Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘World War Two’ Category

FRIDAY FOLLIES

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800px-Ardennes_Abbey_2Another week gone, who knows how many more to go. Where are we going anyhow? I was reminded this week of the English Joke Telling Society. They meet on Monday to tell each other jokes. They meet on Tuesday to laugh at them. Then on Friday they meet to explain them to each other. I’m guessing Englishmen aren’t renowned for their joke telling abilities. And in that vein, geeze, I sometimes wonder if anyone gets my jokes. Monday’s post, the one about mysterious disappearances. The Hanging Rock one was a joke, but if anyone noticed they said nothing. I mean, a picnic area where dozens of people vanish every year, how likely is that? And Wombat infested, that didn’t tweak anyone? Wombats are harmless herbivores, notable only for producing square turds. Hardly a danger to people. Oh well, I got a good laugh out of it. I crack myself up sometimes. I probably need help.

Reminds me of another joke. So this fellow gets invited to a fancy private club for supper with a friend. He goes, nice dining room, all sorts of people sitting around enjoying a good time. One odd thing though. Every once and awhile some stands up, shouts out a number, and then the whole room laughs. The guest is puzzled, so he asks his friend what’s the deal with the shouted number? His friend tells him the club members like to tell jokes, but the club has been around so long they’ve heard them all before, so they just assigned numbers to them to save time.

Well, the fellow thinks, that’s easy. He waits till a quiet moment, stands up, and shouts out “Nineteen!” Dead silence. OK, he tries again. “Forty Two!” Crickets. Desperate he tries again. “Seventy One!” Not a chuckle to be heard, though a lot of people are looking at him funny. Embarrassed, he sits back down. He asked his friend, what happened? His friend looked at him sadly and said “Some people just aren’t very good at telling jokes.” Speaking of jokes, most posts I write have at least one link just for laughs.

Speaking of laughs, this news story made me laugh. A huge kerfluffle was triggered when a black High School senior’s quote was accidentally included in a yearbook. Big deal, stickers provided to cover the offensive quote, charges of racism, and apologies all around. And what horribly racist quote got published in the yearbook? “Going to this school helped me discover my cracker allergy.” Oh dear, the mental anguish suffered by the poor people who read the quote. Will the horrors of reverse racism ever end?

OK, yes, the quote was inappropriate. Oh well, TTH*. It’s enclosure in the yearbook was an act of vandalism, not deliberate. The girl did submit it, but in jest, it would not normally have been approved. And if it had been deliberate, so what? Any white person getting their knickers in a twist about this needs to examine their white fragility. Cracker is not the same as the n word, because it’s not backed up by centuries of systematic racism. Especially since her comment was more a reflection of just how white her High School was than anything else.

In a last amusing note, someone posted this in one of my Facebook debate groups. I don’t recommend it, and even hate linking it, but this is it. An article claiming their is scientific evidence for dream telepathy. Fascinating on multiple levels. First, on the pure science level, no one has ever done a replicable study demonstrating telepathy. And no plausible mechanism has yet been proposed to allow telepathy. So right now, science says telepathy doesn’t exist. Secondly, the article itself is a masterpiece of how to construct false arguments. Almost every other line is one, it’s breathtaking really.

Lastly, boy, just google <dream telepathy> and page after page of similar articles pop up. Woo illustrated. A huge number of folks see this as gospel. I sometimes wonder if the rise in modern conspiracy thinking is just human predilection for religion taking on new forms. Fodder for a future blog. Or not.

OK then, ending with some  serious stuff. I thought about a D-Day post, but I think I’ve done enough of them. There have been lots of other battles in history, a few even more important than D-Day. Still, researching the topic came across the sad story of the Canadians massacred in the days after D-Day. That’s what the cover pic is about. Basically the 12th SS Panzer was manned and led by Nazi fanatics, and the order was given not to take prisoners. The leader of the unit served only nine years for his crimes. Sheesh. God rest the souls of all those who were murdered in the Battle of Normandy.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Memorial to Canadian prisoners of war executed in the garden of the Ardenne Abbey, in the Calvados region of Normandy in France. Credit: Wikipedia, permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.)

Written by unitedcats

June 7, 2019 at 8:06 am

Posted in Personal, World War Two

78 YEARS AGO TODAY, THE BATTLE OF THE DENMARK STRAIT

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hood

24 May 1941. Big event today in history, so I will write about it instead of ranting about nonsense in the news. On this day in 1941 was The Battle of the Denmark Strait. This was the only daytime engagement between battleships during World War Two. Shows just how important and deadly air power had become even early in the war. And how modern war is global, this took place between Greenland and Iceland, about as remote as it gets.

So, the battle. This was in the first year of World War Two in Europe. Germany had already conquered Poland, Denmark, and Norway. And the German blitzkrieg was rapidly advancing through France and the low countries. In the North Atlantic the British were having a hard time of it, German submarines were sinking British ships left and right. And Britain had already lost two aircraft carriers. The Courageous, the first British warship sunk during World War Two, was sunk by a U-boat in the first few weeks of the war. After being torpedoed twice, she capsized and sank in 20 minutes, with the loss of over 500 crewmen and her captain. The Germans were elated and the crew of the U-boat were all decorated. And the British stopped using their fleet aircraft carriers in anti-submarine duties.

The second aircraft carrier loss was even uglier, the HMS Glorious was sunk in the North Sea by the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Wait, how did two German battlecruisers get close enough to an aircraft carrier to sink it? Where was the rest of the mighty British fleet? Good question. Short version, the captain of the Glorious was unbelievably incompetent, sailing in the North Sea with only two destroyers as escorts, he had no scout planes launched, no planes ready to launch, and no one even on watch in the carrier’s crow’s nest! So when the two German battlecruisers appeared on the horizon, the Glorious was essentially helpless. She and her two escorts were quickly sunk with the loss of over 1500 lives, for unknown reasons they didn’t get an SOS out. So the British didn’t even know the Glorious had been sunk until it was announced on German radio news!

So as above, this early in the war the Germans were still risking surface warships in an attempt to destroy British shipping. And in our battle the German battleship Bismarck along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were trying to sneak into the North Atlantic, where they could have devastated British convoys. The Swedes spotted them though, and the British intercepted Swedish communications, so they knew they were coming. A pair of British cruisers spotted them trying to slip past Iceland. The cruisers shadowed them, and in the morning a British fleet consisting of two battleships and six destroyers intercepted them. The two battleships were the Hood and the Prince of Wales. Vs the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

The historically astute reader already knows how this ends. A little bit of background. The Prinz Eugen and the Bismarck were both modern warships built in the 1930s. The prince of Wales was also brand new, so new that construction crews were still aboard her during the battle. Then there was the Hood. The pride of the British fleet, and for much of her career the largest battleship in the world. The Hood however had been built during World War One. And as such was primarily armored  against shells fired directly towards it. What the Hood was not armored against was plunging fire, as such wasn’t yet a thing in World War One. This is long range fire that goes very high and then plunges downward hitting its target on the deck. The Hood only had very minor armor on her deck, just enough to stop shrapnel and shell splinters. There were plans to upgrade her deck armor, but she was rushed into service in the desperate early part of the war.

The plan was when the British spotted the Germans, they would head straight towards them until they were close enough that plunging fire wouldn’t be an issue. It meant they could only use their forward guns initially, but once they got close enough they would turn and be able to use their forward and aft guns. It wasn’t the best of plans, but the British had to work with what they had. And it almost worked. They had closed to about half a mile and were beginning their turn when a salvo from the Bismarck’s 15 inch guns bracketed the Hood. One of them must of hit dead center, because a huge column of explosive flame like a blowtorch shot up from the Hood. Moments later there was a huge explosion that basically destroyed the ship. It broke in half and sank in minutes, there were exactly 3 survivors.

At this, the captain of the Prince of Wales decided that cowardice was the better part of discretion, and he turned and fled. Some criticized his decision, but it was likely the right move. The Prince of Wales had already been hit twice by 15 inch shells from the Bismarck, but as luck would have it neither had detonated. So the Prince of Wales lived to fight another day. In fact lived for less than a year, and went on to be the second battleship to be sunk in the open sea by enemy aircraft. The Repulse being first, sunk less than an hour earlier by the waves of Japanese bombers that sank both ships.

The loss of the Hood was a huge blow to the British. And they wasted no time mustering every available ship and plane to hunt down the Bismarck. The Bismarck didn’t get to bask in glory long, three days later the British exacted their revenge and sank the Bismarck. The Prinz Eugen however made it to Brest in occupied France. Then in 1942, in the infamous Channel Dash, the Prinz Eugen and two German battleships fled occupied France through the English Channel right in front of the British and made it to safe waters in the Baltic Sea. Where the Prinz Eugen served until the end of the war, and was one of only two German heavy warships to survive the war. She was turned over to the Americans, who ingloriously used her as a target in atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.

78 years ago today. God rest the souls of those who died that day. The only other lesson here is that it’s been a long time since westerners had to cope with death tolls like this during wars. With over 5,000 crew on some modern ships, another good reason not to get into wars lightly. Video of the Bismarck firing can be seen here, one of those flashes killed over 1,500 British sailors. Ain’t technology grand? Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The last known picture of the Hood before she blew up, taken from the Prince of Wales. Credit: IWM, which I am guessing means Imperial War Museum. It was from Wikipedia, so is being used legally.)

Written by unitedcats

May 24, 2019 at 7:53 am

Posted in History, War, World War Two

“ICH HABE DEUTSCHLAND AUCH SO GELIEBT”

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MFHMildred Harnak. Image is free to use according to Wikipedia:ticket #2008031210021854

Another extemporaneous post. Boy, getting even uglier on the Iran front, with ships being sabotaged. Trump blames Iran, predictable and silly. Effective though if he is looking for a reason to start a war. Typically the nation one wants to start a war with is blamed for some incident, whether or not it actually occurred is irrelevant. If necessary, incidents can and have been manufactured. As Hitler did before invading Poland. Iran is not Poland though, it’s not 1939, and Trump isn’t Hitler. If war breaks out, my prediction is that nothing good will come of it.

Speaking of Hitler, two other things I wanted to touch on came up in my readings. Revisiting the “Trump is Hitler” trope, I realize there’s a few more differences that make the comparison iffy at best. I may have mentioned that Hitler seized power at a time of social, political, and economic upheaval in Germany. Trump is a product of  relatively much more stable times. Hitler had huge numbers (millions) of organized paramilitary fighters that were loyal to Hitler, Trump has nothing of the kind.

Most importantly of all, within a year of seizing power, there was the Night of the Long Knives, where Hitler used his loyal followers to slaughter his political opponents. 85 to more than 1,000 killed. After which all political parties except the Nazis were outlawed. While Trump may fantasize about having Warren and Clinton seized and jailed/executed, I don’t see any realistic chance he is going to get that kind of personal power. Not that I’m defending the man of course, he’s a disaster on multiple levels. Just not one that involves all of us being forced to wear MAGA hats.

And speaking of Nazis and Germany’s slide into horror, I came across some nasty little Nazi business that I wanted to share. And yes, this post is not quite as extemporaneous as I led on, these various tidbits have been floating around in my head and I wanted to tie them all together somehow. Anyhow, the story of Dr Hermann Stieve. He was a German doctor, rose to prominence after World War One, became at age 35 the youngest doctor to chair a medical department at a German university. He was a researcher, particularly of the female reproductive system. In fact he was the first to scientifically show that the rhythm method is ineffective as a form of birth control. He wasn’t a Nazi, but he was certainly a Nationalist and not exactly uncomfortable with Nazi ideology.

Wait, a Nazi sympathizing doctor, Hitler’s Germany,  female reproductive system … this is going to get rather dark, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. So, after World War One the good doctor had a problem. The Weimar Republic, Germany’s post World War One government, didn’t condone the death penalty. So bodies and organs for study were in short supply. Fortunately for the our doctor, this all changed in 1934. Hitler was now in power, and Nazi jails started executing people right and left. And in no time German teaching and research hospitals had all the fresh corpses they needed.

Few, if any, objected. So by the early thirties, it had to have been common knowledge that the Nazis were regularly murdering Germans under the thinnest of legal pretexts. I mean it got much worse later, but still, most if not all people were able to carry on with their lives and just accept it. Shows how normalized evil can percolate through society. Few objected when Jews were dismissed from all University positions either. Granted it also rapidly became actually dangerous to object, again, no comparison to our current Trump troubles.

Our Doctor Stieve, no objections at all. And once the war got underway, he made a deal with a nearby women’s prison, and got fresh bodies pretty much on order. And the prison’s record keeping on their prisoners even helped with his research. He claimed none of the bodies he used were political prisoners, which pretty much has to be a lie. On one occasion one of his assistants recognized a body as belonging to a dissident friend. She immediately quit Dr Stieve’s program, the only one of his students or assistants known to have quit for moral reasons. Silver linings?

There were worse allegations against the doctor, but they don’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. When the prison changed their execution time to midnight, Stieve did however have influence enough to get it changed to morning executions … so he got his specimens as fresh as possible. Speaking of which, a few years back among his effects his family found hundreds of slides with tissue sample from his experiments. They were recently buried in Berlin, which is how I stumbled upon this story. The doctor was of course executed after the war for his crimes. Snort. No, only doctors who actually worked in the death camps were prosecuted. If doctors like Sieve were prosecuted, which would have been a huge numbers  of doctors, it would have hurt the reputation of German medicine. Couldn’t have that. Where Stieve disposed of his subjects is also unknown, partly why the tissue samples above got a real burial.

One subject though, Mildred Harnak, her post experimental remains were given to a friend of hers for disposal. She was a member of Red Orchestra, a German antiwar group that was rounded up and executed. Mildred is the only Red Orchestra member whose burial site is known.  Mildred was originally from Wisconsin, and had married a German and moved to Germany. Her husband was also a member of Red Orchestra. She was originally sentenced to six years for espionage. Hitler ordered her execution though, so she has the dubious distinction of being the only American who Hitler personally ordered killed. Her last words on the guillotine were reportedly: “Ich habe Deutschland auch so geliebt” (“I loved Germany so much as well.”)

God rest her soul, and all those murdered by the Nazis.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 15, 2019 at 6:41 am