While you may have enjoyed watching the classic 1962 award-winning film Lawrence of Arabia, you may not have known T.E. Lawrence was a real-hero whose own adventures and achievements the movie was based on. Was he truly as enigmatic as portrayed by Peter O’ Toole?
His Fame Found Him Early: T.E. Lawrence was 28 when World War I broke out, but he had already spent years four years working as an archeologist in Syria, cementing his reputation as an educated, intelligent, and creative individual. His understanding of the current political atmosphere of the middle-east earned his his assignment in military intelligence based out of Cairo, Egypt in 1916.
He was Raised by Both Parents: While the film inferred that Lawrence was born to an actress and raised by his mother, actually his father Sir Thomas Chapman left his wife to live with Lawrence and his mother. They sent him to Oxford High School and then Jesus College where he studied history.
The White Robes Really Existed: In the movie Lawrence is awarded a grand set of white robes after he led 50 soliders across the Nafud desert. Pictures of Lawrence adorned in the robes, including the ceremonial dagger, can be found in biographies of the gentleman.
He Died Young: Lawrence was fatally injured after taking his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle out for an afternoon ride in Dorset, UK in 1935. He swerved to avoid some pedestrians and was thrown over the handlebars. He was only 46 years old.
He Was an Author, Too: After he left the military, Lawrence penned an autobiographical account of his participation in the Arab Revolt entitled The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It is this book that the script for the film was based on.
He Never Married: There is no evidence that T.E. Lawrence ever become close with anybody throughout his life. There’s a notable lack of close school friends, affectionately held attachments or evidence of children born to him.
He Did Not Enlist: While some memoirs state he enlisted in the Royal Air Force before the age of consent, there are no military records to support the claim. He waited until the General List was put out in 1916 and was essentially drafted.
Both an Officer and a Working Man: During the Arab Revolt, Lawrence was quickly promoted through the ranks. He left to return in England in 1922 and was awarded the rank of Colonel in the British Army. However, after attending several political conventions, he enlisted in the RAF and remained a working man for the rest of his life.
He Led the Arab Revolt With No Battlefield Training: With a background in history and archeology, it came as quite a surprise when he created a number of effective battlefield strategies and carried out attacks throughout World War I in association with the Arab Revolt.
Washington, D.C. Visitors Should Look Closely to See this Important Statue
There was a time when A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was a household name. To the generations that survived the Civil War and Reconstruction only to pass through the fires of two World Wars, the president of the nascent Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was a strong and unwavering beacon for civil rights and economic justice for all Americans. He fought for equal treatment and opportunity for all, regardless of their race or creed, and his signal success laid the foundation for the civil rights struggles to come. His contributions to this nation have been honored with a bronze statue in our nation’s capitol. However, changing patterns of transit and occupation have caused the statue to become isolated and forgotten. It now sits outside a Starbucks at an Amtrak Station in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. Thousands of people pass by this statue every day without the slightest awareness of who it represents or what he meant to this nation.
The railroads were still the primary form of transportation a century ago, and traveling any distance meant spending a lot of time on a railway cars. Fortunately, the cars were well equipped with spaces for socialization, sanitation, and sleeping. The passenger quarters were overseen by a group of men known as porters. These men not only helped with luggage and directions, they were expected to assist the customers with anything they needed, from procuring something to eat to getting medical assistance. The vast majority of these porters were black. This was considered to be a glamorous job, especially within the black community of its day. Porters were educated men who had traveled far and seen much of the world. In 1925 Asa Randolph helped organize this national labor force into the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, one of the very first labor unions to have a predominantly African-American membership. This Brotherhood was a signal success, improving conditions for both the porters and their passengers. There was much work to be done, as the corporation that employed the vast majority of the porters, the Pullman Company, was noted for its unethical and aggressive ways. The battle took a dozen years, but in the end the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was able to negotiate with the Pullman Company to increase their pay, put limits on the hours they would work, and even pay out overtime. This was an enormous victory for its time, and it represented the first occasion in American history that a predominantly black union was able to negotiate improved conditions with an employer.
Randolph did not stop there, and he continued to advocate for equality and economic self-sufficiency all the way up and down the scale. Perhaps his greatest victory was the pressure he put on Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 8802, preventing all racial discrimination in industries working for the national defense. This would have great impact on America’s presence in World War 2. Finally, in 1960, towards the end of his long life, Randolph helped to found the Negro American Labor Council.
So that is why the statue of Asa Philip Randolph sits in the train station. Fewer people see it today, but it is still right and fitting that this man who did so much for our nation’s railways should find a place of honor where he can still watch over them. If you are traveling through Washington, D.C. by rail, or only stopping through and looking for a fascinating slice of history, stop over at Union Station and visit with Mr. Randolph.
Mother Teresa is the founder of a group of Catholic nuns called the Missionaries of Charity. Based in India, Mother Teresa’s order offers homes for people who are dying. It also runs meal centers, medical dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, as well as orphanages and schools throughout India. The order has spread to other countries in the world including the United States and Vatican City. With her focus in India on those individuals who had been forgotten and literally left in the streets to die, Mother became a national hero in India. Although she was born in Macedonia, India became her home. As her work became more known, she became a world personality. She was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for her charity work in 1979.
Mary Teresa was born in 1910. By the age of 12, she knew she wanted to become a missionary. She entered the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland to begin her training for missionary work in India at 18. The Sisters of Loreto taught in English, so Mother Teresa had to learn English first. She arrived in India in 1929 and taught school until 1946 when she felt compelled to do something about the poor in Calcutta. She was given permission to set up a new order in the Calcutta diocese working with the dying poor. Her new community set up their first hospice in 1952, called Kalighat Home for the Dying, which was a former temple. This hospice is still open today. She adopted a sari with a blue sash on it for the Virgin Mary as the uniform for the new order, considering wearing the sari would make Indians more comfortable with her sisters. After starting a facility for the dying, Mother set up soup kitchens and medical facilities. All care that was given was free. Lastly, she opened children’s homes for those with no families or no one to care for them. By the time of her death in 1979, her organization had grown to over 4,000 nuns, 300 brothers and over 500 facilities in over 100 countries.
Mother Teresa was not free from criticism about her methods. Some leaders in Calcutta felt she was giving the world an improper picture of Calcutta. Others questioned how she used the money received for her order. One of her worst critics was Christopher Hitchens, who wrote an essay on the problems with her sisterhood. Mother became known the world over due to a documentary by Malcolm Muggeridge on her work with the poor in 1979. She often met with world leaders and received support for her work from Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II and even the dictator of Haiti at the time.
Mother was plagued by heart disease at the end of her life, and resigned her position as leader of the Missionaries of Charity in March 1997. She died on the 5th of September 1997 and was buried in the former dining room of the mother house of her order. India mourned her, and gave Mother Teresa a state funeral, even though she was neither Hindu or Moslem, the predominant religions in India. Mother was a naturalized citizen of India, however. She continues to be remembered joyfully my many Indians, ranking No. 5 in 2012 on a list of the most influential Indians in history.
The Catholic Church put her on a fast track to sainthood. This means that church believes it can prove Mother Teresa is in heaven. Since September 4, 2016, she has been a saint of the Catholic Church.
From the other side: Hitler’s high hopes after his seeming victory at Dunkirk
Most of us are used to looking at the Battle of Dunkirk through the eyes of the victors. We know that many were saved that day, against impossible odds, and that the Allies then went on to win the Second World War after years of bitter fighting and sacrifice. Much of what we know about Operation Dynamo, or the Miracle of Dunkirk, comes from the eyewitnesses.
There were many, especially in the heat of the moment, who felt that retreat was a defeat in itself. But when the Allies were cornered and the Navy came to save the Army, most were grateful to get the chance to fight another day. Some would say that it was a boost for morale but a clear military loss, and we haven’t confronted the evidence from that day because the Allies didn’t stay behind to take pictures and assess the situation. 338,226 troops and other personnel were saved between May 26 and June 4, 1940, but we left much behind.
New Evidence From the Other Side
Most of us visualize the many boats and ships that came to the rescue during that time, and some of those heroic participants have been part of memorials throughout the years. New pictures from those scenes at Dunkirk provide a different perspective, though. An anonymous collector has made some of the pictures available, and has offered to provide more over time, so we can learn about that period of time and how desperate it really was.
Recent images from a German photographer come to light which show details of the destruction and loss of military equipment suffered by the Allies during the Dunkirk engagement. The person who produced the photographs wasn’t trying to make a statement, but instead was just documenting the experience.
Wide Scale Destruction and Waste
Because they were fleeing with nothing but their lives, the Army left behind everything from vehicles to weapons. One of the most striking scenes is the sea itself, where ships were struck and left there, damaged. Troop carriers and other military vehicles were driven onto the sands and then abandoned, often after attempts at destruction. Many have their hoods open, where the Allies tried at least to make the vehicles unusuable by the approaching Nazis.
Other cars were abandoned outside the town, and it is impossible to tell whether the Allies’ sabotage or the Nazis’ bombardment caused so many to appear burned. Most of Dunkirk itself was destroyed, and 16,000 French soldiers and 1,000 British soldiers died. Another 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers weren’t able to be evacuated and were captured by the Germans. Looking at the scale of destruction, it is not surprising that Hitler thought he’d won the war at Dunkirk.
Was Another Ending Possible?
Perhaps if Hitler had more aggressively attacked the troops, the war might have had a very different ending. His delays gave the Allies enough time to organize the evacuation that allowed them to go home, regroup and come back fighting.
Churchill’s historic speech after Dunkirk was another factor that helped bring morale back up to the point where the country could unify and keep fighting. “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” His words still inspire today.