While U.S. home soil was largely well-behind the frontlines of any action in World War II, the same cannot be said for the waters off the East Coast. During the first two years of American involvement in the war, dozens of ships there were targeted by German U-Boats. The deadly submarines were amazingly efficient killing machines, targeting anything on the water. The U-Boat crews called this period “the second happy time,” the first being when they were let loose on the largely ill-defended ships of the British Isles. Uboat.net has a remarkable, searchable database of U-Boat attacks. (Search grid coordinates CB and CA and you’ll find the reports of most of the New England incidents.) Lined up against these war machines? An ill-equipped force that included converted yachts, 50-year-old gunboats and a handful of aging aircraft. It was a dodgy time to be a sailor assigned to protecting the American coast. Southington Patch tells the story of Connecticut physician Roger Fuller and how he survived a U-Boat attack 70 years ago. Making it beyond an initial attack was just the start of the episode. After that you had to make it past sharks, rescuers shooting at the sharks to scare them off and vessels that had a very difficult time seeing survivors in the water. For ubout.net’s record of the attack, visit here.
In the chaos of the fighting on a Civil War battlefield, often the only things a soldier had to rely on were his training, his wits and what direction he could make out from his unit’s battle flags, which were used to direct the fighting (or a retreat). The soldiers who handled the flags were often the most sought-after targets by the enemy. Take out a flag and you could disrupt the opposing force’s ability to operate. These relics of the war saw a lot of action. Today, they are often consigned to dusty cases or packed off in drawers to stave off decay. But then how are they appreciated? WCAX tells the behind the scenes story of efforts in Barre, Vt. to photograph Vermont’s Civil War battle flags. Says photographer Craig Line, who’s working on the project, says, “nobody gets access to these flags… Relatives of mine were in the Civil War, and you can wax romantic about it pretty easily, thinking about the flags flying, the smoke rising over the battle field.” When he’s done, the images of the flags will let everyone take a look at these historic artifacts. “They are symbols of something that was catastrophic in our history, but something that we never want to forget,” he says.
Today’s Flashback Photo is the poster for the movie Peyton Place. New Hampshire Magazine treats us to a retelling of the story of New Hampshire author Grace Metalious’ short, tumultuous life. Metalious turned the town of Gilmanton on its head in 1956 with the publication of her first novel, Peyton Place. Filled with lurid stories of incest, murder, suicide and adultery, the story tracked very closely some of the hidden secrets of her neighbors’ lives. Of course, she would point out that those things go on everywhere. Unfortunately, the people of Gilmanton didn’t like to think about them going on in their town, and they weren’t shy about letting Grace know it. The book became the 50 Shades of Gray of its time as it went on to be a blockbuster film, then a television show and then a sequel. While much of the public probably associates Peyton Place most closely with Camden, Me., where the movie was filmed, Metalious fans know it was Gilmanton that inspired the story.
August 1 ushered in the era of gay marriage in Rhode Island. With the joyous photos of happy couples tying the knot now filtering out, the Providence Journal reminds us with this timeline of gay history in Rhode Island that it was not always all champagne and smiles for gay people in the state. Ironically, the state that was established when its founders were persecuted and hounded out of Massachusetts conducted its own fair share of persecution of gay people. In fact it was the witchhunt for gay sailors in Newport at the war college that nearly sank the career of then Assistant Navy Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt. That same incident also may have led to the strafing of a fishing boat in Narragansett Bay, a story we hope to get around to telling one of these days.