Russian Soldiers Dancing Like Crazy Ivans

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Russian soldiers in World War Two uniforms prepare to march through Red Square
(photo courtesy Financial Times)
“Must be drunk, Herr Oberleutnant. They’re dancing around like lunatics.”

While retreating through Rumania in World War Two, sentries for a German unit notice something very odd going on in a nearby village occupied by Russian troops. For reasons unknown, the Russian soldiers suddenly begin to dance around like fools. German troops, peeking out of their foxholes, start laughing as the Russian troops in the distance run around like they are mad, jump up and down, roll on the ground, swat themselves all over.

Most of the Russians begin shouting so loudly the sound carries as far as the German line and the German troops double up with laughter. Incredibly, the Russian soldiers manning the defense perimeter along the side of the village facing the Germans, jump out of their foxholes, shrieking, and waving their arms in the air. Are the Russians drunk the Germans wonder?

All of a sudden,

…a bunch of Russians are running directly toward us, as if they are being chased by the very devil. As they’re running they’re flapping their arms all about, as if trying to fly.

The German soldier witnessing this event is just about to open fire with his machine gun when his officer tells him to hold fire because the Russians are unarmed.

The Ivans run madly through the German lines, leaping over German foxholes while flapping their arms and shrieking. A swarm of mad bees had attacked the Russian soldiers and stung them so many times they would do anything to get away, even throwing down their firearms and running in the direction of the German line.

(Source: Blood Red Snow: the Memoirs of a German Soldier On the Eastern Front by Gunther K Koschorrek)

 

Russian soldiers dressed in Red Army World War II uniforms prepare to parade in Red Square in front of a backdrop of St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Thousands of Russian soldiers and military cadets marched across Red Square to mark the 72nd anniversary of a historic World War II parade. The show honored the participants of the Nov. 7, 1941 parade who headed directly to the front lines to defend Moscow from the Nazi forces. The parade Thursday involved about 6,000 people, many of them dressed in World War II-era uniforms. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian soldiers dressed in Red Army World War II uniforms prepare to parade in Red Square in front of a backdrop of St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Thousands of Russian soldiers and military cadets marched across Red Square to mark the 72nd anniversary of a historic World War II parade. The show honored the participants of the Nov. 7, 1941 parade who headed directly to the front lines to defend Moscow from the Nazi forces. The parade Thursday involved about 6,000 people, many of them dressed in World War II-era uniforms. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(Courtesy of London Financial Times)

http://blogs.ft.com/photo-diary/tag/wwii/

Review of Serenade to the Big Bird

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Serenade to the Big Bird by Bert Stiles (4 stars)

I consider this book to be the best memoir of the American air campaign in Europe during World War Two. There are other fine memoirs but this is about the gut feelings of a young B-17 pilot and were I only going to read one memoir, I would read this one.

The reason? The author, First Lieutenant Bert Stiles, flew 35 bombing missions over Germany and German occupied Europe during the Spring and early Summer of 1944. After finishing his tour, he stayed in England and spent a month writing this extraordinary memoir.

Everything Stiles wrote about had just happened to him in the previous six months. His memories of fear, exhaustion, of boredom, German fighters and terror, of the death of friends and the subsequent sadness beyond words, of the drone of the engines on a B-17 and of how good a candy bar tasted after they were out of enemy territory; all of these memories were painfully fresh when he set them down.

And their effects on him were also fresh. He wrote about the time he came back from a mission during which he had seen at least a dozen B-17s from his Wing go down.

“…all those guys…all those good guys…shot to hell…or captured…then I came apart and cried like a little kid…”

This memoir has many virtues one of the most striking being that Stiles was a fine writer, a keen observer of human nature, and an extraordinary man with such a broad view of life that some of his observations seem out of place in not only one so young but in such a time as 1944.

Stiles was actually a pacifist but like many came to the conclusion that the Nazis threatened the entire concept of Western Civilization. This is a haunting memoir: amusing, ineffably sad, and brutally honest about the author’s emotions. At one point he was taking off active operations because he had become “flak happy.” That was the expression used in the day by the US Army Air Force for someone cracking-up from the stress.

From Serenade to the Big Bird:
“There are all kinds of people: senators and whores and barristers and bankers and dishwashers. There are Chinamen and Cockney’s and Gypsies and Negroes. There are Lesbians and cornhuskers and longshoremen. There are poets and lieutenants and shortstops and prime ministers. There are Yanks and Japs and poor whites…there are Germans and Melanesians and beggars and Holy Rollers…there are people.

And some day we are going to catch on, that no matter where people are born, or how their eyes slant, or what their blood type, they are just people…

They are not masses. They will not go on being slaves. They are just people, partly good, partly bad, mostly balancing out. And until we call them people, and know they are people, all of them, we are going to have a sick world on our hands.”
Bert Stiles had written a number of published articles and short stories before he wrote this memoir. He wanted to be a writer when the war was over. But that wasn’t to be. After completing his 35 missions in bombers, he could have gone back to the US as a flight instructor. Instead he volunteered to fly fighters which he did until he was killed in action on 26 November 1944 in a dogfight over Germany.

Stiles never saw his memoir published. He easily would have been one of the finest writers of his generation. Of the millions of small tragedies of World War Two and a lesson in how war kills men, and now women, indiscriminately.

If you want to buy the book you can click on the link in blue at the top of the page.

Massive Bomb Dropped On London Found 75 Years Later

 

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Emergency vehicles on site where bomb found. 

Pizza, potato wedges, and soft drinks are little consolation for being kicked out of your East London flat due to a live World War II bomb being found underneath the floorboards. However, that’s exactly what happened to over 150 people who spent the night in an emergency shelter after being booted from their apartments; the 500-pound bomb was unearthed yesterday while builders were working to convert a former factory into luxury flats.

“The bomb is 10 feet from my flat on the other side of a wall and I’ve had so many parties here…if it was going to blow up, it would have done so by now,” one evacuee, Pauline Carter, 26, told The London Evening Standard.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I went outside ….,” said Oers Sardi, 28, another resident who was told to leave immediately.

The bomb was evidently dropped during the Blitz of 1940-1941, making it about 75 years old. Photographs released by the Ministry of Defense show the dangerous artifact to be a rusting shell resting about two feet underground. The Ministry of Defense has been delicately attempting to remove the bomb, as it is reportedly in a “tricky location.” There is not yet a timetable for it to be defused and extracted. Jeva Lange

Courtesy of “The Week”

http://theweemassive-world-war-ii-bomb-found-under-floorboards-london-apartment

 

From the London Evening Standard

Bethnal Green bomb: Army explosives experts prepare to defuse and detonate 500lb WW2 bomb dug up under flats

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British Army bomb disposal experts moving bomb away from buildings after digging it up. Not a job I would want.

 

Army bomb disposal experts were today battling to defuse a Second World War bomb as hundreds of evacuated residents feared they could be forced to spend a second night away from home.

Teams worked overnight after a 500lb bomb was unearthed at lunchtime yesterday by builders converting a former factory in Bethnal Green into luxury flats.

Ministry of Defence sources admitted the 70-year-old device was in a “tricky location” and this morning were unable to give a precise timetable for its removal.

3pm Update: Army defuse bomb and families return home
Adam Atkinson, vicar of St Peter’s church in Bethnal Green, said residents were “definitely fearing” that they may be unable to return home today. “What is being talked about by the uniformed services is more in hope than expectation that it will be resolved today,” he told the Standard.

The remainder of the story is here

British Army Bomb Disposal Experts Prepare to Defuse Bomb

Depression Is A Medical Illness Which Can Kill You. I know. It almost killed me.

Charles McCain after completing Marine Corps Marathon 1999

author Charles McCain after completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC in October of 1999. The portrait behind me is of my Grandfather, W.A. Livingston, whose sterling qualities and unimpeachable honesty had an immense impact on my life.

 

Friends:

I wrote the article below for Street Sense, a newspaper sold by homeless people in Washington, DC. While a large portion of this bi-monthly paper is written by homeless people themselves, one-quarter of it is written by volunteer freelance writers, I being one. I mentioned to the editor my struggles with depression and bi-polar illness and since a large number of homeless people suffer from depression, he was very keen on me writing this. Sharing the story of my own depression is one of my spiritual missions in life.

 

Depression Is A Medical Illness Which Can Kill You. I know. It almost killed me.

by Charles McCain

I face a brick wall. It is two inches from my nose. I cannot see around it. I cannot see over it. My life has stopped.  While I have scaled many obstacles in my life— that confidence and strength has deserted me. Thinking is difficult. And I am so weary. Sleeping twelve hours a day does nothing to alleviate this. As a younger man, I had always been able to fight off these feelings yet in my late 40s my emotional strength to do this had vanished.

I desperately try to recapture that sense of optimism which I had in the past to break through similar walls. But I cannot. Why? Because I am depressed. Clinically depressed.  This isn’t the “blues.” Or feeling “down.” This is medical depression — a disease of the body. Not an illness of the spirit. It saps  my strength. I resign my position as a big shot corporate consultant.  All I have the strength to do is stay in my apartment and struggle with the storm waves of unrelenting despair pounding me.

Often I think: if life hurts this much, why not end it permanently? Suicide begins to seem a rational option. Looking back, I can remember the very worst day, the absolute bottom. I have gone into the kitchen to try and do something productive. In this case, I attempt to organize a dozen bottles of wine on a high shelf.

One bottle slips from my hand and shatters on the floor. Red wine. It creates a large, dark pool which stains the white tile of the kitchen floor. This is a calamity. What to do?  The solution is beyond my grasp.

Me. A man who has had a successful life, now living in a beautiful apartment I had bought in North West. Me. A senior vice president of a huge bank by the time I was thirty-eight. Me, a consultant who had sat in board rooms of New York banks and given them advice.

I sink to the floor and weep for what seems an hour. This can’t go on. If it does, I will kill myself.  I consult a psychologist. After a few months he insists I consult a psycho-pharmacologist. This is a psychiatrist who is medical doctor and only treats depression with medication. Finding the right “drug cocktail” is both an art and a science. He is good at this. I begin taking the pills.

Over the next months I start to feel better. Better than I can remember feeling since I was a kid before anxiety and depression periodically descended on me. The pharmaceuticals save my life because constant depression is a medical illness which must be treated by a physician. No longer do I have the terrifying mood swings which had disrupted my life. Despair is now held in check. My mood and my life become stable. This gives me the energy to finish the re-write of a novel I had first written as a younger man.

I achieve my life’s dream: my novel is published in hardback by a major New York publisher. On the title page of my novel I give to my psycho-pharmacologist, I write: “to the genius who created the drug cocktail which got me off the floor and allowed me to rediscover the poet within which I thought was gone forever.”

 

Originally published in Street Sense, 6.15.15 Washington DC