Graduate School Here I Come

After some starts and stops, mostly in trying to figure out how to pay for it, I have taken the plunge and will be starting graduate school in August. I will be in the Public History program at American Public University. This is both exciting and also a bit nerve wracking as I haven’t been in school in more years than I care to think about.

2019-07-09 09.04.31My first course is Historical Research Methods. Take a look at the books for the course in the photo to the left.

While I already have plenty to write about that I never seem to get to hopefully my course work will get me to focus and put more content here.

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Memorial to 9/11 Firefighter Eugene Whelan Located at Gemini Springs

eugene whelan marker
Memorial located at Gemini Springs in DeBary, FL. Photo: Robert Redd
eugene.whelan image cnn
Firefighter Eugene Michael Whelan Photo: CNN

This memorial to fire fighter Eugene Whelan, who perished as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, is located at Gemini Springs in DeBary, FL.

 

 

 

 

      Dedicated with love to

                                                          F.F. Eugene Whelan                                                            Engine Co. 230 FDNY

On September 11, 2001, Eugene was among the hundreds of rescue workers who responded to the terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center in New York City. Sadly for his family in NY and here locally in Volusia County, he never returned home. Although too many lives were tragically cut short that day, amazingly, more than 20,000 people were saved as a result of the immediate mobilization of the NYFD. In planting this tree, we honor the countless acts of selflessness and determination demonstrated by them that day, and the supreme sacrifice made by 343 of their brothers.

We Will Never Forget

Press Release:Thunder on Bataan: The First American Tank Battles of World War II

Cover Image

Here’s a new WWII title from Stackpole Books that looks quite interesting. The press release below is from the publisher.

Caldwell, Donald L.Thunder on Bataan: The First American Tank Battles of World War II . Hardcover, 320 pages, ISBN 9780811737715, $32.95.

The American Provisional Tank Group had been in the Philippines only three weeks when the Japanese attacked the islands hours after the raid on Pearl Harbor.

The men of this group, still learning their way around an M3 tank, found themselves thrust into a critical role when the Philippine Army could not hold back the Japanese.

The 1941-42 campaign in the Philippines has taken a backseat in the popular historical imagination to what came after, and the role of tanks in that campaign has been largely ignored.

In an evocatively written book that conjures the sights, sounds, and smells of battle in the Philippines, Caldwell restores tanks to their rightful place in the history of this campaign while also giving attention to the horrors that followed. He has conducted impressive primary research to bring to life the short but noteworthy combat history of the Provisional Tank Group, and he has dug even deeper to tell the stories of the individuals who did the fighting, selecting soldiers from each of the group’s six companies and recounting, throughout the book, the entire arc of their service, from enlistment, training, and combat to imprisonment, liberation, and return home.

Back in the Saddle So to Speak

I have been out of commission for a while with computer problems. It started out looking like a Windows issue due to a Windows 10 update. My laptop would not let me sign in to my account but only as a temp account meaning I didn’t have direct access to any of my files or photos. I could get to them but not use them. A Google search found that this, while not a super common problem, is a known issue and was not virus related. Multiple fix suggestions were tried to no avail. It finally became apparent that my wife and I were not going to be able to fix this problem. A few computer repair shop recommendations later and out went my poor laptop for repairs. It turns out the hard drive was on its very last legs. Now all is back to working as it should. Of course I am way behind on a couple of contracted pieces of writing. A chapter for an edited volume on unknown Civil Rights workers in Florida is due the first week in June and I have a book project in the works for Arcadia that is due later this year. Let’s not forget the dozens of blog topics racing around in my head. And oh yeah, I am getting the graduate school itch again.

Anyway, it’s good to be back and I hope to see you on a more regular basis.

African American Cemetery Bibliography

I know cemetery wandering and sometimes research are popular hobbies. The state of Florida has an interesting document available through the Department of Historical Resources. The title is Historic African American and African Caribbean Cemeteries: A Selected Bibliography compiled by Sharyn Thompson. Sections include African American, African Caribbean, and Related References. Click here to download your free pdf copy.

Share the Heritage–Daytona Beach African American Cultural Sites Brochure

If you are in, or will be visiting, the Daytona Beach and Volusia County area and are interested in African American history you won’t want to miss out on this free brochure titled Daytona Beach Area Share the Heritage: A Guide to African-American Cultural and Historical Sites. The brochure features 18 sites, giving a brief background, location, phone number, and website if available. Sites include Bethune Cookman University, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum, Howard Thurman House, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, and many others. The brochure may be viewed online or downloaded by visiting this website. It is well worth taking a look as some of these locations aren’t so well known.

El Real Retiro Sold in 1947

Continuing on a post from last year we now move to 1947 and find that the New Smyrna Beach luxury home El Real Retiro has been sold.

El Real Retiro Sold by Vogts to Burnhams

New Smyrna Beach News Friday, April 4, 1947

One of New Smyrna Beach’s show places changed hands recently when the spacious home formerly known as El Real Retiro was sold to Col. and Mrs. Clifford Burnham of Ponte Verda Beach by Mr. and Mrs. H. Otto Vogt of Thomaston, Conn., and New Smyrna Beach. Col. Burnham served on General Marshall’s Staff during World War II.

Mr. and Mrs. Burnham plan to become year-around residents of New Smyrna Beach.

Mr. and Mrs. Vogt, who own extensive properties in New Smyrna Beach including the former bank building which is now occupied by their Eclipse Glass Co., purchased the beautiful home from Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Gumpert a few years ago. The property is from Faulkner to South Riverside in the six hundred block, and was originally owned by Robert Handley, who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dick Bristley who gave it the name El Real Retiro.

Kreis Real Estate Co., handled the recent sale.

Book Review: German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California

Geiger, Jeffrey E. German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, CaliforniaMechanicsburg: Sunbury Press. 2018. 271 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781620067505, $19.95.

The issue of what to do with prisoners of war has always been a vexing one for conquering armies. Decisions on how to transport them, where to keep them, dietary needs, healthcare, clothing, work, security and more must be answered. While the standards set by the Geneva Convention helped answer some of these questions the requirements still must be implemented.

For the Allies this problem was extraordinarily difficult. It was known that prisoners of the Germans were not always treated in the most humane way but to treat German POWs similarly went against American values and opened the door to further abuses by the Germans and their Axis partners.

For the more than 370,000 German prisoners, many from the Afrika Corps of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, sent to the United States their time fighting was done. While thousands of miles from home they could be assured of better treatment than they often received from their own commanders. It is these type men that author Jeffrey E. Geiger, the retired chief civilian historian from Vandenberg Air Force Base, sets out to introduce us to in his book German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California.

Geiger begins his work with a history of Camp Cooke which was originally established in 1941 as a training facility before becoming a prisoner of war camp in June 1944. Camp Cooke was home to around 1,200 prisoners and also oversaw sixteen branch camps within a 200 mile radius. The camp remained open until May 1946 when the last prisoners began their journey home. Some would find their way home quickly, especially if they were from the “American Zone”. Others were handed to the British or French and these men were often put to work while others came from lands controlled by the Russians. Their lives were forever changed.

After Camp Cooke closed the army was still there until completely vacating the property in 1953. In 1958 the lands were transferred to the U.S. Air Force and the name was changed to Vandenberg Air Force Base. Today Vandenberg is used by the Department of Defense as a missile testing base and space launch facility for both military and commercial ventures.

Geiger takes the unique approach of having former prisoners tell the story directly in their own words. Geiger systematically chose soldiers, leaving out Nazi party members and known members from the SS based upon the knowledge that many of these men did not feel a remorse for the actions of the German army. Geiger sensed their recollections would prove untrustworthy. Geiger finally settled on approximately 140 names. Many of the men could not be located, were deceased, or declined to be interviewed. We are left with the recollections of fourteen men. These fourteen men provide an often times similar, and sometimes differing account of their time in captivity and in California.

The book is broken into nine chapters with each man having their story translated and reprinted. Mr. Geiger begins each chapter with a brief background to the subject, helping orient the reader as to what is being discussed. The nine chapters include: From Wehrmacht to Captivity, Journey to America, The First Weeks as POWs, Organization and Management at Camp Cooke, Prisoner of War Labor Program, Everyday Life in the Camp, The Branch Camps, and Auf Wiedersehen.

To me the most interesting chapters dealt with the labor program and everyday life. Both really drilled into what life had become for these men. The chapter on work showed the importance and value of the labor these men provided. It kept them occupied and out of trouble while allowing them to earn a small amount of money; script that could be spent at the camp. Also discussed is the Geneva Convention, which lays out the treatment that prisoners are to receive. For those interested in the work regulations see Section III Articles 27-34 which formed the basis of the prisoner work program. The chapter on everyday life teaches us how prisoners lived. We find out about recreation and sports, theater, religion, food, medical and dental care, deaths, and more. One of the most interesting aspects to me dealt with escapes, or should I say the few attempts that were made.

Mr. Geiger is to be commended for his fine work. His efforts to root out and track down the common soldier have paid tremendous dividends. This type of story could easily have been lost; and let’s face it, has been lost on the larger scale. Through their memories we gain insight into the minds of German soldiers showing that not all those fighting were hardened Nazis. Many felt shame and embarrassment for their own actions and those of their country. And while a small gesture, the prisoners at Camp Cooke donated almost $8,300 (just over $117,000 using inflation tables) to relief efforts. Throughout, we see these men view the United States in a positive light and take those ideas home with them as Germany began the painful process of rebuilding.

This is a book that does not require a large background in World War II to read and appreciate. While it is certainly helpful to have some knowledge of what happened anybody with an interest in history can pick this up and enjoy. Technical language is at a minimum and it is not required to know battles, tactics, or geography of the war. The translations are easy to read thanks to the editing Mr. Geiger has provided. While probably not available at your local bookstore this is a book that is well worth ordering. Recommended!

Book Review–A Fierce Glory

Martin, Justin. A Fierce Glory: Antietam–The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery. New York: Da Capo Press. 2018. 318 pages, 256 pages of text. Index, notes, b/w photos, three maps. ISBN 9780306825255, $28.00.

When it comes to Civil War battles there are several that are most prominently mentioned: Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Antietam. Gettysburg is of course by far the most widely studied and written about with microhistories on topics that can not begin to be comprehended by the average reader. Antietam has not  reached that level yet. In his recently published book A Fierce Glory, author Justin Martin attempts to provide a more general history of the battle; one that the novice can sink their teeth into and use as a springboard for some of the more dense works like those by Carmen, Harsh, or Sears.

Antietam was the deadliest single day in American war history. Martin uses the generic number of more than 3,500 killed on both sides (XIII). The National Park Service provides us with the approximate number 3,650 killed and a total of 22,720 casualties (dead, captures, wounded). As John Meade Gould is quoted “how mighty easy it was to get killed or wounded that day.” (XI)

Martin has two focuses in his text; the Maryland battle including the main leaders McClellan and Lee and then Washington D.C. and the tragic hero Abraham Lincoln. Robert E. Lee is shown in a positive light, especially in light of the injuries suffered in a fall from his horse Traveller. Martin states that Lee was radicalized, truly turned into a Rebel, with the seizing of Arlington by Union forces. (132) McClellan however is described as being “…inflated; his broad shoulders, puffed-out chest, showy uniforms, and the alpha-rooster bearing.” (59) Despite this negative view Martin does stray from the often stated view that McClellan did not act in a timely manner when presented with Lee’s “lost order”; “McClellan responded with uncharacteristic alacrity.” (76) Lincoln is often portrayed in a tragic light, with the sickness and death of his son Willie being a major focus.  With the White House being a sad place for him, the President was known to spend many of his nights in the Soldier’s Home, located a distance from the hum of the capital. The Emancipation Proclamation is discussed  throughout the story as Lincoln waited for the perfect time to make his announcement. The book is finished with a section titled Further Explorations; suggestions for readers to visit.

Overall, this is a good book for someone just learning about the Battle of Antietam or for a general reader. They will not be overwhelmed with regiments, lower ranking officers, troop movements, and in depth battle analysis. Instead, a general history with coverage of major events such as the Rohrbach Bridge (soon to be nicknamed the Burnside Bridge), the cornfield, the sunken road, the Confederate retreat, and a fine section on the medical situation in the area during and after the battle, coupled with accessible writing is a good launch point for more in depth study.

This is not to say however I don’t have some quibbles with the book however. My guess that most of these are publisher related rather than author choices. Having three maps, one of which I consider useless (the map from the Soldiers Home to the White House), is unjustifiable in my mind. The general battlefield map is serviceable but hardly good enough and provides no real perspective. The map placing the town of Sharpsburg area is of limited value to the story. Another issue for me is the formatting of the endnotes. Sure, I prefer footnotes so as to not have to flip back and forth but I am willing to work with publishers. Instead of the traditional numbering system which lets a reader know there is a note there is nothing. Instead, there are page numbers listed and the reader is forced to hope there is a note for something they want to check on. Rather inconvenient in my view. Finally, the lack of a proper bibliography is quite bothersome.

For readers with a grasp of the battle or looking for new research leads this is probably not for you. For a reader new to the Civil War, the armchair traveler, or somebody with a casual interest this is certainly a book to consider. The writing is easy to follow and the pace of the book moves along well. The book will certainly find a place on the Antietam shelf in my library.

Thank you to Da Capo Press for providing a complimentary review copy.

 

Library Additions–November 2018 (3)

Thank you to LSU Press for providing review copies of two new books. Both look quite interesting.

The American South and the Great War, 1914-1924 edited by Matthew L. Downs and M. Ryan Floyd.

Edited by Matthew L. Downs and M. Ryan Floyd, The American South and the Great War, 1914–1924 investigates how American participation in World War I further strained the region’s relationship with the federal government, how wartime hardships altered the South’s traditional social structure, and how the war effort stressed and reshaped the southern economy. The volume contends that participation in World War I contributed greatly to the modernization of the South, initiating changes ultimately realized during World War II and the postwar era. Although the war had a tremendous impact on the region, few scholars have analyzed the topic in a comprehensive fashion, making this collection a much-needed addition to the study of American and southern history.

These essays address a variety of subjects, including civil rights, economic growth and development, politics and foreign policy, women’s history, gender history, and military history. Collectively, this volume highlights a time and an experience often overshadowed by later events, illustrating the importance of World War I in the emergence of a modern South.

Hardcover. 248 pages, index, each entry with own end notes. ISBN 9780807169377, $47.

Upon the Fields of Battle: Essays on the Military History of America’s Civil War (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) edited by Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew F. Lang  with a forward by Gary W. Gallagher.

New developments in Civil War scholarship owe much to removal of artificial divides by historians seeking to explore the connections between the home front and the battlefield. Indeed, scholars taking a holistic view of the war have contributed to our understanding of the social complexities of emancipation—of freedom in a white republic—and the multifaceted experiences of both civilians and soldiers. Given these accomplishments, research focusing on military history prompts prominent and recurring debates among Civil War historians. Critics of traditional military history see it as old-fashioned, too technical, or irrelevant to the most important aspects of the war. Proponents of this area of study view these criticisms as a misreading of its nature and potential to illuminate the war. The collected essays in Upon the Fields of Battle bridge this intellectual divide, demonstrating how historians enrich Civil War studies by approaching the period through the specific but nonetheless expansive lens of military history.

Drawing together contributions from Keith Altavilla, Robert L. Glaze, John J. Hennessy, Earl J. Hess, Brian Matthew Jordan, Kevin M. Levin, Brian D. McKnight, Jennifer M. Murray, and Kenneth W. Noe, editors Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew F. Lang present an innovative volume that deeply integrates and analyzes the ideas and practices of the military during the Civil War. Furthermore, by grounding this collection in both traditional and pioneering methodologies, the authors assess the impact of this field within the social, political, and cultural contexts of Civil War studies.

Upon the Fields of Battle reconceives traditional approaches to subjects like battles and battlefields, practice and policy, command and culture, the environment, the home front, civilians and combatants, atrocity and memory, revealing a more balanced understanding of the military aspects of the Civil War’s evolving history.

Hardcover. 304 pages, index, each entry with own end notes. ISBN 9780807169773, $48.