Over the last few weeks there have been some excellent historical items about music and World War II. The history of music has a very long tail, oftentimes in the face of adversity. See the below post on a Christmas carol written in the trenches during World War I.
First off, check out the picture of Army Bandsmen during the Battle of the Bulge. Remember, no matter what "job" a soldier does, be it clerk or cook and everything in between, you're a rifleman first. Hence the need for every soldier to attend Basic, or Basic Combat Training. It's there every soldier learns the rudimentary skills of chain of command, unit cohesion, marksmanship, etc.
These American soldiers from the 28th Division Band and Quartermaster Company, stayed and fought Germans in Wiltz, Luxembourg, until their ammunition was exhausted. Shown at Bastogne, Belgium. 12/20/44.
During the Battle of the Bulge, the Band was placed on the line to defend the Division Headquarters at Wiltz, Luxembourg. In this action, for which the Band was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Luxembourg Croix de Guerre, all but thirteen of the sixty members were killed or captured. Of the thirteen, eleven were wounded. Sergeant Emil Raab avoided capture and helped re-form a new band after the Ardennes campaign. He later became Professor of Violin at The University of Michigan.
If you need an historical sense of fighting in the Ardennes and the Seige of Bastogne particularly, see the wonderful HBO series, "Band of Brothers," detailing the travails of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. It was a truly grueling endeavor. The Ardennes is a mountain range covered in thick forest. During the middle of winter it's hard to believe any advancing Army could believe they could maneuver under such conditions. The German Army could not, and their quest for Antwerp was never realized.
There's something to be said for musicians that rise to their duty. Whether it's musicians playing hymns as the RMS Titanic sank, or here where the laid down their instruments to fight for the common good and too, made the ultimate sacrifice. It's an impressive legacy.
On a brighter note, singer Vera Lynn, now Dame Vera Lynn, will release an album on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Who is Vera Lynn? Only the most popular singer in Britain during the war. Her song, "The White Cliffs of Dover" still made my mum (a Liverpudlian) cry up to the time of her death, some fifty years after the end of the war. Here's a wonderful biography on Ms. Lynn made a few years ago with interviewer David Frost. It's worth a look to learn of her background and impact on the war effort, and the incredible journey from East End Girl to national treasure. My favorite moment is when her father puts his foot down and says she will be a singer because she can make more money doing that than as a seamstress. That sir, was a wonderful decision that led to not only a great career but inspiration on the home front.
Two disparate musicians. One, a soldier/bandsman who did his duty to fight for the betterment of Europe and freedom from the oppression of German imperialism. The other, a woman who lifted spirits of those civilians and soldiers facing such incredible adversity. Musicians on different sides of the aisle. Both doing their part for a larger cause. It doesn't get more meaningful than that.
"Body and Soul" so to speak.