One photograph taken before World War II shows what was at stake

Albert Einstein under guard at Cromer, England in 1933 — Bettmann/Getty Images

It’s the stuff of cloak and dagger cliffhangers and bestseller suspense novels. It’s also part of the historical record of the twentieth century, a snapshot from a perilous time that carries with it to this day some unsettling ‘what if?’ ramifications.

The year is 1933 and the setting is a primitive-looking vacation lodge, or “holiday hut” as they were known in England, near the quiet seaside town of Cromer. The man at the center of the photograph is, of course, Albert Einstein, still today one of the most famous faces on the planet. As for the woman and two men…

Take heart, writers and professionals, even the Greats have had their moments of torturous self-doubt

John Steinbeck —

“I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”- Author John Steinbeck writing in his private journal in 1938 — two years before he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath.

The Impostor Syndrome: A registered term in psychology that was introduced to academic circles in 1978, it defines a curious malady: the struggle or inability to quiet the self-doubt that mocks one for achieving or trying to achieve whatever it is we dream of doing.

Put more bluntly, it’s the nagging lines running in an endless loop through the back of our…

Everything about “The Great Rebellion; A History of the Civil War in the United States” makes me appreciate the artistry of writing

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

When it comes to books currently in my possession, the one I treasure most is a very old book about the Civil War.

How old, you ask?

Well, in the Publisher’s Notice at the front of the book the editors proclaim this to be Volume I of a history of the American Civil War, with a promise that a follow-up Volume II “will be prepared as fast as the receipt of authentic material by the Author will permit, and be issued within six months after the close of the war.” (italics mine)

In other words, what I have is a…

Taking a frightening look at combat trauma over the years

A Traumatized Marine in Vietnam —

Soldiers call it the thousand-yard stare — the tell-tale sign that one’s senses have become so overloaded by prolonged fear and trauma that the nervous system can’t process any more. They are no longer looking at you in the here and now. They’re looking through you into the distance, toward something far beyond — be it heaven or hell. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Over the years it’s gone by many names and medical science has basically been playing catch-up to the furious advance of warfare. It’s been called shell shock, combat stress reaction, battle fatigue, and post-traumatic…

The Heroic Tale of Vietnam POW Lance Sijan Inspires Many Today

Medal of Honor recipient Captain Lance Sijan

Since its inception in 1862, the Medal of Honor has stood alone as the nation’s highest and most prestigious military award, given to the rare individual who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

To date there have been 3, 507 recipients of the award, each representing a unique yet for them common story of selfless bravery and courage in the finest tradition of this country’s armed forces.

The story of Captain Lance Sijan is one…

The story of William Calley and the My Lai Massacre still haunts us today

Women of My Lai village shortly before their deaths —

All warfare is based on deception. Deception includes feigning weakness when you are strong or professing ignorance when you are informed.” — Sun Tzu

How do we win by military force without destroying what we are trying to save?– New York Times columnist James Reston, February 7, 1968

What to make of it when a convicted war criminal says he’s sorry? What does one feel, what should one feel when nearly fifty years after the crime was committed the guilty party tells the public for the first time that he feels remorse for his actions?

That was the emotional…

Here is the true story behind ‘The Exorcist’ — the scariest movie ever made

A still shot from the 1973 film The Exorcist —

Cottage City, Maryland in 1949 was a small suburban community as quaint and wholesome as the name would suggest. Residents back then never locked their doors at night and never expected any trouble. Not in their town. And certainly nothing like this.

On August 20th of that year, the Washington Post carried a front-page story telling of “one of the most remarkable experiences of its kind in recent religious history.” The story concerned a fourteen-year-old boy from Cottage City who had apparently been the victim of demonic possession and was subsequently saved only through the ancient Catholic rite of exorcism.

Another place you can look for writing inspiration

Immigrants arriving in America —

How wonderfully fitting it was for me, a writer who loves telling personal and family histories, to find out my surname — Stolt — also happens to be the Swedish word for ‘proud.’

Stolt — proud.

That works out damn good by me.

Because over 130 years ago, on November 26, 1889 to be exact, my paternal grandfather boarded a ship for the first time in his life in the port city of Göteborg, Sweden, and embarked on the biggest leap of faith of his life — a week’s-long winter voyage across the North Atlantic that was anything but safe…

How 13 minutes meant the difference between life and death for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party

Adolf Hitler speaking in Munich in 1939 —

John Wilkes Booth. Lee Harvey Oswald. James Earl Ray.

These names are forever etched in history and in our collective mind, representing not only cold-blooded murderers but more so the haunting question of what might have happened had they not done what they did.

Then there is Georg Elser.

How one soldier’s story still haunts the Vietnam War generation

American Prisoners of War in Vietnam —

As written in the United States Military Code of Conduct:

Article IIIIf I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IVIf I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades.

In many ways, his story has become, nearly half a century later, one of…

Kent Stolt

Wisconsin-based writer, storyteller and history buff. Keep it simple. Make it real.

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