What Not to Get the Kids for Christmas

by: the Common Constitutionalist:

As Christmas draws near, I thought I might depart, if only for a day, from the political arena where I usually reside, and present something a little less controversial.

Did I say less controversial? Well, you be the judge.

A rare toy figure of Adolf Hitler made for German children  was revealed last year by the son of a World War II soldier for the first time.

The figure of the fascist dictator was part of a collection of toys U.S Private Jerome Beaulier bought at a toy shop in Germany at the end of the war in exchange for cigarettes and chocolate bars.

He mailed them back to his five-year-old son  Jerry, who received them in 1945 and has kept them ever since.

 The four-inch tall Hitler figure is seated in  the front passenger seat of a German army jeep alongside three soldiers.

Nothing Says Merry Christmas like a Tiny Hitler!

Other toys included in the set are an anti-aircraft gun, several field guns, another truck with a huge search light attached and a First World War German biplane. read more

Muslims and Japanese Have Something in Common

by: the Common Constitutionalist

Propaganda can be an effective and deadly tool for true believers. We found this out early in our war against radical Islamists and something that Israel is all too familiar with.

We are all well aware of what is said to await the martyrs of Islam, the homicide bombers who blow up innocents and themselves – all because they have been convinced of a heavenly reward for doing so.

For us Americans it began on October 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber drove a truck, packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 military personnel.

So brainwashed are these mind-numbed Islamists that they will do virtually anything they are told. They have been convinced that they must martyr themselves to further the cause. But now they have gone beyond the point of just individualized propaganda and have taken to the masses – ramping up the insanity further – if that’s possible.

In Islamabad Pakistan, a woman, in full Burkha, took to a microphone to make a public pronouncement, which has since gone viral.  The woman, identified as Dr Umme-e-Muhammad, told all that the Christians and Jews (she forgot the Hindus) were busy plotting against Muslims. read more

Churchill Rallied the Troops

from Real Clear Politics:

In late December of 1941, there was no way Americans could look into the future and foresee the blood, toll, tears, and sweat that would be required of them—nor the ultimate outcome of what few were then calling World War II. Yet in time, American children would be writing to Santa Claus and asking for war bonds.

On December 26, 1941, the United States was losing the new great world war. Nearly 3,000 Americans had died in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 19 days earlier, most of them servicemen in the Army and Navy. In the sunken USS Arizona, faint tapping through the hull had been heard for days, but there was no way to get to the doomed men.

One luckier sailor aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was also capsized, found himself trapped for nearly two days, hanging by a pipe in the blackness and cold water, the sounds of dying men all around him. Finally, he heard an acetylene torch cutting through the hull, all the time wondering if it was Americans there to save him — or Japanese to kill him.

Hundreds more were in military hospitals, many with limbs gone, all badly wounded.
Even more Americans were dying at Wake Island and in the Philippines and on the high seas of the North Atlantic, being hunted on the orders of Hitler. Japan was killing Americans and Germany was killing Americans, but the United States was still just getting off the mat.

Congress would later expand its draft of able-bodied young men. Most cities, especially Washington, D.C., had adopted a war footing. Curfews and air raid drills were instituted.
Back during World War I, an island of munitions in New Jersey known as “Black Tom” had been blown up by German espionage agents. President Franklin Roosevelt vowed to not let this happen again, much to the detriment of Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans who would be rounded up and incarcerated on the West Coast. Roosevelt was heard muttering, “Remember Black Tom.” read more

Warsaw Uprising

Black and white silent footage taken during  the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis have been turned into a mesmerising  feature movie with sound and color.

The film is a riveting account of the  fierce  house-to-house fighting against the German army that began on  August 1 and  ended 63 days later with the insurgents surrendering,  following the deaths of  some 200,000 rebels and residents.

Titled Warsaw Rising, the film shows the  crews that the Polish resistance Home Army sent fanning through the city to  chronicle the uprising.

Captivating footage: Black and white footage taken during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis have been turned into a mesmerising feature film with sound and colour
Captivating footage: Black and white footage taken  during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis have been turned into a  mesmerizing feature film with sound and color

 

Camp Footage

Their crude camera was smuggled into the camp  in sausages and carefully hidden away in a hollowed out dictionary. The precious  8mm film stored in the soles of their home made shoes.

Had they been discovered it would have likely  meant a firing squad.

But for a group of daring French World War  Two prisoners incarcerated in a German POW camp in 1940, it was a risk worth  taking.

Scroll down  for video

Candid camera: Footage taken using the French POWs' secret camera shows prisoners milling around the compound in the Nazis' Oflag 17a camp in Austria
Footage taken using the French POWs’  secret camera shows prisoners milling around the compound in the Nazis’ Oflag  17a camp in Austria
Secret film made by French prisoners of war in  WWII

And not only did they use the secret device  to film daily life around the Oflag 17a camp in Austria, but they even went so  far as to film the digging of a tunnel used for their own great escape.

The 30 minutes of footage they captured  entitled Sous Le Manteau (Under The  Cloak) now  serves as a unique historical record giving a fascinating glimpse into what life  was really life in the Nazi-run prison camps.

The incredible story of the French prisoners’  secret camera is being celebrated in Paris this week after the only living  prisoner who managed to escape the camp and make it back to France celebrated  his 100th birthday, the BBC reports.

Lt Jean Cuene-Grandidier was among 5,000  officers marched to Oflag 17a situated close to the Czechoslovakian border  following their defeat in the battle of France.

The camera was hidden in a hollowed out dictionary
The film was hidden in the soles of their home-made shoes
 The camera was hidden in a hollowed  out dictionary and the film was stored in the soles of their home-made  shoes

Originally built for German troops it was a  sprawling camp composed of 40 barracks and surrounded by two lines of barbed  wire with lookout towers and floodlights guarding the perimeter.

Life was bleak and monotonous and with little  food many of the prisoners were left on the brink of starvation.

But they refused to allow their spirits to be  broken.

Realizing that when the German soldiers  checked food deliveries they only cut down the middle, the prisoners arranged  for camera parts to be brought in smuggled in the ends of sausages.

Once assembled, a hollowed out dictionary from  the camp library served as the perfect hiding place with the spine of the book  opening up like a shutter.

High security: The camp was surrounded by two lines of barbed wire and with lookout towers and flashlights used to guard the perimeter
The camp was surrounded by two lines of  barbed wire and with lookout towers and flashlights used to guard the  perimeter
One of the POWs is seen holding the dictionary used to hide the camera as he stands next to one of the barracks
One of the POWs is seen holding the dictionary used to hide the camera as he stands next to one of the barracks
A cape-wearing POW is seen holding the dictionary used  to hide the camera as he stands next to one of the barracks. The 30-minute film  produced was entitled Sous Le Manteau (Under The Cloak)

Considering the conditions and the basic  equipment the quality of the footage is quite remarkable.

The cameramen would become so bold they even  filmed the guards tearing their barracks apart in a surprise search.

But perhaps the most striking footage shows  badly malnourished prisoners digging their own escape tunnel.

Lt Cuene-Grandidier who has been presented  with France’s highest award – the Legion d’honneur, recalled the escape  attempt.

He said: ‘In the early days we tried digging  a number of tunnels from the huts in which we were barracked.

‘It was viewed as a form of resistance. We  were never punished. The Germans seemed to accept it, though it never worked.

The distances to the wire were too great. And  in any case the guards were clever. They always found the tunnels we started.  They were looking for the earth we’d removed.’

Brazen: A German guard is filmed walking past one of the barracks
A German guard is filmed walking past one of the  barracks

In total the prisoners of Oflag 17a dug 32  tunnels. Most were discovered by the guards but one attempt did prove  successful.

The  Germans had permitted the prisoners to build a theatre which they decorated with  branches to obscure the view of the guards.

Situated between the barracks and the wire it  meant the distance they had to dig was far shorter.

In addition the prisoners had been issued  with shovels to dig their own air raid trenches folowing a complaint fromn the  International Red Cross.

Using these valuable tools they braved  suffocating conditions to burrow 90m (295 ft) underneath the perimeter and on September  17 1943 they were ready to go.

Over two nights, 132 men slipped out into the  darkness. They had been provided with civilian clothes and forged papers. Each  had been ordered to travel in different directions to reduce the possibility of  capture.

Gruelling: A French POW is seen inside the tunnel through which 132 prisoners made their escape. Only two managed to make it back to France
A French POW is seen inside the tunnel  through which 132 prisoners made their escape. Only two managed to make it back  to France

Lt Cuene-Grandidier recalled: ‘The short  length of the tunnel and the number of people inside, meant we had to lie in the  foetal position.

‘There was so little air. Some of the men  fainted. We waited almost 10 hours to go, all the time imagining the worst; the  German firing squad that would surely be waiting at the end of the  tunnel.’

But getting onto the other side of the  perimeter was just the first step and finding themselves deep in enemy territory  hundreds of miles from France, the odds were stacked against them.

Of the 132 who broke out, 126 were recaptured  within the first week. Only Lt Cuene-Grandidier and one other prisoner managed  to return to France.

The story of Lt Cuene-Grandidier’s escape  sounds like the plot to a Holywood film. After making his way to Vienna, he  worked as a hospital nurse treating German soldiers for venereal disease.

After securing a weekend pass to Paris he  travelled by train with German officers. His work treating their embarrassing  problems must have held him in good stead as one even offered to drive him home  in a German army staff car.

But Lt Cuene-Grandidier’s loyalty was never  in doubt and Within weeks he had joined the Resistance

Attribution: Daniel Miller, Mail Online

WWII Diary

Her country stood on the brink of collapse, allied bombs rained down at night, the army was in retreat and an attempt had just been made on the exalted leader’s life.

But German teenager Brigitte Eicke wasn’t bothered by any of that, of far greater concern was her terrible hairdo.

Never mind the mysterious disappearance of all the neighbourhood’s Jews, Brigitte now had to suffer the indignity of ‘a disastrous perm’ which meant going to work ‘looking a state’.

 
Terror: The teenager's diary gives a candid insight into the world of Nazi Germany
Terror: The teenager’s diary gives a candid insight into the world of Nazi Germany

In so many ways Brigitte was just another typical teenage girl, obsessed with her friends, first kisses with boys and trips to the cinema.

But as a Berlin resident in the late 1930s and 1940’s, Brigitte was a first-hand witness to one of the most turbulent chapters of modern history and crucially, at the age of 15, she began keeping a diary.

The journal now serves as important historical record and has just been published in German under the title ‘Backfisch im Bombenkrieg’ – backfisch being an old-fashioned term for a girl on the cusp of womanhood, and Bombenkrieg meaning bombing war.

The seemingly mundane description of a girl’s day to day existence gives a rare and fascinating insight into what life was like inside wartime Germany and just how the German people were able to turn a blind eye to the brutality of the Nazi regime.

For years the wartime accounts of German people have been largely ignored. Their suffering paling into insignificance compared to that of the millions of Jews who died as a result of their country’s atrocities.

But today as fewer and fewer of the wartime generation remain, German historians are increasingly realizing the historical importance of these first-hand accounts.

Despite her apparent innocence and naivety, Brigitte was absolutely fastidious when it came to keeping her diary.

She used it primarily to practice her stenography skills which meant she was economical with what she wrote, completely frank and honest and rarely felt the temptation to embellish or exaggerate.

‘There were some Jewish girls in my first ever class photograph, taken in 1933, but by the time the next was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine.’

Now 86, Brigitte lives just a few streets away from where she grew up and where in March 1943 an air raid killed two people, injured 34 and left 1,000 homeless.

But such is her indifference that Brigitte only makes mention of her annoyance at the fact the raid took place ‘in the middle of the night, horrible, I was half-asleep.’

Another entry on February, 1, 1944 reads: ‘The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela’s and danced to gramophone records.’

Then on March, 2, 1945, just a matter of weeks before the fall of Berlin she notes: ‘Margot and I went to the Admiralspalast cinema to see “Meine Herren Söhne.” It was such a lovely film but there was a power cut in the middle of it. How annoying!’

Perhaps most haunting is the casual reference to the disappearance of the local Jews made on February, 27, 1943

She writes: ‘Waltraud and I went to the opera to see “The Four Ruffians.” I had a ticket for Gitti Seifert too. What a load of nonsense, it was ridiculous.

‘We walked back to Wittenbergplatz and got on the underground train at Alexanderplatz. Three soldiers started talking to us. Gitti is so silly, she went all silent when they spoke to her. The least one can do is answer, even though we weren’t going to go anywhere with them.

‘Jews all over town are being taken away, including the tailor across the road.’

But despite this Brigitte remains unapologetic. In a recent interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel she explained:’I was young and busy with my own life.’

‘My son always said to me: “How could you have been so oblivious?”.

‘I never saw a thing!’

And of the holocaust she still uses an old Nazi term, when she remarks: ‘Berlin was already Judenrein (“cleansed of Jews”) by then, and I was too young to have noticed anything before that.

 
Unapologetic: In her diaries Brigitte recalls seeing 'Jews being taken away, all over town'
Unapologetic: In her diaries Brigitte recalls seeing ‘Jews being taken away, all over town’

‘There were some Jewish girls in my first ever class photograph, taken in 1933, but by the time the next was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine.’

In March 1944 Brigitte makes a casual remark about joining the Nazi party. It appears she did so mainly to make friends.

‘Usually all we did was sing songs,’ she explains. ‘But yes, we were pretty keen on Hitler — of course we were, we were all indoctrinated as children.

‘We just muddled through, we had no choice.’

It would take some 30 years before Brigitte was able to fully comprehend what had happened.

She said: ‘It was only when I visited Buchenwald in the 1970s that I saw photographs of the camps.

‘It took me years to realize what had gone on.’

From many of the passages it would be easy to assume that Brigitte was completely oblivious to the horrors of the war. But that is too simplistic.

 
Realisation: Brigitte admits he took her years to realise what had gone on in Germany during the war
Brigitte admits he took her years to realize what had gone on in Germany during the war

Brigitte experienced the Battle of Berlin first-hand, she lost both her father and her uncle on the front.

Her apparent naivety could instead be understood as an attempt to insulate herself from the grim reality of war.

Her diary is already being compared to that of Dutch holocaust victim Anne Frank who began writing just a few months before Brigitte.

But while both girls’ wartime accounts share a similar innocence, the Anne Frank was killed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration while Brigitte was able to continue her life.

Brigitte’s diary was only saved when she sent it to German historian Annet Gröschner, who co-edited and annotated the published version.

Gröschner told Der Spiegel: ‘The paper was yellowed and had virtually disintegrated. It was almost unreadable.

‘What is striking about the diary is its authenticity. It’s very different from personal accounts of World War II that were written with the benefit of hindsight and with later generations in mind.’

Attribution: Dan Miller, Daily Mail

D-Day Heroes Return to Normandy

 

They’re iconic images which capture the brutal reality of the D-Day landings 69 years ago today – but they were nearly lost forever.

War photographer Robert Capa took these remarkable close-up photos – named The Magnificent Eleven – which show Allied troops in the second wave landing on Omaha beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The Hungarian bravely took 106 photographs while wading through the water just off the French coast but because of a blunder when processing the film in London, all but 11 of the images were lost.

 
Grainy close-up: A US troop is seen crouching in the water off Omaha Beach, Normandy, as the second wave of troops landed on D-Day in the early hours of June 6, 1944
Grainy close-up: An Allied troop is seen crouching in the water off Omaha Beach, Normandy, as the second wave of troops landed on D-Day in the early hours of June 6

The images were sent to Life magazine’s office in Britain where picture editor John Morris told staff in the dark room to ‘rush!’ as they did the developing.

In their haste, worker Dennis Banks shut the doors on a wooden locker where the film was drying and 95 of the images melted as the negatives were destroyed.

Three whole rolls were lost, and more than half of the fourth.The useless film was tossed in a dustbin that same night and lost forever.

There were no other pictures taken from so close to the frontline landings on D-Day so The Magnificent Eleven provide the only enduring images from Normandy.

 
Storming the beach: The US servicemen run towards the shore as they come under fire from Nazi machine guns. Robert Capa captured these remarkable images from the water
Storming the beach: The servicemen run towards the shore as they come under fire from Nazi machine guns. Robert Capa captured these images from the waterCapa was aboard a landing ship carrying Company E of 16th Regiment, First Infantry of the US Army which landed on Omaha beach in the early hours of June 6.As machine guns were fired all around him, the troops – and the war photographer – waded towards the beach under heavy enemy fire.Omaha beach proved to be the worst killing field of the first day of the invasion, with an estimated 3,000 US soldiers killed within a matter of hours.He later wrote in his book, called Slightly out of Focus: ‘The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion.
 
Normandy landing: More US troops can be seen crouching in the water, with their landing crafts in the background just off the shore. Although Capa took 106 pictures, all but 11 of them were destroyed
Normandy landing: More Allied troops can be seen crouching in the water, with their landing crafts in the background just off the shore. Although Capa took 106 pictures, all but 11 of them were destroyed

D-DAY LANDINGS AT OMAHA BEACH

Around 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

There was an initial airbourne assault with 24,000 being parachuted into France before the sea landings began at dawn.

Omaha Beach is five miles long and one of five sections of coastline that troops landed on.

However, they met strong resistance from the German forces who were stationed at strongpoints along the coastline.

The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties on D-Day on Omaha Beach – although around 34,000 troops landed successfully.

The landings were chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

Troops managed only to gain a small foothold on the beach – but they built on their initial breakthrough in the coming days and a harbour was opened at Omaha.

‘The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation, and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away.’

He dived for cover behind a steel object before heading onward in the water for a disabled American tank as he snapped away furiously.

The photographer held his camera high above his head to stop his precious film being damaged and later ran towards an incoming landing craft. He was hauled aboard and spirited away to England where most of his shots were inadvertently destroyed in the developing room.

Capa, who died in 1954 in Vietnam while working after stepping on a landmine, was wrongly listed as dead in the aftermath of the battle.

But he got away with his pictures – and the remaining 11 were first printed in the US Life magazine on June 19, 1944.

Some of the images are blurred, which the magazine said was because Capa was so excited when he took the photographs he was shaking. It is possible that the damage was instead done in the darkroom.

Steven Spielberg said that when making the D-Day film Saving Private Ryan he ‘did everything’ to make the action scenes look like the stills taken by Capa.

He was famed for the phrase: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’. And on D-Day he was the only person to get near enough to the frontline to take decent pictures – and survive.

Robert Capa also took pictures of the Spanish Civil War, in Russia in the aftermath of World War II and of the First Indochina War during the course of a distinguished career.

 
Running towards the beach: The second wave of American troops lands on Omaha Beach at dawn on June 6, 1944
Running towards the beach: The second wave of American troops lands on Omaha Beach at dawn on June 6, 1944
 
Bloody conflict: After capturing these pictures, Capa ran towards another landing craft holding his camera above his head so it didn't get wet before climbing aboard. He was spirited away to England so his pictures could be developed
Bloody conflict: After capturing these pictures, Capa ran towards another landing craft holding his camera above his head so it didn’t get wet before climbing aboard. He was spirited away to England so his pictures could be developed

 
D-Day landings: This map shows where in Normandy British, US and Canadian troops landed from on June 6, 1944
D-Day landings: This map shows where in Normandy British, US and Canadian troops landed from on June 6, 1944
 
Landings: Omaha beach, shown here secured after D-Day, was used as a harbour by Allied Troops and an entry-point into France. The initial June 6 landings were chaotic - but the troops were able to build on the small early gains
Landings: Omaha beach, shown here secured after D-Day, was used as a harbor by Allied Troops and an entry-point into France. The initial June 6 landings were chaotic – but the troops were able to build on the small early gains

 

 
Saving Private Ryan: Tom Hanks pictured as Captain John Miller,in a scene from the film reinacting the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as the American forces storm Omaha Beach
Saving Private Ryan: The American forces storm Omaha Beach during the massive D-Day invasion of Normandy
 Inspiration: Steven Spielberg studied on Robert Capa’s images – later named The Magnificent Eleven – of the D-Day landings when he tried to recreate them in his 1998 film Saving Private Ryan

 

 
The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
 The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
 
Arrival: Commando troops are seen walking ashore on another section of beach in the aftermath of the D-Day landings
Arrival: Commando troops are seen walking ashore on another section of beach in the aftermath of the D-Day landings

 
Filming: 'The Monuments Men' filming on the South Coast of England
Cover: Life magazine from June 19, 1944, when Robert Capa's 11 images were published
 D-Day: The famous battle is recreated for a new film ‘The Monuments Men’ on Camber Sands (above). Below: The cover of Life magazine from June 19, 1944, when Robert Capa’s 11 images – later named The Magnificent Eleven – were first published
 
Reenactment: George Clooney films the 'The Monuments Men' D-Day landings on Camber Sands, East Sussex, yesterday, the day before the 69th anniversary
Reenactment: George Clooney films the ‘The Monuments Men’ D-Day landings on Camber Sands, East Sussex, yesterday, the day before the 69th anniversary

 

 
War reenactment: The cast film The Monuments Men on Camber Sands Beach, East Sussex, yesterday
War reenactment: The cast film The Monuments Men on Camber Sands Beach, East Sussex, yesterday

 

 

Back to the frontline: World War II veteran, 88, returns to Normandy 69 years after the D-Day landings

 

A war hero who fought during the Normandy landings is returning to the battlefields that nearly claimed his life to mark the 69th anniversary today.

Ivor Anderson, 88, from Salford, dropped in at Pegasus Bridge, near the village of Ranville, Normandy, overnight on June 5, 1944.

The grandfather-of-two joined the Royal Engineers as an apprentice in 1938 – aged just 14 – but later became part of the 591 Para Squadron.

He returns to the spot where he fought today under a lottery scheme which is paying for World War II veterans to make emotional trips back almost 70 years on.

 
D-Day landings: Ivor Anderson, 88, is seen here (third from the right) at Fairford Aerodrome as he prepares to take off for Normandy on D-Day - June 6th, 1944. Today he is returning to the place where he landed
D-Day landings: Ivor Anderson, 88, is seen here (third from the right) at Fairford Aerodrome as he prepares to take off for Normandy on D-Day – June 6th, 1944. Today he is returning to the place where he landed
 
Then and now: World War II veteran Ivor Anderson, 88, wearing his medals here, is returning to the spot where he landed
Ivor Anderson, 88, pictured aged 18 after he completed his parachute course and was awarded his wings
 Then and now: World War II veteran Ivor Anderson, 88, pictured above wearing his medals and below when he was in the army during the war, is returning to Normandy today
 
Normandy veterans attend a remembrance and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the start of the D-Day landings at Bayeux War Cemetery today
Normandy veterans attend a remembrance and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the start of the D-Day landings at Bayeux War Cemetery today

 

 
Across Normandy, several hundred of the surviving veterans of the Normandy campaign are gathering to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings
Across Normandy, several hundred of the surviving veterans of the Normandy campaign are gathering to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Ivor said: ‘We were all in pretty good spirits and there was a good singalong during the first part of the flight. Once over the Channel we all quietened down and made ready for the jump into darkness.

‘Our job was to clear the landing ground for the Allied gliders. We had been told there were broad areas of heavy upright posts all around the bridge region, and it was down to us to wrap explosive charges around these so that gliders could land unobstructed.

‘When I jumped out I had the bren gun strapped to my ankles. We only had 20 minutes and the gliders were coming in at all angles.

‘Our job then was to protect the landing site from anyone who was going to attack it. It was a bit threatening because we were being shelled and mortared the whole time.’

After the mission, Ivor spent five weeks laying mines and helping the infantry, before an incident ended his army involvement.

‘It was a mortar or a shell,’ he said. ‘We were holding a position and we were hit.

‘The next thing I remember is waking up in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. It turned out I had been half buried with shrapnel in my leg, and I was pulled out.’

Ivor, who did his Paratrooper training at Manchester Airport, is having his trip funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Our Heroes Return programme.

The charity scheme allows World War II veterans to make commemorative visits to the places where they fought and served.

Scores of retired soldiers are making the voyage to France today to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings and pay their respects to fallen comrades.

Ivor added: ‘I go back most years. It’s very poignant, especially at certain places where friends got killed.

‘It’s very sad to see again, but the local people treat us very, very well.’

 
Jim Kelly, 90, was a Royal Marine who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day
Jim Kelly, 90, was a Royal Marine who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day
 
 
A former soldier looks at the headstones of fallen comrades
Veteran Bob Barker, 90, at the Bayeux War Cemetery
 A former soldier looks at the headstones of fallen comrades; right, veteran Bob Barker, 90, at the Bayeux War Cemetery

 

 
Next year, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the landings, is widely expected to be the last time that the veterans will gather in any great number
Next year, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the landings, is widely expected to be the last time that the veterans will gather in any great number

 

 
Veterans (l to r) Victor Urch, 88 and Frank Baugh, 89 (who were in the Royal Navy dropping troops and supplies onto Sword Beach) and Derek Whitehead, 88
Veterans (l to r) Victor Urch, 88 and Frank Baugh, 89 (who were in the Royal Navy dropping troops and supplies onto Sword Beach) and Derek Whitehead, 88 (who was in the Durham Light Infantry and was on Gold Beach on D-Day) share a joke as they walk along what was the British Sword beach at Colleville Montgomery near Caen, France

 

 
Major Edwin Hunt walks up from the beach at Colleville Montgomery yesterday
Major Edwin Hunt walks up from the beach at Colleville Montgomery yesterday
 
Attribution: Rob Cooper, Mail Online 

Oldest American Veteran

At the age of 107 America’s oldest known veteran plans to enjoy this year’s Memorial Day in what he describes as the familiar company of up to 12 cigars and some whiskey-stiffened coffee – simple luxuries for a man who’s lived through a lot.

‘I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest,’ World War II veteran Richard Arvine Overton told Fox News from the East Austin, Texas home he built after returning from active duty.

Understandably Mr Overton is already more than entitled to some extra rest and relaxation after his service in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945.

But it’s also been an especially busy past month while making appearances across the country. 

 
Oldest living veteran: Richard Overton is seen celebrating his 107th birthday earlier this month outside his home he built in Austin, Texas after returning from active duty in World War II
Oldest living veteran: Richard Overton is seen celebrating his 107th birthday earlier this month outside his home he built in Austin, Texas after returning from active duty in World War II
Going strong: Mr Overton, strikingly pictured during his service, plans to spend a quiet Memorial Day at home, perhaps in the company of up to 12 cigars and some whiskey he attributes to keeping his muscles tender
 Mr Overton, strikingly pictured during his service, plans to spend a quiet Memorial Day at home, perhaps in the company of up to 12 cigars and some whiskey he attributes to keeping his muscles tender

‘You got to keep moving. You don’t sit down and watch TV all the time. You have to keep moving,’ Mr Overton told KVUE after being recognized for his service by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9.

Two days later he was busy celebrating his birthday and eight days later was being flown to Washington, D.C. for his first time to visit the WWII Memorial thanks to nonprofit Honor Flight, an organization that transports veterans to memorials free of cost. 

The organization strives to honor the veterans, particularly from WWII with over 800 of them said by the non-profit to be dying every day.

‘…our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out,’ the organization explains.

‘I was very, very happy,’ Mr Overton told Fox of his trip that included a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.

‘At my age and my strength, I’m able to stand up and do anything. My mind is good, so I’m able to do what I want,’ he said.

Mr Overton attributes active yard work and a single baby aspirin taken every day to his long life.

It’s the physical work he particularly emphasizes. But the whiskey’s good too, as he explains.

‘Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender,’ he said of his common regiment.

Sadly, he says a major part of this Memorial Day will be missing from his day, as he reflects on everyone he served with, but has now outlived.

‘I know I had someone from my platoon until recently, but he passed so now I don’t have anyone that I know,’ he said. ‘So I feel lonesome by myself sometimes. I would love to ask some of them some questions, but nobody is here. Everybody’s passed.’

Attribution: Nina Golgowski, Mail Online

German Bomber Found

 

A rare German bomber from the Second World War is set to be raised from the English Channel where it has lain for seven decades, it was announced.

The retrieval of the last surviving Dornier Do 17 from the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent will be the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters.

The aircraft was first spotted by divers in 2008, lying 50ft below the surface on a chalk bed, surrounded by debris. 

Dornier
Underwater images of the WW2 Dornier lying in 50ft of water off the Kent coast. Work began today to raise what is the only surviving World War Two Nazi bomber from its watery grave in the English Channel
 
Under the sea: A Dornier Do 17 bomber which lies off the coast of Kent is set to be recovered
Under the sea: A Dornier Do 17 bomber which lies off the coast of Kent is set to be recovered

 Sonar scans carried out by the RAF Museum, Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority confirmed that the plane is the Dornier Do 17Z Werke number 1160, which was shot down during the Battle of Britain.

Two of its four-man crew were killed as it crashed into the sea, but the other two were captured and taken into custody as prisoners of war.

The plane, which is said to be in ‘remarkable condition’, was one of the Luftwaffe’s ‘flying pencil’ bombers, named for their narrow fuselage.

It is covered in coral, barnacles and other marine life, but is otherwise largely intact.

The main undercarriage tires remain inflated and the propellers clearly show the damage inflicted during the bomber’s final crash landing.

Lifting the plane from the sea will take around three weeks using pioneering technology, and will be dependent on tides and weather conditions.

Mission: Recovery workers prepare the mechanism which will help to retrieve the German plane from the Channel
Recovery workers prepare the mechanism which will help to retrieve the German plane from the Channel
 
Unprecedented: This will be the biggest operation of its kind ever to take place in British waters
This will be the biggest operation of its kind ever to take place in British waters

GERMANY’S ‘FLYING PENCIL’ PLANE

The Dornier Do 17 was known as the ‘flying pencil’, because of its unusually narrow fuselage.

It was one of the main bombers used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, including at the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The plane was developed to be a commercial aircraft, but was turned down by Lufthansa and redesigned into a bomber.

Although the Do 17 was no longer made after 1940, it was used by Nazi forces throughout the war.

More than 400 of them were flown in the Battle of Britain, with 171 shot down by the RAF or otherwise lost.

The planes were 52ft long with a wingspan of 59ft, and could carry 2,000lb of explosives while manned by a crew of four.

None of the aircraft were believed to have survived for long after the end of the conflict, until the discovery of the plane off the coast of Kent.

A frame will be built around the aircraft underwater, and will then be slowly winched up and placed on a floating platform.

The operation has been made possible by a grant of more than £345,000 ($527,000) from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye, director general of the RAF Museum, said: ‘The discovery and recovery of the Dornier is of national and international importance.

‘The aircraft is a unique and unprecedented survivor from the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

‘It will provide an evocative and moving exhibit that will allow the museum to present the wider story of the Battle of Britain and highlight the sacrifices made by the young men of both air forces and from many nations.’

When the Dornier has been recovered, it will be prepared for display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

The preservation work will take place at the museum’s conservation centre in Cosford, Shropshire, where the plane will be placed in two hydration tunnels and soaked in citric acid. 

 
 
Channel: The plane was sunk in Goodwin Sands, off the coast of Kent near Deal
 The plane was sunk in Goodwin Sands, off the coast of Kent near Deal
 
In action: A Dornier bomber similar to the one which crashed into the sea during the Battle of Britain
 A Dornier bomber similar to the one which crashed into the sea during the Battle of Britain

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: ‘Today marks the beginning of an exciting project to raise the last surviving Dornier Do 17 bomber from the English Channel.

‘I’m delighted the RAF Museum and the NHMF have joined forces to make this project possible and I know that it will be a tremendous addition to the museum’s collection where it will serve to educate and entertain all who visit.’

The Dornier Do 17 will join a range of more than 1,200 objects and places which have been safeguarded by the NHMF at a cost of more than £300million ($458million).

These include HMS Caroline, the last surviving First World War ship, a rare collection of work by codebreaker Alan Turing and HMS Alliance, the last surviving submarine of the Second World War.

The Dornier is not the only Second World War plane to be the subject of a recovery mission – a British enthusiast is currently searching for a haul of Spitfires lost in the Burmese jungle.

David Cundall has hired a team of workers to find the 36 fighters which he says were delivered to the country at the very end of the war.

Attribution: Hugo Gye, Daily Mail

The Last Brit on the River Kwai

It was known, for good reason, as the Death Railway. In 1942, after the fall of Singapore, the Japanese army ordered the construction of a jungle railroad from Bangkok to Rangoon to support its assault on India.

Almost 260 miles of track were built by a forced labor workforce consisting of 250,000 local men and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war, whose treatment at the hands of the Japanese was brutal. More than 16,000 prisoners of war and an estimated 90,000 Asian laborers died.

As one of the last remaining survivors, 99-year-old Reg Twigg wrote a remarkable personal testimony of his three years of hell on the River Kwai. Sadly, the former private in the Leicestershire Regiment died last week and never lived to see it published.

 
The Bridge from Hell: Prisoners of War lay sleepers on the Death Railway at River Kwai 
The Bridge from Hell: Prisoners of War lay sleepers on the Death Railway at River Kwai

 The Mail on Sunday published an extract from his compelling and often harrowing account of life on the Burma Railway.

They called him the Silver Bullet. Where did the name come from? His uniform shone with polished leather and shiny metal buttons. He would kill without a second thought. He was Korean and he strutted the camp with all the megalomania that war and prison camps bring out in some people.

I knew the score. Keep your head up. Avoid eye contact. Don’t get yourself noticed. The Bullet couldn’t have been taller than 4ft 10in and I suppose it rankled to look up into prisoners’ faces – watching for a sign of defiance.

And then he found one, a massive, bearded Sherwood Forester. The Bullet smashed his fist into his nose. Then I watched the Sherwood Forester draw his right fist back and hammer it into the Korean’s face. The guard fell to the dust.

The Forester had just signed his own death warrant. He knew it. We all knew it. He stood to attention staring ahead. It was quite magnificent in its way. He said in that one perfectly aimed punch: ‘How’s that for bushido [warrior spirit], you yellow bastard?’

The rest of us stood, backs straight, heads up, as though a man was not being beaten to death at our feet. We all knew the score. A man was going to die because he’d loosened a few Korean teeth. If we’d intervened, we’d all have died. That was how the system worked.

 
Revisit: Regg Twigg returned to the River Kwai where he lived through the horrific PoW slave labour during World War II 
 Regg Twigg returned to the River Kwai where he suffered through the horrific PoW slave labor during World War II

Out there, somewhere to the west, was a world I once knew. My dad would be in the City Arms, sipping warm Ansells and wondering why I hadn’t written.

Putting a brave face on it counted for nothing now. Nobody knew where we were: there’s something appallingly lonely about that.

I’d been taken prisoner on the morning of February 15, 1942. A grim-faced officer told me: ‘It’s all over, Twigg. We’re surrendering. Remain at your post and don’t let anyone take or destroy any military property.’

That sums up the double-think of the British Army. Who else would take military property but the Japanese Imperial Army? I took armfuls of rifles and dumped them in the sea. General Arthur Percival signed the surrender papers that same night.

We were herded into a central square and thousands of us were marched to Changi prison, the route lined by civilians. The mightiest empire in the world had gone not with a bang, but a whimper.

After seven months, we were packed, standing room only, into boiling, stinking cattle trucks and taken up-country for three days and nights, then marched through the jungle at riflepoint.

Tormentor: Brutal Lieutenant Usuki, the ¿Konyo Kid' 
Tormentor: Brutal Lieutenant Usuki, the ‘Konyo Kid’

Then up-river in rickety bamboo boats to Konyo camp, and an A-framed hut made of bamboo and rattan. There were no chairs or cupboards, just hard bamboo beds raised from the damp earth floor.

The Japs called ‘tenko’, or roll call, for a pep talk from one of the most vicious of the ‘little yellow bastards’ I was ever to meet.

He stood 5ft tall, his face lean and dark, his eyes expressionless.

He told us, in broken English, that his name was Lieutenant Usuki. To us he became the Konyo Kid.

Our task, he told us, was to clear the jungle and prepare the ground for a railway.

‘All will work,’ he spat as he strutted. ‘Including officers.’

A polite voice said: ‘May I remind the camp commander that under the Geneva Convention, officers do not have to work .  .  . and we will not do so.’ I had to admire him.

The Kid’s eyes narrowed. Bushido does not tolerate loss of face. He screamed until the veins stood out on his forehead.

Then came a slap. A punch followed, then the Kid called in the heavies. Rifle butts thudded into stomach, jaw and temple. Boots crashed into the officer’s prone body.

We all felt like cheering when he stood to attention again, bleeding and trembling with shock, but soldier still.

The Kid stepped back and screamed for the parade to move. Time to work.

I had no idea about how to build a railway and neither, it seemed, did the Japanese. We were given blunt axes to clear thickets of bamboo, each made of at least a dozen stems about 14 inches in diameter. The dull blades bounced off as if the bamboo was made of iron. We had hoes to break up the ground and shovels to move the soil. Below the topsoil, solid roots. The yellow clay was unyielding and soul-destroying.

We dragged the tangle of weeds away in woven baskets and hauled at rocks with our bare hands, the skin of our fingers cut to ribbons. We worked in silence because the Japs allowed no talking.

Rest periods and water were strictly limited: calluses and blisters simply had to be tolerated. A piece of bamboo, ten to fifteen feet long, is bloody heavy. We had to carry them two at a time to clear the jungle.

First you try one under each arm. That doesn’t work. So you lay them across your shoulders like a yoke, too painful, so you try something else, carrying them like a baby across your chest.

I started to carry just one, but a Jap screamed at me and jabbed his two fingers into my eyes. I picked up the bamboo and dashed back for another one. I never made that mistake again.

 
On-screen horror: A still from the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness 
On-screen horror: A still from the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness

The guards watched us constantly. If we weren’t ‘speedo’ enough, they’d slap us around the face: three, four, five times. Show defiance and the slaps become punches, a little yellow bastard snarling gibberish in your face. Then the boots go in. You curl up on the ground. The rifle butts slam into your head and if you’re lucky, you’ll pass out. If not, it’s back to work.

By the end of the first week at Konyo, I’d come to a decision: escape was impossible, but I was going to survive. Darwinists call it the survival of the fittest, I’d call it survival of the most selfish bastards imaginable.

I began to focus on the jungle as a fascinating new friend. The floor was alive. Frogs the size of guinea pigs struck up their interminable noise along the river bank as soon as night fell. Centipedes were six inches long. I never counted the types of snake: some were poisonous, especially the ones with bright colors, and you learned to watch out for them and keep away.

The brown, sluggish river drew everybody like a magnet. We’d soak in it after a gruelling day’s work. We drank it, boiling it at first when we had the opportunity but afterwards not giving a damn. We bathed in it, peed in it, relaxed in it and cooked our rice with it. We lived alongside it, built bridges across it. And buried our dead along its banks.

Like most, I wore a ‘Jap-happy’ loincloth and became all but indistinguishable from the locals. My hair was crawling with lice and my skin had tanned to the color of old leather. I had no choice but to go barefoot. It hurt like hell at first, but my soles hardened.

Weeks passed. We’d cleared a swathe through the jungle and levelled the ground. The rocks now had to be shattered to make an embankment. We loaded our baskets with stones, struggled up the slope barefoot and threw them on the pile. Then we had to flatten the top and prepare it for sleepers and track.

 
Rail of horror: More than 16,000 prisoners of war and an estimated 90,000 Asian labourers died during the construction of the jingle railroad from Bankok to Burma 
 More than 16,000 prisoners of war and an estimated 90,000 Asian laborers died during the construction of the jingle railroad from Bankok to Burma

I stole to stay alive. There was a metal skip behind the Jap cookhouse full of dried fish. At night, with the Japs relaxing, I had the place to myself. I lifted the rough matting over the top and grabbed two pieces of fish, shoving them down my Jap-happy.

I retraced my steps, strolling slowly as if I was still taking the night air. Back in the hut, I lay down on my bed. I grinned and ferreted in my loincloth, hauling out the fish.

The pace of work became impossible. Men who couldn’t stand for tenko sat on their bamboo beds. You knew by their eyes that they’d got nothing left.

They were walking skeletons. Worked-out wrecks, often younger than me, worked to death by the sheer, blind inhumanity of the Japanese. We were slaves. With no rights, no honor, no feelings. It’s terrifying, at first, to watch a man die. But you get used to anything.

The Jap engineers didn’t seem to know what they were doing.

In early 1943, I had proof of just how useless they were.

An ancient locomotive was tentatively trying out a new section of timber viaduct. The driver and his mate hung out of the cab as they inched forward.

As we watched, there was a series of loud cracks. The upper portion lurched to one side and the two men leapt from the cab, shrieking before the locomotive twirled down almost in slow motion into the chasm.

As the years rolled on we were moved on from camp to camp. Hauling sleepers into position at Tarso, I found my chin itching, and my neck and cheeks.

Too much hair in the jungle is the last thing you need.

I’d long ago used up the blades in my safety razor, so I improvised.

I stole an old knife from the cookhouse and sharpened the blade on the whetstone of a leather belt or smooth stones alongside the track.

I boiled some water and, using my last bit of carbolic, scraped the dinner knife down my cheek. I had no mirror and it hurt a lot, but it worked. And it got noticed.

‘Shave me, will you?’ somebody asked. And so I became the Barber of Tarso. It filled my time, gave me a purpose.

It was at Rin Tin that we first saw signs that something was going wrong for the Japs. Lying on my bamboo at night, I began to hear the drone of distant aircraft.

Next day we were marched up-country through the steaming jungle to what I can only describe as a train wreck. But this was no accident.

There were bomb craters everywhere – huge mounds of earth and rock piled up, with trees shattered to matchwood. It took us two days to drag it all away and repair the track.

It was payback time for the Japs, who had bayoneted nurses in hospitals and tortured so many of us to death on the Railway.

We travelled north-east, away from the camps and the River Kwai into the open country, with paddy fields and terraces of cultivated land, where we were put to work digging trenches.

We didn’t know it at the time, but it was August 14, 1945. I saw a Japanese army unit come through in single file, shoulders down, their faces worn with the exhaustion of defeat. I’d seen it before – on our own faces after Singapore.

The next day we’d finished breakfast when we heard a plane droning out of the morning, but there were no bombs.

Instead thousands of leaflets were fluttering down. ‘The Japanese have surrendered,’ they read. ‘You are now free men and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.’

Attribution: Reg Twigg