Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“Four years ago our nation and empire stood alone
against an overwhelming enemy, with our backs to
the wall…Now once more a supreme test has to be
faced. This time the challenge is not to fight to survive
but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause …
At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy,
too young, or too old to play a part in a nation-wide,
perchance a world-wide vigil of prayer as the great
crusade sets forth.”
– King George VI, radio address, June 6, 1944
- On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland from the west. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.
- America entered the war when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
- D-Day: On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed on 50 miles of beaches on the Normandy coast of France, an enormous assault involving 5,000 ships, 800 aircraft, and 150,000 troops. Over 4,000 Allied troops died, and another 6,000 were wounded, but the Allies succeeded in breaching the Nazi coastal defense of France. By June 26, 1944, the Allies had captured the port of Cherbourg, and the Germans were retreating, but there were still more bloody battles to be fought.
- The War in Europe officially ended at midnight on May 8, 1945, after Germany surrendered.
- The War in the Pacific ended on September 2, 1945, when Japan surrendered.
World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in human history, involving more than 30 countries. An estimated 70-85 million people died – roughly 3% of the world’s population in 1940. Civilian deaths were more than double the number of military deaths.
This poem was written by Helen Goldbaum in 1939, and published in the September 1939 issue of Poetry magazine.
In the Shadow of Great Times
by Helen Goldbaum
We are like people at a wayside station, waiting
between trains, or between planes.
We attend the cinema, consult our watches.
We sit down and stretch our legs, stare at the skylight.
We buy a paper and read it without comprehending.
Noticing the whistles blowing, the crowds coming and going,
We listen for the porter to call sonorously the panel
Decorously the clock ticks: we await the roar of the transport.
Helen Goldbaum – I could find no biographical information, but four of her other poems were published in Poetry magazine: “The Tree” and “The Human Touch” in the January 1941 issue, and “A New Year” and “Reflections on War as Art” in the magazine’s January 1943 issue.
This poem was written about D-Day by an unknown participant.
– by an unknown British author
It was a quarter to six, on the morning in June
When the little ships took to the sea
Loaded with men of all nations
The “Vanguard”, to set the world free
They were guarded aloft by the Air-Force
And covered each side by the fleet
Each clad-man was sure of his task
In smashing the foe he would meet
The sea was white-crested and angry
As the little craft closed into line
But the Royal Marines who were forming the crew
Were undaunted, by wave-top or brine
For more than eight miles they struggled
To keep their formations intact
And when close to shore, where they came under fire
Neither mortar, nor shell, held them back
They all heard the fire of the big naval guns
And the shells that were screaming o’erhead
Exploding with roars, midst the enemy ranks
And strewing the fore-shore with dead
As these tiny craft beached at seven twenty five
That same morning on Normandy shore
To a person who watched could plainly be seen
That freedom was saved “Evermore”
As the allied troops swept up the beaches
Those small craft again faced the sea
Save those craft that were sunk by gunfire or stake
And had perished for “Liberty”
Any now the Invasion is over
And soon will be talked of no more
Still, I know that “Glenearn” will never forget
That day, June the sixth, forty four
(HMS Glenearn was a mother ship that carried minor Landing Craft, their crews and human cargos from UK waters to 8 miles or so off the Normandy coast, where they were lowered into the water to make their way to the landing beaches under their own power – and under fire.)
This poem was written about coming home after the war was over. Thomas McGrath served in the Aleutian Islands with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. American troops fought from June 1942 to August 1943 against Japanese troops that had seized Attu and Kiska, two remote volcanic islands notorious for their harsh weather, sudden heavy fogs, high winds, and frequent snowstorms. But the islands were part of the Alaska territory, the only U.S. soil claimed by Japan during WWII. There were 94,000 U.S. troops involved in the battles, and the U.S. Navy established a blockade of the islands in March 1943, cutting off supplies from Japan to the occupying forces. However, U.S. troops were also poorly equipped, inadequately clothed, short of food, and suffered more casualties from frostbite, trench foot, gangrene, and other illnesses than from enemy fire. The Battle of Attu was the only land battle fought on American soil during World War II.
by Thomas McGrath
After the cries of gulls and the fogbound island;
After the last accident, the last suicide, the last alert;
After we had broken the ties of separation;
After the ship, projection of desire, and the homeward passage;
When the country opened up like a child’s picture book,
(The hills were colored by our loneliness, lakes by the years
Until geography began to reassume its civilian status
And the slight smell of death was lost in the untroubled darkness;
Then we were troubled by our second coming:
The thing that takes our hand and leads us home─
Where we must clothe ourselves in the life of a stranger
Whose name we carry but can no longer know─
Is a new fear born between the doorstep and the door
Far from the night patrol, the terror, the long sweat.
And far from the dead boy who left so long ago.
“Homecoming” from Selected Poems: 1938-1988, © 1988 by Thomas McGrath – Copper Canyon Press
Thomas McGrath (1916-1990) – American poet, grandson of immigrant homesteaders in North Dakota, was born just before Thanksgiving, on November 20, 1916. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic bypassed the isolated McGrath farm, but his family was not spared the devastating effects of the Great Depression. As Social Historian E. P. Thompson wrote, “McGrath’s family experience was the whole cycle — from homesteading to generations working together to bust — in three generations.” His political and social views ever after were firmly on the side of working people. He was teaching at Los Angeles State University in the 1950s, but was dismissed after appearing as an unfriendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities: “A teacher who will tack and turn with every shift of the political wind cannot be a good teacher. I have never done this myself, nor will I ever.” He founded a journal called Crazy Horse (1954-1960), and later went back to teaching. McGrath died at age 73 on September 20, 1990, in Minneapolis.