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The SS Cap Arcona — The Tale of One of The Most Tragic Maritime Disasters

Kelsey Freeman

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Considered one of the most impressive ships of its time, the Cap Arcona was luxury liner lost as a result of sinking as it was filled with concentration camp prisoners and sailors. Named after Cape Arkona located in Mecklenburg on the island of Rugen, and launched on May 14, 1927, this impressive German ship carried passengers ranging from classes that included steerage-class immigrants to aristocratic upper-class travelers that journeyed primarily to South America. The ship served the stopping the transport of commercial passengers.

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On an interesting note, in 1943, the SS Cap Arcona was used as a stand-in in the full length film “Titanic” which was produced in Germany and served as a accommodation ship to provide outside location shots required for filming. However, the lifespan of this epic movie release was shortened due to its inclusion of the mass deaths that resulted from rampant bombings in Germany. Additional controversy occurred when movie director Herbert Selpin was arrested after making defamatory remarks about the Kriegsmarine sailors. After once again making unfavorable remarks against war efforts made by the Germans, Selpin was later found hanged in his jail cell. The movie was not available for viewing again until 1949 and again in 2005 when a full version of the film was made available for viewing.

In 1945, the German navy revived the SS Cap Arcona for Operation Hannibal and was used to transport over 25,000 German civilians and soldiers from Eastern Prussia to West Germany. The riskiness of these trips were marred by the threat of Soviet submarines, adding a dangerous tone to each trip. A tragic incident occurred on 30 January when 10, 582 crew and passengers of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff where killed by a Soviet torpedo, sinking the ship in just under 40 minutes and skilling 9, 400 souls.

One day after the surrender of German troops at Luneburg Health in northwestern Germany, and three days after the apparent suicide of Adolph Hitler, three ships that included the Theilbek, the Deutschland and the SS Cap Arcona were attacked by bombs carried by Hawker Typhoon Mark bomber aircraft from the No. 184, 193, 197, 198 and 263 Squadrons, killing over 5000 souls after striking the ship with over 40 rockets. After suffering a series of gapping holes throughout the hull of the ship, an insufficient pumping system and the lack of lifeboats and a subgrade system for fighting fires, many passengers were forced to jump while others were trapped below deck. It is said that unbeknownst to them, pilots were not aware that these vessels were carrying prisoners that actually survived concentration camps and believed these ships were carrying SS officers who were thought to be escaping to Norway, which was fully controlled by Germany. Many prisoners that tried to escape were shot down and those that attempted to swim ashore sealed their fate by being gunned down. A small group of 350 concentration camp prisoners of the original 4, 500 survived the bombing of the SS Cap Arcona. 490 of 600 Germans onboard the ship survived.

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How the Gardner Heist Shocked America’s Art Scene

Cynthia Brooke

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There is something almost mythical about the world of fine art. When amazing works of art are created, we gather around and stare in wonder. When those same works of art mysteriously vanish in the middle of the night, well, that’s an entirely different story. Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum is located in Boston. The building hosts Mrs. Gardner’s incredible art collection which includes works by Zorn, Whistler, and Sargent. The mansion itself is equally fascinating as it was designed by William T. Sears in 1903. However, for all the history that the building possesses, what is missing has people talking the most. On March 18th, 1990, two mysterious strangers impersonated policemen in order to steal 13 of the most valuable paintings in the world.

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The brazen art heist, dubbed the Gardner Heist, has baffled law enforcement to this day. The crime involved two thieves dressing up as police officers. The men then forced themselves into the museum after hours, overpowering the local guards. In the dead of night, the two thieves stole more than $500 million worth of art. From Vermeer and Rembrandt to Manet, Flinck, and Degas, an entire collection of historical artwork vanished into thin air. For the past thirty years, the FBI has been chasing the ghost of the crime, failing to find a resolution.

The Gardner Heist is considered the largest art-related crime in American history. Following the heist, a $5 million reward was put out for information that led to the return of the artwork. The Museum has since been sent on wild goose chases that have not led to any resolution. In 2017, the museum decided to double the reward to $10 million. Steve Kidder is the president of the board at the Gardner Museum, and he had this to say, “We are the only buyer for these works. They belong in their rightful home.”

What makes the Gardner Heist so fascinating is the fact that there has been no such resolution. In order to keep the stolen paintings in good shape, the thieves would have needed to keep the paintings in a room set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a 50% humidity rating. It is hard to believe that a pair of thieves would have the resources or the knowledge to keep the paintings in such good shape unless, of course, they’d already been sold to a private buyer.

Arthur Brand is one of the lead investigators on the Gardner Heist. Brand is considered to be one of the finest art detectives in the world. In fact, Brand has been granted the title of, Indiana Jones of the Art World’. Brand has had several successes in finding lost art, most notably recovering work stolen from the Sheringa Museum of Realist Art. Brand calls the Gardner Heist the ‘Holy Grail’ of the art theft world. Brand has worked alongside the FBI in order to pool information. The common belief among law enforcement is that the paintings have remained in the United States over the past thirty or so years.

Brand believes that the paintings have long since left the continent, claiming that he has evidence that the works have found their way to Ireland. Still, Brand isn’t largely concerned about who stole the work or where the paintings are. Brand’s sole goal at this point in time is to recover the priceless art. Brand says, “It’s about getting these pieces back. The art is world heritage!” While Brand is passionate about recovering the artwork, there have still been no new leads in the case. At some point in time, we might have to accept that the work is gone.

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Here Are 5 Facts About The “Band Of Brothers” That You Did Not Know!

Anjali DeSimone

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Since its initial airing back in 2001, the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers has only continued to gain in popularity. Now that later generations are accessing the miniseries on their favorite apps and devices, the men of E Company have become a regular topic of discussion.

They answered the nation’s call as members of the 101st Airborne Division (506th Parachute Infantry Regiment). They were one of the elite forces of World War II but there is still much to be learned about each of these brave men and the battles that they fought. Read on to learn some little known facts about each of these soldiers…..

1. Captain Ronald Speirs

The series and book spent some time focusing on the role that Speirs played in the Brecourt Manor attack. German cannons had been firing on the troops at Utah Beach prior to this counterattack. While the series hinted that he was responsible for the killing of a German POW platoon, this was not likely.

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He was also one of the few men in the army to have made a combat jump in Korea and in World War II. Many do not know that Speirs served as a Red Army liaison as well. After this assignment was complete, he also served as a liaison to the Royal Lao Army before the Vietnam War broke out. 

2. Albert Blithe

Those who have read the book remember the story about Blithe losing his eyesight. He was shot in the neck during a Normandy patrol but the series and book were both incorrect when it came to addressing his fate. The book and series implied that Blithe died as a result of this wound.

In fact, he lived on after World War II and even served in Korea as well. Blithe was also not a southerner, as the series portrayed. He was actually from Philadelphia and did not speak with a southern accent. 

3. Edward “Babe” Heffron

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“Wild Bill” Guarnere was a close friend of Babe’s, as the two men both hailed from the city of Philadelphia. After the series aired, Babe and Wild Bill began to give tours of the famous battle sites together. The actor who played Babe looks nothing like him, though.

Robin Laing is a Scotsman with a gentle appearance. Meanwhile, Babe looks like more of a tough guy. The real Babe even makes an appearance in the actual series. He had a cameo as a Dutchman who was seen drinking wine during the Eindhoven liberation. 

4. Herbert Sobel 

Brilliantly played by none other than David Schwimmer of Friends fame, Sobel was detested by the other men in the E company. They viewed him as a coward who was too interested in going by the book. The famous scene where Sobel sends the men up Mount Currahee after a massive pasta dinner is 100 percent true.

However, Sobel is also credited by many of the men in the company for his unorthodox training techniques. They did not like him but they certainly respected him. He survived a suicide attempt in 1970 that cost him his eyesight and died in a VA facility of malnutrition 17 years later.

5. “Why We Fight”

One of the most famous episodes of the series, “Why We Fight” focused on the E company’s liberation of an SS camp in Germany. The episode concludes with German citizens assisting the men in burying the dead, forcing them to confront the true horrors of the regime that had risen to power.

There was just one issue: the men had never liberated any such camp. The producers added the liberation as a means of conveying the horrors of this war. They did not wish to solely focus on the experiences of the E Company.

If these facts were as amazing to you as they were to us, be sure to pass them along to your friends and loved ones. Let’s all do our part to keep our nation’s war history alive and well in the years to come! 

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The MOH Marine Who Carried An Aircraft Machine Gun On Iwo Jima

Cynthia Brooke

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There is no doubt the United States marines are all heroes that should be celebrated but some of them take their patriotism and heroic acts to a higher level. Unfortunately, not all these heroes are celebrated the way they should be celebrated and some of their achievements only get noticed or publicized after their demise.

One of such heroes is Corporal Tony Stein who can best be described as the hero of Iwo Jima. He virtually single handled took out a lot of Japanese soldiers who had laid siege for American troops in Iwo Jima in 1945 during the Second World War. Since this article is meant for casual readers, it has been written in a simplified form devoid of too many military terms. Corporal Tony Stein recently received the Medal of Honor posthumously. The medal was given to his widow. However, not many are aware of why he was nominated for the award. 

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This is why this article has been written to bridge the knowledge gap. Stein was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1921 to Jewish immigrants from Austria. He was enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve shortly before his 21st birthday. He initially served in the Marine Corps paratrooper unit. Thereafter, he fought in the Pacific Theater on several occasions. During this period, he had started exhibiting some extraordinary courage, intelligence, and patriotism that are worthy of emulation. 

One of his impressive achievements was taking out five Japanese snipers in a single day. Tony Stein was definitely a handful for the Japanese troops. For his military prowess, he got promoted to corporal in 1944 shortly after the paramarines were disbanded and was assigned to the 5th Marine Division where he was the assistant squad leader.

One of the most effective weapons then was a variant of M1919 that was meant to be used on patrol aircraft and bombers. Although it is a lighter version of M1919, it is much more destructive than M1919. While M1919 could output 400 rounds per minute, this improved version could do up to 1350 rounds per minute and Corporal Tony Stein was astonishing with it.

Due to its level of destructiveness, the weapon was dubbed “The Stinger” and there were only six of them but Stein was in custody of one them. And you bet it was utilized to capacity by the young marine. In fact, it was his mastery of the use of this machine that won him the highly coveted Medal of Honor.

He made the best of the beast when his unit hit Iwo Jima on February 1945. He singlehandedly wiped out several Japanese troops with the weapon. When he ran out of ammunition, he would run back to the beach to resupply himself without his boots and helmet so that he could run faster. He made 8 of such trips and during some of them, he would help a wounded marine get back to safety. In some cases, when they had to lie low to avoid continuous enemy fire, he would courageously stand up and take some destructive shots at the enemies’ location to obliterate them and he often did it successfully with his stinger.

To underscore how close he was told death, in Iwo Jima, his stinger was shot out of his hands twice but he would pick it up and continue to do what he did best until the Japanese troops had to retreat in defeat. 

Unfortunately, Corporal Tony Stein was taken out by a sniper not long after. He was being treated when he heard that his unit had been pinned down so he left the medical facility to join them. May be it was because he wasn’t fully fit or it wasn’t just his day. The great Corporal Tony Stein was taken down by a Japanese sniper.

It is quite heartwarming that his achievements, courage and patriotism didn’t go unnoticed and unrewarded. His Medal of Honor was presented to his widow about a year ago. The least you can do to celebrate this war veteran is to share the story of his sacrifice and contribution to America. 

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