Sunday, June 26, 2016

IRELAND | June 24–Éamon de Valera Resigns

This day in 1973, Éamon de Valera resigned as President of Ireland. His personal survival to that age can be attributed to his birth in New York City! His birthplace seemed to be of little importance until his life was spared by the British after the 1916 Easter Rising, because of his U.S. citizenship.

He lived out his years in Blackrock and I could see the sentry box in front of his walled enclave every day when I bicycled in 1951-52 from our house–"Springfield", Sydney Avenue (as I remember the address)–to Blackrock College. I was in the junior school at Blackrock, Willow Park, being nine years old.

They started me out in a lower grade but realized that they main thing holding me back was not knowing the Irish language. Someone, possibly my mother, persuaded the Holy Ghost Fathers (C.S.Sp.) that learning Irish was not a priority for a typical U.S. citizen visitor not planning to spend the rest of his life in Ireland.

From my first days learning Irish I remember a few words like an cupán, meaning cup. When my instruction in Irish was ended, I was advanced one grade.

But I digress. When he resigned, de Valera was the world’s oldest statesman, 90 years old.

He was born in New York City in 1882 to a Spanish father and Irish mother. His father died when young Éamon was two years old. His mother couldn't look after him alone and so he was packed off to live with his mother’s family in County Limerick, Ireland. He attended the Royal University of Ireland, class of 1904 and obtained his degree in mathematics.

He became an important figure in the Irish-language revival movement and the independence movement. In 1913, he joined the armed Irish Volunteers, which advocated Ireland’s independence from Britain. In 1916 he participated, as mentioned, in the Easter Rising in Dublin. He was the last rebel leader to surrender and his life was spared because of his American birth. He was released from prison in 1917 under a general amnesty.

He then became president of the nationalist Sinn Fein Party. In May 1918, he was deported to England and imprisoned again, but in December 1918 Sinn Fein won an Irish national election, making him the unofficial leader of Ireland.

In February 1919, he escaped from jail and traveled to the United States, where he raised money for for the Irish Republican (independence) movement. When he returned to Ireland in 1920, Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were waging a guerrilla campaign against the British army. forces. In 1921, a truce was declared. The following year a group of Sinn Fein leaders including Arthur Griffith split with de Valera and signed a treaty with Britain that partitioned off the more Protestant counties in the north and let the rest of Ireland, Éire, be independent.

A civil war followed, with de Valera supporting the IRA against the Irish Free State (the new government of the autonomous south). He was imprisoned by William Cosgrave’s Irish Free State ministry. In 1924, he was released and two years later left Sinn Fein, forming Fianna Fail, which eight years later won control of the Dail Eireann, the Irish assembly.

So the same year that FDR was elected President, de Valera was elected Taoiseach, or Irish prime minister. For the next 16 years, de Valera pursued a policy of political separation from Great Britain, including the introduction of a new constitution in 1937 that declared Ireland the fully sovereign state of Éire. During World War II, he maintained a policy of neutrality but repressed anti-British intrigues within the IRA.

In 1948, de Valera narrowly lost reelection because the public was weary of his party’s long monopoly of power. Out of office, he toured the world advocating the unification and independence of Ireland. His successor as Taoiseach, John Costello, officially made Ireland an independent republic in 1949 but lost the prime minister’s office to de Valera in 1951. The seesaw continued–relative Irish economic prosperity in the 1940s declined in the 1950s, and Costello began a second ministry in 1954, replaced again by de Valera in 1957. In 1959, de Valera resigned as prime minister and was elected Irish president–a largely ceremonial post. On June 24, 1973, de Valera retired, and died two years later.


At the beginning of World War II my father was plucked from FDR's senior civil service by William ("Wild Bill") Donovan of the O.S.S. to Dublin to check on whether de Valera was assisting the British on intelligence issues despite Éire's official neutrality. My father's conclusion was that the Irish didn't like the Brits but they liked the Nazis even less and were cooperating fully with British intelligence.

One event that sanitized biographies omit is that de Valera went to the German Embassy in Dublin to sign the condolence book when Hitler died in his bunker. By this time the Nazis were defeated, with–from the perspective of the Allies–minimal involvement by Éire (although many from Éire signed up to serve in the British Army). The poke in the eye for Churchill and Britain obviously was designed to play well with de Valera's Irish Nationalist base, and did not reflect the Éire government's actions in the war years. However, even as a strictly political move it was extremely foolish. By this time the many atrocities propagated by Hitler were largely uncovered and his signing of the book was used to justify hostility to de Valera in Britain, the USA and the many other countries that contributed to defeating Hitler. This blot on de Valera's name will never be forgotten.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Barack Obama Sr. (L) and Jr. (R), c. 1969. This photo was
sent out by the Obama Presidential campaign.
The New York Times today has an interesting story on letters from and about Barack Obama, Sr., from his time applying for a scholarship in the United States and then requesting funds from his base in Hawaii, where he earned a degree in economics and gave birth to the man who would become President of the United States for two terms.

In his application for scholarship and travel money he provides a résumé of his early training and work experience as an engineer in Kenya. He was a surveyor for a while, like George Washington. He refers to working with a "theodolite", a tripod-based tool of surveyors, allowing measurements of elevation, longitude and latitude.

At the same time that Barack Obama, Sr. was figuring out how to get to the United States, my sister Olga–two years older than him–was studying in Trinity College, Dublin and then training to be a teacher. She then prepared herself to travel to Kenya to create the first integrated (European, Asian and Native African) school for girls in Kenya, what became Kianda College.

Olga and her fellow teachers would replace the European teachers who were leaving because of fears created by the 1952 Mau Mau uprising and independence movement. The British colonial government engaged in mass arrests, 180 leaders at one time, and one of the men jailed for seeking freedom became the leader of an independent Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

My sister went to Kenya in 1960, before independence. Her story is told in her memoir, To Africa with a Dream. She became a Kenyan citizen and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from Strathmore University, the first such honor the university gave to a woman.

Monday, June 6, 2016

WELLESLEY | 50th Reunion, Class of 1966

Saturday dinner in the basement of Alumnae Hall. Table at left, clockwise from empty seat: Curry
Rinzler, Alice Tepper Marlin '66, John Tepper Marlin, Warren Boeschenstein, Davy Cool Hammatt '66,
Elin Gammon Vaughter '66, Judy Peterson Fisher '66 and Karen Ahern Boeschenstein '66.
Photo by Cinnamon Liggett Rinzler '66.

Moderator (L) and Four Wellesley Presidents at
Alumnae Hall: Kim Bottomly, Diana Walsh '66,
Nan Keohane, Paula Johnson. Photo JT Marlin.
I had a lovely time at the Wellesley '66 reunion, from Friday afternoon through Sunday lunch.

The highlights of the weekend were the traditional panel discussion meeting of the three previous presidents of Wellesley–Nan Keohane (who went on to become President of Duke), Diana Chapman Walsh '66 (president 1993-2007), and Kim Bottomly–and a skit put on by the class.
Spouses' Selfie: John and Warren.

Kim Bottomly recently retired as Wellesley's 13th president. She was the first inaugurated in the 21st Century, as well as being the first scientist. The new incoming president of Wellesley is Paula Johnson, the first African American to occupy the post.
Warren, Davy, Elin at Saturday dinner. Photo by JT Marlin.

More spouses should have been at the Reunion. They would have enjoyed it. 

Stories and observations from our 25th Reunion about the decrepitude of alums at their 50th now seem unfair.

Connie Harris Slawecki '66 and Judy
Peterson Fisher '66.
Possibly what was true 25 years ago has changed, as science has lengthened the years in which we are able to keep working and living productively.

Because I have attended so many of Alice's reunions, I have gotten to know many members of her class, and it really was a pleasure seeing them again.
Sunday lunch, Lulu Campus Center. L to R: Warren; Curry
and Cinnamon Rinzler '66; Alice Tepper Marlin '66 and
John. Photo kindly taken by LC Wang '66.

Here is a related and revealing story in the most recent issue of The New Yorker, about a time that seems long, long ago, when African Americans were so underrepresented in the Ivy colleges: The black women in Hillary Clinton's Wellesley Class of 1969.

Other posts related to Wellesley '66: East Hampton-LongHouse 2015  |  East Hampton-Pollock 2015  |  Boston 2015 |  Vero Beach 2016  |  

WW2 | D-Day, 72 Years On

D-Day Assault.
June 6, 2016–Today is the 72nd Anniversary of D-Day. I was two barely years old. Both my father and my mother's brother Willem were in Europe at war, along with many other relatives of their generation.

My mother and grandmother had reason to be concerned about Willem. He was killed four days after D-Day.

My wife Alice Tepper Marlin and I went to France in 2014 on the 70th anniversary to pay our respects to those who died. We were in Normandy and the Mayenne to the south.

My uncle Willem piloted missions over northern France before and after D-Day. He is buried in Laval, Mayenne, along with his six crew-mates. He was flying a Halifax bomber out of an RAF base (Squadron 10) in Melbourne, Yorks., UK. A Dutchman, he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland when the war broke out. He went to Canada to volunteer for the RCAF and ended up flying for the RAF.

His plane was shot down, after its mission was completed, in the early morning of June 10, 1944. Another crew of seven from another Halifax on the same mission (two of ten planes on the missions were lost that morning) are buried next to them. A book about that mission (Time Bomber, for adults or young adults) was written by Dr. Robert Wack and has a five-star review on Amazon, with seven reviewers.

The other airplane that was shot down the same night was piloted by an Australian. I met his son two years ago at a reunion of the relatives of the airmen in Laval; it was my third visit to the gravesite.

In preparation for our visit in 2014 (about which I have written here1, here2, here3, here4, and here5), I assembled data on D-Day and World War II in Europe. One source was a new book targeted at young people by Rick Atkinson, D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944, published by Henry Holt and meant to be used in schools and is adapted from Atkinson's #1 best-selling book The Guns at Last Light. It is reviewed here on Goodreads' list of the best books for young people about World War II.

Deaths from WWII

Total deaths – Possibly as many as 72 million people, of whom 26-27 million were from the Soviet Union and 7-9 million were from Germany.
  • Atkinson gives the total as 72 million people, or 28,000 people every day of the 2,174-day war. This is at the high end of the Wikipedia figures. Soviet dead 26 million - military 10.7 million, civilian 15 million. U.S. dead 419,000 - military 417,000 (out of 16 million who served), civilian 2,000 UK dead 451,000 - military 384,000 (out of 6 million who served), civilian 67,000 Canadian dead 23,000, all military (out of 1.1 million who served). German dead 8.8 million - military 5.5 million, civilian 3.3 million. European Jews killed in Holocaust - 6 million. Number of American soldiers buried in Europe (25,000 U.S. pilots killed behind enemy lines) 14,000.
  • UK Source ( Total dead 50-70 million. Soviet dead 26.6 million, of which 8.7 million soldiers died in World War 2. British 700,000 military and 60,000 civilian deaths. Poland’s dead were between 5.6 and 5.8 million. USA military dead: 416,800. German total 7.4 million, of which military dead and missing are 5.3 million.
  • History Channel Total dead 35-60 million. (Much lower than the Atkinson and Wikipedia upper figure of 72 million.)
D-Day Armada – Allied Troops landed, 156,000.
  • Vehicles landed - 30,000. Planes - 11,000. Ships and landing craft - 5,000. Parachutists - 13,000.
  • Most Effective Bombers Used in Europe Britain Avro Lancaster, DeHavilland Mosquito (wooden, to avoid radar). USA B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress. Germany Heinkel III, Junkers 87 Stuka, Junkers Ju-88.
  • Most Effective Tanks Used in Europe USA M4 Sherman Soviet T-34 German Panther (partly copied from Soviets), PzKfw Mk. IV Panzer, Tiger I/II.
U.S. Military in WWII–16 million.
  • 16.1 million–U.S. armed forces personnel who served in WWII between December 1, 1941 and December 31, 1946: 16.1 million. 33 months–The average length of active-duty by U.S. military personnel during WWII. 73% The proportion of U.S. military personnel who served abroad during WWII. 
  • 292,000–Number of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines killed in battle in WWII. 114,000–Number of other deaths sustained by U.S. forces during WWII. 671,000–The number of U.S. troops wounded during WWII.
Surviving Veterans

The few surviving veterans from World War II are fading away with an attrition rate that in some cases approaches 30 percent per year. I have interviewed one survivor at length.
  • 5.7 million The number of World War II veterans counted in Census 2000. The census identified the period of service for World War II veterans as September 1940 to July 1947.
  • 475,000 Calif.–Estimated number of WWII veterans living in California in 2002, the most in any state. Other states with high numbers of WWII vets included Florida (439,000), New York (284,000), Pennsylvania (280,000), Texas (267,000) and Ohio (208,000). See Table 529 in Census source.
  • 5.4 percent Clearwater, Fla. - The proportion of WWII veterans among the Clearwater, Fla., civilian population age 18 and over in 2000. Other large places (100,000 or more population) with high concentrations of WWII vets were: Cape Coral, Fla. (5.1 percent), Oceanside, Calif. (4.3 percent); and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Pueblo, Colo., Metairie, La., St. Petersburg, Fla.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Independence, Mo. (all around 4 percent).
  • 210,000 - Estimated number of women in 2002 who were WWII veterans. These women comprised 4.4 percent of WWII vets. See Table 530.
  • 22% The proportion of all veterans in April 2000 who were WWII veterans.
The National World War II Memorial was dedicated on May 29, 2004. In Washington, D.C. between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, it is the first national memorial dedicated to the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, including those who died in combat, and Americans who supported the war effort on the home front.

Sources: Besides the Atkinson book and UK sources referenced above, two other sources were used. One is no long available, the original Census release #001747 on which many of the above numbers were based (this was the link: Many related numbers are available here: However, the Museum numbers do not always line up with the Census numbers that were released.