“We went to Kineshma, that’s in Ivanovo region, to visit his parents. I went as a heroine and I never expected someone to welcome me, a front-line girl, like that. We’ve gone through so much, we’ve saved lives, lifes of mothers, wives. And then… I heard accusations, I was bad-mouthed. Before that I’ve only ever been “dear sister”… We had tea and my husband’s mother took him aside and started crying: “Who did you marry? A front-line girl… You have two younger sisters. Who’s going to marry them now?” When I think back to that moment I feel tears welling up. Imagine: I had a record, I loved it a lot. There was a song, it said: you have the right to wear the best shoes. That was about a front-line girl. I had it playing, and [his?] elder sister came up and broke it apart, saying: you have no rights. They destroyed all my photos from the war… We, front-line girls, went through so much during hte war… and then we had another war. Another terrible war. The men left us, they didn’t cover our backs. Not like at the front.” from С.Алексеевич “У войны не женское лицо”
In Soviet Union women participating in WWII were erased from history, remaining as the occasional anecdote of a female sniper or simply as medical staff or, at best, radio specialists. The word “front-line girl” (frontovichka) became a terrible insult, synonimous to “whore”. Hundreds thousand of girls who went to war to protect their homeland with their very lives, who came back injured or disabled, with medals for valor, had to hide it to protect themselves from public scorn.
Main control room at the K-25 uranium enrichment plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee, 1944
A tea party with Hitler, and other banal scenes by Hugo Jaeger, 1939
The trouble with [SS colonel] Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together. —Hannah Arendt
Takasago Maru in service from Japan to Taiwan, 1936
The ocean liner was converted to a navy hospital ship in 1941, and used to repatriate some of the millions of Japanese soldiers left in China after WWII. She was scrapped in 1956.
The end of the world is a common fantasy, for reasons I don’t fully understand, but some people have actually experienced the end of a world - their world - not at the hands of any wrathful god, but through the work of ordinary men. In Grave of the Fireflies Isao Takahata tells the tragic story of two children who survive the American firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945. Robert McNamara (later Secretary of Defense) served in the Air Force under General Curtis LeMay during WWII. In the excellent documentary Fog of War he says,
I was on the island of Guam in his command in March of 1945. In that single night, we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo: men, women, and children… 50 square miles of Tokyo were burned. Tokyo was a wooden city, and when we dropped these firebombs, it just burned it… I think the issue is: in order to win a war should you kill 100,000 people in one night, by firebombing or any other way?
LeMay said, “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?
A poster showing theoretical bomber ranges to Japan from Vladivostok (Soviet Union), Hong Kong (U.K.), Luzon (United States), and the Aleutian Islands (United States), 1938