Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Update to Dec. 12 -

Just got home from another long day of walking around. Today's big event was checking out the National D-Day Museum. If anyone is in New Orleans, I highly recommend that you go and check it out. I spent five hours there this afternoon. It is very well set up, very interactive, and very moving. They play a movie co-produced by Steven Spielberg in the main theater as well occasionally throughout the day. I'm not sure if they run another one, but this one began with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and went on to discuss the rest of the War in the Pacific. It was very moving. I was tearing up through the entire thing, and I know I wasn't the only one who was. The exhibits are set up chronologically, beginning with the world events that set up the stage for WW2. Next were the beginnings of the fights in the Pacific and European Theaters, the entry of America in the war in 1942, and a detailed look at both fronts for the American Armed Forces. A look at life for American civilians during the war years brought the immensity of the war and the effect it had on everyone around the world to light. Of course, the most powerful exhibits were the D-Days in Normandy and the numerous attacks across the Pacific. There was a lot of mention of the British and Canadian forces in Europe, and the British and Australian forces in the Pacific that I really wasn't expecting, so I got a chance to learn a lot more about what our own national armed forces achieved in 1944-45 when pushing back the Nazis (all of that brought on some nationalist tears of my own).

Even though I was expecting the exhibits to be overwhelmingly from an American slant (and I'm not saying they shouldn't be), I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of explanation of how the citizens, resistance forces and armed force personnel from Japan, Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Russia, the Phillipines, etc. were coping with the situation. There were displays of how the war propoganda from each side (Allies and Axis) was scewed to portray the enemy as being even more horrible than they were (the Nazis were just horrible). It's amazing how a suppression of the truth is seems necessary sometimes to keep moral and alliances strong. I don't suppose the war's outcome would have been the same had the people from each side really known what the other side was like. It makes you realize that we're all people and that we all aspire to achieve the same things in our lives. It's also amazing how one or two people can make that all go horribly wrong (and that has even more relevance in the events that are unfolding today on the world stage).

All in all, a very amazing museum. By seeing how the American effort changed the face of the war and the face of the nation itself (the economic implications of the war effort on the US were mindboggling), it's certain that the world would be a much different place if the US hadn't gotten involved in the war when they did. December 7, 1941 certainly did change the course of world history (those two words, coincidentally, were scratched out by Roosevelt and replaced by "infamy" in the Declaration of War he made the following day - "A day that will live in infamy"). Pretty powerful stuff.

Things of note that I learned, or learned more about:
-By the end, the entire world was involved - the logistics would have been unbelievable.
-Eisenhower was the commander of the allied forces in Europe. He had to make a decision to send the D-Day forces to Normandy through a storm in the English Channel, or risk delaying the attack for weeks. It was a decision he had to make over the course of a few hours, with half of the allied leaders saying "yes", the other half saying "no". If you've ever thought you were in a stressful situation, you don't know what stress is...
-the Canadian 3rd infantry were one of the first six "teams" on Normandy, were responsible for landing on Juno Beach and meeting the British outside of Caen and occupying the city. Is this how the Junos got named? Seems like a strange relationship if true.
-Nimitz was the commander of the allied forces in the Pacific (MacArthur was leader of the American forces (I think)). I had never known much about the Pacific theater before since Canada was not involved in it, but it is fascinating. It makes me want to learn more about the involvement of such countries as Australia and the Phillipines. It makes me want to visit the places of the fiercest battles, such as Truk and Leyte Gulf (scuba dive down to the plane and shipwrecks) even more. Even though the battle was fought so much more on the water, hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
-mainland Japan was destroyed by air raids to an extent I had no idea. The pictures were horrible - some of the cities were completely (ie. 100%) razed.
-there were 2 million soldiers, etc involved in the European D-Day + followups. The initial sail across the Channel involved 5,000 ships. Amazing...
-before the go ahead was given to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Allied tactical plans to move onto Japanese soil (to start on Kyushu) were to be the biggest, and undoubtedly bloodiest battles ever witnessed by humankind. We are talking millions of casualties on both sides. The a-bombs killed around 250,000. I know I had always been one of those that didn't know what to think about the decision to drop the bombs, but now I think the best decision had been made, despite the horror that resulted. Harry Truman weighed on his decision VERY heavily as stated in his diary (he was sworn in after FDR died of a brain hemorrhage in early 1945 - something else I didn't know).

War is absolute hell. I just hope people don't forget that.

That does reflect back on my fundamental belief that people are essentially lazy and ignorant. I would think we would NEVER want a repeat of the years 1939-45, but given the wrong conditions with the wrong people in power, I can completely see a scenario like this, and most likely a LOT worse to play itself again.

"Those who cannot remember history are bound to repeat it", or so the saying goes. Sometime I wonder if it should be "do not want to" instead of "cannot". At any rate, in order to not forget, we must all go and see such things at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. 'Nuff said.....

On much lighter news, I have officially finished my souvenir shopping. Tomorrow is a completely free day of touring. I'm going to head up to the Museum of Art tomorrow in City Park.

I fell asleep watching my movie last night. I'm going to go and watch the rest of it now. Nite nite.