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Battlefield Action!

In our storage unit I have a small collection of Classic’s Illustrated that somehow survived after 50 years. What has not survived was my collection of war comics from the 60’s.

Back in the day every time dad went to a drugstore or some other outlet that had comic books I got one. I remember 12c for a copy just as shown below on the cover.  Favorites would have been Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, The Haunted Tank and Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandoes. I suspect that as I got older dad directed me to the Classic’s Illustrated rather than the pseudo history in the war comics. Frankly, I’m glad that he did because dad gave me a love for history that have to this day. (We also went to the public library frequently where I’d pick up various books on history. I distinctly remember reading books on the Battle of Britain, the Alamo, and Hernando Cortez.)

My war comics disappeared so when I have an opportunity to get some of them back at flea markets, rummage sales or antique shops I’ll buy a few if the price is right. As it is I now have a small collection of Sgt. Rock and Sgt. Fury and some odds and ends that I do not recall owning as a child.

One comic that I just picked up at a flea market for $2.00 is Battlefield Action by Charlton Comics Group. Charlton was big in the comic book industry in the comic book “silver age” as illustrated by this quote from WikiPedia:

“During the Silver Age, Charlton, like Marvel and DC, published war comics. Notable titles included the “Fightin'” line of Fightin’ Air Force, Fightin’ Army, Fightin’ Marines, and Fightin’ Navy; the “Attack” line of Army Attack and Submarine Attack; Battlefield Action; D-Day, U.S. Air Force Comics, and War Heroes. Though primarily anthologies of stories about 20th-century warfare, they included a small number of recurring characters and features, including “The American Eagle”,[7]Shotgun Harker and the Chicken“, “The Devil’s Brigade“, “The Iron Corporal” and “The Lonely War of Capt. Willy Schultz“. Army War Heroes and Marine War Heroesdepicted stories based on actual Medal of Honor recipients.”  Charlton Comics WikiPedia

The issue I found is from the Battlefield Action line, Volume Two, Number 56, January 1965. It sold for 12 cents and a year subscription of 6 issues was 70 cents

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Charlton headed each page wit the words, “Charlton Comics Give You More.” In those days competition with the other comic book producers was fierce so Charlton tried to have more features than their competitiors and judging from my issue of Battlefield Action I’d say they suceeded.

The main feature was always the cover story-in this issue Tushari’s Gun. Here’s the first page of the story.

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The story line is a Marine patrol comes upon a lone Japanese marching gunner. In 60’s comics the Japanese are often referred to you as “Nips” or “Japs” illustrating the still racially charged jargon from WW2. The enemy whether German or Japanese were usually portrayed as sinister or sneaky.

The date on this particular issue is January, 1965 and I would have been 12 years-old. In addition to the long feature there is a story set in the Korean War and another against the Germans.

Charlton advertised on every page that “Charlton Comics Give You More” and they did. Included in every issue was a number of historical pages including at least one with no art work and just text. In this case the main historical article was titled “Cheesebox on a Raft” a description of the USS Monitor as it encountered the CSA Merrimac (Virginia) off Hampton Roads, March 9th, 1862.  It was the first encounter between armored warships and it made wooden warships obsolete. The author refers to a lithograph of the Monitor and I’m guessing this is it below:

By the mid-seventies and aftermath of Vietnam war comics began to disappear and I suppose it was inevitable given the anti-war sentiment of the times. My neighborhood chums and I didn’t have video games but we did have comic books and I fondly remember reading them on hot summer days when we took a break from sandlot baseball or bike riding.

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How red poppies came to be given out on Memorial Day

The Cotton Boll Conspiracy

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

In Flanders Fields, among the most iconic war poems even penned, was written in May 1915 by Canadian physician and Lt. Col. John McCrae after he witnessed the death of his 22-year-old friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, at the Second Battle of…

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Winston Churchill and Islam

It gets tiresome to hear the rationalizations and political correctness that gushes forth every time a radical Islamist terrorist blows people up; most recently tween girls in Manchester, Great Britain.

The authorities knew immediately “who done it” and yet it was only minutes before other authorities voiced their disapproval lest anyone connect the terror with Moslems who we all know, “are not all that way.”

The west is under a vast cloud of delusion as it asks every time a terror attack happens, who would do such a thing or how can this happen as if it is some great mystery as to what motivates radical Islam. Newsflash: Radical Islam is self-motivating and these people believe what they say and do. Call them a minority if you wish but this minority will not stop until they are all dead.

The parsing  between radical Islam and moderate Islam has to stop. Anyone with any degree of common sense knows that not all Moslems approve of terror but even if 10% of the whole do we have a significant problem on our hands.

One commentator noted that radical Islam is what it always has been and he is absolutely historically correct. Consider what Winston Churchill wrote in The River War (first edition) which dealt with the reconquest of the Sudan in 1898 by British, Egyptian and Sudanese forces:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities thousands have become brave and loyal soldiers of the queen: all know how to die: but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science – the science against which it had vainly struggled – the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.[2]

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Winston Churchill was attached to the 21st Lancers at The Battle of Omdurman in 1898. Churchill was a prolific writer and in my opinion a keen observer.

The blog (link below) from which I took the quote points out that Churchill did not mean to indict all of Islam but only the Mahdist Dervishes of the period. This can be seen from the quote itself that many Moslems were “soldiers of the Queen.” Indeed, the bulk of the forces that did reconquer the Sudan were Egyptian and Sudanese Moslems rather than British.

The Sudan in 1881 was part of an Egyptian administration who in turn were technically part of the Turkish (also Moslem) Ottoman Empire. When the Mahdi (who called himself a Prophet) declared war on Egypt he was in fact declaring war on fellow Moslems who he believed were sell outs to the west or worse in his mind slaves to the hated Ottoman Turks. The same kind of attitude can be seen in ISIS who reject any version of Islam that does not line up with their own radical version.

For almost 20 years the Mahdists controlled the Sudan and set up a kind of caliphate that endured until 1898 and The Battle of Omdurman. As we all know ISIS desires a caliphate which is what the war in Iraq and Syria is all about. (I do understand that the situation in Syria is more complicated than that but ISIS is the common denominator that has brought a coalition there to fight it.)

The author of the blog to which I referred above is right to point out it is dangerous to take a quote out of context and make too much of it.

On the other hand Churchill’s comments seem to have a high degree of accuracy if they refer to Islam in general as well as the most radical elements of it. One has only to look at the status of women in every Moslem country (the so-called moderates) to see that Islam in general is a strong retrograde force as Churchill put it. Islam sees the west as decadent and has no concept of the liberties we take for granted and at times do lead to decadence. Such is the price of liberty versus the slavery of Sharia.

Churchill also noted that Islam in general is a militant and proselytizing faith something that seems rather obvious in radical Islam’s war on the west (as well as on those they believe are less pure Moslems).

In my opinion Churchill was not so much a prophet as he was a realist based on his observations. What continues to amaze me is that many in the west today continue to rationalize or make excuses for the terror and seem to be saying we have to put up with it no matter how many little girls are blown to pieces.

We seem paralyzed by political correctness and a basic inability to see clearly that radical Islam is what it always has been and that it springs from Islam in general-an Islam that in general speaks out against the radicals very little.

Warren Dockter Blog (I took Churchill’s quote from this blog which Professor Dockter wrote in 2014.)

The Battle of Omdurman: The Last Cavalry Charge (The charge was actually a blunder as the British commander did not realize that hundreds of tribesmen were hidden in a gully.)

The War on Terror is a War of Ideas (Something I wrote years back.)

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Life Magazine ANZAC Cover, Feb. 1941

The oldest wartime Life Magazine I have in my small collection is from February, 1941. That’s at least 10 months before the US entered WW2 and so the articles in Life that deal with the war do not have the American focus they would a year later.

In this particular issue (February, 24, 1941) the feature article is titled, The Shadow of Adolf Hitler and His Armies Falls Across the Balkans. After the Nazi’s conquered Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway (and failed to invade England) Hitler made ready for the invasion of Soviet Russia which eventually would take place in June 1941.

Hitler’s ally, Benito Mussolini had conquest ideas of his own and Axis Italian armies had been fighting the British (and Commonwealth forces) in North Africa for some time. Mussolini had also invaded Greece and had been defeated by the tough Greeks.

The Italians were in trouble in North Africa where British and Commonwealth troops inflicted a horrendous defeat on them in Libya.

Before the Nazi’s could invade Soviet Russia they had to secure their Balkan flank to prevent the British from totally defeating the Italians and establishing another viable front agains them.

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The map takes some getting used to because to our eyes it’s upside down. Life Magazine wanted to give the perspective of how it would look from the point of view of Adolf Hitler and his generals. The emphasis on the strategic resource of oil is obvious. Axis ambitions in North Africa were crushed at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942 and at Stalingrad late in 1942 but in February 1941 issues were still very much in doubt.

The British were quite aware of the possibilities and wanted to do what little they could to help the Greeks. The resources of Britain and the Commonwealth countries were already stretched thin by multiple commitments around the world. Not only that they were for the most part under equipped  having lost much in the Battle for France in May, 1940.  Nevertheless, Britain  sent an expeditionary force to Greece that was made up of British, Australian and New Zealand troops. The Australians and New Zealanders were known as Anzacs. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian-New Zealand-Army Corps.

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The New Zealanders and Australians wore a similar slouch type hat. The Aussies tended to turn one side up while the New Zealanders tended to wear theirs as shown.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. It was formed in Egypt in December 1914, and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial Force and 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The corps disbanded in 1916, following the Allied evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula and the formation of I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps. The Corps was reestablished, briefly, in the Second World War during the Battle of Greece in 1942. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Note: The Battle for Greece was in 1941.)

The cover of the February 24th, 1941 edition features a photograph of New Zealand soldiers in North Africa after they participated in the victory over the Italians. Life’s explanation of the cover is interesting:

The big, easy-moving men on the cover are from the islands of New Zealand, 10,000 miles from where they are now fighting in the deserts of Libya. The Australians’ and the New Zealanders’ initials supply the first three letters of the famed name Anzac. These insubordinate, hard-fighting, independent men bear a marked resemblance to Texans and have a reputation as soldiers fully as brilliant. The Anzacs, though they are not at the peak of training, have been the shock troops of the British advance into Libya which beclouds Adolf Hitler’s outlook to the south. (Life, Feb.24, 1941, p. 21)

I’m speculating a little here but perhaps the comparison with Texans has some thing to do with the reputation of the Texas Brigade that fought in Lee’s Army (ANV) during the American Civil War and Texas Rangers law enforcement agency as well as American fascination (at the time) with Old West history.  The slouch hats worn by the Australians and New Zealanders perhaps sparked an old west connection to the editor. Whatever the case the Anzacs certainly had a reputation as insubordinate (by British standards) and for hard-fighting.

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I said I’m guessing about the connection but the slouch hats are clear enough in this picture of the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers in 1880.

The Greece Campaign would prove to be a disaster for the British and Commonwealth troops sent there and after hard fighting in Greece and Crete the troops that were not forced into surrender were sent back to North Africa to regroup and re-deploy. The Corps was disbanded although the New Zealanders (2nd NZ ID) and the Australians (7th and 9th AU IDs) would continue to fight on in the desert war as part of the famed Eighth Army or Desert Rats as they eventually became known.

Eventually, the Australian Divisions would be withdrawn to defend Australia against the Japanese. They would fight in the brutal New Guinea Campaign (with American units) and in Borneo as well as other Pacific locations. Wherever they fought their reputation for being tough fighters remained intact.

The New Zealand Division, no less tough, stayed on in the desert until the Axis surrender there in May, 1943. It was then reorganized and rebuilt after suffering many casualties into sort of a hybrid division that contained strong infantry and armored components. The New Zealander Division became part of the Allied effort in Italy. There it fought in numerous battles including Monte Cassino. It ended the war in Northern Italy in May, 1945.

 

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U-boats, the Zimmermann Telegram and the US Entry into the War

Excellent, detailed explanation as to how and why the US entered WW1. I highly recommend Martin’s blog.

 

Source: U-boats, the Zimmermann Telegram and the US Entry into the War

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Life Magazine: Aftermath in North Africa, June, 1943

The Axis forces in Tunisia,  North Africa finally surrendered on May 12th, 1943 after more than 3 years of fighting.

A month after the surrender Life Magazine (June 14th, 1943 issue) did a photo spread on the aftermath. Below I captured some of the photos from that spread that feature some of the war hardware that was captured or destroyed.

It is appropriate to start with the picture below.

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The Cost: Life Magazine seemed to be conscious of the true cost of war by showing American casualties (and sometimes others)  as well as the graves of the fallen. The US commitment to the North Africa Campaign began in November, 1942. According to US Army stats recorded in the story American casualties in the next 7 months totaled, 2,184 killed, 9,437 wounded and 6,937 missing for a total of 18, 558. Total Allied casualties were 70,000 in the same time period.

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According to the caption two destroyed German tanks are visible. The one on the left is a Panzer IV. The “pile” on the far right is reportedly a Panzer VI, the famous Tiger tank. The explosion that destroyed it must have been massive. The utility vehicle on the right, above the destroyed Tiger tank appears to be an American Dodge 3\4 ton.

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According to the caption the field guns in the foreground are German 105mm and in the background various anti-tank guns. After the Vichy French gave up in late 1942 after the Torch landings they joined the Allied side (with their Free French comrades). They were poorly equipped however and these German artillery pieces would be turned over to them.

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More captured German motor transport to be turned over to the French. The caption mentions “eight-wheeled tank destroyers” as part of the booty but I think they mean eight-wheeled armored cars (none pictured).

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By May, 1943 the Allies had air superiority and the Germans were forced to include more light AA in their organizations. Pictured here is a towed quad 20mm on the right and a towed 37mm in the foreground. At times light AA guns like these were employed in an anti-personnel role.

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German small arms. The pile of light machine guns are probably the famous MG-34s.

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If memory serves me I believe the Allies captured around 250,000 Axis troops (Italians and Germans) including members of the famous Africa Corps. In this picture Germans are being lined up to be fed and receive water. The original caption reported that that Germans were lightly guarded and for the most part were philosophical about their capture. My guess is that by May, 1943 most German soldiers realized it was just a matter of time before their ultimate and inevitable defeat. Most of them would end up in POW camps in Canada or the US and many in my home State of Wisconsin.

As a postscript to the above picture about 6 weeks ago on a visit to my doctor I spied an elderly couple entering another office. What caught my eye was the gentlemen’s clothing. He had on a tannish winter coat and on the left shoulder was a shield type patch in modern German flag colors. Emblazoned on the patch were the letters D.A. K. clearly standing for Deutsches  Afrika Korps. I could not speak to him but have wondered if the man was a veteran (he was quite old). I’ve read where captured German POWS returned to Wisconsin after the war. Who knows?

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The Cost

I recently found a treasure trove of WW2 Life Magazines as well as a number of pre-war magazines for a marginal cost.

The issue below caught my eye because it is dated July 19th, 1944 thirteen days after the Normandy Invasion which took place on June 6th, 1944.

Life Magazines in the war years are fascinating to me not only for the excellent reporting from the various fronts US and Allied troops were engaged in but also for the advertising, some of which I’ve highlighted in this blog.

In this case I wanted to highlight The Cost of the invasion as recorded by Life Magazine The captions will explain what is going on.

 

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One of the iconic images of the Normandy Invasion taken by Life photographers.

Casualties

The original caption identifies the ship as a Coast Guard LCT (Landing Craft Tank). After the LCT dropped off the tanks on the beach it was used to evacuate casualties. Here a Coast Guard medical officer is giving a wounded GI a blood transfusion as the LCT heads for the hospital ship offshore.

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For these GIs medical treatment on the hospital ship did not save their lives. The dead have been wrapped in white bags and according to the original caption will be shipped to England where they will be buried. The text of the article indicates that at this point (June 19th) the total casualty rate is unknown but higher than expected.

Eisenhower

The UK’s Express tells the story of how Eisenhower (and Winston Churchill) were tormented by the expected casualty rate and the risk of failure. From what I’ve read Eisenhower grieved over the course of the rest of his life as he shouldered the responsibility of sending Americans and other Allied troops to their deaths as their supreme commander. I think this cover photo captures the seriousness of Eisenhower and the heavy load of responsibilty he bore.

The total casualties for all the forces involved in the Normandy Invasion can be found at The Dday Museum in the UK. Current research tells us that the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions suffered over 2,000 casualties on Omaha Beach. The opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan gives us some idea of that bloodbath.