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Dad, 1943 and 1945 May 1, 2010

Posted by Jenny in history, memoir.
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Dad on leave 1943

I’ll be peering at my family through the lenses of old cameras from time to time.  This is a picture of Edward W. Bennett on leave from basic training in Mississippi in 1943.  He was visiting his sister Phyllis and her husband Rod.  He would go to New York to complete a nine-month course with the Army Specialized Training Program before heading overseas.

For an account of part of Dad’s experience in the Battle of the Bulge, January 1945, please go here.  He was in Company D of the 1st Battalion, 330th Infantry, 83rd Division.

After V-E Day, Dad was stationed in an Allied occupation zone in eastern Bavaria.  He had learned German in the ASTP course, and his knowledge of the language helped his battalion (he was now with the 322nd Field Artillery) in communicating with local civilians.  He wrote, “Service in the ASTP was often ridiculed, including by those of us who were in that program; a favorite song of ours began, ‘Oh take down your service flag, Mother,/ Your son’s in the ASTP….’  In my case, however, it turned out that my ASTP training, in which I had learned most of what German I had, was more useful to the service than all my military training.”

Later in life, his knowledge of German would become essential in the writing of two books about German history between the wars.  One was about the German financial crisis of 1931 and the other was about German rearmament during the 1932-1933 period.

This picture shows him on the Danube in 1945 sometime after V-E Day.

Dad on Danube 1945

When Dad passed away in 2001, having suffered from a severely debilitating brain disorder called Lewy Body Disease, I had trouble at first in pushing past the troubling, unhappy images of him as a frail and elderly man: the last year of his life was difficult.  But as time goes on, I learn that I not only find pleasure in my personal memories of him but that I can also imagine him quite clearly as a young man, full of vitality and hope.

Basic training, Mississippi, 1943

Which World War destroyed Ruritania? May 31, 2009

Posted by Jenny in history, literature, military history.
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Austria-Hungary was broken up by WWI

The Austria-Hungary coat of arms has Ruritanian elements

The post that I wrote February 8 about Ruritania has proven to be one of the most frequently visited posts of this blog, seeing multiple visitors nearly every day.  I have to admit I am surprised but pleased by the interest in my discussion of the nation of castles and swordfighting created by the novelist Anthony Hope.  I now pose to my readers a question: which of the two world wars could truly be said to account for the destruction of Ruritania?

As earlier noted, the Ruritanian capital of Strelsau might have been modelled on Prague or on Dresden, putting it inside either Bohemia or Saxony, and one visitor recently put forth the idea that it was based on Breslau, the city now known as Wroclaw in Poland—which would put it in Silesia.  Of those three cities, Prague made it through WWII intact, while Dresden was virtually destroyed, and in a simplistic sort of way Breslau splits the difference, having been first designated a “festung” (fortress) by Hitler and then roughly half

Surrender of German troops in Breslau

Surrender of German troops in Breslau

destroyed in 1945 when it was besieged by the Soviets.

Yet it could be argued that the physical destruction of large parts of these “Ruritanian” cities in WWII was only the logical working out of the defeat of Germany and the breakup of Austria-Hungary at the end of WWI.   The stylistic extravagance, the pomp and the splendor, of the Central European empires (exemplified in the coat of arms above) never came back after 1918.

The question of which world war destroyed Ruritania is in one way kind of a silly one (after all, it’s a made-up country) and in another way fairly deep, having to do with a huge chunk of 20th century history.  I will leave it as an open question for the moment.

Leaders of the WWI Central Powers: "In struggle there is unity," it says

Leaders of the WWI Central Powers: "In struggle united," it says