I often come across interesting ephemera while working in my studio on both my mixed media paintings and collages. They can be humorous, unusual or disturbing images in old photographs, postage stamps or paper documents. If these items aren’t immediately used in the pieces I am working on, I usually put them aside for later consideration. I posted this interesting stamp last year.
Last week, I came across these rather disturbing stamps in a recently acquired international collection. They range from 1923 to 1944, spanning the years before and through WWII. Hitler profiles, the German Eagle and swastika are all represented in this small collection, each in duplicates of ten and stored in clear plastic boxes. The profile stamps are part of a series issued from 1941-1944; the German Eagle, the oldest issue, from 1923; and the swastika emblem is from 1939.
Although they have important historical significance, I really don't want to keep them in my collection and certainly would never use them in my art. They did, however, get me to thinking about a related blog post, one of my first, from years ago. Here it is again:
Under Eisenhower, Jim stormed Utah Beach in Normandy and then continued as an allied tank commander fighting against the German Blitzkrieg threat that stretched across devastated Western Europe. The small and comparatively light armored Sherman tanks of the allied forces were no match for the massive Panzers of the German army.
Jim explained that the shells fired from the Sherman tanks would bounce right off the sides of the German Panzers and leave little more than a big black dent in the reinforced steel. “Bang! And that didn’t slow them down a bit,” he said. “We had to try and corner one, confuse him, with at least three or four of our tanks to every one of those bastards. It was the only way we could stop them. We had to maneuver around as fast as we could without getting blown-up until we got one into the right position with its front end directly towards one of us. Their front-end was the weakest spot on the whole tank. A good direct hit to the very front of a Panzer was the only way to penetrate those bastards.”
He continued. "Not only were our tanks lighter and quicker, but the first thing I’d do was take the governor off the engine block. The army put a governor on the carburetors on all the Shermans. It’s was supposed to keep us from running the diesel too hot and burning it out, blowing the engine completely. But most of us knew how to remove it. That way, when we needed the speed, we could get one of them really moving”
Jim was my manager at the local hardware store I worked at all through high school. He took a liking to me and would often take me aside to share his war stories. I felt honored and privileged that he did this.
“I think I once had one of them up to at least fifty-five miles per hour.” He thought for a moment. “The only problem was you only had a few minutes pushing it at those speeds. You had to get the job done and your ass out of trouble quick, then throttle down the engine or it would blow. Then you were really in trouble. If you blew the engine you were in real trouble. That’s what the engine governor was for, to keep us from blowing them out.”
And that governor always came off first thing on Jim’s tanks. First thing.