Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
September 1 marks the 75th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland, generally considered to be the start of World War II.
My son Gideon has unknowingly given me the idea of how to mark that occasion. Following in the footsteps of my late father, he recently became enamored of “Reader’s Digest.” The venerable magazine has a recurring feature in which an anonymous professional tells the tricks and secrets of his trade, as in “15 Things Your Banker Won’t Tell You,” “15 Things Your Hair Stylist Won’t Tell You,” “15 Things Your Crazy Ex’s Sleazebag Lawyer Won’t Tell You,” etc.
Well, I feel it’s my patriotic (and space-limited) duty to present “Eight Things Your Historian Won’t Tell You.”
1. Adolf Hitler never got to enjoy an uninterrupted viewing of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 propaganda film “Triumph of Will” because he was always frothing at the mouth about the price of popcorn and soft drinks.
2. Deposed British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spent years defending himself from charges that he was too naive in negotiating with Hitler. (“I was distracted by Prince Albert suffocating in the can. And that confounded refrigerator just kept running!”)
3. Chamberlain’s successor, Winston Churchill, delivered an inspirational speech that was originally supposed to contain, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. What? Yes, I suppose that could apply to opposing Nazis, but I was really talking about fighting DENTISTS.”
4. Beyond just isolationists, there were old-timers who were less than gung ho about American prospects in the conflict. (“Greatest generation, my Aunt Fanny! Waaal, maybe you whippersnappers can do okay with rationing, foxholes and shell shock, but I’ll bet you’d come a-crying if you had to deal with big-wheeled bicycles, off-key barbershop quartets and striped full-body swimsuits like WE did.”)
5. We’ve heard of the shameful practice of building internment camps for Japanese-American citizens, but President Roosevelt also had contingency plans for internment camps for those who “sat under the apple tree with anyone else but me.”
6. French General Charles de Gaulle was distraught over public perception. (“No matter how valiantly ze French underground fights, ze American talk radio hosts portray us as a bunch of white-flag wavers. I’ve tried everything to get rid of the stereotype. I give up! D’oh!”)
7. In those less health-conscious times, the surgeon general emblazoned cigarette packages with the warning “Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em — but only if you’ve rolled them in lard and sugar first!”
8. We know of Japanese Kamikaze pilots who viewed Emperor Hirohito as a god and willingly went to their deaths for him; less known are the more laid-back Japanese combatants who said, “I’m a spiritual person, but I think I’ll commune with Hirohito on the golf course instead of in a burning plane. Besides, December 7 is my one day to sleep late.”
The next six years will bring many anniversaries that give us a chance to teach about World War II. Let’s bring knowledge to those who’ve played one video game too many. (“So, it was like a big deal that there were 73 million military and civilian dead? So, you mean, each of those people lost ALL their lives???”)
©2014 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.