The Holy hijack of Aer Lingus Flight 164

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Today marks the centenary of “the Mircale of the Sun”an event that occurred on 13 October 1917, attended by a large crowd who had gathered near Fátima, Portugal, in response to a prophecy made by three shepherd children that the Virgin Mary, referred to as Our Lady of Fatima, would appear and perform miracles on that date. Newspapers published testimony from reporters and other people who claimed to have witnessed extraordinary solar activity, such as the sun appearing to “dance” or zig-zag in the sky, careen towards the earth, or emit multicolored light and radiant colors. According to these reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes.

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“Hang on there” I hear you say” Back up their Padre, the title mentions a hijack not a divine intervention” Yes you are right, please bear with me

As stated the Miracle of the Sun occurred on October 13 1917, fast forward a little over 6 decades to May 2 1981. Aer Lingus Flight 164 was a scheduled Boeing 737 passenger flight that was hijacked on 2 May 1981, en route from Dublin Airport in Ireland to London Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom. But that is not where the story ends.

Flight EI164 was about five minutes from Heathrow airport when passenger Downey, a 55-year-old Australian but living in Dublin, was said to have gone into the cabin toilet, he doused his hands in gasoline and poured water on his clothes to give the impression that they were flammable ,holding a lighter and making threats unless he was taken to Iran.

When he was told the plane didn’t have the fuel to get to Tehran, he settled for France.

Although the plane was now on foreign soil, Irish Transport Minister – and future Taoiseach(prime minister) – Albert Reynolds flew to France to handle the situation.

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Downey had been a Trappist monk in residence at Tre Fontane Abbey in the 1950s (this was later confirmed by monastery officials),before he was expelled from the order for punching a superior in the face.

He then took a job as a tour guide in central Portugal, at a shrine devoted to Our Lady of Fátima, who is said to have appeared before three children and shared with them three secrets.At the time of the hijacking, the third secret was known only to the Pope and other senior figures in the Catholic Church.

On Flight EI 164, Downey carried a briefcase containing a text he believes may be the third secret. It predicts devil-inspired catastrophes and damnation.

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“The third secret of Fatima is many things,” Downey said. “Basically, it concerns the third millennium and the second coming of Christ.

His text says a “great chastisement” will fall on humanity in the second part of this century the like of which has not been seen since the deluge.

It reveals, he says, that Satan infiltrate the top of the church. The great and the powerful will perish with the little and the weak.

The Catholic Church will split and the corrupt in Rome will fall. Millions and millions will perish by the hour and those still living will envy those who are dead.

Downey further demanded the publication in the Irish press of the nine-page statement which he had the Captain throw from the cockpit window.

After an eight-hour standoff (during which time Downey released 11 of his 112 hostages), French special forces stormed the plane and apprehended Downey. No shots were fired and nobody was injured.

It emerged that Downey was being sought by police in Perth, Australia, in connection with a $70,000 land fraud incident and was also wanted in Shannon, Ireland, for alleged assault.In February 1983, he was sentenced, in Saint-Omer, France, to five years’ imprisonment for air piracy.

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Alive! How far would you go to survive?

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Anyone who has seen the movie ‘Alive’ will be aware of this story.
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was a chartered flight carrying 45 people, including a rugby union team, their friends, family and associates, that crashed in the Andes on Friday the 13th  October 1972, in an incident known as the Andes flight disaster and, in the Hispanic world and South America, as the Miracle of the Andes (El Milagro de los Andes). More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash and several others quickly succumbed to cold and injury. Of the 27 who were alive a few days after the accident, another eight were killed by an avalanche that swept over their shelter in the wreckage. The last 16 survivors were rescued on 23 December 1972, more than two months after the crash.

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The survivors had little food and no source of heat in the harsh conditions at over 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) altitude. Faced with starvation and radio news reports that the search for them had been abandoned, the survivors fed on the bodies of dead passengers that had been preserved in the snow. Rescuers did not learn of the survivors until 72 days after the crash when passengers Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, after a 10-day trek across the Andes, found Chilean arriero Sergio Catalán,who gave them food and then alerted the authorities to the existence of the other survivors.

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The survivors had a small amount of food: a few chocolate bars, assorted snacks, and several bottles of wine. During the days following the crash, they divided up this food in very small amounts to make their meager supply last as long as possible. Fito Strauch devised a way to obtain water by using metal from the seats and placing snow on it. The snow melted in the sun and dripped into empty wine bottles..

Even with this strict rationing, their food stock dwindled quickly. There were no natural vegetation or animals on the snow-covered mountain.

The group survived by collectively deciding to eat flesh from the bodies of their dead comrades. This decision was not taken lightly, as most of the dead were classmates, close friends, or even relatives.

All of the passengers were Roman Catholic.  Some rationalized the act of necrotic cannibalism as equivalent to the ritual of Holy Communion,

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or justified it according to a Bible verse (John 15:13): “no man hath greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends”). Others initially had reservations, though after realizing that it was their only means of staying alive, changed their minds a few days later. There are reports that the only surviving female passenger, Liliana, although not seriously injured in the crash, was the last survivor to initially refuse eating the human flesh due to her strong religious convictions. She later began eating after being convinced by her husband, Javier, and the other survivors – though she died shortly thereafter in the avalanche.

When first rescued, the survivors initially explained that they had eaten some cheese they had carried with them, planning to discuss the details in private with their families. They were pushed into the public eye when photos were leaked to the press and sensational articles were published.

The survivors held a press conference on 28 December at Stella Maris College in Montevideo, where they recounted the events of the past 72 days.(Over the years, they also participated in the publication of two books, two films, and an official website about the event.)

The rescuers and a Chilean priest later returned to the crash site and buried the bodies of the dead, 80 m (260 ft) from the aircraft. Close to the grave they built a stone pile with an iron cross. They doused the remains of the fuselage in gasoline and set it alight.

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Although it is a horrific story, ultimately it is a great tale of hope,faith and endurance.

Life in the Big Apple

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New York city has such a rich history. Although I have never been there (but I will someday) I find it one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

For me to write a whole essay on the city would do it injustice, therefore below some pictures of its rich history.

A woman dressed in only heels and a barrel that reads “I Did My Bit, Did You?” stands in Times Square.

The promotion, organized by the United National Clothing Collection was part of drive to collect clothing and bedding for overseas war relief. April 1945..

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Police attempt to enter the residence of the Collyer Brothers, a pair of legendary New York hoarders and recluses, after receiving reports of a foul smell coming from the house. They later found the bodies of the two brothers dead under a mountain of rubbish. 1947.

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A window washer at work on the Empire State Building poses during a brief break from his duties. March 24, 1936.

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French aerialist Philippe Petit walks a tightrope strung between the tops of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. 1974.

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From a board stuck out from the 54th floor of the Chanin Building, daredevil pole sitter Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly balances on his head while dunking doughnuts to celebrate Friday the 13. 1939.

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The Brooklyn Bridge during construction in 1882.

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Waiters serve lunch to two steel workers on a girder high above the city on November 14, 1930, during construction of the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

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The German airship Hindenburg, swastikas and all, flies over New York City on the afternoon of May 6, 1937, a few hours before its historic, fiery crash in Manchester Township, New Jersey.

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Jan-Peter and Thomas Pfeffer,murdered age 7 and 10.

 

I have been doing blogs on the holocaust now for about 18 months. I did  consider giving it a break for a while, not because I didn’t find the stories important but because at times my emotions were getting the better of me, and they were having an impact.

However I then realised I have to tell these stories because soon enough the last survivor of the Holocaust will have perished and who will tell the stories then?

Additionally I came across accounts of victims ,like the Pfeffer brothers,who have to be remembered because no one belonging to them is able to do it for them because they were killed.

I won’t be saying too much about them because the innocence in their eyes should be a stark reminder on how cruel humanity can be.The only reason they were killed was because they were Jewish, They didn’t commit any crimes. They didn’t even get the choice to play ball outside and accidentally break a neighbors window, or come home covered in mud.

No, they were Jewish and that was enough reason to kill them.

Their father, Heinz, was a German-Jewish refugee who married Henriette De Leeuw, a Dutch-Jewish woman. Frightened by the Nazi dictatorship and the murder of Heinz’s uncle in a concentration camp, they emigrated to the Netherlands when Henriette was nine months pregnant. They settled in Amsterdam

On May 18, 1944, Jan-Peter and Tommy and their parents were  deported to Auschwitz. The boys were  gassed on July 11, 1944. Tommy was 7 years old and Jan-Peter was 10.

And even their death was treated as an administrative exercise.

The District Court of Amsterdam ordered 21 June 1957 the change of date of death for Henriette de Leeuw, Jan Peter Pfeffer and Thomas Pfeffer from “about July 1944” into “7 July 1944”

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Songs that made a difference.

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To quote John Miles”Music was my first love and it will be my last”. Music is my passion, its power has no equal. A good song can make you happy, sad or angry, a great song will make you think.

There are songs that made a difference and made people think. Unfortunately nowadays artists only seem to care which toilet should be placed during their gigs, while they don’t mind being paid millions to perform in countries where nearly every human right is ignored and/or broken, but that is a different story. In this blog I want to focus on songs where artists saw real injustice and sang or wrote about it.

Although I don’t always agree with the message they were giving,I do respect them because they are doing it out of a noble principle.

Starting off with probably the most powerful one.

Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit” (1939)

I always liked this song but it was only a few years ago I realized what this song was about and ever since the bittersweet sounds have been haunting me.

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” is a protest song with enduring relevance. It’s lyrics symbolize the brutality and racism of the practice of lynching in the American South. It was the first time a black artist had sung such controversial lyrics. The song itself has endured and become a symbol of the racism, cruelty, pain.

“Strange Fruit” was originated as a poem written by American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol, under his pseudonym Lewis Allan, as a protest against lynchings.In the poem, Meeropol expressed his horror at lynchings, inspired by Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.

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He published the poem under the title “Bitter Fruit” in 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine. Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set “Strange Fruit” to music himself. His protest song gained a certain success in and around New York. Meeropol, his wife, and black vocalist Laura Duncan performed it at Madison Square Garden.Barney Josephson, the founder of Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, New York’s first integrated nightclub, heard the song and introduced it to Billie Holiday. Other reports say that Robert Gordon, who was directing Billie Holiday’s show at Cafe Society, heard the song at Madison Square Garden and introduced it to her.[11] Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939.

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A hymn that has been performed by many artist, however I chose the version of the most famous of all singers,Elvis.

Former slave ship captain John Newton wrote Amazing Grace in 1772 .

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He mentored William Wilberforce in his long fight to outlaw slave trading. The song took root in the US during the Second Great (religious protestant) Awakening in early 1800s. It became a standard hymn sung by all races but also a protest song associated with civil rights and with Martin Luther King. It remains a hymn, a freedom song and also has a life as a radio chart hit for performers as diverse as Mahalia Jackson, Judy Collins and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It is the song most frequently sung on Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US.

Get Up Stand Up – Bob Marley 1973

“You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. So now we see the light! We gonna stand up for our rights!”

Marley was inspired to write this song after touring Haiti where he was moved by the extreme poverty  Haitian people faced. The song describes taking action to avoid oppression by higher forces.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son

The song, released during the peak period of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, is not explicit in its criticism of that war in particular, rather, it “speaks more to the unfairness of class than war itself,” according to its author, John Fogerty. “It’s the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them.

‘Fortunate Son’ wasn’t really inspired by any one event. Julie Nixon was dating David Eisenhower.

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This song is said to be inspired by the joining together of two political families when David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight Eisenhower, and Julie Nixon, daughter of President Richard Nixon, married. Writer John Fogerty told Rolling Stones he “had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1968, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble.”

 

 

 

Apollo 13-Phew, we made it.

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There is a great message to be got from Apollo 13. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.

It is one to thing to break down with your car in the middle of nowhere, but to break down in Space, how to you deal with that?

Well the men on the Apollo 13 dealt with it by staying calm and not giving up hope.I am not a superstitious man but did the number 13 really have an impact here? Of course it didn’t but one can’t help but wonder.

Below are just some images of that infamous space journey.

Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center, April 11, 1970

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Mission Operations Control Room during Apollo 13’s fourth television transmission, on the evening of April 13, 1970. Astronaut Fred Haise, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, is seen on the screen.

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Apollo 13 astronauts wave aboard an aircraft carrier after splashdown in the Pacific, April 17, 1970.

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A landing that almost didn’t happen: Marilyn Lovell, wife of astronaut JIm Lovell, holds a cigarette as she speaks with her children, Houston, Texas, April, 1970. The Apollo 13 crew was forced to abort their lunar landing after an on-board explosion, but made it home safe on May 18.

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Apollo 13 Command Module lands in the south Pacific Ocean, April 17, 1970.

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Mission Control celebrates the successful splashdown of Apollo 13. I wonder is that where the expression “give the man a cigar” comes from.

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The Apollo 13 crew talking with President Nixon on April 17, 1970

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The forgotten WWII massacre

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Although this blog is about a massacre which killed 750,000 victims within a week, not everyone reading this will be shocked about it.

At the beginning of World War II, a government pamphlet led to a massive cull of British pets. As many as 750,000 British pets were killed in just one week.

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In 1939 the British government formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) to decide what to do with pets before war breaks out. The committee was worried that when the government needed to ration food, pet owners would decide to split their rations with their pets or leave their pets to starve. In response to that fear, NARPAC published a pamphlet titled “Advice to Animal Owners.” The pamphlet suggested moving pets from the big cities and into the countryside. It concluded with the statement that “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.” The pamphlet also contained an advertisement for a pistol that could be used to humanely kill pets.

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The advice was printed in almost every newspaper and announced on the BBC.After war was declared on 3 September 1939, pet owners thronged to vets’ surgeries and animal homes._70434803_wj_historical_107

Animal charities, the PDSA, the RSPCA and vets were all opposed to the killing of pets and very concerned about people just dumping animals on their doorsteps at the start of the war.

 

Battersea actually advised against taking such drastic measures and the then manager Edward Healey-Tutt wrote to people asking them not to be too hasty.

In the first few days of war, PDSA hospitals and dispensaries were overwhelmed by owners bringing their pets for destruction. It was estimated that 750,000 pets were killed.

Many pet owners, after getting over the fear of bombings and lack of food, regretted killing their pets and blamed the government for starting the hysteria.

When World War II began, the United Kingdom imported two-thirds of its food, all of which had to be shipped over oceans teeming with German U-boats. The Ministry of Food did not want to risk the lives of sailors for food that would be wasted, and reducing imports also saved money for armaments. Surprisingly, 60 per cent of Britons told government pollsters that they wanted rationing to be introduced, with many believing that it would guarantee everyone a fair share of food.

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The sack of Wexford -Oct 11 1649

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The Sack of Wexford took place on October 11  1649, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, when the New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell took Wexford town in south-eastern Ireland. The English Parliamentarian troops broke into the town while the commander of the garrison, David Sinnot, was trying to negotiate a surrender – massacring soldiers and civilians alike. Much of the town was burned and its harbour was destroyed. Along with the Siege of Drogheda, the sack of Wexford is still remembered in Ireland as an infamous atrocity.

Oliver Cromwell was the most influential General of the English Civil War, famous for creating the New Model Army and decisively defeating King Charles I at Naseby in 1645.

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However, his fighting career didn’t end with the final defeat of the King. Ireland still held Royalists, who had recently allied with the local Confederate rebels, and the these combined forces were preying on Parliamentary shipping. Cromwell was not a man to sit my and let this happen and in August 1649 he landed in Ireland with a highly trained army of Civil War veterans.

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The town’s garrison initially consisted of 1500 Confederate soldiers under David
Sinnot. However, the morale of the town was low – perhaps as a result of hearing of the fall of Drogheda (below) on September 11 – and many of the civilians in Wexford wanted to surrender. Sinnot however, appears to have strung out surrender negotiations with Cromwell and was steadily reinforced, bringing his garrison strength up to 4,800 men by the 11th of October.

While negotiations continued on the 11th October Cromwell’s troops suddenly stormed the vulnerable town. Cromwell denied giving the order,cromwel6-233x300

but chaos ensued as the Parliamentarian troops flooded into Wexford. The town’s castle was inexplicably surrendered without a fight by its English Royalist captain, Stafford, and after this any notion of a fight was over. Irish troops fled from their stations in panic and were then pursued and often massacred by Cromwell’s men. Many more tried to cross the nearby river Slaney to escape the orgy of violence unfolding in the town, but most, including the governor Sinnot, drowned or were shot as they tried to swim. Violence in the town grew out of hand, spreading to its civilian population and the buildings as well as the survivors of the garrison. By the end of the day 2000 soldiers and 1500 civilians had been killed, at the cost of just 20 of Cromwell’s men.

 

World War II Comics and Cartoons

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I am not a great fan of comics although I did read them when I was younger, but they don’t really interest me that much anymore.

However I can see the value of them and why they were popular even during war. Or maybe I should say especially during war, Because it was the perfect tool for escapism. It was cheap and more important easy to carry with you. Of course a lot of the comics would be oozing with propaganda.

Cartoons have often been use in a satirical way and have caused many controversies, as a matter of fact they still do. But the propaganda value of this was priceless

Below are just a few examples of WWII Comic books and cartoons.

Uncle Sam is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. Based on the national personification of the United States, Uncle Sam, the character first appeared in National Comics #1 (July, 1940) and was created by Will Eisner

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Classics Illustrated Special Issue Comic #166a – World War II.

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Daredevil

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Batman & Robin

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Willie and Joe Cartoons drawn by Bill Maudlin

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William Henry “Bill” Mauldin (October 29, 1921 – January 22, 2003) was an American editorial cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He was most famous for his World War II cartoons depicting American soldiers, as represented by the archetypal characters Willie and Joe, two weary and bedraggled infantry troopers who stoically endure the difficulties and dangers of duty in the field. His cartoons were popular with soldiers throughout Europe, and with civilians in the United States as well.

One of the most iconic “Willy and Joe” cartoons of WWII, drawn by Bill Maudlin

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David Low

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Sir David Alexander Cecil Low (7 April 1891 – 19 September 1963) was a New Zealand political cartoonist and caricaturist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom for many years. Low was a self-taught cartoonist. Born in New Zealand, he worked in his native country before migrating to Sydney in 1911, and ultimately to London (1919), where he made his career and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising of the personalities and policies of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and other leaders of his times.

Rendezvous, 20 September 1939.

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Comic book Super Heroes in WWII

History of Sorts

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I am actually not a great fan of Comic books or Graphic Novels as they are called now, although I did read them as a kid but was never really fascinated by them.

However I do like the notion of Super Heroes and I do like them portrayed in the movies.

But in a time when you are not sure if there will be a tomorrow it is important to have something to cling to, albeit fictional and especially youngsters.

WWII was for most people a time of great uncertainty and it was important for many young men and women to be able to escape the daily realities every now and them.Comic books were a great tools to do just that. To dream away and to hope that all would be great again.

And of course the propaganda value was pricesless.

Here are some examples of ‘Comic Book heroes that…

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