Tag Archives: World War 2

The War at Home: Carl Nancken’s “Normandie” Binder

The post was written by intern Elise Plyler.

During September and October of 1945, the German Imperial Navy made repeated and brutal attempts to overtake the British base in Laurentic. Over the course of four battles, the British forces were devastated by the German fleet, resulting in a surrender agreement on October 2. This agreement called for the surrender of not only Laurentic, but Mohawk Island and all remaining sea units controlled by Great Britain and her ally, Canada. Left with no other option, the terms were agreed to by Surrenderthe commander of the British navy, Admiral Ronald La Rocca. A note at the corner of the document coldly states, “Failure to comply with these terms means total destruction of everything British.”

If this seems completely bizarre, it is because these battles never really happened. They took place only in the minds of fifteen-year-old Carl Nancken and his friends. Between the years 1942 and 1945, while World War II raged on in Europe, across the Atlantic a group of teenage boys were playing out fictional naval battles in a suburban home on Long Island.

NormandieThe documentation of these battles is found in a black binder titled “Normandie.” Also archived within this binder are pages of detailed backstory, fleet lists, tactical maps and treaties dictating the rules of engagement. They are written out in pencil and ballpoint pen in a schoolboy’s immature cursive script and riddled with spelling errors, but the whole project shows remarkable imagination. Many of the pages are topped with a hand-drawn letterhead and there is a particularly comprehensive diagram of a disguised warship called “USS Wolf” which, as its name suggests, was meant to serve as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and pose as a merchant ship. At one point in the games chronology, Germany and Holland make an agreement that Germany, in exchange for the oil to power their fleets and their country, will provide 8 cents per month to the “Netherlands” along with naval protection. These transactions are performed with the use of “checks” written out on strips of notebook paper.GermanCheck

In addition to props like the German “checks,” the binder contains drawn maps of the play area. The earliest map, kept in a section titled “Naval Museam” (sic) clearly shows the upper floor of a home. The rooms are given names such as “Hall Sea” and “Tile Sea” for the bathroom. Bases are marked with common household objects and called “Shoe Island” and “Book Island.”  Continue reading The War at Home: Carl Nancken’s “Normandie” Binder

The Man of Myth and Legend: Lincoln Kirstein, Private First Class

This post was written by intern Jessica Zaccagnini.

It is an unusual occurrence when a movie can spark interest in an actual historical event. Often, people are content with the Hollywood version of a time or event in history and do not seek any further information about the factors that made the event Hollywood-worthy. Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, is a movie that triggers further curiosity into how such a story made it onto the silver screen. Monuments Men depicts a group of middle-aged art connoisseurs sent on a special mission during World War II to collect art from around Europe that was stolen by the Nazis. Though it is clearly stated that the movie was based on true events, it is surprising to learn just how true the movie is.

As it turns out, there truly was a branch of the military specifically dedicated to collecting the most historical and valuable art that was pilfered by the Nazis via orders from Hitler. The U.S Arts and Monuments Commission was established in 1943 during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. The commission was largely founded by David Finley and Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts. About 345 men and women made up this branch of the military and over the years following the end of the war, they collected over five million pieces of artwork.

Borrowed from http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/
Borrowed from http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/

The John Bale Book Company has a collection of writing from one Monuments Man, Lincoln Kirstein, who also happens to be portrayed in the movie. In the Hollywood movie, Bob Balaban plays the character Preston Savitz who is largely based on Kirstein, an art-culture icon. As the movie suggests, all of the men that made up the branch in real life had a job or an intense personal investment in the art world and their credentials made them experts in the war effort to get the stolen art back to its proper place and Kirstein was no different. Continue reading The Man of Myth and Legend: Lincoln Kirstein, Private First Class