Hedy Lamarr

2014 July 4
by Pat DiGeorge
Hedy_Lamarr-publicity

Hedy Lamarr … a publicity photo taken in the 1930s

The actress Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) has always intrigued me.  Her name was the same as my mother’s.  Hedy, derived from either Hedwig or Hedvig was a name rarely given to babies born in the United States. The name peaked in the 1940′s, I’ll bet because of Ms. Lamarr.

I imagine that Hedy Lamarr’s fame somehow gave a boost to Hedy Johnson and her uncommon name. Not only that, we kids thought they looked very much alike. Perhaps that was a boost to us too.

What I didn’t realize until a few years ago was Hedy Lamarr’s World War II connection.  Recently I saw that Extraordinary Women: Hedy Lamarr was scheduled to air on our PBS station.

Of course I had to watch it. The other Hedy.

Born in Vienna in 1913, Ms. Lamarr was named Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler by her Jewish parents.

Hedvig E. Johnson

Hedy Johnson, @1940

My mother was born Hedvig (the Scandinavian version of the name) Elizabeth Johnson in 1921. She always liked to say that she was named after a Queen of Sweden.

Hedy Kiesler began her acting career in Europe as a teenager. She went to Berlin in 1931 and the next year was cast in the controversial Czech film Ecstasy. The movie is remembered for Hedy’s brief nude scenes and the one in which she has an orgasm. Only her face is shown but that was shocking to the audiences of the day. Ecstasy was banned in Germany and, of course, in America.

In 1933 she married Austrian Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy armaments dealer and prominent fascist. He forbade his trophy bride to return to acting. At their mansion guests included such dignitaries as Sigmund Freud and Benito Mussolini.  The more Hitler’s oppressive policies increased, the more Hedy hated  her husband’s dealings with him and his cronies.  In the summer of 1937 she fled to London taking with her the valuable jewels Mandl had given her.

Once in London Hedy learned that MGM head Louis B. Mayer was scouting for top European actors who had fled from Germany. She met him and managed to get aboard the ocean liner he was taking to return to New York. During the voyage Mayer agreed to give Hedy a contract, but she had to change her German Jewish name to something more suitable, more “Hollywood.” Thus, Hedy Lamarr.

In spite of immediate stardom in her new home country, Ms. Lamarr was unable to fully enjoy her success knowing what was happening to fellow Austrians, her Jewish neighbors and family. Once the U.S. was officially at war, she jumped right in to help the government sell war bonds. She also served food and danced with the troops at the Hollywood Canteen.

Then, distressed by the reports of the German U-boats sinking Allied ships and prevented critical supplies from getting to Europe, Hedy teamed up with a talented musical composer, George Antheil, to develop a radio-controlled communication system which would allow Allied submarines to accurately guide their torpedoes toward the enemy submarines.  What? No one in Hollywood realized that Hedy Lamarr was an intellectual! During her marriage to Mandl she was in a position to sit back during gatherings at the mansion and absorb the technical conversations of some of the brightest minds of the day, those who were associated with her husband’s armaments’ firm.

Their invention received a patent in 1942 but was rejected by the U.S. government. Hedy Lamarr returned to her film career. The decade of the ’40s was her heyday!  The glamorous brunette known as “The Most Beautiful Woman in Film,” starred alongside Hollywood’s leading actors … Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, John Garfield, Victor Mature.

By the time the ’40s were over, Hedy had been married and divorced three times. Her beauty was fading, and so were her acting opportunities. Hollywood was leaning toward ravishing blonde bombshells, a la Marilyn Monroe, rather than exotic brunettes.

The rest of Hedy Lamarr’s life is told is several books. Six marriages in all, none of them lasting long. Botched plastic surgeries. Even an arrest for shoplifting. No money, poor health.

Then in the 1990s mobile phone developers needed a way for their wireless phones to communicate with each other without jamming. An updated version of Hedy and George Antheil’s patented invention became the basis for much of our wireless technology today!

Amazingly, once again, Hedy Lamarr was rich and famous.  Not for her looks but for her genius.

 


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Jimmy Doolittle’s Granddaughter

2014 June 11
by Pat DiGeorge
Janna Doolittle Hoppes on Memorial Day 2014, Roswell, GA. Photo by Bobbie Daniels

Janna Doolittle Hoppes on Memorial Day 2014, Roswell, GA. Photo by Bobbie Daniels

Janna Doolittle Hoppes just happens to be the granddaughter of General James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle. She has forged an impressive career as an author, educator and speaker.   This past month Janna was the featured speaker at the Roswell, GA “Roswell Remembers” Memorial Day Ceremony.

Her message resonated with me: If we don’t record our stories, they will be lost. We must teach our young people about the sacrifices made on their behalf.

Janna told us a lot about her grandfather, a “daredevil pilot” best known for the daring raid on Tokyo shortly after the beginning of the war. He didn’t consider it to be a suicide mission but a calculated risk, she explained. When it was over, Doolittle thought that he had failed. What he didn’t realize that day was that “The Doolittle Raid” would be a major morale builder for the United States, and just the opposite for the Japanese.

General Doolittle (he was promoted the day after the Raid) went on to be commander of the 12th Air Force, then the 15th Air Force, then in January of 1944, commander of the 8th Air Force.  It was then that he changed the focus of the fighters from defense to offense, a major factor in achieving air supremacy over Europe. The 8th Air Force was never turned back by the enemy, but the cost was high.

Janna’s book, Calculated Risk: The Extraordinary Life of Jimmy Doolittle, Aviation Pioneer and World War II Hero, tells the story of both her grandparents, drawing from the stories she heard while growing up. This is the first book that tells the story of her “Granny.” She married Jimmy in 1917 despite the fact that he boxed for spending money and was such a risk-taker.

Her Gramps became the master of the calculated risk, but her Granny Joe took enough risks of her own. She followed Jimmy all over the country with the patience of a saint.  She was the glue of the Doolittle family and obviously the idol of her granddaughter.

 


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Roswell Remembers Memorial Day 2014

2014 May 27
by Pat DiGeorge

This is the seventeenth year that Roswell Rotary and the City of Roswell, my hometown, have jointly sponsored Roswell Remembers, a tribute to all our veterans and the men and women who are serving in our military today. Thousands of people come from all over the state to honor those who have served and to remember our fallen heroes.

It was a thrill to see that several of the World War II veterans who accompanied Roswell Rotary on the recent Honor Air trip to Washington DC were there.

Gold Star Families
In his opening remarks U.S. Congressman Tom Price reminded us of the Gold Star given by Congress since 1947 to families of members of the Armed Forces who have lost their lives serving our country. Before there were pins, if a family lost a loved one during war they would hang a gold star in their front window. 

From the Heart

Lindy Fancher's son thanks his Dad for his service to our country ... from the heart.

Lindy Fancher’s son thanks his Dad for his service to our country … from the heart.

One of the most anticipated segments of the program is the open mike when the podium is open to veterans and their families for tributes and reflections.  This year’s speakers included an Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam. 40% of his unit was killed. Another was a young Marine who lamented that his fallen comrades would never get to know their children.

Then Frank “Lindy” Fancher and his son came to the podium area. Lindy just turned 95. He was at Omaha Beach, D-Day + 4, and fought in the horrific Battle of the Bulge.

My ears perked up when I heard his son mention that Lindy published a book in 2005! WWII: Through These Eyes is the story of Fancher’s years in the Army. You can read an excellent bio written by Carl Danbury, Jr. at the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge site.

After Lindy spoke for a few minutes his son Jim thanked his Dad for his service to our country.

That’s what the day was all about. We can never thank our veterans enough.

Related Posts

Roswell Remembers
Memorial Day 2010

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The “Real” League of Their Own

2014 May 1
by Pat DiGeorge

Last year I wrote about the Penny Marshall movie A League of Their Own.  It featured the All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League organized in 1942 when it was feared that the men’s major league would be cancelled due to the war.

A few months afterward I was thrilled to receive an  email from Kelly Candaele:  “Hello Pat, I know you have written about A League of Their Own so I wanted to let you know about my doc “A League of Their Own” from years ago (which caught the attention of Penny Marshall.)  Perhaps your readers would like to see the documentary that led to the Columbia Pictures movie.  The real players are even more interesting than the movie ones.”

Kelly gave me permission to use parts of his story, published in the New York Times June 7, 1992.

Kelly's Mom is in the front row – glove at fee and ready to play!

Kelly’s Mom. Helen Callaghan, is in the front row – glove at feet and ready to play!

Mom Was in a League of Her Own
“Why didn’t I get her swing?” This is a question I ask myself whenever I look at that old black and white picture of my mother at the plate in 1945. If I had had a choice of any physical attribute my parents were able to pass on to me, I would definitely have taken her swing.

From that single photo I understand how for five years, my mother made her living playing professional baseball in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league, started in 1943 by the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phillip K. Wrigley, lasted 10 years. My mom and her sister Margaret were recruited to the league from Canada by one of Branch Rickey’s scouts. While it lasted, millions of fans came out to watch the Fort Wayne Daisies, the Rockford Peaches and eight other teams show what they had. For uniforms, they wore tunic dresses to keep, as Wrigley insisted, “the feminine angle.”

Big Stuff in Little Leagues
I grew up in Lompoc, Calif., with something that no other kid in school had: a mother who played professional baseball. In Little League I would gleefully await the annual “powder-puff” game dreamed up by the city fathers. It was a midseason game in which the kids’ mothers took the field to, it was hoped, look silly and make fools of themselves by “playing like girls.”

My mother would always put on a display of hitting, throwing, running and catching that made me proud. She was clearly better than any of the men who crowded around to laugh. Kids and their parents would gather round and ask in amazement the same question every year. “Where did your mom learn to play?” I always answered quickly. “She played professional baseball in the 1940′s.” “You mean softball,” they’d say. “No, I mean hardball, overhand, stealing, sliding, real baseball.”

And now she and her teammates and the real baseball they played are the focus of a new movie, “A League of Their Own,” starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Madonna, to be released on July 1.

‘Try Bunting’
And there was always specific advice. Whenever I was in a hitting slump, which in my case was much of the time, she was there with a suggestion. “Try bunting,” she would say with conviction. “When I was in a slump, I always bunted.”

I was taught, in high school in the late 60′s, that women were only then entering forcefully into athletics for “the first time.” It was considered a major advance when girls’ softball was established on a competitive basis. This “great advance” seemed rather quizzical to me, given my mother’s experience. My friend Kim Wilson and I wanted to set history straight. In 1988 after an evening reminiscing with my mother, we decided to make a film documenting the women’s pro league.

Our greatest joy in producing our film came at the beginning. We discovered a gold mine of old 16mm film the ex-ballplayers had stashed away in basements and garages.

We shot most of the documentary film at a reunion of the league in Fort Wayne, Ind. My mom played for the Daisies in 1945, ’46 and ’48, winning the batting crown in 1945 with a solid .299 average. The reporters of her day called her the “feminine Ted Williams.”

One More Hit
The highlight of the reunion was the old-timers game in which my mom took the field once again. For five innings I watched her. The snap in the wrists was still there. She still got great jumps on balls hit to the outfield. She made a final lunge while crossing first base to beat out an infield hit. The fire was still there.

Shortly after the documentary, also called “A League of Their Own,” aired nationwide on PBS, Kim and I were summoned to the home of the director, Penny Marshall, to talk about a possible feature film based around the league.

In talking with Penny, we knew she understood how important the game and the league were to the women who played. Penny found out later from the players that the women shared a cherished common experience that forever tied them one to another. The men had World War II; these women had the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

In Hollywood, no baseball movie is really “about baseball.” If you want to see just baseball, the producers’ logic goes, go to a Dodger game. You can get a bleacher seat for six bucks and Strawberry just might hit one out. So the rule is, you must say the movie is “really about a man’s search for meaning,” or “two sisters’ enduring love for one another.” That kind of thing.

So there had to be a story that could sustain the film for two hours in between the hitting, sliding and flailing skirts. A story meeting was set up with scriptwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Ganz and Mandel are baseball nuts, the kind of guys who know that the 1930-32 Yankees went 308 games without being shut out.

Ideas Strike Out
I sat on the couch between Ganz and Mandel and listened as the writers literally shouted potential story lines at Marshall on the other side of the room. Nothing seemed to be exciting Marshall, so after about 20 minutes I suggested that perhaps there should be a “big game” toward the end of the movie that resolves some central conflict. It was not for nothing that I’ve watched 20 years of Hollywood movies. There was dead silence. This was clearly Ganz and Mandel’s meeting.

Later, Kim and I worked up a story line that is, I’m happy to say, very close to the end product. It’s about, well, two sisters’ enduring love for one another.

I’ve seen the film, and it has got just the right mixture of laughs, tears and darn good baseball.

Casey’s Astro teammates kid him all the time now that the film is almost out. My mom used a bigger bat than he does. She stole 114 bases in one season, more than he has in his career. It’s lighthearted stuff you say only to someone you respect. But the best incident was when a young would-be starlet accosted him in a St. Louis hotel lounge in a futile attempt to get a tryout for the role that Madonna was eventually picked for. Casey suggested that the place to be discovered was at the corner of Sunset and Vine, not at Busch Stadium.

When the film opens on July 1, I’ll be at the Lompoc Theater with my mom. We’ll sit in the middle row with a big bag of popcorn, no butter. I’ll have one eye on the screen and the other on my mom, just to see if Penny got it right. I’ll also be wondering if my mom ever regretted not having a girl, a girl she could have raised to do “girl” things. I doubt it. I think that if my mother had had a girl, she would have wanted her to have had the thrills she had. The kind of high that only comes from getting a great jump on a slow-witted pitcher or cutting down a cocky base runner trying to stretch it to second on a base hit to right.

Kelly Candaele is a writer living in Los Angeles.  His work has appeared frequently in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. The documentary was awarded an Emmy as part of a public television series.

Thanks, Kelly, for a great story. I highly recommend the movie and the documentary… it’s a rare tidbit of World War II era history!


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Honor Air Atlanta 2014

2014 April 15
by Pat DiGeorge
One of our honored veterans greeted by a US Airways official as we arrived in Washington DC. Photo by Gary Adams, Patriot Guard Rider

One of our honored veterans is greeted by a US Airways official as we arrived in Washington DC.

On April 2nd the Roswell Rotary Club sponsored their 6th Honor Air trip of World War II and Korean veterans to Washington, DC to see their memorials.  There is no cost whatsoever to our veterans. Their Guardians pay their own way.

Our first trip was in 2008. We took 100 WWII veterans and 15 wheelchairs. This year we took 68 veterans and 45+ wheelchairs. The difference is that instead of a guardian being responsible for two or three veterans, now we match them one to one.

Our day began in Roswell, GA where veterans, guardians, safety crew, EMTs and physicians gathered around 5:30 am. At 6:00 three buses left for the Atlanta airport, almost immediately driving under the Roswell Fire Department’s Crossed Ladder Salute, our first thrill of the day.

The veterans could not believe the motorcycle escorts. The Roswell police and the Patriot Guard riders parted the early morning rush hour traffic all the way down to Hartsfield-Jackson. One gentleman remarked, “I never got to the airport that fast in my life!”

As the motorcade headed for the freeway I talked to WSB’s traffic reporter Captain Herb Emory. He was in his helicopter watching out for us. Here is his telecast from a previous Honor Air trip.  Tragically, Captain Herb died of a massive heart attack ten days later, on Saturday April 12th. Earlier that afternoon he had stopped to offer assistance at an automobile accident near his home.  That’s the kind of man he was, and he was certainly a good friend to us.

Getting through security was a breeze. TSA was all ready for us.  After a grand send off by our State Senator John Albers and the Patriot Guard Riders we boarded our US Airways charter.  As she has done on all six trips now, charter coordinator Regina accompanied us all the way to make sure that everything went super-smoothly, and it did.

Honor Air Atlanta 2014 in from of the Georgia Column at the WWII Memorial

Honor Air Atlanta 2014 in from of the Georgia Column at the WWII Memorial

When we landed at Reagan in Washington DC, US Airways, the Honor Flight, USO, and passengers waiting for other planes were all there to greet our veterans as they entered the gate area. Songs, cheers, flags, high fives, thanks, kisses (a few veterans couldn’t get enough of them!) and yes, tears.

After boarding three buses we made the rounds of the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a drive by the Marine Corps War Memorial, and as an end to a full day, the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Each stop was an opportunity to talk to our honored guests and take their pictures while enjoying a beautiful day.

From Normandy to the Berghof

The person I spent the most time talking to was Harold Latham who served during World War II with the Coast Guard.  A retired first sergeant, Harold was barely 16 when war broke out. He lied about his age so he could join up.

Harold Latham is interviewed by Roswell High School teacher Alex Chrzanowski

Harold Latham is interviewed by Roswell High School teacher and WWII author Alex Chrzanowski

What I learned from Harold was how important the Coast Guard was to so many WWII operations. By D-Day he was on the USS Bayfield at Utah Beach. He watched some of his crew mates drown as they tried to get onto the beach carrying packs that were too heavy. On the 2nd day he was ordered back to his ship to get the General to the beach … General Omar Bradley.

Rear Admiral Moon had directed the landings on Utah Beach from Harold’s ship, the USS Bayfield. He was asked to take charge of the invasion of southern France in August.  Harold was on board when Admiral Moon committed suicide in one of the staterooms rather than have to put his troops through what he had just seen at Normandy.

By February of the next year, the USS Bayfield was in the Pacific at the battle of Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima!  “We were pretty mature at fighting by the time we got to Iwo Jima. They warned us that it would be the roughest battle we’d ever been in, and it was.”  On a final thrust when the troops went to the top of Mount Suribachi, the first flag went up. Harold looked around and saw one of his men who had been hit trying to salute that flag. Harold crawled to him and helped him lift his hand. His friend said, “We knew we could do it didn’t we?” before he died there on the hill.

Most of the details I’ve filled in from ten interviews Harold did for the Witness to War project.  Their mission is to capture oral histories of combat veterans to preserve them for their families and future generations. You can find all ten of Harold Latham’s interviews here.  They are just a few minutes, each so impactful.

Believe it or not, at the end of the war Harold Latham was at Hitler’s bombed out home in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany. He brought home some rocks and a German rifle he found inside the rubble.

What an honor it has been for us to escort our veterans to Washington DC, six times now.  We will do it again but we need to find corporate and/or individual sponsorships. Please help us.

Because there are still so many stories out there.

If you are on Facebook you can find photos and more information at our page Honor Air Atlanta.

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The “Dealers” dine at Tattersall Restaurant

2014 March 27
by Pat DiGeorge
The Dinner Party - Guests are labeled.

The Dinner Party – Guests are labeled.

In 2011 I posted a photograph that I found in Herman F. Allen’s (my Dad’s) wartime scrapbook.  A group of mostly Americans were seated around a grand banquet table. I knew it was somewhere in Stockholm, and I knew it was in 1944.

With the help of Ted Borek, one of the American internees shown in the picture, I identified as many people in the group as I could.

Ted explained that it was a party hosted by the American Minister, Herschel V. Johnson, as a thank you to the many people who had worked so hard to provide for the more than 1,000 American airmen interned in Sweden as well as their airplanes. My Dad, Herman Allen, organized the event.

Then last year I was able to connect with Nick Kehoe whose father was also an internee, and he sent me the same photograph labeled by his Dad, Nicholas Kehoe, now deceased. On June 20, 1944, Nick’s Dad was forced to bail out over Sweden after his plane was shot down. Like my father, shortly after he arrived he was sent to Stockholm to work, most likely with the office of the Military Air Attache.

In the photograph Nick’s Dad had named almost everyone, and with what information I already have, I’m now able to relabel more correctly.

The same Dinner Party, from the wartime scrapbook of Nicholas Kehoe.

The same Dinner Party, from the wartime scrapbook of Nicholas Kehoe.

I love the name that he chose for the group … “The Dealers.”  I can just imagine the deals they made. I thought of the James Garner role in the movie The Americanization of Emily. He’s a Navy “Dog Robber.”  Except these “Dealers” weren’t scrounging together goodies for their Admiral but for the airmen in their internment camps all over Sweden. Sweet.

The Tattersall Restaurant was located at Grev Turegatan 12. It opened in 1898.  This banquet was upstairs in a fabulous hall, same as in this picture from the Stockholm City Museum. And now I also know the exact date: 16 September 1944.

Ted Borek said that the gentleman sitting next to my Dad (#15) was the Arctic explorer, and I immediately assumed that he meant Bernt Balchen. Not so. According to Nick’s notes, he was Albin Ahrenberg, a famous Swedish aviator. In 1931 Ahrenberg became a national hero after Reuters reported that he had located a missing British explorer who had been stranded on a Greenland icecap for months. During World War II he was in charge of a Swedish military division in the Stockholm archipelago. I have no information about what his specific role at this banquet might have been. Perhaps he was the keynote speaker.

Here is a new list of the numbered guests:

    1. Charles R. Huntoon, internee
    2. Charles W. “Smitty” SmithInterned pilot of the Liberty Lady.
    3. Victor James Trost, , internee
    4. Thomas W. Fishburne, internee
    5. Wyndall La Casse, internee (“Tex” –per Ted Borek he hailed from Texas.)
    6. Charles E. Fankhauser, internee, Military Air Attaché Internee Section
    7. Guy L. Shafer, internee, Military Air Attaché’s Internee Section
    8. Nicholas B. Kehoe Jr., internee
    9. Robert M. Munson, internee
    10. Minister Herschel V. Johnson (identified by me from another photo I have)
    11. Not sure. Since he’s at the separate table with Minister Johnson I assume he is from the American Legation, or he could be a Swede.
    12. Arthur Conradi, Jr., Assistant Military Air Attaché. (I presume)
    13. William T. Carlson,  Bill Carlson was with OSS Stockholm as head of X-2 (counterespionage.)  His cover was as a diplomat with the American Legation. He would have been here at Herman’s invitation since they were close friends.  And because Bill Carlson never missed a party.
    14. Albin Ahrenberg
    15. Herman F. Alleninternee, Military Air Attaché’s Internee Section
    16. Harold W. “Casey” Kasserman, Assistant Military Attaché
    17. Robert W. Wood (I presume) Assistant Military Attaché
    18. Richard Rollo, internee
    19. Robert L. Robb, Assistant Military Attaché
    20. Bernard Michael Davey, internee
    21. Byers (not an internee)
    22. Harley L. Robertson, Assistant to the Military Air Attaché.
    23. Patrick J. “Pat” Mahon Worked in the office of the Military Air Attaché.
    24. Thaddeus C. “Ted” Borek internee who worked with Herman Allen under Conradi.
    25. Joseph Earl Mestemaker (I presume) internee
    26. Jerrold Morris Vivian (I presume) internee
    27. Fred Lafayette Buckner, internee (I presume) He worked with Herman at Legation per Ted Borek

I would love to have more information and additions to my Guest List. Please comment or email me directly at pat@libertyladybook.com. If you’re on Facebook please join our group “American Internees in WWII Sweden.”

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Dragongården

2014 March 24
by Pat DiGeorge
Dragongården was on Djurgården, Stockholm's royal park that is now a popular recreation area.

Dragongården was on Djurgården, Stockholm’s royal park that is now a popular recreation area.

Dragongården was the family home of Count Folke Bernadotte. During World War II, Bernadotte was the representative of the Swedish government responsible for the airmen interned there. These airmen came from many different countries, primarily the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. My father, interned airman Herman F. Allen, worked closely with Folke Bernadotte as part of his job in the office of the U.S. Military Air Attache.

Nephew to King Gustav V, Folke had married Estelle Manville, a beautiful American from a New York family in 1928. After they returned to Stockholm they lived for a short time in a family apartment but then moved to what would become their home for the next decades and named it Dragongården. When I learned this I was so surprised to find that it was so close to the American Legation, where my parents working during the war. Bernadotte would often ride a bike to his office at the Swedish Red Cross.

Folke Bernadotte Bust (Folke Bernadotte byst på Djurgården Stockholm) By Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Folke Bernadotte Bust (Folke Bernadotte byst på Djurgården Stockholm)
By Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


This estate had previously been the regimental mess for the Swedish Royal Life Guards Dragoons.  Folke, an accomplished horseman, had served as one of their officers.  Today the home is the residence of the Chinese ambassador in Stockholm.

Last year when I was in Stockholm with my sisters and brother (Siblings in Sweden) my brother Bill got up early each morning for a run. After we discovered the Proposal Garden, he would head in that direction.  One day he was running on the opposite side of the water way and discovered that he was on a trail called (something like) “Folke Bernadotte Way.”  I can’t find it named on Google Maps but you can see the gravel trail right along the water.

On his morning run, Bill also saw a bust of Folke Bernadotte. This memorial was unveiled in 2011 by Prince Carl Philip who spoke about Bernadotte’s humanitarian leadership in 1945 when the White Buses saved around 15,000 people from Hitler’s concentration camps. It was the biggest single rescue mission of the Second World War, Prince Carl Philip explained in his speech.  In the above map I think I’ve pinpointed the spot thanks to the press release I found online. Now I understand why that location was chosen … it is so near their former home.

Those who made this memorial possible included the Swedish Red Cross and the Swedish Scout Council.  Bernadotte worked for the Swedish Red Cross, and he had a lifelong passion for scouting.

Author Kati Marton wrote about the day that Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in her book A Death in Jerusalem. Folke’s family was home at Dragongården when suddenly twelve year old Bertil heard the tragic news on the radio. “Count Folke Bernadotte has been shot and killed in Jerusalem.”

Bertil rushed to tell his mother. His father had arrived that morning in Jerusalem as a United Nations mediator, was determined to do what he could to bring peace to the Holy Land.  It was September 17, 1948. Sixty-six years ago.

Dragongården in 2009, home of the Chinese Ambassador. Photo by Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dragongården in 2009, home of the Chinese Ambassador. Photo by Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Fr. Cormac A. Walsh

2014 March 17
by Pat DiGeorge
The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC ... one of the stops for the April 2nd Honor Air trip

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC … one of the stops for the April 2nd Honor Air trip

On April 2nd the Roswell Rotary Club will charter a plane to fly just over sixty World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington DC to visit their memorials.  This will be our sixth trip since 2008. It has been one of our most rewarding projects to honor these men … and yes, women too … who served our country so many years ago.

As a fundraiser, for a donation toward the trip I offered to create a tribute in honor of or in memory of a veteran of any war.  The contributor only had to give me the name of the honoree and details of his service.

This is how I met Robert Allen “Bob” Moore. Bob served in Korea June of 1952 until May of 1953 in a combat rifle company. He was First Platoon Sergeant in Company I, 180th Regiment, 45th Division,  and saw combat on the hills of Old Baldy, Heartbreak Ridge, and Sandbag Castle in the Punchbowl.

These days Bob is a member of a group of Korean War veterans who work with the USO to greet returning veterans from Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Bob wants to honor Father Cormac Walsh, the most decorated Chaplain of the Korean War. According to a 1955 AP report, “First Lt. Cormac A. Walsh of Boston; was the Regimental Chaplain of the 180th Regiment in the 45th Division.” He was awarded the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the Presidential United Emblem, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Four Chaplains Medal.

In 1955 President Eisenhower named him “Chaplain of the Year.” The citation stated that during the fierce fighting in July 1953, “He was a beacon of courage and inspiration to his regiment, repeatedly risking his life to help the wounded and organize litter bearers, himself carrying many men to safety.” It was for those acts of gallanty in July 1953 that Fr. Walsh was awarded his Fourth Sliver Star.

Bob remembered all of this and more. Father Walsh knew that Bob’s mother was Jewish, that his father was Christian, and that Bob had not been baptized.

On the 2nd day of February, 1953, Fr. Walsh told Bob that he had been informed by the CO that their platoon was expected to participate in an assault on enemy positions on Sandbag Castle the next day. Fierce fighting and casualties were anticipated. Fr. Walsh strongly urged and was finally able to convince Bob to bring two buddies as sponsors and meet him at 0600 the next morning on the reverse slope of Sandbag Castle, about thirty yards from the top of the hill.  When the men arrived at the appointed time they saw that Fr. Walsh had set up an altar on the hood of his jeep, and on February 3rd Bob Moore was baptized, right then and there on Sandbag Castle.

I’m not sure about Bob, but I was having a hard time holding back the tears as he told me the story.

Following his military career, Father Cormac Walsh became prison chaplain at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, where he served for eighteen years. According to the website of Franciscan Friars, an inmate at the prison “summed up Fr. Cormac’s life: ‘He created a legend of goodness and left us a legacy of love.’ “

Fr. Walsh died of a heart attack on May 3, 1977 while on vacation in Florida. He was 61 years old, born as Dennis Walsh in Boston, Massachusetts, of Irish immigrant parents.  When he entered the priesthood as a Franciscan Friar he was given the fine name of Cormac.

I can’t think of a better time to honor this wonderful man than on St. Patrick’s Day.

May there be a rainbow today please, for Father Cormac Walsh.

May 2, 2014: Please see the comment below, a wonderful story about Father Walsh from someone else who knew him.

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Liberty Lady Day 2014

2014 March 6
by Pat DiGeorge
The crew of the Liberty Lady shortly after their forced landing in Sweden

The crew of the Liberty Lady shortly after their forced landing in Sweden. Herman Allen is on the far right, back row.

Seventy years ago today, March 6, 1944, the B-17 Liberty Lady force-landed on the Swedish island of Gotland just hours after the first large scale daylight raid on the city of Berlin. After the plane was so damaged that the crew knew they would never make it back to the airfield at Thurleigh, the pilots flew into a heavy cloud cover and headed north. When they landed they assumed they were in a German occupied country. All they knew for sure was that they were still alive and that their Lady would never fly again. My Dad was Herman F. Allen, the bombardier. The crew, of course, was in neutral Sweden. The airmen were interned for several months up to over a year before returning either back to the 8th Air Force and combat duty or over to the States.

As for Herman, he embarked on what would become his finest adventure.

Herman writing poetry at his computer, @2010

Herman writing poetry at his computer, @2010

Up until the final few months of his life in 2011, Herman worked at his computer. He wrote letters, composed poetry, and sent out emails. Until just a couple years before that he was actually doing the newsletter for one of his military organizations.

On March 6th one year he sent out an email to the family message board:  ”It’s Liberty Lady Day!”

I knew we were in trouble the day I arrived at Herman’s Assisted Living home in Columbia, SC. and saw that he had cut the electric cords to his computer and his monitor and carried them outside to the hall.  He just couldn’t figure out what keys to push.

Within a couple weeks we moved Daddy to the Memory Care Unit and without his lifeline, his computer, he was with us just a few months more.

So, Herman, here’s to Liberty Lady Day!

One more time.

 

 

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Barbro Torén

2014 February 23
by Pat DiGeorge
Count Bernadotte with the American Minister Herschel Johnson, Stockholm 1944. From the wartime scrapbook of Herman F. Allen

Count Bernadotte with the American Minister Herschel Johnson, Stockholm 1944. From the wartime scrapbook of Herman F. Allen

When my parents were in Stockholm during World War II they befriended Count Folke Bernadotte, the nephew to the King of Sweden, Gustav V. Count Bernadotte was Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Red Cross and in that capacity was responsible, alongside the U.S. Military Air Attaché, for the affairs of the American airmen who were interned in Sweden.

My Dad’s worked under the Air Attaché and in that capacity also worked closely with Bernadotte.

My mother’s letters mention Count Bernadotte’s secretary, Barbro Torén. I have no other information about her other than she signed the guest list of people at my parents’ wedding in January of 1945.

In all the reading I have done about Folke Bernadotte I have found reference to his secretary Barbro Wessel. She was with him and his entourage the day of his assassination in Israel, September 17, 1948.  After Bernadotte’s death she went on to work for the Swedish Red Cross.  In 1972 she married Sven Jerring, a popular Swedish radio announcer and sportscaster who created a children’s foundation, and at that site is a page about his wife Barbro (Wessel) Jerring.

I hope my Swedish readers can confirm whether or not Barbro Torén is indeed Barbro Wessel.

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