68th Anniversary of Hiroshima

From Voice of America, August 6, 2013:

Japan observed a minute of silence Tuesday to mark the 68th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

Survivors and relatives of victims were among 50,000 people gathered at a peace park in Hiroshima for a somber ceremony.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the crowd Japan has a unique responsibility to push for the end of nuclear weapons.

“We Japanese are history’s sole victims of the nuclear attack of the nuclear attack and we have the certain responsibility to bring about a world without nuclear weapons,” Abe said. “And it is our duty to continue to remind the world of [nuclear weapons’] inhumanity.”

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui made a similar pledge, calling nuclear bombs the “ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil.”

About 140,000 were killed in the days following the August 6, 1945 U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. Three days later, U.S. planes dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing about 70,000 more.

The U.S. and its allies have argued the bombings were necessary and helped save lives by convincing Japan to surrender, bringing a quicker end to World War II.

The sensitive anniversary comes as Japan wrestles over a debate about the role of nuclear energy, following the country’s 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.

Almost all of Japan’s nuclear power plants remain shut down following the meltdowns at Fukushima, which spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to flee.

Prime Minister Abe and his party want to restart the plants following safety inspections, but the plan has proved controversial for many in the energy-dependent nation.

Since the accident, there have been repeated safety concerns at the Fukushima power plant, where operators are struggling to contain radiation-contaminated water.

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Ancient “Hall of Dead” Unearthed in England

Tia Ghose in LiveScience.com August 1, 2013:

Archaeologists have unearthed two nearly 6,000-year-old burial mounds and the remains of two massive buildings in England.

The two wooden long-buildings, or halls, were burnt to the ground; the ashes were then shoveled in to make burial mounds.

“The buildings seemed to have been deliberately burned down,” said Julian Thomas, the archaeologist leading the excavation and a professor at the University of Manchester.

Researchers believe these halls of the living may have been transformed into “halls of the dead” after a leader or important social figure died. [The 10 Weirdest Ways We Deal with the Dead]

Ancient site

The find was uncovered in an open field near Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire in the UK. For decades, amateur archaeologists have noticed pieces of flint blades in the area and wondered whether the land there contained relics of a long-forgotten time.

When Thomas and his team began excavating, they found two large burial mounds, or barrows, that could have held anywhere from seven to 30 people each.

The smaller barrow contained a 23-foot-long (7 meters) mortuary chamber with sockets for two huge tree trunks. Digging deeper, the researchers uncovered postholes, ash from the timbers, and charred clay from the walls of an ancient structure.

These burnt remains came from what were once two long-halls, the biggest of which was up to 230 feet (70 m) long, with aisles delineated by wooden posts and several internal spaces.

Though it’s not clear exactly who built the halls and barrows, the building construction is similar to that found in England between 4000 B.C. and 3600 B.C, predating the construction of Stonehenge by up to 1,000 years.

The period was one of social upheaval, when the original hunter-gatherer culture in the area gave way to an agricultural lifestyle with much more rigid social hierarchies.

“These are communities for whom the inheritance and maintenance of wealth becomes important,” Thomas said.

Evidence from the current and other sites suggests the community deliberately burned the structures down

“Although the roof and doors of wattle and daub will burn quite quickly, the main timbers will take a long time to be burned, and that requires you to feed the fire,” possibly over several days, Thomas told LiveScience.

Memorial structure

Neolithic people may have originally built the large halls as communal gathering spaces.

But once some critical event happened about 50 to 100 years later — perhaps the death of a leader or important social figure — the community probably burnt the halls to the ground to commemorate the event, using the ashes to make large burial structures, Thomas said.

The discovery strengthens the idea that prehistoric people saw a strong connection between the houses of the living and those of the dead. Under this view, ancient tombs were seen as representations of dwelling places for the living.

“Archaeologists have talked for a long time about the idea that you’ve got a relationship between houses of the living and houses of dead,” Thomas said. “Here, you’ve got it manifested in the sense that the debris of a house was incorporated into a tomb.”

The site drew people for generations. Long after the long halls were burned, people added a series of stone burial chambers to the grounds, Thomas said. The site also contains a flint axe and flint knife that were placed there up to 1,000 years after the hall was first erected.

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New Evidence Revealed at Richard III Site

Megan Gannon for Live Science, July 29, 2013:

King Richard III’s rediscovered resting place is turning out more mysteries this summer. Excavators finally lifted the heavy lid of a medieval stone coffin found at the site in Leicester, England, only to reveal another lead coffin inside.

The “coffin-within-a-coffin” is thought to have been sealed in the 13th or 14th century — more than 100 years before Richard, an infamous English king slain in battle, received his hasty burial in 1485.

The team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester thinks this grave in the Grey Friars monastery might contain one of the friary’s founders or a medieval knight. [Gallery: In Search of the Grave of Richard III]

“The inner coffin is likely to contain a high-status burial — though we don’t currently know who it contains,” reads a statement from the university.

The outer stone coffin measures about 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide at the head and 1 foot (0.3 meters) at the feet. Eight people were needed to remove its lid.
Richard III’s facial rebuildPlay video.”
Richard III’s facial rebuild

The lead funerary box inside has been carried off to the university, where researchers will conduct tests to determine the safest way to open it without damaging the remains. But so far, they’ve been able to get a look at the feet through a hole in the bottom of the inner coffin.

The archaeologists suspect the grave may belong to one of Grey Friar’s founders: Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330. Records also suggest “a knight called Mutton, sometime mayor of Leicester,” was buried at the site. This name may refer to the 14th-century knight Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died between 1356 and 1362, the researchers say.

“None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before,” archaeologist Mathew Morris, the Grey Friars site director, said in a statement. “We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don’t want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid.”

Richard III, the last king of the House of York, reigned from 1483 until 1485, when he was killed in battle during the War of Roses. He received a quick burial at the Grey Friars monastery in Leicester as his defeater, Henry Tudor, ascended to the throne.

Richard’s rise to power was controversial. His two young nephews, who had a claim to the throne, vanished from the Tower of London shortly before Richard became king, leading to rumors that he had them killed. After his death, Richard was demonized by the Tudor dynasty and his reputation as a power-hungry, muderous hunchback was cemented in William Shakespeare’s play “Richard III.” Meanwhile, Grey Friars was destroyed in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, and its ruins became somewhat lost to history.
What lies beneathPlay video.”
What lies beneath

Setting out to find the lost king, archaeologists started digging beneath a parking lot in Leicester last summer where they believed they would find Grey Friars. They soon uncovered the remains of the monastery and a battle-ravaged skeleton that was later confirmed through a DNA analysis to be that of Richard III.

In an effort to learn more about the church where Richard was buried — as well as the other people buried alongside him — a fresh dig at the site began in early July.

A King Richard III visitor center is being built at the site and arrangements are being made to reinter the king’s bones. The Cathedral of Leicester recently unveiled its $1.5 million (£1 million) plan to rebury the monarch in a new raised tomb inside the church, with a week of celebrations leading up to the reinterment.

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Little-Known WWII Internment Camp Discovered

Story by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press, July 27, 2013:

Deep in the mountains of northern Idaho, miles from the nearest town, lies evidence of a little-known portion of a shameful chapter of American history.

There are no buildings, signs or markers to indicate what happened at the site 70 years ago, but researchers sifting through the dirt have found broken porcelain, old medicine bottles and lost artwork identifying the location of the first internment camp where the U.S. government used people of Japanese ancestry as a workforce during World War II.

Today, a team of researchers from the University of Idaho wants to make sure the Kooskia Internment Camp isn’t forgotten to history.

“We want people to know what happened, and make sure we don’t repeat the past,” said anthropology professor Stacey Camp, who is leading the research.

It’s an important mission, said Charlene Mano-Shen of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle.

Mano-Shen said her grandfather was forced into a camp near Missoula, Mont., during WWII, and some of the nation’s responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 evoked memories of the Japanese internments. Muslims, she said Thursday, “have been put on FBI lists and detained in the same way my grandfather was.”

After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the nation into the second world war, about 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the West Coast were sent to internment camps. Nearly two-thirds were American citizens, and many were children. In many cases, people lost everything they had worked for in the U.S. and were sent to prison camps in remote locations with harsh climates.

Research such as the archaeological work underway at Kooskia (KOO’-ski) is vital to remembering what happened, said Janis Wong, director of communications for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

People need to be able “to physically see and visit the actual camp locations,” Wong said.

Giant sites where thousands of people were held — such as Manzanar in California, Heart Mountain in Wyoming and Minidoka in Idaho — are well-known. But Camp said even many local residents knew little about the tiny Kooskia camp, which operated from 1943 to the end of the war and held more than 250 detainees about 30 miles east of its namesake small town, and about 150 miles southeast of Spokane, Wash.

The camp was the first place where the government used detainees as a labor crew, putting them into service doing road work on U.S. Highway 12, through the area’s rugged mountains.

“They built that highway,” Camp said of the road that links Lewiston, Idaho, and Missoula, Mont.

Men from other camps volunteered to come to Kooskia because they wanted to stay busy and make a little money by working on the highway, Camp said. As a result, the population was all male, and mostly made up of more recent immigrants from Japan who were not U.S. citizens, she said.

Workers could earn about $50 to $60 a month for their labor, said Priscilla Wegars of Moscow, Idaho, who has written books about the Kooskia camp.

Kooskia was one of several camps operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that also received people of Japanese ancestry rounded up from Latin American countries, mostly Peru, Camp said. But it was so small and so remote that it never achieved the notoriety of the massive camps that held about 10,000 people each.

“I’m aware of it, but I don’t know that much about it,” said Frank Kitamoto, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Committee, based in Puget Sound, Wash., which works to maintain awareness of the camps.

After the war the camp was dismantled and largely forgotten. Using money from a series of grants, Camp in 2010 started the first archaeological work at the site. Some artifacts, such as broken china and buttons, were scattered on top of the ground, she said.

“To find stuff on the surface that has not been looted is rare,” she said.

Camp figures her work at the site could last another decade. Her team wants to create an accurate picture of the life of a detainee. She also wants to put signs up to show people where the internment camp was located.

Artifacts found so far include Japanese porcelain trinkets, dental tools and gambling pieces, she said. They have also found works of art created by internees.

“While it was a horrible experience, the people who lived in these camps resisted in interesting ways,” she said. “People in the camps figured out creative ways to get through this period of time.”

“They tried to make this place home,” she said.

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WWI German U-Boats Discovered Off UK Coast

Frank Thadeusz in Der Spiegel, July 21, 2013:

British archaeologists recently discovered more than 40 German U-boats sunk during World War I off the coast of England. Now they are in a race against time to learn the secrets hidden in their watery graves.

On the old game show “What’s My Line?” Briton Mark Dunkley might have been described with the following words: “He does what many adventurers around the world can only dream of doing.”

Dunkley is an underwater archeologist who dives for lost treasures. His most recent discoveries were anything if not eerie.

On the seafloor along the southern and eastern coasts of the UK, Dunkley and three other divers have found one of the largest graveyards in the world’s oceans, with 41 German and three English submarines from World War I. Most of the submarines sank with their crews still on board, causing many sailors to die in horrific ways, either by drowning or suffocating in the cramped and airtight submarines.

Several U-boats with the German Imperial Navy are still considered missing today. Lists provide precise details on which of the U-boats the German naval forces had lost by the time the war ended in November 1918.

But it was completely unclear what had happened, for example, to UB 17, under the command of naval Lieutenant Albert Branscheid, with its crew of 21 men, or where the 27-member crew of UC 21, used as a minelayer and commanded by naval Lieutenant Werner von Zerboni di Sposetti, had perished.

Securing British and German Heritage

But now things have changed.

Dunkley and his team of divers found UB 17 off England’s east coast, near the county of Suffolk. UC 21 sank nearby. The fate of many other submarines, especially those that had suddenly disappeared in the last two years of the war, can now be considered known.

All of the sunken U-boats are relatively close to the coast, at depths of no more than 15 meters (about 50 feet). The diving archeologists will undoubtedly find the remains of sailors with the German Imperial Navy inside the wrecks. In the language of archeology, such finds are referred to as “disaster samples.” In any case, the divers will be searching for signs of the crewmembers that died inside the U-boats.

“We owe it to these people to tell their story,” says Dunkley. He works for English Heritage, a public body that is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its primary mission is to secure Britain’s cultural heritage.

The British could see it as a peculiar irony of history that these measures are now benefiting the heritage of their former enemy. Since the Germans attacked civilian targets in World War I, British propaganda derisively referred to the submarines as “baby killers.”

“Many have forgotten how successful the German U-boat fleet was for a time,” says Dunkley — an assessment that is by no means intended to glorify the German attacks. In fact, one of the goals of the most recent English Heritage project is to remind people that, although they might be more familiar with submarine warfare from World War II, the ships also caused considerable devastation in the previous world war.

A Slowly Embraced Weapon

Indeed, it had practically vanished from popular memory that the Germans caused great losses to their main enemy, Great Britain, in World War I through targeted torpedo strikes against the royal merchant navy. At the beginning of the war, there were only 28 U-boats under the supreme command of Kaiser Wilhelm II, a tiny number compared to the Allied fleet.

At first, many political decision-makers in Berlin were unclear about exactly how the military devices, which were still novel at the time, could be used. Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz had such a low opinion of the importance of the steel diving vessels that he even referred to them as a “secondary weapon.”

An operations order signed by Kaiser Wilhelm on July 30, 1914 also assigned a secondary role to the U-boats at first. Under the order, they were to be used primarily to engage hostile ships in naval battles with the Imperial High Seas Fleet, which had been upgraded at considerable cost.

But after a German U-boat sank three English armored cruisers, an unbridled enthusiasm erupted in the German Empire for this still relatively untested form of naval warfare. A large number of volunteers signed up for submarine duty, even though serving in the cramped cabins was practically a suicide mission at the time, especially in comparison with the types of underwater vessels used in World War II and, even more so, today’s submarines.

The conditions inside the boats were claustrophobic and extremely hot. There were cases in which entire crews were wiped out when a torpedo misfired. Likewise, since aiming torpedoes was still such an imprecise science, the submarines had to come dangerously close to enemy warships. And if spotted, they became easy prey: Early submarines moved through the water so slowly that enemy warships could easily take up pursuit and sink the attackers, either with depth charges or by ramming. In fact, some 187, or almost half, of the 380 U-boats used by the German navy in World War I were lost.

A Race Against Time

Dunkley and his colleagues examine the wrecks with ultrasound sonar devices they wear on their wrists like watches. The devices allow them to measure wall thickness and determine the extent to which corrosion has already eaten away at a ship’s hull.

Measures to secure the vessels are urgently needed, says Dunkley. Since the U-boat graveyard at sea is gradually disintegrating, time is of the essence for the archeologists. Under the strict guidelines of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, the World War I wrecks sitting on the seafloor are currently not even considered archeological artifacts deserving special protection.

The disintegrating war machines are currently just shy of the 100 years required to attain this status. For this reason, Dunkley’s team is trying to wrest as many secrets as possible from the wrecks in the coming months.

In cases where mines or torpedoes have torn large holes into the vessels, the archeologists can even peer inside. When this is not the case, robotic vehicles will cut open the hatches of the steel coffins and go inside.

“We divers only approach the boats with great caution. Venturing inside would definitely be extremely dangerous,” Dunkley says.

It is hard to determine how almost a century of lying in place, as well as sedimentary deposits, have changed the structural integrity of the wrecks. If a U-boat turns over as a result of the divers’ movements, its narrow corridors could become deathtraps.

The treatment of the crews’ remains is also complicated. By law, the sites are considered inviolable gravesites. Nevertheless, the archeologists don’t want to miss the opportunity to try to recover other signs of the erstwhile sailors in the underwater crypts. “Perhaps we’ll find a cup or a sign with a name on it,” Dunkley says.

Attacking and Sinking in Groups

The marine archeologists were struck by the fact that sometimes two or three German U-boats were found lying in close proximity to one another. For historians, this serves as evidence of a certain German combat strategy in an especially drastic phase of the U-boat war.

In February 1917, the Imperial Navy had altered its strategy and was now torpedoing and firing guns at British commercial ships on a large scale. The Royal Navy reacted by providing the freighters with warship escorts, as well as using airships and aircraft to spot enemy submarines from above.

German military strategists devised a plan to break up these massive convoys: attacking the naval convoys with several U-boats at the same time. But the strategy was difficult to implement because it was very difficult to coordinate such complex maneuvers at the time.

Historians are divided over whether the convoy system ultimately saved the United Kingdom from defeat or whether it was the United States’ entry into the war on April 6, 1917.

Before then, the British had relied on creativity to fend off U-boats and other enemy ships. The hulls of their own ships were painted with confusing patterns designed by artists at the Royal Academy in London. But there is no historical evidence to prove that this measure saved even a single ship from the German torpedoes.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Debunking Myths of Gettysburg

Rick Klein, Jordyn Phelps and Nick Poppy in Yahoonews.com, June 29, 2013:

For something that happened 150 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg still generates its share of controversy. And myth, according to historian Allen Guelzo, “grows like weed out of controversy.”

Guelzo, a professor of history at – appropriately enough – Gettysburg College, is the author of the recently published “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion.” He spoke with ABC News Political Director Rick Klein about the battle and his book – an exhaustively researched and detailed dive into the pivotal fight of the Civil War.

Among the myths of Gettysburg that Guelzo debunks is that the battle was an accident – that Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac merely happened upon each other in the hills of South Central Pennsylvania. “No, it was not really an accident,” said Guelzo. “At least not more of an accident than any battle in the Civil War was.”

Guelzo’s book also restores the reputation of J.E.B. Stuart, cavalry commander of the Confederate Army. “Did he [Stuart] really render Robert E. Lee blind by riding on a joy ride almost entirely out of the campaign?” Guelzo asked. Over the years, Stuart has come in for much criticism for his cavalry’s supposed abandonment of Lee’s main force. “That also is an exaggeration, if not an outright myth.”

“There are a number of other myths,” Guelzo offered. “That the 20th Maine volunteers and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain saved the Union at Little Round Top. Well, all honor to Chamberlain and his men, they did do the right thing at Little Round Top on July 2nd,” by defending their position with a bayonet charge.

“But actually,” according to the historian, “Chamberlain was one of only a series of junior officers who make decisions like that…[to] save the future of the army and the country, at Gettysburg. He is one face in a crowd of people who make those spontaneous right decisions.”

Guelzo described the battle as “a galaxy of marvelous stories. It’s about people fighting small-scale fights within the big battle, and they’re doing it very much on their own initiative, they’re doing it without direction from famous-named generals, and…they’re making the right decision on their own by just doing it, time after time after time.”

Placed next to more recent fighting, like that seen in Iraq or Afghanistan, Guelzo suggested “you won’t recognize what combat in Gettysburg looked like. The Battle of Gettysburg was more a species of the old Napoleonic kind of conflict, the old 18th century kind of war, than it was modern warfare. Simply because the weapons technology of the period dictated that.”

Communications technology was different as well, of course. In an age when the idea of telecommunications was confined to telegraphs and hand-delivered messages, even President Lincoln had no way of knowing the outcome of Gettysburg until 24 hours after the battle was over. Guelzo likened the president to a “prospective father in the waiting room. Trying to find out about this big event that’s occurring that he can’t see, or can’t be part of, that he just has to wait for.”

Lincoln got word of the Union victory at Gettysburg at nearly the same moment he also heard of the surrender of the Confederate citadel at Vicksburg. “Those two victories together give Abraham Lincoln the best weekend that he’s had during the war, if not during his life,” said Guelzo.

Gettysburg was “a decisive moment in the middle of the decisive moment of the American Civil War…Up to that point, the Confederacy have been putting on quite a good show for its bid for independence. These breakaway Southern states had formed their own government, formed their own armies, they had sustained defeats, but in the East, the main Confederate Army under General Robert E. Lee had gone from victory to victory to victory,” said Guelzo.

At Gettysburg, “the opportunity was there for Robert E. Lee to win a major victory over a Union army. And if he did that, then the political fallout for that victory for the Confederates might in fact have forced President Lincoln to the negotiating table.”

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Ghost Stories from WWI

Randy Boswell in Montreal Gazette, July 1, 2013:

One of Canada’s top military historians has published the first serious study of the First World War’s eeriest phenomena: frontline soldiers’ accounts of ghosts and other “supernatural experiences” amid the bloody battles of Europe almost a century ago.

Award-winning author Tim Cook, the Canadian War Museum’s leading expert on the 1914-18 conflict, has unearthed a host of poignant and spine-tingling stories involving bizarre apparitions, life-saving premonitions and other unexplained happenings that — beyond the mysteries that linger — shed fresh light on “the unending mental and physical strain of fighting on the edge of No Man’s Land.”

Writing in the Journal of Military History, the field’s most prestigious scholarly publication, Cook describes how the knife-edge existence of Canada’s troops in battles such as Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge — perhaps fuelled by widespread interest in the occult and spiritualism in the early 20th century — led some men to believe they’d seen dead comrades resurrected and wandering the scarred landscapes of the Western Front.

In other cases, soldiers claimed to have seen angels hovering over battlefields or felt an “otherworldly” presence that somehow silenced enemy guns to allow escapes from vulnerable positions.

“As a threshold borderland, the Western Front was a place for such spectral thinking and haunting, where the strange was made ordinary, where the safe was infused with danger, where death was natural and life fleeting,” writes Cook, author of an acclaimed, two-volume history of the First World War. “The unnatural, supernatural, uncanny and ghostly offered succour to some soldiers, who embraced these ‘grave beliefs’ to make sense of their war experience.”

Cook vividly describes how the living and the dead were gruesomely mingled in the muddy trenches of wartime France and Belgium, where fighting men “became martyred corpses in the blink of an eye” and the unrelenting carnage encouraged a heightened awareness of the thin line between life and afterlife — or, at times, a perceptual blurring of the line.

“Grimy, exhausted soldiers, covered in mud, asleep on a fire step or in a funk hole could easily be mistaken for the dead,” Cook observes. “It was not lost on the soldiers that they seemed to be digging extended graves — the trenches — to protect themselves from death-dealing artillery shells. And, in sick irony, the artillery bombardments often buried the living and disgorged the dead.”

One well-known story from the war is highlighted in Cook’s study: Cpl. Will Bird’s moving description of the night his brother’s “ghost” saved him from certain death. Bird, who had a postwar career as a Nova Scotia journalist and published his war memoirs under the title Ghosts Have Warm Hands, had written about a night after the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge when he was suddenly stirred from deep slumber under a tarp he’d been sharing with two fellow soldiers near the front line.

“Before dawn, warm hands shook him,” Cook recounts. “Wiping away sleep, he looked with amazement at his brother Steve,” who had been reported missing in action in 1915. “Steve led him through some ruins, when he suddenly rounded a corner and disappeared.”

Cpl. Bird, settled for sleep in the new location, dismissed his brother’s ghostly appearance as a “hallucination.” But in the morning, he was stunned to learn that the two other soldiers under the tarp had suffered a “direct hit from a high explosive shell” and were “dismembered beyond all recognition.”

Another Canadian soldier wrote to his mother that, “One night while carrying bombs, I had occasion to take cover when about twenty yards off I saw you looking towards me as plain as life.” Dumbstruck, he “crawled nearly to the place where your vision appeared” as a German shell slammed into the place he had just left behind.

“Had it not been for you, I certainly would have been reported ‘missing,’” the soldier wrote. “You’ll turn up again, won’t you, mother, next time a shell is coming?”

Cook, who also teaches history at Carleton University, said his research has always focused on “how these young men coped and endured at the front.”

Embracing magical or mystical explanations for what happened during the war, he told Postmedia News, “was a common response for some soldiers who lived in a space of destruction and death. As I read the memoirs, letters, and diaries of soldiers I kept encountering the uncanny, the supernatural, and even the spectral.”

He added that while Bird’s account of being delivered from harm by his lost brother is a staple of Canadian war narratives, other such “crisis apparitions” had not been well documented and “no historian really has attempted to understand what that central story meant to Bird.”

While researching the subject, Cook said, he encountered those kinds of stories “over and over again. I kept coming back to the ways that soldiers dealt with death — by being callous towards it, or embracing it, or finding ways to live with it.”


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