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Welcome to this site.  If you are here for the first time, you might want to find the first entry and begin there.

Most of us mothers and fathers find (or have found) ourselves looking at our darling child and wondering what the future will be for him or her.   When we see him hit a playmate or hear her spit out hateful words, we try our best to change that behavior and find what is causing it. We may not share our deepest concerns with friends, but most parents have had at least a few sleepless nights wondering if our best will be good enough to produce a loving grown man or woman who contributes to society.  Those of us who trust God ask Him often  for wisdom and guidance.  We pray our children will grow up to serve Him, never to swerve far off the high road and certainly never to end in the swamp and quicksand.  Sometimes our prayers are answered.  Other times we wonder what went wrong.

Karla Hitler, a devout Roman Catholic, must have prayed for her son Adolph.  She surely committed his future to God as she was facing premature death by cancer at the age of 47.  But God had given that son the gift of free will. Thankfully, Karla never lived to see what her boy would become.

Adolph Hitler, modern history’s most notorious annihilator, started life as a loveable baby, no doubt.  He grew into a boy who played in woods and meadows, which he—not unlike my boys and many of yours—turned into imaginary battlefields.  The young Hitler in Mein Kampf (My Struggle) speaks of many happy childhood memories and a loving mother.  Though his father was stern and administered harsh punishment at times, he was probably not an unusual disciplinarian compared to others in his era. Hitler mentions an early interest in the priesthood, especially valuing its pomp and ceremony.  Perhaps it was mainly the ceremony he loved because soon things military replaced things religious.  As he read the military books in his father’s library, Hitler became focused on everything connected with war.  His father’s effort to direct him into civil service did not work.  The youth could not picture a life of paper shuffling without the ability to be in control of his own time and movements.

Nothing so far mentioned can be considered a character flaw.  Interest in military maneuvers rather than office  life is neither unusual nor diabolical.  In fact, most people consider the military an honorable profession.  Another honorable profession is that of teacher. Hitler had no desire to become a teacher, but he was greatly influenced by Dr. Leopold Potsch, who taught German history.  Under his instruction, Adolph began to dislike the government that had brought disaster to its citizens.  Thus, a bright young man, though undisciplined in book study, began to focus on formulating a philosophy that could change the future of the German people.

I quote from Hell Frozen Over commenting on and summarizing Mein Kampf. Vol 1. n. p.

“In Chapter Two [of Mein Kampf], Hitler discusses his struggle to find his place in life and establish his philosophy.  This hard struggle for existence, he says, ‘kills all pity’ and destroys empathy for people.  The logic of this thinking seems puzzling: why would one’s personal struggle destroy compassion for others in their struggles?  Why would not the opposite occur  —compassion for them through empathy?  But even as a young man, Adolph Hitler began to voice key beliefs that would later define his character—beliefs that the most fit will leave others behind in the survival struggle (he saw himself as one rising above the masses) and that such superior leaders will lose any pity for the inferior people who are left behind.  Six words in this section are important: ‘destroys our feeling for the misery.’  For whatever reason, Hitler was choosing to develop a philosophy with a component of hardness toward those he deemed beneath him—all races other than Aryan and especially Jews.”

“Concurrent with his ideas about racial purity, Hitler stresses survival, not of the individual but of the species.  He believes that the highest goal of human existence is not to preserve the state or government but to preserve the species (his species).  He stresses that if the species (Aryan) were ever in danger of oppression or elimination, laws should become subordinate to maintaining the race.”

Hitler felt Germany was “under an undeserved pall of guilt for its part in World War I…. He knew that his country needed someone to lift it out of the mire of dishonor forced upon it in the hated Versailles Treaty.  That someone, then, could help the masses see the need for purifying their country, for eliminating the ‘wild shoots’ and ripping out the ‘weeds.’  No doubt he was beginning to feel that he could be that person.”

Why is it important to understand Hitler’s philosophy?  If a basic knowledge of his belief system is absent from the reader’s mind, Hitler’s behavior in WWII and in what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge will be an enigma.  Even with good knowledge of his philosophy,  his behavior is difficult to understand.  How could he feel justified in his attempt to overrun Europe?  Those answers are found in his manifesto here summarized briefly.   1.  “Nature” peoples the earth then stands and watches what happens.  She “dubs” the strongest and hardest working “the master race.”  2.  If such a people stop acquiring new territory, then culturally inferior races will rule over an immense space.  Thus, peace would cause the important people to perish.  3.  If non-aggressive methods do not work, then “the fist” should take what it needs.   He reminds that Germany’s forefathers were not pacifists; had they been, Germany would have only one-third of its present space.    4.  The Jewish “state” owned no specific area but had  formed itself using the “flag” of religion in many countries in order to survive as an ethnic group.

Between 1920 and 1935, it became ever more apparent that the “war to end all wars” was not the guarantee of peace it was proclaimed to be.  Nor was the Versailles Treaty containing Germany’s aggression as was intended.  When Prohibition was repealed in the United States (1933), the first concentration camp was opened in Germany.  The next year when Coleman became fifteen years of age, Hitler became Fuehrer of Germany.  The year America passed the Social Security Act (1935), German Jews were stripped of rights by the Nuremberg Race Laws.  The year Coleman turned 21, the Nazis invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands; the Blitz against England began; Italy invaded Egypt then Greece.

America’s official isolationist policy of the 1930s was ended in September of 1940 when Congress passed a draft law, and no American was asking why.  On the night of December 29/30, London experienced a massive German air raid.  The bells that rang 1941 into Time were not joyful bells anywhere on the globe.

Chapter One: the beginnings

Welcome to my small space in the world of “blogery,” a place that will journey through my book Hell Frozen Over highlighting main points. Quotes from the book are woven together by my comments. If you haven’t read the first entry, it would be good to start there.  However, you are welcome even if you choose to begin here.

Near the close of the Nineteenth Century and within six months of each other, two baby boys entered the world.  One was born in October of 1888 in Ozark, Missouri.  The other, born in April 1889, took his first breath in Austria.  The Missourian would live his whole life quietly in a small arena, gaining localized “fame” for building the first radio in the town.  The Austrian would find a place on the world stage, at first receiving near-worship of a country’s citizens and then living in infamy throughout all the ages to come.  The Missourian would spend his life working with machines, especially trains that he helped keep running for the Frisco Railroad throughout WWII.  The Austrian would choose to “spend his gift of life in destruction….He would use the most efficient railroad system in the world to transport arms and men to battle, Jews to gas chambers, and enemy soldiers to prison camps” during WWII, which he was responsible for beginning.

“The man born in October would live to the age of 93 then die peacefully as a Christian, accepted into the welcoming arms of God.  The one born a few months later would at the age of 56, in a state of complete physical exhaustion and mental collapse, commit suicide in a bunker, his soul in the hands of a just God who must punish evil lacking repentance.”

The Missourian was my grandfather, William Fred Estes.  The Austrian (later to become German) was, of course, Adolph Hitler.  As little, growing boys, a huge ocean between them, they experienced many of the same things—at least one loving parent, playing with toys and games, learning to read and write, gaining life skills.  My grandfather’s home was not “god focused,” although it was a home with good values.  Hitler, however, at one time considered entering the priesthood.  As adults, the two men would have little, if anything, in common. Their lives would intersect not at all, except in one way: my grandfather’s son would be called to serve in Hitler’s war when it became America’s war.  Adolph Hitler, then, would become responsible for the greatest anguish in the life of Fred Estes.

If we could have seen those two little boys side by side, we could not have predicted that one would grow up to be the epitome of evil.  Nurture or Nature?  What is it that molds and shapes the character?  All killers once were innocent, smiling, giggling, patty-caking babies taking first steps and sleeping peacefully in cribs during afternoon naps.  All cold, monomaniacal slaughterers (or rapists or  torturers or you name them) began life innocently unaware of the horrors in the world.  And most of those babies were loveable and sweet—at least a few hours of every day.   Listening to the horrible facts of the nightly news then visualizing or looking at a baby is quite a contrast.   How sobering to realize the moral chasm that can occur between life’s beginning and a few short years later.  We cannot see evil in the face of any baby; nor can we fathom that an evil face once was a darling little newborn. The change is gradual—step by step, day by day, precept upon precept, example by example, impression by impression. “Sunrise, sunset—swiftly go the years.”  Slowly come the changes, but they do come—for improvement or decline.

Adolph Hitler’s parents could not have seen what their little son would become. Neither can a society fathom what is ahead—thank God!  For if Americans in 1919, the year my uncle Coleman Estes was born, could have envisioned what was to engulf the world, they could not have  enjoyed another moment of the good life they had.

When the New Year’s bells ushered in the year 1919, for America it was far from the worst of times.  The most important reason for gratitude and optimism was that American families had no dread of sending sons to war.”  The “war to end all wars” had been fought, and most people had no idea that babies born in that last year of the decade had a ghostly cloud hovering over their cradles.  On the contrary, it seemed a good time to be alive.  After all, life expectancy had risen to 48 for males and 51 for females. Salaries had risen to catch up with the previous high inflation.  “Every state had enacted child labor laws cutting the number of children in the work force by 40 percent….And as the bells proclaimed the New Year of 1919, they promised victory for women” who would be given the right to vote soon.

Yes, life was fine, for the most part. However, “just 17 days after Coleman’s birth [on June 11], an event occurred in France that made headlines and, in the thinking of most people, brought justice against a country deemed largely responsible for the Great War.  The Versailles Treaty, which Germany was forced to sign, placed throughout the ‘war guilt clause’ a preponderance of blame on that country and mandated huge reparations for war damage.  [The Treaty] removed substantial amounts of territory and the right to maintain an army.”  To most people, that mandate seemed just.  And perhaps it was.  But sometimes the results of a “just” penalty are not best in the long run.

“One man was able to predict the results of that treaty.  Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Supreme Allied Commander of WWI, in commenting on the Treaty said, ‘It is not peace, it is an armistice for twenty years.’ His prediction would be accurate to the very year!

None of the American parents of those little boys knew what was taking shape in the mind and soul of [a man named] Adolph Hitler across the Atlantic Ocean….But a diabolical philosophy had been quietly developing in his psyche, and the year 1919 was the beginning of Hitler’s rise….By 1921 Hitler helped increase membership to 6,000 in the [German] Workers’ Party, that would later be called the Nazis.”

That year, little Coleman was a two-year-old toddler playing with his three older brothers in Ozark.  As he no doubt watched them shoot their homemade rubber guns at each other (“POW, POW”) and mimicked their words, no one had a clue that those playful sounds would someday have a horrific meaning to him and his family.

It is God’ providence that we cannot see the future; nor should we try.  Thankfully, the blinds are down on tomorrow’s windows.

Welcome to the opening post of my new blog.  I have chosen to focus on my book Hell Frozen Over published in 2004. To research my uncle’s story from the Battle of the Bulge, I went to Belgium with three friends.  We drove throughout the Ardennes and found the areas where my uncle was billeted and where he fought when Hitler’s army suddenly made its last desperate surge to control the continent and ultimately the world.

I hope, now that you have discovered this site, to find you here regularly as we journey through significant incidents in each chapter of my book.  perhaps these small excerpts of much larger story will urge you to buy the book and read all 250 pages.  If you do that, you will pass on the story to those in younger generations who will pass the book to their children someday.  In that small way you can help future Americans understand that freedom from tyranny has come at a horrible price. We must study the past so that perhaps we can learn from the mistakes and make the future better than it would have been.

Let us begin the journey now with my own personal memory.

“I stood in the arch between the dining room and ‘front room,’ as we called it, looking way up into my grandmother’s face.  Even though she was a short woman barely 5 feet tall, she towered over me.  The puffy red eyes of this special grownup frightened me because smiley crinkles usually framed her eyes.  Grandma, a spontaneous hugger and squeezer of all children she could get her hands on, always paid lots of attention to me, her first grandchild.  But something had changed.  Something was very wrong now.    

“I remember asking that day, ‘Why are you crying, Grandma?’   Her answer permanently seared the moment in my memory to be available for ready recall throughout the rest of my life.   ‘Because we don’t know where poor Uncle Coleman is.’  I realized years later that those words, that scene, those tears on my beloved grandmother’s face compose the earliest memory in my life except for my brother’s birth a few months earlier.  I can still see her looking down at me, anguish in her eyes.

“Uncle Coleman.  I remembered him from his visit home almost a year earlier, and his name had been on everyone’s lips for many months.  Obviously he was important to Grandma and the family.  Everyone, including my daddy, had seemed really sad in the last few weeks.  Now I understood that Uncle Coleman was lost.  How could a grownup get lost?  If Grandma was crying, then something terrible had happened.

“Outside Grandma’s house, where my parents and I lived in an upstairs apartment, a special little metal piece was attached to the big post that held up the porch roof.  Every day Grandma would take a piece of cloth on a stick and place it in the holder.  Every night she would bring it back inside.  The striped rectangle, red and white with some spots on a blue area, seemed really important to Grandma.  Somehow it had something to do with her sadness, with winning something called ‘The War.’

By the time of the above incident in 1945 when I was barely three years old, America had close to 12 million in active military service.  The worldwide death toll by the end of the war would be incomprehensible.  Some sources give the number, including civilians (more killed than soldiers), at 55 million.  Almost sixty years later when I finally got the courage to request that my uncle Coleman Estes tell me his story, he agreed. He was almost 85.   (The family had never asked many questions because we didn’t want to cause him pain.)  So with a camcorder running, I squeezed from his mind every possible memory in as much detail as possible.  After recording many hours of his words, I began reading each book I could find on that battle.

My uncle’s war journey led him from training at Camp Atterbury in South Carolina to war games in Tennessee then to England, Belgium, and Germany. In August 2011 Coleman is 92 and still driving (competently). He and I often talk about his war experiences, now that he has passed the silent decades and has become accustomed to telling his story in many public venues.  His mental “video” of the war is amazingly clear, so occasionally tears spring up. 

At mQuigley’sPlace, I will highlight each chapter in several short blogs–usually at least once a week.  I hope you will travel with me back to another place in time, to a far different world as we follow him and the fifteen men and two women who survived to share their stories.  We will try to feel what it was like to be in our early twenties far from home and to know that we probably will not see that home again. We will vicariously experience living in a foxhole and wandering  for days trying to find the American lines.  We will hear a German woman explain why her family voted to elect Hitler. We will find out what it was like to live in Europe as the battle invaded town after town. As we enter the POW camp Bad Orb, we’ll find out what was being served for Christmas dinner in 1944. And we will read the heart-wrenching letters to my uncle from my family at home, letters that came back stamped MISSING IN ACTION.

We will seldom laugh but will often find tears in our eyes.  This is not a fun blog.  But its story is important, and the reading journey will be worth it because the journey those young soldiers took has made all the difference between what our world is and what it could have been.