Tag Archives: WWII

An American Soldier

Sometimes, the best part of traveling is getting to see your own country through the eyes of another people. Like that time I was standing on the back of a boat going down the Mosel River in Germany and struck up a conversation with a local man. He said, “Yes! I’ve been to your country–ORLANDO!” Or the time in Greece when I asked for lunch “to go” and Richard and I shared a good laugh over how Americans like to walk and eat, walk and eat, whereas the Greeks would never think of disrupting a leisurely meal. Or on my first trip to France, when I had been advised to claim that I was a Canadian…but when asked where I was from in Canada, I couldn’t remember what part of Canada spoke French so I hemmed and hawed then said, “Um, Edmonton?” The young Arab hotel keeper laughed at me and whispered, “You are American!”

One of my favorite memories of learning about being an American while abroad happened in Luxembourg. That country LOVES America. Why? Because WWII, that’s why. While wandering around the city, Richard laughed and pointed to the map. We were on a street called “Boulevard F-D Roosevelt.” Neat, huh? Grand Duchess Charlotte and FDR were great supporters of each other during the war, and it was American troops that liberated Luxembourg from the Nazis. Over 5000 Americans are buried in Luxembourg, under our flag.

12th Armored Division soldier with captured Germans, 1945.

12th Armored Division soldier with captured Germans, 1945.

On the ride into the city, the train stopped in Bastogne and other towns I had heard of from the black and white war movies my parents watched. Richard and I pieced together our recollection of WWII history–the Battle of the Bulge, the Ardennes Forest. All that history had happened right there. I looked out the window at the trees along the track and wondered if they were all new trees, grown back in the last 60 years.

The Museum of the City of Luxembourg tells their story of World War Two in room after room after room. The exhibit is arranged chronologically, so that you get a growing sense of what the people of Luxembourg experienced. I remember a wedding dress made from a silk parachute. A flyer that, when folded the correct way, revealed a caricature of Hitler. Handmade flags, painted in red, white and blue to welcome the American liberators.

One object in that museum taught me a priceless lesson about being an American. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but photography wasn’t allowed. And I can’t find it on the internet, at least not the exact sight I saw.

In the exhibit about liberation, one entire wall was taken up by a larger than life sized photo of an American GI lifting a little blonde girl up on his shoulder as they both beamed with joy. She waved a handmade American flag. His helmet looked like it was about to slide off his head. The emotion of the photograph brought me to tears–the victorious joy, the relief of freedom, the letting go of some fear–all of that was rolled up in this one moment captured by the camera. The photo was entitled, “An American Soldier, Luxembourg 1945.”

GIs at the Battle of the Bulge.

GIs at the Battle of the Bulge.

I felt such pride for my country, what my ancestors had done to free the people of Europe after that horrible war. But the picture also made me feel grief for what my ancestors had done to the people of America, because the American soldier in the photo was black.

That girl in the photo smiled with every ounce of her being. He was there to save her. He was An American Soldier and everything was going to be OK because of him.

That American soldier in the photo joined up and crossed the ocean and fought his way through all those towns I had heard about in all those war movies. That American soldier fought in a segregated unit, because the American military wasn’t desegregated until 1948. Actually, that’s not true. During the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest, troops were desegregated for the first time–out of necessity. Units were being torn up so fast that the color lines fell by the roadside and all the Americans fought together. Counteroffensive in the Ardennes Forest, 1944.

In Luxembourg, that man was an American Soldier and was celebrated like a conquering hero. Then he came home, to America, where he had to fight to be treated like a man.

That’s what I learned about my America in Luxembourg. A snapshot for Black History Month.


Wordless Wednesday–the Blitz in Colour

Along the same lines as yesterday’s post about early Kodachrome photos, I offer you these startling images of London in the grip of an incessant German bombing campaign, The Blitz.  

London during the Blitz

Life Goes On, London During the Blitz

blitz bus

A bus travelling in black out conditions falls into a bomb crater on Ballham High Road.

blitz parlaiment

The Houses of Parliament, 1941. Note the anti-aircraft balloons dotting the sky.

blitz park

Carrying On. A man reads a book in a London park, as an anti-aircraft balloon lies in the background.

London in the Blitz

Smoke, every morning of the Blitz

The Real Story Behind “Keep Calm and Carry On”

Keep Calm and Carry On.  It’s on everything–posters, mousepads, coffee mugs, sorority mixer shirts, campaign posters, Target ads.  The original poster was British war propaganda:


Once this meme took off, we saw it reversed:

calm panic

Merged with other memes:

calm grumpy cat

Turned into bad puns:

calm carrie

calm kansas

And used to make fun of the Cubs:

calm cubs

The Star Wars geeks got hold of it:

calm yoda

And the “Big Bang” theorists:

calm kitty

And the people who hate Christmas trees?:

calm christmas


Until we all agreed that it was kind of DONE: (dead horse)

calm dead horse

Have you ever heard the story behind the original poster?  We associate it now with Britain in WWII, standing against the Nazi onlslaught–but this poster was never circulated to the people of England.  It was a secret weapon, only to be deployed in the event of utmost distress.  Watch this video to learn the true story behind the lost poster and  the couple who rescued it from the forgetfulness of time.

Keep Calm and Carry On from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

Jenny’s Fighting Hitler and Looking Great Doing It!

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ladies, your busy schedule–what with working in a munitions factory AND keeping the home fires burning–is no excuse for not being fresh as a daisy.  Please remember to shower before slipping into your brogans, coveralls and…what is that red thing, veal cutlets?  

(I really have no room to talk.  I woke up late yesterday and my beauty routine consisted of a double dose of Secret and a baby wipe to the face.)  

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Nothing is more important to wartime productivity than eight hours of restful sleep, girls!  So slip into your peignoir and wrap your hair around some pork rinds (if you have the ration points).  

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Styles designed for VICTORY!  Make THAT work, Heidi Klum.  

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Girl!  Where did you get those shoes?  I tried kitten heels but they kept getting wedged in the scaffolding.  

We’re halfway through the work week and here’s Jenny’s advice thus far:

  1. Eat a man size meal.
  2. Don’t act like monkeys in the bathroom, nasty.  
  3. Wash that thang.
  4. Get to bed.  Nothing good happens after midnight.
  5. Denim coveralls and snood are optional but white gloves are mandatory.  
  6. Leave the platform stilettos at home, Miss Kardashian.  

I can get behind that plan!

Jenny On the Job

In WWII, millions of American women entered the workforce in heretofore unfamiliar jobs–in factories, in shipyards, in transportation.  To help these women adjust to the demands of working in the wartime economy, in 1943 the Office of Public Health commissioned a series of posters to dispense clever advice to those scores of Rosie the Riveters.  The posters were intended for display in break rooms and restrooms of wartime production plants…places where the gals might gather to chat, y’know.  The character of “Jenny on the Job” chirped illuminating messages about taking care of oneself in order to maintain one’s vital role as a cog in the war machine.  

Here’s Jenny’s advice on nutrition:

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Hmm…I’m starting to like this Jenny.  We can assume her last name isn’t “Craig,” because check out that lunch pail.  Two sandwiches on whole grain bread, two carrots, two stalks of celery, an apple, an orange, and a quart of milk.  A healthy and hearty array of food that is guaranteed to keep Jenny…moving.  

Which probably explains the necessity for this next poster:

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In other words:  Your mama does not work here and Jenny ain’t got time for your mess.  

So here’s to the women who work–in the home, outside the home, under the home and up in the sky!  Tomorrow I’ll share Jenny’s beauty tips…because we can defeat Hitler AND take care of our skin.