America at Its Best and at Its Worst: D-Day at 75, the Voyage of the Damned at 80

It is one of those historical ironies that the 6th of June is the anniversary of both the US at its best and at its worst in the 20th Century. Apparently the universe does have a sense of humor. As Cheryl’s post noted, today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. President Eisenhower’s remarks that day, made when he was Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, capture America at its best. Striving hard to live up to its self declared ideals and willing to pay in blood to do so.

Just five years before, however, the US failed to live up to its self declared ideals. On the 6th of June, 1939 the passengers of the S.S. St. Louis, all Jewish refugees fleeing NAZI tyranny and certain death in the camps, received the final notification that they would not be even allowed to temporarily make port at Isle of Pines/Isla de Juventad while they waited for their US entry visas to process. This was a last ditch effort to make a landfall in Cuba after the refugees had been turned away from reaching safety in the United States without the finalization of their requested entry visas.

The refugees aboard The St. Louis, like refugees and asylum seekers today, had grabbed their children and what little they could carry and risked everything traveling thousands of miles across the Atlantic while their entry visa applications were being processed. They did so because to stay where they were meant death. And because at the end of their voyage, what would ultimately become the Voyage of the Damned, was supposed to be hope, safety, and freedom. The end of their voyage was supposed to be the United States. The refugees aboard The St. Louis made their trip because of their hopes and prayers as liberty-loving people. Hopes and prayers that ultimately fell on deaf ears. For 254 of the refugees aboard The St. Louis, the end of their voyage wasn’t hope, safety, freedom, and a new life in the US, it was death in the NAZI camps. For the rest it was the fight to survive in the camps or as refugees in other states or fighting with the partisans throughout Europe.

Five years. Five years were all that separated the failure of the US and Americans to live up to their ideals and their valiant efforts, dearly paid for with blood, to do so. Five years were all that separated the America and the Americans that would turn away those fleeing from danger through danger with the hope of reaching safety in the United States and the America and the Americans that would ultimately rewrite the United States immigration laws post World War II to ensure that there would never again be a Voyage of the Damned. And 75 years later, the co-religionist of the doomed refugees aboard The St. Louis, himself the grandson and great-grandson of refugees, actively seeks to ensure that the United States will be the America of the Voyage of the Damned and not the America of D-Day. And all without even a peep of opposition of the President’s Orthodox Jewish son in law, himself the grandson of Polish Jews who fled into the forest and refuge with the famed Bielsky brothers.

The US has always had this tension. This war between its self proclaimed ideals and its actual reality. On D-Day itself, as they were denied their rights at home as second class citizens in the US, African American troops placed their lives on the line to, quote Eisenhower, destroy the “NAZI tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe,  and [achieve] security for ourselves in a free world”.

These African American soldiers, many/most in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all African American unit to storm the beach at Normandy, took heavy casualties in both making the landing and carrying out their mission of deploying their barrage balloons to protect Allied aircraft.

Now they’re all but forgotten.

There used to be a prevailing myth that no black men participated in D-Day — by far one of the most important days of World War II.

But a closer look reveals that some African-American soldiers played a key role on Omaha Beach, and their stories still remain largely untold.

“There were no (Congressional) Medals (of Honor) given to any black soldiers for what they did at D-Day,” said 90-year-old Joann Snowden Woodson. “People really need to know the truth.”

Woodson has been on a consistent mission to share the truth of D-Day with the world, as well as the service of her late husband, Waverly Bernard Woodson — one of the few black soldiers known to have served on Omaha Beach that fateful day.

Originally from West Philadelphia, Waverly Woodson was a member of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, an all-black Army unit that specialized in placing barrage balloons in battle areas during World War II. Their goal was to distract and destroy enemy aircraft and provide cover for Allied soldiers on the ground.

Waverly Woodson and his Battalion left England on June 5, 1944. They arrived on the beach in Normandy via transport boat the next day.

“He said he could see the soldiers being picked off just like flies,” Joann Woodson reiterated. “Some of them were dead; some of them he had to administer the last rites. And some of them — I think he said he had to do amputations and everything.”

Waverly Woodson died in 2005, but Joann Woodson was there when he provided testimony before Congress years prior. She recalled her husband’s many stories of that day.

At 21, he was one of a handful of medics who tended to the wounded under enemy fire. Waverly Woodson’s leg and buttocks were sliced by shrapnel, but he worked through the pain, saving lives on the shore.

“He really thinks that, all told, it could have been 200 to 300 men,” she added.

Waverly Woodson collapsed from exhaustion 30 hours after landing on Omaha Beach. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.

He was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor in the ’40s, but no black soldiers received such high recognition at the time. Then, records of his service, along with those of millions of other soldiers, were destroyed in a fire in 1973.

Today, all that remains is a single memo regarding his extraordinary feats.

“Here is a Negro hero from Philadelphia who has been recommended for a suitable award. … This is a big enough award so that the President can give it personally, as he has in the case of some white boys,” stated the 1944 U.S. Department of War memo to the Franklin D. Roosevelt White House.

The memo was discovered by Linda Hervieux, author of “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.”

There is only one surviving Soldier from the 320th still alive on this 75th anniversary. Here is his reminiscence of D-Day:

The Soldiers of the 320th Barrage Battalion were not the only African Americans that paradoxically found themselves fighting for liberty and freedom against tyranny in Europe while denied their full civil rights and liberties at home in the US. There were also the much better known Tuskegee Airmen.

D-Day’s 75th anniversary, which also happens to be the 80th anniversary of the closing off of the last chance, the last bit of hope, for the refugees aboard The St. Louis, shows the paradox of the US. We set and self proclaim high ideals and values for ourselves. On June 6, 1939 we failed to live up to those ideals. On June 6, 1944 we paid in blood to live up to them. And because of what American Soldiers – Soldiers who were white and African American and Latino, Christian and Jewish –  saw as they fought across Europe, after World War II the US changed its immigration laws so that it wouldn’t fail to live up to its ideals as it had in 1939. Will we learn the lessons of D-Day, learn to risk all to live up to our ideals as Americans or will we fall way short as we did on the same day five years earlier. That is the question of D-Day’s 75th anniversary. The answer is up to us.

Open thread.

Adam L. Silverman served as a senior advisor (Cultural Advisor) under temporary assigned control to the Commanding General of US Army Europe from January to June 2014 and then under operational (direct) control from July to August 2014.

 






61 replies
  1. 1
    Wag says:

    We, as Americans, won’t live up to our ideals until circumference are so desperate that we will be forced to go along with our better natures, and only then will we live up to those ideals.

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  2. 2
    debbie says:

    No, we will never learn.

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  3. 3
    japa21 says:

    Beautifully written. Should be published as an op-ed.

    ReplyReply
  4. 4
    seefleur says:

    Thank you for this – amazing history that I wish I’d known long before now. And I’m passing this along to a lot of others who have missed out on this history.

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  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @japa21: Thank you.

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  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Also, I think the new site should be renamed Barrage Balloon Juice.

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  7. 7

    Great post. Eloquent.

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  8. 8
    Ruckus says:

    Saw a gentleman on the airport bus to the parking lot in Columbus, OH one evening, wearing a Tuskegee Airman hat. He was the right age to have earned that hat. I wanted to say something, or ask but it felt like intruding. It has always amazed me that we can, as a country, say one thing, and then do something completely opposite. We treat some people like shit, actually shoot them in the streets for not being the “accepted” color or have the “accepted” place of birth. Often makes me ashamed to be considered an American. Land of the free my ass.

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  9. 9
    Ruckus says:

    @Wag:
    They aren’t ideals if you have to be forced to live up to them.

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  10. 10
    hells littlest angel says:

    America: showing the world its heart one day, and its ass the next.

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  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    Feel it should be added as well that RFK died from an assassin’s bullet on June 6.

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  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:

    I did my duty. I did what I was supposed to do as an American.

    Yo, Trump; this how it’s done. How you feel about a war doesn’t really apply. Asshole. I have no doubt you would have fought in WWII, however (although I’m not sure which side you would have fought for).

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  13. 13
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: I met a Tuskegee Airman in Columbus during the summer of 1994. He had been a Captain and was awarded a DFC. Dapper guy with a thick head of gray hair and pencil mustache. It was an honor to shake his hand. I wonder if it was the same guy you saw.

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  14. 14
    Jay says:

    Thank you Adam,

    Canada also turned the MS St. Lewis away.

    “The captain, Gustav Schröder, went to the United States and Canada, trying to find a nation to take them in, but both refused. He finally returned the ship to Europe, where various European countries, including the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, accepted some refugees. Many were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries, and some historians have estimated that approximately a quarter of them died in death camps during World War II.[2]”

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  15. 15
    Ruckus says:

    @hells littlest angel:
    Trump’s just trying to make up for any of those days when we showed heart. His political ideal is “All Ass All the Time.”

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  16. 16
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    This would have been maybe 4 or 5 yrs later, didn’t look like much hair, no mustache. Wouldn’t have called him all that dapper either – he was dressed pretty much the same as me……

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  17. 17
    Kent says:

    I usually consider myself pretty well-read on WW-2. I have a number of comprehensive histories in my library and kindle and I’ve read a lot about the eastern front and the war in the Pacific.

    Yet this thread is the very first time I have ever read or heard about the black troops on D-day.

    Sigh. How much history of this country has just been erased?

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  18. 18
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: I’m well aware. But I’m not Canadian. And it isn’t my place to slag Canada for failing to live up to its ideals.

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  19. 19
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Kent: 243 years worth.

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  20. 20
    rikyrah says:

    My father enlisted in 1941. He never spoke about his time in the Army, except to speak fondly of the French. He fell in love with France during his time in the Army. But, outside of the French, and the positive feelings he had towards the Red Cross..he would never speak of his time during WWII.

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  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Kent: @Adam L Silverman: Not erased. Just never recorded.

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  22. 22
    Chris says:

    Not entirely sure what I think of the comparison. While one was a humanitarian gesture – or rather, the refusal to make one – D-Day was first and foremost a national security exercise – we’d been attacked by the Axis, we’d realized that a world dominated by the Axis would be a danger to our survival, so they had to be put down. Nothing about taking part in D-Day really contradicts anything about being the nation that sent a boatload of Jews back to die. (Oh sure, Ike’s speech can be implied to, but leaders make idealistic speeches like that all the time. Just look at all the Soviet propaganda about universal brotherhood and the freedom of mankind).

    To me the better counterpoint to the St. Louis doesn’t come until forty years later, when the U.S. willingly takes on a shit ton of Vietnamese refugees even to the point of the iconic “push the helicopters into the sea to make room” moment. That’s us at our best (on the immigrant/refugee issue at least). Curious that it would come along with one of the worst wars we ever fought. While the St. Louis came along with one of the most righteous.

    Anyways. Bedtime for me, but thank you for the post. The contradiction between the two impulses endures, indeed. It would be nice to think that it won’t always.

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  23. 23
    rikyrah says:

    I often wondered why a Black man, growing up in the Police State know as the Jim Crow South, would volunteer for this country. I tried to understand, but, I dunno..
    He just told me it was what he felt he should do. It was 1941, pre -Pearl Harbor.

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  24. 24
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @rikyrah: A lot of that. I had a granduncle who was had his fighter shot out from around him over Europe during WW II. Fortunately, as he was Jewish, he made it back to Allied lines. He didn’t talk about it. I only know because he refused to fly once out of the Service, so that was the explanation for why he would only take the train.

    My grandfather was in a mobilized civilian capacity domestically in the US working on logistics and acquisitions. All that was ever explained is he would be gone for weeks, then come home for a few days with meat and butter. Three or four of his closest friends fought across and survived the war in the Pacific. One on Guadalcanal. They never talked much about it. Different time. Different American culture. Different people.

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  25. 25
    J R in WV says:

    Thanks, Adam. These bits of history are important, and I’m glad to learn it even if it’s a little — OK a lot — depressing. I say bits as there is so much history, and most of it is really grim. Europe has been fought over and over for centuries. The past 75 years are probably the longest period of mostly peace that bitter old continent has known…

    We loved France, the week or so we spent there. Both the big cities and the little rural towns.

    I remember the day Bobby Kennedy was shot, although I’m stone weak on dates, so I didn’t know this was that terrible anniversary. What a pile of events on June 06.

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  26. 26
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: True. Or recorded, but never taught outside of very select places. All of which is functionally the same as erased.

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  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    @The Dangerman:
    There were people who wouldn’t fight in WWII. You don’t hear about them as much, because so many did join, even underage, under weight, women….. But most considered WWII to be a necessary war. As Adam wrote the other day, we’ve been at war for almost the entire life of our country, and many never joined the military. I doubt seriously that I would have joined during Vietnam other than because of the draft. I even looked into declaring being a CO after I joined but I realized that in a “necessary” war, I would have joined. I had no objection to fighting in a justifiable war like WWII, but dying in the cause of political bullshit – no thanks. Even my very pacifist sister understood that last sentence.

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  28. 28

    Thanks, Adam. Great post.

    I had forgotten about it, but we heard or read Eisenhower’s remarks many times during my childhood. Which was, after all, not that long after he made them. So much so that they were imprinted on my memory and totally familiar, even after all these years.

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  29. 29
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    My Grandfather, on my Mothers side, was a 14 year old Austro Hungarian Orphan Refugee from Czechoslovakia, who had been taken care of in Czechoslovakia by the Salvation Army, taught to play music.

    That’s all we know. He didn’t remember his home village, wether he was Czech, Slovak, Ruethrian, Hungarian.

    He arrived in 1920 at Montreal. Worked as “orphan labour” at a farm in Ontario, ( indentured servitude really) for two years, then ran away to The Pass, where because of his small size, got hired by the Coal Mines.

    I still have my Uncle’s Diaries, ( not my Uncle, family friend).

    There’s one day I have bookmarked, from the Dirty Thirties, when on the bindle, he discovered the whole “us vs. them”, was utter bs.

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  30. 30

    There used to be a prevailing myth that no black men participated in D-Day

    Wow!

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  31. 31
    Dan B says:

    Wonderful posts by you and Cheryl. And great links I read by rikyrah and in your post.

    I’ve mentioned before I was a ten year old in a pool in Arkansas 15 years after the war when the white kids said “Yes, it would come off on you in blotches.” When some civil rights workers tried to desgregate the public pool.

    I’m certain those kids could not be shamed to know they were living in a democracy (unkess you were black in the south) because black men sacrified for that freedom.

    My parents were proud of Truman desegregating the services and of the Marshall Plan. And horrified by Jim Crow. It stole our pride in the US. It was a personal assault.

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  32. 32
    rikyrah says:

    😠😠😠😠

    CNN (@CNN) Tweeted:
    Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has approved the decision to discipline at least eight military officers over their role in the October 2017 Niger ambush that left four American soldiers dead https://t.co/DIoZfIy1Vb https://twitter.com/CNN/status/1136062590071836682?s=17

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  33. 33
    Kent says:

    @rikyrah:

    I often wondered why a Black man, growing up in the Police State know as the Jim Crow South, would volunteer for this country. I tried to understand, but, I dunno..
    He just told me it was what he felt he should do. It was 1941, pre -Pearl Harbor.

    Not saying it is the same thing at all.

    But when I lived in Texas I taught a lot of kids from pretty dire backgrounds including a lot of Hispanic kids, undocumented kids and those from just dire poverty for whom their country had done nothing. A bunch of them went into the service and got shipped to Iraq and Afganistan. Fighting for a country that might be deporting their parents or older siblings the next month. They just put on the uniform and served. No “bone spurs” no whining. It was rural Texas and what you did.

    There is a certain honor and dignity about it that people from wealthier and higher class backgrounds just never understand.

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  34. 34
    Jay says:

    More Ike:

    “THIS DAY is the tenth anniversary of the landing of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Normandy. That combined land-sea-air operation was made possible by the joint labors of cooperating nations. It depended for its success upon the skill, determination and self-sacrifice of men from several lands. It set in motion a chain of events which affected the history of the entire world.
    Despite the losses and suffering involved in that human effort, and in the epic conflict of which it was a part, we today find in those experiences reasons for hope and inspiration. They remind us particularly of the accomplishments attainable through close cooperation and friendship among free peoples striving toward a common goal. Some of my most cherished memories of that campaign are those of friendly cooperation with such distinguished military leaders of foreign nations as Field Marshal Montgomery, Admiral Ramsay, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Tedder, Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny, Marshal Juin and Marshal Leclerc. I recall my pleasant association with the outstanding Soviet soldier, Marshal Zhukov, and the victorious meeting at the Elbe of the Armies of the West and of the East.
    These lessons of unity and cooperation have by no means been lost in the trying period of reconstruction since the fighting stopped. Rather, we see peoples, once bitter enemies, burying their antagonisms and joining together to meet the problems of the postwar world. If all those nations which were members of the Grand Alliance have not maintained in time of peace the spirit of that wartime union, if some of the peoples who were our comrades-in-arms have been kept apart from us, that is cause for profound regret, but not for despair. The courage, devotion and faith which brought us through the perils of war will inevitably bring us success in our unremitting search for peace, security and freedom.”

    https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-the-president-the-10th-anniversary-the-landing-normandy

    Not a touch of braggadocio, the boastfulness of the victor, everything we have come to expect from the lunatic, Trump. No mention of Patton or Bradley or how “America defeated the Nazis.” A brief, attenuated tribute to unity, cooperation, reconstruction and reconciliation. Nothing remotely hollow or disingenuous in it.

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  35. 35
    Mary G says:

    Every time I see Gen. Eisenhower’s message, I hear it in the mocking voice of George From “Band of Brothers.”

    Learned a lot from these threads.

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  36. 36
    Mike in NC says:

    @Jay: Fat Bastard might be our first functionally illiterate POTUS. Sad!

    ReplyReply
  37. 37
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @rikyrah: This whole thing is a mess. The families are pissed. Apparently someone ratfucked a Medal of Honor application somewhere along the way for one of the Soldiers killed in action. If they don’t get in front of this, and fast, it is going to wind up like the mess around Pat Tillman.

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  38. 38
    Ruckus says:

    @rikyrah:
    It was his home. Think about what else he might have done, think of where else could he live……. One of my life heroes is a black man, maybe 5 yrs or so older than me that worked for my dad when I was a teen, before I enlisted. He had to drop out of school in Louisiana in the 4th grade to help support his mom, had a wife and one kid, till she had twins. He had a life, he was a good man, he looked like the front line of the Rams, all by himself and yet he was as gentle as anyone I’ve ever met. He worked hard, to support his family, he cared about the world, even if most of his world didn’t give a damn about him or actively hated him for all the wrong reasons. It’s what we have that can’t be bought that’s important, it’s what’s in our minds and hearts. This man had that in an over abundance. He could have been bitter, he had every right to be. But he wasn’t. I’d bet your dad was like him. I’ve met other people like him, life is what happens, not what we want it to be and especially not the monetary excess and privilege some think they are owed.

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  39. 39
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Kent: It’s also a potential way out of poverty. You can learn a trade, you can earn money for school, and, for some, you can make it a career. I don’t know if you have ever driven Hwy 61 from NOLA to Memphis, but there is nothing there and even when there is we flood to save cities. Why did so many bluesmen come from there? Because it was a way out. If you had any talent, you would be crazy if you didn’t spend every spare minute practicing and getting better. Or even making a deal at a crossroads. How many boxers come from poverty? That’s another way out. You just have to be tough and desperate enough to take whatever punishment comes your way and deliver more to your opponent. Well, if you don’t have the musical or physical talent to those things, the military can give you a chance to get out too.

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  40. 40
    Kent says:

    Another piece of forgotten history from World War 2.

    At the start of the war at the same time as Pearl Harbor the Japanese invaded the far western Aleutian Islands occupying the islands of Kiska and Attu which are part of Alaska but closer to Russia and Japan. They also bombed Dutch Harbor in the central Aleutians and there was fear that the Japanese would be using Alaska as a possible invasion front to North America.

    Many of these islands were populated by native Aleut people in small villages. The Navy not wanting American citizens to fall into Japanese hands sent destroyers out to evacuate the Aleutian Islands and picked up nearly a thousand Aleut villagers from a dozen or so villages, shelling and burning their villages to the ground as they departed using scorched earth tactics more reminiscent of the eastern front in Russia as the Aleuts watched their villages burn from onboard the Navy ships.

    The entire Aleut population was relocated to various abandoned canneries and mines in remote parts of Southeast Alaska where they were held in internment camps for the duration of the war in rotting buildings without running water toilets or electricity. Far worse conditions than the Japanese internment camps in the lower 48 and far worse conditions than the nearby German prisoner of war camps of which there were a couple in SE Alaska where German prisoners were used to man canneries and lumber mills. The German prisoners in Alaska were actually treated quite well and had virtually no guards. They flew the German officers around showing them there was literally no escaping over the mountains through brown bear country where you’d have to travel several hundred miles across glaciers and peaks to the nearest Canadian village in the Yukon. Legend has it one or two made a break for it only to return a couple days later half starved and half frozen to death begging for mercy.

    During the decade I spent working as a fisheries biologist in Alaska I visited many of these sites in the Aleutians where the remnants of destroyed villages still stand as well as the cannery locations in SE Alaska where they were held in internment. Another in the long history of mistreatment of native Americans in this country. Here’s a short Smithsonian article on the subject: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/us-forcibly-detained-native-alaskans-during-world-war-ii-180962239/

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  41. 41
    Kent says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Right I’m acutely aware of all this. I’m just saying it was probably the same exact thing for the kids of black sharecroppers in the south who joined up by the hundreds of thousands. No need to wonder really deeply about why they would fight for a country that treated them as second class. It was still probably a lot better than walking behind a mule in the Mississippi delta. It’s just what you did. Plus I’m guessing there was a draft.

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  42. 42
    Ruckus says:

    @Kent:

    There is a certain honor and dignity about it that people from wealthier and higher class backgrounds just never understand.

    QFT.
    I think it comes from rarely/never really having to work at all that hard for more than most will every have. Mr Bone Spurs is a prime example. Sure he’s not nearly as rich as he tells everyone, sure he’s never done an honest days work in his life (that bit works in a number of ways….), sure he’s a massive asshole, sure he’s a lying sack of shit, but mostly he thinks the world owes him far more than it owes anyone else for what – his lack of humanity, his lack of skills, his lack of – well really any positive human characteristics……

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  43. 43
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: It is the last functioning socio-economic escalator left in the US.

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  44. 44
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    That worked for a lot of the lifers that I met in the navy. They came from small towns with small school systems that didn’t give them much of a chance, and there wasn’t much of a chance where they lived, their folks were workers, not the local doc or the shop owners, or the mayor. They really had to get out of where they lived to have much of a life. Think about the small towns surrounding Columbus. Why did Honda come in and open a couple plants? Cheap land, a willing work force, supply chains….. Look where most of the offshore companies have opened up plants, all places with the same things.

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  45. 45
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Just wanted to say, a great post. You make it look easy.

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  46. 46
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ruckus: I don’t know about making it look easy, but thanks for the kind words.

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  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: Yeah, a Sergeant First Class or a Chief Petty Officer is a someone in the military. If you came from someplace poor and didn’t choose a trade that translates well to civilian life when you signed up, becoming a lifer could look pretty good if those ranks or above were reasonably in your sights. My first platoon leader when I was a Fire Direction Officer came from a family like that. His grandfather was a poor farm worker, his dad joined the army and retired as a sergeant major. He then had grown up inside the army community and had gone to college on a ROTC scholarship. My guess is that he did his 20 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel. The fact that he was an asshole is, of course, immaterial.

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  48. 48
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Well, no one was watching you on a webcam as you were writing.*

    *As far as you know.

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  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Did you get that spam phishing extortion letter too?

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  50. 50
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The fact that he was an asshole is, of course, immaterial.

    I have met his navy doppelgänger. Actually I met a few of them.
    The one that comes to mind was an E7, a chief, who took me aside once and told me he didn’t like my attitude. I didn’t work for him, in the ships work groups I was equal to him, I ran one and so did he, while militarily of course I wasn’t. Told him he got my time, he got my expertise in electronics repair and maintenance, my ability to lead my crew, my life if that came to pass, but my attitude was mine and if he didn’t like it he could just go fuck himself. He managed to do just that. I can’t even remember us saying another word to each other the rest of my time in the navy. For some assholes you just have to take the risk that they are all talk and bluster, and have all the balls of a bag of dust bunnies.

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  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: No, but my phone got hit by the nasties here last week.

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  52. 52
    NotMax says:

    @Omnes Omnibus

    The Schlongest Day?

    :)

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  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NotMax: Delete your account.

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  54. 54
    dogwood says:

    @Kent:
    Thanks for bringing it this up. It’s not forgotten history to me. My father fought in Europe, and he always said he thanked God he didn’t get sent to the Pacific. Americans have little knowledge and less interest in that theatre of the War, and sadly I think we all know why. I’ve, been to Normandy, and it is as powerful an experience as anyone can imagine, but it is no more powerful than seeing the American cemetery in Manila, or being on Corregidor, or visiting Bataan.

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  55. 55
    joel hanes says:

    @Jay:

    To my mind, Eisenhower’s greatest letter was the one he did not have to deliver, in which he accepted sole responsibility for the invasion’s failure.

    https://www.archives.gov/files/education/lessons/d-day-message/images/failure-message.gif

    Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

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  56. 56
    joel hanes says:

    @dogwood:

    A wonderful great-aunt once gave me the for-children _From_Pearl_Harbor_To_Okinawa_,
    https://smile.amazon.com/Pearl-Harbor-Okinawa-1941-1945-Landmark/dp/B000HYWBP6/
    so by the age of twelve I knew something about the Gulf of Leyte and Bataan and Coregidor and Iwo Jima and the Doolittle raids and the names of the major battleships and aircraft carriers.

    I didn’t grasp the war in Europe in comparable detail until I was in my twenties.

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  57. 57
    Kathleen says:

    @japa21: I agree. Thank you so much for this moving post, Adam.

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  58. 58
    dnfree says:

    @joel hanes: Those Landmark History books were awesome. When we were kids in the 1950s, we got one of them a month. I have gone back and re-read a few of them as an adult and they hold up pretty well. A few of them really stuck with me, including “The Slave Who Freed Haiti: The Story of Toussaint Louverture” and “War Chief of the Seminoles”. I wish kids now were receiving history books every month and reading them as avidly as we did.

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  59. 59
    dnfree says:

    Adam, this post is heartfelt and moving and angering. I grew up in the 1950s, and I remember hearing about the US turning Jews away, and I remember hearing about the Japanese internment camps, and then in the 1960s I saw the power of the Civil Rights movement, and my belief for a long time was that the United States had learned from these devastating decisions and wouldn’t be making those mistakes again. The 2000s have been breaking my heart, and my belief in the “arc of the moral universe” tending toward justice.

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  60. 60
    J R in WV says:

    We had a dentist appointment yesterday, and ran a couple more errands since we were in town anyway. By the time we got home we were both really pooped. Then most all the news — we’re both compulsive news junkies, grew up that way — was grim and bad. Wife went to bed early, I kept up to learn Dr. John had died, more bad news.

    And this post, last night. For which I also thank you, Adam. It’s hard but we need to hear when we have done bad things, in order to learn not to do that any more.

    @dnfree:

    I also believed that the “arc of the moral universe” tended toward justice, in spite of seeing Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin L King Jr shot down like so many deer. Not to mention the Kent state and Jackson state students, and all those Viet Cong, etc. Not to mention the Iraqis and Syrians and Yemenis more recently.

    I still believe that, but I think the lesson lately is that the fight for justice never ends, and certainly never gets any easier. Because there are always bad people who believe justice is in their way of taking all they can take for themselves. From Trump and Huckabee and his fellow evangelist thieves to Putin and the other mobsters running small countries as warlords, they work hard to bend the arc of history away from justice, and because they feel no need to operate honestly or morally, they have built-in advantages. All we can do is use our legal tools to work to win the next battle in the war for moral justice.

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  61. 61
    Tehanu says:

    @J R in WV:

    I think the lesson lately is that the fight for justice never ends, and certainly never gets any easier. Because there are always bad people who believe justice is in their way of taking all they can take for themselves.

    What you said, and of course, what Adam wrote here. Thanks to you both.

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