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Happy Fourth of July to you all!

The American flag is proudly waving in front of my house and hundreds of others in my small community.

Yesterday my husband Bob and I enjoyed a great barbecue and saw some spectacular fireworks. We also nourished the patriotism we feel in our hearts about this great country.

While on the subject of patriotism, I want to give you some news concerning the biography I wrote about my dad, published in 2008. The first paperback edition of A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, has sold out and is no longer available.

Here’s the good news. The second edition, published in May 2011, is now on Amazon.com. Please take a look inside by clicking on the following link. I think you’ll be glad you did.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

Thanks.

Jean

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July is an especially patriotic month for the citizens of two countries–the United States and France.  That’s when both countries celebrate their freedom and independence, each in its own unique and joyful way.

For the French, it all began on July 14, 1789, when a mob of downtrodden French people stormed the Bastille, a fortress-like Paris prison. Soon afterwards, the fearful Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette escaped to Versailles while angry mobs destroyed homes of the nobility in Paris. To the French, Bastille Day signifies the end of an oppressive monarchy and the beginning of a free republic.

Excerpts from Chapter 12, “Meetings in France, Germany, and Italy,” of  A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/):

        As his days in France were drawing to a close, my father expressed more and more his appreciation to the French for having cooperated well with his command, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC). He personally thanked many people who had visited American cemeteries, such as Épinal, to honor our fallen soldiers by reciting prayers in churches near the cemeteries and by placing bouquets of flowers near the gravesites.

The French of course admired their own military heroes, those presently serving in their army and those lost in battle. This pride seemed most evident on Bastille Day, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison by livid French citizens and the start of the French Revolution.

        The biggest Bastille Day celebration since the beginning of World War II was held on July 14, 1949, and it bounded into the city like a jolly traveling circus. On the preceding evening, people already started celebrating. Beginning at around six o’clock, Paris took on the atmosphere of a country festival. Lanterns and flags hung gaily on apartment balconies and from windows. On the outside of nearly all the corner cafés, orchestra stands seemed to jump onto the pavement. At seven o’clock, the city fathers marched—along with columns of Paris police and Republican Guards—to the Arc de Triomphe, where they laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. By nine o’clock, tables at cafés that provided live music were fully occupied.  Street dancing went on until dawn.

I didn’t dance until dawn, but I did watch the parade as it traveled down the Champs Élysées the following day. These are only a few of the words I wrote in my diary: “The parade was really spectacular. I especially liked the Moroccan troops who, dressed in white turbans and capes, rode by on horseback, blowing trumpets.”

        The fountains and edifices were beautifully lighted that night, and the fireworks cascaded magnificently across the summer sky with rainbow-hued streaks of light. I remember skipping and dancing on the cobblestone streets of the Left Bank until two o’clock in the morning with a group of American college students. Hundreds of Parisians were doing the same thing, perhaps for the second night in a row. They wanted to enjoy every minute of this day, the biggest and happiest Bastille Day since the end of the war.

The French joyfully welcomed this long-anticipated celebration partly because their defeat in World War II had been so humiliating. A teacher of mine at the American Community School, Madame Marguerite Dubus, didn’t let her class forget how well trained her country’s soldiers were, in spite of their capitulation. “Our soldiers got good training and fought well. They didn’t have all the good equipment the Americans had,” she reminded us.

         She was basically correct, especially about that last part. France didn’t have the economic advantages of the United States, which placed that country in a defensive rather than offensive position at the beginning of the war. Later, the Germans destroyed much of their best equipment.

Even if they sometimes envied American military might and economic prosperity, the French people my parents met seemed eager to maintain a good relationship with the Americans who lived in France and with American citizens in the United States who had sent them food, clothing, and other gifts after the war.

        Their appreciation was visibly demonstrated in Paris on January 7, 1949, when a train composed of forty-nine small boxcars left the city. The cars were filled with such items as cheeses, fruits, vases, works of art, books, and various items the French people themselves had made. After a band played The Star-Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise, a young girl blew the departure whistle, and the train went on its way. The boxcars were shipped from Le Havre to the United States, where they were greeted happily by the states through which they traveled.

[As reported by The Stars and Stripes on January 8, 1949, my father was one of the officials who gave the train, called the Merci Train, a big send-off.]

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patriotic photo

A Memorial Day Message:

The American flags proudly waving in front of our homes this Memorial Day weekend serve to remind us of the terrible price of war and the ultimate sacrifice made by someone’s beloved spouse, child, or parent. My heart goes out to family members who have suffered such a loss.

In the spring of 1947, when my father (Howard L. Peckham) became in charge of the permanent disposition of more than 145,000 American World War Two dead of the European Theater, the stars and stripes proudly waved above 37 temporary American cemeteries scattered throughout Europe, where the fallen had been laid to rest.  The work of my father’s command, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC), would be both enormous and heart-wrenching during the years he was in charge (1947-1950).

Letters were sent out to the next of kin, giving them two options: Do you want your  loved one returned home for reburial or reinterred in one of the ten permanent American cemeteries in Europe? Although the majority of family members chose the first option, thousands did not. In all cases, however, their wishes were granted. All of the ten permanent cemeteries were graded and constructed by the AGRC, and all but one were former temporary cemeteries.

By the middle of 1951, the permanent American cemeteries in Europe had been transferred from the U.S. Army to the  American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), which  in the future would replace the army’s simple wooden crosses and stars with those of marble. The ABMC also built additional structures on the properties and continues to maintain them.

On this Memorial Day, let us remember that our flag proudly waves above those beautiful American cemeteries in Europe. And let’s not forget the supreme sacrifice made by our fallen heroes who rest there.

Thanks.

Jean

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#####Hello world!  This is my first post.  (See more about me in the last paragraph.) I grew up as an “army brat.”  My parents (Howard and Marion Peckham),  brother (Howard L. Peckham Jr.), and I (Jean Peckham Kavale) lived at Fort Benning, Georgia, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That’s why I picked Benning7 as my user name. That attack, which precipitated  the entry of the United States into World War II, was a turning point for all families, but I think especially for military families such as ours.  The head of the family’s call to duty came quickly after President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech to the nation on December 8, 1941:

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. . . .With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph–so help us God.

References to World War II will appear frequently on this blog, primarily because I wrote a 402-page biography of my father. Its title is A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham.   The book was published in 2008. A second edition was published in May 2011, and it’s on Amazon.com. To read several pages in the book before deciding whether to buy it, just click this link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

Portrait of my father made in 1954

Howard Peckham: 1954

I am eager to share with you what I learned after perusing U. S. Government documents and other sources (such as my father’s diaries and letters and  my own diaries) during my many years of research.  Much of the information I intend to provide, in the form of excerpts from the book, will be new to you readers. I’ll also include a few of my own personal experiences.

A sense of patriotism came early in the mind of Howard L. Peckham, for several reasons. First of all, his family’s roots were deeply embedded in the rich soil of colonial New England; additionally, he was a descendant of Revolutionary War heroes. His dad, Frank E. Peckham, never failed to raise the American flag in front of their house on patriotic holidays.

My father was born in 1897 in Norwich, Connecticut, a beautiful harbor city located in the southeastern part of the state, adjacent to the confluence of the Yantic, Thames, and Shetucket Rivers. He lived in Norwich with his parents and siblings (a brother and two sisters) until he completed high school at renowned Norwich Free Academy.

A graduate of West Point (class of 1918), my father had an admirable career in the U.S. Army, eventually rising to the rank of two-star general.  As Adlai Stevenson once wisely said,

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

Those words certainly apply to my father, whose devotion to duty and country stayed with him all his life. Again, the link to A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham on Amazon is

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

 About Me

I’ve had more than fifteen years of experience as an editor in Silicon Valley, including Senior Editor with PDR Information Services and Contract Editor for Fortune 500 companies. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, a teaching credential from San Jose State University, and a master’s degree in pastoral theology from the University of San Francisco. (I’m also the author of  two other books: Faith and Philosophy and From the Potomac to the Seine.) My husband Bob and I are enjoying retirement life in California’s Central Valley.

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