Tag Archives: Military

Today is National Medal of Honor Day

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This morning I saw this and wanted to share it. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for the US military. This medal was introduced in the first year of the Civil War, 1861. Medal of Honor Day was begun in 1990.

There is not a law or military regulation requiring members of the military to render salutes to recipients of the Medal of Honor. However, salutes are regularly rendered as a matter of respect and courtesy. Salutes are given regardless of rank or status. A Medal of Honor winner will receive salutes from members of a higher rank. They are also rendered whether or not the medal winner is in uniform.

This is a good time to thank all of those you know who have served.

Per the National Day Calendar website, you can observe by:

Some federal, state, local, and military organizations may hold events recognizing Medal of Honor recipients. These events may be public or private. Other ways to participate include:

    • Volunteering for your local veteran organization
    • Donate to a veteran service organization
    • Adopt a Medal of Honor gravesite
    • Fly the U.S. flag at your home or business
    • Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    • Visit local memorial sites

Most of those suggestions will be difficult this year. Many public places are shut down and people in self-quarantine this year.

A Central Texas Connection to the “Desert Fox”

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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.

Animated Pursuit and Sinking of the Bismark

I came across the 10:22 timelapse video depicting the pursuit and sinking of the German battleship Bismark yesterday. It was uploaded to YouTube in July of 2019 by The Operations Room. While I have read the story a few times, seeing how it played out gives more depth to what happened.


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.

Books were important to the servicemen and women of WWII

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I follow author Sarah Sundin on Twitter (I posted a review of her WWII romance novel The Sky Above Us a few weeks ago) and saw mention of an interesting post she recently made. She only posted it a few days ago. In it, she talked about the importance of books in WWII.

The post is titled “Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #10“. Her discussion of books and their importance to WWII soldiers begins just a short distance from the top.

 

 

 

I encourage you to read the full post, but the highlights are:

  • few soldiers read for pleasure before the war
  • before the war books were relatively expensive
  • those in the service often found themselves with time on their hands and many servicemen looked to libraries and books to help fill these idle hours

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  • the National Defense Book Campaign was founded in November 1941 to gather more books for the military

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  • in March of 1943 the Council on Books in Wartime was founded – special Armed Services Editions of many popular books were published, By 1947 when the Armed Services Editions program ended, 123 million books had been published.

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: “Images of The National Archives: Codebreakers”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author Stephen Twigge published the book “Images of The National Archives: Codebreakers” in 2020 (August). This is his third book. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The book looks at UK Signals Intelligence. It begins before WWI and goes up through the Cold War, but the emphasis is on the activities during WWII. As you might imagine from the name, the book contains many photos. 

I enjoyed the 1.5 hours I spent reading this 144-page history.  This was a quick read and is more novella length. It does have many interesting photos, though I thought it could have been much longer. If you have an interest in Bletchley Park, you will find this book of interest. I give this book a 3.4 (rounded down to 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 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.

Battleground 1863 at the Texas Military Forces Museum

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(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – I was glad I had the opportunity to see the “Battleground 1863” demonstration performed by the Texas Military Forces Museum’s “B Company’ living history group this past weekend.

The Texas Military Forces Museum is located in Austin, Texas at Camp Mabry. It is open to the public 10Am-4PM Tuesdays-Sundays.

 

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There was a good turn out both Saturday and Sunday with more than 250 spectators each day. Many were also first-time visitors to the museum so we saw a lot of new faces. So many people in the Austin area just never have heard of the museum.
B Company

“B Company” is a non-political organization. Their primary interest is to better understand the history of the United States and Texas. They use their knowledge of history to educate the public, honor our veterans and support the Texas Military Forces.

They take the role of B Company, 4th Texas Infantry, Hood’s Texas Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia.

Authenticity standards, both physical and mental, are very high with the unit. Equipment, uniforms, tentage, weapons, etc. must be 100% authentic or accurate reproductions. Facial hair and haircuts must also conform to the military standards of the period.

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If YOU are interested in joining “B Company” contact txmilmuseum@gmail.com.

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The first part of the presentation was an explanation of the uniforms and equipment used by both the US and Confederate troops during the war by museum Director Jeff Hunt. Jeff is a student of the Civil War period in America and is the author of three books on the conflict.

IMG_8304One nice touch of the presentation was ‘drafting’ all 10-19-year-olds from the audience and training them how to do a ‘simple’ drill. That was to both educate them and to show how difficult the training was for both sides with new recruits.

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A short distance from the field where the demonstration was held a typical Civil War era camp was set up for the spectators to visit.

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Inside the museum, we were lucky to have a table set up for Christopher Kelly (http://americainvaded.com), an author of non-fiction history books. I have a copy of his “America Invades” and have begun to read it. A review will be posted in the near future.

Muster-Day-handout2020The next special event to be held at the museum will be ‘Muster Day’ on the weekend of April 18-19, 2020. Per the museum website:

Muster Day traces it’s roots back to when Texas was still a republic. In the early days, on an annual basis, the troops were ‘mustered’ or called to report. Over the years, the mustering of the troops became obsolete. However, the Texas Military Forces Museum as part of the Texas Military Forces yearly Open House at Camp Mabry, holds a Muster Day where reenactors of all periods from the Texas Revolution through current times can display their historical uniforms, weapons and equipment and show them to the general public. There is a large WWII battle reenactment each day. These battles feature 200 Allied and German soldiers recreating a WWII battle using original equipment, tanks, and weapons from the time period. The museum will be open Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Gates open at 8 am each day. As well as the museum events, there will be displays by the Texas Military Forces, helicopter demos, First Responders, children’s activities, Vietnam Wall Memorial, and much, much more.

Trailer for the upcoming WWII movie “Greyhound”

This looks like it will be good. “Greyhound” will be in theaters on June 12 of this year. The synopsis per IMDB:

During World War II, a US Navy skipper must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolf packs.

The screenplay for the film was written by Tom Hanks. The story is based upon the many convoys that were taking desperately needed supplies from the United States to England.


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: “Red Metal”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “Red Metal” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Mark Greaney (https://markgreaneybooks.com/). Mr. Greaney has published 10 novels.

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 ‘R’ because it contains scenes Violence and Mature Language. The story is set in contemporary times. A small contingent of the Russian military conspire with the Russian president to invade the west and recapture a mine of Rare Earth metals.

Tensions are high between the US and China. With the threat of an invasion of Taiwan, military forces are redeployed to support the island. The Russians have been unhappy since they were forced to abandon the Rare Earth mine in East Africa. Now that the attention of the US is focused on Asia, the Russians implement a high stakes plan to recapture the mine and gain control for decades of high tech.

The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters, though a few stand out. On the Russian side the two generals leading the major military efforts are the main characters. On the side of the ‘Allies’ are a Marine Lt. Colonel fresh from a desk in the Pentagon, a French Special Forces Captain, a young Polish reservist, an American A-10 pilot, an American armor maintenance officer who is thrust into command of a combat unit, and the commander of a submarine.

The action flows back and forth between Allies and Russian forces. A strike is made from deep in Russia into Western Europe, following a well prepared plan. Simultaneously another force is secretly deployed to Africa to capture and hold the mine.

With the bulk of US forces already deployed to Asia, the Russians meet little resistance at first in their surprise attack. Slowly though, the Allies begin to pull together and resist the Russian onslaught.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 19 hours I spent reading this 652-page thriller.  I thought that this novel had a very enjoyable and elaborate plot. Not all of the characters that are touched upon survive the many confrontations. I do like the selected cover art. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

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

A Piece of the Cold War in Austin

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When WWII ended in Europe in May of 1945, Easter Europe, including part of Germany, was occupied by Soviet forces. Germany was divided into four occupation zones at the Potsdam Conference in the late summer of 1945. Each zone was under the control of one of the Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. With Berlin being well within the Soviet zone, it too was divided into four sectors. 

The Soviet Union worked to create communist governments in those countries they had occupied. In their zone in Eastern Germany, they worked with German socialists to create the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In addition to the GDR, they set up similar governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Along with Albania, these countries and the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact to oppose NATO. These two became the opposing sides during the Cold War. The other three Allies joined their western zones into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. 

The oppressive GDR drove many Germans to escape into the West. It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million East Germans (20% of the East German population) had fled to the west by 1961. The GDR began closing the border at midnight on August 31, 1961. The border was manned by troop, roads were torn up, and barbed wire was installed (156 km or 97 miles) around the three western sectors of Berlin. The first concrete segments of a wall were erected on August 17. In addition, chain link fences, minefields, and other obstacles were put in place along the border between East and West German. 

For the GDR the wall solved some economic problems that stemmed from two German currencies and an active Black Market for western goods. It also stopped the flow of people to the west, particularly many of the more educated East Germans. This enabled the GDR government to assert tighter control over its citizens. On the downside the wall became a public relations problem. It was a symbol of the Communist East and border guards shooting those trying to escape did little to enhance this point of view. It is thought that nearly 200 people were killed trying to escape over the wall. 

The final Berlin Wall was some 140 km (87 miles) in length. The initial wall was repeatedly improved over the years. The  “fourth generation” wall was the most sophisticated and was completed in 1980. This version of the wall was constructed of 45,000 reinforced concrete panels, each 3.6 m (12 ft) high and 1.2 m (3.9 ft) wide. In the fall of 1989 there was growing unrest in East Berlin. The GDR government finally announced on November 9, 1989, that they would begin allowing citizens to visit the West. Demolition of the Berlin Wall officially began on June 13, 1990, and it was completed in November of that year. Removal of the wall opened up Germany for reunification, which was completed on October 3, 1990. 

In the aftermath of WWII, six new National Guard divisions were created. One of those was the 49th Armored Division and it was assigned to the Texas National Guard. It officially came into being on February 27, 1947, and was nicknamed the “Lone Star Division”. The 49th initially was equipped with WWII vintage equipment, but over the years as the Regular Army received updated armor, the 49th was updated with newer “hand-me-down” equipment. In 1961 when East Germany began building the Berlin Wall the 49th was one of the National Guard Divisions President Kennedy ordered to be mobilized. 

The members of the 49th were called to active duty on October 15, 1961. It moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana to train in preparation for deployment to Germany. The unit spent nearly a year in preparation and was eventually designated as a division in the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC). STRAC was created as a flexible strike force capable of worldwide deployment on short notice. Fortunately, the tension created by the construction of the Berlin Wall had diminished by the late summer of 1962 and the 49th was demobilized in August of that year. 

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 a section of it was presented to the Texas National Guard in recognition for their readiness for deployment to Germany. The segment of the wall is on display in the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. It can be found in the Cold War/War on Terror room in the West Gallery. The plaque reads:

Dedicated to the soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard whose service during the Cold War helped bring the Berlin Wall down