From the standpoint of the average soldier, there have been some pretty miserable military alliances over the past century.
The Australians and New Zealanders who ended up at Gallipoli in World War I at the behest of the British; Newfoundlanders cut down at the Somme, also fighting for the British; and most Arab soldiers who found themselves going up against Israelis between 1948 and 1973, would all have likely wondered what their nations had got them into.
But probably no group of Allies was more poorly served in the 20th century than those of Nazi Germany.
Hitler, who was only too happy to feed his own divisions into the seemingly endless maw of death that was World War II in his attempt to take over Europe, had absolutely no compunctions about frittering away the troops of collaborating nations.
One of the more striking accounts of this lesser-known aspect of the war was written by Eugenio Corti, an Italian officer who died earlier this month at 93.
Corti is best known for The Red Horse, a 1,000-page novel based on his experience during and after World War II. First published in 1983, it has gone through 25 editions.
But in his 1947 work Few Returned: Twenty-Eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1943-1943, Corti vividly described the utter hopeless of a soldier’s life on the Russian Front during the war.
Whenever I want to get a surefire “Ew!” from my daughters I need only suggest we visit a certain locale – any locale, as long as it’s at least 25 miles away and seems remote to them – where, I tell them, there is a reported hatch of snakes/skinks/giant leopard frogs/etc., a hatch so vast and all-encompassing that when one views the surrounding countryside, it appears that the ground is moving.
Unfortunately, I have actually yet to come across such a scene, and, as difficult as it may be to believe, my girls are beginning to doubt the veracity of my claims.
However, were I able to get them to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean, all would be good again.
Christmas Island, more than 1,400 miles northwest of Perth, Australia, is populated by 100 million crabs, many of which are Christmas Island red crabs.
Late each year, “the ground becomes a moving red carpet as tens of millions of endemic red crabs leave their forest burrows and scuttle to the shore in order to spawn,” according to Slate magazine.
This migration often causes havoc for the residents by blocking traffic on the island’s roads, according to Geoscience Australia, a website produced by the Australian government.
“This abundance of land crabs is not matched by any other island and has been described as one of the wonders of the natural world,” according to Geoscience Australia.
Good news came down this week for individuals who buy and sell pig-footed bandicoots: the ban on international trade of the small marsupial was lifted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
The bad news is that the embargo was removed because the pig-footed bandicoot, native to Australia, is believed to have been extinct for approximately 60 years.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species also lifted bans on trade of the Tasmanian tiger and the buff-nosed kangaroo rat for the same reason, according to Agence France-Presse.
The pig-footed bandicoot was native to western New South Wales and Victoria, the southern part of the Northern Territory as well as South Australia and Western Australia, according to a 19th century guide to marsupials.
It had a wide range of habitat, from grassy woodland to grassland plains into even desert-like plains, according to the website Red Orbit.
The pig-footed bandicoot had a body size of 8 to 10 inches long, with a 6-inch tail. It possessed long, slender limbs, large, pointed ears, and a long tail. Its body looked not unlike a cross between a large shrew and a reasonably well-fed Chihuahua.
Real-life, however, hasn’t been so kind to the once-prevalent marsupial.
An extremely contagious facial tumor has ravaged the species, leaving it endangered and forcing authorities to begin breeding a population in captivity to ensure it doesn’t go extinct.
Now, in an effort to start a self-sustaining population free of the devastating facial tumors, a group of 14 Tasmanian devils has been transferred and released on Australia’s Maria Island, a nature sanctuary off the country’s east coast.
The animals were carefully selected from captive breeding programs across Australia, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The Maria Island translocation … will strengthen the insurance population of disease-free Tasmanian devils, help preserve wild traits in the insurance population and provide genetic stock for future reintroductions,” Tasmania’s Environment Minister Brian Wightman said.
Reason No. 375 why newspapers are struggling: The stories just aren’t as captivating as they once were.
CAIRNS (Australia) – Defying all attempts at removal, a small fish which entered Samuel Attard’s throat, head first, while he was swimming in the Russell River this afternoon, was the cause of a most unusual tragedy.
Attard, who was a maltose cane cutter, aged 34, had been swimming in the river with a mate, who on missing him, searched and found him at the foot of a 30 ft. bank in distress. At first they were unable to find the cause of the trouble, but when the tail of a fish was seen in the back of his throat the ambulance at Babinda, 13 miles away, was sent for. Their efforts to remove the fish failed and artificial respiration was unavailing. So completely had the fish blocked his throat that it was impossible to pass a tube. Later an attempt to provide air by way of an opening in the throat was also tried, but it was unsuccessful.. When a doctor arrived he pronounced life extinct.
Buried words and bushwa didn’t leave it at that, however. The blog followed up the newspaper story by reading about the coroner’s inquest.
It turns out that Attard’s demise came because he employed a method of fishing known as dynamiting, or blast fishing, which consists of tossing explosives into a body of water, then scooping up stunned and dead fish when they float to the surface.
On the utterly remote chance that you’re a resident of the Pacific island nation of Samoa, your birthday falls on Dec. 30 and you’re reading this blog, congratulations are in order: you’ve realized the dream of many a baby boomer by postponing the aging process.
That’s because Samoa is eliminating Dec. 30 from its calendar for this one year as it switches time zones and jumps across the international date line.
As a result, Samoa went from 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 29 to 12 a.m. on Dec. 31.
The move, which takes Samoa from being one of the last places on earth to see the sun each day to being among the first, will enable the nation of 179,000 to be closer to its major trading partners in Australasia, according to Agence France-Presse.
“In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said, explaining the change.
“While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”
A survey of one of World War I’s bloodiest battlefields is turning up hundreds of artifacts and evidence of living conditions.
An ongoing archaeological survey of the Gallipoli battlefield in Turkey has so far uncovered a maze of trenches, as well as about 200 artifacts at the historic location where troops faced off for eight months beginning in April 1915, according Livescience.com.
The survey is one of the most extensive to date of an historic battlefield, the website added.
Although the Turks suffered more casualties than the Allies 250,000 to 220,000, Gallipoli was an Allied defeat. In fact, the campaign was considered one of the greatest victories of the Turks during World War I and was considered one of the Allies’ greatest failures.
Allied forces from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915. Gallipoli belonged to the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany and the Central Powers.
Claude Choules, believed to be the last of more than 60 million men worldwide to have served in combat in World War I, has died in Australia at the age of 110.
The British-born Choules signed up for the Great War at just 14 years of age, served in the Royal Navy and witnessed the scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa Flow.
After the war, he moved to Perth and joined the Australian Navy, working as a demolition officer during World War II.
He died in his sleep in a Perth nursing home overnight, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.