WWII Dispatches, November 2009

By Justin Ewers
9/1/2009 • World War II News

  • More than 100 Filipino veterans of World War II were awarded congressional medals and given long-delayed payment for their services at a ceremony in Honolulu this summer. Some 250,000 Filipinos enlisted in 1941 to defend the Philippines, then a commonwealth of the United States, from Japanese invasion after Pearl Harbor. Though they were promised American citizenship for their service, that offer was revoked when the islands gained their independence after the war. Congress passed legislation this year awarding $9,000 payments for veterans who are noncitizens, along with $15,000 payments for citizens, and apologized for the delay.
  • It sounds like a case Mel Brooks would love. German prosecutors launched an inquiry this summer into whether a garden gnome on display in a Nuremberg art gallery—with its right arm apparently raised in a Hitler salute—violated German law, which prohibits the display of Nazi imagery. After a brief investigation, the prosecutors ruled that the 15-inch-tall gnome was mocking the Nazis, not hailing the return of the Third Reich. “It is pretty clear that garden gnomes are silly and that they do silly things,” the prosecutors’ final report quotes the artist, Ottmar Hörl, as saying. “In 1942, I would have been shot by the Nazis for this.” The display was declared legal and allowed to remain on view.
  • Commemorative badges and a hearty “thank you” were bestowed upon nearly 2,000 surviving members of the British code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park in a service earlier this year. “A debt of gratitude” continues to be owed to the thousands of men and women who toiled in secret to crack German military codes, British foreign secretary David Miliband said, pointing out that public recognition had been delayed for years because of the secrecy of the code-breaking operation. “The medal doesn’t mean all that much,” Oliver Lawn, a Bletchley Park veteran, told the BBC. “What we appreciate is the interest that this shows by the public—by the government—in what was done… [and] how very important the whole work of the decoding was to the national war effort.”

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