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Indigenous or Insane

Last month, the Dallas City Council, with a majority of whose members who wish to signal their supposed virtue, approved a paid holiday for city employees for what they decided would be called Indigenous People’s Day. It’s actually to be commemorated on October 11, a Monday, rather than the traditional October 12, which is the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus made landfall on an island in the Bahamas. When a city employee those many years ago, I suppose would have been grateful for a another paid holiday, but as a non-employee taxpayer, am now less enthusiastic. Even so, because I regard myself as indigenous, having been born in this country and hemisphere, and also recognize the heroism of the man to venture into the unknown, I observe the day, and encourage all other fellow indigenous persons to do so, along with our immigrants who have come here lawfully.

As a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, and the efforts of a number of prominent Italian-Americans, including the colorful Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno, Congress requested President Franklin Roosevelt to proclaim October 12 as a day in which the people of the United States are invited to observe the anniversary of the discovery of America. Columbus Day was made federal holiday in 1966. Such observance has recently been criticized, sometimes violently, by the left-wing in the United States.

I have posted several essays regarding the recent trashing of Christopher Columbus and various monuments to him in recent years his sin being the inauguration of European colonization and the subsequent globalization of trade, industrialization, and Western Civilization. Those interested can read the posts at these links. https://bobreagan13.com/2020/10/12/celebrate-columbus-day/

Last year’s post mentioned one Richard Taylor, an adjunct professor of history at St. John’s College in Queens, one of New York City’s boroughs. Taylor was disciplined and ultimately fired for opening a discussion in his class as to whether the benefits outweighed some of the negatives of the globalization that Columbus’ voyages of discovery began. The professor was accused of all kinds of supposed heinousness, which amounted to being politically incorrect in a university where some students with nothing better to do denounced him and whose administration is terrified of being non-woke. Taylor is fighting back. One Ronald Russo, a partner in a prominent New York City law firm, is representing Taylor pro bono, and with the backing of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have sued the college and several of its administrators individually. See https://www.thefire.org/taylor-v-st-johns-february-4-2021/

The FIRE has had remarkable success in defending students, faculty, and in some cases, administrators and employees of universities and colleges whose ability to examine controversial idea and academic freedom have been violated. Of course, private institutions are not necessarily held to Constitutional rights standards as are state-supported and sponsored ones. Nevertheless, a private university or college is held to the same laws concerning defamation, contract duties, and employment practices is anyone else. One hopes that Taylor is successful and St. John’s is held to its publicly stated mission of free inquiry.

Note: This writer is a donor to and supporter of The FIRE, but not otherwise affiliated with the organization.

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Fantasia or Brave New World?

Someone opined recently that Joe Biden is either the Beatles “Nowhere Man” (siting in his nowhere land) or “The Fool on the Hill”(which could also apply to numerous members of Congress). Gerard Baker, a regular Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist came up with a even more apt characterization. “Mr. Biden is Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Walt Disney’s brilliant, nightmarish “Fantasia.” He’s seized the magician’s big hat and now everything he touches becomes a cascading waterfall of destruction.” Baker continues “The Biden presidency is a metastasizing shambles, a real-world case study in the perils of progressive impossibilism: open borders; fiscal incontinence; naive strategic idealism; mask-wielding, mandate-waving, dissent-canceling, authoritarian collectivism.”1 Amen to that.

Pres. J. Biden (with sincere apologies to Mickey and the late Walt Disney)

1. Wall Street Journal Tuesday October 5, 2021, p.17 (print edition)

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A Noteworthy Passing

            This past Sunday, September 26, 2021, Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold died at the age of 94. She had a storied career in Texas as a politician in the late 1960s into the ‘70s. She later became president of Wells College in New York state. May she rest in peace.

            Sissy Farenthold[1] was a standout leftist among Texas Democrats, when there were still mainly conservatives in that party. She was elected to the legislature in 1968, and in 1971, was a member the so-called “Dirty 30” a coalition of legislators—would you believe Republicans with Democrats—formed mainly in response to the high-handed conduct of then House Speaker Gus Mutscher.

            Farenthold then later ran for governor in 1972, and again in 1974, both times unsuccessfully.[2] She left Texas politics in 1976 to become president of Wells College, an all-women’s school, until 1980.[3]  She was and remained a supporter of nearly all of the left wing’s issues and programs, though she had little success in bringing any to fruition in Texas.

            Ms. Farenthold’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in the governor’s race excited many on the left. Her unabashed fully liberal (nowadays term progressive) primary campaign caught nationwide attention. Her three Democratic opponents incumbent Governor Preston Smith, Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, and Uvalde rancher Dolph Briscoe were all polar opposites to her in ideology. Farenthold received more votes than either Barnes or Smith.  Ultimately, however, Briscoe won the nomination, and went on to win the governorship over Republican Henry (Hank) Grover in a close race.

            Farenthold’s celebrity in Texas propelled her into being considered to be a Vice-presidential candidate in 1972. That year saw the national Democratic Party implode by nominating George McGovern to run against incumbent President Richard Nixon. McGovern, who qualified as a leftist in those day, lost by a landslide, with Nixon receiving the electoral votes of 49 states. The Party recovered by the 1974 national midterms because of the Watergate scandal.

            During her campaign, I actually met Farenthold and shook her hand at an event in Denton, Texas. I found her to be overly intense and totally humorless, and, of course, disagreed with her political philosophy. My attendance was more curiosity than anything else, I did vote for her in the 1972 Democratic primary. That was my Machiavellian moment, going along with many other Republicans who, believing Hank Grover was the sure Republican nominee for governor, jumped party lines to vote for the Democrat who would be easier to beat in the general election than any of the other three Democrats.[4]

            It was never likely that Farenthold would win. Texas was as reliably conservative then as now.[5] The Lone Star State’s brief flirtation with center-left Ann Richards in the early ‘90s was an aberration. (Richards won in 1990 mainly because her Republican opponent Clayton Williams was as gaffe prone as Joe Biden, and otherwise a terrible candidate.) There are those, however, that believe Sissy was a trailblazer for Ann. Perhaps.

            Farenthold’s pedigree was what you might expect from a latte liberal. Her grandfather was a lawyer and Court of Appeals judge in Houston. She was educated at the Hockaday School here in Dallas, an elite (and expensive) all-girls school. She attended and graduated from Vassar in New York, and then the University of Texas law school.[6] Before her political career she practiced law in her father’s law firm. Farenthold epitomized what I recently heard one Nzube Olisaebuka Udezue aka Zuby (a British rapper no less) say that it is easy to signal virtue and promote all kinds of government altruistic and expensive programs, social and otherwise, when you’re not affected by them. Nevertheless, Sissy Farenthold remains an interesting part of Texas political history.

Endnotes

[1]   Some news media back then spelled her nickname “Cissy”

[2]. Texas Governors then were elected for two-year terms. That changed in 1974.

[3]. Wells College became co-educational in 2006.

[4]. Unfortunately Niccolo Machiavelli, like George Orwell, is put in a false light by the use of his name to describe nefarious political maneuvering. His work The Prince related the deviousness in Renaissance Italian politics, but did not advocate their use.

[5]. Republican Bill Clements was elected in 1978. Conservative Democrat Mark White edged him out in 1982, but Clements came back and won again in 1986.

[6]. The Law library at the University of Texas is named after her grandfather, Benjamin Dudley Tarlton.


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9/11/2021

One reader, who lives elsewhere now, commented on my photos in a prior post, and asked if Flagpole Hill at White Rock Lake in Dallas was still there. As of 7:00 a.m. today it was. Here it is, flag and all.

Flag Pole Hill (view from the north)
Flag Pole Hill (view from the south)

On this the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacked on New York City and the Pentagon, there will be many word written. My poor writing efforts do not have much to add, except to note that the Flag still flies here, and many other places throughout that Nation and the world. It will continue to do so.

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Photos on the Bike Trail

Sunrise at White Rock Lake

DART Tracks at Greenville Avenue

White Rock Creek at Park Central

Mantis Praying
Downtown Dallas
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

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The First Tesla

When one hears the name Tesla today, the first thought is the electric motor vehicle developed by entrepreneur Elon Musk. This inventor (whose name sounds like a character from another world in Star Trek or Star Wars) doubtless got his car’s name from that of another inventor who had a profound effect on our daily lives, but who most people are unfamiliar with. I’m sure Elon hopes he can do the same.

Nikola Tesla’s (1852– 1943) contribution to the development of technology of electricity delivery was overshadowed in the public mind by those of his contemporaries Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Westinghouse. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, a controversy emerged as to whether electricity would be delivered to consumers and industry via alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). Edison argued that DC was better and safer, while Westinghouse championed AC, primarily because it could transmit electric current long distances. Tesla’s invention of the induction motor and dynamo, which generated AC in multi-phase current, was an efficient and economical device. He received a patent and licensed it to Westinghouse. This won the controversy for AC 60 cycle current that we have in the U.S. today.

Tesla has become the subject of another controversy in the present. He was born in Smiljan, Austrian Empire, which is in Croatia today. His father was a priest in the Serbian branch of the Orthodox Church, which is closely aligned with the Russian church. Tesla emigrated to the United States in 1884, became an American citizen in 1991, and spent the rest of his life in the Northeast where he created and perfected his inventions. Now, because he was born in Croatia, but in a family that was Serbian at least by religion, both countries claim his legacy. The current dispute arose this year when Croatia voted to put Tesla’s likeness on its new Euro coins. Serbia, which has Tesla’s image on its currency, protested and vows retaliation for Croatia’s “cultural appropriation.” Heard that accusation in other contexts before, haven’t we.

Some background is in order. Subsequent to World War I, Serbia and Croatia, together with Slovenia (where our most recent former First Lady was born), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia were united in a nation termed Yugoslavia. That name is an English rendition of “southern Slavs,” and was originally called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It was a shotgun wedding from the beginning. Serbs regarded it as a “Greater Serbia” to the Croats’ and Slovenes’ chagrin. It was held together by a military dictatorship first styled as a monarchy, and then, after World War II, as a Communist regime not aligned with Soviet Russia. It was somewhat of a buffer between the Western and Eastern Blocs until the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union imploded.

Harvard Professor and political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, in his great work The Clash of Civilizations, published in 1996, identified nine current civilizations or cultures in today’s world. According to Professor Huntington, a civilization is the broadest cultural entity. Religion (defined broadly) is the central, but not only, defining characteristic. Others include language, history, customs, institutions. Civilizations are not determined by biological race or ethnicity although often are related; individuals can and do assimilate. Religious based wars were common in centuries past, and to some degree, a religious element persists in warfare today. These civilizations/cultures generally get along, but are to some degree antagonistic to one another. What Huntington called “fault-lines” were geographical areas where cultures have mutually conflicting interests. These often create actual wars of varying intensity.

Yugoslavia was the site of one of Huntington’s fault-lines. There it was tripartite. Though each group could be regarded as ethnically Slavic, Serbs were Orthodox Christians, Croats were Western (by virtue of being Roman Catholic), and Bosniaks were Muslim/ Islamic. (Whether all or most were observant in their faith is not the point; it’s the culture that comes from the religious tradition that matters.) A similar fault-line exists in Kashmir, where Islamic and Hindu cultures meet.

In the 1990s Yugoslavia disintegrated in a series of bloody wars. These conflicts included atrocities against civilians, resulting in war crimes charges against Serbian leaders in the International Criminal Court. Most of the fighting was in Bosnia, where the three populations had mixed for many decades. The United Nations, NATO, and the United States all at one time or another became involved. When some semblance of peace was restored, six states emerged, among them Croatia and Serbia.

It is doubtful that the dispute over Tesla’s legacy will result in war between those states. Perhaps the European Union (EU), or whoever manages the Euro currency, will decide whether Croatia’s use of Tesla’s image on its coins is okay. If not, the dispute will probably go no further than an exchange of nastygrams.

Who really has the best claim to Nikola Tesla’s legacy? In my view, neither Serbia nor Croatia does. Given the level of technological sophistication in either place, it is doubtful that he could have accomplished his inventive work in either. The United States of America has the best claim. Certainly those Balkan states can honor him, but his real monument is here. We see it every time we flip on a light switch.

For another report of the present difficulty, please see: The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2021, p.1 (print edition)
or

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tesla-feud-nikola-tesla-croatia-serbia-elon-musk-11629830487

See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (Simon & Schuster 1996, 367 pages). Huntington’s nine current civilizations are Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox (primarily Russian), Buddhist, and Japanese. The Western is most conflictual with the Islamic and Sinic (China). The Islamic (no surprise) is conflictual with all except Latin American, with which it has little contact. Huntington, writing in the early 1990s, also indicates that there is little Islamic-Sinic conflict. Not sure he would agree today.

See also, Council on Foreign Relations, The Clash if Civilizations? The Debate (2nd ed. 2010). A collection of essays supporting and disputing Huntington’s thesis, including his article first published in Foreign Affairs (Summer 1993). For anyone interested, the article is a summary of the book, and a lot shorter.

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Kerfuffle Redux

Or, the beat goes on.

Flying the American flag or standing for and singing the Star Spangled Banner, or conversely, showing disdain or even disrespect to those symbols, seem to have become partisan political statements. These acts have become to define whether one adhere to the political right or left. Is this the wave of the future, an Armageddon whose winner will rule? Well, probably not. It’s been done before. Read the following copy.

The Dallas Morning News, November 4, 1970

Mr. Baskin was the Washington bureau chief for the News when he wrote this over 50 years ago. It could have been written today.

Cheers!

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245 Years and Counting

On the occasion of July 4th 11 years ago this blog featured an essay parsing our Declaration of Independence. [1] The essay has been re-posted a number of times, including on the same occasion last year. It has not previously addressed the bill of particulars — the list of accusations leveled against King George III.[2] A reader suggested that I might write an essay pointing out the clauses in the Constitution that sought to ameliorate or prevent abuses similar to King George’s transgressions.

It is the structure of the Constitution for the most part, rather than specific clauses or provisions, that provides a mechanism for removing the facility for those abuses of which the King was accused. First and foremost the Constitution created a federal system of government with limited and delegated powers, not an all-powerful central sovereign. The powers of sovereignty are separated and shared by the several States and the government of United States, which itself is separated into independent legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Article 1, Section 8 delegates subjects upon which Congress may legislate; and Section 9 of that Article specifically prohibits certain acts by Congress. The States, inherently sovereign, are limited by the Constitution in certain ways described in Article I, section 10, and in a number of the Amendments. The 10th Amendment provides that the powers not delegated to the United States nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or the people.[3]

Thus, the Constitution’s structure was designed to provide a mechanism to inhibit a central authority, and to some degree the several States, from committing the abuses described in the Declaration.

More specifically, the Declaration complained of the dependence of the judiciary and the military upon the will of the King. The Constitution provides that the federal court justices and judges are appointed by the President, but must be confirmed by the Senate, and once confirmed cannot be removed from office, except by impeachment for bad behavior. They may not be coerced or punished by having their compensation reduced. While the President, an elected civilian, is the commander-in-chief of the military forces, only Congress can declare war. [4] Funding of the defense establishment, or at least the Army, is dependent upon appropriations by Congress. Such appropriations cannot be made for more than two years at a time.[5]

The Declaration complained that King George denied the American colonists trial by jury, and that they were transported “beyond the Seas” to be tried for crimes. The Constitution, Article III, Section 2, specifically provides a right to be tried by jury in criminal cases and such trial must be held in the State where the crime has been committed. The Fifth Amendment was enacted to provide further protection of persons accused of crime from arbitrary and capricious prosecutions by requiring an indictment by a grand jury, and other procedural safeguards.[6]

One enumerated abuse in the Declaration was the quartering of British troops on private property in the colonies without the owner’s consent. While the belief that this included private family homes became widespread, at least one historian has determined this to be a myth. It is interesting that the Quartering Act of 1774 expired three months before July 4, 1776. The Constitution’s Third Amendment addressed this abuse, though an issue concerning it has never been the subject of any judicial action.[7]

This is been a commentary, short because of the press of time, regarding the significant events that led to the formation of our country. There may be more to come, stay tuned.

But today, we wish a happy birthday to the United States of America, and despite the trials and tribulations that have occurred, and will doubtless continue, may it survive for another 245 years.

Endnotes

[1] https://wordpress.com/post/bobreagan13.com/593

[2] While the King had to give the Royal Assent to the laws, it was the Parliament and Prime Minister who made the policy. No British monarch has vetoed an act of Parliament since Queen Anne’s reign (1702–1714).

[3] The 10th Amendment appears to have been ignored when Congress and Presidents have found it politically expedient to do so. Never let a crisis go to waste, someone said. The Great Depression of the 1930s, and World War II, spurred Congress, with the ultimate approval of the judiciary, to expand the meaning of the regulatory power of commerce in Article 1, Section 8 (second clause) to encompass nearly everything that has even the most tenuous effect on interstate commerce. There has been some push-back in recent decades, but not much.

[4] Eight Presidents were army generals at some point prior to taking office. The first was George Washington. The most recent was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

[5] The last time Congress declared war was subsequent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor commencing United States’ involvement in World War II. The constitutional requirement for Congressional declaration of war has not prevented Presidents from using the Armed Forces to fight wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and use the military to achieve objectives on a number of other occasions.

[6] The grand jury has been described as both a shield and a sword. In the federal system, it is more the latter. It is a method of requiring individuals to appear and testify under oath, with few protections other than a right not to say anything that might be self-incriminating, and has often been abused in that regard. It is really not much of a shield. Grand juries generally do what the prosecutor wants. There is a saying among criminal defense lawyers that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutors want it to. A timely article by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in the Wall Street Journal maintains that prosecutions are all political at least in part. July 3, 2021, p. A13. (The day before this essay was posted.)

[7] David Ammerman, “The Tea Crisis and its Consequences, through 1775” Greene, Jack P.; Pole, J. R. (eds.). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

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Can’t Compete

The high points of the horse racing season in the U. S. are the Triple Crown event in May and June — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. The Derby especially is famous for its champion three-year-old Thoroughbreds, but also for the side show parade of well-healed spectators showing of their finery, which includes women’s hats.

At Britain’s Royal Ascot, currently being held, the actual race is the sideshow. Witness:

June 2021

WOW!

The Brits knowhow to do it.

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June 6 at 77

On this June 6, its is again appropriate to repeat an essay I wrote and published almost a decade ago (with an update). Here goes.

The pleasant town of Bayeux in northern France is famous for its eponymous tapestry depicting the events leading to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Across from the railway station there is a café that serves cold beer and the apple cider the region is also famous for. That establishment bears a sign in English “Welcome to our liberators.” The sign might appear to be incongruous to some of us, except that ten kilometers to the northwest is a bluff overlooking a sandy expanse along the English Channel that for the past seventy-five years has been known to the world as Omaha Beach.

Many words will be written and spoken on this 77th anniversary of D-Day, the beginning of what General Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade” to end the Nazi occupation of Europe, and ultimately win World War II. Today, the word “crusade” is politically incorrect in some circles as being offensive to those who have vowed to kill us and actually have achieved some success in doing so. And we have become accustomed to euphemisms, direct and to the point speech being too harsh for our sensitive ears. That is just as well. The loudest, and most eloquent, statements to be made come from the 10,000 American graves at the top of the cliff and the sound of the waves below.

When visiting the beach even this long after the fact, it is not difficult to picture the horror and chaos experienced by the soldiers and sailors who stormed ashore that day. The Germans had fortified nearly the entire coastline of France, as well as the coasts of other occupied countries, into what was called the Atlantic Wall. Various barriers and obstacles had been placed in the water offshore to prevent landing craft from reaching dry land, and to channel invaders into killing zones covered by machine gun bunkers dug into the 100 feet high cliffs above. This required the assault to be made at low tide, leaving a 300 yard open expanse of sand to traverse before the slightest natural cover could be reached. Above the high tide line is another 50 yard stretch of loose sand. Walking unencumbered on loose sand can be difficult; running with 60 pounds of weaponry and equipment, all the while facing withering small arms and artillery fire, has to have been a nearly superhuman feat. Many of the invaders did not make it; that so many did is a credit to the quality of the military training and preparation, as well as the fortitude and power of the survival instinct of the troops. The actual film footage in the Normandy episode of the Victory at Sea documentary demonstrated some of the difficulty, but the bloodiest parts had to have been edited to make it suitable for a 1950s home audience. The fictional first 24 minutes of the film Saving Private Ryan might more accurately portray the horror and difficulty of the assault, but still may be an understatement.

Eisenhower said in his address to the American, British, and Canadian service members who were about to land on the beaches: Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. They were about to discover that he got that right.

It could have been worse. A major part of the plan was to deceive the defenders as to where and when the attack would be made. As previously mentioned, the entire coast-line was fortified. The defending German army was battle-hardened, and exceptionally well-led by Field Marshals Gerd von Runstedt and Erwin Rommel. Their main problem was manpower and munitions. Five years of war, and the continuing demands of the Russian front in the east made critical to the defenders the knowledge of the place and time of the landings. The deception, with some cooperation from the weather, worked. The German defenders were caught off guard at Normandy, and were unable to bring the full weight of their forces to bear until a beachhead was established. But in spite of the withering fire and the obstructions, even Omaha Beach was taken by day’s end. The Americans didn’t get much farther that day, though, and the casualties were huge. This beachhead, established by those soldiers, whose ranks are now thinning day by day, made it possible to end the war in Europe. Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered eleven months and two days after D-Day. Those few that are left, and those who passed before them, merit the gratitude of us all.

For every victor there is a vanquished. So it must be added that within five years of the victory, the United States, and to some degree Great Britain and France, have become allies, if not friends with Germany during forty years of Cold War, and beyond. There was no doubt then, or today, that the German Army was fighting on behalf of evil masters and a bad cause. Soldiers, most of whom in World War II were not fighting because they wanted to, can nevertheless fight honorably for an ignoble cause (or dishonorably for a good cause, for that matter). Soldiers know this, and once the fighting is over, they are often more inclined than the civilians far from the horrors to let bygones be bygones.

A poignant story related in a British history magazine relates the ordeal of two soldiers, an American and a German defender who shot him at Omaha Beach. Both survived the war. Heinrich Severloh manned a machinegun in a bunker in the cliff. He estimated that he fired over 12,000 rounds before he ran out of ammunition for it, and then picked up his carbine to continue shooting at the attacking Americans. Three of Severloh’s rounds hit David Silva, as he and other GIs were scrambling for cover on the beach. The German was later captured and held in a POW camp until some time after the end of the war. He was repatriated in 1946 and took up farming. After reading Cornelius Ryan’s book The Longest Day, published in 1959, Severloh learned that he was the one shot Silva. In 1963, the two former adversaries met each other in Germany. Silva, by that time had taken Holy Orders as a Catholic priest. The two formed a friendship, as former soldiers who fought honorably for opposing sides are often known to do, and corresponded for many years. They both suffered of the circumstances that attend the fog and maelstrom of war.

But the story of Severloh and Silva’s later relationship is only an aside. The honor today goes to Silva and his fellow servicemen who stormed the beaches on the fateful day. They we salute.