Monthly Archives: February 2010

You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

The boys of Pointe du Hoc : Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion    New York : W. Morrow, c 2005  Douglas Brinkley World War, 1939-1945 , Campaigns , France , Normandy United States. Army. Ranger Battalion, 2nd , History Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 274 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Ronald Reagan – Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

I think I know what you may be thinking right now — thinking “we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.” Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren’t. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him — Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, “Sorry, I’m a few minutes late,” as if he’d been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he’d just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland’s 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots’ Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England’s armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet,” and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought — or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: “Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.” Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance — a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They’re still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It’s fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We’re bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we’re with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

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A harrowing, adrenaline-charged account of America’s worst naval disaster, and of the heroism of the men who, against all odds, survived.

In harm’s way : the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors    New York : H. Holt, 2001  Doug Stanton Indianapolis (Cruiser) World War, 1939-1945 Naval operations, American, Shipwrecks Pacific Ocean Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. 333 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.   Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly four days and nights. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to stay alive, fighting off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia. By the time rescue arrived, all but 317 men had died.

The captain’s subsequent court-martial left many questions unanswered: How did the navy fail to realize the Indianapolis was missing? Why was the cruiser traveling unescorted in enemy waters? And perhaps most amazing of all, how did these 317 men manage to survive?

Interweaving the stories of three survivors — the captain, the ship’s doctor, and a young marine — journalist Doug Stanton has brought this astonishing human drama to life in a narrative that is at once immediate and timeless. The definitive account of a little-known chapter in World War II history, In Harm’s Way is destined to become a classic tale of war, survival, and extraordinary courage.

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Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mounta ins of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country’s preeminent storytellers.

Horse soldiers : the extraordinary story of a band of U.S. soldiers who rode to victory in Afghanistan    New York : Scribner, 2009  Doug Stanton Afghan War, 2001- , Cavalry operations, American Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 393 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 383-393).  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

From the New York Times-bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory.

Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban.

The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, they fought for their lives in the city’s immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed.

As the Americans struggled to hold the fortress, they faced some of the most intense urban warfare of our time. But until now the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton received unprecedented cooperation from the U.S. Army’s Special Forces soldiers and Special Operations helicopter pilots, as well as access to voluminous after-battle reports. In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred participants and walked every inch of the climactic battleground.

This exciting story is filled with unforgettable characters: brave Special Forces soldiers, tough CIA operatives, cunning Afghan warlords, anxious stateside soldiers’ wives who do not know where their husbands have gone, and humble Afghan boys spying on the Taliban.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton’s account of America’s quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The Horse Soldiers combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople and avoid civilian casualties proved a valuable lesson for America’s ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mountains of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country’s preeminent storytellers.

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The harrowing story of one of the greatest chapters of World War II, -the building and defense of the Burma Road.

The Burma road : the epic story of the China-Burma-India theater in World War II    New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c 2003  Donovan Webster World War, 1939-1945 , Campaigns – Burma , History , Japanese occupation, 1942-1945,  Burma Road (China and Burma) Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 370 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The Burma Road tells the extraordinary story of the China-Burma-India theater of operations during World War II. As the Imperial Japanese Army swept across China and South Asia at the war’s outset–closing all of China’s seaports–more than 200,000 Chinese laborers embarked on a seemingly impossible task: to cut a seven-hundred-mile overland route–which would be called the Burma Road–from the southwest Chinese city of Kunming to Lashio, Burma. But with the fall of Burma in early 1942, the Burma Road was severed, and it became the task of the newly arrived American General Stilwell to re-open it, while, at the same time, keeping China supplied by air-lift from India and simultaneously driving the Japanese out of Burma as the first step of the Allied offensive toward Japan.

In gripping prose, Donovan Webster follows the breathtaking adventures of the American “Hump” pilots who flew hair-raising missions over the Himalayas to make food-drops in China tells the true story of the mission that inspired the famous film The Bridge on the River Kwai and recounts the grueling jungle operations of Merrill’s Marauders and the British Chindit Brigades. Interspersed with vivid portraits of the American General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, the exceedingly eccentric British General Orde Wingate, and the mercurial Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, The Burma Road vividly re-creates the sprawling, sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and still largely unknown stories of one of the greatest chapters of World War II.

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The Fate of the English Country House addresses the immediate future of these homes and allows readers to contemplate the history of great houses that have, in some cases, been owned and occupied by the same families for 200, 400, 600, or even 900 years.

The fate of the English country house    U.S.A.: Oxford Univ Pr, 1997  David Littlejohn ; photographs by Sheila Littlejohn Country homes , Economic aspects , England Hardcover. First edition and printing. xiii, 344 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [315]-328 and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

For millions of people in the English-speaking world, the now standard image of the British country house is Brideshead Castle in Wiltshire: the domed and doomed baroque country seat of the Marchmain family seen in the BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited. In real life, the house used for the television series is Castle Howard, one of the largest and most opulent private homes in England, located on 10,000 acres of gardens, parkland, and woods in North Yorkshire, now visited by more than 200,000 tourists a year.

Between 3,500 and 4,000 country houses–large, often elegantly furnished and surrounded by extensive estates–remain more or less intact in England today, although frequently converted to non-residential uses. Whether in public or private hands, the best known of them have become a major magnet for British and foreign tourists, attracting about 20 million paying visitors each year.

Country houses, with their furnishings and landscaped settings, have been called England’s one important contribution to art history. They figure prominently in the ongoing debate over how much of any “National
Heritage” is worth preserving.

In The Fate of the English Country House, David Littlejohn describes the past glories and troubled present condition of “the stately homes of England,” both those that continue to serve as private houses, and those that have been turned into museums, tourist attractions, convention centers, hotels, country clubs, schools, apartments, hospitals, even prisons.

By means of extensive conversations with their owners and managers (the book contains more than 50 photographs of the houses), the author takes us on a private tour of these remarkable places and evaluates the many proposals that have been put forward for their survival.

In the opening chapter we meet three near-neighbors in Oxfordshire, whose personal accounts introduce many of the themes of the book: the 11th Duke of Marlborough, whose family has been living at Blenheim Palace since 1710; the 21st Baron Saye and Sele, whose ancestors built romantic, moated Broughton Castle between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the Honorable Ann Harcourt, mistress of Stanton Harcourt Manor, which has belonged to her family since the twelfth century.

Most of the conversations revolve around the financial, legal, and strategic problems of owning and running an immense, archaic estate, designed for an age of unquestioned privilege, grandiose entertaining, and an almost unlimited pool of servants: a time before income, capital gains, or inheritance taxes had to be taken into account, before one had to open one’s gates to the hordes of tourists out “Doing the Statelies” between Easter Sunday and the end of October.

Littlejohn finds that as government support for privately owned historic houses dries up, more and more of them are being converted to other uses, or left empty to decay, their paintings and furnishings sent to the auction houses to help pay tax and repair bills. As they grow more and more difficult to justify or maintain, English country houses have become increasingly “endangered species” in today’s alien economic and political climate. What is at stake is a major piece of England’s architectural and cultural heritage, no easier to defend than
superannuated ocean liners or great Victorian hotels.

The Fate of the English Country House addresses the immediate future of these homes and allows readers to contemplate the history of great houses that have, in some cases, been owned and occupied by the same families for 200, 400, 600, or even 900 years.

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