Fascinating Kodachrome Footage of “Victory over Japan Day” in Honolulu, 1945

When Field Mar­shal Wil­helm Kei­t­el signed Nazi Ger­many’s uncon­di­tion­al sur­ren­der on May 8, 1945 in Berlin (footage here), the Sec­ond World War may have been over for Europe, but the war on the Pacif­ic front waged on as Japan refused to sur­ren­der. Only after the fate­ful deci­sion to drop atom­ic bombs on Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki, and after the Sovi­ets invad­ed Japan­ese-held Manchuria, did Emper­or Hiro­hi­to accept the hope­less­ness of the sit­u­a­tion and agree to sur­ren­der on August 15. When the offi­cial radio announce­ment (record­ing here) was broad­cast — due to time zone dif­fer­ences on August 14 in the U.S. — the news spread like wild­fire and the day became known as “Vic­to­ry over Japan Day”, or sim­ply as “VJ Day.” Spon­ta­neous cel­e­bra­tions erupt­ed all over the Unit­ed States, but espe­cial­ly on Hawaii, where the Japan­ese attacked Pearl Har­bor on Decem­ber 7, 1941 lead­ing the US to offi­cial­ly enter World War II.

One of these spon­ta­neous cel­e­bra­tions in Hon­olu­lu was cap­tured on Kodachrome 16mm film and has been dig­i­tal­ly restored. One com­menter on Vimeo has iden­ti­fied all of the exact loca­tions here.

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

British Actors Read Poignant Poetry from World War I

The First World War (1914–1918) changed Britain to a degree that was unthink­able in 1914. Pre-war cer­tain­ties and val­ues such as hon­or, father­land and progress dis­in­te­grat­ed on the bat­tle­fields and trench­es in France and Bel­gium. New tech­nol­o­gy such as tanks, machine guns, grenades, flame throw­ers and poi­son gas were used to destroy the ene­my; con­stant fire for days on end was intend­ed to break the sol­diers in the trench­es. Unspeak­able hor­rors led to psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems of unknown pro­por­tions.

Cop­ing with these hor­rors dur­ing and after The Great War (as it’s still called in Britain today) seemed like a Her­culean task to poets — how do you put the unspeak­able into words? Some poets, e.g. Rupert Brooke, still cel­e­brat­ed the hero­ism of the Eng­lish sol­diers (e.g., 1914 II. Safe­ty), where­as oth­ers, such as Wil­fred Owen, tried to describe the hor­rors of this war (e.g., Dulce et Deco­rum Est).

Every year on the Sun­day clos­est to Novem­ber 11, Britain remem­bers the dead of the First World War. For Remem­brance Day 2012, famous British actors were asked to recite First World War poet­ry. The fin­ished clips were to be shown on TV that day. The video above shows three actors recit­ing four poems by Rupert Brooke and Wil­fred Owen (click the names of the actors for infor­ma­tion about them and the titles of the poems for the full text):

  1. Sean Bean reads Wil­fred Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth
  2. Gem­ma Arter­ton reads Wil­fred Owen’s “Arms and the Boy
  3. Sophie Okone­do reads Rupert Brooke’s “The Sol­dier
  4. Sean Bean reads Wil­fred Owen’s “The Last Laugh

Bonus mate­r­i­al:

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

The Normandy Invasion Captured on 16 mm Kodachrome Film (1944)

The Nor­mandy Inva­sion, oth­er­wise known as “Oper­a­tion Over­lord,” was launched by the Allies on June 6, 1944. On that day — D‑Day — Amer­i­can, British and Cana­di­an troops land­ed on five sep­a­rate beach­heads in Nor­mandy, on the west­ern shores of France. By the end of August 1944, the Allies had lib­er­at­ed all of north­ern France and start­ed march­ing towards Nazi Ger­many.

At the time, the film­mak­er George Stevens (1904–1975) was a lieu­tenant colonel in the U.S. Army’s Sig­nal Corps. Dwight D. Eisen­how­er, tasked with plan­ning and car­ry­ing out the Allied inva­sion of Nor­mandy, want­ed film crews present at the inva­sion to pro­vide footage for a doc­u­men­tary film. Stevens took charge of the Spe­cial Motion Pic­tures Unit and gath­ered a group of cam­era­men and writ­ers dubbed the “Stevens Irreg­u­lars”. They used the stan­dard Army motion pic­ture stock, 35 mm black and white news­reel film. But they also brought along a hand-held cam­era and some 16 mm Kodachrome col­or film. Stevens shot sev­er­al hours’ worth of col­or footage from France, Bel­gium and Ger­many. The scenes from the lib­er­a­tion of Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camp are par­tic­u­lar­ly shock­ing and left their mark on the lives of the cam­era­men. In 1994, Stevens’ son used this film footage to assem­ble the doc­u­men­tary George Stevens: D‑Day to Berlin.

Bonus mate­r­i­al:

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Frank W. Buckles, The Last U.S. Veteran of World War I

Frank Woodruff Buck­les was born on Feb­ru­ary 1st, 1901. At the age of 16, he enlist­ed in the U.S. Army by con­vinc­ing recruit­ing offi­cers that he was, in fact, 21. In this short film, Buck­les recalls this time so long ago and the last year of the Great War. There are two par­tic­u­lar­ly mov­ing pas­sages in this doc­u­men­tary: when he talks about the dif­fi­cul­ties vet­er­ans expe­ri­enced after return­ing home, and when Buck­les voic­es his opin­ions on war in gen­er­al, and par­tic­u­lar­ly war today (“How did we get involved in this thing, Iraq? It was crazy, we have no damn busi­ness in there.”)

Frank died on Feb­ru­ary 27th, 2011, at the age of 110. The last sur­viv­ing U.S. vet­er­an of World War I, he was prop­er­ly laid to rest at Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery (find video of the cer­e­mo­ny here). There are two trib­utes to Mr Buck­les that offer more insight into his life: a short video by the Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs and an obit­u­ary in the Wash­ing­ton Post.

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

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