Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: world war II

The Greatest Antifascists

Assholes create their own enemies. The hateful and combative will always find someone to blame and punish, and then–much like Ben Franklin’s frying fish–come up with reasons afterwards. Assholes are always forced into action by the people they set out to hurt; it’s a recurring theme. Anti-fascists were invented by fascists. Not just fascists, but Fascists. The first use of the word was by Mussolini’s band of bumblers: the Italian secret police were called the Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell’Antifascismo. (For those of you who don’t speak Italian, then just look at the phrase again. Not that tough to figure out.)

Anti-fascist organizations became popular, and often brutally crushed, throughout Europe in the years between the Wars. Some took to the hills to fight guerilla battles against the government forces, harrying supply lines and sabotaging power and transport. The anti-fascists took up arms in Spain against Franco. The bells tolled in Catalonia. Hitler tried out a new idea in a city called Guernica.

America did not have much of an organized anti-fascism movement before the Second World War. There were the Bunds, and the American Nazi Party, and the Jewish street kids and mobsters would fight them.

But then the War started, and we learned quickly.

This is what an anti-fascist looks like:

That’s Rudy Tokiwa from K Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Force. This picture was taken on July 15, 1944. The 442nd had just taken the Castelina Marittima.

Here are more anti-fascists:

These are the men of the Red Ball Express; they drove the deuce-and-a-half trucks that supplied and fed the American forces.

Here’s an anti-fascist named Norwood:

That man was born in North Carolina in 1918 and given the name Norwood Dorman. The statue behind him is a tribute to the Italian soldiers of World War One. Norwood’s pose is a comment on the cyclical nature of human bullshit.

For years, this photo was dated to December 7th. It was actually taken at a training exercise a few weeks prior. No matter: they’re aiming their hoses at fascism.

Did you know an anti-fascist was the last man to bat .400?

That’s Ted Williams, and he hated fascism so much that he learned to fly a plane so he could shoot at it from above. A few years later, Ted would reenlist so he could get back in a plane at shoot at Communism.

Some anti-fascists were hunky:

That nose is doing it for me.

And here are some more anti-fascists:

So when you hear “anti-fascist” used as an attempted pejorative, think of these men and women.

 

PS I didn’t want to be goofy, but I can’t help it:

“General Eisenhower?”

“What, General Jenkins?”

“Why does Patton get to wear whatever he wants?”

“Not this again.”

“It’s just not fair.”

“You’re absolutely right, Jenkins.”

“I am?”

“Yes. Go tell him to change.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“I thought so.”

World War II Without Research

  • It’s up to you to decide whether applying the principles of Without Research to World War II is a slightly skewed angle on the war, or unforgivably disrespectful; if it’s the latter, I understand.
  • Anyway.
  • World War II was the start of the modern age: it created both the military-industrial complex responsible for the innertubes and the GPS and everything else; and its end spawned the Baby Boom, whose world–like it or not–we still reside in.
  • WWII separates the past from today; there is the Big Bang until the war, and then everything after the war.
  • The war began on September 1st, 1939.
  • It didn’t, really.
  • It would be far more accurate to say that August 31st, 1939, was the last day anyone could still pretend that a war wasn’t going on.
  • The Japanese Empire had begun to expand in the late 19th century: they occupied Korea and kept invading China and Russia.
  • Meanwhile back in Europe, the second World War could very well be argued to begin at the signing of the Versailles Treaty, which–if you’ll recall–was supposed to end a war.
  • While Germany wasn’t destroyed physically, as the city-and-population-based Total War strategy of the second war wasn’t possible yet, the country was financially ruined; the heavy reparations levied by the treaty led to hyper-inflation and humiliation; a political party formed to exploit the turmoil; in 1934, Adolf Hitler and his inner circle of psychopaths, perverts, and occultists took power and launched Germany’s re-militarization.
  • The first real battle of the war really took place in ’37, in Spain.
  • There’s a painting of it.
  • Guernica was the birth of something awful: Total War.
  • Traditionally, you sent your army to a field to fight another army.
  • But Total War asks the question, “Why don’t we send the army to fight a population center?”
  • And since the last war, aviation technology had improved: a bomber in WWI was a guy in a biplane literally holding a bomb out the side and dropping it, and then dying heroically while wearing a scarf; now, you could put many tons of explosives in a plane and fly it right over a city.
  • And they did.
  • People had been trying to reason with Hitler, but it went as well as reasoning with Hitler would be expected to go, and he consolidated his power and signed the Tripartite Agreement with Japan and Italy–Italy was allowed to tag along–and made the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union.
  • Which brings us back to September 1st, 1939, when the Panzers rolled across the Polish border and Hitler began his conquest of Europe.
  • It should be noted that at this point, America did not give a shit about this European war.
  • FDR was paying attention, and the generals and admirals and all those folks, but your guy or gal on Main Street wanted nothing to do with it; plus, there’s a lot of German immigrants in America: even today, it’s the third-most spoken language in the country.
  • Support for the Nazis was not insignificant; a New York bund packed Madison Square Garden. (Look it up if you don’t believe me.)
  • By the spring of 1940, Hitler’s armies had pushed the French and British forces off the continent at Dunkirk and were on the way to controlling the entire continent except for Spain, which belonged to his buddy Franco, and Sweden, which was “neutral” but a haven for refugees and Jews, and Switzerland, which cannot be invaded due to geography.
  • Portugal was also not taken by the Nazis, as they would have had to go through Spain to get there.
  • While this is going on, the Soviets are fucking shit up in Eastern Europe, and the Japanese are behaving inexcusably in China; Italy starts a fights it will lose badly in Greece, the Middle East, and Ethiopia.
  • It’s a world war, after all.
  • After the evacuation from the French coast, the Allied armed forces were holed up in the UK; Hitler came after the island in what would be known as the Battle of Britain, portions of which were called The Blitz.
  • At a few thousand degrees, brick will burn.
  • It is tough to get a city to a few thousand degrees, but the Luftwaffe figured it out.
  • In the morning, the King would tour the rubble and the BBC would play one of Prime Minster Churchill’s speeches, and then night would fall and the spotters would cry out and the sirens would sing; the Hurricanes and Spitfires, manned by Dukes and Lords and Polish farmers, would race south; you could see them outlined against the stars, as all the lights in the city were out and it was the darkest you could ever remember London being.
  • The oceans around England were no safer than the sky; the German U-Boats patrolled the North Atlantic and sank every Allied ship they could, many of them American merchant boats, but we were still not in the war technically.
  • If Germany and Japan had called it quitsies at this point, they may have been able to sue for peace and keep their territories, but 1941 was the year both empires overreached and began to crumble.
  • Hubris is a bitch.
  • Hitler tore up the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviets and invaded Russia, which is simply the worst idea.
  • You might be saying, “No, invading Russia in the winter is the worst idea,” but even if it’s not winter when you begin the invasion, it will be winter in two weeks at the most.
  • And then Japan woke the sleeping giant.
  • I’ve written about how stupid the attack on Pearl Harbor was before, so I won’t rehash it; FDR had been building up the navy and had pushed through a draft act a few months before, but on Monday, December 8th, 1941, everybody went down to sign up.
  • Well, not everybody: there were pacifists and conscientious observers.
  • Some people even had the bad manners to be Japanese-Americans.
  • Don’t they know there’s a war on?
  • The American forces went to North Africa to fight the Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps, who were there trying to keep Italy’s colonies secure because Italy is simply the worst at war; and the Pacific to sink the battleships and aircraft carriers of Japan’s Imperial Navy and take back the strategically-important islands pockmarking the vast sea.
  • Rommel was a magnificent bastard, and he wrote a book, which General Patton read.
  • Patton (and Bradley and Montgomery) defeat Rommel and invade Italy, which is tough because of the geography, but not as tough as it could have been, because Italy is simply the worst at war.
  • The Nazis are now fighting on two fronts and Stalin is pressuring the other Allies to open up a third front via a continental invasion.
  • Meanwhile in the Pacific, it’s hell.
  • Ever hear of Tarawa?
  • Outside the context of WWII, I mean.
  • It took three days to take Tarawa, and almost 1,700 Seaman and Marines.
  • A college education isn’t a very good marker of intelligence, let alone knowledge of the world, but in the 40’s, only around 5% of men had degrees.
  • Hell, I’ve got a college degree, and I’d never heard of Tarawa.
  • How many of those boys had never heard of the island they died on?
  • It was called island-hopping, and the Navy ferried the Marines from one atoll to the next.
  • Truk.
  • Tinian.
  • Leyte.
  • They were all hell.
  • Every so often, you read a story about an Allied combatant reconnecting with a German soldier they shared an odd and human moment with during the war, and the two become friends in their old age.
  • You don’t hear about those stories from the Pacific Theater.
  • As the Allied forces advanced towards the Home Islands of Japan–which we were bombing in much the same way that Germany had bombed England–the largest naval invasion since Caesar took Britannia was taking place in Normandy.
  • American, British, and ANZAC armies marched on Berlin from the west, and the Red Army continued their vicious slog from the east.
  • The entire continent had been just about destroyed, including–obviously–the factories.
  • We still had ours, though.
  • Detroit made planes and jeeps and tanks and bullets at a speed and volume never before seen on earth; the shipbuilders launched battleships and cruisers and PT boats and submarines; every town and village and city and hamlet sent their young men.
  • (This is not to disregard the important and heroic work that women did during the war, but the armed forces were segregated by gender in those days. Actually, they were segregated by a lot of things.)
  • Europe became a race to Berlin between the Allies and the Commies, halted only by the Battle of the Bulge in winter of ’44.
  • Along the way, they discovered what else the Nazis had been up to.
  • Hitler killed himself, and both Patton and Churchill were dissuaded from immediately starting World War III with the Soviets.
  • (They both had the same rationale: “We’re gonna have to fight the Commies eventually; might as well do it now while we’ve got the army here.”)
  • The war in the Pacific ended on August 6th, 1945 and again on August 9th, 1945; sailors kissed nurses in black and white, and everything went back to normal.
  • People said “Never again,” and then another war came along; they always do.

On The Beach

d-day landing craft

Thoughts on the Dead will be written in English today, and it will be about whatever the hell the subject I feel like writing about.

Because of these men.

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