Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Best Read Military in WWII

The Great Gatsby, written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was deemed a failure. It was selected to be printed in a special paperback format for distribution to servicemen in 1945. They loved it, and told the folks back home. The Great Gatsby became a literary classic.
Hundreds of thousands of men entered the military in the early 1940s. The transition was rough. They were never alone, no privacy. They were told when to wake, when to eat, how to dress, what to do. Morale in the training camps sagged.

The Army’s Library Section wanted to supply the camps with books, but lacked funding. Librarians across America organized book drives, and books poured in.
The Victory Book Campaign received four million books by early 1942. One and a half million were rejected as unsuitable for young men, such as children’s books, such topics as knitting, or discards no one wanted.
As the men moved overseas to join the fighting, books were treasured. In the Army, the men were dirty, exhausted, eating unappetizing rations, and fighting boredom when not fighting battles. Books allowed them to leave reality behind and travel in their minds to a happier place, find humor where there was none, and stay in touch with American life.

Thumbnail images of the original dust jackets appeared on the covers.

In 1943, the military began buying millions of paperbacks through the Council on Books in Wartime. The books were specially designed.
Paperbacks hadn’t been common until now. Publishers and booksellers preferred durable hardcovers with higher profit margins. But hardcovers added extra weight to the already overburdened servicemen.

The Armed Services Editions (ASEs) were sized to fit in pockets. They came in two sizes. One was 6½” x 4½” for pants pockets; the other was 5½” x 3⅜” for breast pockets. In thickness, they ranged from less than ⅛” to ¾”. Bound on the short side, each page featured two short columns of text, thought to be easier on battle-weary eyes.
Titles were selected for a range of variety. Authors of selections received bags of letters from grateful servicemen. With popular books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a waiting line developed among the men. As the war wound down, practical nonfiction titles were chosen to help the men plan for their futures.

Small, lightweight books traveled with the men to the front lines.

In the D-Day marshalling areas, books were distributed one book per man. In hospital, the feather-light books were easy for soldiers lying in bed to hold. Many men who hadn’t been readers came out of the war as readers for life.

Recommended Reading: When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Thinking About ... Daffodils

 I wandered lonely as as cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 
  william wordsworth

I don’t normally read poetry. That wasn’t always the case. In first grade I found a book of poems in the school library that fascinated me. In high school, dissecting poetry dampened any enthusiasm.
There are a few poems I love. High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.; The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; The White Cliffs by Alice Duer Miller; I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
I’ve loved daffodils as long as I can remember. When my Brownie Girl Scout troop graduated to Junior Girl Scouts, we needed an emblem, and I pushed hard for the daffodil, and succeeded.
The sunny daffodil’s trumpet is one of the first blooms to grace the Spring. Native to the Mediterranean area, and grown by the Greeks and the Romans, daffodils fell from favor and were forgotten until about 1629. A group of Englishmen rescued the daffodil from the weeds and put it back in the garden. As America settled and spread west, daffodils were “must have” in the garden. They even have their own American Daffodil Society.
Who can resist such a spritely flower? The memory of daffodils dancing in the breeze, outshining the sparkling lake beside them, brought poet William Wordsworth out of a pensive mood. He couldn’t help but be happy and laugh again.
What’s your favorite flower?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hogan's Heroes' Unlikely Germans

Hogan’s Heroes aired from 1965 to 1971, beginning twenty years after World War II. The television show received much criticism for trivializing war and Nazism. Many mistook it for a concentration camp, which it was not. Hogan and his men were prisoners of war in a luft stalag, a prison camp for airmen.
The prisoners routinely made their captors look like buffoons. They got away with atrocious schemes because of the ineptness of the Germans.
The actors portraying the Germans would certainly not have wished to sanction Germany’s actions during the war.
John Banner (Sgt. Schultz) was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1910. He was performing in Switzerland at the time of the Anschluss. As a Jew, he could not return home, and arrived in the United States as a refugee.
Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink) was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1920. When Hitler came to power, Werner’s father, symphony conductor Otto Klemperer, was condemned for being Jewish. Foreseeing the danger, Otto moved his family to Vienna in 1933, and to the United States in 1935. Werner set a condition on his role as Col. Klink. Klink could never come out the winner in a confrontation with the prisoners. If he did, Klemperer would quit.
Leon Askin (Gen. Burkhalter) was born in Vienna in 1907, and had worked with John Banner on stage before either emigrated. He had a contract with the Louise Dumont Playhouse in Germany when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933. Askin was dismissed for being Jewish. He was arrested and beaten by the Gestapo. After the Austrian Consul got him released, he fled to Paris. He worked there and in Vienna until the Anschluss. For six months, he was held in a French prison as an Austrian enemy until the American visa he’d applied for came through and he came to the U.S. in March, 1940.
Howard Caine (Major Hochstetter) was born in Nashville, but he too was Jewish. He took the role to portray the Gestapo agent as a madman. He provided a contrast between the ruthless Nazi and the bumbling fools (Klink and Schultz) who were not members of the Nazi Party.

Cast members Richard Dawson, Bob Crane, Robert Clary, John Banner, and Werner Klemperer

Of all the cast members, it was Robert Clary (French Corporal Louis LeBeau) who had the worst experience at the hands of the Germans during World War II. Born in Paris in 1926, he spent three years in concentration camps for being Jewish. He was the only survivor of thirteen family member sent to the camps.
All of them were asked how they could do Hogan’s Heroes. The television show was a parody never meant to portray a real prisoner-of-war camp. Not being based in reality, it featured absurd situations that remain funny to this day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Thinking About...Enoch

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Gen 5:24

            At age 65, Enoch became a father. After his son Methuselah’s birth, we walked faithfully with God for three hundred years. Hadn’t he walked with God before? Did the miracle of seeing himself reproduced in baby Methuselah drive him to faith?

            For three hundred years Enoch walked with God, and then God took him away. What was it about Enoch more than any other person that prompted God to bring him to heaven early without tasting death?

            That he “was no more” suggests he disappeared without warning, not like Elijah who was taken up in a whirlwind.

            What about Mrs. Enoch? Did she, too, walk with God?
Did she know what happened to her husband? Imagine she had supper waiting and he never came home. People at that time lived over nine hundred years. When Enoch was no more at age 365, his wife faced centuries alone.