June 6, 2014

Remembering D-Day 70 years ago today

John Fund sets the scene

Northern France was under the boot of Nazi occupation, and was defended by an intimidating array of fortifications and gun emplacements all along its coast. But on June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of beaches whose names have gone down in history — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword — in what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and at the cost of 9,000 killed or wounded soldiers, the Allies gained a toehold in Europe that became the staging area for the ultimate defeat of Nazi


Gerard Vanderleun puts us in the middle of the action

Today your job is straightforward. First you must load 40 to 50 pounds on your back. Then you need to climb down a net of rope that is banging on the steel side of a ship and jump into a steel rectangle bobbing on the surface of the ocean below you. Others are already inside the steel boat shouting and urging you to hurry up.

Once in the boat you stand with dozens of others as the boat is driven towards distant beaches and cliffs through a hot hailstorm of bullets and explosions. Boats moving nearby are, from time to time, hit with a high explosive shell and disintegrate in a red rain of bullets and body parts. Then there's the smell of men near you fouling themselves as the fear bites into their necks and they hunch lower into the boat. That smell mingles with the smell of cordite and seaweed.

In front of you, over the steel helmets of other men, you can see the flat surface of the bow’s landing ramp still held in place against the sea. Soon you are in range of the machine guns that line the cliffs above the beach ahead. The metallic dead sound of their bullets clangs and whines off the front of the ramp.

Then the coxswain shouts and the klaxon sounds and then you feel the keel of the LST grind against the rocks and sand of Normandy as the large shells from the boats in the armada behind you whuffle and moan overhead and then the explosions all around increase in intensity and then the bullets from the machine guns in the cliffs ahead and above rattle and hum along the steel plates of the boat and the men crouch lower and then somehow together lean forward as, at last, the ramp drops down and you see the beach and then the men surge forward and you step with them and then you are out in the chill waters of the channel wading in towards sand already doused with death, past bodies bobbing in the surf staining the waters crimson, and then you are on the beach.  It’s worse on the beach.

-Into The Jaws Of Death

Mark Steyn reminds us who they were

They were young, but they were not children. I was listening to President Obama explain yesterday from Brussels that the deserter he brought home from the Taliban this week was just a "kid". In fact, he's 28 years old. I remember walking through the Canadian graves at Bény-sur-Mer a few years ago. Over two thousand headstones, but only a handful of ages inscribed upon them: 22 years old, 21, 20… But they weren't "kids", they were men.

Tom Rogan explains why America remembers.  A US Army historian captures the scene:

Crossing bands of automatic fire caught most of the craft as the ramps were lowered, and from there on, losses were heavy. Most of them were incurred in the water, and among men who stopped to drag the wounded ashore. So exhausted and shaken were the assault troops that when they reached the sand, 300 yards from the shingle bank, most of them stopped there and crawled in just ahead of the tide. The greater number of the company's 105 casualties for D Day were suffered on the beach, in the first stage of assault.
For America, D-Day isn't about arrogant triumphalism, it's about celebrating young men who had never previously left their country, but in four years, defeated two tyrannical empires.

There were many others who played their part,  Like the spy who saved D-Day named Juan Garcia from Barcelona  in  one of the most extraordinary and significant subterfuges in espionage history: Operation Fortitude South 

that worked so well that Hitler kept two armored divisions and 19 infantry divisions back in the Pas-de-Calais throughout June, July, and August, and it is certain that had these units not been held back, the Allies would have faced a far bloodier landing. Even as late as 29 July, Hitler remained so convinced that García was on his side that he personally awarded him the Iron Cross for "extraordinary service". By the time anyone realized there was no invasion force bound for Calais under General Patton, it was too late.
….. García stepped down after D-Day for his own safety. In December, the Director General of MI5 awarded him the MBE, thus making him perhaps the only person to have been decorated by both sides in World War Two.

A great leader, General Dwight D Eisenhower inspired them with  the Order of the Day

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely…..

The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

That great leader was willing to take full responsibility for failure   It came to be known as the "In Case of Failure Letter." The supreme Allied commander intended it for his troops if the invasion failed. In four sentences, he accepted the blame:

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

President Ronald Reagan marked the 40th anniversary at Pointe du Hoc

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your ``lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.''

Paul Wolfowitz remembers the debt owed to the heroes of D-Day.

"Veterans who were here then . . . will surely all agree that it was the longest day of our lives," said Walter Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor among the D-Day veterans, who was speaking at the 50th anniversary in Normandy….D-day, he once said, was "60 times worse than 'Saving Private Ryan.
"Sadly," continued Ehlers, who was an Army staff sergeant that fateful day, soon promoted to second lieutenant, "it was the end of the war for a great many brave men who died here that day. But it was also the beginning of the end for Hitler. The world changed June 6, 1944, the day the good guys took charge again."
"While we braved these then-fortified beaches to beat back Hitler and to liberate Europe . . . we fought for much more than that. We fought to preserve what our forefathers had died for . . . to protect our faith, to preserve our liberty. . . . I pray that the price we paid on this beach will never be mortgaged, that my grandsons and granddaughters will never face the terror and horror that we faced here. But they must know that without freedom, there is no life and, that the things most worth living for, may sometimes demand dying for."

 Soldiers In Normandy Cemetery

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Indian princesses finally win battle for $4 billion inheritance defeating scheming servants

Indian princesses finally win battle for £2.6BILLION inheritance after court accepts that their Maharajah father's will was forged

After he died, the maharajah's daughters received a pittance, despite fortune.    A disputed will left the estate in control of his former servants
Now the daughters, who are in their 80s, have finally won their birthright.

It has all the makings of a best-selling novel.

An Indian maharajah crowned as a toddler and rich beyond imagination falls into a deep depression in old age after losing his only son.
After his own death a few months later, his daughters, the princesses, don't get the palaces, gold and vast lands they claim as their birthright.
Instead, they are given a few dollars a month from palace officials they accuse of scheming to usurp the royal billions with a forged will. The fight rages for decades.  On Saturday, an Indian court brought this chapter to a close, ruling that the will of Maharajah Harinder Singh Brar of Faridkot was fabricated.

His daughters will now inherit the estimated £2.6billion estate, instead of a trust run by his former servants and palace officials.
in 1981, Brar's only son, Tikka Harmohinder Singh, was killed in a road accident and he tumbled into a deep depression. It was then, his three daughters' argued, that his trusted aides connived to deprive his family of their fortune.

They set up the Meharawal Khewaji Trust, naming all the maharajah's servants, officials and lawyers as trustees.  A short time after Brar's death in 1989, a will leaving all his wealth to the trust became public. The two younger princesses, Deepinder Kaur and Maheepinder Kaur, were given monthly salaries of $20 and $18 respectively.  Brar's wife, mother and oldest daughter - the presumed heir - were cut off without a penny.

The trust told the court that Amrit Kaur had been shunned by her father for marrying against his wishes.  Kaur told the court that her father had never made a will and that she had remained with him until his death.

In the two decades that it has taken for the court to give its ruling, much has changed. The value of the estates has increased manifold.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2012

What do you do with your dead parent's stuff?

Brimming With Pride, Son Seeks Resting Place for Dad's Hat Hoard

Some children find themselves overwhelmed by a dead parent's boxes of photo albums or an attic brimming with not-so-valuable antiques.

Scott Legried is hampered by hats.

More than 109,000 baseball caps. All lovingly collected by his father, Roger "Buckey" Legried, a corn and soybean grower and farming-equipment salesman in Frost, Minn.

Scott Legried inherited the world's largest collection of hats when his father died last September at the age of 73. The hats are boxed and stored in a garage, a basement and three 42-foot-long semi-tractor trailers at the Legried family farm. A three-ring binder catalogs each cap and its provenance—every John Deere hat from every state is listed, along with a black cap with intricate gold and red beadwork.

The hats were the elder Mr. Legried's unfinished legacy. He had hoped to see them displayed for the public….Now, the duty of finding the hats a permanent, public home hangs on the younger Mr. Legried, 40 years old. He calls it an "honor."

The hats will probably end up at the Green Giant Museum in Austin, Minn.  Like other museums with large collection, all the hats will not be display at once -

A proper display—with four-inch high shelves, 10 feet to the ceiling—would stretch at least a half mile, the elder Mr. Legried once calculated.

Hearing voices in the clutter by Margaret Carlson

HOUSES, if we look and listen, have secrets to tell us. I didn’t fully understand my parents until I finally faced up to emptying their house. Doing so would have been hard at any time, but it was even harder because I had waited 20 years after their deaths.

Not by choice, I had left the house exactly as it was and exactly as they wished, with my brother, Jimmy, brain-damaged by an epileptic seizure at birth, at the center of it. My parents had created a world in a quiet suburb of Harrisburg, Pa., in which he could thrive, and they expected me to do the same, although my universe consisted of a daughter, a column and a house 150 miles away.

But at a certain point, I realized that I was caulking leaks and replacing pipes at an accelerating pace that had to stop. Finally, last spring, my brother saw he was beginning to sag like the gutters and agreed to move into a group apartment.

Before he could remember how much he would miss his snowblower, I put the house on the market. Happily, it sold right away. Unhappily, I had just 60 days to get rid of 70 years’ worth of belongings.
NOTHING I found would have attracted attention on “Antiques Roadshow,” but it all had meaning for me. I needed to do some wholesale chucking, but I kept hearing voices coming out of closets, drawers and boxes.

“You can never have too many salt and pepper shakers,” my mother was certain. And “surely, you want those linen guest towels I embroidered with the Eight Beatitudes?”
The day of closing, I dropped the last black garbage bag at the curb, swept the house broom-clean and left Jimmy at his new place waiting for the cable guy, so as not to miss an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Then I drove home in a car packed full of what I couldn’t bear to part with: wedding photos of my beaming parents, blissfully unaware of what was about to hit them; hand-stitched linens; the white veil from my First Holy Communion.

And suddenly, I felt a hole in the middle of my life. I had spent a month in my parents’ company, discovering what had been in plain sight all along. For the first time, I knew what it meant to be homesick.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2011

Organizing your family's genealogical records

Overwhelmed by a mountain of boxes of family archives you inherited from your grandfather or aunt?

Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider gives some good advice for organizing your family archives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2011

"Not through my death. But through yours."

After 5 years of writing an advice column about the end of life, Judy Bachrach says her letters fall into 3 categories: letters about inheritance and disinheritance, questions about death etiquette and how to dispose of corpses.

The New Death.Those seeking advice reveal a new attitude about the end

I marvel over people’s interest in all three categories, but especially their obsession with the fate of the outer wrappings. How can it matter? Why does it matter?...

And then, at odd moments, the answer comes to me. In these modern times, the Afterlife is now. That’s what it’s come down to. No one wants to wait. No one thinks waiting ages for some kind of final justice will improve the odds. Atheist or believer, pragmatist or romantic, we all consign to death, someone else’s death, a long hoped-for settling of accounts. We want our heavenly rewards, emotional or tangible, to arrive today, and the death of a relative is the doorway to those rewards.
But if there is a heaven, a Final Reward for sufferings here on earth, it will come, the newer general feeling goes, not through my death. But through yours.  And that is the death people write me about.

The narcissism of people today is astonishing and blinding.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2011

Overwhelmed by a Legacy of Stuff

What to do with all the stuff left behind when a beloved dies?

Rita Emmett lays it out in A Legacy of Stuff

Another email explained the cost of two storage units filled with items from loved ones who have passed away. Payments for both units totaled over one thousand dollars a year, and he wrote that he had not visited them since he stashed everything into the units over four years ago.

So he is spending money he can't afford on units filled with stuff he not only does NOT need, he doesn't even remember what is in them.

He's stuck.

Sorting through, processing, moving on and getting rid of items after the death of a loved one is possibly the most difficult work to tackle. Partly because there is SO MUCH (a lifetime of accumulation), partly because it renews the deep grief in our hearts and partly because there is an odd feeling of "I'm keeping this because I love him so if I get rid of these tools that he loved so much….it might mean I don't love him ….or that he didn't love me…..or something very convoluted and confusing…."

Part 2 here

One woman told the story of how for seven years, all of her parents' belongings were stacked to the ceiling in her basement - furniture, clothes, stuff. So much so that they could not even make a path through it all.

Then her basement flooded and she lost everything. Afterwards, she was amazed at how relieved she felt and how good life was — living without all that stuff. She had zero regrets about what was lost.

And she asked, "Why do people have to wait for a disaster to wreck everything in order to get rid of it? Wouldn't it have been great to pass on those things to people who needed and would be happy to receive all of it?"

In fact, when we hang on to stuff we-don't-need-or-use and wasn't even ours to begin with, it usually as NOTHING to do with the thing itself, but with the tumult of feelings associated with it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

June 24, 2011

Will of Hugette Clark, reclusive mining heiress

Last month I posted about the death of Hugette Clark in Long, Strange, Solitary Life. 

Now her will has been filed and the Reclusive mining heiress leaves $33.6 million to doting Filipino nurse...on top of the four properties worth $2 million already gifted to her

A reclusive mining heiress who died at the age of 104 has left $30million to a doting nurse who took care of her for two decades.

Huguette Clark, who died last month, spent 70 years locked away in her sprawling New York mansion, only emerging for medical appointments.

But instead of leaving her vast $400 million fortune to surviving relatives, the Montana millionairess gifted 60-year-old Filipino-born Hadassah Peri $33.6 million.

After taxes and other donations, what is left of Mrs Clark's fortune - an estimated $275 million - will go to establishing the Bellosguardo art Foundation at her untouched 24-acre Santa Barbara estate.

The money will be used to house the reclusive millionaire's rare art collection, which includes works by Renoir and John Singer Sargent as well music instruments including a Stradivarius violin and rare books.

In a statement, the reclusive Mrs Peri said: 'I saw Madame Clark virtually every day for the 20 years.

'I was her private duty nurse but also her close friend. I knew her as a kind and generous person, with whom I shared many wonderful moments and whom I loved very much.

I am profoundly sad at her passing, awed at the generosity she has shown me and my family, and eternally grateful.

'Just as Madame Clark demonstrated kindness toward others in her actions, so, too, will I and my family devote a substantial portion of this bequest toward making the world a better place for all people.'

Of course there will be a will contest by relatives.  I'm for the nurse who loved her and cared for her for 20 years and who seems properly grateful for her windfall.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2009

Nicholas Hughes, R.I.P.

The sad news that Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath, committed suicide 46 years after his mother gassed herself while he slept.

The effects of suicide ripple out

Dr Hughes’s parents split up before he was 1, his father leaving Plath for Assia Wevill, the exotic wife of another poet. The winter that followed was unrelentingly harsh. Struggling to get by on very little money as a single parent with two young children, Plath’s fragile mental state collapsed. She wrote many of her finest poems in a final burst of creativity and killed herself early one February morning.

Six years later Wevill, who had lived with Hughes and the children for much of the intervening period, also gassed herself. It was March 23, 1969 – 40 years ago today – and her death differed from Plath’s in one appalling respect: she had murdered four-year-old Shura in the process.

and down through the generations.

....but his life had also moved on. A family friend said last night: “Nick wasn’t just the baby son of Plath and Hughes and it would be wrong to think of him as some kind of inevitably tragic figure. He was a man who reached his mid-forties, an adventurous marine biologist with a distinguished academic career behind him and a host of friends and achievements in his own right. That is the man who is mourned by those who knew him.”

It appears Dr. Hughes was battling depression.  I would not be at all surprised if,  in his depression, he thought the only way out was the way shown by his mother and the woman who succeeded her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2009

Popcorn Sutton

A Likker Legend's Last F.U.

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton was told to report to federal prison tomorrow for an 18-month stint after he was busted yet again for making his famed White Lightning. On Monday, Sutton went out on his own terms.

Sutton was one of the last of his kind: an unrepentant Appalachian moonshiner with a reputation for great "likker" and a penchant for pissing off the authorities

Click here to see his tombstone.

Famed bootlegger chose death over prison, widow says

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Famed Appalachian moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, whose incorrigible bootlegging ways were as out of step with modern times as his hillbilly beard and overalls, took his own life rather than go to prison for making white lightning, his widow says.
"He couldn't go to prison. His mind would just not accept it. ... So credit the federal government for my husband being dead, I really do," Pam Sutton said Wednesday from the couple's home in the Parrottsville community.
A few hours earlier she had buried Sutton, 62, in a private ceremony in the mountains around Haywood County, N.C., where he grew up.

Sutton — nicknamed "Popcorn" for smashing up a 10-cent popcorn machine in a bar with a pool cue in his 20s — looked like a living caricature of a mountain moonshiner. He wore a long gray beard, faded overalls, checkered shirt and feathered fedora. He made his home in Cocke County, where cockfighting and moonshining are legend.

Sky Sutton is a New England historian and raised in Massachusetts who discovered while researching her paternal genealogy that her biological father was Popcorn Sutton.    Her blog contains excerpts from her book, Daddy Moonshine.

“It isn't surprising that Popcorn has attracted so much attention. His slippery craft and his old-timey antics appeal to something in our collective past. His overalls can be seen as the blue denim flag of old pick-up trucks and cork-plugged clay jugs. His colorless hat is the nod of a gentleman, his beard the badge of a wild man. His high reedy voice carries the echoes of banjos and fiddles. His stealth and focus speak volumes for the cunning and moxie of who he is: a Smokey Mountain moonshine master.”

You can hear his high reedy voice on his YouTube video showing how to make moonshine


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 PM | Permalink

Revenge from beyond the grave

Mother leaves  $40k to hospice and nothing to daughters who tried to evict her from her home.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.  But few would go as far as Megan Swanston, who waited until after her death to get back at her three daughters for trying to throw her out of her home.

Instead of sharing her £20,000 estate between them, it emerged yesterday that she changed her will to give all the money to the hospice where she spent her last months.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2009

A legacy of embarrassment

I got to thinking about that brush when I read that a colleague of Tom Daschle had said that his tax woes — not to mention the lucrative private-sector temptations he gave into — may have stemmed from his desire to make enough money to lay a fat nest egg for his children.

It is hard to see how riding in a free limo benefits future generations, but even if I give Mr. Daschle the benefit of the doubt, I cannot help but note the paradox here. A man’s desire to provide his progeny with a big score has resulted in him saddling them with a very different sort of inheritance — a legacy of embarrassment.

My Children Made Me Do It

He was, for all his faults, an honorable man. It was a quality that sometimes held him back, especially during the 1980s, when many of his colleagues were eviscerating their corporation to create the private fortunes that they would one day leave to their own children. My father refused all that because he was more concerned with maintaining his good name.

That sense of decency, his good name, is what he passed on to us. Looking at some of the shamelessly greedy men he worked with, it is an inheritance I am happy to have.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2009

Catching up on Grave Matters

My apologies for not posing over the holidays and my best wishes to all my readers for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Now catching up on grave matters, the North East Lincolnshire Council bans mourners from laying artificial flowers on graves because of the health and safety risk.

While the $10M lottery ticket Donald Peters bought just hours before he suffered a fatal heart attack and died  stunned his widow who only found she won when she took tickets  that had been pinned to a calendar for two months after his death to the local convenience store before throwing them out.   

"It's just such a shock," Peters, who has three children and two grandchildren, said. "I still don't believe it. In 20 years, we've won two, maybe three dollars - but never more than that."
"There's nothing that I really and truly want," Peters said, adding that she already saved up enough to replace her car. "I have a mobile [home] that I love, so I doubt I'll be moving."

Instead of dwelling on what to buy, Charlotte Peters said her thoughts have been on her husband and how grateful she is she decided not to toss his final gift to her. "I had just never handled the lottery tickets," she said. "I'm still surprised that I bothered to have them checked."

The 2008 Darwin awards are out and so far The Balloon Priest is the people's choice, a double Darwin.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas operated rocket launchers from a cemetery to shoot missles into Israel were destroyed by the IDF.  The small bodies of the children of a Hamas leader, a mentor of suicide bombers, one of the top five decision makers in Hamas  were paraded around the streets of Gaza to incite 'painful' revenge, in a ghoulish display far worse than waving the bloody shirt.

Nizar Rayan, his four wives and 10 of his children were all killed by in an Israeli air strike on his home after he ignored warnings they should go into hiding.

In grisly scenes, mourners held up the bloodied bodies of the children to the cameras in a clear attempt to blacken Israel's name and highlight its brutality.

There's more Hamas propaganda using obviously fake photos as documented in The Breath of the Beast that appears to have gulled PBS and 3 year old videos dupe many in the liberal blogosphere.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 AM | Permalink

July 1, 2008

The Elements of Furniture Inheritance

So just what do you plan to do with all the stuff you will inherit? 

Tyranny of the Heirloom

You love it; you keep it.  You hate it; you give it away.  You hate it; you keep it.

It seems " Ambivalence and guilt,..are central elements of furniture inheritance"

“It doesn’t go with anything in the apartment,” he says. “It makes no sense whatsoever and yet I’ve kept it because it’s both interesting and he loved it. I’m not crazy about it, my wife’s not crazy about it, but it’s one of the last vestiges of things he’s left.
This settee, she says, belonged to a well-to-do great-great-aunt named Nelly, who lived with her husband and 4-year-old daughter in Philadelphia in the early 1900s. The child died of typhoid. After her death, the couple closed the house and never returned. It remained closed for 35 years. How could Ms. Bryant ever get rid of the red settee? Get rid of the family furniture and you’re sure to lose the stories, she says; you’ll lose your history

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 AM | Permalink