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Remember Those Who Entertained, Sacrificed in War

Remember Those Who Entertained, Sacrificed in War

The Pearl Harnor Memorial - Honolulu, Hawaii.

(Emilysfolio/Dreamstime)

By Sunday, 24 May 2020 07:28 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Among the prominent singers who performed Pete Seeger’s "Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)" are The Byrds, Dolly Parton, Nina Simone, Bruce Springsteen and Marlene Dietrich. The lyrics come from the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1 to 3:8, and several antipodal couplets that can resonate for citizens of many nations during the current global COVID-19 epidemic are:

"To everything there is a season. And a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to kill, a time to heal. A time to mourn, and a time to dance."

In 1963, Marlene Dietrich the international movie and singing star who emigrated from Germany to America in 1930, released a version in German of "Turn, Turn, Turn," with a quasi-classical arrangement by her musical director Burt Bacharach.

Three years earlier, Dietrich performed in Democratic West Germany and Communist East Germany for the first time since the end of World War II.

She attracted large crowds of enthusiastic supporters, but also a smaller number of revanchist Germans, including those at a concert in Berlin, where she was born in 1901, who shouted "Marlene Go Home!"

In 1961, the East German Communist regime built the Berlin Wall to stop the massive exodus of its citizens to West Berlin and then to West Germany.

After the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and congressional declarations of war against Japan the next day, and on Dec. 11 against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, Dietrich traveled around America and reportedly selling record numbers of war bonds.

Beginning in 1943, Dietrich traveled extensively overseas. singing for American military personnel in Africa, Sicily, Italy, UK, Greenland, Iceland, France, Belgium, and Germany and Czechoslovakia.

Her most popular song was "Lili Marlene," written by Norbert Schultze.

A few weeks after Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, Marlene Dietrich visited the headquarters of Gen. George S. Patton’s crack Sixth Armored Division which was then on occupation duty in eastern Germany 100 miles south of Berlin.

My late father, Barney Schulte, was a decorated combat veteran of this division, which, with the Fourth Armored Division, had spearheaded the Allied breakout from Normandy during the last week of July 1944, and then, over the next seven and one-half months, the liberations of France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

Dietrich asked the division commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Grow, if he could help her get quickly to Berlin, as she was desperate to learn if her mother had survived the German capital’s incessant pounding by the British and American air forces, and the final assault on the city by the Soviet Army between April 16 and May 2, 1945.

Her mother, Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine Dietrich was alive, but died in Nov. 1945.

General Grow immediately made arrangements to transport Dietrich to the German capital, and he also invited her to join him and his staff officers for dinner.

The general arranged for a division photographer to take some "photographs of the meal, which the officers wanted to send to their wives back in the States. But he was so flustered by Dietrich’s presence that he forgot to load film into the camera.

In 1947, U.S. President Harry S. Truman awarded Dietrich the American Medal of Freedom, for her "extraordinary record entertaining troops overseas during the war."

She considered this her greatest accomplishment.

Between 1948 and 1949, President Truman authorized the Berlin airlift, which broke the road, rail and canal blockade, which the Soviet military had imposed around Berlin, was located inside East Germany. Berlin itself was divided into four sectors: American, Soviet, British and French.

When Dietrich died in Paris in May 1992, she was given a state funeral, as she had lived in the French capital during the last years of her life. Her U.S. Medal of Freedom and France’s Legion of Honor, which she also received for her monumental contributions to the Allied war effort, were displayed. 

Dietrich was buried in a Berlin cemetery, next to her mother.

Her coffin was covered in an American flag.

While working on this article I learned that Dietrich maintained an apartment, since the late 1940’s, on 84th and Park Avenue in Manhattan. My parents and maternal grandmother, who worked as a secretary for the U.S. Army on Governor’s Island (located just off the southern tip of Manhattan Island between 1942 and 1966). lived on 87th Street, right off Park Avenue, between 1974 and 1978.

Between 1979 and 1983, I lived off the corner of 83rd Street and Park Avenue, two blocks east of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, and I don’t ever recall seeing Marlene Dietrich in the neighborhood.

But I vividly remember jogging around the Central Park Reservoir.

As I overtook an attractive woman, and turned to get a front view, I received a dazzling smile from Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who lived facing Central Park at 85th Street and Fifth Avenue.

My reaction was to wonder where the U.S. Secret Service was, whom I didn’t see.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis, like Marlene Dietrich, was a great New Yorker, and she helped create the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the mid-1960’s after the senseless demolition of Pennsylvania Railroad Station. Her martyred husband, President John F. Kennedy, famously said in the 1963 speech in Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner," (I am a Berliner). 

The Central Park Reservoir was named for Jackie Kennedy following her death in 1994.

In 1987 in Berlin, President Ronald Reagan made the famous appeal to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down down this wall!"

Amazingly, this event happened two years later, and in 1990, totalitarian East Germany imploded and was reunited with a democratic West Germany.

Purportedly. President Reagan's last phone call on Jan. 20,1989, before leaving the White House, was to Marlene Dietrich in Paris. 

Finally, Burt Bacharach, at 92, still performs. Perhaps, he should return to his native city (he grew up in Queens) and oversee a musical tribute in Central Park to Marlene Dietrich, and all the others, who entertained American uniformed personnel during the most destructive war in history.

Participants could come to New York City, the world capital of music, from all the countries who were part of the Allied coalition during the war, including: USA, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, China, India, Brazil and the Jewish community in Palestine (which became the state of Israel in 1948.).

With the Memorial Day weekend, Americans should spend a little time thinking or learning about the 405,399 of their fellow citizens making the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.

An excellent source for these critical acts of commemoration is the website of the New York State State Military Museum and Veterans research Center. These sites list the approximately 40,000 residents of the state who were killed in combat, or died from non-combat causes, during the war.

My father’s first cousin, Simon Levy, a resident of the Bronx and a medic in the 29th Infantry Division, was killed in action in France in August of 1944.

He rests eternally at peace, beneath the Jewish Star, in the American Military Cemetery in the Brittany region in the west of France.

Mark Schulte is a retired New City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Report's — More Here.

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MarkSchulte
Burt Bacharach, at 92, still performs. Perhaps, he should return to his native city (he grew up in Queens) and oversee a musical tribute in Central Park to Marlene Dietrich, and all the others, who entertained American uniformed personnel during the most destructive war in history.
dietrich, reagan, patton, truman
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2020-28-24
Sunday, 24 May 2020 07:28 AM
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