Archive for June, 2013

Jimmie Butterfield died this week.

His obit is pretty humble. So was the man.

Jimmie used to come to my classroom with his bride of 65+ years, Mary. She would joke with him, and us, and call him by his high school nickname, “But”. Maybe it was “Butt”, I do not know, but they had fun playing around with each other in front of 17 and 18 year olds.

Ten years ago, after the two of them and Danny Lawler, another First Marine Division veteran of really hard fighting 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 Jimmie and Mary and Danny was to her and her classmates. Jimmie, 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.

You see, Jimmie Butterfield got struck not once but twice in the head by enemy fire at Okinawa on May 19, 1945. He was evacuated first to Guam, then to Hawaii and later stateside for over 18 months and as many for reconstructive surgery. It was clear early on though that he would never see again.

He told us that he told 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.

Mary passed last fall. Jimmie died at home this week. What obstacles they overcame together…

What more can I say.

James F. Butterfield

June 27, 2013 1:48 am

GLENS FALLS — James F. Butterfield, 87, of Glens Falls, passed away Monday, June 24, 2013, at his home.

He was born Dec. 17, 1925, in Glens Falls, the son of the late James and Helen K. (McNulty) Butterfield.

Jim was a veteran with the U.S. Marines, serving as a corporal during World War II. He served in the South Pacific and, upon discharge, was awarded the Purple Heart.

He married the love of his life, Mary LaCivita in 1945; they enjoyed 67 years of wonderful marriage before she passed away Oct. 25, 2012.

Jim and his wife, Mary, were the proud owners and operators of Butterfield Grocery Store on Bay Street for 40 years. They loved traveling to Hawaii and Florida and cherished the time spent with their family.

Besides his mother and his wife, Mary, he was predeceased by his only daughter, Mary Jane (Butterfield) Daley; his brother, Ken Butterfield; and his sister, Alice.

Survivors include four grandchildren, Holli (David) Flaherty, of Boston, Mass., Jessica Daley of Philadelphia, Pa., James Daley of Boston, Mass., and Rebecca Daley of Columbia, S.C.; his sister-in-law, Celia Butterfield of Vermont; and nieces, Barbara (Chuck) Krull of North Carolina and Mary (Kevin) Hastings of Glens Falls.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 29, 2013, at St. Mary’s Church, 62 Warren St., Glens Falls.

Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery, South Glens Falls.

Friends may call from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at Singleton Sullivan Potter Funeral Home, 407 Bay Road, Queensbury.

Remembrances can be made in Jim’s memory to Glens Falls Association for the Blind, 144 Ridge St., Glens Falls, NY 12801.

For those who wish, online condolences may be made by visiting sbfuneralhome.com.

Dan Lawler and James Butterfield

You can view a book preview at the Amazon site. Available in digital and paperback format. Book can also be purchased at http://matthewrozell.com/order-the-things-our-fathers-saw/

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They saw it here first because I took the time to talk to “old” people..


 Photos That Change The Holocaust Narrative

Victims. Helpless. Downtrodden.

That’s the narrative that’s been spread about Jews for the last 70 years since the Holocaust. We’ve embraced it to our detriment. We can’t seem to address antisemitism without running to the world and screaming that we’re being persecuted, rather than standing up strongly in defiance, aware of our own inner strength.

The Holocaust has scarred us, a yetzer hara (sneaky bastard of a voice in our heads), that keeps trying to tell us how we are defined by our past, controlled by events that happened to us, instead of using those moments as points of growth.

And, in a weird way, that’s why all those images of us looking so helpless, so gaunt, in heaps of nameless bodies, have become a morbid fascination for us. We, and by extension the rest of the world, have chosen to define the Holocaust with these images.

But there are other images. Images that show a more subtle, more true, story. A story that shows our inner power, our inner turmoil in dealing with a situation we cannot comprehend, our attempts to gain justice, and our final steps into moving above and beyond our past and into a new future.

These are the images you will see below. Some of them may be disturbing to you. Some of them may inspire you.

But in the end, they do one thing that we desperately need as a people: they tell the real story of the Holocaust. A story that goes beyond victimhood and into our present-day lives. And today, on Yom HaShoa, 2013, it’s about time that story got told.

– See more at: http://popchassid.com/photos-holocaust-narrative/#sthash.PZpCfg4F.dpuf

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My new friends in Russia told me that the entry they solicited from me last month won a contest (commemorating the end of WWII) took first place out of 1600 entries. I did not even realize it was a contest.

Главная / Одна победа / Joint victory

A Train Near Magdeburg (Поезд под Магдебургом)

5 голосов (Количество голосов через сайт)
5 голосов (Совокупные голоса через сайт и вне сайта)

(Перевод с английского. Для сохранения эмоциональной составляющей рассказа, мы рекомендуем, по-возможности, прочесть работу в оригинале).

Friday, April 13th, 1945.                              Moment of Liberation.  Farsleben, Germany CREDIT: U.S. Army,     Major Clarence Benjamin, 743rd Tank Battalion.

Friday, April 13th, 1945.
Moment of Liberation.
Farsleben, Germany
CREDIT: U.S. Army, Major Clarence Benjamin, 743rd Tank Battalion.

В пятницу 13 апредя 1945 года я, командир экипажа легкого танка, вел свою машину в составе колонны 743 танкового батальона и 30 пехотной дивизии армии США. Мы направлялись вдоль берега Эльбы на юг к Магдебургу (Германия). После 3х недельного перехода к Эльбе мы были измотаны и пребывали в мрачном настроении. Хотя мы понимали, что война закачивается, радость от приближающейся победы была омрачена известием о смерти Президента Рузвельта. Неожиданно, мне и танку под командованием моего приятеля, сержанта Кэрроллу Уолшу, приказали отделиться от колонны и сопровождать майора Клэренса Л.Бенджамина из 743 танкового батальона в короткой разведывательной операции к западу от нашего маршрута. Оказалось, что экипаж танка майора Бенджамина повстречал нескольких истощенных солдат-финнов. Как оказалось, им удалось совершить побег из поезда, до отказа забитого голодающими узниками концлагерей. Экипаж майора повел два наших танка, на каждом из которых дополнительно сидели несколько пехотинцев из 30й пехотной дивизии, по узкой дороге к маленькой желедорожной станции, где в тупике стоял поезд, собранный из разнотипных пассажирских и грузовых вагонов. Вокруг него в апатии лежали или сидели люди, которые еще не увидели наших танков. Стражников не было видно. Должно быть, они разбежались еще до нашего приезда…по крайней мере, перестрелки около поезда я не помню. Освобождение узников этого поезда запомнилось мне не историей нашего героизма, а историей подлинного мужества его пленников.

Майор сделал очень эмоционально сильную фотографию в тот момент, когда первые несколько человек из поезда поняли, что они спасены. Люди на этой фотографии все еще лежат у поезда, пытаясь впитать хоть немного энергии от солнечных лучей. На первом плане – только что увидевшая нас женщина с раскинутыми руками и выражением удивления и радости на лице. Буквально через несколько секунд после этого момента женщина увидела мешок, брошенный кем-то из убегающих немецких солдат, и, порывшись в нем, триумфально показала всем банку солдатских консервов. На нее тут же накинулась целая толпа изголодавшихся, похожих на живых скелетов, людей, пытавшихся выхватить у нее находку. Мои крики на них не имели эффекта, и мне в итоге пришлось спуститься с танка и пробираться сквозь истощенных и измученных людей, чтобы оттащить нападавших от женщины, которая быстро схватила банку и убежала. Когда я расталкивал толпу вокруг женщины, то поневоле я ощущал себя школьником-хулиганом, обижающим малышей – так слабы были все вокруг меня. В результате этого инцидента я в полной мере осознал, в сколь плачевном состоянии пребывали узники поезда.

Я и мой экипаж проехали на своем танке в начало поезда и остались там, как символ того, что поезд с этого момента находится под охраной солдат армии США. Танк, которым командовал Кэрролл Уолш, бал направлен обратно в батальон за подмогой. С нами остались лишь пехотинцы. Насколько я помню, мой танк остался единственной охранявшей поезд бронемашиной весь день и вечер этого дня, а также ночь. Затем события развивались очень быстро. Нам передали, что командующий 823го противотанкового батальона отдал приказ бургомистрам всех окрестных городков приготовить и доставить к поезду продовольствие, и что Военное Правительство в ближайшее время возьмет на себя все заботы о спасенных людях. До этого момента нас оставили присматривать за голодающими людьми из поезда, охранять их, и сопереживать, не имея возможности немедленно облегчить их положение.

Насколько мне помнится, ко мне подошел один из узников – кадровый офицер финнской армии и предложил организовать охрану по периметру поезда. Я одобрил идею и попросил его организовать охрану и выставить на постах караульных, что и было сделано очень быстро и эффективно. Я с удивлением и восхищением наблюдал, как истощенные, обессиленные солдаты возвращались к исполнению своих воинских обящанностей. Они выглядели почти счастливыми од одной только мысли, что они вновь будут защищать кого-то. И хотя все их вооружение составляли лишь палки и немногочисленные автоматы, брошенные в спешке убегающими немцами, все вместе они могли дать довольно серьезный отпрор противнику. Это позволило мне немного расслабиться и пообщаться с людьми.

Ко мне подошла молодая женщина по имени Джина Раппапорт и предложила побыть переводчицей. Помимо своего родного польского очень хорошо говорила по-английски и немного – еще на нескольких языках.Мы с ней встали около танка, где незаметно собралась целая толпа мужчин, женщин и детей. До конца жизни мне не забыть эту сцену: с каким уважением и вежливостью относились они друг к другу, как важно было для каждого из них представиться, сказать, кто он такой. Каждый был во внимании, каждый старался полностью представиться – имя и фамилия, национальность и страна, откуда был родом этот человек (например, «Польский еврей из Венгрии»). Каждый затем старался подойти и пожать мне руку. Эти рукопожатия одновременно символизировали, с одной стороны, уважение, и благодарность, а с другой – самоутверждение, обретение себя заново – как личности, как человека. Я и мои друзья – закаленные боями ветераны, умеющие сдерживать эмоции. Тем не менее, в тот момент мне не удалось удержаться от слез. Не удается и до сих пор, стоит мне вспомнить тот момент – силу духа и мужество тех людей.

А их улыбки…У меня хранится снимок нескольких девочек из поезда: худые, почти прозрачные, со впалыми щеками и огромными глазами, видевшими слишком много ужаса и страданий, – как трогательно они улыбались, несмотря на лишения! Маленькие дети подходили со смущенными улыбками, подталкиваемые счастливыми мамами, чтобы сфотографироваться с нами. Я несколько раз прошел через вагоны по ходу поезда, смотрел на людей. Некоторые просто лежали – страдая от боли, или просто без сил. Другие – сидели и делились друг с другом планами и мечтами о будущем, с которым уже успели попрощаться, и которое неожиданно вновь обрело смысл и реальность.Кто-то просто ходил за мной, куда бы я ни направился, не мешая мне и не вмешиваясь в мои дела, а просто пытаясь быть ближе к одному из своих спасителей. Мне, в свою очередь, было очеть тяжело осознавать невозможность помочь всем немедленно, но у меня и товарищей не было ни еды, ни медикаментов. За неполные сутки моего дежурства из поезда вынесли не меньше шестнадцати тел – павших смертью храбрых в битве с голодом, не доживших совсме немного до момента, когда пришла помощь.

И пассажирские и товарные вагоны изнутри находились в ужасающем состоянии – результат многодневной скученности и антисанитарии. Но, к моему удивлению, сами люди не выглядели грязными. Их старая и износившаяся одежда в большинстве случаев была относительно чистой – было видно, что люди приложили огромные усилия выглядеть как модно лучше перед своими освободителями. Мне сказали, что многие успели сходить к обнаруженному неподалеко усточнику, чтобы помыться и постирать одежду. В моих глазах это стало еще одним примером невероятной силы духа этих мужественных людей.

Часть вечерая провел, беседуя с Джиной Раппопорт – женщиной, предложившей мне свою помощь в качестве переводчика. В начале войны она оказалась в Варшавском гетто, где несколько лет подряд с болью наблюдала как нацисты постепенно увозят оттуда людей в концентрационные лагеря смерти. Наконец пришел ее черед: ее перевезли в Берген-Белсен – концлагерь, условия содержания узников в котором были чудовищными – точь-в-точь такие, как я позднее прочел в официальных хрониках.

Когда нацисты начали понимать приближение окончания войны, они ускорили уничтожение узников концлагерей. Около 2500 тысяч пленников лагеря, в числе которых была и Джина, под конвоем набили в поезд и отправили колесить по всей Германию в надежде, что найдётся неосвобожденный еще концлагерь, где их можно было бы уничтожить до прихода Советских войск с восточного фронта, или американцев – с западного. Поскольку у пленников поезда практически не было с собой пищи, очень многие погибли по пути. Остальные во время бесцельного мотания по рельсам потеряли остаток веры в возможность спасения. Поэтому, когда их поезд бросили на рельсах в этом тупике в долине, они ни на что не надеялись и ждали конца. К сожалению, у меня не было возможности записать историю Джины. Через несколько месяцев после окончания войны, когда я уже вернулся домой в Сан-Диего, я получил от нее короткое письмо. Она жила в Париже и строила большие планами на будущее. Я ответил ей, но, к сожалению, она не продолжила переписку. Надеюсь, что ее жизнь в итоге сложилась так, как она мечтала.

На следующее утро мой экипаж, дождавшись прихода помощи, был направлен назад в батальон. Мы завели танк и помахали на прощание нашим новым друзьям. Я оглянулся и увидел одинокую фигурку Джины Раппопорт, которая вышла из толпы и махала нам рукой. Повинуясь неожиданному и необъяснимому порыву, я заглушил мотор, спрыгнул с танка, подбежал к Джине, обнял ее и поцеловал в лоб, как бы прося прощения за все ужасы и невыразимую жестокость, которые причинили этим несчастным люди в форме (пускай они были и нашими врагами), молясь за то, чтобы дальнейшая их жизнь у всех них сложилась счастливо и спокойно.

Джордж С.Гросс.,Калифорния.
Автор: Мэттью Розелл, штат Нью-Йорк, США.

A Train Near Magdeburg

On Friday, April 13, 1945, I was commanding a light tank in a column of the 743rd Tank Battalion and the 30th Infantry Division, moving south near the Elbe River toward Magdeburg, Germany. After three weeks of non-stop advancing with the 30th from the Rhine to the Elbe as we alternated spearhead and mop-up duties with the 2nd Armored Division, we were worn out and in a somber mood because, although we knew the fighting was at last almost over, a pall had been cast upon our victories by the news of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  I had no inkling of the further grim news that morning would bring. Suddenly, I was pulled out of the column, along with my buddy Sergeant Carrol Walsh in his light tank, to accompany Major Clarence L. Benjamin of the 743rd in a scouting foray to the east of our route.  Major Benjamin had come upon some emaciated Finnish soldiers who had escaped from a train full of starving prisoners a short distance away. The major led our two tanks, each carrying several infantrymen from the 30th Infantry Division on its deck, down a narrow road until we came to a valley with a small train station at its head and a motley assemblage of passenger compartment cars and boxcars pulled onto a siding.  There was a mass of people sitting or lying listlessly about, unaware as yet of our presence. There must have been guards, but they evidently ran away before or as we arrived, for I remember no firefight.  Our taking of the train, therefore, was no great heroic action but a small police operation.  The heroism that day was all with the prisoners on the train.

Major Benjamin took a powerful picture just as a few of the people became aware that they had been rescued.  It shows people in the background still lying about, trying to soak up a bit of energy from the sun, while in the foreground a woman has her arms flung wide and a great look of surprise and joy on her face as she rushes toward us.  In a moment, that woman found a pack left by a fleeing German soldier, rummaged through it, and held up triumphantly a tin of rations.  She was immediately attacked by a swarm of skeletal figures, each intent upon capturing that prize. My yelling did no good, so that I finally had to leap from my tank and wade through weak and emaciated bodies to pull the attackers off the woman, who ran quickly away with her prize.  I felt like a bully, pushing around such weak and starving fellow humans, but it was necessary to save the woman from great harm.  The incident drove home to me the terrible plight of the newly freed inhabitants of the train.

I pulled my tank up beside the small station house at the head of the train and kept it there as a sign that the train was under American protection now.  Carroll Walsh’s tank was soon sent back to the battalion, and I do not remember how long the infantrymen stayed with us, though it was a comfort to have them for a while. My recollection is that my tank was alone for the afternoon and night of the 13th.  A number of things happened fairly quickly.  We were told that the commander of the 823rd Tank Destroyer battalion had ordered all the burgermeisters of nearby towns to prepare food and get it to the train promptly, and were assured that Military Government would take care of the refugees the following day. So we were left to hunker down and protect the starving people, commiserating with if not relieving their dire condition.

I believe that the ranking officer of the Finnish prisoners introduced himself to me and offered to set up a perimeter guard. I think I approved and asked him to organize a guard, set out pickets, and handle the maintenance and relief of the outposts. However it happened, the guard was set up swiftly and efficiently. It was moving and inspiring to see how smartly those emaciated soldiers returned to their military duties, almost joyful at the thought of taking orders and protecting others again.  They were armed only with sticks and a few weapons discarded by the fleeing German guards, but they made a formidable force, and they obviously knew their duties, so that I could relax and talk to the people. A young woman named Gina Rappaport came up and offered to be my interpreter. She spoke English very well and was evidently conversant with several other languages besides her native Polish.  We stood in front of the tank as along line of men, women, and little children formed itself spontaneously, with great dignity and no confusion, to greet us.  It is a time I cannot forget, for it was terribly moving to see the courtesy with which they treated each other, and the importance they seemed to place on reasserting their individuality in some seemingly official way.  Each would stand at a position of rigid attention, held with some difficulty, and introduce himself or herself by what grew to be a sort of formula:  the full name, followed by “a Polish Jew from Hungary”-or a similar phrase which gave both the origin and the home from which the person had been seized.  Then each would shake hands in a solemn and dignified assertion of individual worth. Battle-hardened veterans learn to contain their emotions, but it was difficult then, and I cry now to think about it. What stamina and regenerative spirit those brave people showed!

Also tremendously moving were their smiles.  I have one picture of several girls, specter-thin, hollow-cheeked, with enormous eyes that had seen much evil and terror, and yet with smiles to break one’s heart.  Little children came around with shy smiles, and mothers with proud smiles happily pushed them forward to get their pictures taken.  I walked up and down the train seeing some lying in pain or lack of energy, and some sitting and making hopeful plans for a future that suddenly seemed possible again. Others followed everywhere I went, not intruding but just wanting to be close to a representative of the forces that had freed them.  How sad it was that we had no food to give immediately, and no medical help, for during my short stay with the train sixteen or more bodies were carried up the hillside to await burial, brave hearts having lost the fight against starvation before we could help them.

The boxcars were generally in very bad condition from having been the living quarters of far too many people, and the passenger compartments showed the same signs of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.  But the people were not dirty.  Their clothes were old and often ragged, but they were generally clean, and the people themselves had obviously taken great pains to look their best as they presented themselves to us.  I was told that many had taken advantage of the cold stream that flowed through the lower part of the valley to wash themselves and their clothing.  Once again I was impressed by the indomitable spirits of these courageous people.

I spent part of the afternoon listening to the story of Gina Rappaport, who had served so well as interpreter.  She was in the Warsaw ghetto for several years as the Nazis gradually emptied the ghetto to fill the death camps, until her turn finally came.  She was taken to Bergen-Belsen, where the horrible conditions she described matched those official accounts I later heard.  She and some 2500 others, Jews from all over Europe, Finnish prisoners of war, and others who had earned the enmity of Nazidom, were forced onto the train and taken on a back-and-forth journey across Germany, as their torturers tried to get them to a camp where they could be eliminated before Russians on one side or Americans on the other caught up with them. Since the prisoners had little food, many died on the purposeless journey, and they had felt no cause for hope when they were shunted into this little unimportant valley siding.  Gina told her story well, but I have never been able to write it.  I received a letter from her months later, when I was home in San Diego.   I answered it but did not hear from her again.  Her brief letter came from Paris, and she had great hopes for the future.  I trust her dreams were realized.

We were relieved the next morning, started up the tank, waved good-bye to our new friends, and followed a guiding jeep down the road to rejoin our battalion.  I looked back and saw a lonely Gina Rappaport standing in front of a line of people waving us good fortune.  On an impulse I cannot explain, I stopped the tank, ran back, hugged Gina, and kissed her on the forehead in a gesture I intended as one asking forgiveness for man’s terrible cruelty and wishing her and all the people a healthy and happy future. I pray they have had it.

George C. Gross,Spring Valley, California


Matthew Rozell
Hudson Falls, New York, USA,

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This is from last evening’s PBS NewsHour. Book is on my summer reading list. April 1945 a focus of my studies.

‘Bad to the Very End’: Author Reflects on the Long, Deadly Road to WWII Victory

In honor of the 69th anniversary of D-Day, Ray Suarez talks to historian Rick Atkinson about his new book, “The Guns at Last Light,” which chronicles the brutal fight for victory at the end of World War II.

JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight, we mark June 6, D-Day.

Ray is back with book conversation he recorded recently about World War II.

RAY SUAREZ: The war that had a hand in cementing U.S. status as a superpower and created the map of the modern world ended almost 70 years ago.

You could fill a library with books about the Second World War, yet historians still find new things to say and new ways to say it.

Award-winning author and historian Rick Atkinson has just completed the third book in his “Liberation Trilogy,” “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945.” And he joins me now.

And, Rick, if nothing else, this book is a reminder that, with D-Day, there was still some of the worst fighting of the war left to go.

RICK ATKINSON, author, “The Guns at Last Light”: That’s certainly true, Ray.

I think the horror of it is difficult to imagine 70 years later. And it continues really after D-Day, almost to the last gunshot. There were almost 11,000 Americans killed in Germany in April 1945, the last full month of the war in Europe. And that’s nearly as many as died in June 1944, the month of invasion.

So the bloodletting continued right to the end. The notion that many Americans have that it was bad on the beaches, and then something bad happened during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, and then it was kind of sweeping into Germany and the war was essentially over is actually quite incorrect. It was bad to the very end, almost to May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe ended.

RAY SUAREZ: Terrible, ferocious, deadly fighting through Northern France, through Holland and Belgium, and finally into the German homeland.

Then you bring us to one British officer who says, “Why don’t the silly bastards give up?”

What was the German calculation in those last months, when it was clear they could no longer militarily prevail?

RICK ATKINSON: Well, there are several things at play.

Part of it is terror. Hitler had a police state of the first order. And those who showed any sign of being weak-kneed faced prison or often summary execution. That prevented a lot of people who knew that the war was not going to turn out well for Germany from giving up.

In other cases, you have to say that 80 million Germans tended in large measure to be true believers, that they believed in the fuhrer almost to the bitter end. You would see parades, for example, on Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1945, in Berlin — this is 10 days before he kills himself — of young girls, young boys who are too young to go into the military carrying flags and singing patriotic songs, people cheering along the streets of a badly battered Berlin at that point.

So, the German psyche was such that they’d been heavily influenced by propaganda. And they were just generally disinclined to give up.

RAY SUAREZ: Rick, you also remind us that the war got deadlier as it went on, because both sides were innovating, inventing new ways of killing the other side practically until the last day of the war.

RICK ATKINSON: That’s true, Ray. The lethality increases as the war goes along, and it — it’s extraordinary how brutal it is.

We Americans, for example, invented something called the POZIT Fuse. That was the code name. There was a little radar sensor in the nose of an artillery shell, and it could, by emanating radar signals, determine when a passing plane or when an approaching target was just within the kill radius of the burst, and detonate that shell.

It was used for the first time in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. The Germans called it pure manslaughter. It was part and parcel of a generation of weapons that came along, napalm used for the first time around this time. The Germans had invented the V-1 and V-2 flying bombs and then a ballistic missile, the V-2, with terrifying results, most of them launched against London or Antwerp with devastating results to civilians.

RAY SUAREZ: We have in the final weeks and months of the war some moments where it’s hard to tell where moral authority existed, if such a thing any longer existed.

How could you tell concentration camp inmates not to rise up and kill their captors who were trying to surrender and act like normal soldiers? How could you put trial Americans who, sickened by the slaughter, would just turn and around pop these guys with their sidearms as they tried to surrender? It got nasty, brutal, and frightening in those final weeks.

RICK ATKINSON: This is true.

And it’s not just the final weeks, actually. There’s killing of prisoners that begins early in the liberation of Europe by American, British, Canadian soldiers, and, of course, by the Germans. It intensifies during that last 11 months from Normandy on.

But when you get to the camp liberation phase, particularly in April 1945, for example, at Dachau, American soldiers coming into this camp, tens of thousands of emaciated, horribly treated prisoners, and thousands of bodies lying around, and there were soldiers that went on a rampage. There were at least a couple dozen S.S. guards who had surrendered, had been taken into custody who were murdered, probably more than that.

This is at the same time that there are liberated inmates rampaging, tearing literally some camp guards limb from limb. There was an investigation. The investigators found that, yes, there had been prisoners murdered by American soldiers. Nothing was ever done of it. No one really had the stomach to prosecute American soldiers under these circumstances.

This is just one example of many, though, of the barbarity that war unleashes with — inside otherwise good soldiers.

RAY SUAREZ: I want to continue this conversation with you online.

The book is “The Guns at Last Light.”

Rick Atkinson, thanks a lot.

RICK ATKINSON: Thank you, Ray.



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American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, the primary landing zone for Americans during the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944. (U.S. Air Force Photo)Today one of my former students emailed me to visit saying that she had a surprise for me. She brought me a present- sand from the beach at Omaha in Normandy.

This was originally posted four Junes ago, I re-post here now.

I came into school today, on a Saturday, to start packing up my room for a move to another room.

But it is the 6th of June.

Instead I am getting nothing done, mesmerized by the scenes, live from Normandy, of the 65th anniversary celebration.

The President is there and so are 250 American veterans of the battle for Normandy,  including one of my good  friends, Buster Simmons, of the 30th Infantry Division. The Greatest Generations Foundation sponsored his visit with 9 other vets and college kids. Now I’m looking for him in the sea of faces.

My son Ned and I watched him last night as a “Person of the Week” on ABC World News in a story I contributed to. If you view the clip, you can see the photograph I provided ABC with, taken by Major Clarence Benjamin, of the liberation of the train. This is the photo that Buster uses when he speaks to high school classes to tell this story.

I am hopeful that we can get Buster to come to our high school for the  liberator-survivor reunion in September.

It was twenty five years ago, on this anniversary, that I wrote an essay in the local newspaper expressing my appreciation for the veterans of World War II. And as I begin to sort through and pack up 20+ years of memories in this room, three things are becoming clear: 1) my love for these men and women and what they did only increases as time passes; 2) the rest of my career will be focused on the promotion of narrative history in the classroom, linking students, veterans and survivors together; and 3) I won’t be getting any packing done this day.

Take a minute to watch Buster in the clip and take his optimism about the future of our nation to heart. Especially if -“you’re an American.”

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Lautenberg was the last World War II veteran in Senate

By Chris Cillizza and Steve Vogel, Washington Post

Published: June 3 | Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 6:58 PM

In the not very very distant past, the corridors of the U.S. Senate were alive with men who had served in World War II, among them such powerful icons as John Warner of Virginia, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina.

But with the death Monday of Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), not a single one of the 115 World War II veterans who served in the Senate remain, the latest evidence of the rapid decline in members of Congress with military service.

The passing of Lautenberg and the dearth of veterans in Congress is a concern for veterans advocates, who have seen a number of senior senators with clout and sympathy toward their positions pass from the scene in recent years.

“It’s a sad day,” said Louis Celli, national legislative director for the American Legion. “These were some of the most ferocious advocates for veterans that we had. We as veterans counted on the senior leadership, the World War II veterans, to represent us. We respected them, they respected us, and without them, there’s going to be a void.”

Lautenberg “was a real champion for veterans,” said Bob Wallace, executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars. “He was very proud of the fact that he served in World War II and got educated on the GI Bill. He wanted to do the same for younger veterans, no matter what generation they served.”

More than a badge of honor, the common military service bonded many of the World War II senators, who would often come together to foster a spirit of cooperation throughout the legislative body.

“It cut across ideological lines,” said Donald Ritchie, the Senate historian. “They could put aside the politics and talk about when they were in the South Pacific together.”

For a time, the Senate was home to three men — Inouye, Bob Dole of Kansas and Phil Hart of Michigan — who had recuperated at the same Army hospital from serious wounds incurred in World War II combat.

As recently as the 111th Congress, which ended Jan. 3, 2011, there were 26 members of the Senate who were veterans. Today, 12 of those 26 are gone, due to a variety of causes, from death to retirement to electoral defeat. Two more veterans — Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) — are retiring at the end of the 113th Congress next year.

In the House, only 19 percent of House members were active-duty military, the lowest percentage of veterans since World War II, a decline fueled in part by the end of the military draft in the early 1970s. The highest percentage was in 1977, when eight in 10 members of Congress had some form of military service.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have not been elected to Congress in large numbers. “So far, it doesn’t look like it’s happening,” Celli said. “It’s going to take a while.”

Two veterans of World War II — John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.) — remain in the House.

Dingell issued a statement Monday saluting Lautenberg. “In his work on behalf of the people of New Jersey, and his time spent in the Army in defense of our nation — a brother of mine in arms during World War II — Senator Lautenberg did his job and did it well,” Dingell said.

Ritchie noted that a Civil War sesquicentennial exhibit on display at the Capitol tells the story of the more than 150 Union and Confederate veterans who served in the Senate through 1929, when the last of them, Francis E. Warren of Wyoming, died.

“Here we are commemorating it 150 years later as the last veteran of World War II dies,” Ritchie said.


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