A re-post from previous birthdays!
September 10, 1942
Last week I had a bad cold and sat in front of my t.v. watching whatever was on; watching, dozing, watching. Turns out I was tuned to a history channel which was running “World War II in Color”.
The episode covered the time right after the fall of France. Hitler was returning to Berlin in triumph from Paris on a train that makes Amtrak look third world. Millions of adoring Germans were in the streets – after all the war was practically over. Only Great Britain needed to be brought to the negotiating table and all of Western Europe, Norway, Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia would be incorporated into the Reich. The crowd was in a frenzy as Hitler rode passed standing in an open Mercedes. Had he died at that moment he would forever be remembered as Germany’s greatest statesman.
One German boy maybe 16 years old, in lederhosen had climbed up on a street sign stanchion and was sitting on it, adoration on his face, right arm raised in salute to the fuhrer.
I wondered to myself – What ever happened to that boy? Did he survive the war? Or did he die on the Eastern front or in the defense of Berlin? Did he know he was being filmed? He could not know of course that almost 75 years later some old guy with a cold would be looking through his congestion wondering what happened to him.
It was just a fleeting thought. Today lives can touch in the strangest of ways.
I was born on September 10, 1942. Lucky. I missed both world wars. I served during Vietnam but went where the Army sent me; a place where no one shot at me.
I have an original copy of the New York Times from my birth date. Today, still recovering, I opened it and got touched by other lives.
Frank J. O’Brien was named Executive Vice President of Continental Can Company. I’m sure he was proud his picture was on the business page. On the NYSE 361,980 shares (that’s 361,980 shares!) changed hands, “mostly in low priced issues.” Erie Railroad was the volume leader at 14,000 shares and closed at 8 1/4.
The Rev. Dr. W. W. Peet, a retired missionary who worked forty years in Turkey died at the age of 91. “In the Turkey of Abdul Hamid, Dr. Peet was an almost legendary figure. He had the confidence of all the foreign Ambassadors, of the leaders of the minority peoples and many of the most influential Turks. Reverend Peet delivered a ransom to Bulgarian brigands from Constantinople to rescue Miss.Ellen Stone and was personally thanked by Teddy Roosevelt.”
“Miss Elaine Dunning, daughter of Dr, Henry Sage Dunning of Manhattan and New Caanan was engaged to Ensign Bennet H. Eskesen, U. S. N. R. “Miss Dunning was graduated from the Todhunter School and Cornell University and was introduced to society at a dance given at Sherry’s a few seasons ago. Ensign Eskesen was graduated from Dartmouth College”.
Did Bennet survive the war? Were they happy? I read their announcement in the NY Times today. (Yes he did – they had a son and two daughters – he passed in 1990; you can Google him.)
In sports, the Yankees blasted the Browns and moved within 5 games of clinching the pennant. Nothing new. The All-Army football team came to town to play the football Giants at the Polo Grounds on Saturday with all proceeds going to an Army fund.
“Mrs. Miniver” was playing at a theater I would work in as an usher when I was fifteen..
Want ads were segregated into “boys” and “girls” – “girls” invariably had to be “attractive”. Starting entry level jobs paid $10 a week. Multi-bedroom apartments in the best parts of Manhattan rented for $70 a month. A virtually new multi-bedroom house in Mt. Kisco was on the market for $5,750.
In politics, the House suspended the poll tax for all soldiers for the duration of the war so soldiers could vote. The fight for approval was led by a young Congressman from Illinois, Everett Dirksen. Southern Senators thought allowing black soldiers to vote would just destroy morale in their home states. Dirksen, in a stirring speech said that the least we could do for those facing the enemy in the field was allow them to vote. (Oh Everett! Where are you when we need you?)
A “Victory Tax” of 5% was added to the already existing income tax rates on the wealthy. (We could use that today!!)
So while these lives on the inside pages went on or ended the headline reads :
“Russians retreat again at Stalingrad; Japanese gains menace Port Moresby”.
“Massed German tanks and infantry smashing in a frontal assault toward the western gates of Stalingrad forced the Red Army to give up two more populated places in the third Russian retreat in as many days”.
Hundreds of thousands were dying on that day I came into the world.
Of course the German Sixth Army would be destroyed at Stalingrad and Field Marshall von Paulus would not see Germany again until the mid-1950s. The Japanese would never reach Port Moresby.
So I wondered what happened to that boy. Those millions in the streets wildly cheering the Fuehrer after the fall of France in 1940 could not know that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union the following year and that Japan would attack the United States. They could not know that in less than five years it would all be swept away. They could not know that they were doomed and that millions would not survive the war including a good number of those in the newsreel.
The old man with the bad cold watching them on an invention they had never seen nor could imagine – he knew.
I wonder who will read my posts in 2090? What will they take for granted that we can’t even imagine?
P.S If you want to see the German boy go to minute 1:29 below.