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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our D-Day Fallen: Capt. Edward A. Peters


Captain Edward A. Peters
Capt. Edward A. Peters served in the HQ Company of 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of 101st Airborne Division when he was killed in action on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Like nearly every other paratrooper dropped on D-Day, Capt. Peters hit Normandy far from his intended drop zone. However, he was able to get a few of his men together and reach the regimental objective on D-Day. According to his Silver Star citation, his patrol was attacked by a large force of German troops and his leadership led the patrol out of harm's way.

Like a number of war stories, though, the tale of just how Capt. Peters perished depends on who you ask. The regiment's S-1 (personnel officer) included in his report from D-Day – the segment written around 1430 hours – that Capt. Peters led a patrol of five soldiers to take a German machine gun post. The report concluded that he, along with two of the other soldiers in his patrol, was killed by the fire of that German MG42. The regimental S-3's report confirms this story, noting that a Capt. Moon was to take Peters' place as the commanding officer of the regiment's headquarters company.

However, Capt. Peters' friend Sgt. W. R. Myers wrote to Peters' wife in a September 10, 1944 letter that he had witnessed her husband's death and that it was a German sniper rifle that killed him on D-Day.

Perhaps the confusion stemmed from the uncertainty surrounding Peters' death in the days following D-Day. The initial reports home and Capt. Peters' headstone incorrectly stated his death as June 9, 1944. The later reports corrected the date of death to June 6. His son, Edward A. Peters, III, assumed that the registrars received Peters' body on June 9 and, unsure of his actual date of death, recorded June 9.

Sgt. Myers said that Capt. Peters was “as close to his men as a brother. He always had a cheerful smile, a helping hand or helpful advice for anyone who was troubled...his engaging smile was too strong to be eliminated even by gunfire and death."

Capt. Peters was posthumously awarded the Silver Star on November 1, 1944. This citation includes the correct date for his death, June 6, 1944.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Family Day: A 1940s Festival

This Saturday, travel back in time to a bygone era with music, vendors, living history, games, tours and more!   The National D-Day Memorial presents its 1940s family day festival on Saturday, July 21st from 10AM-5PM, with a full day of World War II programs, activities, and displays! Scheduled activities include a 1940s fashion station, dozens of living historians, artifact displays, posing in your own propaganda poster, period vehicles, homefront activities, face painting, book-signings, craft vendors, and opportunities to meet veterans. More than 40 activity stations are planned, all family-friendly and hands-on.  

Live entertainment will occur throughout the day with guest musicians Rick Dellinger and Keith Campbell providing big band tunes. Karen Nichols will perform jazz selections and Ken and Ally will feature an array of acoustic folk music.  The lawn concert begins at 11am and ends at 3:30pm.



This year the National D-Day Memorial is also hosting Art Beltrone, appraiser and dealer in military artifacts and documents who will give unofficial appraisals of military artifacts and documents.  Bring your favorite military memorabilia and see what it is worth.  (Limited to one per person.)




Food will be available on site throughout the day.  Family Day 2012 is generously sponsored by Woodmen of the World Lodge 175 and the Kiwanis Club of Bedford. Students 18 and under are free.  Adults are $7.00 per person.  All proceeds benefit education initiatives at the Memorial.
So come on out for a day of family-friendly fun this Saturday at the National D-Day Memorial.  I look forward to seeing y'all then.
-Megan

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Two-Piece Swimsuit: Utilitarian Fashion

Clothing fashions of WWII have always been a source of fascination for me, not because I'm a fashion goddess and just have to know every detail of vintage fashions.  Instead, I'm intrigued by the way the circumstances dictate fashion.  Just as rationing affected recipes and eating habits during the war, rationing also influenced fashion to a great degree.   In the 40s, when Americans were faced with fabric shortages, hemlines became shorter, necklines became lower, and outfits became slimmer and more streamlined.  

McCall's Sewing Pattern for a Two-piece Swimsuit, circa 1944
In addition to everyday wear, bathing attire also changed.  For the first time in the United States, the two-piece swimsuit emerged presumably due, at least in part, to fabric rationing.  It should be noted, however, that modesty was still very much in still, so ladies' two-piece bathing suits still covered a far amount of skin.  One thing that is quite noticeable about two-piece swimwear at the time is that few, if any, revealed a lady's belly button!  What tasteful way to introduce the latest in swim fashion while maintaining a proper, lady-like appearance!
  
So next time you head to the beach, pool, or other summer watering hole, think about the history of fashion and the lasting impact of wartime rationing!

-Megan

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ration-Era Recipes: "Sugarless" Ice Cream

Ahhh. Ice Cream - one of my favorite things about summer, and in the midst of this heat wave in Central Virginia, I thought it was appropriate to test out a great ration-era ice cream recipe.  (The recipe was taken from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes which is an incredible compilation of family wartime recipes accompanied by fun facts about cooking with ration restrictions.)  

Last week we hosted our annual WWII day camp for 4th-6th grade students.  This is part of the reason for my lengthy blog silence as I've been working like a mad women to make sure everything was just right for our campers.  But I digress.... One of my favorite aspects of camp is that we serve ration-era snacks to our campers.  Some snacks are a huge hit (think butterscotch cupcakes) and others receive a less than enthusiastic response (oat sticks for instance).  This go round we served Sugarless Berry Ice Cream, and overall, it was well-liked by our young food critics.  The recipe is incredibly simple - although a little labor intensive - but the results were well worth the work.

Basically you take one can of sweetened condensed milk and mix it with a 1/4 cup lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Next you puree and strain roughly pint of any type of berry (I used strawberries).  Then you fold in the puree into the milk mixture.  Then, whip 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff and fold that into the existing mixture.  Finally, pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container and pop it into the freezer for a couple hours.

The result comes out looking like this:

Yum!

I would recommend allowing the ice cream to thaw for a few minutes before scooping or you just might bend your ice cream scoop.  But this recipe is so simple that you could whip it up in a few minutes, set it aside, and enjoy a delicious frozen treat in the sweltering July heat.

Enjoy!
Megan   

References:
Hayes, J. L. (2000). Grandma's wartime kitchen: World War II and the way we cooked.  St. Martin's Press: New York, NY.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WWII in Miniature: Father's Day Event


Here at the Memorial, we're always looking for ways to engage our guests in new ways and to help make history come to life.  Personally, I learn and appreciate history best when I've "experienced" aspects of the era through creative presentations.  So, this weekend we're giving you the opportunity to participate in such an event. 

This weekend, the National D-Day Memorial’s annual “WWII in Miniature” exhibit returns for one day only, Saturday, June 16th from 10AM-4PM – just in time for Father’s Day. This event is a perfect outing for WWII history buffs as it features dozens of World War II model planes, tanks, ships, jeeps, trains, historic figures, and more, all sponsored by the Roanoke Valley International Plastic Modelers Society. The historic models and battle scenes that will be on display are intricately designed and provide a broad perspective on the military during World War II. 

During the event, the public is also invited to vote for their favorite display. People’s choice and best-in-show awards will be presented at the end of the day.  This means that we're counting on your input to determine the best displays of the day.

Not a dad?  Don't worry!  The event is not only for dads; it's fun and educational for the whole family.  Specifically the Memorial will provide children’s activities from 10am to 2pm so our younger visitors can experience WWII history on their terms.  Additionally, in honor of Flag Day (which is June 14th), the Memorial will have Flag Day trivia and games for children and adults with special prizes for winners.  Regular admission fees apply. Please visit www.dday.org for more information, or call (540) 586-DDAY.

We hope you come and enjoy!
Megan
  
P.S. Don't forget to stop by the Memorial’s gift store and pick up unique Father’s Day gifts including books, pins, shirts, videos, music, D-Day souvenirs, art, and more.  The store also has a selection of Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine items for the veteran in your family. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Our D-Day Fallen: Coxswain Amin Isbir


For over eight years, Eric Montgomery has been on a mission to close the final chapter of his great uncle Amin Isbir’s  D-Day story.  Coxswain Amin Isbir, a member of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, was reported killed in action on June 8, 1944.  Montgomery questioned his date of death believing that he had been killed in action on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  Isbir’s commanding officer, Ensign Joe Vaghi, confirmed Montgomery’s suspicions. 

Onboard  Coast Guard operated LCI-L 88, Amin and his Company C8 shipmates were being transported along with members of the 5th Engineers Special Brigade and 1st Infantry Division soldiers to the Easy Red One sector of Omaha Beach.  During the landing, the ship came under heavy fire, losing one of its two ramps along with a number of the soldiers from the Big Red One.  Beachmaster Vaghi and Isbir were some of the first men down the remaining port side ramp.  A short time later, as they were placing a fallen soldier onto a stretcher, a shell from a German railway gun five miles away landed onto the beach hurling a jeep into the air.  The jeep landed on Isbir killing him instantly.  Ensign Vaghi was knocked unconscious from the blast.  Due to continued hostilities, Isbir’s body was not recovered until two days later and his death was listed as June 8, 1944.   Isbir was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery and the Purple Heart. 

Isbir’s tombstone in the Normandy American Cemetery and military records listed his date of death as June 8.  Since his death was recorded as June 8, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation did not include him on the Memorial Wall after its initial research (as the Foundation only researched and recorded June 6 fatalities).  In 2009, 65 years after Isbir’s death, Montgomery was able to present the American Battle Monuments Commission with substantial evidence to replace the misdated stone with a corrected one.  During the 2012 D-Day Commemoration Ceremony, the plaque containing the addition of Isbir’s name will be officially dedicated to the Memorial Wall at the National D-Day Memorial. 

The National D-Day Memorial has confirmed 4,413 Allied fatalities on June 6. Of that number, 2,499 were Americans. The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is the only institution in the world to research the name of every soldier, sailor, airman, and coast guardsman killed on June 6, 1944. 

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Special thanks to April, our VP for Operations and Education, for her contribution to this week's post.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Loss of a Friend: John Robert "Bob" Slaughter


John Robert "Bob" Slaughter
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is deeply saddened by the death of our dear friend and founder John Robert Slaughter who passed away yesterday, May 29, 2012.  Bob brought the same energy, tenacity, and drive to the creation of the D-Day Memorial that he displayed 68 years ago on Omaha Beach, and throughout the war. 

Bob Slaughter entered the service in 1940 at the tender age of 15 (after convincing his parents that he wanted to join the National Guard and earn extra money for household expenses).  By the age of 19, he found himself engaged in the largest amphibious assault in history on the beaches of Normandy, France.   Bob served with Company D, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division.  Company D was a heavy weapons company that supported rifle companies in combat.  Slaughter was wounded twice while in France and was discharged in July 1945 at which point he returned to his home in Roanoke, Virginia.  He married in 1947, and he and his wife Margaret had two children.  Over the years, however, memories of what took place on that stretch of sand in Normandy continued to haunt him. 

In 1987, Bob Slaughter declared “We have no gathering place, no meeting hall, no memorial, where our country can collect its memories and the lessons we learned from D-Day.”  Shortly thereafter, Slaughter, along with several other supporters, formed a committee to raise money and search for an appropriate location for a small memorial. 

After visiting Normandy on several occasions, the vision for a memorial took shape and in 1989, Slaughter’s small committee introduced a seventeen-member board of directors.  The committee faced a series of challenges and a discouraged board was near disbandment when a resurgence of interest in D-Day, due to the 50th anniversary in 1994, led to increased publicity and new momentum. 

Shortly thereafter, Bedford City officials donated eleven acres of land to the D-Day Foundation for the site of the proposed memorial and an additional seventy-seven acres was purchased by the Foundation to protect the site from further development. 

Mr. Slaughter served as the Foundation’s Chairman from 1994-2001.  Congress also adopted legislation designating the site a national memorial in 1994.  The Foundation hired its first employee in 1996 and the Memorial was officially dedicated by President George W. Bush on 6 June 2001. 

Plaque marking the Bob Slaughter Youth Learning Center
In 2007, Bob authored Omaha Beach and Beyond, an auto-biography, chronicling his wartime experience and the creation of the Memorial.  In 2008, the John Robert Slaughter Youth Learning Center was dedicated at the Memorial.  That area has always been and continues to be the hub of the Foundation’s education initiatives.  Last year the Foundation celebrated Bob’s achievements by welcoming him as Director Emeritus.

Bob Slaughter was a very special man and one who was respected and admired.  In his book in 2007, Bob noted “Now that I am in my eighties, I am well aware that the long march that began so many years ago is about to come to a halt.  I am proud to say my generation helped save the world from tyranny, prevent the extinction of an entire group of people, and preserve the democratic freedoms of our wonderful American way of life.  I wouldn’t change a thing, except to wish that my dear army buddies could be here to see and touch the magnificent National D-Day Memorial that was built for us all.”

While Bob will be deeply missed, his legacy is preserved in perpetuity at the National D-Day Memorial.  The Foundation Board, volunteers and staff extend their deep and heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and his many, many friends.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our D-Day Fallen: PFC James Burns

The next few days and weeks here at the Memorial are very busy and exciting times, but they are also very solemn times.  The D-Day Memorial, like many other sites around the country, will host a special ceremony on Memorial day to remember the nation's fallen; and while it is not a national holiday, we also host another commemorative event on the 68th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th.  In honor of the solemnity of the next few weeks leading up to these events, we will feature a few stories of fallen D-Day heroes on our blog.

I would also like to extended a huge "thank you" to our summer intern, Kaitlin, who compiled the information and drafted the text for this post on James Burns.

    *****************************************

James Franklin Burns was born on July 23, 1923 in Hamilton, Texas.  Before WWII broke out, he worked on his family farm after completing an 8th grade education.  On January 15, 1943, James received his draft letter, and by 1944 PFC James Burns was a bona fide member of the US Army's 146th Combat Engineers.

The 146th found themselves in England preparing for the impending invasion of France.  The night before the D-Day Invasion James spoke with a friend, Carroll Guidry, and made the remark that he did not think he would make it through the invasion.  Guidry brushed off the comment and thought nothing of such a dark premonition.  On the first day of the invasion, the 146th was tasked with removing obstacles in the sea and on land.  While working towards their objective on the beach, a sand dune collapsed burying men from the 146th battalion including James Burns.

Guidry watched in horror as the dune collapsed then rushed in to help others dig men out of the sand.  While most of the men were rescued from the disaster, James remained unaccounted for.  Soon enough, someone standing in the sand pile felt something beneath the surface and started digging; it was James Burns.  Sadly, James' premonition proved true as he died that day in the sands of Normandy.  Carroll Guidry recalls laying next to the body of his friend, James, and cried as the battle raged on.  PFC Burns was the only causality from this collapsed sand dune.

James Burns was initially buried in the first cemetery along Omaha Beach, but upon request from his parents, he was later laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.  James' commander also sent a letter to the Burns family praising James for his valor and commitment to duty regardless of circumstance.  Years later, at the 50th Anniversary Commemoration in Normandy, William Burns, James' younger brother, accepted the French Freedom Medal on his older brother's behalf.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Digging for Victory

One of my favorite aspects of springtime at the Memorial is our annual Victory Garden project.  Every year we select a group of local students to participate in planning, planting, tending, and harvesting the Memorial's own Victory Garden.  We collaborate with local Master Gardeners, 4-H agents, and the Bedford Cooperative Extension to teach students about nutrition, environmental science, and the farm to table process.  I am always amazed by the eagerness of our students to learning about gardening in our hands-on format. 

The Memorial's victory garden is a representation of the victory gardens common on the American Homefront in WWII.  Victory gardens first became popular in WWI in the midst of food rationing, and when war broke out again in the 1940s and rationing was re-introduced, Americans across the country turned to their Victory Gardens to supplement their diets.  By the end of WWII, over 20 million victory gardens were growing nation-wide!

Victory gardens were planted during the world wars to ensure an adequate food supply for civilians and troops.  Many different agencies and organizations worked together to provide land, instruction, and seeds for Americans to grow food.  Across the country, people plowed backyards, vacant lots, parks, and even baseball fields to set out gardens.  Adults and children tended their gardens in order to harvest plenty of vegetables. 

The goal of a victory garden was to produce enough vegetables for a family and their neighbors for the summer.  Any excess produce was canned and saved for the winter and early spring until next year's harvest.

Happy Gardening!
Megan

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living History Weekend

This weekend, the National D-Day Memorial is offering an opportunity for visitors to experience WWII history in a very fun, engaging, and unique way.  On Saturday, April 28th historical interpreters with the 29th Living History Association and the 82nd Airborne will turn out in full battle gear to show the public what soldiers did, carried, and thought about to prepare for the invasion of Europe.

Visitors can view WWII era German artifacts, attend a briefing on the invasion, examine weapons and equipment, walk inside a period command tent, learn about the life of a medic by viewing period artifacts, meet WWII veterans, see WWII radio controlled airplanes on display, and watch a WWII model train demonstration.

Regularly scheduled tours are offered throughout the day and a food vendor will be on site.  The National D-Day Memorial’s living history event is scheduled for Saturday, April 28th from 10am to 5pm.   Regular fees apply.  If you need any further information, feel free to check our website, www.dday.org or give us a call at (540)586-3329.

Hope to see you then!
Megan

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ration Era Recipe: Faux Whipped Cream

So our busy season has officially started at the National D-Day Memorial, and we've been running around like crazy people these past few weeks making sure that everything is in ship-shape for our visitors!  So the poor blog has felt a little left-out and perhaps even a tad neglected, so I decided to make things right by featuring a ration-era recipe this week.

I chose a very simple recipe from the ABCs of Wartime Canning that took very little time to whip up.  (Remember, I said its our busy season.)  I also thought this recipe would provide a perfect compliment to all of the refreshing springtime desserts that seem to crop up this time of year.  The recipe is for faux whipped cream. 

The prep time for the recipe was minimal, but it did need to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set up, so if you're brave enough to test it out, you may want to keep that time frame in mind.  What made this recipe so phenomenal is that it transforms average table cream into a light, fluffy dessert topping. So here's what you need for the faux whipped cream: table cream (I used a pint of light cream), plain gelatin, water, and vanilla (if necessary).

Here's what you do:
1. In a small cup, place 2 tsp. plain gelatin into 4 Tbsp. cold water
2. Set the cup with the gelatin mixture into a shallow bowl of hot water.
3. Stir the gelatin and cold water until it dissovles

4. Pour one cup of cream into a medium-large bowl

5. Slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the cream


6. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream on high until it thickens a little
7. Add vanilla and/or sugar if desired
8. Place mixture into the refrigerator and let set for at least an hour
9. Serve!

I took a big risk and prepared the whipped cream on a night that company was coming over.  My unsuspecting company never knew I used a ration-era whipped cream recipe for their crepe topping.  In fact a few people even commented on how delicious the "homemade" whipped cream was.  So, I guess we can consider this recipe a success!

Enjoy!
Megan

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Game Kit: States By Shape

So this week I decided to return to our trusty "Game Kit for Men and Women in the Service" (featured in a post from a few months ago).  Much to their relief, I gave my family members a break this go round.  Instead I subjected some of my co-workers to this pocket full of fun

The game we played, named "My Country 'Tis of Thee", asks its players to identify states and their capitals based on shape alone - not location.  Playing the game quickly took me back to my elementary school geography quizzes.  The fact that my sharp 5th grade mind could rattle off all 50 states and their accompanying capitals in less than two minutes was a great source of pride.  Naturally, I thought this game would be a piece of cake. Instead, I ended up eating a few slices of humble pie.

As I competed with my coworkers to prove who was more geographically adept, I soon realized that identifying states by their shape alone was much harder than I originally thought.  So here's my challenge to you: try to beat my score.


Here are the instructions for the game:
   1. Take out a sheet of paper and number 1-32 on your paper.
   2. Using the game card (on the left), identify each state and write in your answer next to the corresponding number on your answer sheet.
   3. Once the state is identified (or after you've made your "educated guess"), write in the state's capital next to the state's name.
   4. Once you've completed the game, scroll down for the answer key.  Give yourself one point for each state correctly identified.  Give yourself two points if you also knew the state's capital.
   5. Tally your points!  If you correctly identify each state & capital, you'll end up with 64 points. 


Now I know this may be intimidating for some, but I scored a whopping 41 points when I played.  If you beat me (without cheating) let me know and I'll be sure to post your score for all to see!

Good Luck!
Megan




Answer Key:




Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lunchbox Lecture: Power of Persuassion

I apologize for my "radio silence" last week, but I'm back and ready to talk about, in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of WWII: propaganda.  I've always been fascinated with propaganda and its power to influence and motivate people in ways both good and bad. 

Next week the National D-Day Memorial will host a presentation on propaganda's influence on the American Home Front.  
The presentation will focus on how propaganda inspired the public and evoked powerful emotions on the war.  This is an appropriate study for the month of March, Women's History Month, since during WWII, images of women were frequently used in propaganda. Some displayed women as independent, strong, and patriotic, while others illustrated the idea that the enemy posed a direct threat to women and children on the homefront. A soldier only had to look at a poster to answer the question, “what are we fighting for?”  

For your enjoyment, I've included one of my favorite propaganda pieces from the war ...
One reason why I adore this poster is because of a personal encounter I had with a WWII veteran of the submarine service.  A few years ago, while working in the old military tent that we use for field trips at the Memorial, this particular veteran and his family wandered in to look around.  After surveying the contents of the tent, he noticed this poster hanging on the wall.  

He turned to me and said, "There's something wrong with that picture."
"What's that?" I asked, believing he had a very serious concern to bring to my attention.  
He replied, "When I joined the submarine service, no girl ever hugged my neck like that."  

We both had a good chuckle at his expense. 

What is so interesting and powerful about the familiar and iconic pieces of WWII propaganda, is that they strike an emotional chord with people.  Still today, people view these images and feel encouraged, guilty, outraged, hopeful, or inspired.

The lecture will take place at noon, Wednesday, March 7th, at the Bedford Area Welcome Center.  Admission is free, but donations are always happily accepted!

I hope you enjoy!
- Megan

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Killer Pancakes

With Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, or whatever else you choose to call it) just around the corner, I though it would be appropriate to discuss pancakes.  No, I won't be featuring a recipe this week.  Instead, I thought I'd highlight something a little more exciting: explosive powder!  You might be wondering: "What's the correlation between pancakes and explosive powder?"  The answer: "Aunt Jemima".

 "Aunt Jemima", as it was known among operatives, was an explosive powder used by the OSS in WWII.  (The OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was the precursor to the CIA and existed during the war to gather intelligence and support resistance efforts against the Axis.)  As you might have guessed, the powder was nicknamed based on its resemblance to the ever popular ready-made pancake mix.  It was invented by George Kistiakowsky who was a "soldier-turned-chemist" of Russian descent also know for his work in Los Alamos.

"Aunt Jemima" explosive powder was designed to look and act like flour.  It could be baked and consumed without exploding, although ingesting it was generally not encouraged.  The explosive powder, once perfected, was packaged in flour bags and was easily smuggled to the Chinese resistance fighting the Japanese.

So, as you enjoy your pancakes and beignets this Mardi Gras, you'll have a little something extra to chew on.

-Megan

References:
Central Intelligence Agency. (2007). "Weapons and spy gear". Retrieved from http://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monograms/oss/art08.htm.
Hunt, E. H. & Aunapu, G. (2007). American spy: My secret history in the CIA, Watergate & beyond. Wiley Pub.

O'Donnell, P.K. (2004). Operatives, spies, & saboteurs: The unknown story of the men and women of World War II's OSS. Free Press. 

Wang, A. (2008). In Sputnik's shadow: the President's Science Advisory Committee and Cold War America. Rutgers University Press.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Valor of Lieutinent Vernon Baker

I thought it would be fitting to submit a post in honor of Black History Month.  Sadly, relatively little information exists on African-American service during WWII, although the African-American contribution to the war effort was valiant and note-worthy.  One reason for the scarcity of information is the fact that during WWII the military was still a segregated institution.  In fact, African-Americans were barred from combat service until 1941, and even then, only one all-black Army division saw infantry combat in the European theater.  

92nd Infantry Division Patch
This division was the famed and now celebrated 92nd Infantry Division known as the Buffalo soldiers.  The 92nd was sent into combat for the first time during WWII late in the summer of 1944.  The division landed in Italy and made its way through the country until they encountered German troops in September of the same year.  The Buffalo soldiers continued in their quest to push the Germans farther and farther into Northern Italy.

In late Spring 1945, near Viareggio, Italy, Lt. Vernon Baker of the 370th Regimental Combat Team, 92nd Infantry Division, proved his devotion to his country through an incredible act of valor.  Lt. Baker single-handedly killed 9 Germans in a single day during a siege of an enemy stronghold.  After the attack subsided, Baker retrieved the dog tags of all 19 men killed in his regiment and returned each dog tag to headquarters that evening.

Lt. Vernon Baker
For his service, Lt. Baker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, but in 1992 the U.S. Army conducted an investigation into the qualifications outlined for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.  The Army determined that several African-American servicemen who were eligible to receive the Medal of Honor were initially passed over based on racial discrimination.  Finally, in January 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded Lt. Baker the Medal of Honor - which he should have received decades earlier.

 
-Megan


References:
Orso, A. ed. (2008). Armchair reader WWII: Extraordinary facts and stories. Lincolnwood, IL: West Side Publishing

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ration-Era Potato Soup


This past Monday in Central Virginia was a dreary, cold, rainy day - perfect for a bowl of steaming soup.  So I decided to turn to the trusty "ABCs of Wartime Canning" cookbook for a ration-era inspired meal.  I found just what I was looking for under the low-ration points category: Creamy Potato Soup.  Perhaps one of the most enticing aspects of this recipe was that I had everything I needed in my pantry to put the meal together.  Also, this recipe was very budget-friendly and took less than 30 minutes to prep, cook, and serve.  Clearly, you can see that I was quite impressed with all aspects of this culinary experiment.  

The only real prep work involved with the recipe was peeling and thinly slicing five potatoes and an onion.  The rest of the steps involved dumping ingredients in the stock pot and stirring contents together.  If you decide to test this recipe out yourself (which I sincerely hope you will), don't be deceived by the potato to water ratio.  I seriously contemplated adding more water than the recipe called for so that all contents in the pot could be covered.  Thankfully I resisted my urge, and the results came out beautifully.  The potatoes and onions cooked down nicely and made the liquid thick and starchy.  Then the addition of flour and milk further enhanced the creaminess of the soup.  



My only complaint with this recipe was that it was far to bland.  After I tasted the initial results, I liberally added more salt and pepper, and I even threw in some chili powder to kick the flavor up a bit.  The end result was delicious.  This could easily become a go-to meal in our house since it was so easy, cheap, and tasty. 


Enjoy!
Megan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lunchbox Lecture: Combat Medics


As a compliment to next week’s lecture on combat medics in WWII, I decided to highlight one medic in particular.  And since the Memorial is located only a stone’s throw away from Lynchburg, it is especially fitting that this medic was a Lynchburg native. 

PFC. Desmond T. Doss
Desmond T. Doss, born and raised in Lynchburg, Virginia, was a combat medic in WWII.  Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, refused combat service for religious reasons yet still wanted to serve his country which is why he opted for medical service.  He was assigned to the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division’s medical attachment as a Private First Class.  The 77th Division fought through the Pacific in WWII, and Doss faithfully tended its wounded along the way.



Photo of one of the cliffs on Okinawa


There are many miraculous stories of Doss’ heroism, but one stood out to me as I read about his exploits.  In late spring 1945, Doss was with the 77th Division on Okinawa.  A contingent of soldiers made their way up one of the steep slopes of the island as they battled with the Japanese.  Suddenly the Americans found themselves trapped and under heavy fire.  Some 50 or so men were able to retreat, but the rest were left stranded and many of them were wounded.  Doss, always at the side of his fighting comrades, stayed behind to treat the wounded as the enemy inched closer.  Using a rope and strecher, Doss managed to lower wounded soldiers one at a time down the steep 400-ft. embankment to safety.  Doss is credited with saving approximately 75 lives in just that single day.  For this action, and many others like it, Doss was awarded the nation’s highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  On October 12, 1945, Desmond T. Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive such a distinction.  

To learn more about Desmond Doss and other heroic combat medics, come out to the Bedford Area Welcome Center next Wednesday, January 25th, at noon.  Hear from local historian and great friend to the D-Day Memorial, Hugh Scrogham, as he shares about combat medics in WWII.  In addition to the lecture, he will display many artifacts from his personal collection of WWII medical equipment.  This program is free to the public, but donations are greatly appreciated.

I hope to see you there!
Megan 

References:
http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/wwII-a-f.html

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lunchbox Lecture Preview: The Rochambelles


During the winter months, we try to offer patrons indoor opportunities to expand their knowledge of WWII history through our lunchbox lecture series.  This winter we have several programs planned, and I will be giving y’all a sneak preview of what’s coming in future weeks.  The first lecture in the series takes place next Wednesday, Jan. 18th at the Bedford Area Welcome Center at noon.  Our director of education will discuss the daring story of the Rochambelles: the only women’s group assigned to a combat unit in the European theater. 

So here’s a breif background on the Rochambelles to whet your appetite…

The Rochambelles served under the French General Leclerc’s famed Second Armored Division.  In July 1944, they crossed the English Channel to Normandy and worked tirelessly to save soldiers’ lives by providing an ambulance service that lasted until the end of the war.  They were among the first to enter Paris in August 1944 during the liberation and from November to February 1945, the Rochambelles assisted soldiers at the front line at Strasbourg, Erstein, Lorraine, the Colmar Pocket, and Grussenhein.

The Rochambelles faced constant danger.  Driving ambulances at night without proper directions or the use of headlights, in territory that constantly shifted hands, proved treacherous throughout their time in Europe.  Mortars, shrapnel, and machine gun fire were everyday occurrences - not to mention the other horrors of war.  At the end of the Alsatian campaign, one of the Rochambelles’ remaining ambulances had thirty-nine shrapnel holes.   Miraculously, only one Rochambelle was killed during the war; however, one went missing and was never found and six were wounded.  By the end of the war in Europe, the Rochambelles were held in high esteem by their comrades and considered invaluable to the division even though they initially faced resistance.

So if you’re in the Central Virginia area, we hope you can join us next week!  Admission is free, but donations are always appreciated.  For more information, please visit our website at www.dday.org.

-Megan

References:
Hampton, E. (2006). Women of valor: The Rochambelles on the WWII front. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, NY.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yummy Meatless Spaghetti

During the War, the government published a series of pamphlets to encourage Americans to stick to rationing and to keep morale high in spite of wartime shortages.  One such publication is "The ABCs of Wartime Canning".  Now most of the recipes & tips in the handout relate to, of course, canning, and not just any canning but canning of jams, fruits, vegetables, and even meat!

Some of the recipes had nothing to do with canning.  I chose one of those.  Admittedly, I played it safe since I just didn't think I was ready to take on jarred fried chicken.  So I went with a low ration point recipe for meatless spaghetti.

The recipe was simple, but I came out somewhat bland.  So, I took the liberty of adding roughly a tsp. of black paper and 2 tsp. of Italian seasoning.  With the few minor alterations, it came out tasting great!  My husband and our little guy both loved it, and I heard no complaints at dinner time.

Here's the recipe:
 The ingredients...
... and it's simmering...

Done!
Enjoy!
Megan