During and before World War II, and even after to a large degree, women were not allowed to hold combat positions, but the Soviets found that the enemy was fast encroaching on them, and there was no other choice. Using female bombardiers was even more undesirable, but Adolf Hitler had launched Operation Barbarossa, which was his massive invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941. By that autumn, the Germans were pressing on Moscow, Leningrad was under siege and the Red Army was struggling. The Soviets were desperate.
Marina Raskova, who was also known as the “Soviet Amelia Earhart,” had brainstormed the idea of a female squadron. She was famous not only as the first female navigator in the Soviet Air Force but also for her many long-distance flight records. Marina had been receiving letters from women all across the Soviet Union wanting to join the World War II war effort. Oh sure, they could go in as nurses, secretaries, or in some other support roles, but these women already knew how to fly. They had been training in air clubs all over the Soviet Union. They wanted to be gunners and pilots, flying on their own. Many of these women had lost brothers or boyfriends, and many had seen their homes and villages destroyed. Raskova petitioned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to let her form an all-female fighting squadron. Stalin wasn’t too keen on the idea, but it soon became apparent that they had no other choice.
On October 8, 1941, Stalin agreed to the plan and gave orders to deploy three all-female air force units. These women were going to be full-combat soldiers. They would not only fly missions and drop bombs, they would return fire too. With this action, the Soviet Union became the first nation to officially allow women to engage in combat. Previously, even women pilots could only help transfer planes and ammunition. Then, the men took over. Raskova quickly started to fill out her teams. She had more than 2,000 applications to choose from. She selected about 400 women for each of the three units. These were not long time pilots, but rather, most were students, ranging in age from 17 to 26. Those selected moved to Engels, a small town north of Stalingrad, to begin training at the Engels School of Aviation. The women underwent a highly compressed education, and were expected to learn in a few months what it took most soldiers several years to grasp. The only thing in their favor was that they already knew how to fly, just not in combat. Each recruit had to train and perform as pilots, navigators, maintenance and ground crew. Then the positions were assigned. The women faced skepticism from most of the male military personnel who believed they added no value to the combat effort, and called them “princesses.” Raskova did her best to prepare her women for these attitudes, but they still faced sexual harassment, long nights, and grueling conditions. “The men didn’t like the ‘little girls’ going to the front line. It was a man’s thing.” Assigned Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, which was a bare-bones plywood biplane, the women flew under the cover of night. These light two-seater, open-cockpit planes were never meant for combat, and were often referred to as “a coffin with wings.” Made out of plywood with canvas pulled over, the aircraft offered virtually no protection from the elements. Flying at night, pilots endured freezing temperatures, wind, and frostbite. In the harsh Soviet winters, the planes became so cold, touching them caused skin to stick and rip off. They were given uniforms handed down from the men, and boots that were too big, and had to have the toes stuffed, so they would not slip.
In the air, they braved bullets and frostbite, while on the ground, they battled skepticism and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, in the air, they were so feared and hated by the Nazis that any German airman who downed one of these planes was automatically awarded the prestigious Iron Cross medal. All told, the unique all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment dropped more than 23,000 tons of bombs on Nazi targets. And in doing so, they became a crucial Soviet asset in winning World War II. The Germans nicknamed them the Nachthexen, or “night witches,” because the whooshing noise their wooden planes made resembled that of a sweeping broom. “This sound was the only warning the Germans had. The planes were too small to show up on radar, or on infrared locators,” said Steve Prowse, author of the screenplay The Night Witches, a nonfiction account of the little-known female squadron. “They never used radios, so radio locators couldn’t pick them up either. They were basically ghosts.”
Due to both the planes’ limited weight capacity and the military’s limited funds, the female pilots didn’t have some of the basic necessities. Parachutes were deemed a “luxury” item. The added weight was just too much. They also didn’t have radar, guns, and radios. They were forced to use more rudimentary tools such as rulers, stopwatches, flashlights, pencils, maps, and compasses. Because these planes flew slower than the stall speed of the Nazi planes, they were very good at maneuvering out of the way of the German planes, making them hard to target. They also could easily take off and land from most locations. Still, there was a downside too. Whenever they did come under enemy fire, the pilots had to duck by sending their planes into dives, because most of them carried no defense ammunition. If they were hit by tracer bullets, which carry a pyrotechnic charge, the wooden planes would burst into flames, killing the crew.
One of the biggest drawbacks was that the Polikarpovs could only carry two bombs at a time…one under each wing. Two bombs per plane was not going to make much of a dent in the German targets, so the regiment sent out up to 40 two-person crews a night. Each would fly between 8 and 18 missions a night, returning to base to re-arm between runs. The weight of the bombs forced them to fly at lower altitudes, making them a much easier target, which is why they only flew missions at night. Each mission found the planes traveling in packs. The first planes were used as bait. Their job was to attract German spotlights, which provided the pack with much needed illumination. These bait-planes, rarely had ammunition to defend themselves. They would release a flare to light up the intended target. The last plane would idle its engines and glide in darkness to the bombing area. It was this “stealth mode” that created their signature witch’s broom sound. While these women were a formidable foe, they were also women. The Night Witches followed 12 commandments, the first of which was “be proud you are a woman.” They might be fierce killers of the Germans, but in their downtime they were still women. They did needlework, patchwork, decorated their planes and danced. They even put the pencils they used for navigation into double duty as eyeliner.
The last flight of the Night Witches took place on May 4, 1945…when they flew within 37 miles of Berlin. Three days later, Germany officially surrendered. According to Prowse, “the Germans had two theories about why these women were so successful: They were all criminals who were masters at stealing and had been sent to the front line as punishment, or they had been given special injections that allowed them to see in the night,” both of these “theories” make me laugh, like the female pilots couldn’t be just that…excellent fighter pilots in their own right. Altogether these capable, albeit “crazy” heroines flew more than 30,000 missions, or about 800 per pilot and navigator. They lost a total of 30 pilots, and 24 of the flyers were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Marina Raskova, who had spearheaded the movement, died on January 4, 1943, when her plane was shot down on a mission very near the front line. Hers was the very first state funeral of World War II and her ashes were buried in the Kremlin. The all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment, despite being the most highly decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force during the World War II, was disbanded six months after the end of the war. When the big victory-day parade in Moscow was held, they weren’t included, because it was decided that their planes were too slow. Amazing!!!
My uncle, Wayne Byer is the younger of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s two sons, and the younger of the three middle siblings, of which my mom, College Spencer was one. Those three middle kids, Larry Byer, Collene, and Wayne, seemed to always be into some mischief. Mom told me it had to be because she was in the middle of the two boys…but I think she probably instigated as much as they did. She could be mischievous too.
Uncle Wayne has always loved kids, and especially making them laugh. Maybe that was why we all liked to gather around him. We knew he would do something to make us laugh, before long, and we were never disappointed. He had the ability to be a laugh a minute. I’m told that he loved telling jokes all his life, and from the part I saw, he did.
Of course, Uncle Wayne had a serious job too. Being a mechanic at the school bus garage, and later the head of the school bus garage, he was tasked with making sure that every bus was in good repair, so that the busses would all transport the children safely to their destination. My sisters and I didn’t have to ride the bus to school, but since my husband, Bob and I lived in the country when our girls were little, they took the bus to school every day. It was then that I began to really appreciate the work my uncle did, and my girls always liked the fact that their great uncle took care of the school buses they rode. I think they also liked it when they could tell people that it was their great uncle who headed up the garage. They were very proud of what he did, and they wanted other people to know that their great uncle had such an important job. The girls were trying to gain favor by telling people, they were just very proud of him.
We don’t get to see Uncle Wayne a much as we used to, now that he is retired, not that we saw him at work or anything. It just seemed like before he retired, we saw more of him. Nevertheless, Uncle Wayne hasn’t changed a bit. He is still the same funny guy who was always a laugh a minute, and I’m glad. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
We all know about the Secret Service, but do we really know about them. They are always standing near the President and the other people they are sworn to protect, but most of the time they are virtually invisible. It’s not that we can’t see them, but rather that we don’t notice them, unless something goes haywire. Then their presence is very well known as the whisk the President to safety, while looking for the culprit who has dared to enter that guarded space that surrounds him.
That is information we probably all know, but the Secret Service is much more. Founded in 1865, as an agency to stop counterfeiting, the past 150 years have seen many changes to that institution. Because it is their job to protect those they serve, the Secret Service agents must know a great deal about the people they guard, but they must also know a great deal about the essence of the political process.
Depending on their own interests, the President’s hobbies can be a pain for the Secret Service agents. If the President wants to go jogging, the Secret Service must go along, whether they like to jog or not. Also, the route must be checked, and can be a security nightmare. This applies to any trip the President makes as well. The hotel, route, and especially the areas where he might be spending time, have to be checked and re-checked. There is no room for error, because if a gunman finds a place to hide, the President’s life could be in grave danger.
Guarding the President also meant guarding his family, and if the children were young, it was much like being a glorified babysitter. The agent had to go to friends’ houses, ice cream parlors, toy stores, and a number of other places. Not all first children are well behaved, and the Secret Service witnessed it share of tantrums. If the kids didn’t like how things were going, they simply called their parents, who often told the agents to “take the child wherever he/she wanted to go.” This usually served to make the kids more bold and belligerent. Of course, not all of the children were unruly, but I would imagine that more were, than weren’t.
The Secret Service had to remain bi-partisan, because no matter what their political views were, their job was to protect the President, regardless of his political affiliation. The Secret Service agents also had to deal with the reckless behavior of the Presidents they served. Some Presidents were promiscuous, and expected their agents to warn them if their wife was coming in. Others were reckless with their own safety, as was the case when John F Kennedy, who insisted on riding through Dallas in a convertible on that fateful November day in 1963.
While guarding the President of the United States can be stressful and worrisome, it can also be very rewarding. Of course, the Secret Service agents travel the world with the President, and they have front row seats to some of the greatest events in history. Still, some Secret Service agents actually bond with the President. Such was the case with President Ronald Reagan and Agent John Barletta. Agent Barletta says of President Reagan, “We worked so well together. The whole relationship was a projection of him, how he was… He was a great guy to be around. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.” For most of the Secret Service agents, it is an honor and a privilege to protect the President. It doesn’t matter if the work id time consuming, complicated, and stressful. These men and women feel born to protect the President.
Wilhelm Canaris was born January 1, 1887, in Aplerbeck, Germany. The Germans celebrated him as a war hero during the First World War, for his many exploits as a submarine captain. Canaris later became a top military spy for Germany. He was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in 1935. It seemed a fitting next step in a celebrated military officer’s career, but Canaris was not exactly what he seemed to be on the outside. I suppose that as a spy, that makes sense. Spies, by definition have to live life on the fringes, with few people really allowed to know the real man. Canaris had the added complication of being a double agent.
Canaris…the man behind the Nazi Abwehr spy network, was a shrewd, brilliant spymaster who managed to keep control of the Abwehr. He also outwitted Himmler at almost every turn, while joined with other high-ranking German officers in a dangerous plot to eliminate Hitler and make a separate peace with the Allies. I believe there were many German people, and military personnel who did not agree with Hitler, and some were brave enough to do something about it.
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris is the number one mystery man of the Nazi regime under Hitler to this day. Historians have argued his value for years. I’m sure many of them were convinced that he was actually working with the Nazis, instead of against them from the inside. Canaris stayed so tightly in his shell, probably a means of self-preservation, that he didn’t talk much, but was rather a great listener. Almost everybody who knew him didn’t really know exactly what his purpose and intentions were. The ability to be a good listener is a vital part of being a spy…as is the ability to keep your mouth shut about things. Rattling off too much information in a spy network, can get a spy killed.
Canaris, on the one hand, was the great protector of the German opposition against Hitler. On the other hand, he was the one who prepared all the big expansion plans for the acts and crimes of Hitler in the Third Reich. He had to protect and motivate the opposition members, all of whom were eager to fight against Hitler, and it had to appear that he was hunting them as conspirators. It was one of the many difficult contradictions Canaris was forced to live with to stay in control of the Abwehr. There were, of course, ugly sides to his job too. Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it on fire. They all burned to death. Canaris was in shock. On September 10, 1939, he had to travel to the front to watch the German Army in action. This also gave him the opportunity to meet with his intelligence officers, who told him of insane massacres. Two days later, Canaris went to Hitler’s headquarters train…the Amerika, in Upper Silesia, to protest. He first saw General Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. “I have information,” Canaris told Keitel, “that mass executions are being planned in Poland and that members of the Polish nobility and the clergy have been singled out for extermination.” He apparently had no idea of Hitler’s real plan for the “final solution.”
Canaris told Keitel, “The world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose.” Keitel told Canaris to take the matter no further. I’m sure that Keitel made it clear that Canaris’ life depended on keeping his mouth shut about these things. Canaris did as he was told, or so the Nazis thought. Before long, however, the Vatican began to receive regular, detailed reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland. The information had been gathered by agents of the Abwehr by order of Canaris, who passed them on to Dr Josef Muller, who was a devout Catholic and a leading figure in the Catholic resistance to Hitler. Muller, in turn, got the reports safely to Rome. Canaris sent another of his colleagues, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on a flight to Sweden to meet secretly with Bishop Bell of Chichester. Bonhoeffer told Bell of the crimes his nation was committing, and assured Bell of growing resistance in Germany to such acts. In March 1943, Canaris personally flew to Smolensk to plan Hitler’s assassination with conspirators on the staff of Army Group Center.
The efforts of Canaris were later made clear during the Nuremburg Trials, but it was too late for Canaris. He had made strenuous efforts in trying to put a stop to the crimes of war and genocide committed by Hitler. Admiral Canaris, along with his second-in-command, Hans Oster, actually helped the Allies while supervising all German espionage, counterespionage, and sabotage. He revealed almost all of the important German strategy and battle plans to the Allies. From Hitler’s impending western offensive against the Low countries and France to Hitler’s plan to invade Britain. Canaris also misled Hitler into believing that the Allies would not land at Anzio in 1943. The work Canaris was doing against became evident to Hitler only after the conspirators attempted to kill him in July 1944. Canaris and many others were arrested. The principal prisoners were confined at Gestapo cellars at Prinz Albrechtstrasse. Canaris was kept in solitary confinement, in chains. Canaris’ cell door was permanently open, and the light burned continually, day and night. He was given only one third of the normal prison rations. As winter set in, his starved body suffered cruelly from the cold. He was also humiliated by being forced to do menial jobs, such as scrubbing the prison floor, the SS men mocking him.
On February 7, 1945, Canaris was brought to the Flossenburg concentration camp. His treatment did not improve there. He was still treated badly, and often endured having his face slapped by the SS guards. Nevertheless, Canaris baffled the SS interrogators with one ruse after another, and he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy. He never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement. During the last weeks of the Nazi era, SS Obersturmbannführer Walter Huppenkothen and Sturmbannführer Otto Thorbeck were sent to Flossenburg to eliminate Canaris and the other resistance figures. A bogus “trial” was held, after which the men hung the victims. A few more days and the war would have been over, but in the gray morning hours of April 9, 1945, gallows were erected hastily in the courtyard for Wilhelm Canaris, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre. The men were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution before hooting SS guards. Naked under the scaffold, they were allowed to pray one last time, then they were hanged, and their corpses left to rot. Two weeks later, on April 23, 1945, the camp was liberated by American troops.
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was a true hero, in the face of unbelievable odds. I’m sure he know that he would get caught at some point, and I’m equally sure that he knew he would be killed, when he was caught. Nevertheless, he said of his actions, “I die for my fatherland. I have a clear conscience. I only did my duty to my country when I tried to oppose the criminal folly of Hitler.” He knew that his death was worth fighting the evil that was the Third Reich. I only wish that he had survived so that he could have been properly honored.
On January 3, 1923, the suspension bridge at Kelso, Washington was nearly finished…but it had not yet been opened, and the old bridge was still in use. The old bridge was just that…old, and they knew it, but until the new bridge was open, the old bridge was all they had. Both bridges spanned the Cowlitz River. Kelso was a small town, with a population of less that 2,000 people on the day in 1923.
On that day, the bridge, which was a major roadway in the area was experiencing a traffic jam, due to a stalled car in the middle. To further complicate matters, there was a crowd of people in the area who had gathered to watch a log jam. The combined congestion on the bridge caused the cable that held the bridge up give way. Approximately 100 people were thrown into the flooded and rushing river. The collapse happened at night, making rescue and recovery very difficult. No bodies were located that first night, and 20 to 30 people were said the be missing. About the same number of people had been rescued from the river with various injuries. To further complicate matters, a transformer in the electric plant had blown out, so there were no electric lights.
Two piers of heavy piling provided the foundations for the structure, which was of a bascule suspension type, this construction being necessary because of the fact that the Cowlitz is a navigable waterway. The two lift portions of the bridge meeting at the center were suspended by steel cables from two high wooden towers. With the exception of the steel cables the entire bridge was of wood. The collapsed span of the bridge had been supported by the cables, and when one of the supporting piers buckled under the weight of the traffic, the whole bridge went down. Normally the Cowlitz River is a narrow stream, but in times of high water, the river becomes very swift. In this sad instance, heavy rains had flooded the river.
The town of Kelso was in chaos shortly after the crash. People were frantically searching for friends and family. Many rushed to the hospital in search of their people. I they didn’t find them there, they rushed back to the river. Adding to the chaos was the current blackout in the town. At one hospital an operation upon an accident victim was in progress as the lights there flickered. Those who were injured had a long road to recovery, and that was just from their injuries. Still, they were blessed. They lived.
William Beadle became my uncle when he married my Aunt Virginia (Byer) Beadle 52 years ago. He always loved to tease the kids, a trait that endeared him to his family too. He was never happier than when he was teasing one of the little ones and making them smile and laugh. I think every one of his nieces and nephews remembers that the most about him. He had a sparkle in his eye, and you knew that the jokes and teasing would follow. At family functions, he could be found sitting at the edge of the crowd, with a grin on his face and twinkle in his eye. He loved it when the kids came to give him a hug and look for one of his many jokes to get them laughing. Family gatherings always seemed more for the adults. The kids needed something fun and funny to make the day fun for them too. Uncle Bill, along with the other uncles provided that funny part, because the aunts were busy getting the meal on the table.
Uncle Bill was born in Worland, Wyoming to William and Bertha Beadle, and he never really left the Wyoming area, except to travel maybe. Wyoming suited him. He loved to fish and hunt, and there are few places that are better for that than Wyoming. I think he was a true “Wyoming Westerner” from way back. He loved watching westerns, and I’m sure that he could envision himself right there in the thick of the story. He brought his kids up to love Wyoming too, and they still live here to this day. Uncle Bill and Aunt Virginia taught them how to see the best in their great state.
In the later years, we didn’t see Uncle Bill as much. His memory wasn’t good, and it was difficult for him with big family gatherings. I always missed seeing him there, and at first I wasn’t even sure why he wasn’t there. I didn’t know much about memory loss then. I know a lot more now. It is difficult for the person who can’t remember who these people are, where they are, or even why they are there. That thought makes me sad for Uncle Bill, who had always been the jokester at these gatherings. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, my niece, Gaby Beach, who married my nephew Allen Beach on September 24, 2014, started working while Allen when to college to get his degree. Once he was finished, the plan was for Allen to work while Gaby went to school to get her degree. It was a good plan, because it allowed each of them to study hard, without having to work. They could devote themselves to their studies. While Allen now works as the department manager over referral, communications, ambulances, Gaby is getting ready to begin her second year of nursing school. Having worked as a corpsman in the Navy, nursing is a perfect next step for Gaby, who was a very good corpsman.
These days, when she’s not studying, Gaby has become very interested in house plants. She has a green thumb, and loves plants. She has decided to complete the “Let’s Grow Together In 2020” initiative. I looked over the program, and it would be really a cool thing to do…if I didn’t have a decidedly brown thumb. Unlike me, Gaby has a real knack for plants, and for arranging them. I know that her plants will beautify their home, and make it a healthier place too. Plants a good to have in the home…as long as you can keep them alive, that is. Gaby can do just that, and her plants are thriving. Her day 8 plant…the fastest grower was the Epipremnum Pinnatum or “Cebu Blue,” names I wouldn’t have known, had Gaby not posted them. I may not know much about plants, but I have enjoyed seeing Gaby’s posts about her adventures with them, and I look forward to the future posts as well.
Gaby ability to raise plants isn’t surprising, because she has a real knack for all living things. I am reminded of her work with therapy dogs during her Navy years. I’m ok with dogs, but I can’t say I’m “comfortable” with dogs. Cats yes, dogs…not so much. Gaby, on the other hand, is a natural. Dogs just instinctively love Gaby, as much as she loves them. And I think everyone in our family can understand that, because we have all come to love Gaby too. She brightens our world every time we see her. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Toni Chase is such a sweet natured person. She truly cares about the people around her…and especially their feelings. Toni and her husband, Dave Chase love to travel, going to many exotic places, as well as lots of football games. Dave is a football fanatic, so he and Toni have gone to many games, especially in Arizona…which would be a great place to go during the cold winter months in Wyoming. It’s also nice for Dave’s brother when they come to Arizona, because he gets to spend time with them.
Lately, however, they have been sticking a little bit closer to home. Dave’s dad has Alzheimer’s Disease or some type of dementia, and so he and Toni have spent quite a bit of time in Laramie, helping his mom and making sure that his dad knows how much they love him. The sad thing about dementia of any kind is that the recent past is forgotten, so if a patient is going to know you, you must go often. Having dealt with it myself, I know what they are going through, but they are kind-hearted, loving people, and they will get through this, and make a difference in his parents’ lives. Of course, while they are in Laramie, they managed to take in a few football games too.
When they are in town, Toni likes to be a homebody, when she isn’t working. They have two dogs that they absolutely love. Toni spoils the dogs, cooking for them just like they were her kids. When it snowed this last time, she and Dave went into the back yard and shoveled out a maze for the dogs. They just loved it. They ran back and forth excitedly, getting plenty of exercise for the day. My sister, Cheryl said it was really funny to watch. Most of us would get lost in a maze, but dogs can track their way out and back, so they had a blast. And of course, the snow wasn’t so deep that Toni and Dave couldn’t see over it…to rescue their babies, should they get lost.
For some time, Toni has run an eBay story, where she refurbishes items that anyone else would have thought junk. Now, however, she’s been phasing out her eBay store, because she is too busy with the dogs. My sister fared pretty well from that, because she got to go to Toni’s house a few weeks ago to “shop” for anything she might like. Toni is such a giver. Cheryl came home with a purse full of costume jewelry and a dozen purses! She is very kind in sharing all the treasures she has accumulated over the past few years. And speaking of being a giver, her sister Liz Masterson is reminded of the first job Toni got as a teenager, her greatest joy was to take her siblings shopping. How many teenagers would do that? Most of them want the job to buy things for themselves, but not Toni. Oh sure she got things for herself too, but her first thought was of her siblings. She loves to make people smile. What a great way to be. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Most people would not think that the things Dr Gisella Perl did at Auschwitz during the Holocaust were angelic in any way, but the prisoners there, the women whose lives she saved would say otherwise. To them, she was an angel of mercy…even if some of the things she had to do were so horrific that she tried to commit suicide after the war. Dr Perl was a successful Jewish gynecologist from Romania, where she lived with her husband and two children. Right before the Nazi soldiers stormed her home, she was able to hid her daughter with some non-Jews, but she, her husband, son, her elderly parents who captured and taken to Auschwitz. Once they arrived, Gisella was separated from her family. They would be sent to be slave labor or to be killed. She would never see any of them again. Because she was a doctor, she was to be used in a different way…a horrifically gruesome way. She was to work for Dr Joseph Mengele, to be at his beck and call, and the things he made her do nearly killed her. She was a doctor. She was supposed to save lives, not be involved in ending them…or worse, but that was the position he put her in.
First, he told her to round up any pregnant women. She thought she was going to be caring for these women, but after she turned over 50 women, and they were immediately sent to the gas chambers, a horrified Dr Perl made up her mind that somehow, she would do whatever she could to thwart the Nazis horrible plans. She had not understood what was goin to happen to the pregnant women she turned over, and the thought of her part in their loss of live, nearly killed her. The things she did after that first horrible mistake, might not seem to most people, including me, like the actions of an angel, but I can see that she had no real choices.
The women Dr Perl cared for had been treated horrible by the Nazi soldiers. Their wounds consisted of lashes from a whip on bare skin, to bites from dogs, to infections from the horribly unsanitary conditions. When she entered the room, the prisoners in the infirmary knew that she was there to help. That was the good part of her life at Auschwitz, but Dr Mengele was a cruel and evil man, and he was determined to kill any pregnant woman. This left Dr Perl with an extremely difficult decision to make. She could watch as the mother and baby were put to death, or she could abort the babies and give the mothers the chance to live to have a family later. The choice was unthinkable to her, but it was also a non-choice. She could lose one life or both. The abortions were performed in secret, often in darkness, and the women whose lives she saved…well, they were grateful, even though they mourned their babies and never truly got over the decisions they and Dr Perl made. Later in life, after the war, Dr Perl went on to deliver many live babies, rejoicing over each. She was bold with God, telling him, when a baby seemed unlikely to make it, that God owed her this baby, because of those she could not save in the Holocaust. God honored her prayers, and gave her the healthy babies she requested of Him. I think He considered her the Angel of Auschwitz too.
When my dad, Allen Spencer and his brother, Bill Spencer were young boys going to school, their dad, Allen Luther Spencer worked for the Great Northern Railway. Because they lived a good distance from school, the boys and their sister, Ruth Wolfe had a dependent pass to ride the train to school. That pass didn’t stop the boys from “hopping” the train…in true Hobo fashion. Of course, we know that “hopping” a train is illegal now, but back then it wasn’t. My dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Ruth had passes however, so while they weren’t supposed to hop the train, it wouldn’t have been illegal anyway, because they had a pass…just not to hop the train.
During the Depression years, there were a lot of Hobos. The railroad was a quick way to get to jobs far away…and it wasn’t technically illegal…just frowned upon. President Roosevelt even created the 1933 Federal Transient Service, which built 600 shelters alongside the trains, to provide food, board, and medical care for working migrants…aka hobos, or at least part of them. As organized crime began using the railway for it’s own purposes, these services were shut down, and “hopping” a train became illegal. Nevertheless, illegal or not, there are actually tons of resources online to help hobos, and most hobos carry smart phones, and even laptops, so they can take advantage of the online forums and Facebook pages available to them. I looked at these online sites, and I found that they call themselves misfit travelers.
Over the years, hobos have developed their own code and language. I found that to be very interesting. Life on the streets, and especially train hopping can be a very dangerous kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, people living on the streets and traveling by hopping trains, need help…even if they find themselves in a position whereby they have to bend the law a little. Th codes and the language they developed help them maneuver this world in a little bit more safe way. I’m not condoning breaking the law, but these people are already there. They just took a wrong turn, and now they need help to make it, and hopefully make it back.