Archive for WWI

A Day of Remembrance

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2010 by Jordan

In the two weeks before November 11th it is customary for people in the Commonwealth countries to wear a poppy.  Poppies were amongst the first things to grow following the destructive battles in the Flanders region of Belgium during WWI.  The brilliant red of the poppies is said to symbolize the blood spilled throughout the Great War.  It was John McCrae’s reference in his poem In Flanders Fields that brought the poppy to represent the sacrifices of the armed forces.

Every year I proudly wear a poppy as a means of remembrance.  However, today was the first Remembrance Day I actually had the opportunity to pay my respects at a cenotaph or war memorial.  As thousands gathered at the Sailors Memorial in Halifax to pay homage to the fallen, the waves of the Atlantic crashed along the shoreline.  I found myself travelling back in time to the 1940s and envisioning the convoys bound for Britain leaving the Halifax harbor.  Anytime I try to put myself in the shoes of past heroes I am grateful I was never presented with their situation.  However, it is this gratefulness that ensures I will not forget the efforts of Canada’s veterans.  Consequently, I will gladly wear a poppy every year and leave that poppy at a war memorial on November 11th.

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Excellent Adventures

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2010 by Jordan

The chorus to Rod Stewart’s song “Ooh La La” goes,

I wish – that – I knew what I know now when I was younger

I wish – that – I knew what I know now when I was stronger

I’m not very old so I don’t often find myself longing to go back to grade 6 so that I can demonstrate the unreal math skills I obtained in high school.  Nor do I long to go back to novice hockey and be the only player on the team that knows where to stand on a 1-2-2 forecheck.  What I do long for is to go back in time with the technologies the world has today.

Think about this!

You’re fighting against the British in the Battle of Waterloo and all the British dummies line up in a stupid line 50 paces away from you (like the idiots all soldiers seemed to be back in the day).  Then, before the British have time drop to one knee and listen for the “fire” command, you pull out a XM312 .50 cal machine gun (I assume this is a sweet gun… Wikipedia told me so) and you mow down the entire British army before any of them have time to say, “Blow Me” (look up the British meaning).  You then become Napoleon’s best friend who you later kill with your XM312 .50 cal machine gun and become the ruler of France!

Or

You travel back to the 1910s and are playing hockey for the Toronto Blueshirts.  However, you take all the best gear with you and modern training methods and systems.  You finish the 12 game season with 537 shots on net and 534 goals because lets face it goalies had no idea what they were doing back in the day and all players appeared to be in slow motion.  Which is funny because if you watch old WWI videos it looks like all the soldiers are marching at an incredibly fast pace.  So, if hockey players look like they are skating slowly they must hardly be moving.

Finally

You’re living in Portugal in the 15th century and competing with Spain for sea and trading supremacy.  The king of Portugal is looking for some more territory to expand the Portuguese Empire and obtain much needed resources.  The king is displeased with the explorers he has commissioned to find this new land because they can’t seem to figure out how to not sail in circles.  You go to the king with your private jet and tell him you’ll find new land 5000 kms away and be back by dinner.  He says, “No way!”  You do it, and marry 534 Portuguese Princesses (One for each goal you scored in the 1912 NHL hockey season) and live happily ever after with your private jet in the 15th century.

THE PACIFIC

Posted in Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by Jordan

Last night the ten part mini-series THE PACIFIC concluded on HBO and I must say it is without question one of the best portrayals of the Second World War I have ever seen.  The $200 million mini series was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and was in many ways the sequel to the 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers also produced by Hanks and Spielberg.

THE PACIFIC tracks the intertwined real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines across the Pacific Theater during World War II.  The miniseries follows these men and their fellow Marines from their first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal, through the rain forests of Cape Gloucester and the strongholds of Peleliu, across the bloody sands of Iwo Jima and through the horror of Okinawa, and finally to their triumphant but uneasy return home after V-J Day[1].

As a huge fan of Band of Brothers I was anticipating much of the same type of story when THE PACIFIC debuted in mid March.  After Part 2 I quickly realized that THE PACIFIC was quite different from Band of Brothers and I thoroughly questioned whether THE PACIFIC had delivered as well as its predecessor.  It was after probably the third or fourth episode that it dawned on me what the fundamental difference was between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers.  The first time I watched Band of Brothers I was overcome with feelings of pride, patriotism and even a desire to enlist in the armed forces.  Band of Brothers’ European setting has a feel of glory, adventure and heroism about it, which left me wishing I were in my twenties in the early 1940s so that I could do my part in the war effort.  THE PACIFIC on the other hand paints a very different picture from that of Band of Brothers.  Like Band of Brothers, THE PACIFIC does not shy away from the graphic nature of the Second World War.  However, those who fought in the Pacific theater battled a much different enemy in a much different environment.  The battles in the Pacific were fought on pieces of land most people had never heard of opposed to romantic and world-class cities like Paris and Rome.  There was a good quote in Part 10 of THE PACIFIC from an American cab driver to one of THE PACIFIC’s main characters Robert Leckie.  The cab driver, that was a veteran of the Normandy invasion waved Leckie’s cab fare upon his return home saying, “I may have jumped into Normandy but I had the assets of London and Paris, all you got was jungle rote and malaria.”  To me that was the primary difference between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers; Band of Brothers left me wishing I were part of the war where THE PACIFIC left me thankful I was not.

The portrayal of war in THE PACIFIC was so real, graphic and violent it left me mesmerized and forgetting to blink for what felt like entire episodes.  I cannot image myself sitting in water filled holes for weeks at a time and sharing my living space with decaying bodies. THE PACIFIC unquestionably shows the efforts and sacrifices of the ‘Greatest Generation’ in the purest of ways.  My generation will never know and never understand the contributions and sacrifices of those who participated in the Second World War.  However, watching THE PACIFIC is a good start to understanding how the Second Great War broke the minds and souls of so many young men.


[1] HBO CANADA. THE PACIFIChttp://www.hbocanada.com/thepacific/about.php.  May 17, 2010.

 

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