There Are No “Boots,” Only Men and Women

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

 

No one who serves is a “boot on the ground.” That is a phrase for politicians and bean counters. Each is a man or woman, someone’s child, spouse, sibling, lover, and friend. Each lives, loves, bleeds, and dies. Each commits his or her life to the service of our great nation, risking all.

 

Poppies

 

Our profound thanks to all who serve in the military and clandestine services, allowing our nation to enjoy peace and prosperity at home.

You are, each of you, a blessing. Our prayers are for you on this

Veterans Day.

 

 

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HACKSAW RIDGE–A True Tale, Truly Told

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

HACKSAW RIDGE is the true story of WWII hero Pfc. Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

 

hacksaw-ridge-movie-poster-one-man-stayed-2016

 

When Doss was drafted into the US Army during WWII, he chose to serve as a combat medic rather than go to a CO work camp, and he fought for the right to do so without carrying a weapon. During the Battle of Okinawa, the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment. A bloody battle ensued, resulting in heavy casualties driving the Battalion back. Doss refused to seek cover. He carried seventy-five injured men off the fire-swept battlefield and lowered them down the ridge to friendly hands below. HACKSAW RIDGE tracks Doss’s life through his commitment as a Conscientious Objector, his fight to be allowed to serve in combat without bearing arms, and his heroic rescue of seventy-five fellow soldiers.

The production quality of HACKSAW RIDGE is excellent, with award-worthy acting and cinematography.

The talented Andrew Garfield is brilliant as Pfc. Desmond Doss, and Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Teresa Palmer are outstanding in their supporting roles. However, the movie is every bit as graphic, and then some, as you would expect from BRAVEHEART producer Mel Gibson. The “R” rating is well-deserved, and people under the age of 17 should not be admitted for good reason. I would also warn veterans about seeing this movie. It does not pull any punches in either the graphics or the audio, and it might be too intense for someone who has seen combat in real life.

 

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

HACKSAW RIDGE does an exceptional job presenting the conflicting-but-legitimate points of view of Doss, his fellow soldiers, and his officers.

Pfc. Desmond Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who refused to touch a firearm or work on Saturdays. The story ably traces how Doss’s religion and home atmosphere solidified his commitment to never touch a weapon while instilling in him a deep sense of duty to serve his country. His faith was inseparable from his character and is portrayed realistically as such in the movie. Equally realistic are the reactions of Doss’s fellow soldiers to his “red lines.” They were suspect of Doss’s religious devotion, wondering if he was actually simply a coward who would get them killed on the battlefield. Doss’s officers were concerned, as well, about sending a man into the field who refused to fight, and they wanted him out. HACKSAW RIDGE gives a balanced and respectful presentation of the competing interests and motivations at work in the situation without over-dramatizing or unrealistically vilifying any of the men involved.

Some reviews have characterized HACKSAW RIDGE as “religious pomp and pornographic violence,” or “war propaganda.”

On the contrary, Doss was a deeply religious man, and religious beliefs were the foundation of his heroism in real life. The movie simply portrays him as such. As for the accusations of “pornographic violence,” I would invite those reviewers to do a tour or two in combat and then get back to us. Regarding the label “war propaganda,” a true tale truly told is not propaganda. HACKSAW RIDGE is true to Desmond Doss’s amazing life story with little dramatic embellishment. Interviews with Doss, his captain, and with soldiers who knew him at the end of the movie confirm the events and the characters as factual.

 

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE. Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers. This was true.

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.
Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers.
This was true.

 

In fact, the movie HACKSAW RIDGE is not big enough to portray all of Doss’s heroic deeds.

For example, the film shows cargo nets hung from the top of the ridge. What it doesn’t show is that Doss was one of the three men to carry the massive cargo nets up the ridge and mount them there under the nose of the Japanese. (See article below, History vs. Hollywood, for historical picture of Doss with the nets at the top of the ridge.) After the battle wherein Doss brought down all seventy-five casualties on his own, he continued to assist wounded soldiers and to inspire the men in the 1st Battalion to go on to win a foothold on the ridge, even after being wounded by shrapnel and sniper fire. It’s worth reading the full text of his Medal of Honor citation below.

 

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss
Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

In summary, this is a true story well told about a man of faith, whose faith gave him strength to rescue over seventy-five men from the battlefield during one of the bloodiest conflicts of WWII.

Those offended by displays of Christian faith or the horrors of war might find this movie is not for them. I would encourage those people to be open-minded and accepting of diversity and go anyway to learn about genuine historical events and a very real man who deserves an excellent movie. Those who are comfortable with religious conviction and who understand that war is hell will be amazed at the story of war hero Desmond Doss.

I give HACKSAW RIDGE our highest Bayard & Holmes rating, a .44 magnum, with one caveat.

Though the violence is realistic, it is extreme, just as one might expect the Battle of Okinawa to be. With excellent production and outstanding acting, it’s worth paying the prime time price for if you can stand the crowd.

 

 

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President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss public domain, wikimedia commons

President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to
Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The text of Pfc. Desmond Doss’s Medal of Honor citation speaks for itself, telling the story of his remarkable courage under fire:

“He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet [120 m] high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards [180 m] forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards [7.3 m] of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet [7.6 m] from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards [91 m] to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards [270 m] over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”

 

For more about Pfc. Desmond Doss and how HACKSAW RIDGE compares to Doss’s real life, see HistoryvsHollywood.com Hacksaw Ridge and Bayard & Holmes article, The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Wouldn’t Fight.

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

cover-3-china-the-pirate-of-the-south-china-sea

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

With or Without the Archduke

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Conventional history widely attributes the cause of WWI to be the assassination of Crown Prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian Gavrilo Princip. While the Archduke’s murder was the excuse for WWI, it was not the reason. Whether or not the Archduke had been targeted, the relevant parts of history would still read the same.

 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophie in Sarajevo public domain dedication, wikimedia commons

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophie in Sarajevo
public domain dedication, wikimedia commons

 

At the time of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination on June 28, 1914, Germany and Austria-Hungary were poised, waiting for the right moment to strike.

They had already calculated that they could invade, capture, and annex Serbia before its ally, Russia, could mobilize a response. They assumed that, when presented with a fait accompli, Western Europe would protest loudly, but not mobilize against Germany and Austria-Hungary. They only needed an excuse. That excuse came in the form of Gavrilo Princip, a member of the anti-Austria-Hungary Serbian group Black Hand.

Princip has often been described as an anarchist. However, he was part of a popular movement that sought the formation of a new nation-state that would arise from the joining of Serbia, Herzegovina, and Bosnia. The nine-member conspiracy to assassinate the Archduke appears to have been arranged by the head of Serbian Army Intelligence, Dragutin Dimitijevik, without the knowledge or approval of the Serbian government.

Princip fired on the Archduke at close range, striking him in the neck and hitting the Archduke’s wife in the abdomen. Princip then turned his pistol on himself, but police and spectators took him under control before he could fire. According to Serbian law, he could not be sentenced to death because he had not quite reached his 20th birthday. Instead, he received a 20-year prison sentence. Princip died in prison of tuberculosis four years later.

 

Gavrilo Princip public domain, wikimedia commons

Gavrilo Princip
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

One of the terrible ironies of WWI is that the Austria-Hungarian royal family and its government might have eventually assassinated Archduke Ferdinand themselves.

He had become a source of consternation to his Hapsburg family by insisting on marrying Sophie Chotek. Chotek was a member of a royal family, but not a direct descendant of a European ruler, and, therefore, was not eligible to marry Crown Prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. His royal relations and the leaders in Vienna were not pleased.

After the Archduke’s assassination, Austria-Hungary made one of the worst diplomatic moves in the history of mankind.

On July 23, 1914, Austrian diplomat Baron Giesl von Gieslingen delivered an ultimatum to the government of Serbia – a demand that it outlaw anti-Austria-Hungary statements and activity and arrest of groups that Austria-Hungary believed to be involved in the assassination, including the Black Hand. Austria-Hungary also demanded control of the Serbian investigation, and a reply within 48 hours. The Austrians and their German allies had carefully crafted this ultimatum to ensure a negative response.

 

Library at Louvain public domain, wikimedia commons

Library at Louvain
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The next day, in response to Serbian pleas for help, Russia ordered a partial mobilization of its large, but poorly-equipped army. On July 25, Serbian Prime Minister Nicola Pasic ordered the Serbian Army to mobilize, and he personally delivered Serbia’s response to the Austria-Hungarian embassy. Serbia agreed to all terms but one – while it would allow international observers to participate in the investigation of the Archduke’s assassination, it would not violate its constitution by allowing Austria-Hungary to take full control of the investigation.

On the flimsy excuse that Serbia would not turn over the investigation, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations and, on July 28, initiated WWI by declaring war on Serbia. With visions of what it thought would be a cheap victory that would expand the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Austria-Hungary launched what it was sure would be a fast and successful military campaign.

The leaders of Austria-Hungary saw an opportunity that did not exist, and they outsmarted themselves, bringing a hitherto unimaginable tragedy to Europe. Four years and 16,500,000 dead people later, the Austria-Hungarian empire had vanished. Most of Europe was left in ruin, and the conditions for World War Two were in place.

 

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Nat'l Cemetery Image by PH2 Daniel J. McLain, US Navy

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Nat’l Cemetery
Image by PH2 Daniel J. McLain, US Navy

 

On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., both England and France buried an “Unknown Soldier” in Westminster Abbey and the Arc de Triomphe, respectively, to commemorate the ending of World War I – the Great War. Thereafter, November 11 became known internationally as Armistice Day.

America followed suit in 1921, establishing the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery. In 1938, Armistice Day became a national holiday in America, and in 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day, a day to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country.

 

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Our profound gratitude to all veterans, past, present, and future, on this Veterans Day.

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Never Forget

image by Gerrit, wikimedia commons

image by Gerrit, wikimedia commons

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A profound thank you to all who serve our nation in the armed forces. May we at home honor you with integrity and decency, that your sacrifice my never be in vain.

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Maybe Not the Best or the Brightest, but Definitely the Bravest

Not the Best or the Brightest, but the Bravest

By Jay Holmes

Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding and some of “The Few,” image by UK Government, public domain

Today on this Veterans Day, I’m seated in a nice chair in a comfortable house in a safe neighborhood doing whatever I want. I live in a free nation so in spite of the continuing best efforts of the world’s worst political criminals, and in spite of our own politicians’ corruption and stupidity, I still get to spend my day how I please.

Ours is an imperfect and not yet completed democracy, but it is a democracy that requires very little of me as a citizen and, as of today, still doesn’t infringe much on my personal freedoms. I am allowed this comfortable life in large part because of the efforts and sacrifices of young Americans who risk their lives so that I and my loved ones may remain free. I appreciate every one of them. To all who serve and have served this nation, I offer my thanks today.

I also offer my thanks to those few other democratic nations who defend the collective freedom of the free peoples of the world. Today, I would like to take a look at one of those rare groups of people who fought for freedom in this world, the people of Great Britain. I don’t like their cuisine, if you can even call it cuisine. They’ve been around since some Neolithic clods made their way across the English Channel, and yet they still haven’t produced an artist worth remembering. And government? Those self-indulgent slobs called “Parliament” are no better than the fools we call “Congress.”

And yet, I like Brits. Because in this barbaric, uncivilized world, most of them are decent and civil. And because although most are some sort of “socialists” and pacifists to some degree, when faced with grim choices, they still stand up and defend themselves and others against tyranny. That might not sound like much, but not everyone would do the same.

RAF Wellington Crew, image from UK Government, public domain

Today, I have been thinking about a particularly stubborn and unreasonable bunch of Brits who helped the world defeat the Nazi plague 62 years ago. “The Few.” That “few” of whom the famous half American/half English and frequently fully drunk politician by the name of Winston Churchill spoke of. The men and women of the Royal Air Force (“RAF”) who, in part thanks to Churchill’s willingness to ignore Air Marshall Hugh Dowding’s wise counsel, found themselves in the role of the “few” against a determined enemy, the German Luftwaffe.

Over the decades, a variety of folks from many nations have written much about what Churchill dubbed “The Battle of Britain.” If anyone is curious about it, I recommend Len Deighton’s “Fighter” and RAF Ace Peter Townsend’s “Duel of Eagles.”

The great air battles over England and the English Channel that we like to call the Battle of Britain are generally thought of as taking place from June – Ocober in 1940, more than a year before the US entered the fight. It is a popular notion that the RAF won those battles because of radar and the superiority of the Spitfire over the German ME-109. The radar indeed helped, but it was far from perfect, and Spitfires came to the Battle in too few numbers to be decisive. During that time, the majority of fighters in service in the RAF Fighter Command were Hurricanes.

Unfortunately for the RAF pilots who defended Great Britain, their Hurricane and Spitfire fighters were rushed to production without anything like adequate testing. If this sounds reckless, consider that the Bolton Defiant aircraft that these two new fighters replaced were sad, slow-moving, barely flying coffins. The Spitfires and more numerous Hurricanes the RAF flew were not yet adequately developed, but they were at least well-designed. A dog fight with an ME-109 was a hell of a place and time to test an aircraft, but the Luftwaffe was not affording the Brits convenience so the RAF took to the skies with what they had.

RAF Hawker Hurricanes, image from UK Government, public domain

What the RAF did have was a fledgling radar system that allowed two underappreciated geniuses by the names of Air Marshall Hugh Dowding and Vice Air Marshall Keith Park to devise tactics that let them use their thin resources to challenge the daily bombing raids the Luftwaffe sent. Dowding and Park understood what was at stake. As long as the RAF survived, the Germans could not bring an army across the Channel. If the Luftwaffe gained air supremacy, the Germans could overcome the Royal Navy, and the vastly superior German army could invade the UK and finish its conquest of the European peoples. Dowding and Park did not intend to let that happen.

Great Britain also had the inadvertent help of Luftwaffe Commander Hermann Goering. The Luftwaffe was filled with the best and brightest young German warriors. They were carefully selected and extensively trained. And then there was Goering.

Goering was a highly successful fighter pilot during WWI. He then followed his brilliant youth with years of eating and drinking with Nazi pals. While the rest of the aviation world advanced in leaps and bounds during the interwar years, Goering waddled his way to the command of the Luftwaffe in spite of being possibly the least brilliant of Luftwaffe officers. Many of his emotionally founded decisions helped the RAF defeat the well-prepared and well-equipped German air power.

Even with the the wise leadership of men like Dowding and Park and the determination of excellent RAF fighter pilots, things were grim by August of 1944. The Germans and Brits both took heavy casualties during the Battle of Britain, but the Germans had a better pool of reserves in manpower and aircraft.

Thanks in part to the brilliant work of Lord Beaverbrook, the UK kept the RAF adequately supplied with fighters, but it took a long time to train pilots to take to the skies in fighters. For fighter pilots to both take to the skies and return alive, it takes a minimum of a year and a half of intense training. The UK didn’t have the 18 months.

The RAF needed the best and brightest pilots to man their half-developed Spitfires and Hurricanes. Too many of those best and brightest were shot down early on while operating in France with inadequate maintenance on mud airfields. More went down in the Channel or crashed into the English countryside in June and July.

When things were desperate in September of 1940, some replacement “pilots” as young as 17 who had never even trained in Hurricanes flew them into battle. They weren’t given time to become the best and the brightest, but they were certainly the bravest. I have been told that boys as young as sixteen flew in the Battle of Britain, but I have not been able to verify that. Whoever they were and whatever their age was, I salute them all.

RAF Station under attack during the Battle of Britain, image from UK Government, public domain

The RAF did not just need pilots, it needed skilled people on the ground to service planes, care for pilots, and man radar and control facilities. The British Army and the Royal Navy quickly expanded as well, and young men were in short supply. Against the advice of some in the British military and government, women trained to handle radar plotting, communications, and fighter control in vulnerable forward sector fields. Some thought that when bombs fell on British air bases, the women would run in panic. They didn’t. While 544 RAF pilots died in the Battle of Britain and many more were badly wounded, hundreds more ground crew also perished. Among them were young women who remained at their posts while under bombing attack, and the replacements who didn’t hesitate to take their vacant positions.

In addition to the brave young women who manned so many RAF positions during the Battle, we should remember the approximately 26,000 civilians who were slaughtered by the Luftwaffe during that period. The civilian casualties at the hands of Luftwaffe bombers and later German missiles continued long after the Battle of Britain was won by the RAF.

But counter to Goering’s and Hitler’s prediction, the people of Great Britain didn’t break. They kept going to work in their factories, turning out war munitions, knowing that the next bomb dropped might hit them at their work. They kept plowing their fields, mining their coal, driving their trucks and doing all else that was necessary to keep Great Britain on her feet. And they won.

So though I find the concept of “bangers” and biscuits for breakfast silly, and I might not be impressed by Great Britain’s best painters, I respect you, Great Britain. I remember what the seniors among you did before I was born and before my father fought in the Pacific. I remember what your nation did when you stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut after the rest of Europe had fallen under the fascist boot. Revisionists be damned. The Battle of Britain was your finest hour, and none of us should ever forget it.

Memorial stained glass in St. James Church, image by Oxfordian Kissuth, wikimedia commons

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Whisky Advent Calendar

Whisky Advent Calendar by Master of Malt

Whisky Advent Calendar Lets You Booze in the Days Leading Up to Christmas

Perfect for that ‘one in every family’. Click the title for full story.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order 

Check out this awesome cover for Historical Fiction Author Susan Spann’s debut novel!

CLAWS OF THE CAT is the first of The Shinobi Mystery series about a ninja detective in medieval Japan, due out next July. To help Susan celebrate her unveiling, drop by her blog and leave a comment for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. CLAWS OF THE CAT cover reveal and contest!

Apparently, Amazon has been removing reviews. Best Selling Author Joe Konrath tells us about his experience in Amazon Removes Reviews.

High Concept Blogging: Achieving Bloggy Goodness in Record Time by Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell.

Best Selling Author, Social Media Jedi, and Founder of WANA Int’l Kristen Lamb is offering a blogging course. As her original guinea pig, I can’t recommend her classes highly enough. Blogging to Build an Author Brand

Two of my favorites in the same place, Donna Newton and Julie Glover. British Invasion: Donna Newton Chats about English

November isn’t just a month to honor the mustache, it’s a month to raise Prostate Cancer Awareness. Join Nigel Blackwell for Movember and keep yourself or your guy healthy.

Sunday is Veterans Day, a time to remember and thank the people who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe. Today, my hat is off to Admiral Willard. Admiral Willard’s Above and Beyond Performance in the face of interrogation from Congress reminds us of the many and varied duties and responsibilities of our service men and women around the world. How this guy didn’t crack up laughing is just beyond me. Now that is some serious training and discipline.

My profound thanks to all of our Armed Forces and your families for your service. Whether you are a clerk in a stateside supply office or you are on SEAL Team Six, you are an important part of making our country strong.

Seems the only thing people universally want to keep from the election season is the Campaign Poll Daddy Question of the Week. 🙂

All the best to all of you for a week of not tipping Guam.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

Sandwich Day:The Day Between Berlin Wall Day and Veterans Day

By Piper Bayard

I call today Sandwich Day because it’s the day that is sandwiched between November 9, the day the Berlin Wall came down, and Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I.

Fall of the Berlin Wall wikimedia commons, public domain

Fall of the Berlin Wall
wikimedia commons, public domain

One slice of bread is Veterans Day. On November 11th, 1918, at 11 a.m., both England and France buried an “unknown soldier” in Westminster Abbey and the Arc de Triomphe, respectively, to commemorate the ending of World War I. Thereafter, November 11th became known internationally as Armistice Day. America followed suit in 1921, establishing the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetary. In 1938, Armistice Day became a national holiday in America. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day, a day to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country.

The other slice of bread is the day the Berlin Wall came down, signifying the beginning of the end of the Cold War. English author and journalist George Orwell first coined the term Cold War in his essay, “You and the Atomic Bomb,” to describe a world that is at “peace that is no peace.” It was an ideological confrontation between mostly the Soviet Union and its satellite states against Western powers. It shaped our times and our nation more surely than Islamic terrorists are doing now.

Though the USSR and the USA never officially met on the field, we clashed unofficially through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Soviet war in Afghanistan. We also battled through military coalitions, extensive aid to states fighting Soviet-backed terrorists,    espionage, propaganda, the Arms Race, sports rivalry, and the Space Race.

As a kid during that time, I can tell you that the Cold War colored everything in life. Our conversations, our breakfast drinks, our cartoons, our college classes, you name it. Communism was a threat we took too seriously to be concerned about offending communists by calling them the enemy, and we lived 24/7 with the widespread belief that Earth would, inevitably, end in a mushroom cloud. A fated apocalypse. A post-apocalyptic movie with no hope of a “post.”

The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to separate communist East Berlin from Western Ally-administered West Berlin, was the symbol of the Cold War and the Cold War state of mind. When it came down, it didn’t just represent our Western victory over communism, it represented the limitless possibilities of the human race to control its destiny. Nothing seemed inevitable any more.

I know I’m unusually serious today — apocalypse can be that way at times — so I’ll lighten up with a bit of info about that most beautiful apocalyptic flower, the red poppy, which has come to symbolize World War I. Long before the Great War, the red poppy was a symbol of death, renewal, and life. That’s because its seeds can lie dormant in the earth for years, and then grow and blossom when the soil is turned over.

With the widespread digging of graves in the fields of Northern France and Flanders, beginning in 1914, poppies began to grow, inspiring Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae to write the following poem, the most famous of World War I. Click here for a beautiful song inspired by this poem, performed by the boys’ choir, Libera.

My profound thanks to our veterans on this Sandwich Day.  

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row by row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If yea break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.