Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Anton Hilberath

Despite Arlington National Cemetery (MAP) usually being thought of as a place where America lays to rest its heroes and honored dead, there are also “enemies” buried there.  From its very beginning,  the cemetery has also been the final resting place of individuals considered to be enemy combatants.  It began with Confederate soldiers.  At the time they were buried they were considered the enemy.  However, most people no longer consider them as such.  In addition to the Confederate soldiers, I was surprised to learn that there are also three foreign prisoners of war from World War II laid to rest there.  So on this bike ride, I set out to find them.

During World War II there were approximately 435,788 prisoners of war held in more than 900 camps in 46 states, plus Alaska, which was not yet a state.  The vast majority of these prisoners were from the German military, although there were also approximately 51,455 Italians and 5,435 Japanese held in the United States.  Of these men, there is one German prisoner of war, named Anton Hilberath, buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Although his is the only grave there, he is one of at least 830 German prisoners of war who died and were buried in the United States.  Of the Italian prisoners of war held in the United States, there are only two buried at Arlington National.  Their names are Mario Batista and Arcangelo Prudenza.  All three were captured and taken prisoner during the African Campaign in North Africa.  They were then shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and held on Maryland’s eastern shore.  There they were permitted to work on farms, for modest pay, since it was decided that they presented no risk to people in the area and likely would not try to escape.

All three died in captivity in 1946, and were buried in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, which stated that if a prisoner of war or a foreign national died in another country during World War II, they should be buried in the closest national cemetery of that country.  So with Arlington National being the closest national cemetery, all three men were buried there.

Little information is available about these three men, or most of the other prisoners, inasmuch as virtually all records of prisoners were transferred to military authorities in their home countries through the International Red Cross.  So unfortunately, the lost and the incomplete records that remain, compounded by the passage of time, means that it is likely we will never know much more about these men than the information contained on their headstones – their names, ranks, and when they died.

Having seen German, Italian, as well as Japanese tourists visiting The National World War II Memorial on the National Mall here in D.C., I find it increasingly difficult to remember how these people were so negatively viewed in this country less than a lifetime ago.  And that’s a good thing.

Mario Batista

Arcangelo Prudenza

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Chaplains Hill and Monuments

On today’s bike ride I rode to Arlington National Cemetery because I had not been there for awhile, and because there is always something new to me to discover there. And as I was walking through the cemetery I saw some unusual gravestones, four of them together on the top of a small hill, that had large brass plaques on them. So naturally I went over to see them better and find out what they are.

It turns out they are on the top of what is called Chaplains Hill, which is located in Section 2 of the cemetery. And the four gravestones are actually cenotaphs, which are monuments erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere, especially commemorating people who died in a war. The cenotaphs are dedicated to the memory of chaplains who have served in the United States Armed Forces.The four monuments on Chaplains Hill are to those lost in World War I, to Protestant Chaplains, to Catholic Chaplains, and to Jewish Chaplains, were dedicated at different times over almost a century.

The first of the four cenotaphs was dedicated on May 5, 1926, by chaplains who served in World War I. The monument honored the twenty-three chaplains who died in that war. Two quotations are inscribed on the cenotaph: “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends,” and “To You From Falling Hands We Throw The Torch – Be Yours To Hold It High.”

The second cenotaph is a memorial to the 134 Protestant Chaplains who died in World Wars I and II. It was dedicated on October 26, 1981, and the inscription reads: “To The Glory of God And The Memory Of The Chaplains Who Died In Services Of Their Country.”

A cenotaph to the 83 Catholic Chaplains who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was dedicated and placed on Chaplains Hill on May 21, 1989. The monument is inscribed: “May God Grant Peace To Them And To The Nation They Served So Well.”

The remaining cenotaph is dedicated to 14 Jewish Chaplains who died while serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and was dedicated October 24, 2011. One of the inscriptions on the monument reads: “Dedicated to the Jewish chaplains who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. May the memory of those who perished while in service be a blessing.”

Additionally, among the individuals honored at Arlington National’s Chaplains Hill include: the Army’s first Chief of Chaplains, Colonel John T. Axton of World War I; World War II’s Chief of Chaplains William A. Arnold, who was the first Chaplain to make General; and Major Charles Joseph Watters who served in Vietnam and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 19, 1967. Unarmed, Watters was rendering aid to fallen comrades, disregarding his own safety when he was killed by a bomb explosion. Watters is one of eight members from the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps who have been awarded the Medal of Honor: four from the Civil War; one from the Boxer Rebellion; two from the Vietnam War; and one from the Korean War.

Also honored are four U.S. Army chaplains who in 1943 gave up their life jackets and prayed together when their transport ship, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed eighty miles south of Greenland. The chaplains came from different faiths and backgrounds. John P. Washington was a Catholic Priest from Kearny, New Jersey; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was a native of York, Pennsylvania; Clark V. Poling was a minister in the Reformed Church in America at the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York; and George L. Fox, a decorated World War I veteran, was a Methodist minister in Gilman, Vermont.

Chaplains have the rank of a military commissioned officer and serve the dual roles of religious leader and staff officer, but do not possess the duties or responsibilities of command. Service regulations further prohibit chaplains from bearing arms and classify chaplains as noncombatants. Article 24 of the Geneva Convention identifies chaplains as protected personnel in their function and capacity as ministers of religion. But despite this, 419 military chaplains have died in wars since the founding of this country. The breakdown, by war, is as follows: 25 in the Revolutionary War; one each in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War; 117 on Union side, 41 on the Confederacy side during the Civil War; 23 in World War I; 182 in World War II, 13 in the Korean War; 15 in the war in Vietnam, and one in Iraq/Afghanistan.
 

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A Secret Entrance to the White House

Anyone who has been near the White House when the president or visiting dignitaries were arriving or departing have seen the entrances to the White House in use.  Equipped with security gates, ram-proof physical barriers, armed personnel, electronic surveillance equipment, and other unseen security measures, the entrances are obvious.  But there is another entrance to the White House that few people know about.

Located two blocks away from the White House in the 1500 block of H Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, the secret entrance to the White House looks like almost any other alley in the city.  Thousands and thousands of pedestrians and vehicles pass by it every day, and I doubt any of them know what is hiding in plain site right in front of them.   About the only thing that distinguishes it from any other alley is a small, unobtrusive booth built into the wall of the building on the right side of alley.  I imagine most people who see it assume the booth is for an attendant collecting money for a public parking lot at the other end of the alley.  But it is actually a bullet-proof enclosure manned by Secret Service agents.

The alley leads south past the back of the Federal Claims Courthouse Building, before ending in an unassuming doorway at the rear of Freedman’s Bank, formerly known as the Treasury Department annex, on Pennsylvania Avenue.   From there, according to archival newspaper reports from before security concerns prevented the publishing of such information, the passageway to the White House passes through two subterranean tunnels.

The first tunnel was constructed in 1919 when the Treasury Department Annex was built, presumably to protect the Treasury and its employees from being robbed of the vast sums of cash with which they worked.  The second tunnel was contracted for President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, and lead from the East Wing of the White House to the first Presidential bomb shelter.  The tunnel and bomb shelter were to be a secret throughout the war, but was disclosed to the public in December of 1941 when Congressman Clare E. Hoffman complained about its expense in an open debate in the House of Representatives.

In later years, the tunnel has been used by persons who needed to exit or depart the White House without public or press attention. President Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia Nixon, and her husband, Edward F. Cox, departed the White House via the tunnel after their 1972 Rose Garden wedding.  President Lyndon Johnson also used the tunnel to avoid Vietnam War protesters when departing the White House.  Other uses of the tunnel have either been discredited or, like the stories of Marilyn Monroe using a tunnel to sneak into the White House as part of an affair with President John F. Kennedy, remain unproven.

Once the alley and tunnels were connected to provide for vehicular access to the White House, the passageway was modified to end in the parking garage in the White House basement.  And despite the general public’s lack of knowledge of the access way, or perhaps because of it, it remains in use to this day.

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Artwork on Wheels (Click on photo for a larger, detailed view.)

D.C. is such an unusual and interesting city that even after years of riding around it on my lunchtime bike rides I still look forward to what I might discover during my next ride. Two of my favorite types of discoveries are outdoor artworks and unusual vehicles. And on this bike ride I found both in the form of an elaborately-painted Volkswagon Beetle that I saw in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The Volkswagen Beetle, or “Bugs” as we used to call them, was originally designed by Ferdinand Porsche, who in addition to the original Beetle also designed a number of different high-performance sports cars manufactured under the Porsche brand name, as well as the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK. He designed the Beetle based on the exacting standards and at the request of Adolf Hitler, who was seeking a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for the new road network of his country known as the Autobahn.

However, World War II began the year following the development of the first Beetle, and mass production was put on hold. Thanks largely to the intervention of the occupying Allied forces after the war mass production began in 1945 when a British army Major, Ivan Hurst, was placed in charge of the Volkswagen factory. Volkswagen (which is literally “folks wagon” in German) Beetles would go on to be manufactured between 1938 and 2003, making it the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design. The classic Beetle was then redesigned and reintroduced in 1998 and is still be manufactured today.

I think I can safely say that the unusual Beetle I saw while on this bike ride is fairly unique among the more than 21 million which have been built thus far. The multi-colored car I saw is festooned with elaborate depictions of peacocks, parrots and other exotic birds, as well as exotic flowers, all depicted together in an appearance reminiscent of the psychedelic counterculture of the hippies of the 1960’s, who were also partial to Volkswagen Beetles. So I guess there were a variety of people, from Hitler to hippies, who were involved in my being able to find and enjoy such an unusual piece of “artwork on wheels” during today’s bike ride.

The Japanese Embassy

The Japanese Embassy

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, which occurred as a direct result of the previous day’s attack conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In recognition of this anniversary, on this lunchtime bike ride Julius and I rode to the Embassy of Japan, located at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Embassy Row neighborhood.

Beginning at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time on December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese fighter planes, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers, launched a surprise strike against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii, which was the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The damage incurred by the United States as a result of the attack was extensive, including 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others who were wounded.  Additionally, all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk.  All but one, the USS Arizona, were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, one minelayer, and 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.

Described the following day by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an address to a joint session of Congress as “a date which will live in infamy,” the result of the attack was the exact opposite of what had been intended. Instead of intimidating the United States, the attack led to President Roosevelt asking Congress the very next day to declare war on Japan. Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote, leading to the United States’ entry into both the Pacific and European theaters of World War II. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years after the conflict had commenced, the United States had finally joined World War II.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

When it comes to Presidential memorials in D.C., there have been occasions when people decide after the memorial is completed that it is not quite right, or not big enough, or somehow unbefitting the president who it is intended to honor. And instead of accepting or even modifying the original memorial, they build a second, grander presidential memorial, often in what is considered a more prominent location. And interestingly, it is usually the second memorial with which the public is most familiar.  This happened when The Original Washington Monument was deemed insufficient, and the giant obelisk on the National Mall was erected to honor our nation’s first president.

The same type of thing happened again more recently when the existing memorial to our nation’s 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was deemed inadequate, and another, larger memorial was constructed near the Tidal Basin (MAP), which is considered one of the most prominent locations in the national capitol city. It was to this memorial that I went on today’s bike ride.

The Original FDR Memorial, which relatively few people know about, is located near the corner of 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. In accordance with Roosevelt’s expressed wishes, the original memorial was erected in 1965 “in the center of the green plot in front of The National Archives and Records Administration Building (and) consists of a block about the size of (his) desk.”

Thirty-two years later, in contradiction to Roosevelt’s specific wishes, the more well-known FDR Memorial was dedicated.  The newer memorial is large, even by D.C. standards. Spread out over seven and a half acres on the southern side of The Tidal Basin, it traces 12 years of the history of the U.S. through a sequence of four outdoor “rooms,” one for each of his terms in office, from 1933 until his death in 1945.

The design of the memorial, by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, was chosen in 1978, and it opened to the public in 1997 after a dedication ceremony led by President Bill Clinton.  As an historic area managed by the National Park Service, the memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The memorial contains a number of sculptures inspired by famous photographs of Roosevelt. One depicts the 32nd president alongside his pet Scottie named Fala. It is the only presidential pet to be memorialized. Other sculptures depict scenes from the Great Depression, such as listening to a fireside chat on the radio and waiting in a bread line. Also included is a bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing before the United Nations (UN) emblem, honoring her dedication to the UN. It is the only presidential memorial to depict a First Lady. Water is also used prominently in the memorial as a metaphorical device, including waterfalls depicting World War II and the Great Depression, and a still pool representing the 32nd president’s death.

However, like many memorials and monuments in D.C., the FDR Memorial is not without controversy. Taking into consideration Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial’s design is intended to make it accessible to those with various physical impairments. For example, the memorial includes an area with tactile reliefs with braille writing for people who are visually impaired. However, the memorial faced serious criticism from disabled activists because the braille dots were improperly spaced and some of the braille and reliefs were mounted eight feet off of the ground, placing it physically above the reach of most people.

Another controversy involves one of the statues of Roosevelt. Against the wishes of some disability-rights advocates and historians, the memorial’s designers initially decided against plans to have Roosevelt shown in a wheelchair. Although Roosevelt used a wheelchair in private, it was hidden from the public because of the stigma of weakness which was associated with any disability at that time. So instead, the main statue in the memorial depicts the president in a chair, with a cloak obscuring the chair, which is how he usually appeared to the public during his lifetime. In a compromise, casters were added to the back of the chair, making it a symbolic “wheelchair”. However, the casters are only visible from behind the statue, and this compromise did not satisfy either side. Eventually, an additional statue was added and placed near the memorial’s entrance which clearly depicts Roosevelt in a wheelchair much like the one he actually used.

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The National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial

On this day in 1944, approximately 100,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily-fortified beaches of Normandy, France, while an additional 150,000 personnel were concurrently coming across the English Channel by sea and air, to fight Nazi Germany and “The Axis of Evil.”  The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, originally picked June 5, 1944, as the date for the largest military invasion in history, code-named “Operation Overlord,” but bad weather forced a postponement.  After meteorologists told him that the weather would clear the next day, the invasion was on.  As it turned out, however, the weather was nearly as bad during the attack on June 6th.

General Eisenhower described the operation as a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”  More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion, and by day’s end on June 6th, the Allies had gained a foot- hold in Normandy.  However, the cost was extremely high, with more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded.  But the success of Operation Overlord, which would also come to me know as “D-Day,” was the beginning of the end of World War II, and the evil that was Nazi Germany.

I did not have adequate time during my lunchtime bike ride to go to The National D-Day Memorial, because it is located a couple of hundred miles away in the small, rural town of Bedford, Virginia.  Proportionally, Bedford suffered America’s severest D-Day losses.  Recognizing Bedford as symbolic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served and sacrificed on D-Day, Congress approved the placement of The National D-Day Memorial there.

So for this ride, I instead chose to commemorate the anniversary of this event by riding to and writing about the U.S. National World War II Memorial, which is located on the National Mall in D.C., on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, between The Lincoln Memorial and The Washington Monument (MAP).  The National World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the military, and to civilians, for the various services and sacrifices made during World War II.

The design of the Memorial consists granite pillars arranged around a plaza and fountain, with two arches located on the northern and southern ends of the plaza.  Each of the 56 pillars is inscribed with the name of one of the then 48 states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska and Hawaii territories, and the commonwealths of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The northern arch is inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific,” representing the two fronts of the war.

The meaning of the memorial to honor members of “The Greatest Generation” is best summed up by the inscription at the main entrance to the Memorial, which reads:  “Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth century father and the other the nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle during the second world war and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: a nation conceived in liberty and justice.”

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The Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly referred to as The Iwo Jima Memorial

I frequently use the anniversary of an historical event as the basis for my choice of a destination for my daily bike ride.  Since today is the anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Marines’ invasion during World War II of the island of Iwo Jima, I chose to ride to the Marine Corps War Memorial, also commonly referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial.

It was on this day in 1945 that the Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, named “Operation Detachment”, began.  At the time, Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery.  But to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, only 660 miles away.

The battle began with an American military aerial bombardment of the Japanese defenses on the island.  This lasted 74 days and was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war.  Underwater demolition teams known as “frogmen” were then dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion. When the Japanese fired on the frogmen, they gave away many of their “secret” gun positions.  The amphibious landings of Marines subsequently began on the morning of February 19th.

As the Marines made their way onto the island, seven Japanese battalions opened fire on them. By evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded. The capture of Mount Suribachi, the highest point of the island and bastion of the Japanese defense, took four more days and many more casualties. When the American flag was finally raised on Iwo Jima, the memorable image was captured in a famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press that later won the Pulitzer Prize.  It is this photograph upon which the Iwo Jima Memorial was designed and built.

The Iwo Jima Memorial is a military memorial statue located just outside of the walls of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia (MAP).   As inscribed on the front of the memorial, it is dedicated “In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 1775.”  The location and date of every major Marine Corps engagement up to the present are inscribed in chronological order around the base of the memorial, including the battle of Iwo Jima.

The official dedication of the memorial by President Dwight D. Eisenhower occurred on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation that flag of the United States fly from the memorial 24 hours a day, one of the few official sites where this is required.

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