The human mind is a strange and wonderful thing.  Not only can we learn to consciously perform complex tasks, but we can teach ourselves to perform seemingly impossible tasks without ever knowing the steps to do so.  Take the example of chicken sexers, as examined in the September 2011 edition of Discover Magazine: When chicken hatchlings are born, large commercial hatcheries usually set about dividing them into males and females, and the practice of distinguishing gender is known as chick sexing. Sexing is necessary because the two genders receive different feeding programs: one for the females, which will eventually produce [... read the rest ...]

The aftermath

We all know the history of D-Day, so there is no need to retell it here, however I wanted to share a few photos of Saint-Lô, France after the city was retaken. The destruction wrought by the bombardments and constant fighting is incredible to see. Click any image to enlarge.

World War II Military Situation Maps

Military history buffs might want to take a gander at the American Library of Congress’s Geography and Map Division’s World War II Military Situation Maps archive. The World War II Military Situation Maps contains maps showing troop positions beginning on June 6, 1944 to July 26, 1945. Starting with the D-Day Invasion, the maps give daily details on the military campaigns in Western Europe, showing the progress of the Allied Forces as they push towards Germany. Some of the sheets are accompanied by a declassified “G-3 Report” giving detailed information on troop positions for the period 3 Mar. 1945-26 July [... read the rest ...]

Mar 142011

Originally posted: May 6, 2006, 6:04 pm. This is the second in a series of three posts excerpting Gary Boegel’s Boys of the Clouds: An Oral History of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942-45. The 1st Canadian para were among the first allied troops to set foot in France on D-Day. Although many of the troops were dropped far from their targeted drop zones, the Battalion still managed to achieve all of their objectives and played a vital role in the overall success of the mission. Here is just a taste of what these soldiers experienced, in their own words. [... read the rest ...]

Mar 072011

Originally posted: April 19, 2006, 4:31 pm. Gary Boegel has given me permission to reprint a few excepts from his oral history of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Boys of the Clouds. I am now over halfway through the 450 page tome, and have been dog-earring stories I particularly enjoy as I make my way though. This first set of excerpts represents some of the veterans’ lighter stories from the weeks and months following the D-Day landings in Normandy. Private Esko Makela B Company, No. 5 Platoon One day when we were dug in on the perimeter of our position, [... read the rest ...]

Feb 062011
The Wilhelm Gustloff

The odds are good that if you ask someone to name the greatest naval disaster in history, they will tell you that it was the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.  They will be no where close. As well known as the Titanic is, the loss of life – 1,503 people – pales in comparison to the number of people who were killed when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by a Russian submarine on January 30th, 1945. With World War II winding down and the German eastern front collapsing before the Russian onslaught, the Wilhelm Gustloff – a luxury [... read the rest ...]

The D-Day Dodgers

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Jan 232011

Below is an anecdote regarding the veterans of the Italian Campaign in World War II. [via The War Amps] From the time Canadian troops landed in Sicily in July 1943, through to the epic battle of Ortona and beyond, the Italian Campaign was front page news. However, after the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, Italy became the forgotten war. For the rest of the campaign – another year of bitter and bloody struggle – the Canadians toiled in virtual anonymity. The Allied troops in Italy, in a questionable jest, became known as the D-Day Dodgers. The nickname [... read the rest ...]

I have written about my great-grandfather several times before. He fought in World War One and survived to tell his tale, and when Canada joined World War Two, he signed up again – lying about his age in order to enlist. (Norman was technically a few years too old to fight in WW2, by the letter of the law.) Below is a copy of the letter that Norman Peterkin left for his children as he again risked his life for his country. The letter is written on four pages of Department of National Defense letterhead in beautiful flowing script. St. [... read the rest ...]

Dec 212010

Death Was Our Companion: The Final Days of the Third Reich, by Tony Le Tissier, is a compilation of memoirs, interviews, and journals from German soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front as the Russians rolled them into Berlin in the spring of 1945.  The individual accounts are supplied without embellishment, and present a much more personal history of the final days of Nazi Germany than anything that you will find in a history textbook. While it is easy to claim that all Germans were monsters during the second world war, that blanket assertion misses the individual truths:  many ordinary [... read the rest ...]

Nov 102010
Norman Peterkin: Torpedoed

Norman Peterkin, my great-grandfather, fought in both World War One and World War Two and survived to tell his tale. During WWII he served as a medical officer, which is not to say that he had an easy time of it, nor that he never saw combat. In fact, Norman Peterkin nearly lost his life in the waters of the Mediterranean when the ship he was serving on was torpedoed and sunk en route to Italy. For years after the war Norman carried shrapnel from the incident in his leg, and I imagine that he was lucky to get off [... read the rest ...]

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