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Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday links

Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender" speech: it's the anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats.

Dagger in King Tut's tomb was made with iron from a meteorite.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include Vonnegut's letter home after imprisonment in an underground slaughterhouse (Slaughterhouse Five, specifically) during the Dresden bombing, what happens when you swallow gum, laser helicopters, and Beatrix Potter's pet pothead bunny (on which she based Peter Rabbit).

Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender" speech: the evacuation of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats

He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day. 

~ 16th-century proverb, but also attributed to Menander (ca.340-ca.290 B.C.) 

The sea from Dunkirk to Dover during those days of the evacuation looked like any coastal road in England on a bank holiday. It was solid with shipping. 

~ Sir Douglas Bader (1910-1982)* (attributed)

Dunkirk has fallen ... With it has ended the greatest battle in world history. Soldiers! My confidence in you knew no bounds. You have not disappointed me. 

~ Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) (on 5 June 1940)

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

When it was known how many men had been rescued from Dunkirk, a sense of deliverance spread in the island and throughout the Empire. There was a feeling of intense relief, melting almost into triumph. The safe homecoming of a quarter of a million men, the flower of our Army, was a milestone in our pilgrimage through years of defeat. 

~Churchill (Their Finest Hour, Ch. 7)

[Hitler's] action preserved the British forces when nothing else could have saved them. By making it possible for them to escape, he enabled them to rally in England, continue the war, and man the coasts to defy the threat of invasion. Thereby, he produced his own ultimate downfall, and Germany's five years later. Acutely aware of the narrowness of the escape, but ignorant of its cause, the British people spoke of "the miracle of Dunkirk." 

~Sir B. H. Liddell Hart (wiki) (1895-1970) (History of the Second World War, Ch. 7)

Today is the anniversary of the final day in 1940 of the evacuation of large elements of the British and French armies from Dunkirk (wiki) on the French coast following their defeat by the German blitzkrieg that overwhelmed France during the early months of World War II. The sudden German attack through Belgium on 10 May quickly rolled up the French and British left wing and surrounded it in a small enclave on the English Channel opposite Dover. 

In a largely improvised but brilliantly executed maritime operation that mustered both the Royal Navy and civilian small craft of every kind, nearly 340,000 British and French troops - nearly 90 percent of those invested - were ultimately withdrawn, despite incessant German armored and air attacks. (Even now, there is a continuing controversy about whether Hitler - for unknown reasons - ordered the Wehrmacht to hold back from a final attack that would have prevented the withdrawal. See Liddell Hart's quote above.) 

Although virtually all of the Allies' weaponry and equipment were abandoned, the men survived to fight again, and just four years later they returned to France on D-day, 6 June 1944, achieving final victory in May 1945. On this same day, in reaction to the success of the Dunkirk evacuation, Winston Churchill delivered his famous "we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches" speech to the House of Commons,but also noted ominously,

"Wars are not won by evacuations." 

* N.B. Douglas Bader was an RAF fighter ace in World War II who had lost both his legs in a flying accident but still continued to fly in combat. 

If you'd like a quick and basic understanding of this subject (or want to provide one to someone else), this 4 minute wartime British Pathé newsreel about Dunkirk will do the trick:

Much more at the BBC's Dunkirk archive.

This post was based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. If you'd like to be added to his list, leave your email address in the comments.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday links

Here's Kurt Vonnegut's May 29, 1945 letter home after imprisonment in an underground slaughterhouse (Slaughterhouse Five, specifically) during the Dresden bombing.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the tactical order of dressing (so you'll always be battle-ready), a history of tug-of-war fatalities, an Australian town on sale for $750,000, and the giant radioactive frog steaks 1913 newspapers predicted we'd be eating.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours. 

~ Henry Wadsworth LongfellowDecoration Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.**

- Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen 

Until 1967 known as "Decoration Day" and formerly celebrated on 30 May before "long-weekend" national holidays were introduced the next year, various Memorial Days were first observed after the Civil War in both the North and South, when the graves of the fallen were decorated with flowers and bunting. The first widespread use of the 30 May date took place in 1868 as an observance organized by the Union Army veterans' organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, and this custom gradually spread to the rest of the country and was later expanded to honor the dead of all the nation's wars. 

In a speech just six months before his own death, General George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945) noted,
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived." )
* N.B. Longfellow's "Decoration Day" is from his collection, In the Harbor (1882). 

** The fourth verse of (Robert) Laurence Binyon's "For the Fallen" (1914) - generally followed by the phrase, "Lest we forget" - is now part of virtually every war memorial service in Britain and her former colonies. 

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,
mors et fugacem persequitur virum.
nec parcit imbellis iuventae
poplitibus timidove tergo.

~ Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace), Carmina, III, ii, 13
(To die for the fatherland is a sweet and admirable thing.*
Death is at the heels even of the runaway, nor spares
the haunches and back of the coward and malingerer.)
A brief history of Memorial Day:

Related posts and links:
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