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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Writer's Life 2/12 - Giants

Here are highlights from an article by Michael Riedel in today's NY Post, edited by yours truly: Some 10 miles down the road from Bletchley Park, where the British cracked Nazi codes, was another manse that played a key role in WWII, one few know about. At that home, the Firs, a secret band of engineers invented diabolical bombs, detonators and booby traps used in what today might be called a dirty war against the Germans. It was all done with the blessing and the enthusiasm of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. That “dirty” war, which included assassinations and the possible use of chemical weapons, is the focus of a new book, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton. Here are two of the operations the group engendered: General Erwin Rommel had the British up against it in North Africa. It was discovered that his weapons and supplies traveled from Germany along a railway that ran to a Greek port, where they were then shipped to Libya. The tracks crossed three viaducts in northern Greece. The Brits blew up one of them, crippling Rommel's efforts. The operation was planned and executed from England, using explosives invented at the Firs... On May 27, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, architect of the Holocaust, brutal ruler of Czechoslovakia, was targeted. As his car slowed to make a curve, assassins disguised as street cleaners lobbed a thermos bomb, which may have contained chemical agents. Heydrich survived and began shooting at the assailants. Fragments of his bombed Mercedes had been driven into his spleen. He died a few days later. The hit came at a high price. The Nazis wiped out every male over the age of 16 in two Czech villages. I don't see anything dirty about the tactics, although the second was questionable. Heydrich would have eventually received his just desserts at the end of a rope. Of course, it's easy to sit in an armchair and second guess actions taken 75 years ago. In my mind, Winston Churchill is a hero, one of the great men of the 20th century. If a poll were taken about these actions, even in today's highly politicized climate, I'd bet an overwhelming majority would approve of them.

It's February 12th, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Here is the entirety of the immortal address he gave at Gettysburg:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The floating book shop was rained-out today, and will probably be sidelined by 40-50 MPH winds tomorrow. At least it wasn't snow. I saw yet another truck dump a load of salt on a street that was completely clear of snow and ice. I know the drivers want the overtime, but why waste materials? From what I've heard and read, the salt damages asphalt. Are the drivers guaranteeing work for the guys who pave the streets? Have them on standby somewhere. Listen to the forecast. The inefficiency of government is maddening... I spent the day resisting the temptation to begin work on the novel I plan to self-publish next January. After having spent months on Five Cents and a few days on getting the one glitch out of Close to the Edge, I need a break. The proof copy is on the way. I should make sure it's okay before I move on to the next project. Fortunately, the Sunday crossword went a long way toward filling today's idle hours.
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