building he was in when he was wounded (hit by an artillery shell), I could have seen that. A reminder of his closest brush with death. Yeah, I could buy that. But this macabre photo? That, I couldn’t see.

So, for the next fifteen years, I remained puzzled.

Until the fall of 1996. I was working in Poland, and I had some time off. I took an overnight bus from Katowice, Poland to Munich. It was an interesting trip all in itself. We sat in a line of buses at midnight on the Polish/German border, waiting for our turn to cross, next to a cemetery, as if in some Cold War spy movie. I remember passing Nuremburg and thinking that my father had been there at the end of the war. And then there was Munich.

I spent a day or two wandering through the streets, drinking beer in the Marienplatz. I’m a historical novelist, so the short trip out to Dachau was a no-brainer. Of course it was as much my father’s connection with it as anything else that spurred the visit. But I’m not sure that I was completely aware of that at the time.

Dachau literally sits just on the outskirts of the Munich metropolitan area. I looked at the sign on the train station with a sadness, wondering for how many people that had been one of the last things they saw. It was only later that I discovered there had been another depot for those passengers.

The Dachau Memorial is a place of deep emotion. In the camp proper, mostly all that are left are the foundations of the barracks. One has been reconstructed to give an idea of how horrible life must have been. The camp was originally intended to hold 6,000 inmates; when the Allies liberated Dachau in 1945, they found 30,000. The museum and exhibits are primarily in the old maintenance building. I looked with awe at life size photos of prisoners machine gunned, their hands torn to ribbons from the barbed wire they had tried to climb in a futile attempt at escape.

I followed the visitors (I can’t call them tourists) north to where you crossed over into the crematorium area. It was there that the full brunt of what had taken place at Dachau really hit me. A simple brick complex, it seemed so peaceful on the fall day that I stood before it. But as I read the plaques and consulted my guidebook, as I stepped through the door and actually saw the “shower” rooms where the prisoners were gassed, as I stared into the open doors of the ovens, I felt a rage unlike any I had ever known consume me.
Covering my eyes, embarrassed at the tears, I slipped back outside. It took more than a few minutes to regain my composure. I thought then that I understood why my father kept that photo close to him for so long. It was a reminder of what one group of people had done to another group of fellow humans. The obscenity of it had overwhelmed him as it had me.

That night, I went to the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, to wash the images of the ovens away with some beer. I hadn’t been there long when an elderly American couple sat at the table. They were from Florida, a pleasant couple. He had been a young lieutenant in the American army on the push into Munich. In fact, it had been his pleasure to liberate the Hofbrauhaus from the Germans.

Of course, I asked the question. “Were you at Dachau?”

He didn’t answer for several seconds, tears glistening in the corners of his eyes as his wife’s hand covered his and squeezed. Finally, he nodded, reached into a back pocket and pulled out his wallet.

With a flick of his wrist, a photo, just as wrinkled, just as bent, as the one my father had carried landed on the table. It wasn’t the same scene, but one just like it.

Here was my chance, the opportunity to ask the question I had never been able to ask my father. I pulled the photo from my own wallet and lay it next to his. “Why? Why have you carried it so long? To remind you of the horror of Dachau, of what had been done here?”

His face carried the faintest of smiles as he shook his head. “No, son, to remind us of the horrors that we are capable of, to remind us not to go down that road again.”

The difference was subtle, but in that moment, I learned two lessons invaluable to a writer, subtle differences are important, and when you want to know the truth, go to the source.

As I sit here now and look at that same photograph, I realize that it was my father’s legacy to me, of Dachau.

Now, nearly 70 years after that day in 1945, Dachau is still with us, and I hope the legacy left by our fathers always will be.

http://teachinghistorymatters.com/2015/04/29/dachau-seventy-years-on/

 

There  are ‘wrong’ ways to teach about the Holocaust.

Here are the general guidelines in a project I created for the Museum Teacher program at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with fellow Museum Teacher Fellow Sara Kollbaum, set to original music sung and performed by student Kylie James. For students, her song is also a good model of what an expressive and appropriate learning project can be about.

From the original You Tube link: ‘Educational project  completed for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC to help educators teach the Holocaust. It features the work of Kylie James, student, her song set to photographs collected by USHMM Fellow Matthew Rozell and USHMM Fellow Sara Kollbaum.It is four and a half minutes long. The song begins 30 seconds in.’

This is for Remembrance

Verse 1:         Six million died

Innocents who lost their lives

Children and their mothers all lined up by their numbers

Told that there were showers

They were gassed within the hour

Chorus:          this is for remembrance

For  all of those who lost their lives

And this is for remembrance

Of all of those left behind

So don’t forget the people who died

‘Cause they won’t forget their genocide

Verse 2:         everything was taken

Husbands from their wives

No one can forget the

Day the Nazis arrived

Houses were torn apart all around

Synagogues were burning to the ground

this is for remembrance

For all of those who lost their lives

And this is for remembrance

Of all of those left behind

So don’t forget the people who died

‘Cause they won’t forget their genocide

Verse 3:         how could they do this?

Exterminate more than half a race

Why would they do this

With no remorse like child’s play

How could they do this?

The world just looked and turned away…

this is for remembrance

FOR all of those who lost their lives

And this is for remembrance

Of all of those left behind

So don’t forget the people who died

‘Cause they won’t forget their genocide

this is for remembrance

For all of those who lost their lives

And this is for remembrance

Of all of those left behind

So teach your children, not to hate

Learn from our past, before its too late

This is for remembrance

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDELINES HERE:

http://www.ushmm.org/educators/teaching-about-the-holocaust/general-teaching-guidelines

IMPORTANT EXCERPT:

‘One of the primary concerns of educators teaching the history of the Holocaust is how to present horrific, historical images in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Graphic material should be used judiciously and only to the extent necessary to achieve the lesson objective. Try to select images and texts that do not exploit the students’ emotional vulnerability or that might be construed as disrespectful to the victims themselves. Do not skip any of the suggested topics because the visual images are too graphic; instead, use other approaches to address the material.

In studying complex human behavior, many teachers rely upon simulation exercises meant to help students “experience” unfamiliar situations. Even when great care is taken to prepare a class for such an activity, simulating experiences from the Holocaust remains pedagogically unsound. The activity may engage students, but they often forget the purpose of the lesson and, even worse, they are left with the impression that they now know what it was like to suffer or even to participate during the Holocaust. It is best to draw upon numerous primary sources, provide survivor testimony, and refrain from simulation games that lead to a trivialization of the subject matter.

Furthermore, word scrambles, crossword puzzles, counting objects, model building, and other gimmicky exercises tend not to encourage critical analysis but lead instead to low-level types of thinking and, in the case of Holocaust curricula, trivialization of the history. If the effects of a particular activity, even when popular with you and your students, run counter to the rationale for studying the history, then that activity should not be used.’

v-e-day-banner-r1

V-E Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration
Friday, May 8, 2015 ~ 10:30 a.m.
World War II Memorial
Washington, DC.

This event is free and open to the public. However, the limited seating available has been filled. If you are a World War II Veteran or you have a WWII Veteran in your group, please contact hrotondi@wwiimemorialfriends.org.
It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 70 years since millions of people around the globe poured into the streets to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe.

To commemorate this significant date in world history, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service will co-host a very special V-E Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration on May 8th at 10:30 a.m. at the WWII Memorial.

Former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright will provide remarks. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Dr. Albright and her family spent the war years in exile in England. Raised Catholic, Dr. Albright did not learn until adulthood that her parents were originally Jewish and that many of her relatives in Czechoslovakia had perished in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents.

Also taking part in the ceremony will be dozens of World War II veterans and representatives of the United States and the embassies of nearly 30 European Theater Allied Nations who will lay wreaths at the “Freedom Wall” of the Memorial in memory of the more than 400,000 Americans and 60 million people killed worldwide during the deadliest military conflict in human history.

Alex Kershaw, renowned historian and author of “The Bedford Boys: The Story of Bedford, Virginia’s Extraordinary D-Day Sacrifice” and “The Liberator: One Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau,” will serve as the event’s Master of Ceremonies and Expert Historian.

The ceremony will be followed by the “Arsenal of Democracy World War II Victory Capitol Flyover,” which will include dozens of World War II aircraft flying in 15 historically sequenced warbird formations overhead. The formations will represent the war’s major battles, from Pearl Harbor through the final air assault on Japan, and conclude with a missing man formation to “Taps.” The Flyover is set to start at 12:10 p.m. and last approximately 40 minutes.

http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org/v-e-day-70th-anniversary

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