Tag: WW2

“Homosexuals Are Not Cowards”: The Legacy of Willem Arondeus

Reading time: 6 minutes
Dutch artist and author Willem Arondeus’ life had always been fraught with insecurity. Despite the modest success of his artwork, he lived in poverty, and friend Frieda Belinfante remembered him first for his timidity. ‘He was very shy,’ she said, ‘and kind of an inferiority complex. He didn’t think he was good enough for this or that.’

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Fear Was Not in My Dictionary: The Revolutionary Work of Sara Fortis

Reading time: 6 minutes
When the small Greek town of Kuturla burned in 1943, teenage Sara Fortis had been on the run from German occupying forces for two years already. From the raw age of fourteen, she had hidden her Jewish status and worked for underground resistance movements as a nurse and teacher. But when her sanctuary burned, when she was separated from her mother, Fortis was no longer willing to hide. She was no longer willing to limit her resistance to ‘women’s work.’

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The Saar Offensive 1939: When France invaded Germany

Reading time: 7 minutes
In September 1939, as German armies overran large swathes of Poland far to the east, the French launched an offensive of their own. Their goal was to capture the Saarland, the area between the French border and the German Siegfried line and force the Germans to transfer divisions away from Poland. The Saar Offensive of 1939 had begun.

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Black GIs arrive in Britain

Reading time: 13 minutes
In this blog post I’m going to draw on the Cabinet Papers to explore the British Government’s response to the arrival of Black GIs in Britain during the Second World War. I refer to government records and other primary sources of the time which use terminology which we now consider offensive, for example, ‘coloured troops’ and ‘negroes’.

Several years ago I recall hearing a story about villagers in the West Country during the Second World War refusing to go along with a local US Army segregation order that Black GIs were excluded from the local pub and that only white American troops could use it – the villagers protested and effectively overturned this order. I’m pretty certain that it was the singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg that related this story to me, when I had the pleasure to meet him some years back. The story made a big impression on me and I thought, one day, I must follow this thread up. Now I have, and here are the fruits of my research so far.

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African-American GIs of WWII: Fighting for democracy abroad and at home

Reading time: 7 minutes
Until the 21st century, the contributions of African-American soldiers in World War II barely registered in America’s collective memory of that war. The “tan soldiers,” as the Black press affectionately called them, were also for the most part left out of the triumphant narrative of America’s “Greatest Generation.” In order to tell their story of helping defeat Nazi Germany in my 2010 book, “Breath of Freedom,” I had to conduct research in more than 40 different archives in the U.S. and Germany.

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Auxiliary power: in wartime, Australian women fought germs, fired shells – and took on gender norms

Reading time: 5 minutes

Sheila Sibley enlisted in the Australian Army in 1942 with a vision of becoming a wartime nurse – “an angel of mercy, the wounded man’s guide … the Rose of No-Man’s Land”, in her own words. Many women wanted to “do their bit” during the second world war, and nursing had previously been the only avenue for women to join the military. They had historically been excluded from traditionally masculine roles within the armed forces.

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Black soldiers and the Red Ball Express during World War II

Reading time: 6 minutes
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a problem. In June 1944, Allied forces had landed on Normandy Beach in France and were moving east toward Nazi Germany at a clip of sometimes 75 miles (121 kilometers) per day.
With most of the French rail system in ruins, the Allies had to find a way to transport supplies to the advancing soldiers. “Our spearheads … were moving swiftly,” Eisenhower later recalled. “The supply service had to catch these with loaded trucks. Every mile doubled the difficulty because the supply truck had always to make a two-way run to the beaches and back, in order to deliver another load to the marching troops.”

The solution to this logistics problem was the creation of the Red Ball Express, a massive fleet of nearly 6,000 2½-ton General Motors cargo trucks. The term Red Ball came from a railway tradition whereby railmen marked priority cars with a red dot.

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