a history tale–remembering and forgetting..or is that ignoring


(Roger Viollet / Getty Images)

Every once in a while, the BBC offers a story from the past.
Long forgotten stories from the past.
But not a too distant past.

Stories about the War and the tales of individuals that have been long forgotten.
Private, yet many daring, tales of heroism, of being brave, of humanitarianism,
of kindness—tales of what it means to be human.

In war, what it means to be human is most often forgotten…very quickly.
A first casualty so to speak.

Some of these long-forgotten tales have happy endings, some do not.

However, either way even today lessons remain in all these stories that are still relevant
for both you and me–despite their having taken place nearly 80 years ago.

The other day, I read a post offered by our friend Citizen Tom about the state
of our National Fabric—he offered it on his personal blog as well as
the Prince William and Manassas Family Alliance blog for which he also writes
posts.

(https://citizentom.com/2019/12/31/the-state-of-our-nations-social-fabric-in-2019-part-3/

https://familyallianceonline.org/2019/12/31/the-state-of-our-nations-social-fabric-in-2019-part-3/)

It seems that there is an analytical study out there about how
society and human nature are basically a mostly cyclical affair.

It’s known as Strauss–Howe generational theory (en.wikipedia.org) and according to Tom and his reading
Strauss and Howe believed that we begin a new cycle of human history about every four generations.
Since a generation lasts about 20 years, we begin a new cycle about every 80 – 90 years.

What characterizes the beginning and end of a cycle?
A time of crisis. Society slowly unravels until there is a crisis.
Then the people fight among themselves to resolve the crisis until some group
becomes dominant and “wins”. Then, a recovery of some sort begins

Tom muses aloud as to whether this Strauss-Howe theory is truly accurate or not
as he eventually concludes that there is most likely some validity to it all.

And so I concur…as I too believe we are indeed a cyclical people.

And I find it interesting that there are these long-forgotten, mostly
obscure, even hidden, stories dating back nearly 80 years that are just now
being unearthed, coming back as if to remind us and even warn us.
They are being uncovered just when we need to remember.

This particular story offered by the BBC, written by Rosie Whitehouse,
takes place in 1943, in a remote ski resort village high in the French Alps.
The story involves a local doctor and two Jewish girls on the run…
one of whom had a severely broken leg.

It is a tale of risk, fear, faith, hope and eventually a tale forgotten.
And now it appears that perhaps it is a tale that is reluctant to be recalled.

The doctor was Frédéric Pétri and the girls, Huguette (15) and Marion (23) Müller,
two sisters originally from Berlin.
When the Nazis had come to power in 1933, the Müller family had fled from their
native Germany to France.

The girl’s mother had labored to obtain false papers for Huguette, the youngest—
going so far as to changing her name and having her baptized–
all in hopes of trying to hide any Jewish lineage.

Eventually, their parents were discovered, arrested and sent to Auschwitz but the
girls managed to flee.

Fleeing to a small Alpine ski village.


(PÉTRI Family archives)


(Marion, her young son Tim and Hugeutte following the war)

It was in the tiny mountain village of Val d’Isere, in 1943 that three lives would collide together.
And yet it wouldn’t be until 2020 until that the collision of lives would be shared
with a larger audience.

Marion passed away in 2010 and now, at age 92, Huguette has decided she wants their story told.

Please click the link below to read the fascinating story of survival and the odd
response from today’s villagers.

Val d’Isere: The doctor who hid a Jewish girl – and the resort that wants to forget

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50828696

doves, hawks and the passage of time…

I guess my biggest failure was not getting re-elected.
And I learned two things; one is that you ought not to ever let
American hostages be held for 444 days in a foreign country without extracting them.
I did the best I could, but I failed.

Jimmy Carter


(Prime Minister Chamberlain, upon his return to England on September 30, 1938,
holding the Munich agreement bearing his own and Adolf Hitler’s signatures.)

Are we the same world we were 82 years ago?

Obviously not.

Is that a bad thing?

Not at all.

Did we learn anything from Neville Chamberlain’s pipedream of brokering peace with Hitler?
When voices, such as Winston Churchill, were those proverbial lone voices in the desert,
calling out and proclaiming the actual truth.
The world chose to ignore such truthful warnings…and the results were disastrous.

Neville Chamberlain was what some would call a dove—a person who would rather
negotiate or bargain before ever considering conflict or war.

Churchill is what some would call a hawk.
They thought him to be a rable-rouser and one to beat the drums of war.

Yet perhaps most preferred wearing the rose-colored glasses of the doves.
We wanted to ignore trouble.
We wanted to think others thought like us.
We wanted to believe that the words of other people mirrored our own.

Yet in the end, we learned the hard way.

What of 1979?

Are we the same America we were 41 years ago?

No.

But is that a bad thing you ask?

In many ways, I think that perhaps it is.

In 1976 we celebrated our bicentennial.
American pride and patriotism were both at their highest since WWII.

We had come out from under the heaviness of the Civil Rights movement as well
as the angst produced by the Vietnam war.
The Summer of Love had come and gone and people seemed to
be regaining their senses.

I was soon headed off to college.

I was a news junkie even back then, so that hasn’t changed.
My dad and his older brother were both news junkies up to the day they each died.
My memories of my grandfather, their father, is of his constantly reading the newspaper–
even when the family was gathered for weekend retreats at the family farm in North Georgia.

Current events, world happenings, foreign policy…have always been in my blood.


(political cartoon from 1979)

The above political cartoon, which is rather crass, is one I actually had in a
scrape book saved from college.
It was a current event of the times.
I also have several news articles and political photos in that scrape book…
Images of Menachem Begin, President Carter and Anwar Sadat all locking arms following
the longed awaited peace accord, as well as articles regarding the later assassination
of President Sadat.

I had deeply admired Sadat—

I had known how he had cut his teeth as a young Muslim soldier,
having been on an opposing side of the Allies during WWII.
Later he was a chief military leader bent on fighting Israel.
As the ranking Egyptian general turned President, he called for
the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

None of that should be things that would ever endear such a world leader
to the likes of someone like me but it was because of
those very things that mixed with the actions of his later life that
would indeed leave a lasting impression upon me.

He began what appeared to be odd strides to reach out to Christians—
both Evangelical and Catholic.
He had a vision and seemed to know what he had to do to make it work.

When he had come to visit the US in late 1975, he personally asked Billy Graham to come
meet with him. Later he reached out to the Vatican, inviting Pope Paul VI to visit Egypt.
He seemed to understand the importance of having Christian support when considering
making peace with Israel.

And it was that vision and desire for peace that eventually got him killed.

Back then in those late years of the ’70s, even my art produced in my classes focused on
what was happening in the Middle East.
It seems that way back then, I knew the importance of the West’s relationship
with the Middle East.

Being a history major for more than half of my college life,
I was more than aware of the importance of the Middle East dating back to the time
of the Crusades and as a Christian…well we all know about that link.

Last week, I wrote a post where I recalled the Iran Embassy Hostage Crisis.
It cost Jimmy Carter his re-election.

Iran seems to remain a thorn in our side.

Recently we’ve been witness to a rising crescendo, in oh so many months, from Iran—
They have been personally responsible for a multitude of US military deaths.
They have been very vocal in the rankling of anti-US rhetoric—
And now we have the recent attack by Iran on an embassy that was actually sitting in a
neighboring nation.
We have a precarious and deeply troubling relationship with what was once
considered the land of Persia.

And so I found it most interesting that just the other day, our friend the Wee Flea,
made an interesting prediction on his blog regarding the US and Iran…

Quantum 75 – Predictions for 2020

In the past, David’s Quantum 75 predictions have been pretty much on the money…
I somehow fear this one will also come to fruition.

In the link that David provides to the BBC article regarding US / Iranian relations,
I found the following quote telling given that it was offered days before the bomb strike
killing the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani—

President Trump has threatened Iran after blaming it for Tuesday’s attack,
in which no US personnel were injured. Mr. Trump tweeted that Iran “will pay a very big price”
for any damage or loss of life. “This is not a warning, it is a threat,” he said.
But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded by saying the US “can’t do a damn thing”.
Anti-American sentiment was widespread in Iraq, he added.

The President later offered the following tweet after the storming of our
Embassy in Iraq by Iranian interlopers:

Replying to @realDonaldTrump
….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost,
or damage incurred, at any of our facilities.
They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.
Happy New Year!

It appears the President kept good on his word.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50966958

The previous President and his administration paid what was, in essence, a ransom–
millions of dollars paid in cash money–primarily under wraps and done quickly.
It was an ill attempt at brokering, or more accurately buying, what was thought
to be peace.

And so we saw, and have now lived with the aftermath, of how futile that all was.

Thus we now have a President who has repeated his warnings.

He first opted for the usual route.

He applied sanctions.
He reached out.
He stated what would be acceptable and what would not.

Then there was an Embassy attack.

It was noted that one of the individuals pictured in the crowd of attackers
had actually visited the White House as a guest of the previous president, Barak Obama.

Since there was very credible intelligence gleaned for future attacks,
President Trump acted…turning his words into actions.
No more payments, no more appeasement.

It was now known that America will no longer play games at the cost of American lives…
despite many now arguing to the contrary.
They have on the rose-colored glasses.

Be you a dove or be you a hawk, you have a president who makes good on his promises.
He puts American interests first and foremost and he also understands that appeasement
does not work.
But that doesn’t mean things will be any less precarious or any less perilous.
For there will always be nations who will hate our ideologies.
Nations who will hate who we are.
Nations who hate what it is that we stand for

And the sad thing, or rather make that the frightening thing, is
that there are now many within our own nation who now join the hatred.

As Abraham Lincoln reminds us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

And so our prayers continue for the coming days, weeks, months and years.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors
you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:2-3

May we all remember…

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

“All we have of freedom, all we use or know –
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”

Rudyard Kipling


(BBC)


(News.com.au)

I know what you’ll say.
I know you’ll shake your head.
I know your pride will cloud your agreement.
You’ll disagree…
You’ll say I’m wrong…
Or you’ll simply be dismissive…subjecting me to a land of ignorance and deplorables.

But never the less… there are just some things that I believe our cousins from across
the pond get right…so much more so then we do ourselves.

And one of those things is the pausing of the day in order to remember…

A Queen, clad in black, sporting the tri bloom of the red poppy.
A stalwart and determined 93-year-old monarch flanked by wreaths of red poppies.
A usually stiff upper lipped emotionless woman who stops to wipe away a single tear.
All because she remembers.

She remembers.

But the question is, do we?

Perhaps she remembers more clearly because she has lived on the soil where
wars have been fought.
Or that her family has borne the brunt of carrying an ancient Nation during those wars.

Our soil has, on the other hand, been spared.
Other than our own war of division and now a new odd war of terror, our land has remained
basically untainted by world wars.

However, we cannot say the same about our people.

We have sent countless numbers of young men and young women toward the sound of gunfire rather
then holding them tightly in our arms, safely back home.

Some of them returned, some did not.
Some returned…different.

For those who did and have returned, they have done so changed…
both physically as well as emotionally.
And as long as humans have wars…this sad reality will continue.


(Dailymail)


(US wounded at Omaha Beach / US Army file)


(image courtesy American Grit)

Remembrance Day
Armistice Day
Veteran’s Day

Call it what you will.

It is a specified day in November, always the 11th, in which the British Commonwealth,
Canada, the European Nations, Australia, New Zealand, The US…
each pause to mark the recalling of the sacrifices made…
sacrifices that were readily and freely offered so that our collective nations might remain free.

Originally it was a day to mark the end of WWI—it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day
of the 11th month that the war ended when the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles.

Sadly and most ominously little did the world know then that that treaty would actually usher
in a new and even larger horror—only to follow suit not long after…
A more terrible horror than the first…

And so thus the UK, who marked Remembrance Day yesterday on Sunday with the laying of
poppy clad wreaths on tombs, monuments, and graves, now remember two world wars.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments during yesterday’s ceremony in London was when
the Queen’s wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb and monument in London that is a physical and tangible reminder that
not all soldiers come home…as many physical remains still lie elsewhere…
on foreign soil, long forgotten.
Buried or merely lost to the decay of time.


(The Telegraph)

And so we Americans will pause today, on this Monday, November the 11th, to offer our
own remembrance.
Banks and the Postal services will be closed.
Some schools and businesses will close.
Some communities will have parades.
As a president lays a wreath in Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


(courtesy Conservative Daily News)

But I fear that this nation of ours will not unite in its remembrance.
It will rather remain divided.

Say what they will about their monarchy, seeing their Queen shed tears during her public
remembrance of those who gave their all will draw the British closer, not further apart.

Our Nation will continue to throw caustic jabs at her President.
Her governmental leadership will continue insulting and publically hating one another.
Some in leadership will continue to cry out, hoping to drown out the somber markings
with their own shouts for socialism and that of antisemitism and progressive liberalism…
All of which are the makings of the unforgiving black hole that only aids to usher in the very
thing we now pause to remember…
that of broken nations, wars and eventual loss.

Her people will continue attacking one another over perceived political wrongs.
There will be little in the way of a national coming together in order to remember.
The bias will be heard and seen throughout the newsfeeds.

And so yes, I believe the United Kingdom, who has her own wealth of woe, as Brexit comes to mind,
does a far better job standing united in order to recall and to remember those that
they have loved and lost.

There are a few lessons this proud nation of ours still needs to learn…
A humbling remembering is one of them…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Major John McCrae, May 1915

Signs of the times…

*****First a small disclaimer… if you find foul language offensive, of which I do…
then don’t study the picture too closely.

However, I’m thinking that my disclaimer will probably make you a bit curious and
you will study it…so just know I told you so…


(a lovely tagged utility box near 10th St in downtown Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2019)

The other evening, I was driving in downtown Atlanta, with my daughter-n-law
along with the Mayor and New Sheriff, on our way to try a very talked-about
trendy seafood restaurant.

And you should know that good seafood in Atlanta is not easily come by despite
what many restaurants may claim, so we were excited.

The restaurant is actually located in an area of the city that is attempting a revitalization.
Atlanta is noted as one of many cities across the nation that is attempting to re-claim
its heavily neglected urban areas…sprucing them up while encouraging folks to move back,
shop and visit.

It is in an area that, as a kid growing up, we would never have graced but rather
have driven down to look at the flower children calling the area home.
They lived on the streets, communally, and would occasionally, mass together
while protesting the war.
And driving down to see such was something we’d do during sleepovers—
Parents looking for easy entertainment for a bunch of young kids figured that
driving downtown to see the hippies during that summer of love would be it…
but I digress…

This particular area is now being touted as an up and coming area…
yet it is still rife with dereliction, crime, drugs and many,
many homeless folks despite the opening of high-end apartments, boutiques,
bars, and restaurants.

We passed by many an abandoned building with broken windows,
lots of trash and some empty lots, while a side street was full of vagrants
and homeless folks sheltering in boxes and tents.

And so when we stopped at a red light and I glanced over at a utility box
wearing derogatory graffiti regarding the President,
should I then be surprised given the area?

Probably not.

But such an observation will naturally draw the wrath and the ire of others for my
having associated the area, an area filled with its fair share of rift raft,
with what I find to be foul graffiti regarding the President.
Would it matter if I said I’ve not seen the same foul graffiti when driving in other
family-oriented areas north of the city?

Ok.
Fair enough.

So on a different day, in a different area of the city, in an area that was once home
to many of my mother’s and aunt’s friends when they were growing up—
an early 20th-century family neighborhood that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s…
just as it is popular today but with the houses having been brought up to
chic speed. Really cute older neighborhoods made uber-trendy and most desirable.

We were driving up one of the streets as I was admiring the charm of these once modest
homes that now fetch upwards to $1,000,000. when a homemade sign perched in
one yard caught my eye.

It was a handpainted sign with large black letters scrawled on a neon yellow piece
of poster board. The sign read:
‘Only Nazis and Fascists separate children from their mothers!’

I did a double-take.

“Really?!” I heard myself groaning or was it more like moaning?

Back in the day when my mother and aunt roamed these same streets,
WWII was in full swing.
Flags were flown from every home’s front stoop while the victory gardens were
sprouting out back. Patriotism was part and parcel of the nation’s pain and suffering
in the midst of war and rationing.

During the summer of love, when I was huddled in the back of a family station wagon
with 6 or my closest little friends, as we peered out the window at what was then the
flower children of the late ’60s…peace signs were flashed and posters held high
which read make love, not war.
A nice enough sentiment when our young minds only thought love meant just that…
simply to love one’s neighbor.

Now, as I drive down these very same streets—streets very much the same
and yet very different…
I actually fret over what our young children are reading sprayed on electrical boxes.
Do we want to have to suddenly explain what a Nazi or a Fascist has to do with
the fate of mothers and children to our own impressionable kids who have no idea
what a Nazi or Fascist is?

I think I’d prefer to do so when I thought my wee ones were old enough to comprehend
the complexity of our culture.

And at this rate, I doubt I’ll ever be old enough to understand.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Romans 13:1

reparations vs Grace

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself,
‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’
I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

St. Josephine Bakhita

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church

Catholic.org


(St Josephine Bakhita)

Firstly this business about paying reparations for slavery is about the dumbest thing our
legislators have ever opted to take up and pursue…let alone conduct a three ring circus
of unbridled idiocy over.

Now whereas I’ve written about this notion before…as in will we pay those free blacks who
were also slave owners. Will we pay the Native American Indians…and of course will the
Egyptians pay the Jews, will the various African tribes pay the other tribes, will the
Chinese pay the Koreans, will the Russians pay the Russians…yada, yada, yada.

No nation is exempt from this sinful crime.

But this is not so much a post about reparations as it more about Grace.

The following story is about a woman who was born in Darfur in 1869.
As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Arabs.

Her’s is a harrowing tale of slavery, torture, and cruelty that lead to
serving not man, but instead, Jesus Christ.

How could one begin to pay reparations for Josephine’s life of servitude to man?
How could one begin to remove the 114 lasting stripes across her back?

Josephine would never expect nor accept such…her greatest gift,
coming to know Jesus Christ.

If ever there was one who should have quit, given up all the while begging to simply die…
It would have been Josephine Margaret Bakhita.

But she did not…
What can money do in the place of everlasting Grace?
Nothing.

May we all come to know that Grace…

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of
Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and
her uncle was a tribal chief.
Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous,
saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877,
Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders.
Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles
to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice
during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times.
She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel.
Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid.
The assignment was easy until she offended her owner’s son,
possibly for the crime of breaking a vase.
As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month.
After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law
who both beat her daily.
Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general’s wife ordered her to be scarred.
As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour,
then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent.
She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani.
He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her.
When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean,
they arrived in Italy.
She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel
to Sudan without Josephine,
she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God.
According to Josephine, she had always known about God,
who created all things, but she did not know who He was.
The sisters answered her questions.
She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave.
Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters,
but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the
Institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain
to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed
in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave.
She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life.
She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata.
(Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita).
She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day.
These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always
given together in the early Church.
The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto,
the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on
December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896.
She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent.
She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters
and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile.
She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the
“little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped,
she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector.
And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair.
But she always remained cheerful.
If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, “As the master desires.”

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words,
“Our Lady, Our Lady!” She then died.
Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII.
On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable.
Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan.
But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly.
He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day
is celebrated on February 8.

Catholic.org

The Church at Angoville

(another re-post D-Day tribute…
May we always remember that the success at the invasion of Normandy,
and the eventual ending of WWII in Europe and later in the Pacific,
was not so much a matter of great men doing certain things great nor of making
great decisions but rather it was the matter of ordinary men and women doing
ordinary things that would become,
in the end, great things that continue to affect us today—
and we are the better for it and are a free people to this day because of those ordinary folks!)

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of
duty and humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the ancient slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks volumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

501st Aid Station in the church of Angoville-au-Plain

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

Why we must remember….

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.
It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Ronald Reagan


Theodore “Ted” Melvin Peterson

Periodically I receive emails from Fold3 HQ–a site similar to something like an Ancestry.com but
directed more toward Military Service records.

Yesterday the blog site offered the story about 1st Lt. Theodore Peterson,
a member of the WWII 8th Army Air Corps.

Today, Memorial Day, seems to be the perfect day that I, in turn, share it with you.
Petersosn’s story is but one of a myriad of stories as to why we pause today…
not to go to a picnic or to the beach or lake…but a day to remember and recall
that our freedom is, as President Reagan so eloquently stated, “freedom is never
more than one generation away from extinction”

You may click on the link at the bottom of the article in order to visit the site and read
the article in full or other articles…as this is a site worth visiting.

On May 29, 1943, 1st Lt. Theodore “Ted” Melvin Peterson was shot down near
St. Quay-Portrieux in German-occupied France. He was rescued by brave villagers and the French resistance,
spent two months making his way across France,
and then hiked 11 days over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain and freedom.
In a remarkable twist of fate, Peterson and his rescuers would meet again in an emotional
reunion 33 years later.

A member of the 8th Army Air Corps, 379th Bomb Group and 526th Bomb Squadron,
Peterson was based out of Kimbolton Airbase near London.
On the afternoon of May 29th, Peterson and his crew received mission orders.
They were to fly their B-17 “Flying Fortress” and bomb the submarine pens at St. Nazaire.
As they approached the French coastline, a volley of German anti-aircraft fire riddled Peterson’s plane,
blowing a large hole in the wing.
Several engines caught fire and they were losing altitude.

Peterson ordered everyone to bail out.

As captain, Peterson was the last man out, and just 1,000 feet off the ground when
he donned a parachute and jumped. “The ride to the ground took about 30 seconds.
I landed by a small tree in an open field. I quickly pulled out my pocket knife
and cut the shroud line.
One of the procedures in attempting to escape from enemy territory is to destroy the
evidence that you have landed,” said Peterson. The plane crashed into the bay moments
after Peterson bailed out.

The Germans saw Peterson’s chute descending and were speeding towards his position
when villagers quickly came to his rescue. They escorted him to a quiet, wooded ravine.
“I had a few moments to contemplate my position.

I remember being alone on my knees thanking my Father in Heaven for my life being spared,”
he said. Villagers brought him a change of clothes and guided him to the center of
a tall wheat field where they directed him to lie down and hide.
As darkness fell, Peterson heard the snapping twigs of someone approaching.
To his surprise, a small boy about 2-years-old emerged from the wheat.
He presented Peterson with a gift – a rose and a handkerchief.

To the French, Peterson was a hero.

The boy snuggled up next to Peterson and fell asleep.
Over the next two months, with the aid of the French underground, Peterson made his way to
Paris and across France. By August, he arrived at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
For 11 days, often without food or water, he was guided over the snow-packed mountains.
Finally, on August 16, 1943, he made his way to Barcelona and hitched a ride on a Royal Air Force
plane back to England.
Peterson had become the 69th Allied aviator to escape occupied France.

The passing of time and the trauma of war dimmed some of Peterson’s memories.
He’d returned home with the rose and the handkerchief as mementos from the war and kept
them carefully stored, but had forgotten where he received them.
In 1976, Peterson and his family returned to St. Quay-Portrieux.
With the help of local people familiar with the Resistance,
Peterson attempted to identify significant landmarks, specifically the field where he landed.
Finally, at a loss, the Petersons’ pulled their car to the side of the road and got
out to reevaluate.

They hailed a passing truck to ask for assistance.
The driver got out of the truck and immediately threw his arms around Ted in recognition,
despite the many years.
He said, “Do you remember my little brother, Gilbert?
He came out to visit you in the field the day you were shot down.
He fell asleep next to you and we searched frantically for him all night long!
Did you get the rose and handkerchief my mother sent for you?”
A sudden spark of memory flooded over Peterson as he remembered the boy presenting him with the gift.
The two men embraced with tears streaming down both of their cheeks.

As a tribute to young aviators like Peterson, the village of St. Quay-Portrieux salvaged
the propeller of Peterson’s plane from the ocean floor and restored it to stand as a monument
to Peterson and others who came to save France.

To learn more about WWII and aviators like Peterson, Search Fold3 today.

Shot Down Over France