Tag Archives: World War II

Big war, small peace – did Stephen Hawking really know the truth?

29 Aug

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I was waiting, so I picked up a book. Inside, just a few pages in, was a simple sentence with the power to uplift, encourage, and promote optimism.

 

It seemed to confirm the idea that there was light amid the dark; that somewhere below the horrid nature of mankind there was good trying to surface.

Sadly, that sentence – written as a statement of fact – is probably wrong. Oddly, its author is one of the world’s most intelligent men.

 

Hawking book jacket-bioThe book was “My Brief History,” the 2013 autobiography of physicist Stephen Hawking, the man in the wheelchair with the synthetic voice whose life is now a major motion picture called, “The Theory of Everything.”

 

The movie is more a love story than a science story. Still, its title comes from Hawking’s pursuit of a unified way of explaining all forces in the universe.

In the book, Hawking talks about his birth in Cambridge, England, home of one of the world’s greatest universities. His reason for being born in Cambridge is what uplifted me. His casual little sentence was a gentle piece of history I had never heard of; one of those marvelous pieces of information that suggests we maintain a small degree of civility even as we try to utterly destroy each other. It was like reading for the first time about the unofficial Christmas truce during World War I, when soldiers from both sides climbed out of the trenches, sang songs together, exchanged presents and even played soccer.

 

In Hawking’s case, the scene is World War II. The scientist said his family moved to Cambridge because the English and the Germans had agreed it was not to be bombed. Also under protection was Oxford, and in Germany the universities at Heidelberg and Goettingen.

 

I had never heard anything of the sort, but recognized that such an agreement could easily have been buried in the rubble of all the other destruction. Visualizing the leaders of these two warring countries shaking hands on this was heart-warming. I actually pictured them doing it.

 

But I guess even Hawking can get things wrong.

 

The fact-checking site Snopes.com said the agreement mentioned by Hawking had been an Internet myth. It’s likely to spread further now with Hawking’s book. Additional searches could not confirm the agreement.

 

Of course, Cambridge was without strategic value and bombs were precious, so it was much safer to be in Cambridge than in London. Hawking’s father probably moved the family there just to lessen the odds of being killed.

 

With many others doing the same, the myth of protection probably evolved and spread. I’m sure it made living in Cambridge a lot more comfortable.

 

Cambridge bombedMyth or not, in 2010 a BBC website ran a story on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Vicarage Terrace in Cambridge. It has a woman named Barbara Wright remembering the incident. She was six. There’s a photo.

 

“Suddenly there was a huge noise,” she said. “The actual walls on either side came in and practically touched us.”

 

The story said nine people were killed in the attack, and that they were the first British civilian casualties of the war.

 

The fact that the myth exists even when there is proof that Cambridge was bombed shows the power of myth and the need to believe in good things.

 

If anyone can shed additional light on the myth, the truth, or Stephen Hawking, please comment. Perhaps the full story still remains to be told. Please don’t, however, write if you have info that the Christmas truce was a myth. Let’s at least leave that one in place. After all, they made a movie out of it.

 

The trailer is below, along with that for the new Hawking movie.

 

By Lanny Morgnanesi

           

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/Salz7uGp72c” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

 

 

 

embed trailer

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As its old enemy grows weak and it grows strong, China hasn’t forgotten World War II

23 Aug

Almost 11 years have passed and the war in Afghanistan is still a war. It has helped drain the treasury of a nation that doesn’t want to pay taxes.

An even bigger threat to that treasury and to global peace is occurring thousands of miles away in the Pacific. Its roots are deep, dating at least to 1937, when Japan invaded China.

The Chinese of today look at Americans and wonder how we can be friends with the Germans and the Japanese. We’ve forgotten World War II. They haven’t. Their country was occupied. Ours was not.

The hate never dissipated.

Around 1985, Chinese consumers were getting their first chances to buy televisions. Many were imported from Japan. Many didn’t work right. True or not, the perception was that Japan was dumping its faulty products on China. As the TVs failed, anger rose, then raged. Demonstrations were held to criticize the government for allowing this to happen and for being a party to this loss of face.

The protests continue.

E-mail has been circulating all over China calling for the boycott of Japanese products. One complaint in the e-mail is that the bosses of Japanese companies in China treat their Chinese employees like dogs. Beneath that remains the revulsion of doing business with a nation that murdered millions of Chinese and committed vicious, wide-scale atrocities that included massive gang rapes and burying people alive.

Americans don’t realize it, but almost 90 percent of Japan’s fighting forces in World War II were in China, not the islands we fought over.

While powerful back then, the Japanese of today are struggling to recover from a lengthy economic malaise.  As they do, they watch China grow wealthy and strong. Out of frustration, a bunch of them jumped in boats last weekend and landed on an Island that China claims. They planted Japanese flags.

This lit a fuse back in China, and several thousand took to the streets in protest.

All very interesting, and right now harmless. If, however, these skirmishes escalates and Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan also feel threatened, the U.S. could be lured in.

Anticipating the future, our presence in the Pacific already has grown. If the events of last week continue, it is likely to grow further.

Will there be a dialogue or will it just happen? In such a case, Americans will have to ask themselves: Is this our role, and are we willing to pay for it?

 

I think debate is needed now, while it is only pleasure craft and civilians taking over disputed islands, while decisions on budgets and taxes are still pending, and while national lunacy is still treatable.

This one could make Afghanistan look like a street fight.

Lanny Morgnanesi

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