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Stonewall Jackson – A Flawed but Brilliant Commander

Cynthia Brooke

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History says Stonewall Jackson is one of the greatest tactical commanders ever to take the battlefield. Every battle he fought was done brilliantly. The opposition never knew what hit them. Born Thomas Jonathan Jackson, his determination to hold his ground at the First Battle of Bull Run earned him his nickname. One of Jackson’s troops stood watching and said, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” From that moment on, Jackson became known as “Stonewall.”

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Since Jackson was known as a brave and fearless leader, probably no one would guess that he had his fair share of flaws. After all, it is not every day that a fearless general is clumsy riding a horse. Jackson was neither elegant, nor impressive when seen riding on the battlefield. His knees were too high, and his feet were turned at the wrong angles. Anyone watching Jackson riding up to the battlefield would see him as a bumbling fool, not a brave general preparing for battle.

Brave on the battlefield, but a stickler for orders. Jackson was known to take every step to follow an order right down to the letter, even if circumstances were changing and the order should be abandoned. During his training at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson refused to deliver a report a single minute earlier than required. He, instead, paced outside the office during a hailstorm, waiting to deliver the report on time. He once wore his heavy military great coat through the battles of summer because no one told him he was allowed to take it off.

Jackson had a great ability to be secretive, meaning his superiors did not have to send the battle plans step by step. All Jackson would need to plan for battle is a broad idea of the end goal. He knew how to read between the lines, and he knew how to achieve the end goal. However, this left most of Jackson’s soldiers in deep suspense. Many of Jackson’s men felt distrust and even resentment towards him because he would not share in the battle plans, and it did not become evident until almost the last minute how the battle would be fought.

A fanatical Presbyterian and a deacon of the Church, Jackson had an unquestioned faith in God. He had a strong belief in the scriptures, and he feared Divine judgment. Sunday was very sacred to Jackson, and he refrained from both work and secular conversation. He often preferred good Presbyterian to better qualified officers. To even get Jackson on the battlefield on Sunday took a lot of soul searching and great personal debate.

Despite being a strong religious man who was brave on the battlefield, Jackson was prone to illness and often had a delicate constitution. He had notable hearing loss and became easily exhausted. Jackson was best known for sleeping long hours. He was accidentally shot at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and he lost an arm due to amputation. Eight days later Jackson died from pneumonia complications. His death was considered to be one of the biggest setbacks to the Confederacy.

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Mother Teresa

Kelsey Freeman

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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.

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From the other side: Hitler’s high hopes after his seeming victory at Dunkirk

Cynthia Brooke

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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.

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Heinz Guderian Bio

Brooke Hurbert

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Heinz Guderian also was known as Heinz Willhelm Guderian was born on June 17, 1888, in Kulm. Germany. Currently known as Chelmo in Poland.
He was a German general and tank expert who significantly contributed to Germany’s victories in France, the Soviet Union and Poland in World War Two.

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He studied in military schools and the military academies in Berlin.
He fell in love with Margaret Goerne, but his father feared that he was too young and hence he sent him to Telegraphen-Battalion Nr.3. He returned in 1913 after finishing the course, and He married Margeret. They had two sons who both participated in the World War Two.

Later, he joined the German army in 1908. He served as a staff officer in the World War One and then gained Adolf Hitler’s attention in 1935.
He is known as the father of the Blitzkrieg, a method used for attacking which surprised all the nations up to 1942 during the World War Two. His plan was to make war mobile by having a force that was rapidly moving forward, without giving the enemy time to regroup. In July 1934, Hitler gave Guderian the task to perfect the fighting technique of the panzers.

The Achtung Panzer also known as Attention Tanks, involved combining many theories of the British General J.F.C. Fuller and General Charles de Gaulle, who had advised on the creation of independent and armored formations and mobile infantry support with the intention of increasing mobility on the ground by penetrating enemy lines.

As the chief of Germany’s mobile troop in 1938 November, he brought his theory into existence in the Polish campaign of September 1938 and marched to the French coast of the English Channel. He managed to eliminate France from the war.

This method of fighting also left an impact on the west of Europe and Poland resulting in the withdrawal of Allies at Dunkirk and victory during the large attack on the Soviet Union at Barbarossa.

However, he was dismissed in 1941 by Hitler after withdrawing his troops in the face of a Russian counteroffensive, during the Russian campaign where he had reached the outskirts of Moscow before he was driven back in October and hence losing Hitler’s favor. Later, Hitler reinstated him on March 1943 as inspector general of armored troops.

As the inspector general of armored forces, he commissioned for more production of tanks and later after July 20, 1944, prevented an attempt on Hitler’s life, Hitler appointed him as acting chief of staff. Hitler’s numerous meddling in Guderian’s actions led to his resignation on March 5, 1945.

In His path of duty, he faced numerous obstacles including the one within the Wehrmacht’s hierarchy, where an attack on Belgium and France would fail because of the rivers flowing in that region. However, He came up with a plan which used specialist engineering units to assemble pontoon bridges that could take the weight of tanks and that of the supporting vehicles.

Guderian wrote a book named Erinnerungen eines Soldaten in 1951. Translated into English as ‘Reminiscences of a soldier.’

Guderian died on May 14, 1954, in Schwangau bei Fussen, Germany at the age of 66 years.

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