Tag: World War II

Leora’s Dexter Stories

The new release by Joy Neal Kidney.

I just got my signed copy in the mail! Joy is a great author and I count her among my author friends. I am looking forward to digging into this book. So far, I have only read the back cover, the reviews, and the Foreward by John Busbee, but I can already tell it is going to be great.

I read Joy’s earlier work, Leora’s Letters, which is an amazing tale of this same family’s patriotism, struggle, sacrifice, and pain during World War II. All five of Leora and Clabe Wilsons’s sons went off to serve in the military. They did not all come home. It was a story that broke my heart, made me smile, and stirred my pride all at the same time. If you haven’t read Leora’s Letters, you really should. It is an American story about an America we all need to be remind of these days.

In Leora’s Dexter Stories – The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, Joy Neal Kidney now shares with her readers the lives of Leora and Clabe Wilson and their displaced Iowa farm family during a time of great struggle and sacrifice. It is an American history, a history of hardworking common folk in America’s heartland during the Great Depression told through the memories and stories of Leora Wilson. And it is, by all accounts, a great collection of stories about love, survival, determination, sacrifice, and perhaps most importantly, hope.

Of course, when I finish the book, I will be posting a review here. I just could not wait that long to say something.

But, of course, you don’t have to wait for my review. Check it out. I promise it will be good.

K9 Veteran’s Day

Remember our four-legged heroes!

Conan, the Belgian Malinois who took part in the Syria raid
that killed ISIS leader Baghdadi.

On Oct. 27, 2019, Conan, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois military K9, played a key role in the Barisha raid, which resulted in the death of the ISIS leader. Conan is one more dog on a long list of our heroic military working dogs.

World War II

Chips, a WWII hero.

One famous K9 hero from WWII was Chips, a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky/Collie mix donated by a New York family. Chips is credited with saving the lives of many U.S. soldiers and earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star. He once broke free from his handler and took out a sniper nest in Sicily, capturing four enemy soldiers.

Korean War

Five years after WWII, the Korean War again demonstrated the value of military working dogs. Chiefly deployed on combat night patrols, they were hated by the North Koreans and Chinese because of their ability to ambush snipers, penetrate enemy lines, and sniff out enemy positions. The enemy propaganda teams began using loudspeakers to blast the message, “Yankee, take your dog and go home!”

Vietnam War

Luke, a retired military working dog, sits at the United States War Dogs
Association display at the 2016 Shaw Air Expo and open house,
“Thunder Over the Midlands,” at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.,
May 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Zade Vadnais)

Now, fast forward to Vietnam. This was a totally new environment and job description for these K9 warriors. Their duties became more widespread – scout, sentry, patrol, mine, and booby-trap detection. Like their predecessors in Korea, these four-legged soldiers were so hated by the Viet Cong that they attracted a $20,000 bounty for their capture.

Nemo, a German Shepherd, saved his handler, Robert Throneburg, during an enemy attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam in 1966.

Surplus Equipment

Thanks to politicians and the media, we exited Vietnam in too much of a hurry, and the military working dogs that served our forces so admirably and saved untold lives were left behind, classified as “surplus military equipment.” Despite the outrage and pleas from many handlers who were prepared to pay for their dog’s flight home, the military command would not permit it. Some dogs were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police units that were not trained to handle them, and many others were euthanized. It is estimated that of 4,000 that served, about 200 made it back to the U.S.

Fortunately, that should never happen again. Following a huge public outcry led by many angry U.S. military-dog handlers, Congress passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, allowing for the adoption of these dogs by law-enforcement agencies, former handlers, and others capable of caring for them.

Middle-Eastern War K9s

A military working dog accompanies U.S. Soldiers conducting
an inspection of an Afghan Border Police checkpoint.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann/Released)

The hot, dusty desert and rugged mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan serve up new challenges for military K9s trained for explosive and drug detection, sentry, therapy, and other work.

A dogs’ sense of smell is roughly 50 times better than ours, meaning they can sniff out IEDs before they detonate and injure or kill U.S. servicemen. Ground patrols can uncover approximately 50 percent of these deadly devices, but with the help of these K9 warriors, the detection rate increases to about 80 percent.

When you go into your grandmother’s kitchen, you smell the stew. The dog goes into your grandmother’s kitchen, he smells carrots, pepper, tomatoes, and lettuce. I mean he smells all the ingredients.

William Cronin, American K9 for Afghanistan and Mali, West Africa

Military K9s Today

Special Forces K9s

Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was a member of Seal Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden. He was part of a new breed of elite canine soldier, a Special Forces dog whose training includes such skills as parachuting and fast-roping from helicopters.

According to retired Air Force K9 handler, Louis Robinson, a fully trained bomb detection canine is likely worth over $150,000, and considering the many lives these dogs may save, you could characterize them as priceless.

On The Home Front …

It would be a disservice not to mention the working dogs of Law Enforcement, who go to work every day and help keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. The courage and loyalty of these four-legged police officers are amazing and deserving of our respect and gratitude.

And then, last but not least, is the family dog who, without a second’s hesitation, would put themselves between their family and any danger.

To those dedicated, loyal K9 partners who work night and day worldwide, helping the military and law enforcement, who faithfully protect our families and us, we say thank you!

Movie Review: Sobibor

The largest successful escape from a Nazi death camp

Sobibor is a 2018 Russian war drama film co-written, directed by and starring Konstantin Khabensky. The movie, also starring Christopher Lambert, was released in Russia in May of 2018. This film was selected as the Russian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards but was not nominated.

The film is based on the true story of a 1943 uprising in the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland. The main character of the movie is the Soviet-Jewish soldier Alexander Pechersky, a lieutenant in the Soviet army. In October 1943, Pechersky was captured by the Nazis and deported to the Sobibor death camp, where Jews were being exterminated in gas chambers. In less than a month, Alexander was able to plan an international uprising of prisoners from Poland and Western Europe. This uprising resulted in the only successful large-scale escape of prisoners from a Nazi death camp during the war.

Approximately four hundred prisoners escaped the death camp, while about one hundred died in the attempt. Of the four hundred who escaped, about one hundred and fifty were rounded up by the locals and turned back over to the Nazis. The prisoners who remained in the camp as well as those returned to the camp were shortly “liquidated” because of the advancing Soviet army. The Nazis needed to get rid of the evidence.

My thoughts …

This is not the sort of movie you really want to say, “I enjoyed.” However, it was fascinating, and it was very well done. I have seen a few Russian films in the past, including Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944), and they do have a knack for creating gritty, depressing films that seem to highlight the centuries of struggle and deprivation that is life in Russia. In that regard, this film does not disappoint.

This film is in Russian with English subtitles. Not a problem for me. I’d rather that than have the movie dubbed over in English and actor’s lip movements not match the words. Just a pet peeve of mine …

I have also read a lot of non-fiction about Hitler’s Third Reich, its treatment of “non-Aryans” and other non-desirables, as well as the atrocities of the SS. I think this film very accurately portrays the callous indifference of the SS, their lack of any moral conscience, and penchant for sadistic brutality. The fact that the SS (as well as Hitler himself) was fed a diet of methamphetamine, which kept them energetic, oblivious to all but the most severe injuries or pain, and erased any sense of humanity they may have had is clearly shown.

I also liked how the film portrayed the differences in strategies of the camp’s inmates in trying to survive. Of course, you had the kapos, the inmates who turned on their own and served their Nazi masters by helping them run the camp. Then you had those who, despite all the evidence, refused to accept what was going on, clinging to the false hope that compliance would lead to survival. And finally, you had those who saw clearly what was happening, and that, short of the war ending and Germany losing, the only way to survive was to escape.

If you would not, or could not, watch Schindler’s List, this is not a movie for you. It is also not a movie for young children. However, if World War II history, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, heroic efforts, and the fact that real evil does exist in the world are topics that intrigue you, this may be a film for you. I tend to be one of the latter because I truly believe that people who forget history tend to repeat it.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Blue Ring Assassins

Berlin 1939 – 1943
From the smoking ruins of a bombed Berlin brothel, three shocked and injured female survivors are taken to a secluded training facility by Nazi officer, Gruppenführer Watler Schellenberg. They’re not there for official business but for medical treatment.

Trained by the SS officer in all aspects of espionage, the women are desperate to survive. They turn the tables on their armed captors and kill them. After covering their tracks, the women return to ply the only trade they know… with an added twist. Somehow these ‘sisters in arms’ escape the attention of the Nazis, despite the high rank of their victim, and their lucrative business thrives.

They haven’t escaped everyone’s notice, though. British Intelligence was monitoring Schellenberg’s operations for some time, and their attention has zeroed in on the three women. They dispatch one of their top male agents to make contact…

My thoughts …

I enjoyed the story very much. And I like how the story was told through the eyes of the three main characters; Hannah, Heidi, and Petra. You really get to know these characters well and can feel their fear, anger, frustration, despair, and desire for justice. You are quickly caught up in their lives.

This novel is also a fascinating blend of fact and fiction, with a unique plot. There are exciting twists and turns around every corner. Readers also get a real look inside Germany, and the suffering of the German people brought about by Hitler’s ambitious plans for Aryan “Lebensraum.”

Check out my book reviews page by clicking here.

WWII Documentaries Available On-Line for Free

It might be fun to learn a little WWII history while staying at home and helping control the spread if Covid-19! John Purvis provides some great links to documentaries on the subject that are free to view.

John's Notes

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smart phone @WWIIFoundation 2020-03-20 at 9.32.34 AM

I saw a tweet from @WWIIFoundation a short time ago that I thought was worth sharing. It said:

If you or your students, kids, adults are looking for things to do to stay occupied, please know ALL our World War II films are available to watch for free on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

If you visit their website (https://wwiifoundation.org/) you will find nearly 30 documentary videos covering WWII. This website offers something to fill some of the time while we are confined at home and to learn more about WWII.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “

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Rosie the Riveter, RIP

Rosalind P. Walter, the first “Rosie the Riveter,” died at the age of 95 on Wednesday in New York City.

Rosalind Walter was born in Brooklyn on June 24, 1924, and is survived by her son Henry S. Thompson, two grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and several step-great-grandchildren.

Rosalind P. Walter in an undated photo. The original inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II. Credit…Joseph Sinnott

Walter grew up privileged in a wealthy Long Island home. However, when the United States entered World War II, Rosalind joined millions of other women in the home-front crusade to arm the troops with munitions, warships, and aircraft.

Rosalind rose to fame when a newspaper column which celebrated her outstanding work ethic, inspired a 1942 patriotic song that boosted the morale of the entire nation.

“Rosie” worked the night shift driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes at a plant in Connecticut, a job that had been previously reserved for men.

An American icon is created …

It was this song that got the attention of the public and inspired the series of famous posters depicting Rosie in the workforce during World War II. While different models were used for several versions of “Rosie the Riveter,” and Rosalind P. Walter may not be “the” Rosie the Riveter in the paintings, she was undoubtedly the first!

This painting became “Rosie the Riveter” to most Americans.

In fact, we should remember that in America as well as other free countries, there were a great many other “Rosie the Riveters” who contributed to the effort to defeat the evil, oppressive Nazi regime during World War II.

To me, these are women to be recognized and admired. These women set the examples our daughters should follow. These women saw a job that needed to be done and decided, “We can do it!”

These are the kinds of women who helped make America great, and will keep America great in the future!

On an interesting side note, I had a Great Aunt Rosie, who worked at Remington Arms during the war, and was nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter” by her co-workers.

Leora’s Letters

The Story of Love and Loss For An Iowa Family During WW II

by Joy Neal Kidney … with Robin Grunder

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters. Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby. Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

“Joy lets us see her grandmother’s personal family correspondence through letters. It is heart-tugging. Be ready to be moved by this true story.” –Van Harden, WHO-Radio Personality

Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports, and telegrams. Active on her own website, she is also a writer and local historian. Married to a Vietnam Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa. Her nonfiction has been published in The Des Moines Register, other media, and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” She’s a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.

My thoughts …

In Leora’s Letters, Joy Neal Kidney provides her readers with a genuine and heartfelt glimpse into the life of an American family during one of our nation’s most trying times. Five Wilson brothers leave their family farm in Iowa to serve their country during WW II, two in the Navy, and three in the Army Air Corps.

Through a well-crafted combination of letters, photographs, and narratives, Joy Neal Kidney draws you in and makes you feel like a member of the family. I found myself caught up in the daily experiences of all five young men and hoping each of them made it home safely. Unfortunately, war is never that kind.

Leora’s Letters is more than a story about one family’s sacrifice. It is a story about America and the kind of people who helped to forge this great nation. Our nation owes Clabe and Leora Wilson and their family a debt it can never repay. However, in reading this incredible story, perhaps we can regain a sense of what kind of people Americans were, and hopefully again, will be.

Do yourself a favor and read this book!

Midway (2019)

The overview …

Monday night I went to see Midway at The Carolina Cinemark Asheville theater. I was slightly hesitant to do so since I have always enjoyed the 1976 Midway film staring Charleton Heston. However, it turned out to not be a problem for me. The movies are different enough that I enjoyed them both.

Like its predecessor, this new version of the centers on the historic Battle of Midway fought during World War II. This clash between the badly-mauled American fleet, which had just suffered horrific losses during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Imperial Japanese Navy marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

midway 2019

This film is based on the real-life events of this heroic American defeat of the Japanese fleet and Admiral Yamamoto’s grand plan to quickly destroy the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. The story tells the tale of the leaders sailors, and pilots who relied on their instincts, intestinal fortitude, bravery (and a good deal of luck) to overcome incredible odds and a Navy force that had them greatly outnumbered and was better equipped.

The Japanese attack on Midway involved four aircraft carriers, seven battleships, 150 support ships, 248 carrier aircraft and 15 submarines.

The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, was down to just three aircraft carriers, 50 support ships, 233 carrier aircraft, 127 land-based aircraft on Midway, and eight submarines after the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Critics

The Bad …

Many critics seem do dislike the film. I don’t know if it is because they really thought the film was that bad, or if it was because “belittling” American history has become popular with the elite crowd. Here are a few examples:

It’s hard to imagine, if you’ve already seen a film like Pearl Harbor, why you would need to see Midway.

Amy Nicholson, FilmWeek

The digitized combat looks like something traced and transplanted from another war, one that took place in a galaxy far, far away.

Scott Marks, San Diego Reader

It has the tone, mostly, of kids’ TV. Or a poor, very poor, supplementary video for a history.

Kevin Maher, TImes (UK)

The good …

The great appeal of the film are the aerial battles, strengthened by excellent digital effects.

Marcelo Stiletano, La Nacion (Argentina)

“Midway” tells a story that’s vividly and viscerally rendered, with all the entertainment value of a big, old-fashioned war movie, cutting back and forth between the home front and front line.

Micheal O’Sullivan, Washington Post

“Midway” is a rollicking war film. History buffs need not apply.

Adam Graham, Detroit News

My thoughts …

I enjoyed the movie. For me, it was a lot like 1965 movie, The Battle of the Bulge with Henry Fonda, which was also short on historical accuracy and plot, but long on entertainment value.

Despite its obvious drawbacks, Midway is a rip-roaring military saga and a testament to the men who fought and won this battle. The Americas are portrayed as being brave and heroic during the movie, and so are the Japanese. Both sides are depicted as fighting for a cause they believed in.

I also thought the mixture of real-life and CGI did a great job in the battle scenes. If anyone has seen tracers fired, especially at night, it can indeed look a bit like a scene out of a Star Wars movie.

I thought the end of the movie was also very well done. You are shown real photos of the real heroes of the battle, along with biographies of them and any citations they received. I was struck with the idea that some of the actors were chosen because they strongly resembled the actual characters they portrayed. Woody Harrelson, in his white hair, looked a great deal like Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. I thought Dennis Quaid also looked a lot like Admiral “Bull” Halsey.

This film really stirred the patriotic blood in me. And, not just for America’s victory at Battle of Midway, but for the sacrifices all our brave fighting men and women have made for our country throughout its history. Maybe that is why some of the critics didn’t care for it.


If you like military history, or military action adventures or action thrillers, check out Serpents Underfoot, available online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. Click here to read more interesting blog posts and reviews!

Diet Eman- WWII Hero posted on History of Sorts

There are so many brave souls you never read about in the history books. I enjoy a lot of the stories Dirk DeKlein post on his blog History of Sorts. Dirk is a Dutch man living in Ireland and he is passionate about music, movies, and history. His posts primarily concern the WWII era, but often include music, movies, and the occasional serial killer.

This story is about a young Christian couple engaged to be married, who join the Dutch resistance and help fight the Nazis. Both are eventually captured. While Diet finally gains her freedom and moves to the U.S., her fiance died in Dachau Concentration Camp. Diet also had a brother die in a Japanese prison camp.

Diet Eman eventually wrote her memoir with help from Dr. Jame Schaap. titled Things We Couldn’t Say. It is a dramatic account of Christian resistance in Holland during WWII. It has been added to my “Must Read” list and I just had to mention it here. Click the link below to read Dirk’s entire post.

Only the good die young, all the evil seem to live forever is a line from an Iron Maiden song, and there have been times where I thought this to be true, because I saw so many evil people living a long and prosperous lives. But thankfully ever now and then that theory is proven […]

Diet Eman- WWII Hero. — History of Sorts

A Hero’s Death …

The once sturdy frame, now withered from age, leaned into the wind and he made his way unsteadily down the quiet street. His ninety-four-year-old knees ached. These same knees had carried him safely across the island of Sicily. And later, they’d carried him ashore with the U.S. 4th Division at Utah Beach. He’d been wounded twice before Herr Hitler was finally defeated; before the evil that was the Third Reich finally ended. They Army had given him a medal, and President Truman had shaken his hand.

But now, without the help of his old wooden cane, his knees would never be able to make it the two blocks to the bus stop. The was proud, and did not ask for, nor would he accept help from anybody. He was a soldier. Pulling the worn out World War II Veterans’s cap down onto his head, he leaned into the wind, and pushed forward.

It was a daily ritual, this journey to the bus stop. His aching knees would painfully announce their displeasure as he slowly climbed those three stairs up into the bus, paid his fare, and found a seat. The bus driver, Joe, always had a pleasant word to say. He knew Joe pretty well. Those worn out knees had been complaining about climbing up into that same bus every day for almost fifteen years now.

It was a twenty-minute ride to the veteran’s hospital where he would spend the day talking to younger veterans less fortunate than himself. At least he had his knees to remind him he was still alive. Too many of these younger men were missing too many limbs. They hadn’t seen these things called improvised explosive devices back in his day. They had land mines though!

Memories of the horrors of war haunted a brain as sharp as when he’d first landed in Sicily. His hands were gnarled. His back stooped. But, those two eyes still burned, clear and bright. Inside, he was still the same proud, honorable, tough patriot he’d always been.

At eighteen, he’d answered his country’s call and unflinchingly did his duty. His young knees had supported him well as he fought for his country, for freedom, and for the man standing beside him in their shared foxhole. He’d walked across Sicily, France, and into Germany.

He survived being shot twice to return home and marry his high school sweetheart, Rose, and put two children through college. A strong back and two still pretty good knees had gotten him through almost thirty years as an iron-worker.

A widower now, his daughter called a few times a month. Judith lived in Florida. He did not know where his son was, but knew from Judith that John had made it pretty big; in real estate she’d said.

The bus slowed to a stop at the bus stop near the veteran’s hospital. With the help of his cane, his knees were forced to unbend and grudgingly supported his weight. He made his way down the aisle to the door of the bus, nodded to Joe, and listened to his knees bitterly complain as he climbed down the three stairs to the sidewalk. Leaning into the wind, he slowly made his way toward the veteran’s hospital.

A crowd dressed in black was gathered. He’d seen them before, protesting something. He did not know what. They always seemed so angry. Now they even wore masks and carried sticks. The old warrior was unafraid. He had nothing they would want. He adjusted his hat and just leaned into the wind. It was not much farther to the veteran’s hospital entrance.

Hate. He could feel it swirl around him. Black clad figures, hoods and masks, carrying clubs. An angry voice screamed obscenities. Was the voice screaming at him? Stopping, he forced his aching knees to turn and confronted a masked face, eyes filled with hatred. The old man looked into those hate-filled eyes and … smiled. He’d faced worse evil than a kid with a mask and a stick in his life; faced it down and survived.

Aching knees complained bitterly as he took a single step forward. Gnarled hands gripped the cane just a little tighter. His smile never left his face. He heard a single word screamed at him, “Nazi,” as the stick swung hard. What were they teaching kids in school these days, he wondered.

He saw the blow coming. There was nothing he could do … to old, to slow, to proud, his knees ached so. No point even to try. The old man just leaned into the wind once more.