Tag Archive: World War II


Now, my take on the last book from my summertime night table reading stack (see my post of July 11, 2021).  Daniel James Brown’s Facing The Mountain, A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II” (Viking $30.00 9780525557401) recounts the reaction of our country at-large against Japanese Americans, in the wake of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – 80 years ago, next month, as I write this review. As I read the chapters, I couldn’t help but notice, and am awestruck by how much our Black- American and Japanese-American soldier’s World War II experiences have in-common.  You see, I am the son of a career U.S. Army man who fought within the 369th Field Artillery unit out of Harlem, U.S.A.  I remember him alluding to much similar discrimination by segregation within the U.S. Armed forces, even though the enemy’s bullets did not differentiate race when they found their mark. It would be like if Africa was one country and it attacked us, all suspected African Americans would be round-up and sent off to concentration camps.  The misplaced resentment against Japanese Americans also ran so deep, that even after the young Japanese American G.I. proved their patriotism in battle, they were not easily welcomed back home, to the point that one barber shop owner justified it by saying, “They all look alike to me.”  Hell, that’s what I heard said about black Americans back in the 1960s!
Brown’s spotless set-up straps you into your seat-belt for a six-part saga of a people mistrusted, who then excelled against all odds. Reading a chapter or so per night, I only closed the book to sleep and with anticipation of what the next Part would describe and I’m challenged here, to validly convey the accuracy and compassion of his reporting the events which led to the battlefield confrontations with Hitler’s forces in WWII.  What the doughty Nisei soldiers overcame should be read by every American, no matter your ethnic background – especially in these trying times.  One can truly see that, as the saying goes, “It could be a lot worse!” after reading this volume of valiance.
Chapter 19 is a standout exhale and great change of pace.  Brown even fills-in the blanks about what happened to the deep-voiced, late, great U.S. Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, who I noticed once on TV, had only one arm.  He is but one of many real characters we meet by name and family history in this true story. A personal glow came over me when I read page 382, about how one of the 442nd battalion’s assignments took them to Menton,  near the French Riviera, where they saw white zinnias among other beautiful flowers.  I sold zinnia flower seeds door-to-door in my neighborhood as a boy, to earn prizes depicted on the backs of the comic books I read and had forgotten all about that! “Mountain” contains many reminders of why history is as important to study now, more than ever, as he recounts how the inhumanity nationalistic madmen, bent upon world dominance, can inflict needless suffering upon other men, women and children – and which we, collectively, must never let happen again on our planet. Often chilling and painful to reflect upon, but always riveting, educational reading.  5 out-of-five WWII field artillery canons.

During an interview published in  the January 2020 issue of AARP Magazine, Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis was asked if she talks to her 10-year-old daughter about the differences between their childhoods. She ended her thoughtful answer with, “And I’m not trying to say that I’m making her grow up passive or milquetoast. But empathy is in short supply today.”  Empathy; one of the many important bases that veteran CBS news reporter and anchorman, Dan Rather, along with Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist, Elliot Kirshner touch in their very timely book,  What Unites Us: Reflections On Patriotism (Algonquin $22.95 9781616207823).  This book came out in 2017, but it could have been written in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 insurrection riot on our Capitol, encouraged by “you-know-who”.

Shining a mirror upon us and our democracy’s nervous times, these reflections are like a Social Studies class refresher course (especially if you went to public school  in a major market, prior to the 1990s). It is where memoir meets history book.

Back in my television watching days, I always made time to tune into Mr. Rather anchoring the CBS Evening News broadcast when I could.  He was the logical successor to Walter Cronkite and ranks among my favorite anchors with Chet Hutley & David Brinkley, Douglas Edwards, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Max Robinson and Connie Chung.

The gentlemen take us on a cautionary journey, with his early 20th century rural Houston, Texas roots the backdrop against which he reminds and teaches how our country, The United States of America has been better; falters and then steps back up when non-partisanship prevails, cementing all of us together, against many odds. I loved when he challenged some who conveniently try to say they are more “patriotic” than others.

I found the chapter, “Steady”, most enlightening.  Especially page 259, where he writes about the Korean War and its effect upon our country, to be the most enlightening and insightful because that is the conflict which is rarely talked about and which was not addressed in-depth during my school days. Maybe because I was to young to have experienced it in real time, in college by the time it was written about in text books and because I had a real close uncle who served there.

At times it seems that he is speaking directly to the 45th “President” and his ilk without naming names, not harping upon them, but giving equal thought to both ends of the political and philosophical spectrum as only a well-traveled professional broadcaster and news reporter can.  His reporting, and that of his colleagues was never “fake”, as some of the privileged characters who he alludes to would have us believe.

If ever our country needed a dose of true history and togetherness encouragement from one of its citizens, it is now.  Rather’s book should be required educational reading across the land in public, voucher, charter and parochial schools (all of which he writes about); churches, cafeterias, coffee shops, colleges and private clubs (with discussions to follow)!  My rating is five-out-of-five American flags.  

I wanted to do this revu earlier , but got busy helping a new Author get her book out there. Please forgive the lapse as this book is definitely part of my 2018 “Summer of Reading”, like never in recent memory! (smile)
By the time I returned “Hitmen” to my local library, I was already curious about Kurson’s previous book, “Shadow Divers”, which was mentioned in every promotional note I read for his latest work. I know this book has been reviewed – it isn’t on the “new” list and it was published in 2004 – I just want to share it with you, a fan or one of the curious about my blog because it became part of my summer 2018 reading list.
At first, I dismissed it as another boring “fish story” about scuba diving, but boy was I wrong! This book is a great historical narrative of non-fiction which is SO to the point that I had to let you know about the story as this milestone summer wanes.

This volume has elements of suspense, drama, mystery, education and science.
Its about men who dive deepest sunken shipwrecks like the Andrea Doria for sport, coming across an object very near to New York harbor, which they identify as a German U-boat submarine, and their quest to precisely identify it because previous history had no record of such a vessel in those waters so close to our east coast!

As with “Hitmen”, Kurson lays the groundwork of the story, then biographies each character, alternating between perspective, action, more history and biographical perspective which includes their love lives. He teaches us while describing this unique saga of connecting personalities and wartime “dots” to identify this object at the bottom of the sea, not far from the New Jersey coast and New York City. He names the book during chapter 2 at the bottom of page 33.

“Shadow Divers” is a most amazing story that I thought I would never read. These men dive for “sport” so much deeper than Lloyd Brides ever did on one of my boyhood favorite television shows, “Sea Hunt”, which is the first place I ever heard about “the bends”, an affliction caused by the chemistry of nitrogen and oxygen in our blood and returning to the surface of the ocean too fast. You will read and experience the profound, dangerous excitement of the mix of air they breathe underwater and the discovery by these sportsmen to the point that it is so scary, that it catapults you to read-on!

One of the most moving parts of the book is his recounting of the father and son divers, the Rouses, who joined many other divers on Bill Nagel’s Seeker to attempt to recover artifacts and identify the “U-Who”.
“The Seeker rose and fell with nature’s onrushing tantrum, each explosion against the ocean threatening to catapult the divers overboard and crush Chrissy under the stern.” (pg. 218)

In my schooling, the Pacific theater of WWII was taught as a more important battleground than the Atlantic resistance. Yet, throughout this book and feeling the investigative bravery, persistence and fortitude of these divers, I learned that Hitler launched many of these demon submarines and was upon our biggest east coat city’s doorstep. Oh wow! This is true and these few men men saw it through! If a book can be describes as a “nail-biter”, then this is one of them – right until the chapter where Chatterton and Kohler’s rehearsals bear fruit. Even our recently departed and beloved United States Senator and war veteran, John McCain contributed to the back cover liner note endorsements of “Shadow Divers”!

Reading this book brought another one of my favorite underwater dive movies to mind, 1977’s “The Deep” with the great dance beat soundtrack theme by the late Donna Summer and sexy underwater underwear scene with Jacqueline Bisset. Whoa! That shipwreck was only in 70 feet of water, however. Let’s listen to that theme, which I appropriately apply (and it was a great dance music hit during the those days!) below.

If I were you, I would quickly add this book to my library. I actually read it twice and my rating is still five-out-of-five depth charges!

[Some of this material is re-posted with grateful acknowledgement to a blog post by Elizabeth Abosch who I have tried to get in-touch with/link to regarding this post, unsuccessfully.] tumblr_ln79m1yqmY1qii7l6o1_500 When I was a little boy, one of the ladies who made sure that I had an after school snack and got on with my homework until my hardworking parents returned home, was our next-door neighbor, whose name was Odessa (Redus) Brown. I took the name for-granted, yet always thought “Odessa” as a regal, majestic name and I never thought to research it until my Inna, who I hope will spend the rest of my life with me as my wife, introduced me to a place in her country that she wants us to enjoy together that has an historic beach-port, called Odessa, Ukraine, two years ago. Recently, she writes: “Naphtali, check out This Unpleasant Information… By the way, yesterday there was a whole transfer on TV with participation of real girls on a similar theme…. These girls told about the histories as they were used by years… Men from USA, England, Italy, Switzerland, Australia. Men promised to marry them, met on resorts, or came to them on a visit. Or invited to itself, and after one or two months sent the women home. As, have told and have shown a photo of the man which each two years invites to itself women home in in USA under the visa of the bride. And then exposes for doors of women… And so already proceeded [has done this for] with about 10 years. Now to this to the man any more does not give embassy the sanction to invitations of the following brides. I see, the whole system of entertainments and games on feelings was already created, and it is expensive(dear) costs(stands)! I of nothing want to tell bad about you and about us. I only share with you the information and as, has thought, if You will publish this information on the BLOG. Cheerfully it is possible to spend in Odessa to American guys! [Can have a good time] You remember, two years back, you sent to me the reference from YouTube about Odessa…. Yesterday wanted to find this reference again…. But has lost…. I any more do not remember, that there spoke…. But I remember, that there there was a dirty. Also it is the truth much to our regret. But this dirty is everywhere in any city of the world. And you know it. Only it is interesting, why particular Now this time, do they began to give this more than attention?!(Why?)” Yeah, Honey, I agree. Why the sudden attention to this? And so now, please peruse parts of Ms. Abosch’s historical account. “With access to Turkey and its closeness to the rest of Europe, Odessa is an international human trafficking hub. Women and orphans from Odessa or even poorer areas like rural Moldova travel to the city to find good jobs abroad, and are promised them by traffickers before their passports are taken away and they are sold into slavery or work as prostitutes within the city.” old-map-odessa Video from a movie about Odessa: Elizabeth Abosch writes, “In wartime and in post-war Soviet film, one man made a name for himself portraying an Odessan and portraying him as a hero. That man was Mark Bernes, the first great Soviet Star and the possible creator of what I like to call, the Odessa “Hero Myth”. Bernes (who was of Jewish ancestry) became famous for his character Arkady Dzubin, first in the 1943 movie “Two Soldiers”. He spent time with troops in military hospitals who were native to Odessa, and picked up that their dialect seemed quite lazy and was accompanied by much shoulder shrugging and lip pursing. He created an archetype for “the Odessan”, a vaguely jewish, musical, easy-going person who could calm his brothers with humor and then rise to any bravery needed….” In “Two Soldiers” he distracts a woman from a bombing raid by singing an ironic song about a fisherman, Konstantin, and his wife Sonya: “Shalandy Polnye Kefali”:” And also of heartfelt interest, Ms. Abosch continues, “Perhaps his most famous song as the Odessan Arkady Dzubin was “Dark Night”, which became the unofficial anthem for Soviet citizens and soldiers barely surviving World War Two. The song is about a soldier who believes no harm can come to him as long as his wife and new baby still wait for him…” I can relate to this as I “fight” on the front of my personal financial “war” to achieve funding for Inna and I to finally marry here in 2013. The lyrics are, “Dark night, only bullets whistling over the steppe, Only the wind humming in the woods, dim stars twinkle. In the dark night, darling, I know, I’m not sleeping, And in the crib, you secretly wipe away a tear. How I love the depth of your gentle eyes, How do I want him to press my lips against you! Dark Night divides us, my love, And a disturbing, black steppe lie between us. I believe in you In my sweetheart, This belief is the bullet Dark night … Happily me I am confident in mortal combat: I know you will meet with my love To me no matter what. Death is not terrible. With time it’s time to meet. Here and now She whirls on me. You got me waiting And the cradle, And so, I know, with me Nothing will happen!” Maybe a bit more than many other famous cites in the world, Odessa is fueled by the myths surrounding it which shape perceptions about the place to this very day. Ms. Abosch’s blog from 2012 is concise, precise and enlightening – sometimes sadly so. 29_Odessa_de_Ribas_monument Here is one more sample video and song with great classic pictures of “the city of the steps” that she brought to light, “I Remember Mother Odessa” (“Odessa Mama”): “Whoever has not been In the beautiful city of Odessa Has not seen the world And knows nothing of progress Who cares for Vienna of Paris, They’re puddles, jokes, no comparison Only in Odessa is A Paradise, I say. There in a restaurant They serve you beer And with it a bite Of fresh skrumbli Bashmala and balik And with them a shashlik With a good glass of wine – What could be better? Oh, Mother Odessa, You’re forever dear to me. Oh, Mother Odessa, How I long for thee! Oh, Mother Odessa, Who can forget you? Oh, Mother Odessa, I see you no more. Oh, Mother Odessa, I long for you and vow: Your avenues, promenades Are light, beautiful. The cafes, the boulevards, One can never forget. The carriages, the gypsies, The tumult, ta-ra-ram, The hotels, the young ladies Still are on my mind. Oh, Mother Odessa, You’re forever dear to me. Oh, Mother Odessa, How I long for thee! Oh, Mother Odessa, Who can forget you? Oh, Mother Odessa, I long for you and vow: Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, One cannot forget. Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, How I should like to see you again! Hop tidl dam ti stidl didl dam ti….. Oh, Odessa-Odessa Mother, You are the most beautiful panorama; Everyone treasured you dearly. The cabarets, restaurants, You will still remember today Who knows what has become of you? Odessa, Odessa, I long for you” It is amazing that Odessa still is controversial and standing today; I guess they wouldn’t have it any other way. I encourage you to read Ms. Abosch’s whole piece here, http://odessahistory-eabosch2012.blogspot.com/2012_04_01_archive.html Out of respect for her brilliant research and blog, I shan’t devote more space to it than I already have, in order to peek your curiosity.

I feel this is a lesson in how stereotypical thinking ruins reputations on both sides of any argument. It reminds me of the rolled eyes, doubting looks, behind-my-back whispers that I am being “tricked” or scammed, that I notice when I tell some people about my relationship with Inna, inferring that she isn’t “real” or is “stringing me along”. Being a black American, I know first-hand how stereotypes, painted with a broad brush, can distort the perception of a whole people – or country.

I also can hear my late father commenting how black Americans and Jews have many more similarities historically than most people realize. A story about Jews hiding in a Ukrainian cave comes to light here: After you’ve absorbed her blog, please come back here to comment. Maybe we can get Elizabeth herself to weigh-in!

spencer fleury dot com

proto-thoughts, fleeting obsessions and insomnia cures from an occasionally unreliable narrator

Gobbledygook

We all go a little mad sometimes.

Off the Charts

American Journal of Nursing blog: diverse nursing voices and stories

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

Weapons

A brain is a battlefield of ideas

Billb62's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Voices of Ukraine

Politics, anti-government rallies, other. Maidan.

%d bloggers like this: