Category Archives: Loose thoughts and musings

A Walk in Munich, a Police Headquarters, and a Voice that will not be Silenced: the Witness of Sophie Scholl

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight another thought from Munich.

Today was relatively uneventful from a historian’s point of view in our current trip to Germany. Today was a day that Judy and I spent time together walking around the city center and Marienplatz. We did some shopping and more window shopping before getting a late lunch at our favorite local restaurant, Zum Brunstein before working our way back to our hotel. After she got a bit of rest and I went and picked up a few things that we needed and then did some reading, we went back out to get a few drawing supplies and the have a late supper.

Since Judy needs two knee replacement surgeries after we return to the United States and is dragging herself around on crutches I was proud that she got about five miles of walking in today. I got in eight miles and since we are not eating like we do in the United States I assume that we are both losing some weight, which is not a bad thing. My injuries from the fall that I took a month and a half ago seem to be doing better and though I still am in some pain I am no longer walking with such a noticeable limp, and when not escorting Judy like a destroyer escorting a cargo ship I am able to walk at a much faster clip than I have since the fall. I haven’t tried running yet but that may yet happen, but I digress…

The fact is that I continued muse upon the lives of Sophie Scholl and her companions in the White Rose resistance movement. It is something that as I think about what is happening in the United States regarding the Trump Administration’s lack of respect or concern for the rule of law which is reaching a fever pitch.

One site that we walked past today was the Police Headquarters, or the Polizei Präsidentin. The building was the headquarters of the Munich Police, before, during and after the Nazi State. It was the initial headquarters and workplace of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich before they moved to Berlin not long after the Nazi takeover.

In 1943 it housed the offices of the Gestapo and other police agencies. It was here that following their arrest that Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, were first taken for interrogation before being imprisoned at Städelheim and tried before the Volksgericht headed by Roland Freisler.

This place that we see here, even those that few think about are still important. Sophie said: I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct

Since we have an early morning tomorrow I will wish you a good night,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Der Münchner Wiesn 2018: a Parade, Bier, and Gemütlichkeit

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was the beginning of Munich’s Oktoberfest, commonly known here as der Wiesn. This is actually a term from the Bavarian dialect which means the green which is a term used for the Theresienwiese, the lawn of the Nymphenburg palace grounds in Munich which hosted the first Oktoberfest on which King Ludwig I of Bavaria celebrated his wedding to Princess Theresa and a horse race.

The King invited the people of the city and thereafter it became a regular event and soon a national and worldwide event celebrating Munich’s heritage of community and beer, which helped bridge the otherwise insurmountable of German and other European cultural divide. Munich, with its beer hall culture is one of those rare places in Europe that a mayor, governor, senior civil service official, or military officer might sit next to a lowly peasant, worker, farmer, or even a beggar might sit together drinking beer, class differences cast aside. A number of historians have noted this fact.

Today, Munich is still home to a tradition that has grown far from the Theresianwiese to other locations throughout Germany and around the world.

We have visited Munich and gone to der Wiesn for the last five years, but today was the first time that we were here for the opening parade and the ceremonial tapping of the Festbier by the Mayor of Munich in the Hofbrauhaus tent.

After the parade we took seats in the beer garden area of the Hofbrauhaus tent where we had a delightful time with three German retirees, Dora, Ludwig, and Christa, and a mixed group of younger Germans and internationals. We stayed a lot longer than we expected. After we got back to our hotel I went down to the hotel bar watch the Schalke vs. Bayern Munich match. While there I spent the match chatting with two pilots from Qatar Airlines. Bayern won 2-0 and I look forward to Tuesday night when I see them play Augsburg at Allianz Arena.

These are some of the sights of this event.

Tomorrow we will take our rental car and visit historical sites around town which are normally out of the way.

I hope that you enjoy, I know that we are.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Arrival in Munich

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It was a long day which began for us about 6:30AM Thursday in Virginia. After making one last stop at work I picked up a few last minute items that we needed for the trip and went home to finish packing and make sure that all of the banks associated with debit and credit card that I was taking were alerted to our imminent overseas travel plans.

We arrived in Munich at about 7:25 this morning Central European Time which is six hours ahead of the United States in case you haven’t made the trip across the Pond. Since the vast majority of Americans have never left the confines of the Continental United States, or as we in the military refer to it as CONUS, it makes sense to let any readers know.

My wife Judy is going to have to have two knee replacement surgeries after we return home so she is on crutches and needed a wheelchair at each of the three airports we went through. Thanks be to the people at United Airlines, Norfolk International Airport, Washington Dulles, and Munich she was whisked through everything quickly, courteously, and, for us, effortlessly. This has not always been the case on other airlines, so Bravo Zulu to all involved. J

When we got to Munich we got our rental car and did a little bit of shopping at Judy’s favorite clothing store, Adler Mode, then got some new feet for her German made crutches which we got here a few years back, and finally after working my way through much of the city center got to our hotel. Our room wasn’t ready but they let us park the car in the garage and walked to or favorite local restaurant, Zum Brunnstein on Orleanstraße. Which is between out hotel and the Ostbahnhoff. Since like most restaurants here are family owned or operated we have gotten to know a number of of the employees over the years and when we come there are always hugs and laughs.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel about 2:00 P.M. which is 8:00 A.M. on the East Coast at which point Judy crashed hard and took a nap while I did some reconnoitering and foraging mixing with locals and tourists alike. After I returned we went out for a light supper before returning to our room about 10:00 P.M.

Tomorrow we will get up early and proceed over to Theresianwiesse where Oktoberfest in the morning. After that who knows…

Anyway, I am still trying to sort through email, social media posts, and catch up on the news. Evidently there is a lot going on back at home and I hope to write about it soon.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Preparing for Another Trip to Germany

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Later this week we will be flying to Germany for what has seemingly become an annual pilgrimage. While there we will be seeing friends as well as enjoying the Oktoberfest in Munich, seeing historical places, and exploring towns where Judy’s ancestors came from in the Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg, and the Alsace in France.

While in Munich I plan to again visit Dachau and the Sophie Scholl museum at Munich University and hopefully a number of other sites. I have a ticket for a soccer match between Bayern-München and Augsburg at Allianz area.

Outside of Munich it looks like we will visit the Flossenbürg and Buchenwald Concentration Camps Southwest of Berlin. We will stay in Wittenberg where Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, and the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach where Luther was hidden after his defense and excommunication before the Imperial Diet at Worms. In his ten months of hiding he translated the New Testament from Greek into German.

We will visit friends in Berlin. It will be our first visit to the city since November of 1986, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It will be interesting to see the redone Reichstag, walk under the Brandenburger Tor, as well as see the the Berlin Monument to the Holocaust, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Bendlerstrasse Museum to the German anti-Nazi resistance, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and the Wannsee House.

From Berlin we will stay with friends near Karlsruhe one the Rhein River near the French Border for a few days before returning to Munich for our flight home.

I’ll be writing and posting about those things and more in the coming weeks, but for now I will wish you a good night.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Bandit is Dead, Long Live the Bandit: the Passing of Burt Reynolds

Friends of Padre Steve’e World,

I came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s and back then Burt Reynolds ruled the box office. I think that I saw every move that he made between 1974 and 1985. My favorites were his comedies like Smokey and the Bandit, The End, The Cannonball Run, Starting Over, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and so many others. I did really like his serious films like  Sharkey’s Machine, Deliverance, and his part as “Mr. Burt” in the X-Files episode Improbable which was aired in 2002. But it was his comedies that I continually go back to when I need a laugh. I’m doing that tonight.

One of the movies that I will watch this weekend is The End where he plays a man diagnosed with cancer who tries to kill himself and gets locked up with Dom DeLouise, who then takes it upon himself to help Reynolds try to kill himself. At the end of the film Reynold’s character decides that he wants to live after swimming out into the ocean to drown himself. In a panic he begins to bargain with God:

Oh, God! Let me live, and I promise to obey every one of the Ten Commandments. I shall not kill… I shall not commit adultery… I shall not… I… uh… I’ll  learn the Ten Commandments, and then I’ll obey every fucking one of them!

I love that line.

But for me Burt Reynolds was an icon and it is hard to believe that he has passed away. I heard about his death as my iPhone news notifications started going off for close to an hour, even overwhelming important news going on in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. All I can think about Judge Kavanaugh and his lack of truthfulness and character is a quote from Reynolds’s character in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd: “Boys, I got myself a pretty good bullshit detector, and I can tell when somebody’s peeing on my boots and telling me it’s a rainstorm.” But I digress…

The fact is that I am going to miss Burt Reynolds. I was looking forward to him possibly being in Quentin  Tarantino’s next film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; I am sure that he would have been great in it.

Reynolds was more than a sum of his acting parts, he was also a very reflective and appreciate man as he aged. He appreciated his friends. When he friend and frequent co-star Dom DeLuise  passed away he said:

As you get older, and start to lose people you love, you think about it more, and I was dreading this moment. Dom always made you feel better when he was around and there will never be another like him. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much…. 

He was able to recognize his failures in life, relationships, and even in the choices of some films that he made. That being said he was able to express his appreciation for those who stood by him, supported him, and told him the truth during his good and bad times.

He also said something that I can relate to despite not being an actor. Instead of acting I have tried to teach and help younger military personnel, officers, and especially chaplains. In doing so I often make fun of myself and the mistakes that I have made. I can laugh at myself, except when I can’t. As I look at retiring from the military next year after some 38 years of service I know that my legacy will not be the sum of my personal accomplishments, it will be the young men and women that I have been able to teach and mentor over the years. Reynolds said:

I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun making fun of myself! As to my legacy, it’s the kids that I have taught. I love this business so very much that I want to share my knowledge about it. The young actors that I have taught, I hope they think of me as a good teacher like Charles Nelson Reilly. Being a good teacher. I’ll take that over being a good actor any day!

With that I will go back to my Burt Reynolds movie binge watching weekend.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Revenge of Wun Hung Lo: Never Violate Your Personal Prime Directive

Friends of Padre Steve’s world,

After a really long day Sunday working in the house, ripping up carpet and moving furniture I was tired. We had to sleep in the couches in the living room since the bedroom was in a state of disarray. About midnight I got hungry. I rummaged around the fridge and since there was little else there found a leftover egg roll from the Chinese takeout place that Judy likes and some sweet and sour sauce. I have appropriated the nickname given to a Chinese takeout place in our home town by her late father as my nickname for this place: Wun Hung Lo.

Now, honestly I never eat Chinese food. If i pick up take out for her I walk a couple of doors down to my favorite Mexican restaurant to get me something. My aversion to Chinese food goes way back to my high school graduation banquet when a spider crawled out from the inside of the pot of my Green Tea. At that point I made the decision that if I could see a spider crawling out of my tea that I couldn’t trust what might be in the food that was not so clear.

Judy has always considered that to be a bit extreme but when we lived in Huntington, West Virginia here favorite Chinese place there, the Happy Dragon by the health department because the chicken was actually cat. As I noted, “the cat’s in the ladle with the silver spoon.” Judy’s response was “tastes like chicken.”

Needless to say this phobia of mine was still in place, but since we didn’t have much else to eat having been so busy that we didn’t make a grocery run for over a week, I asked myself, “it’s only an egg roll, what could happen?”

I tell you what happened. About 6:00 A.M. I was dashing to the the great white throne to hurl the offending egg roll remnants and the still recognizable sweet and sour sauce into the pristine basin of my new toilet in our freshly renovated bathroom. I pain for violating my personal Prime Directive. I paid all morning for it until I passed out on the recliner until about 7:30 P.M.

While I was crashing and burning my dear friend Bill Quinn came to the house and finished installing the flooring and in our bedroom. Good friends are rare and the work he did would have taken me twice or three times as long and not looked professional at all.

Anyway. I finally held down some chicken noodle soup about 8:00 P.M. I have been drinking Gatorade and water most of the day. I’m still not feeling very good and I’m going to take the morning off from work before checking in during the afternoon on the way to a doctors appointment on base.

I could write more and certainly in more descriptive language, but I am really tired and it would probably gross you out. So I will schedule this to post just after midnight by which time I hope to be asleep.

However, I tell you the truth. I have learned my lesson at the hands of Wun Hung Lo, and after having looked at common ingredients found in egg rolls I can only say, nevermore.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been: This Navy Chaplain’s Work Becomes Part of an Army Operational Manual

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I received word yesterday of something that I think is really cool. I was asked by the Army Combined Arms Directorate at Fort Leavenworth for permission to include an adaptation of a portion of my Gettysburg text as a one page vignette for the new edition of Army Doctrine Publication 5-0, The Operations Process. This will be published in January 2019 and gives the Army permission to use it in this as well as other Army and Joint publications for twenty years.

This is kind of a big thing for me. Now it will not generate any royalties, but it will get my work out to a much larger audience than I have ever reached before. The publication of this vignette in the publication may end up in getting my Gettysburg trilogy in print of other publishers and actually published. The trilogy is very different than most accounts of the battle due to its focus on biography as well as overall operational and tactical decision making within the scope of the battle narrative.

You might wonder what difference of a vignette like this in such a publication makes on the readers who in this case are the current and future leaders of the Army. Let me tell you. When I was a new Army Lieutenant in 1983 the Army published FM 22-100, Military Leadership. For a field manual it was one of the best ever written. In it there was a vignette about Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

The vignette captured my imagination and it was hard to believe that some thirty years later as a Navy Chaplain and historian that I would be leading the Gettysburg Staff Ride at the Joint Forces Staff College. It inspired me to take seriously the human dynamic in war and in history. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time can attest to how serious I take the human factor whether it be in military history, politics, religion, civil rights, and even baseball.

The new edition of ADP 100-5 will be standard reading for NCOs, as well as junior and senior officers, and operational planners. Because of the Army’s oversize role in producing doctrine for the Joint force it will likely be a part of Marine Corps and Joint planning manuals and courses. For a Navy Chaplain and historian at the end of a 38 year military career which included 17 1/2 years in the Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve this is a big honor. In the words of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead in their classic song Truckin’ “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

The vignette as written will include segments of my text that I published on this blog. According to the Army the vignette will read like this:

Collaboration: Meade’s Council of War

In June 1863, General Robert E. Lee prepared the Army of Northern Virginia for a second invasion of the North. Moving through the Shenandoah Valley and north toward Harrisburg, Lee’s Army made contact with the Army of the Potomac near the town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Day one of the battle saw initial Confederate success. By the afternoon of day two, Major General George Meade (who had just recently assumed command of the Army of the Potomac) had moved the bulk of his force into defensive positions on the high ground south of the city. The battlefield was set.   

Late in the afternoon of July 2, Lee launched heavy assaults on both the Union’s left and right flanks. Fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, Culp’s Hill, and Cemetery Hill. Despite heavy losses, the Army of the Potomac held their lines. That evening, Meade reported back to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, “The enemy attacked me about 4 P.M. this day…and after one of the severest contests of the war was repulsed at all points.” Meade ended his message: “I shall remain in my present position to-morrow, but am not prepared to say until better advised of the condition of the army, whether operations will be of an offensive or a defensive character.” Having essentially made his decision, Meade summoned his corps commanders and chief of intelligence to assess the condition of the army and to hear from his commanders on courses of action for the next day.

The meeting began around 9 P.M. in which Brigadier General John Gibbon noted, “was at first very informal and in the shape of a conversation.” The meeting lasted about two hours as General Meade listened intently to his subordinates’ discussion.  The tradition in such meetings or council of war is a discussion and then a vote by the officers on the course of action. Meade’s Chief of Staff Major General Butterfield posed three questions:

 “Under existing circumstances, is it advisable for this army to remain in its present position, or retire to another nearer its base of supplies?

 It being determined to remain in present position, shall the army attack or wait the attack of the enemy?

 If we wait attack, how long?”

Meade’s commanders responded from junior to senior in rank. All wanted to remain on the field another day, but none favored to attack. When the discussion concluded Meade decided that the question was settled and the troops would remain in position.  The two-hour discussion and vote formed consensus of the commanders and improved their confidence, resulting in the outcome Meade was seeking-to stay and fight.

What I have stressed in my text and teaching about Gettysburg is just how George Gordon Meade actively sought the input and collaboration of his Generals while Confederate General Robert E. Lee did nothing of the sort at Gettysburg. I think that at every level of leadership that Union leaders were much more involved and able to adapt to a rapidly changing situation which any leadership failure could had led to an epic battlefield disaster. George Meade, who had just taken command of the Army of the Potomac on June 28th set the tone for his commanders.

Sadly, among many students of the battle and Civil War history buffs, Meade gets little recognition. But without his leadership and active direction of the battle and trust in his subordinates the battle of Gettysburg might likely become a great defeat for the Union. I do not think that it would have led to a Confederate victory in the war, but it would have complicated the Union War effort.

If you are interested in reading more from the articles used in this vignette please go to the following link on this blog.

“A Council of War: Meade and His Generals Decide to Stay and Fight at Gettysburg July 2nd 1863.” Padre Steve’s World. https://padresteve.com/2014/04/25/a-council-of-war-meade-and-his-generals-decide-to-stay-and-fight-at-gettysburg-july-2nd-1863/

Have a great night,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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