When we think of wartime atrocities, most of us think of the Holocaust, and that was indeed a horrible atrocity. Nevertheless, there have been a number of horrible dictators in history, and most of them committed some kind of atrocity. One of the worst atrocities in history, is one that very few people even know about. Most people have heard about the horrible experiments the Nazis performed on humans. The Nazi doctor, Joseph Mengele headed up that torture practice. But the Nazis weren’t alone in conducting cruel experiments on humans. The Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731. Some of the details of this unit’s activities are still uncovered. I don’t understand how anyone could have such little regard for human life, as to conduct some of the horrible experiments n them that some of these dictators and their cohorts did.

For 40 years, the horrific activities of “Unit 731” remained one the most closely guarded secrets of World War II. It was not until 1984 that Japan acknowledged what it had done and long denied. The vile experiments on humans conducted by the unit in preparation for germ warfare were atrocious. The Japanese doctors deliberately infected people with plague, anthrax, cholera and other pathogens. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 enemy soldiers and civilians were used as guinea pigs. Some of the more horrific experiments included surgery without anesthesia to see how the human body handled pain, and pressure chambers to see how much pressure a human could take before his eyes popped out.

The compound for Unit 731 was set up in 1938 in Japanese-occupied China with the aim of developing biological weapons. It also operated a secret research and experimental school in Shinjuku, central Tokyo. Its head was Lieutenant Shiro Ishii. Japanese universities and medical schools also supported the unit, by supplying doctors and research staff. I can’t imagine being assigned to such a facility. The picture now emerging about Unit 731’s activities is horrifying. According to reports, which were never officially admitted by the Japanese authorities, the unit used thousands of Chinese and other Asian civilians and wartime prisoners as human guinea pigs to breed and develop killer diseases. Many of the prisoners, who were murdered in the name of research, were used in hideous vivisection and other medical experiments, including barbaric trials to determine the effect of frostbite on the human body. To ease the conscience of those involved, if that is even possible, the prisoners were referred to not as people or patients, but as “Maruta”, which means wooden logs. I suppose they thought it would help, but I doubt if it did.

Before Japan’s surrender, the site of the experiments was completely destroyed, so that no evidence is left. I don’t suppose we would have known anything had it not been for the pictures that have surfaced, and people who have told the story later. After the site was destroyed, the remaining 400 prisoners were shot and the employees of the unit had to swear secrecy, or risk their own death. The mice kept in the laboratory were then released, which most likely cost the lives of as many as 30,000 people, because the mice were infected with the Bubonic Plague, and they spread the disease. Few of those involved with Unit 731 have admitted their guilt. Some were caught in China at the end of the war, were arrested and detained, but only a handful of them were prosecuted for war crimes. In Japan, not one was brought to justice. In a secret deal, the post-war American administration gave them immunity for prosecution in return for details of their experiments. Some of the worst criminals, including Hisato Yoshimura, who was in charge of the frostbite experiments, went on to occupy key medical and other posts in public and private sectors…their guilty feelings, if they had any, existed only in their own minds.

During World War I, Britain, like the United States would have to do in World War II, had to employ large numbers of women into jobs vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. They also had to create new jobs as part of the war effort. As an example, women were hired in munitions factories. The high demand for weapons resulted in the munitions factories becoming the largest single employer of women during 1918. It was a job that many people resisted, mainly because it was seen as “men’s work.” When I think about the work these women were doing, I find myself much more concerned with the toxicity and danger of the materials they were working with, than whether or not the job should be done by a man. Of course, the materials would present the same danger to the men, but the men had always felt like the dangerous work should fall to them.

Nevertheless, with the introduction of conscription in 1916 everything changed. Conscription refers to the process of automatically calling up men and women for military service. During the First World War men (it only applied to men at this time) who were conscripted into the armed forces had no choice but to go and fight, even if they did not want to. Around 1916, with the need becoming serious, the government began coordinating the employment of women through campaigns and recruitment drives. This led to women working in areas of work that were formerly reserved for men. Jobs such as, for example railway guards, ticket collectors, buses, tram conductors, postal workers, police, firefighters, as well as bank tellers and clerks. Some women also worked heavy or precision machinery in engineering, led cart horses on farms, and worked in the civil service and factories.

By 1917 the British munitions factories, which by this time, primarily employed women workers, produced 80% of the weapons and shells used by the British Army. The women working there soon became known as “canaries” because they had to handle TNT (the chemical compound trinitrotoluene that is used as an explosive agent in munitions) which caused their skin to turn yellow. The nickname might have been a cute joke, but the job the women did was far from funny. These women risked their lives working with poisonous substances without adequate protective clothing or the required safety measures, that we know are needed now. During the years of World War I, around 400 women died from overexposure to TNT. I wonder too, how many died in the years that followed the war, from exposure to the same chemicals that had killed the original 400 women.

As if the dangerous working conditions weren’t enough, women were also paid significantly less than men in comparable positions. In 1918, women workers on London’s buses, trams, and subways organized a strike and managed to win equal pay for equal work. When the war ended, many women were fired to free up jobs for returning veterans. Some thanks that was. I’m sure many of the women were glad to go back to their prior jobs, or go home to take care of their families, but to be fired” was just wrong in every way. Nevertheless, in return for their hard work, these women were fired so that the returning men could have a job again.

For centuries, I think most people thought Earth was alone in the universe, at least when it came to planets. It was inevitable that people would decide that they wanted to know more about the numerous stars, the moon, and the sun. Once the telescope was invented, with the earliest workings towards the design of the refracting telescope being made by German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey in 1608, people, or at least a few people, were able to see the things that really existed beyond Earth’s atmosphere. I can only imagine the shock as the first viewing proclaimed, quite loudly, that we were not alone in the universe…not even in the realm of planets, not to mention galaxies.

Thinking about the vastness of the universe has a tendency to make you feel very small, and I don’t suppose many people in the 1600s were very comfortable with that. These days the thought of the other planets in our galaxy doesn’t really bother us, and in fact it seems completely normal to us. As my husband, Bob and I have been going on our nightly walks, I have been watching the movement of several planets…namely Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Just the thought of these huge, star-like celestial bodies, at least to the naked eye, makes me think about how amazing God’s creation is. I have been able to picture in my mind, how these planets look in the universe, and now, the idea that they are stars seems absurd. Of course, my own “revelation” of that fact came centuries after the great men of science figured that fact out, and of course, that “revelation”didn’t creep into my mind today, but was rather taught to me over the years of my schooling. Still, sometimes while you know something is a fact, the enormity of it takes much longer to fully register in your head. That is the way i feel about it,after a fashion anyway…as if suddenly, I can almost see the planets with the naked eye.

It makes me wonder how the various scientists, who discovered each of the planets in our galaxy, felt the first time the telescope found a planet, especially a new one…or shall I say, one that was never discovered before that moment. With that thought running around in my head, I learned that on September 23, 1846, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovers the planet Neptune at the Berlin Observatory. We all now know Neptune as the eight planet in our solar system, and because it was the eighth, it was further out in space than the seven that were discovered before it. I can only imagine the excitement he felt in that moment. He was looking upon something no other human being had seen before. I don’t know if he had any concept of how big the planet was in comparison to Earth, but we now know that Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System, because Pluto was later found and then after years as a planet, discounted as a planet and named a dwarf planet. In the Solar System Neptune is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth. At that size, I would say that Neptune’s discovery was by no means a small thing.

My nephew, Jason Sawdon, who is married to my niece, Jessi, is a highway patrolman by trade, but a family man in reality. He’s a good patrolman, who keeps his cool in every situation, and treats people with respect, even if he has to give them a ticket or arrest them. People appreciate that. He is the crash investigator for the patrol and he is very precise and smart about skid marks and distances and figuring out exactly what happened. Accident investigation is an important job. It is vital to know who was at fault and what other factors might have played a part in the crash.

When Jason met Jessi, I think he knew right away that she was the one for him. They make such a cute couple, and there is no doubt about how they feel about each other, because they wear their love on their faces. It is totally obvious to all of us that they are very happy together. Jessi and Jason are two people who always seem to be happy and laughing. Of course, they bring much of their happiness with them, using nothing but their sense of humor. Jason is always playing jokes on people. He is a great dad to their daughter, Adelaide, and husband to Jessi. Jason just seems to get Jessi. Whatever she wants Jason works to get for her. That means a lot to her mom and dad…knowing their daughter is well cared for. Today, Jessi told Jason that she wanted a greenhouse, so they wouldn’t lose all of their tomatoes when it gets cold next week. So, they went to Menard’s, and got everything needed to build it. Jason had it done in just about two hours!! When Jason and Jessi were redoing their master bath, Jessi told him what she would like, and he made sure there was a way to include everything she asked for in a small space!! Not always an easy task, but he got it done. Jason is the answer to prayer for Jessi, and her family, and a huge blessing for Adelaide. Jason is the kind of guy who is great at building people up, and that is a blessing for all the people in his life.

Jason is always a helper. He has a mechanical engineering degree and so understands how things work. Jason is always willing to share his knowledge with anyone who asks for his help. His degree makes Jason is a great asset for anyone on whatever project they are doing at the time…from electrical, to mechanical, to water, to building, Jason just seems to know how it works. That makes Jason a big help to the family. Jason is always offering his time. He is a helper to anyone in need, and he is so kind. This morning, Jessi and Jason came upon a lady downtown who had fallen and hurt her knee. Jason ran right up and help to pick her up, and literally carried her, to a nearby bench. Then, he carried her to her vehicle when the lady’s husband brought it around. Lots of people would loo the other way, but never Jason. He is always there for people. Today is Jason’s birthday. Happy birthday Jason!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In the midst of World War II, February 1942, to be more exact, the Japanese fleet gave the combined Dutch-American-Australian-British fleet a beating that almost wiped them out completely, during the Battle of the Java Sea. The defeat brought about the Japanese occupation of the entire Netherlands East Indies. After the battle ended, only four Dutch warships were left in the Dutch East Indies. They knew there was no way they would be able to take down the Japanese fleet by themselves, so they decided to try to escape to Australia. The failed attempt left three of the four ships sunk, and one in hiding. The problem they had, was that the seas were full of warships and the skies were swarming with Japanese planes. It was going to be virtually impossible to sail the 1,000 miles of ocean to safety. The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, which was the last ship, had a big problem, for which they found a crazy solution.

The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen was a slow-moving minesweeper vessel that could get up to about 15 knots. It also had very few guns…a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20mm cannons…making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above. The secret weapon of the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, however, was it’s captain, who came up with a crazy scheme to disguise the ship as a small island. The Abraham Crijnssen was a relatively small ship, but it was still a big object, measuring approximately 180 feet long and 25 feet wide. The crew used foliage from island vegetation and gray paint to make the ship’s hull look like rock faces. They figured that it was better to be a camouflaged ship in deep trouble, than a completely exposed ship. Still, logic said that the Japanese would probably notice a mysterious moving island, and they might wonder what would happen if they shot at it. So,the plan came about that during the day, they would not move…thereby actually becoming an island.

Moving only at night, the ship was able to blend in with the thousands of other tiny islands around Indonesia, and miraculously the Japanese didn’t notice the moving island. The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces, and fought with the Allies until the end of the war. During those years of service under the Australian Navy flag, Abraham Crijnssen detected a submarine, while escorting a convoy to Sydney through the Bass Strait, on 26th of January 1943. Along with the Australian HMAS Bundaberg, they depth charged the submarine. No wreckage of the submarine was found, nor was the kill confirmed, but the ex-minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen suffered some damage due to hastily released depth charges. Several fittings and pipes were damaged, and all of her centerline had to be replaced during a week-long-dry docking. After this incident, the ship was returned to Royal Netherlands Navy service on May 5, 1943, spending the rest of the war in Australian waters. Abraham Crijnssen ended its WWII career just like the ship started it, as a minesweeper that was responsible for clearing mines in Kupang Harbor before the arrival of an RAN force to accept the Japanese surrender of Timor.

My grand-niece, Hattie Parmely is the middle child of my nephew, Eric Parmely and his wife, Ashley. Hattie and her siblings are being raised on a little farm outside of Casper, Wyoming. I am amazed at how well Hattie and her siblings get along with the animals in their care. Children are not always careful with animals, but those who are raised around them, have a heart for their animals. Hattie is a soft-hearted girl anyway, and I think her animals know that about her.

Hattie and her siblings have a trampoline, and they love spending time on it. Most of us would just love to have the energy to jump on a trampoline for hours at a time, but lets face it, most of us would get tired after 5 minutes. It is the common problem that adults have when it comes to kids, and their endless energy. Of course, kids get lots of sleep with naps and all, and I don’t know how well Hattie naps, or anything, but if sleep has anything to do with her energy level, I would say she naps or sleeps pretty well.

Having a big sister, Hattie had a helping hand in learning all the cool things to do around their place. Reagan, Hattie’s sister, has taught Hattie and their little brother, Bowen many things about life on the farm. Things like milking the goats, or just playing with the goats, in general. The girls totally love the goats…especially when they are babies, and Bowen is quickly becoming a big help with the animals too.

Life on the farm is not only active, but is usually spent mostly outdoors. We hear about kids today being couch potatoes, but Hattie and her siblings don’t have time for that much. They are always busy doing things out in the yard or with the animals. Cleaning out the pens and feeding the animals are high on the priority list, and they like that very much. Animals depend on their owners to take care of them, and the Parmely kids are great animal owners. Their parents are proud of all the help their kids give them in running the little farm. Hattie is a big part of that, and will be an even bigger part of it as she grows. Today is Hattie’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Hattie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I think that over the years, we have all become used to men going off to war, and leaving their families safely at home, while they fight for the freedom and safety of people all over the world who are unknown to them. It’s a common part of war, and one that most of the time, the average person doesn’t even think about. It’s war after all, sacrifices have to be made. What we don’t always think about…until someone points out the obvious to us…is the families, and especially the children who are waiting for their parent to come home.

For any of us who have been away from family for an extended period of time, it’s easy to understand just how badly you can miss someone you love, but war is different. When your child moves away, you miss them, but you know you can go see them soon. When you loved one goes off to war in a country where the fighting is heavy, and bombs are dropping everywhere…not only can you not go visit them whenever you want to, but you live with the knowledge that at any moment, they could be killed in action. And they are living with that knowledge too. It makes the time and distance seem much longer and much further than it really is.

While we might be able to fathom the pain of missing a family member, I think we find it even harder to grasp the complete and utter shocked sense of relief that these family members feel when they are reunited with their loved one again. The children are especially heart wrenching…or is it heart warming. It doesn’t really matter which it is, because no one watching it does so without tears. It’s just impossible. When a German World War II prisoner, was released by the Soviet Union, and is reunited with his daughter, she cannot control her emotions. She had not seen her father since she was one year old, and she is about 5 years old. A mom who spent 7 months in Iraq, cannot contain herself when she sees her daughter again. An officer’s son breaks down because he wasn’t sure he would ever see his daddy again. These are the moments most of us never got to see, but now with the internet,we have the chance to look into the lives of those who serve our nation, fight our battles, and protect our world. It is in those moments that we realize what really happens when those who serve are reunited with their loved ones again.

As American became populated, the immigrants brought with them, so much more than their belongings. I recently received my copy of the “Wisconsin Magazine of History” from the Wisconsin Historical Society, of which I am a member, and one of the cover stories was entitled, “German Brewing in Early Wisconsin.” Because I come from a strong German background, and was born in Wisconsin, this story was of particular interest to me. It seems that, while beer brewing in the United States began with the English, in the mid-1800s, but beer drinking was common in much of Europe, and in all levels of society, which surprised me some. We tend to expect that, higher society people would never drink beer, but the reality is that that is only in more recent years. The reality is that because on the lack of knowledge of sanitation and disease causing pathogens, many of the drinks people could make out of ordinary water really weren’t very safe to drink. Beer, on the other hand because it had to be boiled and fermented, did away with all those organisms, making it safe to drink. That made beer a very common drink by the Middle Ages. It was even given to the children.

Upon reading this, I wondered if my German great grandparents made beer in their home. I thought about the journal my Aunt Bertha Schumacher had written, but she never mentioned beer. I suppose it could have been because it was so common in the home, that it never occurred to her. Or could it have been because they were the exception to the rule, and didn’t really drink beer in their household. It’s hard to say, but when something is as much a cultural and traditional practice, it seems to me unlikely that they would not have done thing in the same way their families did at home. After studying German in high school, I knew that beer was talked about in many of the dialogues we learned. It just seemed to me, like it was a way to learn the words, and now a way of life, but perhaps I had been wrong on that. I suppose it could have been that because family meals in the United States, these days anyway, did not include beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink of any kind, on a regular basis, was pretty much unheard of. It just didn’t seem like an normal activity, but in the time that my German great grandparents immigrated to the United States, drinking beer was very normal, so I have no reason to believe that they didn’t drink it, just like everyone else.

When the German immigrants arrived in America, they were required to brew their own beer. Since wheat was abundant, barley and hops easy to grow, they had no problem making their beer. I must wonder if they used whet at that time, though, because the German recipe did not include wheat, because it was needed for bread in Germany, and it wasn’t as abundant as it was in the United States. The east coast with its heat and long growing season, didn’t make a good brewing climate. When the people moved to Wisconsin, they found the climate, especially in the Milwaukee area was perfect, and I suppose the rest is history, for German beer and for Milwaukee.

September 17, 1976 was an epic day in American history, and truly in world history as well. This was the day that the seemingly impossible became possible. Man had been in space many times by that date, but the crafts taken were disposable, and the cost to build new ones was great. It would be an amazing thing to have a craft that could take man into space, and then make a smooth landing back on Earth. It was unheard of, but it was no longer impossible.

On this day in 1976, NASA publicly unveiled its first space shuttle. The shuttle was called Enterprise, and during a ceremony in Palmdale, California, the world got its first glimpse of the future. The Space Shuttle looked like an airplane. Its development cost almost $10 billion and took nearly a decade. The shuttle would not actually fly until 1977. Enterprise became the first space shuttle to fly freely when it was lifted to a height of 25,000 feet by a Boeing 747 airplane and then released, gliding back to Edwards Air Force Base on its own accord. It was a phenomenal accomplishment. What an exciting event in NASA history!!

With the success of the first flight, came regular flights of the space shuttle, which began on April 12, 1981, with the launching of Columbia from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The shuttle had to be able to get into space, and so it was launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank. These were ejected prior to the actual entrance into space, and only the shuttle, which looked like an actual airplane, entered into orbit around Earth. When the two-day mission was completed, the shuttle fired its engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider at California’s Air Force Base…brought to a stop with the help of three parachutes.

Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. On January 28, 1986, NASA and the space shuttle program suffered a major setback when the Challenger exploded 74 seconds after takeoff and all seven people aboard were killed. That was a horrible day in shuttle history. After changing the things that caused the problem, the shuttle flew again beginning in September 1988, when Discovery went up successfully. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction and manning of the International Space Station. A tragedy in space again rocked the nation on February 1, 2003, when Columbia, on its 28th mission, disintegrated during re-entry of the earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. In the aftermath, the space-shuttle program was grounded until Discovery returned to space in July 2005, amid concerns that the problems that had downed Columbia had not yet been fully solved. On July 21, 2011, Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the final time, at the end of STS-135, with the official retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet taking place from March to July 2011.

When two kids get married, or any two people for that matter, you never know if the marriage will last. You hope that theirs is a match made in Heaven, but only time will tell. My daughter, Amy Schulenberg, married Travis Royce in this day September 16, 1995, just a few months after Travis graduated from high school. Amy had graduated the year before. They were quite young by most standards, but that didn’t matter to them. Somehow, they knew that they were perfectly matched, and while others might not have seen that at the time, everyone sees it now. Each of them is what the other needs.

Amy is more of a shy person, like her mom, and Travis is very outgoing. For a shy person, that is very helpful, especially in a crowd. When you are shy, it’s hard to talk to people you don’t know well, and Travis has no problem in that category. Once a shy person gets to know people, they are fine, it’s just that awkward early stage that is tough. Amy is also more of a serious person, again like her mom, while Travis is an incurable comic. I really like that about Travis, because life is serious enough. We need people who can see the funny side of life to keep us from getting too serious about things. Travis keeps the laughter going in their household, which is something that I have always felt was a huge blessing to all of them. Amy is the more practical one, which is something Travis needed, not that he hasn’t become more practical over the years, but he was always more spontaneous about things like spending, until Amy kept him more grounded. Then he saw the value in that, and they are in agreement on things like spending.

Of course, there are differences that can cause “fights” too. If you could call them that. Travis is a Chicago Bears fan, while Amy is a fan of arch rival the Green Bay Packers. Football season is…interesting in their household…to say the least. It is about the only time they really have many “fights.” Nevertheless, not everything is about fighting. Amy and Travis agree that the family that plays together, stays together, and for them, that means music. Most Tuesday nights, after bowling gets over, the family heads back to their house for a family jam session before the kids go home. Travis and their son, Caalab play the guitar, while daughter, Shai is learning the ukulele. I’m sure that will add a fun aspect to their family band. I can’t wait to hear them now.

Over the years, much has changed in Amy and Travis’ marriage, but then again is some ways nothing’s changed at all. They are still perfectly matched. They still make each other happier than even they dreamed possible. They are still going in the same direction, and having a great time in this life they have made. Today is Amy and Travis’ 23rd anniversary. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis. Have a great day. We love you.

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