World War II

Eyewitness to History provides a personal account of the invasion of Normandy, which occurred 66 years ago. This day remained big news for decades, and now seems to have been largely forgotten. June 6th still looms large in the minds of the people who lived through WWII.


Major Steve Hutchinson was killed by a roadside bomb May 10, 2009 outside Basra, just three months before he was supposed to return home to Scottsdale, Ariz. At 60, he was the oldest combat death in either conflict.

He was a decorated Vietnam vet with a doctorate in psychology. The father of two grown daughters, he had wanted to rejoin the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, but listened to his wife, who didn’t want him to go. After she died of cancer in 2006, Hutchison re-enlisted, with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as an adviser to Iraqi forces.

Hutchison’s unit found Laia at just 1 month old in Basra. The local vet said he would have to euthanize the dog unless they adopted her as a mascot. As policy, soldiers are not supposed to adopt strays, and Hutchison defied orders to get rid of the dog, even moving her from base to base. – Laia’s Journey

Watch the video of the dog’s arrival in the U.S. at this link.

Major Steve Hutchinson probably returned to the States with less fanfare than his dog, Laia. The two Bush administrations were admonished for not allowing the press to photograph the coffins of fallen soldiers as they returned from our two most recent wars. This practice of censoring information was not new. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime staff also controlled war time information that reached the American public. “Until September, 1943, government censors blocked the publication of all photographs showing dead American soldiers.” (History Matters)

In 2009, President Obama finally allowed photographs to be published of the coffins returning from war, (The Photo Dictionary). Out of all the wars in recent memory, the horrors and daily trauma that our soldiers face in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to touch the American public the least. Through censorship and lack of news coverage, the war is truly “Over There” for Americans, and almost completely out of sight. To date, 5,456 soldiers have died. Not a huge number compared to past wars, but 5,456 men and women too many.

The above image of the flag raising at Iwo Jima during World War II is iconic, showing the heroic  moment of battle at its peak.   Three of the six soldiers who raised the flag while being fired upon – Strank, Block and Sousley – would die shortly after the photo was taken. Such images are inspirational and instill a sense of pride in the viewer. These men were/are clearly heros. Images like the civil war soldiers who died in Antietam (below) fill us with despair. During the war between the states, over 620, 000 soldiers were wounded or dead. Images of the battlefield dead were distributed uncensored. Many were too gruesome to contemplate or to put on this blog. There were no silent rules censoring these horrific images, and one can imagine the despair that the families of soldiers must have felt when they saw them.

In the past year, a young man, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, died after being shot in Iraq. The AP distributed grainy images of the wounded and bleeding marine when he was still alive. Not only was there a hue and cry, but the father of the young man felt that the image was gratuitous, dishonored his son, and was painful to see beyond bearing. Yet, that one image (see it in this link, AP and the Death of a Marine) gave me more pause than the numbers of dead that are so casually mentioned as faceless numbers.

I want to take this opportunity to all the brave men and women who are serving in our armed forces and to thank them for keeping us safe. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and salute you.

Thank you, soldiers. We can't say it enough.

Miep Gies was one of at least four Dutch people who helped to hide the Frank family in Amsterdam during World War II. Here then, is the story in documentary form from the point of view of Miep, a young woman at the time. She was 98 when the documentary was made.

Find the rest of the documentary in the sidebar.

This stark,beautifully produced, and wonderfully acted film is a must see. Go to the PBS Masterpiece Classic site for more information.

This short clip shows a fleeting image of Anne looking down from a balcony –

More links

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It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again”. -Annelies Marie Frank (Anne Frank) from Diary of Anne Frank. Doubleday paperback edition, 1952

Jeff Werner writes about his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and of his impressions.  I went two years ago and was amazed at how intricately the secret annex was designed, with narrow steps leading to small bedrooms and a rather surprisingly spacious living area. The thought of eight people having to live quietly in these confined quarters for over two years is overwhelming when you walk through these  rooms. It must have been stifling and claustrophobic for all involved, but especially for the three teenagers who had no escape from the adults.

Cut away view of the Anne Frank House

Image of house – Art Engineering Company

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