Friday, December 9, 2011

Living History

This week I discovered two very cool Twitter Accounts. These are folks who tweet events from history, WWII to be exact.

I discovered @RealTimeWWII a week or so back. It tweets events from 1939 in real time. 72 years ago, the Soviet Army was fighting it's way into Finland, while The Fascist Grand Council in Rome just voted to confirm the "Pact of Steel" alliance with Germany, but also to stay neutral in European war.

@RealTimeWWII has a cadre of followers, many who translate and retweet in other tongues...German, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French,  Portuguese, and Russian so far.

Readers who don't do Twitter can like @RealTimeWWII on Facebook

I've found @RosiesWWII to be much more compelling. Written by "Rosie" who lives in 1940's Seattle, and tweets events from 1941 This account feels much more like literature. A Novelized account of events in real time from 70 years ago if you will.

Perhaps it was so compelling to me because I began following @RosiesWWII a few hours before sunrise in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. This is the only event from WW2 that I know personally "the Count and the Amount". It's no accident that every momentous event in history was measured against Pearl Harbor Day.

About My History
I was born six years and eight months after V-J Day, September 2, 1945 the day that the official surrender documents were signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

General MacArthur reads his opening speech at the Surrender Ceremony while Allied signers look on. September 2, 1945
Here's a link to the photo above and the names of the other Allied Signers.

Every adult I knew when I was a kid "remembered Pearl Harbor". The 1950s and early 1960s were a time of growth, optimism, and unlimited possibilities for Americans.The national mood was powered by equal measures of pride and relief. America had helped to remake the World and come out of the Great Depression, and was confident in it's future for the first time in a decade and a half.

Little boys of my age all "played Army" or "Cowboys and Indians" before our teen years when we discovered cars and girls. America was the Victor, and proud of it. Our victory over Nazism, Fascism, and Imperial Japan was virtuous, and as a country we were all looking forward.

I was in sixth grade when I first heard the phrase "This Generation's Pearl Harbor" The Baby Boomers' Pearl Harbor Day was November 22, 1963, another "Day that will live in infamy" President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas that day.

JFK had visited my town just two months earlier, and his motorcade passed my school on September 23,1963 on his way out to the airport. The whole school got out of class and walked to the end of the block to see the president's convertible limo go by. I don't know for sure that it was the same Lincoln Continental limo he was riding through Dallas' Dealey Plaza near the grassy knoll that fateful November afternoon, but even in the black and white television images we all watched that day and after, it looked to be the same car. JFK's Assassination was "my Pearl Harbor" until the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster in 1986, and then September 11, 2001....but I digress...(Some day I'll be at the dais, addressing a roomful of people, and I'll say "but I digress" as a laugh line)

World War Two history was never something I studied in depth in school. Growing up in it's living history aura, it wasn't anything I paid any serious attention to. WW2 was "Settled Science" in my world..enter the Internet Age...

The Internet Age came to the DaveCave in 1996, and in 2004 I justified a Broadband Connection. As part of the broadband provider's come-on, they gave me a $50 Gift Card. I'd never shopped at Amazon at the time...Amazon was mostly books back then, and I was very chauvinistic about book stores then because my two favorite books stores in Reno were run out of business when the first tiny little Barnes&Noble set up shop...I did however, spend the Gift Card...

I ordered "World War II Day By Day" a coffee table book of the war in pictures and newspaper clippings. Each pair of pages covered a day in all theaters of the war, and the capitol cities where the war was steered from. After having WW2 DNA in my veins so to speak, this book was a revelation. This was the first time I understood the scope of the war...until I began reading this tome, everything WW2 had been organized by Theater...Europe or the Pacific...the relevant Capitols? MIA

I read the book a day at a time, sixty years after the actual events, and finished up in 2005 around V-J Day. Now I understood the concepts of World War and Total War. The War happened all across the Earth. Even after experiencing events in chronological order on the real timeline, my perception was still colored by my early upbringing in post WW2 America. That changed finally in 2007.

"The War- a Ken Burns Film" series on PBS delivered the final pieces of the puzzle to my impossibly resistant history filing system. Burns' documentary focused much more on The Homefront during the war. Four cities including Sacramento, CA were featured to focus the war's costs at home and abroad, and to tell the story of how Americans and America were changed by the War. Until I had a few hours of Burns' film under my belt, I never realized that for most of the war, the outcome was in doubt. That there was ever any doubt was a huge shock to the kid who grew up in the war's victorious aftermath, where the "Homefront" was a forgotten concept...or one never taught to yours truly.

I asked my mother about it (she had just turned 22 when Pearl Harbor was attacked) She said yes, we had our doubts all along. She related her memories of the aluminum drives, the USO dances, the troop trains crossing the country passing through her town, Americans even saved and donated bacon grease for munitions manufacturing. News of the war trickled in by newspaper, newsreels and radio, and by mail from soldiers abroad.

Getting WW2 news is much easier than ever to get today thanks to Twitter, @RealTimeWWII and @RosiesWWII give 'em a whirl...better yet, hip your kids to their accounts. Kids should know America's history. I hated history back in my school days, and I doubt public education has found a way to induce a love of history in today's students. Today's kids all have smartphones, add a Twitter App, and drip, drip, drip...history is knocking!

In his oft misquoted axiom, American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those with a basic knowledge of history at least have the option of remembering it or not. But what of those who were never taught the past in the first place? Like idiots, they wander aimlessly about stumbling into wars, recessions and social disasters.

The Internet Age
Today the real internet delivery of history is possible thanks to folks like @RosiesWWII and @RealTimeWWII I hope other tweeters will follow suit...I would so follow tweets about Roman history, The Crusades, The Space Race, America's Founding, and The Civil War...there's a lot of history back there...

1 comment:

  1. Live in the moment and create your own history.