Monday, June 24, 2013

Field Mass In Normandy

Only days into the Normandy campaign, American soldiers participate in a spontaneous field mass, with a French priest as celebrant.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A German Anti-Tank Gun On The Eastern Front

A German anti-tank gun in action on The Eastern Front.

The photograph is one of countless color photographs released by Russian archives in the last decade, all of which were captured from German sources in Berlin at war’s end.

Given the excellent conditions of the German soldiers and their uniforms, I suspect the photograph was taken in the first days of Germany’s invasion of Russia.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Great Depression

U.S. unemployment peaked at 25 per cent in 1933. Persistent high rates of unemployment remained until World War II; even in 1940, U.S. unemployment was an unacceptable 15 per cent.

U.S. GDP did not return to 1929 levels until the 1940s—and U.S. stock market indices did not return to 1929 levels until the 1950s.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Flatiron Building

Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902 and 1903.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Isadora Duncan At The Portal Of The Parthenon

Isadora Duncan at the portal of the Parthenon, Athens, in a 1921 photograph by Edward Steichen.

George Balanchine witnessed one Duncan performance—and for him that was enough. Balanchine’s verdict on Duncan: “a drunk fat woman who for hours was rolling around like a pig”.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Most Stupid Of Vices

Envy is the most stupid of vices, for there is no single advantage to be gained from it.

Honoré de Balzac

Friday, June 7, 2013

6 June 1944: German Soldiers Captured In Normandy

German soldiers captured in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The German soldiers in the photograph were just kids, much younger than the American soldiers holding them captive.

The afternoon of June 6, 1944, in Normandy was beautiful: clear, warm and sunny. The bad weather of that morning had abated by midday.

This worked to the advantage of the Allies.

American aircraft had total command of the skies and could attack fixed or moving targets with impunity. One result was that German reinforcements—men and materiel—could not move in from inland until darkness set.

By that time, the Allies were firmly on the Continent . . . more than 160,000 of them . . . and they were not going to budge.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hitler Slept Until Noon

At the present time, it is still too early to say whether this is a large-scale diversionary attack or the main effort.

Morning Report for 6 June 1944, German Command in the West


The only high-command officer who responded correctly to the crisis at hand was Field Marshal Rundstedt, the old man who was there for window dressing and who was so scorned by Hitler and OKW.

Two hours before the sea-borne landings began, Rundstedt ordered the two reserve panzer divisions available for counterattack in Normandy, the 12th SS Panzer and Panzer Lehr, to move immediately toward Caen. He did so on the basis of an intuitive judgment that the airborne landings were on such a large scale that they could not be a mere deception maneuver (as some of his staff argued) and would have to be reinforced from the sea.

The only place such landings could come in lower Normandy were on the Calvados and Cotentin coasts. Runstedt wanted armor there to meet the attack.

Rundstedt's reasoning was sound, his action decisive, his orders clear.

But the panzer divisions were not under Runstedt’s command. They were in OKW reserve. To save precious time, Rundstedt had first ordered them to move out, then requested OKW approval.

OKW did not approve. At 0730 OKW informed Rundstedt that the two divisions could not be committed until Hitler gave the order, and Hitler was still sleeping.

Rundstedt had to countermand the move-out order.

Hitler slept until noon.

Stephen E. Ambrose

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

“There Were These Two Tarts . . .”

David Profumo had rather more facts of life to learn than most adolescent boys, and he learned them the brutal way, on his first day at Eton, when a "ginger-haired ****weasel of a boy" in the year above him decided to tell him a story that would end his innocence for good. "Well," began the boy known as The Butcher, "there were these two tarts . . ."

Until that moment, the 12-year-old David had had no idea of his dark inheritance. He had been sheltered by his parents, not just from the basic facts of human reproduction, but from any hint that his name might be associated with one of the 20th Century's most infamous sex scandals.

Elizabeth Grice


David Profumo and John Profumo in 1958, five years before The Profumo Affair.


It was fifty years ago today that The Profumo Affair ended with the resignation of John Profumo from the Macmillan government. Profumo was never again to return to public life, although he lived another forty-three years.

Profumo’s wife remained steadfastly loyal to him after his fall, devoting herself to her husband and three sons for the rest of her life (she died in 1998).

Profumo’s wife was the stage and screen actress, Valerie Hobson, one of the great beauties of the 20th Century. Hobson had given up a brilliant acting career in order to marry Profumo in 1954. (Her final role had been Anna Leonowens in the first London production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King And I”, a production that opened in the West End in 1953.)

When Profumo’s dalliances were brought to the attention of British intelligence, the intelligence community initially thought it was dealing with little more than a standard sex scandal. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies (both still alive) appeared to be nothing more than good-time girls, a couple of half-witted, mindless pleasure-seekers, hoping to trade off their good looks for a little coin and a little fun as long as their looks held up.

Then, to its horror, British intelligence discovered that Keeler, a totally uneducated woman, knew all about “nuclear payloads”.

At the time, the term “nuclear payload” was known only to scientists and defense experts.

The investigation had suddenly taken a new turn . . .

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

1939 New York World’s Fair

The 1939 New York World’s Fair.

The statue of George Washington seen in the photograph was a late addition to the Fair. Near the end of the planning stages, the organizers decided it might help attract attention (i.e., visitors) if the Fair honored the 150th anniversary of Washington’s First Inauguration.

The 1939 Fair was the second-largest fair ever held in the United States, exceeded in size only by the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis. The 1939 Fair was the biggest international event between the two world wars.

Germany was the only major nation that did not participate in the 1939 Fair. Germany offered “budgetary” reasons for its decision to sit out the event—when in fact Germany had determined that there was no propaganda value to be gained by hosting a German pavilion, the American press having been so firmly anti-German since 1933.

The 1939 Fair was a financial disaster for the organizers; they were forced to declare bankruptcy once the Fair concluded.

The 1939 New York World’s Fair commissioned one notable music composition: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Five Variants Of Dives And Lazarus”.