A Heartwarming Story of Friendship: The Jesse Owens Story

745px-Jesse_Owens3

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I decided that for the next few blog posts, which I am going to share some great stories of friendships that I have found. When you read this (and other forthcoming stories), try to envision yourself in the environment and situation that these people were experiencing at the time. Hopefully, it will give you a “feel” of how they felt and why their story of friendship is so special.

The 1936 Olympics was held in Berlin, Germany. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party had risen to power three years earlier and were already to spread their evil beliefs of racism and hate.  Hitler believed that the “perfect” person was from an Aryan race…a blue-eyed, blond haired, the perfect physique without any blemishes or handicaps.

Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy to the world. The official Nazi party newspaper wrote in the strongest terms that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to participate in the Games. However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, Hitler relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate.

After much deliberation and debate whether or not to boycott the Olympics, the United States and other nations decided to participate in the Games.

One of the American athletes was a Track and Field star named Jesse Owens and he was black. Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — a record that would stand for 25 years.

As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then, Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did and qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals.

The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was furious and embarrassed. Owens never again saw Long, who was sent out to the front lines and was killed in World War II. “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have,” Owens later wrote, “and they wouldn’t be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”

~ David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Olympics ~

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This is an amazing story of how a friendship trumped the hatred and racism of a nation and a crazy man’s ideology! How thankful are you of the friends that you have? Could your friendship(s) withstand the “storms” of life and the hard times that might come your way? How much can you go out of your way to be a friend to someone in unpleasant situations? REALLY good friends are hard to find…and if you have one…Be THANKFUL!

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“Prosperity begets friends, adversity proves them.”  ~ Unknown ~

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Incredible Facts of D-Day

Photo Credit: Expert Infantry via CC Flickr

Photo Credit: Expert Infantry via CC Flickr

This year, June 6, 2014, marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. The site, http://www.army.mil/d-day explains D-Day in a short but descriptive way: “On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolph Hitler’s crack troops.”

World War 2 and D-Day has always been intriguing to me, so I decided to look around the web and collect some interesting and fascinating details about this historic day. In the list below, next to each fact that I posted, I listed the name of the website in which I found the specific fact. So, without further ado, here we go…

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The largest seaborne invasion in history – CNN

The invasion’s secret code name was Operation Overlord. – CNN

Condoms were issued to soldiers – most were used for covering the end of their rifles to keep them dry. – Express.co.uk

Although June 6 is often called D-Day, D-Day is also a generic military term that stands for the day, D, of any major attack. – Ducksters.com

The overall military operation was called “Operation Overlord”. The actual landings at Normandy were called “Operation Neptune” – Ducksters.com

The Allies created a ruse to convince the Germans that the invasion would take place at Pas de Calais instead of the Cotentin Peninsula. According to the U.S. Army, a dummy base was constructed out of plywood, and inflatable tanks were placed to create the illusion of a massive army division. – NewsYahoo.com

The invasion location was cloaked in secrecy and rumors. Allied leaders were constantly trying  – soldiers knew the exact date, time, and location of the attack until the last minute. All training maps for troops had false names to keep the secret intact. – Warhistoryonline.com

The main reason for the secrecy was that the Germans had 55 divisions stationed in France, and the Allies could only bring in about eight divisions to attack on D-Day. – Warhistoryonline.com

Famous German General, Field Marshall Rommel, was nowhere near France on June 6. He was celebrating his wife’s birthday in Germany during the invasion. – NewsYahoo.com

There were 6,939 naval ships deployed, holding 195,000 sailors. – Warhistoryonline.com

The flat-bottomed landing craft were originally designed to rescue flood victims on the Mississippi river in the US. – Express.co.uk

The first two British soldiers that were killed on D-Day were Lt. Den Brotheridge of the 6th Airborne Division and Lance Corporal Fred Greehalgh. Brotheridge was shot in the neck while leading his platoon, and Greehalgh immediately drowned when he stepped out of Brotheridge’s glider. – Warhistoryonline.com

The first U.S. soldier that died on D-Day was twenty-eight year old Lt. Robert Mathias of the 82nd Airborne Division. He sustained a bullet wound in the chest right before he jumped out of his aircraft. He commanded his men to follow his lead as he jumped from the plane and died mid-air. – Warhistoryonline.com

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944 – and 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. – .Dailymail.co.uk

The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. – Dailymail.co.uk

Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed. – Dailymail.co.uk

Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favor. – Dailymail.co.uk

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was asleep when word of the invasion arrived. No one dared wake him and it’s said vital time was lost in sending reinforcements. – Express.co.uk

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Let’s take some time during this time of year to thank our veterans for their honor, bravery and the sacrifices that they gave for the freedoms that we enjoy each day.

Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

The 1936 Olympics was held in Berlin, Germany. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party had risen to power three years earlier and were already to spread their evil beliefs of racism and hate.  Hitler believed that the “perfect” person was from an Aryan race…a blue-eyed, blond haired, the perfect physique without any blemishes or handicaps.

Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy to the world. The official Nazi party newspaper wrote in the strongest terms that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to participate in the Games.However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, Hitler relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate.

After much deliberation and debate whether or not to boycott the Olympics, the United States and other nations decided to participate in the Games.

One of the American athletes was a Track and Field star named Jesse Owens and he was black. Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches — a record that would stand for 25 years.

As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis‘ desire to prove “Aryan superiority,” especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then, Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did and qualified easily. In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals.

The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was furious and embarrassed. Owens never again saw Long, who was sent out to the front lines and was killed in World War II. “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have,” Owens later wrote, “and they wouldn’t be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”

~ David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book of the Olympics ~

As previously stated, Long was killed in action, seven years later, on July 14, 1943 fighting for Germany in World War 2 during the invasion of Sicily. Because of his sportsmanship, he was later awarded, posthumously, the Pierre de Coubertin Award. This award is given to former Olympic athletes by the Olympic Committee to recognize the spirit of sportsmanship through in Olympic events or through exceptional service to the Olympic movement.

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This is an amazing story of how a friendship trumped the hatred and racism of a nation and a crazy man’s ideology! How thankful are you of the friends that you have? Could your friendship(s) withstand the “storms” of life and the hard times that might come your way? How much can you go out of your way to be a friend to someone in unpleasant situations? Everyone should remember that taking time to help a stranger…just ONE TIME…can lead to an everlasting friendship. REALLY good friends are hard to find…and if you have one…Be THANKFUL!