So many of the men and women who return from combat, when many of their buddies didn’t, suffer from a multitude of feelings. Many feel like it should been them killed in the bombing, shooting, plane crash, or whatever it might have been that took their buddy or buddies, and somehow let them alive. No matter that they were quite possibly wounded too, maybe even lost a limb. The point was that somehow they had come back alive, and they carry the guilt of that with them always.
Some of those returning heroes struggle with the loss of their feeling all their lives. Some of them take risks, feeling like they are living on borrowed time, and if their time comes, it will almost be a form of justice. Some feel like it is borrowed time, but look at it more like living a gift. They might try to live up to what they think would make their buddies would be proud of. It doesn’t matter how they live their lives, for some, it will never be enough…in their minds anyway. They feel like their buddy died, and because of that, they can have a family…one their buddy never got to have. And if those buddies who were lost had a family, they feel an even greater burden, because not only did their buddy lose out of being with his family, but the family lost him too.
War is not an easy thing to go through, and those of us who are home, especially those of us with no one in the war, cannot really understand what they go through either in the war, or after the war. It’s impossible. There are other kinds of survivors guilt, and I don’t suppose one is easier than the other, but it seems to me that because of the trust, companionship, and love these men feel for each other; and the idea that in the end, he couldn’t save the buddy or buddies who he felt were somehow his responsibility…well, it would be devastating. I can’t even begin to imagine. And the mind is a tough thing to get past, once it gets an idea firmly ingrained in it. For many soldiers, finally deciding that they aren’t living on borrowed time is a lifelong process, and all their family can do is pray they can make the transition back to living life again. I pray they can too.
The American prisoners of war had heard the Allied planes pass overhead many times before, but this was different. Along with the sound of the planes, came the howling of Dresden’s air raid sirens. Dresden was known as the “Florence of the Elbe.” The American prisoners of war were moved two stories below into a meat locker. I don’t really understand that in light of the outcome. The Germans didn’t care about their prisoners, but I guess they didn’t care about their own countrymen either. Why would they move their prisoners to a place of safety, but leave the people of the town to fend for themselves. I suppose that they might have wanted the prisoners for leverage, but how good is a victory, if there are no one to live in the town.
In this instance, I suppose it didn’t matter, because when the prisoners were brought back to the surface, “the city was gone”…levelled by the bombs from the RAF and the USAAF. One prisoner, Kurt Vonnegut who was a writer and social critic, recalled the scene…shocked. The devastation was unbelievable, the bombing had reduced the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames. Still, Vonnegut could not help but be thankful that he was still alive. Who wouldn’t be thankful. He was alive, and he would be forever thankful. Who wouldn’t be. It was a second chance.
The devastating, three-day Allied bombing attack on Dresden from February 13 to 15, 1945 in the final months of World War II became one of the most controversial Allied actions of the war. Some 2,700 tons of explosives and incendiaries were dropped by 800-bomber raid and decimated the German city.
Dresden was a major center for Nazi Germany’s rail and road network. The plan was to destroy the city, and thereby overwhelm German authorities and services, and clog all transportation routes with hordes of refugees. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed, in the attacks. Normally, Dresden had 550,000 citizens, but at the time there were approximately 600,000 refugees too. The Nazis tried to say that 550,000 had been killed, but that number was quickly proven wrong.
The Allied assault came a less than a month after 19,000 US troops were killed in Germany’s last-ditch offensive at the Battle of the Bulge, and three weeks after the grim discovery of the atrocities committed by Nazi forces at Auschwitz. In an effort to force a surrender, the Dresden bombing was intended to terrorize the civilian population locally and nationwide. It certainly had that effect in 1945.
The Blitz was a German bombing offensive against Britain in 1940 and 1941, during World War II. The term was first used by the British press and is the German word for lightning. When the Germans bombed London in the Blitz bombing, the nerves of the people were very much on edge. They spent most of their nights in hiding in the subway tunnels. When they emerged, they had no idea what to expect. Most of them knew that their beloved city would be very different than it was before, and they knew that, in reality, it may never be the same. Yes, it could be rebuilt, but it would never…never be the same. The adults felt sick a they looked at the city they loved, but the adults were not the only people who were looking at the devastation.
Some of the saddest pictures taken after the Blitz bombings, were those taken of the children. I can’t imagine what must have been going through their minds as they looked at the devastation that was once their home. They had spent so many wonderful hours playing in their bedrooms, and now they had no bedrooms, or even a house for that matter. Their home had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Sitting there looking at what little is left, some children find a little bit of solace in the fact that a doll or something similar managed to survive the carnage…and they feel somehow blessed. And, of course, they are blessed, because for so many others, there is nothing left.
I’m sure that those little ones looked to their parents, hoping to see a spark of hope, or a little bit of encouragement, but all they saw was a look of shock and disbelief on the faces of their parents. That only served to create a deeper sense of concern in the children. What was going to happen to them now? Where would they live? And the really sad thing was that their parents are wondering the same things. These are the faces of war. We often think of the soldiers, usually facing off with the enemy. Yes, sometimes we think of the civilians, but most of us almost try not to think of them, because we can imagine what they are going through. The news photographers, however, have to see the civilians. They have to photograph the destruction. It is their job, but when we see those stories, with their necessary pictures, we really see how war affects the civilians, especially the children. And we are horrified.
It seems as if the nations will never be satisfied until they have a new and stronger weapon that will easily destroy a massive amount of people in one shot. Wars are a part of life here on Earth, and will be until the end of time, so we might as well get used to that fact. World War I was not a different time when it comes to weapons of war, in fact on March 23, 1918 at 7:20am, an explosion took place in the Place de la Republique in Paris, and it hailed the first attack of a new German gun. The Pariskanone, Paris-Geschütz, or Paris gun, as it came to be known, was manufactured by Krupps. The Pariskanone was 210mm, with a 118-foot-long barrel. It could fire a shell an impressive distance of some 130,000 feet…25 miles into the air. Three of them fired on Paris that day from a gun site at CrÉpy-en-Laonnaise, a full 74 miles away. The city of Paris was reeling. Paris had withstood all earlier attempts at its destruction, including scattered bombings, but this would be different. It was first thought by the Paris Defense Service, that the city was being bombed, but soon they determined that it was actually being hit by artillery fire. It was a previously unimagined situation. I’m sure everyone wondered how the Germans could have made such a weapon.
Before the day was over, the shelling had killed 16 people and wounded 29 more. The Germans continued the shelling of that year in several phases between March 23 and August 9, 1918. Over that time, the gun caused a total of 260 deaths in Paris. It was a low number due to the fact that the residents of Paris quickly learned to avoid gathering in large groups during periods of shelling. With less people in each area, the casualties were limited substantially. Nevertheless, the weapon had a terrifying effect on the people and a horrific impact on property in the areas of the shelling. Almost all information about the Pariskanone, one of the most sophisticated weapons to emerge out of World War I, disappeared after the war ended. Later, the Nazis tried without success to reproduce the gun from the few pictures and diagrams that remained. Copies were deployed in 1940 against Britain across the English Channel, but failed to cause any significant damage….a good thing for the people of the Britain at that time. When I look at the pictures of the weapon, I am reminded of the old “Wild, Wild, West” show. There always seemed to be some strange new fangled weapon of destruction in use there too.
I think a lot of people know or at least have heard of Cripple Creek, Colorado. Most people think of the fourteen casinos located there, and I suppose that casinos are a fitting thing for Cripple Creek to be known for, but it wasn’t always that way. Cripple Creek became a gold mining boom town in 1894 after gold was discovered there. At that time 150 gold mines suddenly sprang up, and with them, a strong miners union…the Free Coinage Union Number 19, which was a part of the militant Western Federation of Miners.
As with any gold mining operation, desparate workers began pouring in from all over the country. Before long Cripple Creek had a huge labor surplus. With the labor surplus, the owners begin requiring extra hours, with no pay increase, or the alternative, they could keep the current 8 hours a day with a pay reduction of 50 cents. The Western Federation of Miners opposed both plans, and the miners when on strike. Their picket lines and refusal to work closed most of the mines. They showed what solidarity is all about. The miners who were still going down in the working mines assessed themselves 10 percent of their wages to support the strikers, and the union set up soup kitchens. How often to you see people who can’t afford to strike, but who are willing to support those who do strike.
The governer of Colorado, David Waite would not help the labor bosses, but they had the county Sheriff, Frank Bowers in their pocket. They told the miners to go back to work, they would not. By the end of October, things had gotten so out of hand that finally, on November 23, 1903, Governor Peabody agreed to send the state miltia to protect replacement workers that the bosses had brought in. The striking miners were furious and they barricaded the roads and railways. The soldiers began rounding up the union members and their sympathizers, including the entire staff of a pro-union newspaper, and imprisoned them without charges or any evidence that they had done anything wrong.
The miners and others who were imprisoned complained that their constitutional rights had been violated, and
one anti-union judge replied, “To hell with the Constitution; we’re not following the Constitution!” Those tactics brought out the more radical elements of the Western Federation of Miners, and in June of 1904 Harry Orchard, who was a professional terrorist the the union employed, blew up a railroad station, whick killed 13 strikebreakers. With the bombing came the outrage of the public and the deportation of the Western Federation of Miners leaders. By midsummer, the strike was over and the Western Federation of Miners never regained the same level of power it had originally had in the Colorado mining districts. Even in this day and age, the unions and the bosses seem to always be at odds, and I suppose that something like this could happen again.