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Archive for the ‘WWII in the News’ Category

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Lou Brissie – A Humble Hero

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I had the good fortune to participate in the planning and execution of a special exhibit and symposium the Museum held in 2007 When Baseball Went to War.  We were lucky to have with us many Hall of Fame and other great baseball players who were also World War II veterans.

Veteran baseball players at the 2007 Duty, Honor, Country: When Baseball Went to War Conference

Veteran baseball players at the 2007 Duty, Honor, Country: When Baseball Went to War Conference

ribbon cutting

Veteran and Major Leaguer Lou Brissie officially opens the special exhibition Duty, Honor, Country: When Baseball Went to War in 2007 at The National WWII Museum

Their stories and camaraderie made it such a special gathering.  Because of our baseball focus, I had the chance to meet a veteran whose smile, kindness and twinkle in his eyes sticks with me today.  His name was Lou Brissie.  Lou was a pitcher and a patriot.

Gary Bedingfield, who runs a website Baseball in Wartime, was also at the conference with Mr Brissie and I and said it best:

The fact that Lou Brissie ever stepped foot on a baseball diamond again after World War II, let alone pitch in the major leagues, is a testament to this man’s sheer determination, courage, and will.

Learn more about his story in wartime, the major leagues and how he went about his life with an incredible disposition.  Read his obituary from the New York Times.  I feel fortunate to have spent just a short time with him.  Lou was a great man.

Post by Lauren Handley, Education Programs Coordinator

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Esther Williams (August 8, 1921 – June 6, 2013)

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Esther Williams, like many stars of her time, traveled for bond rallies, USO shows and hospital visits to troops, but despite her appearances, her likeness may have logged more miles than she ever could in person.

Esther (due in part to the abundance of photos of here in swimwear) was a popular pin-up already when two buddies in the Royal Australian Navy exchanged a forged, signed photo of the “bathing beauty.” The photo eventually became a prize that was distributed from one ship to another in a new naval tradition and was the source of great esteem to the ship who possessed it.  The original photo was retired after traveling an estimated 4,000 nautical miles (copies are still in circulation and Ms. Williams herself was known to send authentic signed copies to ships that had garnered the “Esther Williams Trophy”).

Williams continued her “military service” after the war when, allegedly, she was inspired when she heard that the WAVES were issued a less-than-supportive swimsuit as part of their uniform. She personally modeled a version that was a significant improvement for the Secretary of the Navy, who immediately placed an order for 50,000 suits.

Read Esther Williams’ full obituary.

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WWII in the News – Comfort Women

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Ahn Sehong had to go to China to recover a vanishing — and painful — part of Korea’s wartime history. Visiting small villages and overcoming barriers of language and distrust, he documented the tales of women — some barely teenagers — who had been forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese Army.

Read the rest of the article.

Image and excerpt from The New York Times.

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RIP Patty Andrews (February 16, 1918 – January 30, 2013)

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Patty Andrews of Andrews Sisters rallied troops

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patty Andrews never served in the military, but she and her singing sisters certainly supported the troops.

During World War II, they hawked war bonds, entertained soldiers overseas and boosted morale on the home-front with tunes like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”

Andrews, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio, died Wednesday at 94 of natural causes at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, said family spokesman Alan Eichler in a statement.

“When I was a kid, I only had two records and one of them was the Andrews Sisters. They were remarkable. Their sound, so pure,” said Bette Midler, who had a hit cover of “Bugle Boy” in 1973. “Everything they did for our nation was more than we could have asked for. This is the last of the trio, and I hope the trumpets ushering (Patty) into heaven with her sisters are playing `Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.'”

Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home.

She could also deliver sentimental ballads like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.

From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” in 1937 and continuing with “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” `’Rum and Coca-Cola” and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold over 80 million records.

Other sisters, notably the Boswells, had become famous as singing acts, but mostly they huddled before a microphone in close harmony. The Andrews Sisters – LaVerne, Maxene and Patty – added a new dimension. During breaks in their singing, they cavorted about the stage in rhythm to the music.

Their voices combined with perfect synergy. As Patty remarked in 1971: “There were just three girls in the family. LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene’s was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts.”

Kathy Daris of the singing Lennon Sisters recalled on Facebook late Wednesday that the Andrews Sisters “were the first singing sister act that we tried to copy. We loved their rendition of songs, their high spirit, their fabulous harmony.”

The Andrews Sisters’ rise coincided with the advent of swing music, and their style fit perfectly into the new craze. They aimed at reproducing the sound of three harmonizing trumpets.

Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the 1940s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Desi Arnaz and Russ Morgan. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller “Don’t Fence Me In.” They also recorded with Dick Haymes, Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante and Red Foley.

The Andrews’ popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

The trio continued until LaVerne’s death in 1967. By that time the close harmony had turned to discord, and the sisters had been openly feuding.

Midler’s cover of “Bugle Boy” revived interest in the trio. The two survivors joined in 1974 for a Broadway show, “Over Here!” It ran for more than a year, but disputes with the producers led to the cancellation of the national tour of the show, and the sisters did not perform together again.

Patty continued on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.

Her father, Peter Andrews, was a Greek immigrant who Anglicized his name of Andreus when he arrived in America; his wife, Olga, was a Norwegian with a love of music. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916, Patricia (later Patty, sometimes Patti) in 1918.

All three sisters were born and raised in the Minneapolis area.

Listening to the Boswell Sisters on radio, LaVerne played the piano and taught her sisters to sing in harmony; neither Maxene nor Patty ever learned to read music. All three studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father’s restaurant. As their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to vaudeville and singing with bands.

After Peter Andrews moved the family to New York in 1937, his wife, Olga, sought singing dates for the girls. They were often turned down with comments such as: “They sing too loud and they move too much.” Olga persisted, and the sisters sang on radio with a hotel band at $15 a week. The broadcasts landed them a contract with Decca Records.

They recorded a few songs, and then came “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. (The title means, “To Me You Are Beautiful.”) It was a smash hit, and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the big-time.

In 1947, Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Patty divorced Melcher in 1949 and soon he became Day’s husband, manager and producer.

Patty married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Patty. The two other sisters rebelled, and their differences with Patty became public. Lawsuits were filed between the two camps.

Patty Andrews is survived by her foster daughter, Pam DuBois, a niece and several cousins. Weschler died in 2010.

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Sharing Senator Inouye’s Story with Students

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Today, I had the privilege of connecting with students from Ohio during a Virtual Field Trip to talk about the contributions and sacrifices of Senator Daniel Inouye, who passed away yesterday of respiratory complications.   Inouye was in his 49th year of service as Senator from Hawaii and was a WWII veteran of the “Go for Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Inouye vividly remembered the attack on Pearl Harbor, and rushed to help as a medical volunteer in the aftermath. Once the ban was lifted on Japanese Americans in the military, Inouye enlisted and soon rose to the rank of platoon leader. In the last months of the war, Inouye lost his arm while attacking a machine gun nest. His right arm was severed by German fire as he was attempting to throw a hand grenade. He pried the grenade out of his right hand and threw it with his left into the nest.  For his actions that day, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In our Virtual Field Trip about Japanese Americans in WWII, we specifically discuss Inouye’s sacrifices and the eventual upgrade of his award to the Medal of Honor. During the war, only one Japanese American was awarded the Medal of Honor.  Over fifty years later, a study revealed twenty-two Asian American soldiers were denied the Medal due to racism, including Senator Inouye. During the videoconference, we listen to the President’s speech at the award ceremony in 2000, where he says of these deserving men, “They didn’t give up on our country, even when too many of their countrymen and women had given up on them.”

Senator Daniel Inouye receiving the Medal of Honor from President Clinton on June 21, 2000

Inouye never turned his back on his country, especially when he enlisted and served while fellow Japanese Americans were being interned on the U.S. mainland.  Connecting with students to talk about WWII history is rewarding, as they understand the sacrifices of American soldiers and citizens alike. These lessons are especially meaningful to students when they learn about Senator Inouye and other selfless WWII veterans.

Posted by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

Book the I AM an American! Japanese Internment in WWII Virtual Field Trip today!

The National WWII Museum remembers Senator Daniel Inouye.

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Remembering Dave Brubeck: His First Big Break

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Dave Brubeck & His Wolfpack BandToday, a day shy of his 92nd birthday, pioneering jazz pianist and band leader Dave Brubeck passed away.  Brubeck was one of post-war jazz’s great innovators, bringing improvisation and unusual and often challenging time-signatures and folk rhythms into the mainstream musical vernacular.  His 1959 opus, ‘Time Out,’ became the first jazz album ever to sell over a million copies.  However, before the million-sellers, Brubeck was merely one of over 16 million Americans who found themselves serving in WWII.

Completing college in 1942, the 23 year-old Brubeck was drafted into the Army.  Qualifying as a sharpshooter, Private Brubeck arrived in France ninety days after the initial D-Day landings as a replacement in A Company of the 140th Infantry Regiment of Patton’s Third Army.  Advancing rapidly, Brubeck’s unit was informed that they would likely see action soon.  It was in this instance that Brubeck’s life was altered.  Brubeck remembered in an interview for Ken Burns’ 2000 documentary, ‘Jazz.’


‘They said you know you’re going to have to be at the front soon, but tonight there’s going to be some girls come up and entertain you, Red Cross girls, so they had a piano on the back of the truck, where the side of the truck came down and made a stage, and they asked over their loud speaker, ‘Is there a pianist that will come up and play with, for us, because we need a piano player.’ So, I finally raised my hand. I remember I was sitting on my helmet, in a place called ‘The Mudhole’, and I went up there and a Colonel heard me play and he said, ‘This guy shouldn’t go to the front. We want to keep him here and form a band.’  We formed a band of two guys that were with me, that hadn’t been to the front and the rest of the guys were guys that had been to the front and been injured, shot and they would send them to me. My Wolf Pack Band was mostly guys that had the Purple Heart, we could play right at the front line because the front line troops, when you’re just ready to go into battle the USO doesn’t usually getup that far and if they did they wouldn’t be accepted as well as seeing guys that have already been wounded.

And that’s the way we did a lot of the rest of the war.’

Brubeck and his Wolf Pack Band (two members seen above), officially designated as the Third Army Replacement Depot Jazz Band, would, for the next two years, serve as entertainment on the front line and in the rear for Allied troops and later for the American occupying forces in Germany.  The Wolf Pack Band was also notable for being the first racially integrated military band in American service.

Discharged in 1946, Brubeck returned to his home state of California to further hone his inimitable personal style; a style most certainly shaped by his experiences serving in the Second World War.

This post by Collin Makamson, Red Ball Express Coordinator at The National WW2 Museum

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Remembering Senator George S. McGovern (July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012)

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We at The National WWII Museum were very sorry to hear about the passing of our friend, Senator George McGovern, over the weekend. As a WWII veteran, McGovern championed the Museum’s cause and we were fortunate to have him visit for a number of events, including the November 2009 grand opening ceremonies for the Solomon Victory Theater complex.

On April 18, 2009, Senator McGovern also delivered a lecture entitled Wars Past and Present to a packed Museum house. Watch this lecture in its entirety.

In February of 2009, his oral history was added to the Museum’s permanent collection. This addition was highlighted in the Winter 2009 edition of the Museum newsletter, V-Mail.

Although Dr. George S. McGovern is best known for his years in the US Congress as well as for his 1972 bid for the Presidency, he also served in the US Army during World War II.  During the latter years of the war in Europe, he was a young 2nd Lieutenant and a B-24 Liberator pilot.  When he completed flight training and deployed overseas, he was assigned to the 741st Bombardment Squadron/455th Bombardment Group of the XVth Air Force based in Cerignola, Italy. 

During the course of his time in Italy Lt. McGovern flew 35 combat missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.  His extraordinary bombing missions over central Europe and his experiences as a flight officer in the USAAF are chronicled in the book The Wild Blue by the late Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose. 

A graduate of Dakota Wesleyan University, McGovern subsequently completed his Ph.D. in History at Northwestern University prior to entering the political arena.

In 2007, Senator McGovern supported the Museum’s effort to promote food drives. He spoke about how the war influenced his lifelong mission dedication to solving world hunger problems –

World War II introduced me to genuine human hunger for the first time in my life. I saw children handicapped and weakened by lack of food. I saw mothers and fathers in anguish, unable to provide adequate food for their families. I came back from World War II, where I served as a bomber pilot, determined to do what I could to help reduce world hunger, especially in children.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to the Senator’s family and friends as well as all who were touched by his life.



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Woody Guthrie at 100

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Born in Okemah, Oklahoma on 14 July 1912, the revered American songwriter Woodrow Wilson Guthrie would have celebrated his hundredth birthday today; centennial tributes abound, including a This Land is Your Land Tribute concert at the Kennedy Center schduled for October. In honor of the anniversary, we’d like to feature the song The Sinking of the Reuben James, which Guthrie wrote to memorialize the sailors who gave their lives on the destroyer, the USS Reuben James. On 31 October 1941, the Reuben James was underway near Iceland escorting a convoy en route to Britain when she was sunk by U-552. Of the crew, 44 survived and 115 perished. Guthrie wrote the song soon after the attack and it was recorded in 1942 for the album Dear Mr. President by the Almanac Singers (which included Pete Seeger). Initially an isolationist left-wing group, after the Nazi invasion of Russia, the Almanac Singers recorded songs like the Deliver the Goods and Round and Round Hitler’s Grave urging American intervention.

In 1943, Guthrie signed on as a merchant seaman and made several voyages and lifelong friends. On these voyages, Guthrie would often perform for his crewmates, including the song The Sinking of the Reuben James. Guthrie wrote many songs during this time about the fight against fascism and oppression including All You Fascists are Bound to Lose, Tear the Fascists Down, Talking Merchant Marine, Life Belt Washed up on the Shore, and Miss Pavlichenko, about the famed Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Thanks for these songs and a happy birthday to Woody Guthrie.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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In Their Own Words: Eugene Sledge on V-E Day

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Gift of Joyce Smith, 2008.075.002

While much of the world reveled in the news of Allied victory over Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, troops in the Pacific felt no cause for celebration. In his autobiography, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, E.B. Sledge talks about reaction to the announcement.

On 8 May Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. We were told this momentous news, but considering our own peril and misery, no one cared much. “So what” was typical of the remarks I heard around me. We were resigned only to the fact the Japanese would fight to total extinction on Okinawa, as they had elsewhere, and that Japan would have to be invaded with the same gruesome prospects. Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon.

The main thing that impressed us about V-E Day was a terrific, thundering artillery and naval gunfire barrage that went swishing, roaring, and rumbling towards the Japanese. I thought it was in preparation for the next day’s attack. Years later I read that the barrage had been fired on enemy targets at noon for its destructive effect on them but also as a salute to V-E Day.

Purchase a copy of With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa from the Museum Store.

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Tragedy Turned Propaganda – The Titanic

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On April 15, 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic met a tragic end on her maiden voyage after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is estimated that more than 1,500 passengers and crewmembers lost their lives in an event that has captivated the public for a century.

Since then, the story of the Titanic has worked its way into popular culture with a number of fictionalized accounts, the most famous being the 1997 James Cameron blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But an earlier WWII-era German film, released in 1943, actually used the story of the ill-fated vessel as a means of propaganda to malign British and American ideals as being overly-materialistic, greedy and capitalistic.

Made by Tobis Productions for the Universum Film AG (UFA) studio in Berlin, Titanic was released in December 1943. The film would later be banned by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels for a number of reasons, including the fact that late in the war, the last thing he wanted to expose citizens to were scenes of mass panic and death. Additionally, a scene where steerage passengers remained locked behind gates with no hope of escape was deemed too similar to real-life scenes being played out in concentration camps.

The plot puts the blame for the tragedy squarely on selfish White Star stockholders, who throw caution and concern for passengers and crew to the wind in the promise of a financial windfall. Additionally, the film’s protagonist, a fictional German First Officer named Herr Petersen, tries to prevent the careless behavior that leads to the sinking and later selflessly attempts to rescue those on the ship. German passengers in steerage go to their death with a quiet dignity and courage, while British and Americans resort to any means to save themselves while in a state of full-on panic.

The film ends with this epilogue to the tragedy. “The deaths of 1,500 people remains un-atoned, forever a testament of Britain’s endless quest for profit.”

The film was the most expensive German production up until that time and was fraught with disasters of its own. Including the arrest of the original director, who had been overheard criticizing the film’s marine consultants (German officers) for being overly preoccupied with the female actresses. He was reported to the Gestapo and soon after his arrest, in what was dubiously ruled a suicide, was found hanged in his cell. Additional delays occurred when the original version of the film was destroyed in a bombing raid. The stand-in for this fictional Titanic was the SS Cap Arcona (which was sunk on May 3, 1945, by the RAF with an estimated death toll of 5,000).

The film would fade in and out of obscurity for several years, often reemerging with the more-propagandized elements censored out. The complete and uncensored version was released on DVD in 2005.

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