Veterans: The Faces of World War II

Ichiro Sudan trained to be a kamikaze…

Roscoe Brown was a commander in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators.

Charin Singh, a farmer from Delhi, spent seven years as a Japanese prisoner of war and was not sent home until four years after the war ended.

Uli John lost an arm serving in the German army but ultimately befriended former enemy soldiers as part of a network of veterans-people who fought in the war and know what war really means.

These are some of the faces and stories in the remarkable Veterans, the outcome of a worldwide project by Sasha Maslov to interview and photograph the last surviving combatants from World War II.

Soldiers, support staff and resistance fighters candidly discuss wartime experiences and their lifelong effects in this unforgettable, intimate record of the end of a cataclysmic chapter in world history and tribute to the members of an indomitable generation.Veterans is also a meditation on memory, human struggle and the passage of time.

The following is an extract from Veterans: Faces of World War II.


Ken Smith

Portsmouth, England

Veteran Ken Smith

My name is Ken Smith. I was born on April 12, 1922, in Portsmouth. My parents were very religious. I was in the dockyard choir. I left school at thirteen. I worked on houses. I used to make flights of stairs until the war, when timber became so scarce the government commandeered all of it.

I remember the day the war broke out. I was in church that day. At eleven, Chamberlain was going to make an announcement. I ran home. I remember him saying, “We are at a state of war.” We were told to be ready for air raids. The first thing I did, I went down to the bottom of the garden and dug a big trench about eight feet long. I was there the whole day, expecting an air raid that night. But during the night, it rained heavily. I couldn’t stay there. The next morning it was filled up with water.

I loved football, and a friend of mine said, “Join the Royal Marines; you’ll get plenty of football.” I joined when I was eighteen. I did six months of training near Dover, where we expected the invasion to begin. Every night we used to stand on the beaches. When the invasion didn’t happen, I was moved to Plymouth. I passed two naval gunnery courses and was sent up on a ship in Newcastle, HMS Manchester.


Haku Kikuchi

Tsukuba-Shi, Japan

Veteran Hakushu Kikuchi

I was born in the Ibaraki Prefecture on June 10, 1929. I was born into a family of farmers; I didn’t find much difficulty in getting food. Generally, the quality of life was low in Japan. It must have been hard for others. My father was a fisherman before he was married. He sailed on a big ship, traveling all over the world, to America and Great Britain. He married a woman from the next town over. I was the fourth of six children and the only boy. We mostly farmed when we were young. The other men in the area went on to be soldiers. I began training in 1941, in Kashima city, at twelve years old. I was young. I wanted to help out Japan. I had no fear of death. We had been taught that we should be honoured to die for the country. Everyone was brainwashed. We all thought it was noble to die for Japan. So I applied to become a child pilot when I turned fourteen.


Read more from these incredible stories, plus stories from 48 more veterans, in Sasha Maslov’s Veterans: Faces of World War II. 

Veterans

Pablo and His Chair.

For his birthday, Pablo receives a chair.

What can he possibly do with a chair?

Pablo and His Chair

For his birthday, Pablo receives exactly what he doesn’t want: a chair. Disappointed and angry, he locks himself in his room, determined not to sit on his new chair. But he starts to play around with it and, by the end of the day, becomes a chair acrobat. Pablo sets out into the world, performing in amazing places and drawing great crowds. Eventually, he returns, chair in hand, having learned that the greatest gifts aren’t always the most obvious and often lie in our imagination.

The simple, hand-drawn images; coloured with a brush and ink, give the story a vivid, graphic look and perfectly compliment the story. Take a peek:

Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret
Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret
Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret

Pablo and His Chair is a vibrant, high-design picture book with a gentle message of self-discovery and the power of imagination: a must have for your little one’s library.

Pablo and His Chair by Delphine Perre is out tomorrow. Available from all good bookstores.

4 Questions for Thomas Thwaites, author of GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human

Goatman

4 Questions for Thomas Thwaites, author of GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human

GoatMan Internal Images
© Tim Bowditch

Where did the idea for your project come from?

It was a time when I was getting a bit depressed about being a human being—sort of existential crisis meets very practical stressors, so I thought I would try and take a holiday from being a human. And I think it’s a fairly common wish, at least amongst children. If I only I could be a cat so I wouldn’t have to go to work/school… And then I managed to convince someone (The Wellcome Trust) to fund this attempt at wish fulfillment.

Why did you choose a goat as your target animal?

Well, at the beginning of the project I was going to become an elephant. This was for practical reasons, in that as a quadruped, one has to be able to get one’s food to one’s mouth easily…or vice versa. So all grazing quadrupeds have a neck in proportion to the length of their legs, so they can eat from the ground. I could imagine how I could adjust my limbs with prosthetics so I could become a quadruped, but I couldn’t imagine how to adjust the length of my neck. So I thought what’s a grazing animal which has a short neck, and the only one is an elephant. Of course, it has a trunk instead of a long neck.

However, I had the opportunity to see elephants in the wild, and came back, troubled by what I saw. They’re quite violent, and sort of sad. They have complex social arrangements. They mourn their dead. I came back, not wanting to be an elephant because I thought it might be depressing.

So I went to see a Shaman and she took one look at me and said: “You’re an idiot. Of course you shouldn’t be trying to be an elephant. What have you got to do with Elephants? You should be a goat.” And she was right. Being a goat is so much better. So short answer: a Shaman told me to do it.

What was the hardest thing about trying to become a goat?

Bodies are really heavy, in general I mean. So making prosthetic machines that would let me walk on four legs, when imagining and designing them, you imagine bounding along in them, but when you actually try to do that you realise how heavy your body is. The NHS prostheticist who made me my front leg prototypes said that often that’s the first thing an amputee will say about their new prosthetic leg: ‘it’s so heavy’, when actually with modern materials a prosthetic will weigh less than the part it’s replacing. But of course you don’t consider how heavy your hand is when you move your arm, or how heavy your foot is when you move your leg. But when you take the weight of your body on your front legs and you’re not used to it, it’s a struggle. Especially when you’re heading down hill, head first. Basically, I could be a goat for as long as I wanted if I only had to go uphill. Going down the steep rocky slopes of the Alps was terrifying.

What did you learn by becoming a goat?

In practical terms, I learnt that being a goat, you quite quickly learn to judge whether a particular patch of grass is worth eating or not. You get a feel for the colour, density, and thickness of the blades, and from that whether it’s going to be good to eat. I also learnt that eating grass gives you worms.
 In a deeper spiritual sense, in trying to adopt the perspective of another creature, it made me very aware of my own perspective: In that my own perspective, as a secular liberal, is just one of many. And that it might even not be the ‘right’ one. What I am trying to say is that in attempting to adopt another perspective on life, you learn both how rigid, and flexible, your own perspective is.

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GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human by Thomas Thwaites is on sale now.

Watch Thomas Thwaites on BBC Breakfast

Listen to Thomas Thwaites on NPR

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Finding Home

The story of 35 rescue dogs finding home. 

Finding Home

 

Finding Home, by Traer Scott, is an elegant tribute to man’s best-friend and simultaneously a emotional portrait of shelter dogs. Candid pictures and profiles on thirty-five dogs make this book an eloquent plea for the adoption and welfare of our furry companions.

Meet Molly, Nanook and Flynn.

Finding Home - Flynn
Image © 2015 Traer Scott

Flynn, is a large, playful young pit bull/lab mix. He was found as a stray and, like most young energetic dogs struggled with shelter life. Despite daily walks with volunteers and playtime outside, he became hyperactive and anxious in his kennel. Thankfully it only took two months for him to be adopted.

Finding Home_Nanook
Image © 2015 Traer Scott

Nanook, named by shelter staff after the dog in the 1978 film The Lost Boys, is a brindle pit bull mix. He was found as a stray playing in a parking lot. He was untrained and badly behaved, but after several months of “boot camp” staff saw a softer side to him and he was adopted into a wonderful home.

Finding Home_Molly
Image © 2015 Traer Scott

Molly, a super-affectionate senior golden retriever was separated from her owner of ten years after she was forced to move into a retirement home that did not allow pets. Molly was in the shelter for two week, before being adopted by a man with disabilities and his family.

Do you have a rescue pet?

Share their story with us on twitter; @abramschronicle ‪#‎FindingHome‬

 

Worn Stories – Piper Kerman

You know they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, well Emily Spivack has proven that an old item of clothing is worth even more.

In her book Worn Stories, Emily has collected tales from cultural figures & talented storytellers. These narratives, or more accurately mini memoirs, are inspiring & a beautiful account of everyday life. By turns poignietn, tragic and funny Worn Stories is a little tapestry of the everyday, sewn together by old items of well worn clothing.

Keep reading for Piper Kerman‘s (author of the memoir Orange is the New Black) contribution!

Piper Kerman:

I have loved vintage clothing since I was in high school, thrifting the racks or raiding my grandparents’ attics and closets. I attended a lot of morning college classes clad in old men’s pajamas. Skinny-lapeled men’s suit jackets over miniskirts were a favorite in my twenties. I’ve worn crepe dresses from the thirties and forties to friends’ weddings, and when I was getting married I found my fiancé the white silk suit of a dead Chinese diplomat to wear on the big day (I got one of the diplomat’s wife’s cheongsams for me).


In my professional life I’m less inclined to wear vintage. When I was caught in a criminal case in federal court in Chicago in my late twenties I wore my most sober gray and brown pantsuits to court arraignments and plea negotiations, because when you’re appearing on the docket, believe me, you wish you could disappear into the woodwork of the courtroom.

However, when I went to Chicago for what I thought was my final court appearance, my sentencing, camouflage was not an option. I had taken a plea deal—95 percent of criminal defendants do. As your case wends through the system, you barely speak in court; the prosecutor and defense attorney do most of the talking. Unlike 80 percent of criminal defendants, I could afford to hire a lawyer, and I was lucky that he was a very good and experienced one. He had advocated long and hard with the prosecutor on my behalf, and then the day came where his work and my case would be decided by the judge, a Reagan appointee to the federal bench.


Most criminal defendants wear whatever they are given by their attorney or family to their sentencing; a lot of people are too poor to afford bail, and so they have been wearing jailhouse orange for many months before ever getting their day in court. I was much more fortunate; when I flew to Chicago to be sentenced to prison, I had three choices of court attire in my suitcase. A cadet-blue pantsuit, a very severe navy coatdress, and a wild card I had packed at the last minute: a vintage fifties pencil-skirt suit I had bought on eBay, in a coffee and cream tweed with a subtle sky blue check. It looked like something a Hitchcock heroine would have worn.

“That’s the one,” said my lawyer, pointing to the skirt suit. “We want the judge to be reminded of his own daughter or niece or neighbor when he looks at you.” For someone standing for judgment, the importance of being seen as a complete human being, someone who is more than just the contents of the file folders that rest on the bench in front of His or Her Honor, cannot be overstated. To enter the courtroom ready for whatever would happen, I wanted to be dressed to represent me, which was much more than a few months of my life ten years past. The eBay suit worked as a counterbalance to my decade-old neck tattoo (which would serve me so well months later in prison), two visual signals on the opposite sides of the scales of justice on that day.

Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was adapted into an original television series for Netflix-Official.

Photo ©Ally Lindsay
Extract from Worn Stories by Emily Spivack, pp79, published by papress, September 2014.