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Seeing as we are just a few days from Christmas, I thought this was a fitting story to share (even though the original is a couple of years old) since it took place around the same date in 1943. The story is that of a B-17 crew that was trying to make its way back to England after being heavily damaged during a bombing mission over mainland Europe. The crew was injured and the plane was flying lower and slower than usual, making them a giant target for German anti-aircraft gunners and fighter pilots. The German fighter pilot who rose to intercept them instead, incredibly spared them.

As Stigler’s fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him.

He looked closer at the tail gunner. He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood. Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber. Its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns knocked out. He could see men huddled inside the plane tending the wounds of other crewmen.

Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder.

You can read the full story on CNN or buy the book, A Higher Call, from Amazon (Referral link).

It’s a great story and a reminder of the grace and mercy that we can show each other everyday, even in the hardest of circumstances.

The NY Times piece on what is happening to the Nazi sites in the historic city of Nuremberg is a look into the conundrum of up-keeping history while not honoring it.

In this city, the rallying point for Hitler, is the largest piece of real estate bequeathed by the Nazis, and a burden only increasing with time.

First comes the sheer physical size: a parade ground bigger than 12 football fields. A semicircular Congress Hall that dwarfs any structure at Lincoln Center. Great Street, more than one-and-a-half miles long, with no structures on either side — a modern Appian Way where the storm troopers strutted between the old Nuremberg of Albrecht Dürer and the rallies idolizing the Führer.

Then there are its troubled history and the far stickier question of what to do with it. “These are not simple memorials,” said Mathias Pfeil, chief curator of historic sites in Bavaria, “because they symbolize a time we can only wish had never happened.”

I have visited Nuremberg quite a few times and the Nazi sites always strike me as a strange intersection of history, hatred, and remembrance. Last time I visited I was with my dad and grandfather and there happened to be a heavy metal festival taking place on the site, with Metallica being the headliner. It was strange to hear metal being played as you read about the horrors of the Holocaust. During my second visit to the city, I even wrote in the caption for this photo about the strange dichotomy at the Nazi rally grounds.

Hitler stood here multiple times to give speeches during Nazi rallies. On this particular day it’s being used for a children’s marathon. The German people are torn on how to use these landmarks, they cannot be forgotten, yet they should not be glorified.

Zeppelinfeld Stadium
So where is the line between teaching younger generations about the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich and glorifying it? The story touches on the fact that most Nurembergers under the age of 25 have no historical context with which to view the rally grounds. They have always been there during their lifetime and associated with nothing that resembled war or struggle.

If you do visit Nuremberg, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center at the Nazi Rally Grounds) is a fascinating and sobering look at how the Nazi party took hold in Nuremberg, Munich, and finally Berlin. The center also tells the story of the Holocaust, the eventual loss by Germany, and the Nuremberg trials. It is on the site of the rally grounds and you can walk around them after visiting the exhibit.

Dresden Frauenkirche

We were halfway through our meal before the flight attendant serving us became talkative. The Lufthansa flight attendants on long haul flights are always a little reserved until they know the customer is alright with conversation and even then, they are focused on their jobs. She asked whether or not Frankfurt was our final destination. When I said “no” and explained we were going to Dresden, I got received a puzzled look. “Christmas Market”, I said. Then she understood.

Between the nights of February 13 and February 15 1945, four raids were flown against the city of Dresden by British and American air crews. 3,900 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices led to a firestorm that engulfed the entire city center, leaving an estimated 25,000 people dead and reducing much of Dresden to rubble. To this day the justification of the indiscriminate bombing of the city is still called into question (by this time in the war, the USAAF had focused on strategic bombing of specific military targets).


At first glance, Dresden does not look like much. A simple Altstadt (old town) on one side of the Elbe River and a more modern and in some cases, Soviet looking, new[ish] town on the other side. Lining the river are a myriad of historic buildings, most rebuilt using the rubble from the 1945 bombings. The city is not well known to Americans, except for those who happen to use the stop to stretch their legs while taking the train from Prague to Berlin or maybe to visit the transparent Volkswagen factory. But once you dig into Dresden a little, you find a very kind people very happy to have visitors gracing their city.

Our trip took us to Dresden in mid-December, when the Christmas Markets are in full swing. Europeans flock to Germany to visit the country’s plethora of markets, but Dresden gets special attention being the largest and oldest of the markets. Having first opened in 1434 and known as the Striezelmarkt, entering the market is a little overwhelming. The smell of sausage, Glühwein, and Lebkuchen fill the air while people mill about with their children and extended family. From time to time a group of carolers starts singing and all of the people around join in the chorus. Buy a cup of Glühwein and a few slices Christstollen, a bread with dried fruit that melts in your mouth, and just enjoy the market. A special treat is the parade, known as Bergparade, put on by miners from the surrounding mountain communities. The miners chant and sing while walking around the Altstadt. Seeing all of the different mining “companies” was our first experience in Dresden on the night we arrived and it was a great introduction to the spirit of the city and of the Christmas Markets in general.

Sausage, Sauerkraut, and Bread

Other attractions in Dresden? We listened to an organ concert in the rebuilt Frauenkirche, visited the “Hygiene” museum, and enjoyed a few cafes and people watching around the city. Dresden is very walkable and the tram system is great for those further jaunts around town. There are a number of good brewpubs/beer halls, including Brauhaus Am Waldschlösschen and Feldschlößchen-Stammhaus. Needless to say, a few days in Dresden are well worth it, especially before Christmas.

Dresden has had a turbulent history, but the city and the people have weathered it well. If you are ever in eastern Germany, a visit to this fine Florence on the Elbe is worth it.

I write about this day almost every year, but it’s a day that deserves such an honor.

My post from 2006 is probably the best reminder of that day, so I am re-posting it here.

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944

The uncertainty of the success of the invasion and the possible repercussions if the invasion was a failure is clearly on the mind of the President. 12,000 Allied soldiers gave their lives that day, and many more did the same until the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945. Their sacrifice and the service of those who made it home can never be overstated.

It is difficult to write about this day in history. So, I’ll let the President do the talking. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress, given on December 8, 1941. Let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor and those who, because of the attack, would go on to fight and die in World War II.

USS Arizona - Pearl Harbor Memorial

To the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.

– Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Those words, spoken after the attack 68 years ago today, marked the beginning of the end of World War II. Yamamoto knew that even though he had partially disabled the naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, the resolve of the American people would strengthen their willingness to fight. Rather than relying on his advisor’s quick assessment from a strategic point of view, Yamomoto remembered his time at Harvard University to understand what was to come.

Pearl Harbor War Widows Go Into Military Work

Hollem, Howard R.,, photographer. Pearl Harbor widows have gone into war work to carry on the fight with a personal vengeance, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Virginia Young (right) whose husband was one of the first casualties of World War II, is a supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of the state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill.

The ultimate sacrifice of 2,345 military personnel and 57 civilians would not be in vain.

Today is a day that our service men and women from World War II should be remembered, thanked, and admired. If you have children, teach them about today and the great sacrifice of a generation to insure that the United States prevailed and lived on.

Steven Spielberg, HBO, and Tom Hanks have teamed up again to make The Pacific, a follow-up to their mini-series Band of Brothers, that focuses on, as its name suggests, the Pacific theater of operations during WWII. I have posted the first trailer below. If someone in it looks familiar, it’s probably Joseph Mazzello, who played Tim Murphy, the boy in Jurassic Park.

My hope is that this mini-series does as much justice to those men who fought the Japanese as Band of Brothers did to Easy Company, the entire 101st Airborne, and those who served in the European theater. The trailer looks like it will.

Today marks the anniversary of the turning point on the Western Front during WWII. Some will say that the battles in North Africa marked the turning point and others will reply with mentions of Sicily and Salerno, but the truth of the matter is, the events that took place on June 6, 1944, from the beachheads to the hedgerows, changed the course of the war to a direction from which the Axis powers could not recover.

Watching the ceremonies that took place today in France made my eyes water. I saw war veterans being stopped in the street and asked for their autographs, being treated like royalty, and being thanked. The news station interviewed some of them and their humbleness was unbelievable, most explained that they were just doing their part and that the ones who deserve our thanks are the ones who did not come back. Those who paid the ultimate price do deserve our gratitude, but the ones who lived through the war deserve to know that their  hard work is not unnoticed and was not in vain.

The generation that stormed the beaches that morning is slowly dying, we need to thank them and take as much time as we can to know their stories.

June 6, 1944 changed history. Americans, British, Canadians, French, and Australians stormed the beaches of Normandy and parachuted into places like Merville and Ranville. They fought for every inch of beach and in doing so, started a chain reaction to overthrow the evil that had infected Europe.