Category Archives: History

WWII in 13 Minutes – A Crash Course

I came across the 13:12 video “World War II: Crash Course World History” a few days ago.   While the presentation is not the most serious, this would be a good video to use in introducing WWII to kids. It was uploaded to YouTube in October of 2012 by CrashCourse. Their description of the video:

John Green teaches you about World War II, aka The Great Patriotic War, aka The Big One. So how did this war happen? And what does it mean? We’ve all learned the facts about World War II many times over, thanks to repeated classroom coverage, the History channel, and your grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather) showing you that Nazi bayonet he used to keep in his sock drawer and telling you a bunch of age-inappropriate stories about his harrowing war experiences. So, why did the Axis powers think forceful expansion was a good idea? (they were hungry). So why did this thing shake out in favor of the Allies? HInt: it has to do with the fact that it was a world war. Germany and Japan made some pretty serious strategic errors, such as invading Russia and attacking the United States, and those errors meant that pretty much the whole world was against them. So, find out how this worldwide alliance came together to stop the Axis expansion. All this, plus Canada finally gets the respectful treatment it deserves.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Drawing D – Day: An Artist’s Journey Through War”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author Ugo Giannini published the book “Drawing D – Day: An Artist’s Journey Through War” in 2013. This was his only publication.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’. This is the story of Ugo Giannini and his wartime experiences.

Giannini was an artist. He was part of a Military Police unit landed at Normandy on D-Day. Only 6 of his platoon of 37 made it ashore. He used his artistic abilities to make drawings on D-Day and throughout the war. Included in this book are some of these drawings. Most of the book consists of letters Giannin wrote to his girlfriend and family.

Most of his letters reflect his dark feelings about the war. While he was never wounded, many around him are killed or wounded.

I thought that the 5+ hours I spent reading this 196-page non-fiction book. The included drawings were good, but there were fewer than I expected. For me, the many letters became tiresome to read as they repeated his depression. I do like the selected cover art. I give this book a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 370 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

The Black Bean Incident and the Republic of Texas

(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum and Historyrelated posts) – As a docent at the Texas Military Forces Museum, I have lead several student tours. One of the popular exhibits relates to the ‘Black Bean Incident” from the days of the Texas Republic.

I had been planning on writing about this Incident for a while. Yesterday (March 25) was the anniversary of the Incident and the Museum staff posted the video above.

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Texas had defeated the Mexican Army led by Santa Anna in 1836 to win their independence. Mexican forces continued to harass the Texans in hopes of recovering needed territory.

On March 5, 1842, around 700 Mexican who had crossed into Texas took San Antonio. They soon retreated back into Mexico. Again on September 11 Mexican troops took San Antonio. This time the force was around 1400 men. This was part of an ongoing struggle between Texas and Mexico. They were fighting over the land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces rivers.

Texas President Houston dispatched the militia on November 25 to punish the Mexicans. This was also for Dawson Massacre and for financial gain. A force of more than 700 men left San Antonio. After some initial success, the expedition was abandoned. 

A group of around 300 of the militia chose to continue their raiding against orders. The privateer expedition recruited more followers from the La Grange, TX area. They headed into Mexico and contacted the Mexican Army at Ciudad Mier. This is what earned them the Mier Expedition name.

Initially, the Texans inflicted heavy casualties on the Mexicans. They surrendered after running short of supplies. The prisoners were marched back to Mexico. About 180 of them escaped, but were later recaptured.

The escaped prisoners incensed Santa Anna who ordered their execution. The United States and British diplomats interceded. Santa Anna relaxed his edict, but demanded that 1 in 10 must die.

The Mexicans filled a pot with 159 white and 17 black beans. The blindfolded prisoners drew beans. Those who drew white would remain captives. Those who drew black beans faced execution. The execution of those drawing the black beans occurred on March 25, 1843.

In 1848 the bodies of those who died in the Dawson Massacre and those who drew the black beans were recovered. They were interred south of La Grange, TX. The burial site is now part of a state park, the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites. I have visited that park several times over the years. There is a monument there telling the story of the black beans.

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In the Texas Republic portion of the 19th Century gallery of the Museum is a pot filled with beans. The visitors have the opportunity to draw their own bean to see if they would have survived. This is always popular with the students I lead on tours. Surprisingly, they seem disappointed when they draw a white bean.

 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading:

  1. Mier expedition
  2. The Black Bean Lottery: October ’97 American History Feature
  3. Texas History 101: The Mier Expedition
  4. Luck of the Draw

Read More About History

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(See my other Reading and History related posts) – I saw a Tweet today from History Extra that they were opening up their content. You can read their articles for free for the next two weeks without a subscription.

I checked them out and there are many topics covered. They have several articles and posts relevant to WWII. I’m going to be going over those in the next couple of weeks.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

JSTOR Offers Students Access to Research

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I read “Free apps and things to do at home during the coronavirus pandemic” this morning. That article mentions that JSTOR has made its entire library accessible to the public —without academic credentials.
JSTOR is an academic resource that contains a plethora of ebooks and journals. It provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines. This may sound like dry reading to many. Students confined at home without access to a library may find this useful for research.
I find this of interest due to the extensive history content. My search for “WWII” on the JSTOR website resulted in 20,716 results. Searching the “Open Content” part resulted in 1170. There were more than 700 for a search on “D-Day”. Not every one of the items that appear is going to have the content you are looking for. You never know though what you may find.
See “Need Help Logging in to JSTOR?” to find out how to register.

If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Music Popular in WWII: “We’ll Meet Again”

Singer Vera Lynn (now Dame Vera Lynn) made “We’ll Meet Again” famous in 1939. She is best known for this song. During the Phoney War, the London based tabloid Daily Express ran a poll of servicemen for their favorite musical performer. Vera Lynn came out as the top choice and she became known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart”.

The English songwriters Ross Parker and Hughie Charles composed the music and wrote the lyrics fo “We’ll Meet Again”. It is considered to be one of the most famous songs of the WWII era.

Dame Vera Lynn celebrated her 103rd birthday on March 20, 2020. She holds the record for being the oldest person to top the album charts.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

A Central Texas Connection to the “Desert Fox”

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J16362,_Erwin_Rommel

On November 15, 1891, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Germany. He was the third of the five Rommel children. His family did not have a history of military tradition. His father had served as an artillery officer, though. Young Rommel chose to follow a military career joining the Army at 18. He received his commission as a Lieutenant in January of 1912. He served Germany in both the First and Second World Wars. He served with distinction in both wars. He received wounds in both conflicts.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was one of Germany’s most popular generals during World War II. He was often referred to as “the People’s Marshal” by his fellow Germans. He became one of Germany’s most successful and popular generals. He is most well known for his command of the Afrika Corps that fought the Allies in North Africa.

The propaganda efforts of both the Allies and Germans made Rommel into an icon. He has been the subject of many works of fiction and non-fiction since the war. He is still celebrated in Germany. The Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf is named in his honor. It is today’s largest Army base in Germany.

Rommel in WWI

In World War I, Rommel fought in France, Romania, and Italy. He displayed outstanding leadership and ingenuity. He earned the Iron Cross, Second Class for service in France. Later in Rumania, his actions resulted in the Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. By the time WWI had ended, he had reached the rank of Hauptmann (Captain).

The Interwar Years

There were riots and civil disturbances in Germany between the wars. Rommel was active with the Army in response to these disturbances. Generally, he succeeded without the use of violence.

These experiences strengthen his belief in the need for a strong, unified Germany. He later became an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School. In 1934 while at Dresden, he wrote a manual on infantry training. In 1935 Rommel joined the faculty at the War Academy at Potsdam. In 1937 he published the book “Infanterie greift an” (Infantry Attacks). The book described his wartime experiences and included his insightful analysis.

Among the many who read the book was Adolf Hitler. Rommel continued to advance in the ranks. By 1938 he had reached the rank of full Colonel. He became commandant of the Theresian Military Academy shortly afterward. He was seconded to command the Führerbegleibatallion at the request of Hitler in late 1938. This was a special battalion that traveled with Hitler. It provided security whenever he traveled outside of Germany. In August of 1939, Rommel was promoted again to Generalmajor.

Rommel in WWII

On September 1, 1939, Rommel and the Führerbegleibatallion were guarding Hitler. They were with the Führer’s field headquarters during the invasion of Poland. Rommel became commander of the 7th Panzer Division in February 1940. This gave him an opportunity to show his combat leadership skills.

On May 10, 1940, the Phoney War ended. The German Army began its invasion of the rest of Western Europe. Rommel’s 7th Panzers along with elements of the 5th Panzer reached the River Muse in only three days. Soon much of Europe was under German control.

By February 1941 Rommel had moved to North Africa and took command of the Axis troops there. The Italian Army was struggling in Libya. Rommel’s force arrived to strengthen the North African front.

He was very successful at first against the British forces. He earned the nickname of “Desert Fox” for his achievements. His success came to an end in October of 1942. That was when the Africa Corps was decisively defeated in the second battle of El-Alamein. The Germans fell back to Tunis. Orders arrived in March of 1943 for Rommel to return home. The efforts Rommel had against the British made him viewed as a liberator by much of the Arab world.

Hitler named Rommel General Inspector of the Western Defenses in November 1943. This put him in command of both the 7th and 15th armies. His area of responsibility stretched over a 20-kilometer strip of coast. He directed the installation of countless mines and tank traps along the beach. He issued similar orders for defensive measures behind the coast. These were to discourage and disrupt Allied landing attempts. Fortunately, these defensive measures were far from finished on D-Day.

The Plot

On July 20, 1944, Hitler was the target of a nearly successful assassination attempt. Several high ranking German officers had planned the assassination. They believed that the elimination of Hitler was the only way to save Germany. It is unclear from the evidence if Rommel played a role in the plot. There is clear evidence that he had written to Hitler on July 15. The letter pleads with Hitler to end hostilities with the Allies.

Rommel was returning from a visit to the headquarters of the I SS Panzer Corps two days later. RAF fighters attacked his staff car leaving him hospitalized. He had severe head injuries which some thought would prove to be fatal.

Hitler went on a mad pursuit of those involved in the assassination attempt. A German Court of Military Honour found Rommel guilty of conspiracy. Officers visited him at his home on October 14. Three choices were presented to him. He could go to Berlin and defend himself to Hitler. He could do nothing which would mean his admission of guilt. He could choose suicide. Any choice but suicide would have meant punishment for his staff and family. If he chose suicide he would be treated as a hero of Germany and his family would receive a pension.

Whether or not he was guilty, Rommel made the honorable choice to take the offered cyanide capsule. This saved his family and staff. Germany mourned his passing with a state funeral. Rommel’s tomb can be visited in Herrlingen, Germany.

Herrlingen is a small village outside of Blaustein, which is a suburb to the west of Ulm. Herrlingen is about 55 miles (90 km) is East Southeast of Stuttgart.

The Connection to the 36th Infantry Division and the Texas Military Forces Museum

On August 15, 1944, the 6th US Army Group made an amphibious landing in southern France. The 36th Infantry Division was part of the 6th at that time. They encountered far less resistance than the Normandy landing had. The 36th took part in substantial combat as they moved north through France.

By May 8, 1945, VE Day, the 36th was based in Kitzbühel, Austria. The 141st Infantry Battalion was part of the 36th Division. From June 14 until July 9 it was stationed 156 mi (252km) northwest in Herrlingen, Germany. While there they came upon a remarkable find. This placard explains it best:

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German Officer’s Peaked Cap (Schirmmutze) belonging to General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel was promoted to Field Marshal in June 1942 after his Afrika Corps captured the British fortress of Tobruk, Libya. This cap is a mix of Field Marshal and General Officer insignia, pieced together by Rommel’s staff because an actual Field Marshal’s cap was not immediately available in the North African desert.

The Headquarters Company if the 141st Infantry [Regiment] made its command post at Rommel’s house in Herrlingen, Germany, from June 14 to July 9, 1945. Private First Class George Atkins found the hat in the service quarters of Rommel’s house and took it as a war souvenir. On the inside of the hat in a plastic holder is a typed card with the words “Generalfeldmarschall Rommel – 39496”. This number was the Field Post address assigned to Rommel’s headquarters in North Africa. The Field Marshal’s son, Manfred Rommel, verified that this cap did indeed belong to his father.

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This cap can be found on display in the 36th Division in WWI & II gallery of the Texas Military forces Museum in Austin, TX. 

From the sands of North Africa to southern Germany comes a relic from WWII. A part of the legend of Germany’s Desert Fox can be found in Central Texas.

 

References

  1. Erwin Rommel
  2. Erwin Rommel
  3. Erwin Rommel Biography
  4. 8 Things You May Not Know About Erwin Rommel
  5. Erwin Rommel

If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

WWII Documentaries Available On-Line for Free

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smart phone @WWIIFoundation 2020-03-20 at 9.32.34 AM

I saw a tweet from @WWIIFoundation a short time ago that I thought was worth sharing. It said:

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

If you visit their website (https://wwiifoundation.org/) you will find nearly 30 documentary videos covering WWII. This website offers something to fill some of the time while we are confined at home and to learn more about WWII.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “The Thames at War: Saving London From the Blitz”

(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author Gustav Milne published the novel “The Thames at War: Saving London From the Blitz” in 2020 (July). Mr. Milne has published more than a dozen books. 

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The book gives the history of the Thames river in the area of London during WWII. It is pretty dry and not the easiest read. It does bring out an ignored strategy that the Germans could have employed. Had they tried to bomb the areas along the river they might have flooded parts of London. 

The 3.5+ hours reading the 224-page non-fiction account of WWII London were interesting. It was not a ‘fun’ read, but is was informative though a bit tedious. I do like the selected cover art. I give this book a 3.7 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/. 

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Podcast: “The History of WWII Podcast”

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(You may be interested in my other Podcast  related posts) – I came across “The History of WWII Podcast” a few weeks back and have started listening to them from the beginning. This is a series of very detailed talks about WWII by Ray Harris (Ray Harris Jr; has a degree in history from James Madison University. He has been obsessed with the events and people from WWII since he first learned of them.). To give you some perspective, episode 32 covers the aftermath in France after Dunkirk. There are several podcasts in the series. Episode 281 was just released on March 3, 2020.

A new episode is released every two weeks. Episodes are usually in the 30-45 minute range in length. The podcast began in January of 2012.

If you are interested in the history of WWII I recommend this podcast.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.