Groesbeek: Wednesday, 20 September 1944

Groesbeekers greatly admired the relaxed way American paratroopers set off to fight, a gun in one hand and an apple in the other.

Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges, 1944, p. 223

Making great progress, dear blog readers. Perhaps she will even get through Arnhem today!

Stay tuned.

Cameo: War

Self is just a little over halfway through Antony Beevor’s Arnhem: The Battle for the Bulges, 1944 (p. 214 of 380 pp) She’s enjoying the book, but is distressed that she can’t just hurry it along. Beevor displays tremendous control over his material: his pace is pretty relentless. For the last who knows how many chapters, it’s been one engrossing detail after another. Here are some things self knows for sure, just as a detached observer:

  • Never try a tank attack when there is only road to the objective and the tanks have to go in a long, long, looooong line (which can be severed at any point)
  • It is better not to attack over flat terrain (like Belgium and the Netherlands)
  • It is better not to conduct retreats or river crossings in broad daylight, also while under aggressive enemy fire.

Chapter 17: Crossing the Waal, Wednesday 20 September

At one point Tyler saw a grey horse towing an anti-tank gun on its own toward the railway bridge. The crew must have been killed. He gave the order to fire at it. And one of the tank gunners, a former groom who loved horses, managed to hit the weapon with a solid, armour-piercing round, destroying it utterly without harming the grey. The range was almost a kilometre. The horse walked on ‘as unconcerned as if he had been out making the morning milk deliveries.’

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

This Is War

Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges, 1944: pp. 129 – 130

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Illustration 45: American paratroopers under artillery fire during Operation Market Garden

  • A unit of Reichsarbeitsdienst teenagers from a heavy flak detachment had been waiting in Arnhem station to return to Germany. Late that afternoon, on learning of the airborne landings, their commander, Hauptmann Rudolph Mayer, had gone to the town commandant’s office to find out what they should do. He returned to announce that they would be armed and that they would be coming under SS command. The boys were marched to a nearby barracks where they were issued with old carbines. The bolts did not work properly and the only way to open the chamber was to knock them against something hard. “Their morale was not high, but it really hit the bottom when they saw these old guns,” one of their officers recorded. That evening they had still received no orders and no food. In fact they had not eaten for nearly forty-eight hours, because of the delay at the station.

Best writing in the book (so far): Chapter 12, Night and Day Arnhem, 17-18 September

Absolutely gripping.

That night, there is an absolutely murderous battle between the boys and British paratroopers, in pitch dark. “At close quarters, British Sten guns killed more efficiently than the antiquated bolt-action rifles issued to the teenagers. Almost half” of the boys were killed.

Stay tuned.

The Resistance in the Netherlands

Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944, pp. 20 – 21:

  • “A fugitive from the Germans, whether Jewish or Gentile, who disappeared was known as an onderduiker, or diver. Some areas were better than others in hiding Jews. For example, as many as half of Eindhoven’s 500 Jews were concealed as divers and saved.”
  • “Since armed resistance was almost impossible in a country lacking mountains and large forests, the Dutch underground concentrated on helping those in danger with fake identities and ration books . . . “

The Nazi leader in the Netherlands was “merciless.” He ordered “reprisals for acts of resistance.” And how different is that, really, for punishing sanctuary cities like San Francisco by withholding FEMA funds, by busing detained immigrants there?

When people would mention ‘fascists’ existing in self’s backyard, in San Francisco, she would laugh!

Now, reading this book, she’s learning a whole lot about fascists and yes, they do exist, even in places like San Francisco.

 

Sentence of the Day: Antony Beevor

From Arnhem: the Battle of the Bridges, 1944:

The German occupiers had seized food supplies, coal and other resources for themselves, and more than half a million Belgians had been shipped off for forced labour in German factories.

Out of curiosity, self decides to google the population of Belgium. Here it is:

11,551,442

According to this website.

Stay tuned.

Bloomsbury Square, The Lamb, The First Gulf War

Asymmetry, p. 196:

One afternoon we were sitting in Bloomsbury Square, keeping half an eye on our charges, when Lachlan pointed toward the iron railings on the far side of the park and said that the original ones had been dismantled and melted down for ammunition during the Second World War. These new ones were shorter, and unlocked all day; square’s been open to the public ever since. I could not pass Bloomsbury Square after that without wondering where the old iron had ended up. On which fronts. In whose bodies. It was around this time that the avowal to do away with Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was accelerating toward its first anti-climax. Blair had declared it time to repay America for its help sixty years earlier and pledged Britain’s commitment to sniffing out all remaining stockpiles of genocidal intent. Forty-eight hours later, Clinton announced that Iraq intended to cooperate; a month after that, UNSCOM reported that in fact Iraq was not cooperating, and lo, the British-American bombing began. I watched the Desert Fox airstrikes with Alastair, sitting in our usual spot in The Lamb, whose ceiling had been strung with Christmas bunting and the bar transformed into a lukewarm buffet of mince pies and a faux cauldron of brandy-spiked mulled wine.

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Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans

Found this book in Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, last year.

Love any book on Sea Power. Because oceans are life. And self loves reading about them.

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The World’s Oceans: Shipping Lanes and Choke Points, from Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans, by Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.)

Stay tuned.

The Other Book Self Is Reading: Thomas Cromwell, a Revolutionary Life

p. 529:

On the day of Cromwell’s execution, 28 July 1540, the King took his mind off it by getting married to Katherine Howard.

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Thomas Cromwell, A Revolutionary Life: England in 1536

  • “Anne Boleyn died on 19 May, beheaded in the Tower of London before a thousand spectators . . . Like her brother a couple of days before, she died with dignity . . . ” Thomas Cromwell, who hated her (though being careful to appear an ally in the early part of their acquaintance), was seated “close to the scaffold.”
  • One of Thomas Cromwell’s servants was overheard saying in a London inn “that, while the Queen was beheaded, the King ‘consoled himself with another woman in a secluded country house, the gates shut on royal orders to all except councilors and secretaries.”
  • “On 30 May 1536, eleven days after Anne Boleyn’s execution, King Henry married Jane Seymour . . . “
  • “A day after the King’s new wedding,” spoils were “distributed from the wreck of the Boleyn fortunes”: a property belonging to Anne’s brother, Hatfield Park, was forfeited and given to his father-in-law.

This all seems so barbarous and cruel.

Stay tuned.

 

Pearl of the Orient

Since self is writing about an 18th century Spanish priest who is sent to the Philippines to found a mission on an island widely thought to be inhabited by demons, she has to read up on Philippine colonial history.

It begins with Magellan’s murder. Then, with Spain sending voyage after voyage. Then, the Legazpi expedition of 1571 when the 17-year-old Juan de Salcedo marched up and down Luzon, planting the One True Cross.

It amazes self to realize that the line of Spanish governor generals began in 1571 (Legazpi was the first). What was the Philippines like in the 16th century? Juan de Salcedo and his men starved in the Mountain Province. Manila was attacked by pirates from China.

Even the 17th century seems positively medieval. Yet there was an unbroken line of Spanish governors for over three hundred years. Some governor generals were better than others; some were downright awful. But Spain kept sending them. It must have been a hellacious appointment. One governor general was even murdered. By friars.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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