War Paint (Part 9): Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas

Part 9 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

We’ve now sailed clear through the Romanticism of the 19th century. The last few entries into the War Paint Series have been of a truly epic nature. Romantic ideas about war were left to the Napoleonic Wars and Colonial Wars of the previous century. Cavalry charges were replaced with mechanized warfare, creating casualties like never before. Cultural ideas about war began to shift along with the greater killing capacity. No longer would a man have to defeat another man in hand to hand combat, or shoot him from a distance close enough to see ‘the whites of his eyes.’ Hundreds could be mowed down by one man strategically positioned with a machine gun.

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That’s No Beggar, That’s Gaudí, or A Street Car Named Expire

Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Photo by  Marek Holub via Wikimedia Commons.

Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Photo by Marek Holub via Wikimedia Commons.

On June 7, 1926, a ragged beggar crossed the street in Barcelona, the bustling Catalan metropolis on the Mediterranean coast. Perhaps he was lost in thought, or perhaps the street car was somehow at fault. The man was struck and lost consciousness. Due to his ragged condition and lack of identification, he was left to his fate by the passersby.

Eventually, a police officer reluctantly decided to do something about the situation and took the bum to a nearby hospital where he received the most basic treatment. The following day, the chaplain of the Sagrada Família church, the beggar’s life’s work, recognized him, but it was too late. His previously untreated condition had deteriorated and he would go on to die on the 10th of June.

If you couldn’t gather from the title (apologies for the horrible pun), the beggar was no beggar at all, but was indeed Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, one of the most famous, if over-the-top, architects known to man. He was already in his 70’s at the time, but seemed otherwise healthy, was still working on his all-consuming life’s passion, the aforementioned Sagrada Família, and there really is no telling how long he would have carried on.

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Robert Horvat’s Fab Five : TE Lawrence, a PM, an Honest Man, Schindler & a Jedi

TE Lawrence. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

TE Lawrence. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This is the second part of my Fab Five series, where I ask other bloggers, writers, podcasters and friends to give their five favorite historical figures. The criteria is up to them…so is the work! First up is Robert, blogger and friend of the site. You can check out Robert’s work on two of my favorite blogs, If It Happened Yesterday, It’s History and The History of the Byzantine Empire.

I would firstly like to apologise to my gracious host by saying that I found it really difficult to narrow my initial historical figures list down to five. I had covered one end of history to the other and just simply couldn’t decide. I finally decided to settle on a period in history that was most relevant to me and that has had an effect on my life. My list below could easily be different again tomorrow. At least another five could, without a doubt, be substituted depending on my mood. However, I am happy with my choices and please allow me to present my five favourite historical figures of the twentieth century.

T.E Lawrence

David Lean’s epic motion picture first introduced me to the man and myth of Lawrence of Arabia. T.E Lawrence symbolized everything I wanted to be as a kid, an archeologist, adventurer and a reluctant hero. Oh how dreams are fun! His legend had obviously grown over the passage of time, but no one can begrudge or deny his influence in Middle Eastern affairs. His decision to stand up for the underdog (Arab revolt), during and after the Great War have had a profound effect on the 20th century (whether we realize it or not)!

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Hiroo Onoda: A Serious Commitment to Duty

Hiroo Onoda as a young officer, c 1944. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hiroo Onoda as a young officer, c 1944. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The latest edition of  my History in the News Series, a look at current events that have some sort of historical slant.

On January 16, 2014, Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army passed away at the age of 91.

Sometimes some people take things too seriously. War is probably something that does not fall into that category very often. There were a handful of Japanese holdouts following the island empires defeat in World War II who continued the armed struggle well beyond the August 15, 1945 surrender of their nation. Most of them were cut off by the United States’ island hopping campaign and were located on small islands in the Pacific. Some held out through the 40’s while others managed to keep the struggle going until the 70’s. Onoda’s story is, by far, the most remarkable.

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Túpac Amaru: A Legacy of Rap and Revolution

Image of the last emperor of the Inca, Tupac Amaru. Author and date unknown.

Image of the last emperor of the Inca, Tupac Amaru. Author and date unknown.

The name Tupac is known around the world. One of the most charismatic rappers of the 90’s has seen his image posthumously plastered on shirts and posters around the globe. Few in the Western World would not have heard of him. But the name Tupac was not an original. It’s an Inca name, one steeped in history, with origins going back to the emperors of the Andes.

I admit that my first encounter with the name was due to the rapper. Having grown up near San Francisco and graduating from high school in 1995, I was well and truly familiar with the poster boy of West Coast hip hop. But shortly after the rapper’s death, a Marxist revolutionary group in Peru took over the Japanese embassy, holding hostages for over 100 days before a commando raid by government forces ended the standoff. I became more interested in the name behind the deceased emcee.

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Belchite: A Truly Haunting Monument

Church of San Martin de Tours, Old Town Belchite. Photo by JOMISAG via wikimedia commons.

Church of San Martin de Tours, Old Town Belchite. Photo by JOMISAG via wikimedia commons.

The mere concept of a ghost town fascinates people. The idea that a thriving town could one day cease to have any value, to the point where it becomes completely abandoned, is confronting.

How many of them actually have ghosts? I don’t mean in the metaphysical sense, but in the skeletons in the closet, bad things happened here sort of way. Belchite, 40km from Zaragoza in Spain’s Aragon region, is one such place.

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Futurist Food: The Flavor of Tomorrow

The Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (shown in about 1915).

The Italian writer and fascist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (shown in about 1915).

Futurism is an art and social movement that flies under the radar for many casual art lovers. Its primary sphere of influence was in Italy, though Russia had its share of adherents, from the beginning of the 20th century on through the Second World War. The movement’s focus was on the modern: speed, technology, youth… well, the future. Futurists dabbled in every medium imaginable, from painting to sculpture, architecture to ceramics, theater to music, and even cuisine (more on that later).

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