Tag Archives: World War II

Perspective of time and age on history

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Wreckage of the airship Hindenburg continues to burn on the ground at Lakehurst Air Base in New Jersey

 

I was typically scrolling through my Twitter feed this afternoon when a news blurb caught my eye. It was a picture of the Hindenburg with a headline reading that the last survivor of that disaster had passed away.

For those who may be too young to have ever heard of this historic disaster, or simply may have somehow missed or forgotten about it, here is a quick summary.

The Hindenburg was a dirigible, a blimp if you will, and the last airship commissioned by the world’s first-ever passenger airline, the German Airship Transportation Corporation Ltd, which was established in 1909. It was also known as “the pride of the Nazi airship fleet“, the largest ever built.

In the days prior to airplane travel, the Hindenburg provided the fastest method of travel across the Atlantic Ocean. Passengers could travel from Europe to the Americas in half the time of an ocean liner, and did so in luxurious and comfortable settings that would never be matched by commercial airliners in the coming decades.

On its final flight, the Hindenburg took off on May 3, 1937 from Hamburg, Germany with 36 passengers and 61 crew members on the ship’s 63rd flight. The destination was an air field at Lakehurst, New Jersey which is now part of the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, about 15 miles inland from the Jersey shore community of Seaside Heights.

On its May 6 arrival, the landing lines were dropped, but flames suddenly became visible. The fire quickly engulfed the tail of the ship, and a massive inferno was set off. Some passengers and crew actually dove out of windows. Those near the front generally survived. At the interior, most were not so lucky.

Broadcasting the arrival over the relatively new technology of national radio, newscaster Herb Morrison shouted out what would become one of the most famous lines in radio history: “This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world!

In the end, of the 97 on board, 36 people died in the Hindenburg disaster: 13 passengers, 22 crew, and one worker on the ground.

I was just a kid, maybe around 10 years old, when I first heard about the incident. That would make it roughly 35 years later. Watching the grainy footage in a television news blurb on the anniversary and hearing the old, scratchy radio broadcast, it seemed like ancient history.

Reading the news today as I rapidly approach age 58, decades after first learning of the disaster, the story stated that the oldest survivor had passed away at age 90.

Werner Gustav Doehner died on November 8 at his home in New Hampshire. He was just eight years of age when the disaster took the life of his father and sister.

We were close to a window, and my mother took my brother and threw him out. She grabbed me and fell back and then threw me out,” Doehner said in a rare interview in 2017. “She tried to get my sister, but she was too heavy, and my mother decided to get out by the time the zeppelin was nearly on the ground.

According to a piece by Eileen AJ Connelly for the New York Post, Doehner suffered from burns to his face, both hands and on his right leg. He remained hospitalized for various treatments and surgery until January of the following year.

Reflecting on my feelings as a young boy that the Hindenburg disaster was ancient history got me thinking a bit about age, and how it alters our perception of history.

I saw events such as the Hindenburg and then World War II, which followed just a couple of years later, as happening in another world. It was simply the stuff of history books, nothing that I could personally relate to in any way.

It makes me wonder if that is how my now 17-year-old granddaughter and 18-year-old nephew, even my older 26-year-old goddaughter, see events from that childhood and youth of mine.

Events such as Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the Apollo moon landings, and the Vietnam War. To them, these are nothing more than history book items. Events that happened decades before they were born.

To them, these are only things they might have learned about in a brief school class or on some documentary they might have watched on television. But to me, and to anyone roughly my age or older, these are signature news events and happenings in our lives.

If you bother to take a minute and actually think about it, history is really something. We see many people as nothing more than historic figures, even if we acknowledge them as the most influential or famous of all-time. But each of them actually walked this very same Earth at one point.

Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, George Washington, Cleopatra, Plato, Aristotle, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Leonardo da Vinci, and so many more.

These were real people who, for a moment, walked the roads and streets of the world. They watched the sun rise and set. They enjoyed meals and made love. They traveled, worked, and played.

Events which happened to change the course of history are, to most of us living today, simply the stuff of history books and classes or those TV documentaries.

I’m talking events such as the American revolution, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, and even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II.

To me, and to you, these are the stuff of history books. Just as was the Hindenburg to me. Just as is the Vietnam War to my young relatives. Just as will the 9/11 attack be to my now 11-year-old grandson and nephews. This is the perspective of time and age on history.

Why remembering Pearl Harbor remains important today

On December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service delivered a devastating blow to the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

This was a preemptive surprise attack by the Japanese, with the hope that they could decimate the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Japanese believed that the United States was the greatest potential threat to their planned expansion of power in the Pacific region.

The early morning attack would launch in two waves from a half-dozen Japanese air craft carriers. Some 350 aircraft fighters and bombers would sink four American battleships and damage four more, sink eight other vessels, destroy 188 aircraft, and damage 159 more.

Over 2,400 Americans were killed with more than 1,100 injured. Japanese losses of life and equipment were minimal in comparison.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous and impassioned speeches in U.S. history to a joint session of the U.S. Congress the following day. It began as follows:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

To that point, the United States had been able to stay out of active involvement in World War II. Meanwhile, the Japanese had become involved in an “Axis” powers agreement with Germany under Adolf Hitler and Italy under Benito Mussolini. Their aim was nothing less than global domination.

Roosevelt’s speech called on the Congress to declare war against Japan, which it did within the hour. Germany and Italy would then declare war on the United States. Thus began U.S. involvement in World War II, the deadliest war in human history.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Marshall Admiral of the Navy and leader of their combined fleet during the war, did not believe that Japan could win a lengthy war with America. 

Following the attack, Yamamoto is alleged to have written in his diary “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

American had been trying to stay out of World War II to that point. Formally declaring neutrality in the opening years of conflict, the U.S. gradually began to provide aid to Great Britain and others, and imposed economic sanctions on Japan.

The Japanese attack did indeed awaken America from its slumber. It forced us to realize that we could no longer ignore the expansionist aims of Hitler, Mussolini, and Japanese Emperor Hirohito. 

We were now forced to either allow these ideologies to overrun Europe and Asia, eventually becoming a major threat to our own security, or go to war to try and defeat them.

In the end, American military might and civilian industry proved the difference in winning the war. However, it would not be the last time that our nation was attacked on our own shores, or threatened by an ideology bent on world domination.

Flash forward nearly 60 years to September 11, 2001. Most Americans reading this require no reminder of what happened on that equally beautiful morning. Another sneak attack from the skies, this time from radical extremists bent on spreading the dominance of an Islamic worldwide caliphate.

That extremist ideology did not begin on 9/11, and it has not gone away today. The Islamists continue to spread their hope for a renewed global caliphate ruling under Sharia law in both aggressive and passive ways. 


Attacks and bombings by ISIL, ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda and others gain headlines in Europe and elsewhere. But the ultimate growth of the caliphate is also furthered by overrunning traditional populations of western nations through waves of unfettered immigration, followed by non-assimilation with that traditional culture. 

So-called “No-Go Zones” have formed in nations around the world. In recent years, they have begun to form right here in the United States of America. These areas have been largely closed off to legitimate authorities, and are being governed by principles of Sharia law rather than the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, the goal is to build more of these zones, and to grow and expand them.



The lessons of Pearl Harbor need to be remembered by Americans today, because there remain very real parallels. The ultimate goals of the Axis powers in World War II are similar to those of the radical Islamists today. 

The lesson of history is that you must be smart enough to recognize a threat when one emerges, and you must be prepared to face down that threat. To repeat an old but always relevant phrase, if we fail to remember the lessons of history we are destined to repeat them.

Real American Hero: John Mihalowski

John Mihalowski, Medal of Honor recipient

 

The old series which regularly ran here at my website continue to return with this first “Real American Heroes” piece in over four years.

This series normally remembers and honors heroes from the American military ranks. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. This is the highest and most prestigious honor which can be bestowed upon a member of the United States military. It is awarded to recognize outstanding acts of valor.

However, the series is not limited to winners of that honor, or even solely to the military. For instance, in April of 2010, I told the story of Brandon Darby, whose conversion from radical leftist to undercover FBI informant saved numerous lives and helped keep America safe.

Thus far, my series has told the story of 10 of these individuals. With this piece, ‘ROH’ will continue regularly into the future.

Today the spotlight shines on late United States Navy diver John Mihalowski for his actions on May 23, 1939. For those who know their history, this places his actions a full two and half years prior to American involvement in World War II.

There have been 3,516 Medal of Honor recipients to date in the history of the award. Only 193 of those honored came for actions performed during peacetime. Mihalowski, who died in October 1993, is the last such living recipient.

Mihalowski also did not perform his valorous actions alone. He was one of four recipients for actions performed that day. The other three honorees, Orson Crandall (1960), James McDonald (1973), and William Badders (1986) all predeceased him. All should be remembered together, and Mihalowski has been highlighted simply for being that surviving Medal of Honor recipient for actions during peacetime.

The events leading to the heroic actions of these four brave men actually began on May 12, 1939 when the submarine USS Squalus undertook a series of test dives off the coast of New Hampshire.

Over the next 10 days, Squalus successfully completed 18 dives. It was then on May 23, while attempting her 11th dive, that things went tragically wrong.

Approximately six miles off the coast at the Isle of Sholes, Squalus main induction valve failed. The sub quickly flooded, and 26 men were immediately drowned. The remaining crew were able to prevent final compartments from flooding, but the sub sank to the bottom in some 243 feet of water.

The submarine rescue ship Falcon was dispatched to her aid with our four heroes on board as part of the crew. Falcon was equipped with new technology, the McCann Rescue Chamber. This device was capable of holding up to eight rescued crew members, as well as two rescuers.

Mihalowski and the three other Real American Heroes were the divers assigned to the actual rescue operation. The men utilized newly developed heliox diving schedules which were designed to help overcome cognitive impairment symptoms that had previously accompanied such efforts.

Using the MRC and the heliox schedules, the four men were able to rescue all 33 remaining Squalus crew members. Mihalowski and Badders, who was the senior member of the dive crew, made one final effort to rescue possible survivors in the Squalus flooded portion.

While no survivors were discovered there, the effort was extremely perilous for those final two divers. As their Medal of Honor citations read, both men were “fully aware of the great danger involved…became incapacitated, there was no way in which either could be rescued.”

Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison presented Medals of Honor to The men are (left to right): Badders; Mihalowski; Crandall; and McDonald.

The four men further assisted in the raising of Squalus itself, a project which took over two months and 628 dives. It required the divers to pass cables underneath the submarine, attach pontoons for buoyancy, and ensure she was raised slowly.

Squalus was reconditioned, repaired, and overhauled. Recommissioned as the USS Sailfish on May 15, 1940, she headed out for the Pacific in January 1941. Sailfish arrived at Pearl Harbor in March, then headed to the Philippines. She engaged in a dozen successful missions during World War II.

As for Mihalowski, during World War II, he took part in rescue and salvage operations on six ships that had been exploded in Pearl Harbor. He also took part in similar actions as executive officer aboard the USS Shackle, during the battle of Okinawa in 1945. 

After the war, he participated in harbor clearance in Japan and in salvage work after the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. He transferred to Fleet Reserve in 1948 but was returned to active duty in 1950. 

Mihalowski was reinstated as Lieutenant and assigned to the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C., finally retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 1958. He passed away at his Florida home on October 29, 1993 at the age of 82

Click on the ‘Tag’ below in order to read the entire series. 

MLB players have a long history of U.S. military service

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‘The Splendid Splinter’ served in both World War II and Korea.

 

There is a long history of service in the United States military by Major League Baseball players. Today is Veteran’s Day, and it is appropriate to remember, honor, and thank them and all those who have served honorably.

Perhaps the earliest well-known individual with ties to baseball who served in the American military was Abner Doubleday.

The mythical founder of the game, pictured in the featured image accompanying this piece, Doubleday was a West Point graduate. He served in the Mexican and Seminole Indian Wars, and was at Fort Sumter when it was attacked at the start of the Civil War.

John Grimes was much more veteran than ballplayer. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of Captain. His military service spanned from the Sioux Indian Campaign through the Spanish-American War and into World War I.

Grimes appeared in the big leagues for one 1897 season with the St. Louis Browns when he went 0-2 while pitching in three games.

Doug Allison, a Philadelphia native, played for a decade in the big leagues from 1871-79 and then in 1883. It was noted that he became at least partially deaf during his service in the Civil War.

Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Pete Alexander is quoted that John Titushad one of the best batting eyes I ever saw.” Titus played 11 seasons, including a decade from 1903-12 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War.

Dave Altizer is the only known big leaguer to have fought in the Boxer Rebellion. He served in the U.S. Army in both the Philippines and China during that conflict. Altizer played six seasons, stealing 37 and 38 bases during his first two with the Washington Senators in 1906 and 1907.

Many big leaguers fought with the American military during each World War, including the aforementioned Alexander during WWI.

Also among those serving during WWI were Hall of Famers Ty CobbTris SpeakerEddie CollinsSam ThompsonRabbit MaranvilleEppa RixeyHerb PennockBurleigh GrimesWaite HoytGeorge SislerJoe Sewell, and hundreds more.

Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson served in WWI after his baseball career had ended. Serving as a Captain in the “Chemical Service”, Mathewson would become involved in an accident that would ultimately lead to his death in 1925 at just age 45.

During World War II, those serving included Ted Williams, who also would serve in Korea. Other stars to serve during WWII included Jackie RobinsonBob FellerJoe DiMaggioStan MusialHank Greenberg, and Warren Spahn, who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Joining Williams as serving during the Korean War were Willie MaysWhitey FordErnie BanksBilly Martin, and even George Steinbrenner.
The Phillies great defensive center fielder Garry Maddox served in Vietnam along with his 1983 World Series rival and the MVP of that Fall Classic, catcher Rick Dempsey of the Baltimore Orioles.
Also serving in Vietnam were the famed baseball statistical writer Bill James and longtime umpire Jerry Crawford.

 

Players serving in Vietnam included Thurman MunsonStan BahnsenBobby MurcerAl Bumbry and Wayne Garrett, the latter of whom was the only player to appear with both the New York Mets’ 1969 and 1973 World Series teams.

Most recently, three minor leaguers have served in the Iraq War. Schuyler Williamson was a West Point grad who played Low-A ball in the Detroit Tigers organization in 2005. Jonathan Johnston graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and appeared in the Oakland A’s organization in both 2008 and 2011, reaching High-A. Jeff Stockton played in the Anaheim Angels organization in both 2000 and 2001.

Become a beacon of light

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:3-4

There is plenty of darkness in the world today. Every single day you can turn on a 24-hour news network, open any news website, pickup a newspaper and read about the influence of the darkness in men’s souls.

As of yesterday there were 212 homicides committed in the City of Philadelphia alone. That’s 17 more than last year at the same time, and last year ended with 18 more than the previous year.

On Sunday, white supremacist Wade Page walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and shot nine people, killing six immediately. Among the three critically wounded was a white Oak Creek police lieutenant, Brian Murphy. One wonders if a white Irish-Catholic who worked every day to keep his community safe and peaceful was an intended target of Page’s particular brand of hate. One answers that it really doesn’t matter.

Page and others such as Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 13 people in their 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado, and Troy West, who mercilessly beat a black female military veteran in front of her 7-year old daughter outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Georgia in 2009 are all examples that the white community needs to take to heart.

Shootings, stabbings, and other attacks in this country and around the world do not have as their common denominator the race, sex, ethnic background, or religious belief of the attackers. What they do have in common is darkness and hate. At some point in the attackers lives, they chose to embrace the darkness over the light, and as with many who make such a choice, found their lives spiraling out of control.

We can all find reasons to hate others if that is what we want. Everyone is victimized at one time or another in their lives. From events as large-scale as the Nazi atrocities in World War II or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to something as personal as a crime committed against us by someone of another race or group, events occur out of the hateful hearts of others that can often result in some of us responding with hate of our own.

Many respond to these circumstances by taking on their own darkness and hatred within their hearts against those who victimized them. This hate festers and grows and in the end perpetuates the overall hate in the world. Often these victims pass their hatred along to their children, helping racism and sexism grow, tainting any good that the parents may also try to teach those impressionable minds, such as positive faith messages.

The fact is that we are all called on to not only continually seek the light, but to become beacons of light in the world. We are called to this not only when the sun is shining and the skies are clear and there is a song in the air. We are called to this on the worst of days, when the evil in other men’s souls causes fear and hurt and death and destruction.

In the New Testament, Matthew writes famously in his Gospel: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Good men and women understand the premise that they are called to turn away from darkness and embrace light. This begins with the things with which you surround yourself, the ways in which you express yourself, the styles and colors in which you dress regularly, the people and writings and music which you allow to become influences in your life. Embrace darkness, and do not be surprised when darkness and negativity become regular occurrences in your life.

There is a place for darkness. It is a time and place and mood to be used for peace, quiet, and reflection. But darkness is not where we should be living, only a temporary place for rest, until the light returns. John writes: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Those who choose to live in that darkness, to make it a primary influence in their lives and in their hearts, grow increasingly incapable of understanding and embracing the truth of the good to be found in the light.

Do you want people to stop beating and killing gays, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, children, women, blacks, police officers? Do you want people to stop hurting and killing one another? Then what you really want is people to stop hating one another. You can start that process, by stopping the hate within yourself. Be that “city on a hill“, that lighthouse shining in the darkness, the light breaking through the clouds.

Paul says it best, calling us in his letter to the Romans: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Love one another, forgive one another. Give peace a chance. Choose to live in the light, and to become a beacon of light in what can often be a dark world. It is where you are called to live, how you are called to act, what you are called to be and believe.