Monday, April 27, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (26): A LIberating Unit

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

According to the US Holocaust Museum:
 As it [The Tenth Armored] drove into the heartland of Bavaria, the "Tiger" division overran one of the many subcamps of Dachau in the Landsberg area on April 27, 1945.

The 10th Armored Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1985.
It seems there were six camps in the Landsberg area. First, some of what  is reported at Wikipedia:
The American forces allowed news media to record the atrocities, and ordered local German civilians and guards to reflect upon the dead and bury them bare-handed. After the liberation of the camp it became a displaced person camp. Consisting primarily of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union and the Baltic states, it developed into one of the most influential DP camps in the Sh'erit ha-Pletah. It housed a Yiddish newspaper (the Yiddishe Zeitung), religious schools, and organizations to promote Jewish religious observance. Tony Bennett was one of the soldiers who liberated the camp.
I gather that the 103rd Infantry Division was one of the major units. Here's some of their report:
From REPORT AFTER ACTION: The Story of the 103D Infantry Division, pp. 131-135

At Landsberg the men of the 103d Infantry Division discovered what they had been fighting against. They found six concentration camps where victims of the super race had died by the thousands of atrocities, starvation, and exposure. The grounds of the camp were littered with the skeletonized bodies of Jews, Poles, Russians, French, and un-Nazified Germans. Every evidence was that they were only the latest of untold thousands who had suffered and died in these six concentration camps, a few among the hundreds which dotted Grossdeutschland. German civilians who were forced by the 411th guards to pick up these wasted bodies for decent burial sniveled that they had not known such things existed. They had not known, yet they had spent their lives in this town of 30,000 which was ringed by six horror camps.
The 103rd, it should be noted, was, along with the 44th Infantry and the Tenth Armored, working together on a combined spearhead, the Tenth's armor leading the way.

U.S. Soldier at Gate of Landsberg. USHM

Some videos are archived at the US Holocaust Museum. Here's a link to one of them.

From all I can find, it would appear that my Dad's company was most likely with CC B during this time and in all probability was not part of the liberation of the camp. I wouldn't be surprised, however, that when the Division was reunited all kinds of stories were shared. It is possible however that he was with CC R, the reserve command, which was near Landsberg during this time.

Nichols, interestingly, does not appear to discuss the concentration camp liberation in Impact. He does relate a story of liberating a POW camp where some former Tigers were held following Bastogne. I may continue to explore this. With my Dad married to a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, I would venture a guess that he may have had some interest in this.

Toward Pentecost (23): Follow

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (26): To the Danube

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

The Tenth processed their 2,000 prisoners from Crailsheim and sent them to the rear. They were given a new battle assignment. They were to shift their attention and combat power toward Heilbronn where the fighting was continuing.

CC A was directed to seize Oehringen while CC B was placed in "reserve" on a two-hour alert.

12 - 15 April
When forces entered Oehringen they were met with fierce resistance. As Nichols reports it,
Nazi fanaticism was slow to die as Wehrmacht and civilians alike resisted with renewed determination.
Heavy and timed artillery bursts were ordered and the efforts prevailed with the town captured on 13 April. When all the units met with the infantry units east of Heilbronn that mission was ended.

Heilbronn, April 1945
16 - 24 April
It was now time to make the move south toward the Danube and Austria. For several days there were obstacles that acted as hidden allies of the enemy. The minefields, roadblocks and blown bridges, says Nichols, "strained the already overworked Tiger engineers' efforts to clear a path for continued advance." By April 18, things began to move and all three Combat Commands became a formidable array of six armored columns. Town after town was captured. On April 19 the terrain of steep hills and deep valleys slowed the advance but later in the day the Tigers again triumphed and forged ahead 17 miles to the Rems River.

The plateau could have been easily defended by the enemy. But the Germans were sure that the Americans would attack from the west and were thus unable to halt the advance from the north.

CC B crossed the river after seizing two bridges while, to the west CC A hit a 40 MPH pace as a result of Tigers who carried a power saw to rip through roadblocks. At Lorch they scared of an enemy plane about to land and an enemy train. The train got up steam and raced away surprised by the Tigers in the town. Movement of all Combat Commands quickly captured more territory. By April 22 all were closing in on the same target of Kircheim and burst ahead to the Danube at Ehingen.

Stuttgart was virtually surrounded. Harassment of the enemy continued. The capture of Kircheim marked the end of German resistance in the area as more than 400 prisoners were taken and, more importantly, the Stuttgart-Munich autobahn was cut. Nichols writes then,
One of the most important days in the Tenth's memorable history was April 22, the day Chamberlain's forces steamrolled to the Danube. By midnight they succeeded in capturing a bridge at Ehingen. Then on April 23 [they] destroyed a German supply column.... On April 24 the Reserve Command sped across the [Danube] and headed for Ulm. At this point the Tigers were further south than any other American unit.... The Third Reich was almost a dead government now, as allied armies to the north were inflicting terrible punishment on the beaten enemy. The Tenth Armored was no poised above the great National Redoubt, an area which the Germans claimed could never be captured by the Americans. However, this claim, along with their hopes for a "thousand Year Reich" died when the Tiger's mailed fist hit them again and for the last time to end the war in the first week of May 1945

Toward Pentecost (21): Breaking Bread

Friday, April 24, 2015

Some Quotes

It's been a while since I did some surfing for quotes. I ran across one the other day when researching something else that got me back on this track. So, let's get started.

Let me start with the one I found first. It tickled my imagination- and my reality. There are billions of people in the world that don't know I exist. That should make me feel humble. Instead it forces me to go looking for them.

I envy paranoids; they actually feel people are paying attention to them.
-Susan Sontag
This edgy, fun, late comedian pointed out that reality and illusion can keep us sane.
My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them. -- Mitch Hedberg
What would a series of quotes be without good old Billy S. Jest is a way of adding a spoonful of sugar to what we don't want to hear.
In jest, there is truth. Shakespeare
Apropos of the recent Masters Golf Tournament, Bob Hope knew the importance of paying attention to the foursome behind you.
If I'm on the [golf] course and lightning starts, I get inside fast. If God wants to play through, let him.
-Bob Hope
Groucho is always good for an insight at how to be successful.
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
― Groucho Marx
And where there's Marx, there is also Lennon.
That's part of our policy, is not to be taken seriously, because I think our opposition, whoever they may be, in all their manifest forms, don't know how to handle humor.
-John Lennon
Finally, my personal motto on days like this.
[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.
― A.A. Milne

Toward Pentecost (20): Grace

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A 45-year Memory: I Was There

A beautiful April day, as I remember it. (I just checked- I was right.) It was sunny Wednesday and almost 70 degrees F. as students sat on the lawn and heard speakers tell us about the environmental dangers facing us. I was a senior and it was the first Earth Day!

The first Earth Day family had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform." It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.
Images from Lehigh's first Earth Day celebration, from the Epitome, 1970.

I wish we had come farther than we have. Yes, many advances have occurred, but the past years of extreme push-back against climate change is amazingly short-sighted. Everything has become an even greater point of divisiveness and in many places just the mention of "climate change" gets people more divided and hostile than the mention of marriage equality. We have not yet truly accepted that this is the only home we have. And we better take care of it.

Now at 43- and Still Going Strong

The secret to a long marriage: don't die and don't get divorced.

And always work on being in love!

Thank you!

Toward Pentecost (18): Heart

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A 70-Year Memory: The Last Days

April 20: Adolf Hitler's 56th and last birthday is a subdued celebration in his underground headquarters: The celebration in his underground headquarters, the Führerbunker, in the Reich Chancellery Park was very subdued. The Soviet Union Army was advancing toward Berlin, and Adolf Hitler knew that the end of his Third Reich was near. Later that day, Adolf Hitler left the bunker to decorate 20 Hitler Youth, most 12 to 15 years old, for bravery in combat. He then returned to the bunker in which he had lived since January 16, 1945. Protected by 16 feet of concrete and six feet of earth, Adolf Hitler's sanctuary protected him but did not mask the sounds of Soviet shells falling closer each day.

April 21: The Soviets reach Berlin with overwhelming military power and encircled the city: With 2.5 million men, the Soviets faced one million German troops, including about 45,000 male youth and elderly. The Germans were also greatly outnumbered in artillery, tanks, and planes. "The amount of equipment deployed for the Berlin operation," a Soviet Union soldier remarked, "was so huge I simply cannot describe it and I was there." Enormous firepower was brought to bear, but the Soviets discovered that many forward German positions had been abandoned before the bombardment. The German command pulled troops tightly around Berlin for a final, doomed defense of the city.

Toward Pentecost (17): Word

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Quick Thought

In my reading recently I have found a lot of research about how the brain works efficiently- and often- not so efficiently. For lots of evolutionary reasons our brains respond to novelty. We react to wanting new things and getting a rush (of dopamine, often) in response.

Interestingly, many of the reasons for this evolutionary development no longer hold true. We don't need to remember the exciting things in order to survive (i.e. where that great food was located.) Now we can just look at our credit card receipts.

But the reaction is still there. Evolution doesn't move fast enough considering we are very, very recently out of that kind of survival mode.

Which brings me to the cellphone, the Internet and Facebook.  Do you find yourself refreshing your Facebook feed every few minutes? Do you react automatically and reach for the phone when that little *ping* announces a new text?

Well, the *ping* causes dopamine to be released. Pleasure. Excitement. Reach for the phone. I was sitting next to a young woman who kept her phone in the top of her high boots. Even in the midst of other things happening, I knew when her phone went off. Not because I heard it, she had it on *buzz*. But because she reacted. With the automatic reaction of her hand going instantly to reach for the phone. Instantly. No matter what she was doing or what was happening around her.

That, of course, is why the cellphone has become even more dangerous than drinking and driving. The *ping* or the *buzz* releases the dopamine that distracts us, no matter how much we think it doesn't. It is instantaneous. Even more so than the ADD reaction of

It is quite frightening how much is does impact all  of us. All  of us!!!


Oops. I gotta go- there's news on Facebook I have to check.

Toward Pentecost (16): Listen

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Letter to Dave With 23 Shows to Go

Note: Time is getting short. Dave has only 23 shows left to go before his retirement. What a great loss that will be. He is in the same league as Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen as a pioneer in his own right. Here's some thoughts as it gets closer.


To: The Late Show with David Letterman
Fr: Me
Re: Final Show(s)

I saw a news item that was wondering about who should be on your final show in mid-May. Lots of big name celebrities come to mind. Bill Murray was on the first shows on both NBC and CBS as well as the last on NBC. President Obama would make a great guest and a real super ending to a great career. Maybe a Top Ten with some of the Big Names that started with your show over these 30-plus years.

All these came to mind as I was pondering the question about final guests. Bette Midler singing “One More for the Road” would seem like a little bit of stealing from the past. Maybe Jay Leno for you to show all your graciousness at his attempt to be the King of Late Night. Maybe Oprah and Madonna could join him along with Donald Trump and, oh yes, Richard Simmons. In the end you are the gracious winner!

Then I figured it out. One of your final guests should be me.

Of course, as you know, I am no one. I am just a fan, a mere 18 months younger than you who has been watching as regularly as possible since your brief run on daytime TV. I am just an “everyman”, the kind of person who has been there for you through thick and thin. As you have played light and loose with all the TV conventions and rituals, I would represent those who got it. There are millions of us who have spent countless hours being entertained by your anti-celebrity person.

I am the kind of person who you made famous with “Know Your Cuts of Meat” or out on the street as they went into the Hello Deli. I am the people walking along the street when your people in bunny suits or Santa Claus outfits try to go into a coffee shop. I represent the people you have given joy to or who you have made fun of as they walked down Broadway getting squirted with water, caught unawares on the street or yelled at through your external speaker.

I have no stupid pet or human tricks that I can do. I am not a “young scientist.” I am a trumpet player but you have such a good band, my presence would be like a Black Hole sucking away the music.

I have been to New York and been in your audience twice. Once, (left) on June 13, 2006 Tim Russert was your guest; and (right) on August 22, 2013 with Rachel Maddow and Serena Williams.

I filled out a card with one of my uniquenesses- I look a lot like Ben Stein- but never heard from you.

So, simply, I present this as my way of saying, “Thank You, David Letterman” for making Late Night TV more than remarkable and very, very watchable. I doubt that there will ever be another “King of Late Night.” You are the end of an era- and a dynasty, the true heir to Steve and Jack and Johnny.

Rest well- but don’t hide. Let us see your creativity and remind us of what has been so much fun.

Never Be the Same

When I stop long enough to listen to words of new songs in church, I am usually surprised. While too much of the contemporary worship music field is made up of sappy songs that don't get to the heart of what it means to be a Christian, there are enough that do to make it worth my while to listen.

This happened at the Maundy Thursday service of footwashing and Eucharist. It is one of those discipling songs like "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky" or "Eagle's Wings." It is a hymn of calling, being summoned by God to do the work of being a Christian. It is The Summons, written by John Bell, a Church of Scotland minister and member of the Iona Community.

It grabbed me from the fourth line of the first verse and then settled-in to do a great job of renewing God's call. In the first four verses, lines two and four repeat. Each verse starts with the call of what we could do

"If I [God] but call your name"
then another action step followed by
"And never be the same."
That's the line- right there-
And never be the same.
That's not what we count on when we think about hearing the call, of course. Nothing big, earth shattering. In the modern Christian thinking that "never be the same" is usually translated into some prosperity gospel promise or the wonder of being free from sin.

But that is not what the Gospel call is all about. That whole thing about never being the same comes when we see that who and what we are can be so different when we hear the God of creation call our name through the Son. We are to go and be and make disciples- showing love, sharing The Name and let God's life grow in us.
1. Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?
When we do leave our selves behind and start serving others, like caring for the cruel and kind, we will never be the same- and never look at the world in the same way. Every person I ever went on a mission trip with said that. It is a mark of the Spirit on us.
2. Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r
In you and you in me?
Being a "secret disciple" the humility of being used for healing and hope, even to kissing the leper and supporting them, will not leave you unchanged- nor will it meet the standards of society either.
3. Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?
There is a child of God hidden within us- as well as the things we do not like about ourselves. When God calls our name, will we never be the same and instead reshape the world. It's not about you or me- it's about the work in the world.
4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?
The the fifth verse is me talking. If I have been listening to the words I have been singing, it is now my turn. As in here I am Lord, I'm ready. I am willing to never be the same again.
5. Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.
It is then that I am able and willing to see even more in the Eucharist. It is then that I take the bread and cup and pray that
I will never be the same.
Thanks be to God!

Words: John L. Bell & Graham Maule, copyright © 1987 Wild Goose Resource Group/ WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH, Scotland.
Melody: 'Kelvingrove', Scots traditional. Reproduced by permission.

Toward Pentecost (15): Path

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Aging Does Have Its Impact

(Disclaimer: I know I'm not OLD, old. I'm only 66 and NBC News on Wednesday clearly pointed out that for many reasons 60 IS the new 40. But let me talk about it anyway.)

I did the online Jeopardy! test the other evening. I have probably done it a half-dozen or more times over the years. I have been a fan of Jeopardy! since the original Art Fleming days. I am a fountain of trivial information- and always have been. But as one watches the show it isn't hard to see that there are very, very few older people as contestants. I know that part of the reason is no doubt that older people (in their 60s and up) may have given up on being contestants. The pace of the show, the ability to ring-in quickly enough takes a little more speed than we may have as we get older. There is no doubt, neuroscience tells us, that our reflexes slow down.

And, as I found out the other day, so does our quickness of memory. There were several questions in the online test that I KNEW the answer to. They were, in general for me, very easy questions. In one I could even see the person who was the answer.

But I couldn't bring the answer out in the allotted 15 seconds. The speed (i.e. 15 seconds) wasn't the problem- most of the ones I was sure of the answer I got within the first 3-5 seconds. Typing didn't slow me down- I do a lot of that.

But that razor-sharp memory? Not what it used to be.

Not that it's bad, it is just a little more spotty than it used to be.

Maybe Jeopardy! should bring back the Senior Tournament they used to have! I'll be waiting for the call.

Toward Pentecost (14): Wisdom

Friday, April 17, 2015

A TV Tour-de-Force

I didn't get in on the Breaking Bad juggernaut until the show was almost finished- and I am still only on Season One. (Shame on me, I know!) So when they announced a prequel about one of the characters from Breaking Bad that I still hadn't met yet on that series, I decided that I would get in on the ground floor.

Better Call Saul started on February 8 and has turned into its own classic.

  • 9.2/10·IMDb
  • 100%·Rotten Tomatoes
  • 9.2/10·
  • 78%·Metacritic
I was hooked from the start.

It got off to a slow start with several different story-lines seeming to compete against each other. Yet each adding to the others bits and pieces of the story that will eventually, six years hence, become Saul Goodman.

Lighting, cinematography, scripts, acting, character development grew on me week-by-week.

For this first season, Jimmie/Saul is a person with both a soul and a heart. He is trying to make it. He was a slippery person, trying to be respectable yet always fighting his inner demons and tendencies. No one wants to be on his side. He wants the best- and he wants to be successful. His struggle is almost the struggle of an "Everyman." We know he will become a sleazy lawyer in the Breaking Bad-era and then end up working in a mall Cinnabon after that ends, as we saw in a flash-forward at the start of episode one. That gives his comic tragedy persona even more to work with.

There are a number of top-shelf characters- and actors turning in incredible performances. The original casting of comic Bob Odenkirk in such a serious role was genius. He keeps the "heaviness" from overwhelming, yet we see it tearing him apart. Jonathan Banks is nothing short of mesmerizingly brilliant as Mike, the "cleaner" and Michael McKean as Jimmy's brother is another kind of sleazy.

There were at least three Emmy-nomination moments in the first season:
  • Mike in episode 6 and 9
  • Jimmie/Saul and Chuck in episode 9
It isn't often that a spin-off can become as much as or even more than its predecessor. (Lou Grant comes to mind as an exception.) Better Call Saul has been nothing short of excellent and kept getting better. While it may never reach the iconic status of Breaking Bad, it will be its own tour-de-force on the TV scene.

Toward Pentecost (13): Humble

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A 70-year Memory: On the Homefront and the Battlefront

From my grandmother's diary in 1945:

April 12: Ruth (her daughter) called at 6 o’clock and said that President Roosevelt had died at 4:30. It was an awful shock
April 14: Listened to train bringing FDR to Washington

Sunday, April 15: Roosevelt was buried in Hyde Park, NY.

Meanwhile in the war during those four days:

April 14: The Allies march through the center of encircled German troops in the Ruhr Pocket, taking prisoners and splitting the German ranks.

The Allies launch Operation Teardrop in an effort to locate German U-boats in the North Atlantic rumored to be carrying V-2 rockets to be used against New York City.

April 14-15: Japanese imperial loyalists crush an attempted coup by hard-line military officers who, convinced that Emperor Hirohito was on the brink of surrender, had decided to seize control.

April 15: The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, with a survivor population of 40,000, is liberated by the British Army.

April 16: Adolf Hitler announces that he expects his officers to fight to the death. He orders summary execution for any officer who orders a retreat.

The Allied air force announces that future operations over Germany will focus on cleanup rather than strategic targets, effectively ending the air war.

Following the 10th Armored (25): Battle for Crailsheim

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

I found a book recently online that I had not seen before on the 10th Armored's months at the end of the war. Written by Dwayne Engle, son of an infantryman, Pfc. Melvin Engle it is called 162 Days and a Bronze Star. (Link to PDF) Pfc. Engle was called up in late 1944 and eventually became one of the replacements in the 10th after the Bulge. Engle was with CC B, most likely, at times, where my Dad's battalion was also assigned. The book is more concise about the days in early 1945 than Nichols and has given me some easier ways of understanding what was happening. It is clear that Engle uses Nichols and has spent considerable time putting this all together. I am grateful for his work.

Here is Engle's account of the first part of the Battle for Crailsheim:
Crailsheim was an important city to the Allies. Along with Bad Mergantheim (6 miles north of Assamstadt) and Heilbronn, it created a strong point and gateway into Bavaria. Crailsheim lay just forty miles southwest of Nurnberg and only 100 miles from Munich. CC B moved about forty miles from Assamstadt overnight to Crailsheim on muddy, pot-holed roads in order to arrive at Crailsheim evening of Sunday, April 8. They were now thirty-five miles behind actual German lines, which theoretically began at the Rhine River. On the move from Assamstadt CC B had managed to capture over 300 German soldiers, including some Hitler Youth. They killed at least that many more enemy and destroyed as much of the enemy artillery and equipment as time would allow.

In Crailsheim, the German army mounted the largest display of strength since the Battle of the Bulge the previous December. The 10th Armored cut a major German supply route known as the “Bowling Alley” to both the Germans and Allies. The supply route extended from
Crailsheim to Hollenbach, about twenty miles north. Once cut, the supply route began being used exclusively by the Allies and 10th Armored Division to supply troops already at Crailsheim. Still heavily and aggressively defended by the 17th German Panzer Division, this route was guarded by many U.S. roadblocks along its entirety.

The Battle for Crailsheim had actually begun a couple of days before when advanced divisions of the 10th Armored, including CC A, were ordered to advance on Crailsheim while CC B fought its way to Assamstadt. But recognizing its value, the Germans were desperately attempting to hold onto this city. At that point, Crailsheim was a last stand, and the German command realized that fact.

Adolph Hitler by this time had ordered that the Geneva Convention be laid aside and that every Allied prisoner of war be executed in at attempt to set an example for the German army that German soldiers would be dealt with accordingly, should they fail to turn back the advancing armies. To their credit, his orders were largely, if not wholly, ignored by the German High Command. However, Crailsheim would be defended from the 10th Armored Tigers at all costs. General Piburn would comment later that at no other time during the war in Europe had he seen so many German Messerschmitts in the air as there were over Crailsheim.

CC B continued to patrol the “Bowling Alley” between Blaufelden and Bartenstein until Tuesday, April 10. They would later realize that the German army had been concealed by the forest and was never more than one mile on either side of the road that they had been patrolling for the past several days. On Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 a.m., CC B was ordered to assemble at Blaufelden and move directly to Kirchberg located about eight miles south.

At 3:00 p.m. in Kirchberg, CC B was told that it would lend support to the withdrawal of CC A from Crailsheim. Additional reinforcements for CC A were not available, and the current divisions were not strong enough to hold their position and counter the German offensive.
An all night movement from Kirchberg to Bartenstein positioned CC B to carry out its order of covering CC A for the withdrawal. German infantry and artillery nagged at the column during the entire night’s travel.

When CC A had retreated from Crailsheim by early morning of April 11, the Battle of Crailsheim officially ended. At dusk that day, the remaining squadrons moved safely from Crailsheim to Blaufelden.

For the 10th Armored Division this had been a frustrating and disappointing battle ending in a stalemate, with the Germans ultimately claiming the city of Crailsheim. The frustration was due to the feeling that, with the help of additional infantry, the U.S. Seventh Army and the 10th Armored Division could almost certainly have captured and held Crailsheim.

Even though the city had been relinquished to the Germans and the 10th Armored losses were heavy, the 10th Armored had managed to capture 2000 German soldiers, kill more than 1000 others, shoot down 50 valuable German aircraft, and divert large numbers of German troops, which were needed and engaged elsewhere, to defend Crailsheim.
(162 Days, Dwayne Engle)
About the Medics
9 April - 10 April

Nichols gives high praise to the medics at Crailsheim. It was not my Dad's company that he mentions in his book, Impact, But it reminds us of the tireless work of all the medics. Here's some of what he had to say:
The supporting medical company for the attack had been cut off and medical aid was badly needed, so Section A, Company A, of the 80th Med. Bn. received orders to leave for Crailsheim at once.... Sniper and small arms fire harassed the column continuously, finally forcing it off the road onto an overland route. Air activity was also heavy and the column was forced to dig in several times. But despite these difficulties [they] reached Crailsheim safely at 0500, April 9.

[They] selected the local theater as the treatment station and were greeted with broad smiles [by the Tigers since] their own medics [were] on the scene.
The post office was used for billeting the wounded; those needing surgery were put in the lobby and later transferred to the basement of the theater. Nichols reports that great quantities of whole blood and plasma were flown in along with other medical supplies by C-47s landing under constant enemy mortar fire.
Surgery was continuous from 0530, April 9, until the last case came off the table at 1500, April 10. With each passing hour the town became hotter and hotter, ... but true to medical training, the patient came first and their safety last.

On the morning of April 10, a convoy of ambulances was formed to evacuate the casualties to a zone of safety, and medium tanks were offered as an escort but Capt. Curbo decided to run the gauntlet of enemy fire without them. The order to evacuate came at 1600 April 10... [the medics were] happy in the knowledge that every last case had been treated.
CC A led the column with CC B protecting the rear. Nichols names the 26 medics and says that
[t]o the ever adventurous medics, Crailsheim was a little Bastogne.
This was arguably one of the most frustrating of the Tigers' battle operations since entering combat the previous October. It had a hope of another big victory but ended in a deadlock. By April 12 Crailsheim was, by default, in German hands again.

And yet, Nichols reports, the 10th captued 2000 prisoners, disrupted enemy rear communications, killed more than 1,000 enemies, diverted large enemy forces from main efforts elsewhere and shot down 50 of the Luftwaffe's fe remaining fighter planes. Many considered it successful for those reasons and a breakthrough was made that would, in short order, lead the Tenth Armored to the Alps and on to Austria.

Toward Pentecost (12): Lord

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

He Made a Big Differemce

April 15 was Opening Day in 1947, Jackie Robinson's first season in the Major Leagues. The festivity is a result of Robinson's memorable career, best known for becoming the first black major league baseball player of the modern era in 1947. His debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers ended approximately eighty years of baseball segregation, also known as the baseball color line, or color barrier. He also was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, remembered for his services with the number 42 jersey. (Link)

Toward Pentecost (11): Challenge

A 150-Year Memory: The Death of Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln
was shot by John Wilkes Booth on
April 14, 1865 at
10:15 p.m. in
Ford's Theater

He died the next morning,
April 15, 1865, at
7:22 a.m.

He was 56 years old.

According to Lincoln's secretary John Hay, at the moment of Lincoln's death, "a look of unspeakable peace came upon his worn features".

The group in the room then knelt and prayed.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton then made a statement that has gone down in our national memory:
Now he belongs to the ages.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hearing Truth Behind The Words

Sitting in church last week on Easter was, as usual, a good experience. I was visiting at a church of another denomination as part of our brass quintet. That is relevant only to place me in a situation a little different from my usual worship location. I have a hunch that either sets us in some disconnected mode or, as I think happened last week, make us pay attention a little differently from usual.

In any case the sermon was about Easter and the empty tomb, no surprise, of course. The priest used the phrase a number of times and I think I just let the words pass on through. But then my hearing played a trick. I swear I heard:

Then the disciple looked into the empty womb.
That put me on a whole new train of thought.

It was quite an image, and I know that it is one that has been talked about in some of the contemplative traditions for centuries. But that’s not where I went.

I realized that life as we know it begins with an empty womb. We can talk all we want about when life begins, etc. but in our own individual personal experiences it begins when we leave the womb. Birth; to be born is what happens after the womb is empty. Even Nicodemus knew that when he was talking to Jesus:
How can I go back into my mother’s womb to be born again?
Then along comes the answer- the empty womb of the tomb.


But then I went one other place. Maybe that womb is not empty- the womb of God. I was taken back to a remarkable song done by Ric Hordinski (once of the group Over the Rhine) and an amazingly gifted guitarist. On the album Blink with his group Monk he had both acoustic and electric versions of a song titled “Womb of God.” It is haunting in the best sense of the word; mysterious and mystical as his guitar weaves sounds and emotions around lyrics that can be interpreted in a number of ways. But the weaving of the title phrase with the music is soulful:
We are living in the womb of God.
The verse that most captures my spiritual sense is this one:
Sometimes at night when the black curtain falls
it’s like the stars are the holes in the weave
and we see glimpses of the light behind it all
and it’s then that I start to believe
that it’s love that truly chose this pattern,
love that truly spun this line.

It’s a gentle thread that binds us all together
into a seamless cloth that covers us in time.

That’s when it hits me,
that we’re living in the womb of God.

Here's the electric version of the song from the album, Blink. It's a beauty.

Toward Pentecost (8): Doubt

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cross Purposes

During our recent stay on the Gulf Coast, two interesting items pulled me out of my mind-relaxing default mode.

One was on the front page of the paper and had the following information:

Beach weddings have always been popular on Alabama's coast and now a reef-focused nonprofit is taking it to another level...
[A] shell-covered concrete cross is being deployed at the nearshore reef called "Poseidon's Playground." Once it's in place in about 38 feet of water, 3.5 miles off the coast of Orange Beach, it will begin serving as an altar for underwater wedding ceremonies, according to Vince Lucido, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation.

Underwater weddings have been popular in the Florida Keys for decades and are common in tropical locales around the world.

Having an underwater wedding altar would be unique to Gulf Coast, [a spokesperson] said.

"We would be the only one basically between California and south Florida, which would be pretty cool," she said. "This is going to be huge."
Reading more than the headline does give more depth (sorry, but unintentional pun) to the story. They are actually working hard at restoring reefs and providing places for divers. It is not some out in left field kind of scheme. But I know you won't find me officiating at any of those services.

The other item bothered me more than this one, though. We were going shopping one day and a booth was set up at the entrance looking for donations for the tallest cross in the western hemisphere. Here's an earlier story on it from WKRG in Mobile:

Members of the Gulf Coast Cross Project want to build the tallest cross in the western hemisphere. At 23 stories tall it will easily be one of the tallest structures in central Baldwin County. The group already has land donated for the project in Summerdale. With a community welcome center they want the cross to be a spiritual tourist destination.

“Being illuminated at night the six million approximate annual visitors and be reminded about what Christ did for us on the cross,” says Gulf Coast Cross Project Founder Jon Butler. They hope to finish the project by 2015. Butler says the cost will be around $750,000.
It is hard for me to remain sane about this and not want to make snide remarks.

I don't know if they are trying to compete with the Christo Redemptor Statue in Rio de Janiero which is, for comparison, only 13 stories tall, though it is on the top of the 2,300 foot peak of a mountain. They talk about the evangelistic importance of the project. But it sure seems to me that $750,000 can do a lot more effective evangelism than a cross in the middle of the Bible-belt of Alabama.

When I was hungry, thirsty, naked or in prison, you reminded me of my lostness by ignoring me and spending all your money on a 23-story cross.

No, I didn't contribute.

Toward Pentecost (7): Awe

Friday, April 10, 2015

How's This For An Insight?

Okay, I gather it's been around for a while.

While I can't seem to find a clear history of the phrase, I did find some CDs with the song title or a report that jazz musician John Wood was handing out the bumper sticker with the phrase on it and had started the whole process as long ago as 1995.

Somewhere or another in the past few months I saw one of the bumper stickers and it resonated. I just liked it and so I share it. Truth can be found in bumper stickers more than we will admit. While I have nothing against electronic enhancements and digital music, the sterile, never off-beat, always perfect rhythm of a drum machine can be quite soul-less.

Anyhow- there is a Facebook page (Link) with the description:
A movement to bring imagination and soul back into the music process.
There's also an article on LA Weekly from 2004. (Link) I guess I am a little behind the times after all.

Toward Pentecost (6): Proclaim

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Living in Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is that sense of disconnect that happens when you are looking at something and feeling something the opposite. Wikipedia describes it more officially as

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
I'm not an expert on how it can be used in positive ways, although much of what a counselor does can be enhanced by developing cognitive dissonance in a client. That can help them see the changes that need to be made.

I am reminded of cognitive dissonance every time I see a pharmaceutical commercial on TV. Whether it's Viagra or a diabetes medication the visuals of the ad or enticing. There is often a sexual component (even if it isn't Viagra) and a sense of the natural world- the fresh out-of-doors. You are given a feeling of relaxation and excitement (with Viagra, anyway) at the same time. All these wonderful images flow across the screen.

Meanwhile the voice over, which they are required to give but hope you ignore, tells you all the awful side-effects that could occur which would mean you better get immediate medical attention- and the four-hour erection is the least of these problems.

I am sure they know the cognitive dissonance that occurs in every one of these ads. Whether it's the desire for feeling better which would lead you to want or need the medication clashing with the side-effects or even just the reminder of medical concerns in the middle of a TV show, cognitive dissonance can get in the way of the consumer buying the product.

Perhaps the one that most clearly battles this problem is the ad for the stop-smoking aid, Chantix. At one point in advertising history and perhaps even until now, the Chantix commercials ran a full two-minutes. That is a lot of ad time. Over half of that was the listing of the side-effects- and there are many.

Chantix (varenicline) is an effective medication. It is used successfully by millions as are most of the medications we see advertised. The issue isn't that they don't work, the issue is there are possible side-effects for some people. The public has the right to know of the possible problems, but it is interesting to watch the pharmaceutical companies do everything they can to keep us from being discouraged.

Toward Pentecost (4): Hope