Commemorative Ceremony for WWI Veterans

John Babcock, Canada’s last WWI veteran died last week at 109. Babcock signed up at the age of 16 and, although he never saw combat, he served and he was the last surviving Canadian WWI veteran. He didn’t want a national ceremony at his death. Instead, there is to be a national ceremony April 9th to commemorate all those Canadians and Newfoundlanders* who served, were wounded, or died during that horrific conflict.

Lest we forget…

On that note, a few whose service I honour….

James Edward McIntosh

This is my grandfather. He served as a stretcher-bearer with the British Army. At one point, his unit went into No Man’s Land and a shell hit near where they were standing. He was presumed dead and my grandmother was sent a telegram telling her he was dead. Three days later, he and his companions were able to find their way to the British lines and he was horrified to learn that he had been declared dead. As there was a “push”  on, he was unable to get a message to his mother for a few more days.

One favourite story was how the British were being sent out of Vimy Ridge when the Canadians were going in. As the long line of soldiers passed each other, he could hear a voice calling out “Does anyone know a McIntosh from Newcastle!? Does anyone know a McIntosh from Newcastle!?”.

He called out “I’m a McIntosh from Newcastle!”.

It tuned out to be his cousin from Winnipeg! They couldn’t stop but were able to call to each other news from the family until they were out of earshot. Both his cousin and he survived the war but I don’t believe they ever met in person, again. My mother has always wanted to find the family and meet them.

Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture

“Andy” was my ex-husband’s grandmother who served in the American Expeditionary Forces as a nurse in France. She was an Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve in Southern Ontario. No nursing school in Canada would train “an Indian” so she applied and was accepted at the New Rochelle (New York)  School of Nursing. When the Americans entered the war, she enlisted and was sent overseas. She served in Vitelles, France at the Buffalo Base Hospital 23. She died just 6 days short of her 106th birthday, the last of her unit. It was an honour and a privilege to know her.

James David Moses

James David Moses was my ex-husband’s great uncle.  He was a Delaware Indian, also from the Six Nations Reserve. He joined the Canadian Army, trained as an officer, and eventually joined the RAF, training as an observer. He was lost in action on April 1, 1918, the day that the RCAF came into being. He is considered the first flyer killed in the RCAF.

*Newfoundland was not a part of Canada at that time.

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The Polish Airman — Update

A few days ago, someone named Grzegorz left a comment on the posting I have on “my” Polish airman, Alojzy Dreja. He told me that he could provide me with a little more information about Alojzy. This morning, he sent me information which fills out Alojzy’s wartime biography. Much thanks to Grzegorz!

Alojzy Baltazar Dreja was born on 1st of Jan 1918 in Przyszowice (small village in the vicinity of Katowice, south of Poland).

After he had passed his secondary school examinations  in Rybnik he joined The School of Air Cadets (Szkoła Podchorążych Lotnictwa) in Dęblin which he graduated from as Air Observer in 1939.

In the September Campaign of 1939, he flew several sorties in reconnaissance flights as Air Gunner. He managed to get evacuated from Poland and via Romania, and from Beirut he got to France. In Andresieux (France) he was attending The Observers School between April and June 1940.

Then again he had to get evacuated to Britain.

Having completed his training as pilot in 18 Operational Training Unit he was posted to 300 (Polish) Bomber Squadron in September 1941. He managed to take part in 35 operations before completing his first operational tour.

Then, in July 1942, with the rank of Flying Officer he was posted to Bomber & Gunnery School in Pembrey where he had the chance to rest from operational flying. In April 1943, he started to attend Polish War Air Staff College which he graduated form in February 1944. From February to October 1944, he was a staff officer in Polish Air Forces Headquarters in Britain.

In the period between November 1944 and May 1947 he served as the teacher of Bombing Tactics in Polish War Air Staff College.

After his demobilization he finished studies on the London University. He lived in London [Surbiton, Surrey] where he died on 18th of Feb. 1986.

Pathe newsreels

“General Sikorski”

Various shots of General Sikorski inspecting Polish patriots who have joined the army and are now serving in Gibraltar. A few hours later Sikorski was to die. Polish destroyer arriving at British port. Various shots of the flag-draped coffin of General Sikorski being carried from destroyer. Several shots of the coffin laying in state at the Polish Government Headquarters in Kensington Palace Gardens – wreaths are laid.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Battle Colours for Polish Airmen”

Location unknown, somewhere in Britain. The camera pans across the first Polish squadron of the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) a year after they were formed. Polish Prime Minister General Sikorski and Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal walk past them saluting. M/S as Sikorski greets an injured airman who is on a bed in the parade ground with his colleagues. M/S of Polish crest. Various shots as the Colours are handed over. Women take photographs of the bomber squadron. They march off with it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Fighter Pilots Meet Bomber Crews”

Polish Club, London.Various shots of a reception given for the pilots of the Polish Fighter Squadron and the British and American bomber crews. Words of thanks are exchanged between Flying Officer Todobinski and Colonel Anderson (natural sound).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Bomber Squadron Of Our Allies”

Location of events unknown. M/S of RAF (Royal Air Force) men marching past. Various shots of a Polish bomber crew just prior to boarding their aeroplane. A British officer with map briefs them. GV Bomb train crossing the airfield. Various shots of the Polish crew climbing into their Wellington bomber. Various shots of pilot and gunners inside the plane. Panning shots of two Wellingtons taking off.Panning shots of group of Czech airmen. Narrator explains that many of the men were craftsmen in famous Skoda works. Various shots of bombs being loaded into a Wellington bomber. Various shots of crew climbing into their Wellington. C/U of the forward gun turret. Various shots of Wellingtons taking off.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It arrived!

My Great Great Grandfather Joseph Baker Comer’s medal arrived today, along with a stack of copies of documents from the National Archives in Washington…. Pension applications and related docs, my Great Great Grandmother’s Widow’s Pension application and related documents, and what I think are referred to as his service cards.

The medal is smaller than I imagined… and so was my Great Great Grandfather, only 5′ 6″ tall.

As Dave, the previous owner pointed out, I received it 2 days after Veterans Day (and our Remembrance Day), and a week to the day from the day Joseph B. Comer signed up 148 years ago. All-in-all, very fitting.

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Joseph B. Comer (2nd row, centre), Civil War Veteran

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Joseph B.'s West Virginia medal

As I have mentioned in another posting, I am waiting for the arrival of Joseph B’s medal. He enlisted with the Union forces 148 years ago, today.

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James Edward McIntosh

My grandfather, James McIntosh, was a Presbyterian minister in Scotland so was a conscientious objector. However, he “did  his part” in both wars. He served as a stretcher-bearer in WWI and then running canteens for soldiers in Dumfries during WWII.

In WWI, he once went out on the field to collect wounded men and a shell burst which appeared to have blown him and his men up. His mother was sent a telegram announcing that he was “missing and presumed dead”. It wasn’t until three days later that he and his men could get back and send word to their families that they were alive and well (uninjured, in fact).

Another time, as the British forces were being relieved by Canadians at Vimy Ridge, just before the big battle, the two long lines of soldiers filed past each other in the dusk.  He could hear a voice calling out down the lines “Anyone know a McIntosh from Aberdeen? Anyone know a McIntosh from Aberdeen?”

He called out “I’m a McIntosh from Aberdeen!”. It turned out that it was his cousin from Winnipeg on his way in to Vimy. They couldn’t stop to talk but called out news of family to each other as long as they could be heard. After the War, he learned that his cousin had survived the battle and was safely home.

My ex-husband’s grandmother and his great uncles (as well as other relations) signed  up in WWI.

Charlotte Edith Monture (Anderson) in uniform

Charlotte Edith Monture (Anderson)

His grandmother, Charlotte Edith Monture (Anderson), “Andy” to her friends, signed up with the American Army (the AEF) as a nurse. She served in Vittel, France with Buffalo Base Hospital 23. She was an amazing woman. I had the honour of transcribing her wartime diary. Until the war “hotted up” she recounted tea dances (Including one where she was asked to dance by Eddie Rickenbacker — “He was a bit full of himself”), baseball games, “flickers”, and picking strawberries.Once the American forces got into the thick of it and the wounded started pouring in, her diary dwindled to the odd entry about exhaustion and the wounded. Her last entry was after Armistice where she described a visit to the stench and mud and ruin.

One of her patients, a favourite of hers, who appeared to be on the mend suddenly hemorrhaged one night and died. She wrote to his parents and after the war went out to Iowa to visit them. They gave her a lovely silver cutlery service when she married. She died 6 days short of her 106th birthday and was buried with military honours, at Six Nations.

Her brother, Gilbert Monture, later on of the first Native Canadians to receive a degree and then achieve a government position, also served in WWI. They were Mohawks from the Six Nations of The Grand River reserve, in Southern Ontario.

My ex’s father’s uncle James David Moses, a Delaware, also from The Six Nations reserve in  joined up in WWI. Hr started off in the infantry and then joined the Air services.

Lt. James David Moses

He was shot down over France and is commemorated as the first RCAF flier killed in action. He is remembered in the First World War Book of Remembrance.

My ex’s father, Russ Moses, served with the Canadian Navy in the Korean War. He told us many times of the time when the American Army contacted his captain. They had heard that there were a couple of Indians aboard. They had a special mission for them. They wanted to fool the North Koreans into thinking they were being fired upon so they wanted my father-in-law and his friend to make smoke signals for them. My father-in-law had to tell them that smoke signals were not something that Canadian Indians ever did and they didn’t know how to make them. I guess they thought that “an Indian was an Indian”.

Natives signed up in greater numbers in all wars than their White counterparts.  All the more surprising since they fought and died for a country that they couldn’t vote in*, couldn’t own property and after the war would not receive their military pensions unless they “enfranchised” (gave up their Indian status). They couldn’t even go into a bar with their fellow soldiers to have a beer because they weren’t allowed to drink. In some cases, any benefits they got were sent to this Indian agent who got to decide how and IF they got to spend it. In some cases, the agents pocketed the money. Only in the last few years has the government started addressing the inequity of this.

My birth father served in the American Army in WWII as an officer trainer.

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Hutch in uniform

My father with his father and his third wife (his Dad’s), California, just before the attack on Pearl Harbour.

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Dad, probably in Halifax just before going overseas.

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Dad (right), somewhere in France or Holland.

My step-father, who was studying at MIT tried to sign up with the American Army in 1941. However, he was rejected because of his race (“Our ”Indian’ contingent is filled” sneered the recruiting sergeant.). So he came up to Canada and joined the Canadian Army. They cared less about his colour than his willingness to fight. He served in North Africa, Italy, Sicily, France, Holland, and Germany. Canada’s willingness to accept him at a time of war rather than care only about his skin colour was a deciding factor on where he decided to live after he graduated. He came to Canada. He also joined the Naval Reserve, here.

After Dad died, someone (we think we know who) stole his medals from our house.

My mother also served in the Territorial Army in Scotland, after the war. During the war, she was in nursing. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of her in uniform, though I know I have one somewhere.

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* In the case of Edith Anderson, she wanted to train as a nurse but no Canadian hospital would train “an Indian”. She applied to the New Rochelle School of Nursing and was accepted immediately. In 1914, she began working as a Registered Nurse in an elementary school. After the War, she returned to Canada and began nursing on the Six Nations Reserve. The first Canadian Native woman to be trained as a nurse.

I actually met the grand-daughter of the first native woman to be trained as a nurse IN Canada. I believe her surname was Brule.

Silence is golden… as far as the media is concerned.

On April 20th, 2009, The New York Times’ David Barstow was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for three stories he published about a supposedly “independent voice”, a “dispassionate expert” on the war in Iraq who, it turns out, was very much in the pocket of military contractors, businesses seeking an edge on contracts with the Pentagon, and a Bush Administration horn-tooter.

Retired General Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, it turns out, was contracted by Defense Solutions, back in June 2007 to open doors for them at the Pentagon. Within days, McCaffrey had recommending Defense Solutions to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq. McCaffrey had given the pitch in a 15-page briefing package to Petraeus, who also happened to be “the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military”.

“Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.”

McCaffrey didn’t mention to Petraeus that he was on contract with Defense Solutions, nor did he disclose this, or his lobbying to the Pentagon when he testified before Congress, criticizing a proposal by a competitor of Defense Solutions and suggesting that Congress needed to supply 5,000 armoured vehicles to Iraq, coincidentally, the same number pitched to Petraeus at the Pentagon.

Over the years since the 9/11, McCaffrey, who was an active promoter of the invasion of Iraq  has never disclosed his active involvement with the Bush Administration and Pentagon propaganda machines, or his ties to military suppliers as a lobbyist.

“BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to “build linkages” between government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to $10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction management company that often competes for national security contracts.”

Despite a long-standing and well publicized disagreement with Donald Rumsfeld, McCaffrey had been a very enthusiastic booster of the Bush policies, most especially those dealing with Iraq. His dispute with Rumsfeld, it appears also stemmed from his personal financial interests in promoting materials made by the companies he lobbied for. His chief complaint about Rumsfeld appears to have been that Rumsfeld didn’t want to overspend. Whereas, McCaffrey was urging the Bush government  and the Pentagon to spend.

As well as his lobbying, McCaffrey was also, it happens, involved in a surreptitious public relations campaign by the Pentagon to promote the Pentagon and the Bush Administration policies dealing with the war in Iraq. In other words, a propaganda campaign on behalf of the Bush Administration and the Pentagon.

However, McCaffrey, it seems was just one of many former military men who were involved with this campaign.

“In an article earlier this year, The New York Times identified General McCaffrey as one of some 75 military analysts who were the focus of a Pentagon public relations campaign that is now being examined by the Pentagon’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission. The campaign, begun in 2002 but suspended after the article’s publication, sought to transform the analysts into “surrogates” and “message force multipliers” for the Bush administration, records show. The analysts, many with military industry ties, were wooed in private briefings, showered with talking points and escorted on tours of Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

In order to promote the Bush/Pentagon slant on the war in Iraq, all these “independent analysts” were called upon by news organizations around the world to present their “independent opinions” as retired military personnel without ties to the military industry or the Bush Administration. They were, as we now know, anything BUT independent.

Since Barstow’s revelations, you would have thought that the media would be stepping up to strenuously assert that they knew nothing of “analysts'” ties to military suppliers or the Pentagon.

You would be wrong.

While the New York Times has run news stories on the issue, nearly every other major news organization, either print or broadcast has either under-reported or ignored the story completely.

Indeed, the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize awards in most new stories never made mention of Barstow or his win, at all.

NBC’s announcement was:

The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and the arts were awarded today. The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting.  Las Vegas Sun won for the public service category for its reporting on construction worker deaths in that city. Best commentary went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who of course was an on-air commentator for us on MSNBC all through the election season and continues to be. And the award for best biography went to John Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”

And, of course, the very news organizations who are ignoring the story and failing to react in any way, are the same ones who allowed Pentagon and Bush Administration mouthpieces an open forum on the war in Iraq in their studios and in their pages.

Just when WILL the media pony up and accept their responsibility in either, at worst, willingly, or at best unknowingly allowed themselves to become part of the propaganda machine (if they DIDN’T know they should have done — they are in the business to find these things out!)?

Interestingly, if you Google News David Barstow, you will find few stories and none are from the major news organizations.

What is particularly shameful is that the very men who promoted a continued presence in Iraq and lied to the public about the actual state of affairs there did so for money and at the expense of young men and women who will never, ever come home from Iraq. Shameful and disgusting.

Read the Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com) piece on this story.

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