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

DSCN0037

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.

 

Bicycles, the Netherlands

Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges, by Antony Beevor, p. 10

There had been 4 million bicycles in the Netherlands at the beginning of the war, half as many as the total population. The Wehrmacht had commandeered 50,000 at the beginning of July 1942, and now thousands more were headed for Germany, most of them loaded with soldiers’ equipment and booty as they pushed them along the roads. With no rubber for tyres, pedaling them on wooden wheels was heavy work. But their loss hit hard.

 

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.

Anastasia Ivanovna Medvedkina, Machine Gunner

You’re a writer. Think up something yourself. Something beautiful. Without lice and filth, without vomit . . . Without the smell of vodka and blood . . . Not so frightening as life.

— from The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich

Taissia Petrovna Rudenko-Sheveleva, WWII Company Commander, the Moscow Fleet

A woman in the navy . . . that was something forbidden, even unnatural. People thought it would be bad luck for a ship . . .  In our village the women teased my mother to death: what did you give birth to — a girl or a boy? I wrote a letter to Voroshilov himself, asking to be accepted in the Leningrad Artillery School. They accepted me only on his personal order. The only girl.

When I finished the school, they still wanted me to stay on dry land. Then I stopped telling them I was a woman . . . on one occasion, I gave myself away. I was scrubbing the deck, suddenly heard a noise, and turned around: a sailor was chasing a cat that had ended up on the ship, no one knew how. There was a belief, probably from the earliest times, that cats and women bring bad luck at sea. The cat didn’t want to quit the ship, and its dodges would have been the envy of a world-class football player. The whole ship was laughing. But when the cat nearly fell into water, I got frightened and screamed. And it was evidently such a girlish treble that the men’s laughter stopped at once. Silence fell.

I heard the commander’s voice: “Watchman, is there a woman on board?”

“No, sir, Comrade Commander.”

Panic again. There was a woman on board.

. . .  I was the first woman to be a commissioned officer in the navy. During the war I was in charge of arming the ships and the naval infantry.

  • — from an oral interview in Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War (Penguin Books), translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Svetlana Alexievich: Women, War

“I observed more than once how in their conversations the small overrode the great, even history.” — Svetlana Alexievich

“It’s a pity that I was beautiful only during the war . . .  My best years were spent there. Burned up. Afterward I aged quickly . . . ” — Anna Galai, submachine gunner

Antonina Mironovna Lenkova, Car Mechanic

Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War is such powerful oral history (It’s taking self forever to get through; she can’t help poring over each interview).

Antonina Mironovna Lenkova:

My passion was books. I sobbed over the novels of Lidia Charskaya, read and re-read Turgenev.

Note by the author:

  • Lidia Charskaya (1875 – 1938) was an actress at the prestigious Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and a prolific writer of popular fiction. Her work was officially banned in 1920.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

« Older entries

nancy merrill photography

capturing memories one moment at a time

Asian Cultural Experience

Preserving the history and legacy of Salinas Chinatown

Rantings Of A Third Kind

The Blog about everything and nothing and it's all done in the best possible taste!

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce

GK Dutta

Be One... Make One...

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Fashion Not Fear

Fueling fearlessness through style and inspiration.

Wanderlust and Wonderment

My writing and photo journey of inspiration and discovery

transcribingmemory

Decades of her words.

John Oliver Mason

Observations about my life and the world around me.

Insanity at its best!

Yousuf Bawany's Blog

litadoolan

Any old world uncovered by new writing

unbolt me

the literary asylum

the contemporary small press

A site for small presses, writers, poets & readers

The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

A journey from one end of the bookshelf to the other

Random Storyteller

A crazy quilt of poems, stories, and humor