Pocket Guide to France, or, Onward to Parisian Mademoiselles

“You are a member of the best dressed, best fed, best equipped liberating Army now on earth. You are going in among the people of a former Ally of your country. They are still your kind of people who happen to speak democracy in a different language.”

As they moved off the beaches after 6-Jun-44, U.S. service personnel read this. Here are some particularly important excerpts.

Pocket Guide to France
Prepared by Army Information Branch, Army Services Forces, Information and Education Division, United States Army
War and Navy Departments, Washington, D.C.
1944

“Why You’re Going to France
“You are about to play a personal part in pushing the Germans out of France. Whatever part you take—rifleman, hospital orderly, mechanic, pilot, clerk, gunner, truck driver—you will be an essential factor in a great effort which will have two results: first, France will be liberated from the Nazi mob and the Allied armies will be that much nearer Virtory, and second, the enemy will be deprived of coal, steel, manpower, machinery, food, bases, seacoast and a long list of other essentials which have enabled him to carry on the war at the expense of the French.
“The Allied offensive you are taking part in is based upon a hard-boiled fact. It’s this. We democracies aren’t just doing favors in fighting for each other when history gets tough. We’re all in the same boat. Take a look around you as you move into France and you’ll see what the Nazis to to a democracy when they can get it down by itself.”

“A Few Pages of French History
“Not only French ideas but French guns helped us to become a nation. Don’t forget that liberty loving Lafayette and his friends risked their lives and fortunes to come to the aid of General George Washington at a moment in our opening history when nearly all the world was against us. In the War for Independence which our ragged army was fighting, every man and each bullet counted. Frenchmen gave us their arms and their blood when they counted most. Some 45,000 Frenchmen crossed the Atlantic to help us. They came in cramped little ships of two or three hundred tons requiring two months or more for the crossing. We had no military engineers; French engineers designed and built our fortifications. We had little money; the French lent us over six million dollars and gave us over three million more.
“In the same fighting spirit we acted as France’s alliy in 1917 and 1918 when our A.E.F. went into action. In that war, France, which is about a fourteenth of our size, lost nearly eighteen times more men than we did, fought twice as long and had an eighth of her country devastated.”

“In Parting
“We are friends of the French and they are friends of ours.
“The Germans are our enemies and we are theirs.
“Some of the secret agents who have been spying on the French will no doubt remain to spy on you. Keep a close mouth. No bragging about anything.
‘No belittling either. Be generous; it won’t hurt.
“Eat what is given you in your own unit. Don’t go foraging among the French. They can’t afford it.
‘Boil all drinking water unless it has been approved by a Medical Officer.
‘You are a member of the best dressed, best fed, best equipped liberating Army now on earth. You are going in among the people of a former Ally of your country. They are still your kind of people who happen to speak democracy in a different language. Americans among Frenchmen, let us remember our likenesses, not our differences. The Nazi slogan for destroying us both was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union There Is Strength.””

Pocket Guide to France, US Army

“No bragging or belittling.” “Remember our likenesses, not our differences.” “In Union There is Strength.”

How refreshing.

Beginning of the End Day

“Instead of “Thank you for your service,” try, “We’re sorry you had to expend your blood, sweat, tears and toil to clean up our monumental failings.” Every time you meet one of the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans (and those of all the other magnificent little American wars we’ve fallen into), keep your mouth shut and your brain focused on peace. These “Greatest Generation” folks answered the bell and won the fight. We might not be as blessed next time.”


[Yes, the pics are graphic. Look at them. Own them. Be glad they’re in black and white.]


Dead horses on a French street. Above: Dead American on a French Beach.| National Archives
Dead Americans on a Belgian street. | National Archives
Dead Germans on a French Street. | National Archives
Dead humans at K.L. Mulhausen. | National Archives
Dead US Coast Guard sailor on the USS Menges. Every thing suffers in war. | National Archives

As the 75th anniversary of the launch of Overlord arrives, it’s important to remember that it was just part of a very big picture, the beginning of the end of World War II. Up until that point, it had been a very long, very hard slog. But afterwards you could practically see directly from the beaches of Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold on 6-Jun-1944 to the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2-Sep-1945. The war now had its expiration date.

No one cheered harder for the faint glimpse of the end than P.o.W.s in Japan, Korea and China. A few of those had survived four years of torture, starvation, beatings, illnesses such as beri-beri and even being bombarded by their own Army Air Force; they were the survivors of Wake Island, which resisted overwhelming Japanese invasion forces between 8-Dec and 23-Dec-1941. Had it not been for Overlord and Manhattan, those men would have died. Instead, they beat the odds thanks to Truman and Ike, Normandy and Trinity. (To quote directly: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank God for the atom bomb!”)

I always think back to 1989, when as a newspaper reporter, I was privileged to meet just 11 of the Wake Island survivors, who gathered fairly often for small-scale reunions. That year, while working as a reporter who occasionally wrote some features about WWII vets, I got a call from a friend of mine, Marie Smith, (who had kept me sane during my cursed four months while we worked at <shudder> Wal-Mart), to tell me about an upcoming gathering of Wake Island survivors and their wives at the house of her and her husband John. These people were at that point closer than family, bound forever by what happened on a tiny atoll in the middle of a vast ocean.

The article below is what I wrote at the time, but there are two caveats: First, I apparently misspelled some names. I’ve corrected this at the bottom of this post with their bios. And second, this represents nowhere near everything I was told that day. I felt like an eavesdropper, someone who could watch and hear them, but who was so far removed from their time and experience that comprehension was impossible.

In 2016, the daughter of Tony Schawang of Falls City, NE, the man into whose soybeans Braniff 250 fell in 1966, told me an anecdote about her father, who landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago. She said she once asked him about that day and he said, “Girlie, you don’t need to know anything about that kind of thing.” He was right.

A photographer took Tony’s picture the morning after the Braniff crash. He looks shell-shocked. I could only imagine the horror of seeing 42 dead people and a crashed airliner fall to earth in front of you. But after finding out that Tony had already seen way worse in 1944 made that picture clearer, more understandable. That’s a thousand-yard stare he has in that 1966 photo. I will now always wonder if he was seeing the wreckage of Braniff 250 … or the wreckage of Omaha Beach. Or a bloody mashing together of both. (As much as I respect Mr. Schawang, as the photos above attest, I disagree. We should always know, and see, the consequences of war.)

Now that we’re older, we can understand, and value, more of the meaning and reality of all this, but those Marines and their wives (and Tony Schawang) are now gone. We can’t have conversations with them just because we’re older and wiser and can now listen to them. They’re lost to history … and we’re much the poorer for it.

What do I now know? Don’t put D-Day in service to American (or British) exceptionalism or nationalism or patriotism, and don’t “thank” a veteran for his/her “service.” Man up, grow up and face up to the reality that no one wanted to “serve” us on the cold Normandy sand. They wanted to simply survive. The hard truth is that D-Day (and Wake Island) represented a failure. A failure to confront, contain and eliminate human anger, violence, and hatred in service to nationalistic ideologies in Japan, Germany and Italy. The failure to do that consumed, between 1914 and 1945 upwards of 150 million lives around the world. WWII soldiers HAD to “serve” at Omaha Beach because WE failed to protect THEM.

Instead of “Thank you for your service,” try, “We’re sorry you had to expend your blood, sweat, tears and toil to clean up our monumental failings.” Every time you meet one of the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans (and those of all the other magnificent little American wars we’ve fallen into), keep your mouth shut and your brain focused on peace. These “Greatest Generation” folks answered the bell and won the fight. We might not be as blessed next time.


Here are the original two Wake Island articles:

Memory Of WWII Still Vivid For Vets
(Part I of the Wake Island Story)

‘Considering the power accumulated for the invastion of Wake Island and the meager forces of the defenders, it was one of the most humiliating defeats the Japanese Navy ever suffered.’
—Masatake Okumiya, commander, Japanese Imperial Navy

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner)
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – the stark terror of facing death while kneeling naked on a sandy beach the stinking hold of the prison ship; the brutality of the Japanese; the obliteration of youthful innocence.

They fought and bled for a two-and-a-half-square-mile horseshoe of an atoll in the midPacific called Wake Island. They were United States Marines and they did their duty.

There were 10 [sic] men of that Wake Island garrison at the Marlow home of John Smith this weekend. With Smith, they talked, drank and smoked their way through the weekend, laughter masking deeper emotions of brotherhood, camaraderie and painful memories.

In the Smith kitchen, their wives continued the latest of an ongoing series of therapy sessions, attempting to exorcise some of the demons of the last 44 years of their lives with the hometown heroes.


In 1941, with war inevitable, the U.S. government began construction of a series of defensive Pacific Ocean outposts, including Wake, designed to protect against Japanese aggression. They were a little late.

Little Wake atoll, with some 1,616 Marines and civilians huddled on its three islands, was attacked at noon, Dec. 8, 1941, several hours after Pearl Harbor.

The Marines knew war was possible, but “didn’t think the little brown guys had the guts to hit us,” one of them said.


Jess Nowlin’s hearing aid battery is getting a little weak as the afternoon wears on, but his memory and sense of humor are still sharp.

He said the Marines were going about their business when they heard the drone of approaching aircraft.

“We thought they were B- 17’s out of Pearl coming in to refuel. They weren’t. They broke out of a cloud bank at about 1,800 feet, bomb bay doors open. They tore us up,” Nowlin said.

The Japanese attacked from sea and air, but the Marines held out until Dec. 23; only 400 remained to defend 21 miles of shoreline from 25 warships and a fleet of aircraft. Surrender was inevitable.

Through a haze of cigarette smoke, Robert Mac Brown, a veteran not only of World War II, but of Korea and three tours of duty in Vietnam, remembers the post-surrender scene on the beach.

“We were stripped naked and they hog-tied us with our own telephone wire. A squall came through, but lasted only about 10 to 15 minutes. One of my clearest memories of the whole operation is of watching the water run down the bare back of the guy in front of me,” Brown said.

Japanese soldiers lay on the sand in front of the prisoners, swinging machine guns back and forth. The click of rounds being loaded into chambers was ominous. Fingers tightened on triggers.

“There was an argument between the landing force commander and a guy with the fleet. They screamed at each other in Japanese, arguing about whether to kill us or not,” Brown said.

The Marines made their peace and prepared to die.

The argument to make prisoners of the Marines and civilians won the day. The prisoners were allowed to grab what clothing they could to cover themselves.

And then a living hell began which would only be ended by the birth of atomic stars over southern Japan nearly four years later.


Taken off the island on small ships, the prisoners were forced to climb up the side of the Nittamaru, a former cruise ship pitching about on rough seas.

As the men walked back through the ship and down to the hold, the crew beat them with bamboo sticks, in a gauntlet of brutality.

Packed in the stinking hold, several hundred Marines and civilians had only one five-gallon bucket per deck to hold human waste. For the 14 days of the Nittamaru’s passage from Wake to Shanghai, they could barely move.

The cold of Shanghai was felt through their thin tropical khaki. It was January 1942. Robert Brown was to have married his girl on January 12. She married someone else.

“I thought you were dead,” she later told him.


From Shanghai, through Nanking, Peking, Manchuria and Pusan, Korea, the group journeyed in packed cattle cars to their eventual destination, a coal mine on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where they dug in the shafts alongside third-generation Korean slave labor.

They were slaves themselves until August 1945.

“Thank God for Harry S. Truman and the atomic bomb,” several survivors said, as the others echoed that prayer.

They went home to heroes’ welcomes, but the public ”’never fully appreciated or understood what we did,” Nowlin said.


They’re much older now — in their 60’s and 70’s — and it was a family reunion of sorts; they claim to be closer than brothers. They don’t miss their “get-togethers” for anything in the world; Robert Haidinger traveled from San Diego with a long chest incision after recently undergoing a major operation.

As they gazed through the Oklahoma sunshine, they didn’t see the cow bam beyond the lovegrass rippling in the August breeze; it was a Japanese destroyer was steaming close in to end their lives all over again.

“It was awful, terrible; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything; you couldn’t get me to do it again for a billion dollars,” Nowlin summed it up.


The men: Tony Obre [sic], Fallbrook, Calif; Robert Haidinger, San Diego, Calif.; Robert Murphy, Thermopolis, Wyo.; Dale Milburn [sic], Santa Rosa, Calif.; George McDaniels [sic], Dallas, Texas; Jess Nowlin, Bonham, Texas; Jack Cook, Golden, Colo.; Robert Mac Brown, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jack Williamson, Lawton; Paul Cooper, Marlow, and John Smith, Marlow.

The cost of the defense of Wake Island, from Dec. 8 to 23, 1941: Americans: 46 Marines, 47 civilians, three sailors and 11 airplanes; Japanese: 5,700 men, 11 ships and 29 airplanes.


Wives Cope With Husband’s Memories
(Part II of the Wake Island Story)

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – fists lashing out during nightmares, the traumatic memories, the attempts to catch up on lost time.

The wives of 10 Wake Island survivors met in Marlow with their husbands this weekend for reasons of their own.

“We go through therapy every time we get together. We help each other with problems,” they said.

The wives: Florence Haidinger, Maxine Murphy, Opal Milburn [sic], Irene McDaniels [sic], Sarah Nowlin, Betty Cook, Millie Brown, Jo Williamson, Juanita Cooper and Marie Smith.


They did their own bit during World War II: The Red Cross, an airplane factory in Detroit, North American Aviation in El Segundo, Calif, Douglas in Los Angeles, the Kress dime store.

They married their men after the long national nightmare was finished, and their lives became entwined by one event: the Japanese attack on Wake Island Dec. 8-23,1941.

Since the first reunion of Wake survivors and their spouses in 1953, these women have been like sisters.

“We love each other, we’re closer than family,” Jo Williamson said.

In Marie Smith’s kitchen, therapy was doled out in a catharsis of talk little different from that of the men gathered on the patio. Talk is said to be good for the soul; these women heal great tears in theirs every time they see each other.

According to the wives, the men came home from the war, married, had children and tried to pick up where they left off.

They wanted to take care of their families and try to catch up. They were robbed of the fun times of their late teens and early 20’s, the women unanimously agree.

“They have also lived every day as if it were their last,” Sarah Nowlin said.


The men needed some help after their harrowing battle and brutal three -and-a-half-year captivity.

According to the women, doctors never realized therapy was in order: “They never got anything.”

One man lashed out with his fists during nightmares; after a few pops, his wife learned to leave the room. Another would slide out of bed and assume a rigid posture on the floor, arms and legs folded. Yet they have all been gentle men.

“I’ve never seen my husband harm or even verbally abuse anyone,” a wife said Reunions such as this help the men and women deal with life as they age. The youths of 16-22 are now grandfathers and grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s.


Life today is a bit baffling to them.

Extremely proud of their men, the women have no patience with draft dodgers, flag burners, Japanese cars or foreign ownership of America.

They didn’t agree with the Vietnam war policy, but duty to country should have come first, they said.

“I didn’t want my son to go to Vietnam, but I would have been ashamed of him if he hadn’t,” one said.

The issue of flag burning stirs violent protest and emotion in the group: “Made in America”’ labels are on everything they buy.

And the younger generation does not enjoy the women’s confidence: “I don’t think they could do what we were all called on to do,” they agreed.

And as Marlow afternoon shadows grew longer, the women of Wake continued to cleanse their souls.


Updated bios (confirmed via findagrave.com):

• Cpl. Robert Mac Brown, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 1-Feb-1918.
Death: 21-Sep-2002 (age 84).
Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

• Sgt. Jack Beasom Cook, USMC, Golden, CO.
Birth: 18-Jun-1918, Okmulgee, OK.
Death: 20-Nov-1999 (age 81).
Buried: Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

• Sgt. Paul Carlton Cooper, USMC, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 30-Oct-1918, Richardson, TX.
Death: 18-Sep-1994 (age 75), Marlow, OK.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Cpl. Robert Fernand Haidinger, USMC, San Diego, CA.
Birth: 24-Nov-1918, Chicago, IL.
Death: 7-Mar-2014 (age 95).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• PFC Robert Bruce “Bob” Murphy, USMC, Thermopolis, WY.
Birth: 5-Oct-1920, Thermopolis, WY.
Death: 5-Feb-2007 (age 86), Hot Springs County, WY.
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Pvt. Ival Dale Milbourn, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 23-Jul-1922, Saint Joseph, MO.
Death: 18-Dec-2001 (age 79), Mesa, AZ.
Buried: Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo, CA.

• PFC George Washington “Dub” McDaniel, Dallas, TX.
Birth: 23-Dec-1915, Stigler, OK.
Death: 14-Jul-1993 (age 77).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• PFC Jesse Elmer Nowlin, USMC, Bonham, TX.
Birth: 9-Dec-1915, Leonard, TX.
Death: 13-Sep-1990 (age 74), Bonham, TX.
Buried: Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX.

• MSgt. Tony Theodule Oubre, USMC (ret.), Fallbrook, CA.
Birth: 17-Aug-1919, Loreauville, Iberia Parish, LA.
Death: 7-Feb-2005 (age 85).
Buried: Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, CA.

• Pvt. John Clarence Smith, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 11-Mar-1918.
Death: 19-Jan-1994 (age 75).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Sgt. Jack Russell “Rusty” Williamson, Jr., USMC, Lawton, OK.
Birth: 26-Jul-1919, Lawton, OK.
Death: 12-Jul-1996 (age 76).
Buried: Highland Cemetery, Lawton, OK.


The wives (I couldn’t confirm the details for all of them):

• Juanita Belle Sehested Cooper
Birth: 5-Dec-1920, Marlow, OK.
Death: 28-Jul-2001 (age 80), Beaverton, OR.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Florence A Haidinger
Birth: 31-Dec-1934.
Death: 26-Sep-2014 (age 79).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• Irene McDaniel
Birth: 24-Nov-1918.
Death: 7-Mar-2004 (age 85).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• Maxine Gertrude Gwynn Murphy
Birth: 10-Nov-1923.
Death: 4-Mar-1996 (age 72).
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Marie A. Smith
Birth: 11-Feb-1929.
Death: 16-Nov-1997 (age 68).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Emily Jo Lane Williamson
Birth: 30-Mar-1924, Texas.
Death: 3-Jun-2007 (age 83), Comanche County, OK.
Buried: Sunset Memorial Gardens, Lawton, OK.

Paranoia, Fear, Terror and Facebook, et al.

“Insane levels of fear and control and succumbing to terror. We are a nation which is perhaps the most fearful of all countries.”

Insane levels of fear and control and succumbing to terror. We are a nation which is perhaps the most fearful of all countries. And someone warned us about giving in to terror, especially that orchestrated by demagogues and news media personalities. Hmmmmmm.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

Associated Press

Yes, we’re so scared we’re insisting on a lot more:

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

Associated Press
Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt

Just a few years ago, our leadership was saying:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4-Mar-33

How refreshing. And he had Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, polio and the imminent deaths of 100 million human beings to worry about. We are no longer made of sterner stuff. We freak out over Twits (and their Twitterings) and have palpitations over words and clutch our pearls if someone is transgressive about … well anything.

Grow a spine Democrats! Listen to the dead man and stop fearing! Send tis administration packing by using the ballot box or Articles of Impeachment! Now!

Capital Destroys All It Touches

“What’s our death toll up to in this week’s boutique pay lots of money and die fashionably sweepstakes? 19?”

The death toll from mountain climbing capitalism is climbing. Er, I mean mounting. Er, uh, rising? The Guardian‘s take on this: Wealth from Destructive Capitalism is Destructive. Who knew?

And of course there’s a podcast about it all.

Stupor Bowl Sunday As It Happens Happened

“19:56: We popped over to the Puppy Bowl in time for some nauseating exploitation. But I hope it helps some puppies.
“19:57: Fourth first down? They’re showing signs of life? And Romo is a totally sarcastic smartass. And the Rams get one more first down.
“20:02: Suddenly Rams show a spark. But McCordy smacks the ball outta the hands of the Rams receiver in the end zone. Frustration on the sidelines.” | Read more after the jump:

Have no earthly idea why, but s I’m livebloggin’ this thing. You could encounter boredom and outrage and other acts of writing regurgitation.

17:36: After stomping down the field with run plays, Brady’s first pass is intercepted. Crap on a cracker.

17:39: Rams do nothing. Third and out. Juli’s punt return not great. Now for the usual over-hyped commercials.

17:41: Hulu smashes it outta the park with a Handmaid’s Tale ad throwing Reagan’s “Morning in America” barf campaign ad back in his face. Awesome.

17:47: Time out early, Pats. Neither team has calmed down from early hype. If NE can keep Brady on the field, they can wear out the Rams defense.

17:49: Turkish Airlines: A Ridley Scott film? Seriously?

17:50: Give Gronk ball. Gronk run. Run, Gronk, run. Gronk run 17 yards. Good Gronk, good.

17:52: Second Pats timeout? Whuh?

17:54: Weird social justice/Dr. King legacy/NFL trying to … blackwash (?!) their Kaepernick problems … without mentioning Kaepernick. Ridiculous.

17:56: Gostkowski … misses a field goal?! That’ll come back to haunt them.

18:03: Rams got nothin’ but a penalty. Brady coming out for third time from their 19.

18:07: Hogan drops a pass. Y’all need to settle down, boys.

18:08: Julian gets a good one.

18:09: What are you doing, Tom??!! Yeesh!

18:10: Go, Gronk, go!! Smash, Gronk, smash!

18:11: And they have to punt. Is this gonna be a boring one? Rams have 24 yards of offense and Tom has been kinda weak. End of first quarter. 0-0.

18:17: Rams still go nuthin’. Almost bobbled an interception, which would have been a touchdown.

18:21: Gronk catch, but Gronk short.

18:22: Go Juli! Go Juli! Awesome.

18:23: Tom misses Chris. Long third down.

18:24: Gronk get ball, but Gronk short again. Tom mad. Gostkowski redeems himself for the earlier miss? Yes! Finally points. 3-0, Pats. The ice breaker?

18:28: Rams are only running. Not far, but they’re running.

18:29: Jared finally tosses an 18-yarder. Should have been challenged. Where’s Bill’s head right now?

18:30: Rams stuffed on ground again. Good on yer, Pats defense. And they have to punt. Get your act together now, Tom!

18:31: Complete asshole/bro dipshit/douchy whiteboy commanding everything around him to respond to his commands because … he owns a Mercedes. A pox on thee, Mercedes, a pox.

18:40: Some things happened. The commercials are idiotic as always. I’m bored. Why do the Rams keep running the ball? Why don’t they let the Saints suit up and take over?

18:41: Goff just got smacked to the ground. Van Noy!!! Awesome. And then they punt. And here comes more insipidness. Every year, for the millions spent on these stupid ads, they could … end homelessness. Buy patients drugs they can’t afford. Ensure health care for millions. God.

18:47: Two-minute warning. Halftime. Which will be completely ignored. Maybe I’ll go scrub the toilet. That would be more fun.

18:49: Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges doing a Stella Artois commercial with her flaunting big cleavage and him flaunting his ability to still remember his lines?

18:50: Mass confusion. Rams have 14? men on the field.

17:36: After stomping down the field with run plays, Brady’s first pass is intercepted. Crap on a cracker.

17:39: Rams do nothing. Third and out. Juli’s punt return not great. Now for the usual over-hyped commercials.

17:41: Hulu smashes it outta the park with a Handmaid’s Tale ad throwing Reagan’s “Morning in America” barf campaign ad back in his face. Awesome.

17:47: Time out early, Pats. Neither team has calmed down from early hype. If NE can keep Brady on the field, they can wear out the Rams defense.

17:49: Turkish Airlines: A Ridley Scott film? Seriously?

17:50: Give Gronk ball. Gronk run. Run, Gronk, run. Gronk run 17 yards. Good Gronk, good.

17:52: Second Pats timeout? Whuh?

17:54: Weird social justice/Dr. King legacy/NFL trying to … blackwash (?!) their Kaepernick problems … without mentioning Kaepernick. Ridiculous.

17:56: Gostkowski … misses a field goal?! That’ll come back to haunt them.

18:03: Rams got nothin’ but a penalty. Brady coming out for third time from their 19.

18:07: Hogan drops a pass. Y’all need to settle down, boys.

18:08: Julian gets a good one.

18:09: What are you doing, Tom??!! Yeesh!

18:10: Go, Gronk, go!! Smash, Gronk, smash!

18:11: And they have to punt. Is this gonna be a boring one? Rams have 24 yards of offense and Tom has been kinda weak. End of first quarter. 0-0.

18:17: Rams still go nuthin’. Almost bobbled an interception, which would have been a touchdown.

18:21: Gronk catch, but Gronk short.

18:22: Go Juli! Go Juli! Awesome.

18:23: Tom misses Chris. Long third down.

18:24: Gronk get ball, but Gronk short again. Tom mad. Gostkowski redeems himself for the earlier miss? Yes! Finally points. 3-0, Pats. The ice breaker?

18:28: Rams are only running. Not far, but they’re running.

18:29: Jared finally tosses an 18-yarder. Should have been challenged. Where’s Bill’s head right now?

18:30: Rams stuffed on ground again. Good on yer, Pats defense. And they have to punt. Get your act together now, Tom!

18:31: Complete asshole/bro dipshit/douchy whiteboy commanding everything around him to respond to his commands because … he owns a Mercedes. A pox on thee, Mercedes, a pox.

18:40: Some things happened. The commercials are idiotic as always. I’m bored. Why do the Rams keep running the ball? Why don’t they let the Saints suit up and take over?

18:41: Goff just got smacked to the ground. Van Noy!!! Awesome. And then they punt. And here comes more insipidness. Every year, for the millions spent on these stupid ads, they could … end homelessness. Buy patients drugs they can’t afford. Ensure health care for millions. God.

18:47: Two-minute warning. Halftime. Which will be completely ignored. Maybe I’ll go scrub the toilet. That would be more fun.

18:49: Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges doing a Stella Artois commercial with her flaunting big cleavage and him flaunting his ability to still remember his lines?

18:50: Mass confusion. Rams have 14? men on the field.

18:53: Going for a fourth-and-one. And … Gronk can’t hold on, just past his fingertips. Rams ball. Damn.

18:55: But Goff bites the astroturf. Then fires a pass, but too little too late. Then hits the turf with a low pass. 28 seconds left. Rams do nothing, nothing, nothing. Six punts. This one downed at Pats two, but the half is 16 seconds away. Don’t do something stupid here.

18:57: And here’s the half. Second lowest scoring Stupor Bowl in history. Stadium sounds like there’s no one in it.

19:18: Is this stupid halftime thing over yet?

19:23: ADT and Property Brothers threatening us that we’re gonna see a lot more of them. Please God, no.

19:29: Kick the ball and let’s get this thing going.

19:30: Goff passes right to … Highland, a New England defender, who can’t hold on to the ball. Then somebody runs. It’s pretty much the first half again.

19:32: Injury. And a guy in what looks like purple eyeshadow says something about Belicheck not saying anything of substance. Then a stupid ad with a kid being exploited to sell South Korean cars made in Georgia.

19:35: Broken arm. Gets the biggest crowd reaction yet. Bloodthirsty buggers down there in Atlanta.

19:37: Goff heads for the bench again. Pats getting the punt. Go Juli. He has more yards gained than the entire Rams offense.

19:38: Tom calls “Reagan! Reagan!” It’s a run to the right. Like Reagan, overblown.

19:40: Julian takes a pass and gets 37 yards. Woooooot! Julian MVP? He has 120+ yards, so why not?

19:43: And they have to punt. <sigh>

19:46: Rams in the hole, get a penalty.

19:47: Am I the only one bugged that the navy blue on the Rams’ helmets doesn’t match the blue on their jerseys? And Goff almost gets a safety. And they make their eighth punt. But it’s a 65-yarder … longest punt in Stupor Bowl history. It’s a dubious achievement, but there it is.

19:48: More feel gooding, this time first responders get their due in order to be exploited by those assholes at Verizon. Love first responders, Verizon can bite me.

19:56: We popped over to the Puppy Bowl in time for some nauseating exploitation. But I hope it helps some puppies.

19:57: Fourth first down? They’re showing signs of life? And Romo is a totally sarcastic smartass. And the Rams get one more first down.

20:02: Suddenly Rams show a spark. But McCordy smacks the ball outta the hands of the Rams receiver in the end zone. Frustration on the sidelines.

20:03: Goff gets totally snuffed into the turf. Bam! From Hightower.

20:04: Rams get a long field goal. It’s 3-3. How thrilling. First 50+-yard field goal in 15 years.

20:08: Holding on the Rams.

20:10: And three quarters are gone. 3-3 at 53.

20:13: First Stupor Bowl ever where there hasn’t been a touchdown in three quarters. And then Tom hits the turf. And they punt.

20:16: Goff flubs it and marches 5 yards back.

20:18: 12:23 to go and Pats take timeout. Please God don’t send us to overtime.

20:22: Goff gets plowed into the turf again. Flag on field: Holding, Pats. Geez, boys.

20:24: Holding on the Rams.

20:26: Goff gets bowled into the sideline spectators. Then a pass that was nothing.

20:28: Burger King digs up Andy Warhol’s corpse to flog whoppers. Now it’s folk songs calling for communist overthrow being used to flog beer.

20:29: All Pats Super Bowls decided in last three minutes and by small number of points. Yup. Go Gronk go!!!!

20:31: Julian’s 10th catch. Nice.

20:32: GRONK GRONK GRONK!!!! Will we finally get a TD in this game?

20:33: PATRIOTS SCORE TD FINALLY!!!!! WOOOOOT! Thank you Gronk! 10-3. Whew.

20:35: Not amusing Amazon commercial. Cripes.

20:36: Okay, you got 7 minutes to go boys. Do it.

20:41: Thank God. Some Rams things happened then a beautiful interception. Pats defense should be MVPs!

20:45: 26 yards gets them some space. Plus illegal use of hands by the Rams.

20:47: Some confusion over time. Time out LA.

20:48: 26 yards by Burkette. Yes!

20:50: Two Patriots penalties?! Justified, I’m afraid. Calm down.

20:51: Belicheck is MADDDDDDDD. No one knows what happened. Two minute warning!

20:55: Washington Post “Democracy Dies in Darkness” ad. Hmmmmm. You should have given murdered and threatened journalists much more airplay. But it’s a start.

20:58: Gostkowski wins the Stupor Bowl for the Pats. Good on ya boys!

21:00: Here’s the last minute. Rams’ last gasp.

21:03: 48 yard field goal try, but won’t work. It’s wide left. Brady and company celebrating.

21:04: Kneel down, Tom. And congrats. That’s the ol’ ball game.

21:09: Madness on field. MVP should be Juli. And it is.

21:26: Finally the trophy. Yeesh. Belicheck is touching a child. Wow.

21:30: Juli’s kind of a goober like Tom. But congrats to his … amazing game. And I’m out. Night!


[Text by Steve. Photo by Nathan Gonthier on Unsplash. ]


—30—

Finally Entering the Public Domain

We’re finally getting some « spectacular stuff » released into the public domain on New Year’s Day (screw you Disney!).

We’re finally getting some « spectacular stuff » released into the public domain on New Year’s Day (screw you Disney!).

WWI Collides with D&D and Memes

It’s two years old, but I’m just seeing it for the first time. It’s « one of the best visual “explainers” » I’ve seen that describes the spark which ignited World War I.

It tells the story of that horrible June day in 1914 via a series of memes and the lens of a Dungeons and Dragons session.

Given that the spark (predicted by Bismarck to be some “damn fool thing in the Balkans”) ignited two large-scale global wars AND that over the next half-century upwards of 150 million humans and untold animals would die from the cascade of events following that spark, well, it’s a story well-worth knowing, telling, re-telling and making as relevant as possible to generations down through time.

11:00 | 11-November-1918

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

A preface: I became interested in World War One history about 40 years ago, reading Elleston Trevor’s “Bury Him Among Kings,” a novel (undoubtedly my favorite of all time) with a title which referenced an epitaph mentioned below. From around high school on, I’ve read and studied and absorbed (and suffered through college courses) all I could about German history from 1815 to 1945. It’s endlessly fascinating (and disturbingly prophetic) study.

But it’s never really packed a personal punch. While many in our extended families fought in the Civil War, most were too young or too old for the world wars. One exception was our Uncle Louie Webb, who served in World War Two (and how I wish I could ask him about it!) and our Grandpa Pollock’s oldest brother Mearon Edgar, who was born in 1894 and is our father’s namesake. Edgar (as Dad called him) was a World War One veteran and he placed a small ad in the American Legion Magazine of August, 1937: “800th Aero Repair Squadron—Proposed reunion, Los Angeles, Calif., late summer or fall. Mearon E. Pollock, 306 N. Maple dr., Beverly Hills, Calif.” He was apparently the principal organizer of such squadron reunions up until World War Two. After the first war, he and his wife moved to Beverly Hills from Oklahoma. He was a barber with a shop on Wilshire Boulevard; she was a Beverly Hills public school teacher. They later farmed in Oregon and California, where he died around 1977. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit dry. The history of war should never be dry and dusty and divorced from our emotions. It should be as war itself: visceral, devastating, obscene to sight, offensive to smell, deafening to hearing. Hence the following post.

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

We remember all this today because as Polish poet Czesław Miłosz wrote, “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

But sometimes, the living forget those who can no longer speak and instead harness them in service of the political or the feel-good, using their severed limbs to pat ourselves on our collective backs. This rather florid inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London, is an example of how remembrance can often be lofty, nebulous, nameless and faceless and sanitized and ultimately divorced from the nightmare reality of the war and how it was experienced by the men and women caught in it:

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day, 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his Ministers of State, the Chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation. Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give, life itself; for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

That was the official, sanitized, God-and-Country pablum version of the war. It’s fine as it goes, but the soldiers of the line saw things quite differently, and epitaphs like these tend to mute them, hide them from sight, rob them of existence.

So what’s a better way to remember then? How about starting with accounts left to us such as the prose and poetry of two British officers and a German soldier. It is their raw experiences which we should remember today, not “George V and his Ministers of State and the Chiefs of his forces” (who botched the entire affair so badly that it became an unprecedented slaughter), nor leaders gathered today at Compiegne, site of the signing of Armistice, nor the American leader shamefully cowering in his hotel in Paris, apparently afraid of rain.

Wrote British Captain Siegfried Sassoon in one of his best, sharpest, brightest harpooning poems of the “Chiefs of His Majesty’s forces”:

The General

“‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

“But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

Siegfried Sassoon

British Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action just one week before the Armistice was signed, summed up his generation’s experience and wondered who would mourn them in extremely powerful poems:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

Wilfrid Owen

The German Erich Maria Remarque, in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a book which was later burned by Hitler, added his own voice in prose:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

Erich Maria Remarque

Finally, it’s worth reading what is probably Owens’ finest poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

“In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

“If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'”

Wilfrid Owen

The old lie: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” roughly translates to “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” As Owen wrote, dying like cattle in warfare conducted in the cause of nationalism or patriotism is never sweet. It is an obscenity. Just see the attached photos. You should not be squeamish; stare at them and memorize them. If you vote for war, support its waging or cheer for capital punishment, you should be able to look unflinchingly at the black and white images of the consequences of bloodthirst.)

As violent forces of chauvinistic nationalism rise around us, we would do well to remember not Kings and generals, but the experience and judgement of the many Owens, Sassoons and Remarques as the central lesson of this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018.

[Photo: First World War infantrymen whose faces had been mutilated in trench warfare. They were known as the “gueules cassées”.]