One of my favorite pictures is this photo of a young protester carrying a “girls are strong” sign. This photo was taken during an ERA march demanding equal rights for women in Tacoma, WA, 1982. Perhaps I like it because the girl seems to be skipping (or running) with a determined look on her face. With a sign that appears to have been written by her and a shirt stating “The ERA is for my future” she is, in some ways, a symbolic reminder that fighting for civil rights, whether it’s based on gender, sexual orientation or race, is not just for the “here and now” but for the future. And maybe if we settle a few of our differences now, there will be a little less fighting and anger for our children and future children. One can only hope, right?
Clarissa Field of Northfield, Massachusetts, was born blind in 1765. This doll was made for her and she fancifully named it Bangwell Putt. Bangwell lacks facial features but her ten carefully constructed fingers suggest the importance of touch in Clarissa’s world. Bangwell has a homespun body and is dressed in 18th century fashion, including corset. Clarissa kept Bangwell until she died in her eighties. Bangwell Putt is thought to be the oldest surviving rag doll in North America.
Helen “Nellie” Taft was married to William Taft, the 27th President of the United States, and served as First Lady from 1909-1913. She was the first First Lady to own and drive a car, ride in her husband’s inaugural parade, to publish her memoirs and to smoke cigarettes.
President Taft and First Lady Helen Taft, riding to White House, March 4, 1909. Photo Credit: U.S. Senate
Additionally, she was the first to support women’s suffrage, even though her husband did not. President Taft was against women voting since he believed they were too emotional. On November 2, 1909, just a few months into his Presidency, he also reiterated his opinion on suffrage. “I am not in favor of suffrage for women until I can be convinced that all the women desire it; and when they desire it I am in favor of giving it.” Nelle described herself as a “qualified” suffragist, this meant that she supported the right for women to vote, only if the women demonstrate that they have knowledge of political issues and candidates. She also felt this standard should apply to men as well. While serving as First Lady, Nellie was quiet on the issue of suffrage, but was a charter member of Bryn Mawr’s Suffrage Club.
She made her feelings on women’s suffrage known on the last day of her husband’s Presidency. Suffragettes had rallied in Washington to try to convince the soon-to-be President Woodrow Wilson to support their cause. Nelle took a prominent place on the grandstand to review a suffragist parade. In this symbolic move, Nelle showed everyone that she supported the movement. The Tafts’ daughter, Helen, would later follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a strong activist for women’s rights
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson took a break from White House duties for a ride with friends in his Amphicar. What’s an Amphicar? Why, an amphibious car, of course. In this photo, LBJ steers his land-to-water vehicle into a lake at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. 4/11/65.
June 30, 1922: Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee.
Kazimierz Piechowski in 2011. 'We just planned that I would play the role of an SS officer so well that the guards would believe me.' Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian
On 20 June 1942, the SS guard stationed at the exit to Auschwitz was frightened. In front of him was the car of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of the infamous concentration camp. Inside were four armed SS men, one of whom – an Untersturmführer, or second lieutenant, was shouting and swearing at him.
“Wake up, you buggers!” the officer screamed in German. “Open up or I’ll open you up!” Terrified, the guard scrambled to raise the barrier, allowing the powerful motor to pass through and drive away.
Yet had he looked closer, the guard would have noticed something strange: the men were sweating and ashen-faced with fear. For far from being Nazis, the men were Polish prisoners in stolen uniforms and a misappropriated car, who had just made one of the most audacious escapes in the history of Auschwitz. And the architect of the plot, the second lieutenant, was a boy scout, to whom the association’s motto “Be prepared” had become a lifeline.
Almost 70 years later, prisoner 918 is holding forth in the home of the scouting association, Baden Powell House in London. At 91, he is impeccably dressed, with a face as wrinkle-free as his well-ironed shirt. As he accepts the ceremonial neckerchief from a shy girl scout from Lancashire, he is as straight-backed as any of the teenagers on parade. In the UK as the guest of a British singer, Katy Carr, who has written a song about his experiences, he is thrilled when the scouts and guides join her to sing for him. Yet in between the traditional trappings of a jamboree, Kazimierz Piechowski, or Kazik as he likes to be called, will tell them a story few in the UK have heard – how, during Nazi occupation, scouts their age were murdered in the streets, while others like him were sent to concentration camps to witness the horror of Hitler’s Final Solution.
Piechowski had a happy childhood in the town of Tczew, swimming with friends in the nearby river Vistula or playing with bows and arrows in the park with his two brothers. His family were middle class and his father worked on the railways. When he was 10, Piechowski decided to join the scouts – an act that would alter his life for ever. The youth association was flourishing in Poland, a newly independent state set up after the first world war, with a strong focus on patriotism, “toughness” and brotherhood. “I joined because I was patriotic,” he remembers. “And when I arrived home, my mother was crying a little bit and said to me: ‘I am so happy you are on the right way.’”
When the Nazis invaded the country nine years later, in 1939, the scouting movement was seen by the invaders as a symbol of nationalism – and a potential source of resistance. “I was 19 when the war broke out,” Piechowski says. “Four days after Germany declared war, they arrived in Tczew. They started shooting the scouts.” Among those rounded up and killed were Piechowski’s childhood friends, and the teenager was terrified. “I knew that, sooner or later, I would also be killed,” he says, “so I decided to run away.”
He tried to flee across the Hungarian border, a route used by other scouts making their way to France to fight in the Free Polish forces there, only to be caught at the crossing. After eight months in various prisons he was sent to Auschwitz.
“We were only the second transportation to the camp,” Piechowski says, “and we had to help build it.” The old collection of buildings that made up the original concentration camp was not big enough to house all those caught in mass arrests, so inmates were forced to work 12- to 15-hour days to construct a new camp next door that would become notorious as the Nazis’ biggest death camp.
“For the first three months, we were all in complete shock,” says Piechowski. And it just got worse. From June 1940 and all through the first six months of 1941, the SS were keen to kill inmates – beating them to death with batons – as the simplest way to cope with the camp’s overcrowding. Today, the starvation, unimaginable brutality and physical labour that made the concentration camp a living hell are well documented. But the details of Piechowski’s memories still have the power to shock. Inmates were each given a spoon and a tin bowl – not just to eat and drink from, but also to urinate in at night. “If you lost your spoon, you ate from the bowl like a dog,” he says quietly. “If you lost your bowl, that was it; you did not get any soup.”
Sometimes the guards would murder just to get a holiday, he says. “When an SS man was bored, they would take off a prisoner’s cap and throw it away. They would then order the prisoner to fetch it. As the prisoner was running, the officer would shoot them. Then they would claim the prisoner was trying to escape and get three days off for foiling it.”
How did people cope? “Some prayed, but some who had prayed before they arrived would say: ‘There cannot be a God if Auschwitz exists.’”
For six weeks, Piechowski was set to work carrying corpses after executions. “The death wall was between blocks 10 and 11. They would line prisoners up and shoot them in the back of the head.” At the end there would be a pile of naked corpses and Piechowski would take the ankles, while another man held the arms, and throw them on to carts, to transport them to the crematorium. “Sometimes it was 20 a day, sometimes it was a hundred, sometimes it was more. Men, women and children.” He looks at me fiercely. “And children,” he repeats.
Piechowski as an inmate at Auschwitz
Yet he did not think of trying to escape until a friend’s name appeared on a death list. Like many of the boy scouts in Auschwitz, Piechowski joined the resistance movement in the camp. As many of the scouts spoke German, they found useful positions – some were even among the prison police and were able to access the prisoners’ files. One day, a Ukrainian friend, Eugeniusz Bendera, a gifted mechanic who worked in the camp’s garage, came to him. “He had been told by those who had access to his documents that he was going to be murdered. I was devastated,” Piechowski says. The germ of an escape plan formed.
“He said he could organise a car, but that was not enough.” The men were being held in the main camp, Auschwitz I, where the fences were covered in electrified barbed wire and there were guards every few metres. The escapees would have to make it through the infamous Arbeit macht frei gate (the legend meant “Work sets you free”), and also break out of the outer perimeter of the complex.
Yet Piechowski could not dismiss his friend’s plea. “When I thought that they would put Gienek [Bendera] against the wall of death and shoot him, I had to start thinking.” It helped that Piechowski was now working in the store block, where the guards’ uniforms and ammunition were kept. Slowly an idea took shape. But holding him back were the consequences for other prisoners. “In the speech the deputy commandant gave when a new transport came in, he would say: ‘If anyone thinks of doing something stupid like escaping, let them know this: we will kill 10 people for each person who escapes from a work group or [housing] block.’ It was like a cup of cold water hurled over my head.”
So that the Nazis would not hold their real working group responsible, Piechowski and Bendera formed a fake group of four, recruiting another boy scout, Stanislaw Gustaw Jaster, and priest Józef Lempart for their “spectacular escape”.
On 20 June 1942 – two years to the day after Bendera entered Auschwitz – the conspirators met in the attic of a half-built block to run through the escape plan for the last time. It was a Saturday, when work stopped at midday and the store rooms and motor pool would be unmanned. Before they left they said a prayer for their families, and agreed that if the attempt failed they would shoot themselves. “What was really encouraging us and pushing us on was that if we did not do this Gienek would be killed. “Until the last moment we weren’t sure. But we said: ‘We have to do this, we have to believe.’”
Picking up a rubbish cart containing kitchen waste, the four started walking towards the Arbeit macht frei gate. Here Piechowski told the guard he was part of a squad taking the rubbish away, praying the guard would not check to see if they were registered. Their luck held and they were able to walk freely out of the main camp and towards the store block. How did it feel? “I did not think about anything,” Piechowski says. “I was just trying to pass this final examination. From that moment we did not only need courage, but intelligence.”
At the stores, three of them made their way to trap doors covering chutes to the coal cellars. That morning while at work, Piechowski had unscrewed a bolt keeping the doors locked so they could climb in. They made their way to the second-floor store room, broke down the door and dressed themselves in officers’ uniforms. Meanwhile, Bendera got into the garage with a copied key and brought round the car.
The mechanic had picked the Steyr 220 – the fastest car in Auschwitz, there for the sole use of the commandant. “It had to be fast, because he had to be able to get to Berlin in a few hours. We took it because if we were chased we had to be able to get away.”
They drove to the main gate – passing SS men who saluted them and shouted Heil Hitler. But for Piechowski, the biggest test was still to come. “There was still one problem: we did not know whether, when we came to the final barrier, we would need a pass. We just planned that I would play the role of an SS officer so well that the guards would believe me.”
Yet as they approached the barrier, the guard did not move. As he describes what happens next, Piechowski looks away as though he can see the last obstacle before him. “We are driving towards the final barrier, but it is closed . . . We have 80m to go, it is still closed . . . We have 60m to go and it is still closed. I look at my friend Gienek – he has sweat on his brow and his face is white and nervous. We have 20m to go and it is still closed . . .” Bendera stopped the car and as Piechowski stared blankly ahead, not knowing what to do, he felt a blow on his shoulder. It was Lempart. “He whispered: ‘Kazik, do something.’
“This was the most dramatic moment. I started shouting.” The SS guards obeyed and the car drove to freedom – allowing the men to become four of only 144 prisoners to successfully escape Auschwitz.
The Nazis were incensed, says Piechowski. “When the commandant heard in Berlin that four prisoners had escaped he asked: ‘How the bloody hell could they escape in my own car, in our own uniforms, and with our ammunition?’ They could not believe that people they did not think had any intelligence took them [for a ride].”
Keeping away from the main roads to evade capture, they drove on forest roads for two hours, heading for the town of Wadowice. There they abandoned the Steyr and continued on foot, sleeping in the forest and taking turns to keep watch. Lempart became ill and was left with a parish priest, while Jaster returned to Warsaw. Piechowski and Bendera spent time in Ukraine before Piechowski returned to Poland, joining the partisan Polish Home Army and spending the rest of the war fighting the Nazis.
In revenge, Jaster’s parents were arrested and died in Auschwitz, and there were serious consequences for the remaining prisoners. “A month after we escaped, an order went out that every person must be tattooed [with their prison number]. The Nazis knew that an escapee’s hair would grow back, and that the partisans would make new documents for them. But when people saw the number, they would know that they were from Auschwitz. No other camp used numbering – it was our escape that led to it.”
Although they were never recaptured, Piechowski relived his time in the camp in flashbacks and nightmares. And his problems were not over. When Poland became a communist state in 1947, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for joining the Home Army, serving seven. “When I finally came out of prison I was 33 years old. I thought, ‘They have taken away my whole youth – all my young years.’”
Later, he became an engineer and when the communist regime fell in 1989, he took to travelling the world with his wife, Iga. He has written two books about his experiences, and tries to ensure no one will forget what happened in Auschwitz. Does he mind reliving his terrifying past? “I am a scout so I have to do my duty – and be cheerful and merry. And I will be a scout to the end of my life,” he says simply.
Interview by Homa Khaleeli with additional reporting by Christina Zaba – The Guardian(
Before she was Marilyn Monroe, a platinum blonde with her dress billowing over a subway grate, Norma Jean Mortenson worked as a “riveter” or a female war worker. When she was sixteen-years-old, Norma Jean married James Dougherty, who joined the Merchant Marines during the Second World War. Traveling to California, Norma Jean got a job as a munitions factory worker at Radioplane Corp. in Van Nuys, California, a company that built small remote-controlled aircraft used in military practice.
On June 26, 1945, Capt. Ronald Reagan of the U.S. Army’s 1st Motion Picture Unit (yes, Reagan – as in the future President Reagan) ordered army photographer David Conover to photograph women war workers. Conover later wrote about his experience meeting Norma Jean.
I moved down the assembly line, taking shots of the most attractive employees. None was especially out of the ordinary. I came to a pretty girl putting on propellers and raised the camera to my eye. She had curly ash blond hair and her face was smudged with dirt. I snapped her picture and walked on. Then I stopped, stunned. She was beautiful. Half child, half woman, her eyes held something that touched and intrigued me.
Monroe with Conover on the set of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” in 1952. Photo Credit: Immortal Marilyn
Yank, a weekly magazine published by the military during the war years, published Conover’s photographs, thus starting Norma Jean’s modeling career.
After the photos were published, Emmeline Snively represented the young worker and encouraged her to dye her hair platinum blonde. In 1946, Norma Jean divorced her husband, stating that he opposed her artistic career. As her modeling career flourished, she soon turned to film and became the iconic Marilyn Monroe.
One could say that President Ronald Reagan indirectly discovered Marilyn Monroe…
While working at Radioplane Corp., she wrote the following letter:
California, June 15, 1944
I was so happy to hear from you. I was so thrilled to read your letter and learn of all that you have been doing lately.
I will send you your picture very shortly now, I’m going down Saturday to find out more about it. Also will send you lots of snap shots at the same time I send you the picture. I found out that a 10″ x 12″ (that was the size you wanted, wasn’t it ?) costs exactly $ 5.00.
I am working 10 hrs. a day at Radioplane Co., at Metropolitain airport. I am saving almost everything I earn (to help pay for our future home after the war). The work isn’t easy at all for I am on my feet all day and walking quite a bit. I was all set to get a Civil Service Job with the army, all my papers filled out and everything set to go, and then I found out I would be working with all army fellows.
I was over there one day, there are just too many wolves to be working with, there are enough of those at Radioplane Co. without a whole army full of them. The Personal Officer said that he would hire me but that he wouldn’t advice it for my own sake, so I am back at Radioplane Co. partly contented.
German-Americans faced many problems during the World Wars, especially in the First World War. Besides being divided between their “homeland” and their new country, many German-Americans faced heavy Anti-German sentiment in the United States. The offices of German-language newspapers were closed; books deemed “Pro-German” were burned. Any German-Americans thought to have shown support or sympathy for Germany ran the risk of being named in newspapers as disloyal and, at times, risked physical harm.
John Meints, a German-American farmer living in Luverne, Minnesota, felt the fervor of Anti-German vigilantes. In the spring of 1918, he was suspected of being interested in or contributing to a Non-Partisan League newspaper. Other reports state that Meints was disloyal because he was not supporting war bond drives. On June 19th, Meints was taken from his house by a large group of local men and driven to Iowa, about fifteen miles south of Luverne. He was dropped off and told not to return to Minnesota. He then traveled to St. Paul and reported this incident to the Department of Justice, who investigated and told him it was safe to go back home. The agent also advised Meints that it would be safer for him to stay with one of his sons, who lived twelve miles out of the town.On August 19, 1918, about a month after he returned to Luverne, men forced their way into the house of one of Meints’ sons and demanded to see Meints. The men then forcibly removed him from the house and drove to the South Dakota border. According to court records, once they reached the boarder, masked men “assaulted him, whipped him, threatened to shoot him, besmeared his body with tar and feathers, and told him to cross the line into South Dakota, and that if he ever returned to Minnesota he would be hanged.”
Meints again went to the authorities and sued 32 of the men involved. He sought $100,000 in damages for false imprisonment. The trial was held in Mankato, Minnesota and produced more than 1,100 pages of testimony. The outcome was against Meints, because the U.S. District Court jury agreed with the defendants that he was disloyal. Meints appealed and in 1922, he settled out of court for $6,000.
Below is a Minneapolis Tribune article describing the festive and happy homecoming the 32 accused defendants received:
Welcome home by a large delegation of Luverne (Minn.) citizens, headed by a band, was the sequel yesterday to the acquittal of 32 residents in federal court at Mankato on the charge of kidnapping, tarring and feathering John Meintz, according to dispatches from Luverne last night.
Meintz asked personal damages of $100,000 as balm for the treatment he received on the night of August 19, 1918. The jury denied him any damages, after deliberating one hour and a half.
Judge Wilbur F. Booth, in charging the jury, said that the evidence was overwhelming in support of the contention that Meintz was disloyal and that there was a strong feeling against him in the community.
The action of the Luverne citizens in staging a celebration was taken as an indication of strong approval of the acquittal verdict, according to dispatches.
“Buddy was the first person to have faith in my music. He encouraged me in my music and my writing. He was my friend. If anything I’ve ever done is remembered, part of it is because of Buddy Holly.”
- Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly in 1959. Photo Credit: Source
“We were best friends.” Waylon Jennings once remarked about his relationship with Buddy Holly. Both men were influential in their own rights, Jennings secured his own recording rights and made music with a stripped-down production style and rock rhythm in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. By doing this, Jennings changed the direction of country music and indirectly created the outlaw movement (other artists of the movement included Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson). Buddy Holly is considered a pioneer in rock and roll music. He influenced such musicians as The Beetles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Holly achieved such honors by the age of 22. While Jennings’ career spanned decades, Holly’s lasted less than 5 years. The story of Holly and “The Day the Music Died,” is quite well-known, but what might not be as well-known is friendship between a rock and roll icon and an “outlaw” country performer.
“Winter Dance Party” tour poster. Photo Credit: Source
In 1954, Jennings moved to Lubbock, Texas and took a job at KLLL, a local radio station. Both Jennings and Holly had bands and through the various radio station shows, they met each other. On meeting Holly, Jennings remarked, “We just seemed like we were forever running into each other. We got to be friends. We’d hang out when we had a chance.” Holly soon became Jennings’ mentor, helping him produce songs and collaborations.
In late 1958, Holly’s band, the Crickets, needed a temporary bass player for their tour and they turned to Jennings. Besides Holly, the tour also included Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson). The Winter Dance Party tour was to last for three-weeks with stops all around the Midwest, opening on January 23, 1959. During the tour, the regular tour bus froze up because of the snowy and cold weather conditions. The musicians had to use a school bus with a faulty heater. It was so cold the drummer got frostbite on his feet and had to be hospitalized and the Big Bopper came down with the flu.
After a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly decided to charter a small plane for his band (consisting of himself, Tommy Allsup (guitar) and Jennings.Ritchie Valens and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin for the last seat, Valens won and took Allsup’s seat. Since the Big Bopper was sick, he asked Jennings if he could take his seat on the plane. Jennings said that as long as Holly was okay with it, he was too. When Holly found out Jennings was not going to be on the plane, he jokingly told him, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” Jennings responded back, “I hope your plane crashes!” Those words would haunt Jennings for decades.
The Buddy Holly plane crash site. 5 miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa, February 3, 1959. Photo Credit: Elwin Musser/Lee News Service, The Globe Gazette/ Fremont Tribune
Allsup and Jennings got back on the school bus for the cold, long drive to Fargo, North Dakota for the next show. In the early morning of February 3, 1959, the small plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens crashed and all, including the pilot, were killed. February 3rd infamously became known as “The Day the Music Died.”
Jennings felt deeply guilty about his last words to his best friend and it took him a long time to get over it. In 1996, he released Waylon, an autobiography in which he discussed his friendship with Holly. When asked by an interviewer what Jennings meant when he stated that he was probably the closest person to Holly at the end, Jennings stated:
We got close because it was almost as if he had the premonition that he wasn’t going to be around. And he did like me. He liked me a lot and I liked him. We never had a problem. And he tried to help me. He was trying to warn me about things and teach me about music as we went along. He loved music. The last day of his life he was still excited about music and every song he sang. I learned that from him and forgot it periodically: When you do a song, you’ve got to remember you are going to be doing that song for the rest of your life. You better make sure you like it.
Waylon Jennings passed away on February 13th, 2002 from complications with diabetes.
Here are YouTube links to two of Waylon Jennings’ songs about Buddy Holly:
African-American flood victims lined up to get food & clothing from the Red Cross relief station in front of billboard extolling, ironically, “World’s Highest Standard of Living/ There’s no way like the American Way.”
(Photo by Margaret Bourke-White/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC, leads the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines over the seawall on the northern side of Red Beach, as the second assault wave lands, 15 September 1950. Wooden scaling ladders are in use to facilitate disembarkation from the LCVP that brought these men to the shore.
A few minutes after this picture was taken, Lt. Lopez was killed. He was struck by enemy fire just as he was about to throw a hand grenade into a North Korean bunker. He dropped the activated grenade and, although wounded, crawled over to it and used his body to smother the blast. Posthumously, Lt. Lopez was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on September 15, 1950.
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