In Hania, Crete: The death and life of a Jewish community, and the rebirth of historic synagogue Etz Hayyim

The entrance to the north courtyard of Etz Hayyim synagogue is through the Rothschild Gate. British financier Lord Jacob Rothschild was one of the early funders of the restoration of the synagogue. At left is an olive tree, a symbol of peace — and an abundant crop on Crete.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In October 2018, I visited Athens and Crete for two weeks. This is the second in a series about my experiences. See my post of October 21, 2018 about a fast-paced Greek cooking class.

Mikhail Dientes was a peddler of pistachios. In 1941, he relied on selling the bite-size, pale green nuts to support his wife and four children in Hania, the city of his birth, on the Greek island of Crete.

David Natzon, likewise Hania-born, also sold pistachios, as did several other men in the small Jewish community, numbering barely over 300, on Crete’s northwest coast. 

Living in a neighborhood mostly confined to a few streets in the Jewish Quarter and being in the same business, it’s likely the men knew each other. They may have been friends, perhaps rivals, or friendly rivals.

Little is known about Dientes or Natzon other than then they died together on the German-flagged merchant steamship Tanais in June 1944 when it was torpedoed by a British submarine near the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea, far from its destination, the port of Piraeus on the Greek mainland near Athens.

And it’s unlikely their stories will ever be known in depth and detail, because when the Tanais sank, it wiped out what was left of the Jewish population of Hania (also spelled Chania), and possibly 15 other Jews from Crete. 

Also aboard were at least 30 German soldiers guarding Italian 112 prisoners of war, 48 Greek Christians who fought against the Nazis occupying Crete and the ship’s crew of eight.

(Some of this information comes from an article written by Dimitris A. Mavrideros, in the booklet “The Jews of Crete: Selected Articles and Essays; The Jews of Hania 1940-1944” printed in 2002, which I picked up when I visited Eta Hayyim, the lone synagogue on Crete. Mavrideros writes that the survivors were likely on deck when the torpedoes hit and thus ended up in the water, while all the Jews locked below deck in the holds were doomed.)

The 244-foot (74.5 meters) Tanais, built in England in 1907 and for many years sailed under the British flag, was not marked in any way to indicate it was carrying civilians and was not a troop transport on this run. 

So it’s also unlikely the crew of the HMS Vivid, a 206-foot V-class submarine recently built in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, by the company Vickers Armstrong, had any idea the four torpedoes fired — two of which connected — June 9, 1944 were heading toward a ship that posed no threat.

This loss of civilian life in World War II echoes the torpedoing of the Tsushima Maru by the U.S. submarine Bowfin that I wrote about from my trip to Okinawa, Japan (see post of April 15, 2018).

Some 20 Greeks and 30 German soldiers and crew survived, picked up by the three ships accompanying the Tanais. The diesel-powered Vivid, under the command of Lieutenant John Cromwell Varley, was submerged, and took no return fire.

Had the Jewish passengers on the Tanais reached Athens, their eventual fate may have been equally ominous: They were scheduled to be transported to concentration camps, possibly Auschwitz or Treblinka (sources vary on this), where death shortly after arrival was almost guaranteed in mid-1944.

Jews have lived on Crete since Hellenistic times, though never in large numbers. Isolated as an island but nevertheless a commercial crossroad, communities survived successive rule by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottoman Turks over 2,300 years.

Even on the mainland, a Jewish presence in the 20th century was relatively small, numbering less than 100,000 in 28 cities, with the largest concentration clustered around the capital, Athens, in the south and Thessaloniki in the north. (In contrast, Poland’s pre-WWII Jewish population was about 3 million.)

Before the war, Hania’s Jewish population was still below 400, with some families fleeing before the Nazi occupation.

Against the west wall in the sanctuary is the bimah, the raised platform where the Torah is read.

Religious life was centered around Etz Hayyim (“Tree of Life”), a congregation that traced its roots to at least the 17th century (the Venetian period, 1204-1669), located in a maze of streets very close to the harbor, and a second synagogue, Beth Shalom, that did not survive the Nazi invasion that began in late May 1941.

Hania was badly damaged, but the immediate deportation of the Jews was not a priority. Religious rituals, such as how animals were slaughtered, were banned, and thousands of German soldiers were forbidden to patronize Jewish business, as had been the policy throughout Europe in countries under occupation. 

In addition to the pistachio sellers, other employment included tailor (or seamstress), wine merchant and laborer. Many were students or housewives. These details are known because the Nazis insisted in August 1941 that a list of every Jewish resident be compiled. Most were Greek natives, though some were immigrants from Bulgaria, Italy and Turkey. The total Jewish population: 314.

A second census was demanded in February 1943, at which time the number had fallen to 279, through deaths and possibly some hearty souls fleeing to the mountains to take their chances living among resistance fighters. The oldest person was Alegra Frangou, 93, whose name was spelled Allegra Frango on the 1941 list.

Members of the Jewish community of Hania, Crete, who died in June 1944 are memorialized on these brass plaques at Etz Hayyim.

It wasn’t until May 21, 1944 that 263 Jews were suddenly rounded up at 5 in the morning, allowed to bring only one small suitcase. The Nazis encouraged the looting of Jewish homes, and they themselves stole furniture, clothing and any items of value. 

The deportees were transported to the Agyias (also spelled Aghia and Ayas) prison outside of town, where the shocking turn of events were compounded by inhumane conditions. 

On June 3 or 4, the Jews were trucked east to Heraklion (also spelled Iraklion), Crete’s largest city, where they were held for four days before boarding the ill-fated Tanais.

Without the care of its congregation, Etz Hayyim quickly fell into disrepair, suffering the ignominy of being taken over by squatters, who dug under the sanctuary’s marble paving stones misguidedly hunting for gold, and defiled the surrounding structure and several sacred tombs.

In the ensuing decades, the property suffered further indignities, even as Hania’s waterfront and Old Quarter were redeveloping as tourist destinations filled with cafes, shops and small hotels. An earthquake in 1995 delivered another crippling blow, hastening the collapse of a section of the roof.

Fortunately, several elements converged to save the synagogue: A tireless champion emerged, and the building gained classification from the World Monument Fund as an endangered site worthy of conservation. 

Curator and artist Nikos Stavroulakis designed the nameplate highlighting the synagogue’s name in Hebrew (bottom) and an outline of the building. Shalom (top) is the Hebrew word for peace.

The multitalented Renaissance man who spearheaded the effort to bring Etz Hayyim back from the brink was Nikos Stavroulakis, a co-founder of the Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens, and who served as its director from 1977 until 1993. 

He was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1932 of immigrant parents: a Jewish mother of Turkish descent and a Greek Orthodox father (born Muslim) who was from Hania. 

Educated in the United States, Britain and Israel, Stavroulakis was a historian, author, curator, teacher, lecturer and artist — his works appear in major museums worldwide. He also designed a symbolic nameplate for the reborn Etz Hayyim, which incorporates Hebrew lettering and an outline of the building. 

With financial backing from Lord Jacob Rothschild in England and American Ronald S. Lauder (his mother was Estée Lauder, of cosmetics fame), among others, reconstruction began in 1996.

Centering the east wall is the Holy Ark, where the Torah scrolls are kept behind an embroidered curtain. Services, cultural events and holiday festivals are open to all interested people, regardless of religion.

The layout and furnishings are decorative yet serviceable. The main sanctuary, flanked on both sides by small courtyards, is lined north and south with rows of simple teak benches, spaced atop which are a collection of 95 colorful pillows, where it is not uncommon to find some of the synagogue’s resident cats snoozing contentedly. 

Unadorned Gothic arches allow light to flood the center aisle, once again covered in black-and-white marble.

Against the west wall stands the bimah, a raised platform, where the Torah is read. Opposite on the east wall is the Holy Ark, where three scrolls are kept behind an embroidered curtain.

The synagogue was rededicated in October 1999, with a former prime minister of Greece present, along with representatives from a local Catholic church, the Sisters of Charity, other dignitaries and about 350 attending in total. 

Etz Hayyim has another link to the Holocaust, in that one of its Torah scrolls was among those rescued from what the Nazis called Bohemia and Moravia, but the rest of the world referred to as Czechoslovakia.

During WWII, the Jews of Prague managed to save about 1,800 Torahs, many from small communities in the countryside. After the war, 1,546 of them were brought to London, where they were restored and repaired by the Memorial Scrolls Trust. Today, 327 of these scrolls, some of them dating back centuries, are on long-term loan to congregations around the world.

In 2000, then the lone Jew in Hania, Stavroulakis personally brought the Holocaust Torah into Etz Hayyim, installing it in the Holy Ark and placing branches from a olive tree in a vase in front of the ark, giving added poignance, no matter how small, to this renewal of an ancient sacred space. 

An exterior of the synagogue shares space with tables and chairs from a neighboring restaurant. At left you can see where some of the original stonework was incorporated into the renovation.

In Hania today, Etz Hayyim holds religious services, celebrates Jewish holidays and festivals and stages cultural events; all are open to any interested party regardless of religion. 

The number of resident Jews is still too small to support the salary of a rabbi, so when a bar or bat mitzvah or other religious observance requires a clergyman, a rabbi travels from Athens. 

Stavroulakis died in May 2017, but he is still very much a “presence” at Etz Hayyim. The staff talk about him to visitors, who number about 30,000 a year, and he appears on information boards in the tiny museum upstairs and on the website.

He and many other dedicated people have made it possible for Etz Hayyim to live as a place of “prayer, recollection and reconciliation.” One of the ways it does so is to hold a memorial service every year in June to read out the names of all the Jews of Crete who perished on the Tanais. 

Below a niche, rectangular bronze plaques listing the names of the deceased also pay tribute to their memory.

The Hania Community Research Project is an ongoing effort to recover information about the community that perished in 1944. Perhaps one day, more will be known about the pistachio sellers and all the other lives lost. 

Quick reference: Etz Hayyim synagogue: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays, May through October. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays, July to September. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, November through April. Closed Greek public holidays. Respectful attire is required. Donation of 2 euros is suggested. Parados Kondylaki, Hania, Crete.


In Athens, Greece: A fast-paced cooking school session, and a recipe for Portokalopita (Orange Phyllo Cake)

Four of the five dishes we made from scratch in under four hours at The Greek Kitchen cooking class in Athens, Greece. From top: Karotosalata (salad), Fava Puree with red onion and green onion garnish, Pitakia (cheese- and spinach-filled pies) and Moussaka (baked in a beefsteak tomato).

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

In October 2018, I visited Athens and Crete for two weeks. This is the first in a series about my experiences.

“You will find the entrance to number 36 in between a hat shop and a hardware store.”

The above directions are the kind of precise details that I consider useful when I’m exploring an unfamiliar city and have an appointment for a specific activity.

In this case, it was a Greek cooking class that I had signed up for online before I left home.

As an added precaution, my friend Sylvia — who joined me on the Athens leg of my trip — and I scoped out the location a few days in advance so we wouldn’t be late for our 9:30 a.m. class.

The Greek Kitchen is on the second floor of a nondescript building on busy Athinas Street, in the heart of the Monastiraki section of Athens. 

It has a small blue-and-white logo on the overhead door frame that would have been very easy to miss without being aware of the neighboring businesses. The other landmark that I’d been advised of was a Cosmote phone store across the street.

Like the other cooking classes I have written about on my blog (see May 21, 2018 for a post about Naha, Okinawa; May 1, 2017 about Chiang Mai, Thailand; and December 23, 2016 for Hanoi, Vietnam), this one started with a trip to the nearby market, Varvakios. Athens’ Central Market has been in business since 1878.

Sylvia and I had also scoped this out a few days earlier, but since our instructor, Vasia, is friendly with so many people around the shops and stalls, it was fun to see her interact with the vendors.

We used super fresh plain Greek yogurt (metal bowl) in several of our recipes.

We picked up fresh ingredients for the dishes we would be making, including split fava beans; creamy plain Greek yogurt; feta; and kefalotyri, a hard, somewhat salty cheese similar to Parmesan, at a cheese shop. At the bustling covered market, we secured ground beef, olives, handmade sheets of phyllo dough (sometimes spelled filo) and romaine lettuce.

For tourists, some vendors will vacuum-pack fresh olives in a plastic bag.

Where a variety of olives were for sale in bins, Sylvia bought about a half kilo of black ones to take home. Once measured, the vendor took the olives to the back of his space and vacuum-packaged them in plastic for easy transport. Olives packed this way are not only a popular and affordable souvenir but also widely available.

Vasia, whose big personality carries over into her love of Greek food, put together an autumn menu, basing the dishes we would be making on seasonal ingredients. 

Two others were in our class, both young Australians: Ashley from Canberra and Rosalie from Brisbane. (I’m using generic spellings because I didn’t have a chance to ask.)

Our prep space consisted of a long table covered with a red-and-white checked cloth and a cutting board at our individual stations. We each had a small box grater, two small knives (very odd to cut with when we were all used to large chefs knives at home), two spoons, a vegetable peeler and a metal bucket for food waste.

Also on the table was a white bowl of greens and one of mixed vegetables.

Parallel to our table was Vasia’s equipment cart, stacked with dry ingredients and seasonings and an induction hot plate.

This is a list of the dishes we made from scratch, in the order we prepared them: 

● Fava Puree: Fava beans with olive oil, a traditional dish from the island of Santorini, that can be a dip or a first-course thick soup;

● Moussaka: The well-known Greek layered meat dish, topped with béchamel sauce, here baked inside tomatoes;

● Pitakia: Small cheese- and spinach-filled pies, with dough made from scratch;

● Portokalopita: An orange cake using shredded phyllo pastry, often served in the spring; 

● Karotosalata: A salad of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, raisins and almonds served with tahini yogurt dressing

Handmade phyllo dough was not only just-made but much less expensive (1.50 euros is about $1.73) than in American supermarkets. A pound of frozen dough cost $4.49 at my chain grocery.


To get all this accomplished in under four hours, we worked nearly nonstop in teams. So, for instance, on the fava puree, Sylvia and I peeled garlic while Ashley and Rosalie chopped the red onions. On the orange cake, Sylvia and I made the batter while Ashley and Rosalie shredded the phyllo dough by hand.

With much humor and running commentary, Vasia directed what we did and when, but aside from helping with some vigorous stirring of the béchamel, we provided almost all the hands-on labor. (While the fava puree was cooking on the kitchen stove, Vasia’s assistant kept an eye on it and skimmed off the foam as needed.)

Because Rosalie is a vegetarian, she made a separate sauce for the moussaka, while we made one with ground beef. (The Greek Kitchen will likewise tailor dishes for specific dietary requirements.)

When we got to the béchamel sauce, Vasia was at her most animated. “Constant stirring” was her mantra as she exhorted our efforts. Rosalie led off the rotation, melting the butter and stirring in the flour in the metal bowl atop the induction hot plate. 

Ashley and then Sylvia took over spoon duty when the milk was added, while I was busy grating the kefalotyri. The cheese went in when it was my turn to stir, before Vasia jumped in to make sure the sauce was thickening properly and had the correct smooth consistency.

Our instructor Vasia chatted with us as we ate the meal we prepared together.

Amid all this “constant stirring,” Vasia’s patter detoured into the wonders of Greek olive oil, surely the best on the planet, in her opinion. I didn’t hear all of this, but I think she said something about her family growing olives on Crete, and bottling their own brand of olive oil.

Once the béchamel sauce was done, we sampled it to check the seasoning. Then we each took our large beefsteak tomatoes, which we had hollowed out earlier, and packed in a hefty portion of the meat sauce and lastly the béchamel, brimming over the top. Next stop: The oven.

Only four ingredients were needed for pitakia dough: Greek yogurt, flour, baking powder and olive oil. Without yeast, the dough needed only 20 minutes to rest, during which time we made the filling of feta, spinach, mint, dill, salt and pepper.

The appetizer-size little pies reminded me of making samosas or Chinese potstickers.

We each had enough dough to fashion three small pies. We flattened each ball of dough using our palms, then cupped the disk in one hand to add the filling.

We carefully brought together the edges to enclose the filling and form a half-moon, pinched all the way around to seal and used the tines of a fork to press and decorate the edges. After egg-washing the top, the pies were ready to  bake.

Portokalopita (Orange Phyllo Cake) is a dense slice of sweetness. This is the cake I made at home, garnished with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and an orange section.

Below, I’ve included the recipe for the orange cake, which went together very quickly in class. Making it at home was more time consuming and I’ve adapted it a bit also.

By the time we’d made the salad, our other dishes were ready to eat, so we sat at another table, with a blue-and-white checkered tablecloth, and enjoyed a surprisingly filling meal. Vasia joined us, and we peppered her with questions as we ate. 

Researching cooking schools, I found the options ranged from lessons taught in people’s homes to the course I selected. Prices varied widely also. 

What I liked about The Greek Kitchen was the menu, the price, the fact that the class would not be canceled if only one student was signed up and that a single supplement was not charged.

It turned out to be a marvelously good time, and I would heartily recommend Vasia as an ambassador for Greek cooking.  

Quick reference: The Greek Kitchen, 36 Athinas Street, Athens, Greece. The cost is 45 euros (about $52). A 10 euro, nonrefundable deposit is required in advance. The remaining 35 euros, in cash, can be paid on the day of class. Classes begin at 9:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. A Greek breakfast baking class is available at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Sundays. 45 euros. Website:


After the Orange Phyllo Cake cooled and I added the syrup, I wondered if I would be able to get it out of the pan in one piece. As you can see, I was successful!

Portokalopita from the Peloponnese (Orange Phyllo Cake)

The pleasing scent of orange will be wafting through the kitchen while you prepare and bake this easy recipe. 

For a crowd, make the whole cake. But if you are just baking for a few people, the recipe easily halves.

Sylvia and I happened to make half recipes on the same day. She baked hers in a square pan, I used a round one.

Sylvia found that the amount of syrup (even halved) as written below drowned the cake. I boiled the syrup, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes in an attempt to reduce the volume. That seemed to work. 

I also left it for more than two hours to absorb the syrup and didn’t cut a slice until the next day. It is very dense, not at all like a springy sponge cake.

Hands on: 20 minutes for batter, 15 minutes for syrup   

Total time: 2 hours, 35 minutes    

Serves: 6-8 half recipe, 12-14 full recipe (depending on size of pieces)

For the cake:

4 large eggs

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

Zest of 2 oranges (For a half recipe, I used 1 large navel orange.)

10 1/2 ounces (300 grams) plain Greek yogurt (2% or higher fat content of Fage brand is recommended if you can’t get fresh)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1 cup (200 milliliters) sunflower oil (or other neutral oil such as canola), additional for greasing pan

1 pound (500 grams) phyllo sheets (if using frozen, thaw in packaging at room temperature for 2 hours)

For the syrup:

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups water at room temperature 

Juice of 2 oranges

1 cinnamon stick

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Grease a 9-by-13 baking dish or aluminum pan with sunflower oil. Use an 8 1/2-inch round pan for half recipe.

In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to combine eggs and sugar (it’s OK to use an electric mixer but there’s really no need). Beat until the mixture is pale and frothy.

Add orange zest, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract and baking powder and continue to beat (with a mixer, use medium speed) until well-combined. While beating, slowly add sunflower oil.

Remove phyllo sheets from packaging and shred into 1 1/2-inch (3 centimeter) pieces using a knife or your hands. The size does not have to be uniform or exact.

Gradually sprinkle the shredded phyllo into the bowl; you don’t want it to clump. Combine with a spatula until the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. (I placed it on a parchment-paper lined baking tray just in case it bubbled over the sides.)

Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake has risen and is golden brown on top. For half recipe, bake about 40-45 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and let cool completely in the pan (1 hour or more) before adding the syrup.

To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, orange juice and cinnamon stick to a boil over medium heat for 2 minutes. (I stirred for 10 minutes to thicken the syrup.)

Pour the hot syrup over the cold portokalopita and set aside for at least 1 hour until the syrup has been completely absorbed by the cake. I found that the longer I left the cake, the more the syrup was absorbed.

If baked in a round pan: Run an offset spatula around the edge to loosen the cake. Gently lift out cake and transfer to a serving plate. If baked in a 9-by-13-inch pan, it’s probably easier to slice from there and serve on individual plates.

Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, is, well, icing on the cake. A dollop of plain Greek yogurt works nicely also.

Adapted from a recipe provided by The Greek Kitchen, Athens, Greece


At Ground Zero in New York City: Memorial and museum bear witness to attacks of September 11, 2001

In Foundation Hall, the “Last Column,” showing unit numbers of first responders, messages, pictures of the missing and other ephemera, was the final piece of wreckage cleared from the World Trade Center site in late May 2002. The column was one of 47 from the inner core of the South Tower that supported the structure. The hall covers 15,000 square feet of space.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

On the crisp winter morning of February 17, 2018, a precisely cut 2-inch stem of a white rose extended from the letter “M” of Simon Marash Dedvukaj’s middle name on the stencil-cut parapet of panel N-64 of the North Memorial Pool at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.  

Dedvukaj, a native of the Bronx, New York, and of Albanian heritage, would have turned 43 years old on this sunny day when I was visiting New York, had he survived the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan 17 years earlier. (I did not know or have any connection to Mr. Dedvukaj or his family.)

A white rose, indicating the anniversary of the birth of Simon Marash Dedvukaj on February 17, 1975, peeks out from his name on panel N-64 of the North Memorial Pool at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The wavy building in the background where all the people are queuing is the museum.

But at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Dedvukaj, a janitorial foreman for ABM Industries, was at work between the 93rd and 95th floors when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which had taken off from Boston en route to Los Angeles, crashed into the 110-story North Tower between floors 93 and 99. 

Seventeen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175, also en route from Boston to L.A., flew into the South Tower between floors 77 and 85.

At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, which had departed from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, also scheduled to land in L.A., hurled into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, United Flight 93, heading from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California, was also under the control of terrorists. As many as 37 calls were made from the Boeing 757,  and these frightened travelers were aware that something had happened in New York. After some heroic passengers and crew stormed the cockpit, the plane rammed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Dedvukaj was 26 years old. He was looking forward to celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife, Elizabeta, in October. 

Instead, he was one of 2,753 who died at the World Trade Center. At the Pentagon, 184 died, as did the 40 people in Pennsylvania.

All of their names, representing 93 countries, and those of the six who died in the February 26, 1993 terrorist-linked van explosion in the underground parking garage at the WTC, are similarly honored with a rose on the anniversary of the day of their birth, placed by their name by volunteers at the memorial site, a custom that began in 2013.

The outdoor memorial, which opened on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, occupies eight acres of the original 16-acre site. Situated among a grove of 400 swamp white oak trees are two almost-acre-square reflecting pools, occupying terrain within the original footprints of the North and South towers.

The people who died on Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon are inscribed on the bronze parapets of the South Memorial Pool, next to the names of victims on the ground at the Pentagon.

The pools feature 30-foot waterfalls on each side, and are flanked by bronze panels bearing the 2,983 names that will be read aloud Tuesday morning as part of the annual memorial service.

Plaza Architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker and Partners envisioned these eco-friendly features as symbols of hope and renewal.

ABM Industries, with 800 janitorial, engineering and lighting employees performing maintenance on the WTC, lost 17 employees on 9/11. Dedvukaj’s name on the North memorial pool is surrounded by 12 co-workers. The other four names are on the South Tower memorial pool.

The majority of the 110,000-square-foot museum, which opened on May 21, 2014, is seven stories below the memorial, built into the bedrock foundation of the WTC. 

Near the museum entrance are two steel tridents salvaged from the east facade of the North Tower. The bottom sections were welded to columns in the bedrock 70 feet below street level. The tridents, manufactured at Lukens Steel Company in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, branched out at the fifth story.

Standing in the atrium at the street-level entrance are two 70-foot-tall steel tridents from the east facade of the North Tower. 

The Survivor Stairs, from the northern side of the WTC’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza, were a way out to the Vesey Street sidewalk. The staircase was relatively intact after the terrorist attacks, and much of the damage was inflicted in the cleanup at the site. 

Visitors follow a descending, 70-foot-long ramp, past the Survivor Stairs — a damaged concrete-and-granite flight that led to life for many fleeing the disaster —  to Foundation Hall, in the center of which is what has become known as the “Last Column,” the final support structure removed from Ground Zero at the end of May 2002, when 1.8 tons of debris had been cleared from the site.

This is a portion of the slurry wall, also in Foundation Hall seven stories below ground, near the Last Column. A retaining wall, it’s original purpose was to hold back the Hudson River when the WTC was first excavated.

The 36-foot-tall column is covered with police and fire department unit numbers and missing persons posters, including snapshots of first responders lost in the chaos.

Be prepared for an emotional wallop while touring the September 11, 2001 historical exhibition mounted in what was the North Tower. A thorough examination of the artifacts and information is likely to take up to three hours or more. (If the experience becomes overwhelming, museum-goers can exit as needed, but once out of the building, re-entry isn’t permitted on the same ticket.)

This installation in Memorial Hall is called “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning” by artist Spencer Finch. No two of the 2,983 watercolor squares are the same shade of blue. The quote from the Roman poet Virgil comes from Book IX of “The Aeneid.” Each of the letters in the quote is comprised of recovered steel from the WTC and was forged by blacksmith Tom Joyce of New Mexico.

A comprehensive retelling of that sky-blue, perfect late-summer morning unfolds, explained through photographs, video and audio clips, interactive kiosks and eyewitness accounts, putting into context the before, during, and after of the events. 

A 19.8-foot segment of twisted steel was part of the 360-foot-tall radio and television antenna that stood atop the North Tower sending signals since 1980. Its transmissions were interrupted when Flight 11 hit the North Tower.

Thousands of objects, large and small, burn new images into the memory of every soul who already has a vivid picture of where he or she was when the twin towers were struck, became roaring jet fuel-fed infernos and finally collapsed into ash heaps of smoking, lung-damaging wreckage. 

Myriad personal effects evoke the further heartbreak of everyday lives lost, illustrated through ordinary items such as dust-covered shoes and clothing, shattered eyeglasses, ragged identification cards and scratched jewelry. 

On the industrial end, the scorched FDNY Engine 21 is dreadful evidence of the raging fires, while the 19.8-foot twisted steel fragment of a once 360-foot-tall antenna that had stood atop the North Tower broadcasting TV signals since 1980 attests to the site’s utter destruction.

The New York City skyline today, with 1 World Trade Center’s tower being the dominant building. This was taken from across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. 1 WTC is 1,776 feet tall, and has 104 floors. Its groundbreaking ceremony was in April 2006, and opened for business in November 2014.

Other exhibits include “Rebirth at Ground Zero,” an 11-minute film featuring interviews and time-lapse photography about the revival of the site; and “In Memoriam,” showcasing photographs of everyone who died and an opportunity to learn more about each individual.

Aside from the continuous audio clips, the expansive space was respectfully quiet, as if visitors were unconsciously unified in understanding the level of solemnity required.

At 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, the live broadcast of the ceremony from Ground Zero will be streaming on the memorial and museum website. 

From 3 p.m. to midnight, the blue Tribute in Light, an art installation beaming four miles skyward and mimicking the shape of the twin towers, will be illuminated as it has been in past years.

The Pentagon and Pennsylvania sites will also mark today’s anniversary.

Simon Marash Dedvukaj’s family set up a foundation in his name, dedicated to helping and empowering children through scholarships, recreational sports and religious activities. See

Quick reference: National September 11 Memorial & Museum: memorial, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; museum, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. To mark the 17th anniversary, the memorial and museum will be closed Tuesday. Only the memorial will reopen at 3 p.m. Free to visit the outdoor memorial. See the website for museum ticket purchase information; some options include separate guided tours of the memorial and museum. Tickets can be purchased online up to six months in advance, and are time- and date-specific. Adult admission for museum only, $24. Tip: Several ticket kiosks are around the left side of the building as you face it, if you haven’t purchased online. Photography is not allowed in some exhibits. 180 Greenwich Street, New York, New York. The website is excellent, for pre- and post-trip information:

A braided loaf of bread says a special ‘welcome’ to your table

One recipe for egg bread can produce braided loaves of varying sizes. Port wine sea salt is the topping on three of the loaves.  The colorful ceramic bowl the loaves are resting in I bought in Selçuk, Turkey. 

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Of all the elements that go into a meal, nothing says simple elegance like a braided loaf of bread.

Without too much effort, interlacing strands of dough into a pattern elevates the ordinary into the memorable.

Loaves can be large or small, a foot or more in length, coiled into a rising tower or  plaited like a wreath.

They can be plain, or have a savory or sweet filling. 

And they are a treasured part of many holiday observances the world over.

Braided bread can also contain something symbolic, such as a hard-cooked whole egg, dyed bright red, used in the Greek Orthodox tradition at Easter time. The egg represents the blood and resurrection of Christ.

I usually make two loaves of challah in equal size, like the center loaf, from this recipe, but wanted to show its versatility.  This is just after braiding. I put three loaves on a second baking sheet to accommodate the second rise (see photo below).

On Jewish Sabbath tables, and at most religious observances, the braided loaf known as challah is present.

In Hungarian cuisine, the bread is called kalács, and like challah, can feature a braid made from three, four or six strands. It all depends on the whim of the baker — and his/her dexterity and experience.

There are many versions of egg bread recipes, though they generally have in common butter, eggs, milk and sugar for richness, in addition to yeast, flour and salt. This yields a pliable, silky dough that’s easy to work with.

Eastern European bakers add vanilla and raisins to the basic ingredients in their loaves, known as paska.

In Italian Easter bread, orange and anise can often be found. 

Small slices make perfect snacks, spread with fruit-fill jam or your topping of choice.  

The crumb is denser than other breads. A small slice is sturdy enough to serve as a base for your favorite spread, be it a fruit-filled jam, pâté or even caviar. 

The bread is also wonderful to use in making french toast. It serves as the base for the Artichoke and Mushroom Bread Pudding that I wrote about in my November 23, 2016 post.

Do not be intimidated by the braiding. If you are new to the technique, I would suggest practicing with some string or yarn first, until you are confident enough to move on to dough. 

But even then, don’t be alarmed. If you mess up, just reverse the process and start over. The dough is forgiving enough that you can even revert to the balled stage and begin again. 

Below is a dairy-less recipe that I’ve made many times in my bread machine. But you can certainly substitute milk for the water and butter for margarine. The more eggs and butter used, the richer the bread will be (and the calorie and fat content, too). Or use your favorite recipe, of course.

I’ve also included how to make the dough if you don’t have a bread machine and prefer to do it by hand anyway.

The loaves freeze well. Just make sure they are completely cool before double- wrapping in aluminum foil and sealing them in a plastic bag.


After the second rise, an egg wash is applied all over the loaves, except for the bottom. This is also the time to sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sea salt flakes, if using. Then pop the baking sheets into the oven.

Bread Machine Challah

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: About 2.5 to 3 hours, including rising (longer if you execute the recipe manually)

Makes: Two 3/4-pound loaves 

Put the ingredients in your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Mine specifies all the wet ingredients first, so that’s the way I’ve listed them here. 

You can also divide the dough into smaller amounts and make smaller loaves or dinner rolls. In that case, reduce the baking time to about 15 to 20 minutes. 

For the dough: 

3/4 cup water (or milk)

1 large egg

3 cups bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons margarine (or butter), cut in small cubes

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds or salt flakes for topping, optional

To make the dough: Place water, egg, bread flour, salt, sugar, margarine and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Place pan in the machine and select the dough cycle. I use the “quick dough” cycle, which runs about 40 minutes and includes the first rise. Your machine may vary.

When the cycle is finished, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface. The dough should not be too sticky, but if it is, knead in a little flour until it is easier to work with. Cut dough into 2 balls of equal size. Cover one and set it aside while you work with the first.

To make a braid: Gently flatten the dough into a small rectangle. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 12 inches in length. Try to make them as even as possible. To make an easier transfer to the baking sheet, I do this step on parchment paper.

The pieces may retract, which is the gluten saying it needs a little rest. So you may have to reroll each length as the gluten relaxes.

Place the 3 ropes side-by-side-by-side. Pinch the tops of the pieces together, and flare them a bit into a three-legged upside-down “V” shape. 

Starting with the left leg, bring it over the center leg and rest it next to the right leg. Take the right leg over the new center leg and rest it next to the left leg. Take the left leg over the new center, then the right leg over the center. Repeat until the end. Pinch the ends together and tuck under loaf.

Repeat with second ball of dough. Place braided loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Cover loaves with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until double in size. Tip: I turn on my gas oven on “warm” for about 2 minutes, and turn it off. Then I put my loaves in the oven to proof.

To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, whisk together egg with 1 tablespoon of water. With a pastry brush, gently cover the loaves with the mixture. You do not want to deflate them by pressing too hard. I find that brushing up from the bottom toward the center works best. Make sure you cover the creases where the braid meets. 

Port wine sea salt enhances the flavor for these smaller loaves, which only bake for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds or sea salt flakes, if using.

For full-size loaves, bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown. (Bake smaller loaves about 15 minutes.) If the loaves are browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil after the first 15 minutes. Also rotate baking sheets from top to bottom oven racks and from front to back for even browning.

When baked, the loaves should have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 

Place in a plastic bag if not serving immediately. 

To make the bread without a machine:

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar and yeast in 3/4 cup water that’s 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (anything warmer will kill the yeast). Let rest about 5 minutes, in which time it should become frothy. If it doesn’t foam, then the yeast is dead. Start over.

Meanwhile, melt the margarine (I do this in the microwave) and set aside to cool. In another small bowl, gently whisk the egg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place flour, salt and remaining 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix together to incorporate, then make a well in the center. 

Pour yeast-water mixture, cooled margarine and egg into the well. Combine flour into the liquids until the ingredients form a ball.  

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand, adding a little flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This should take about 12 minutes.

Oil or grease a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn it all around to coat. Cover bowl with damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. If you poke the dough and a mark remains, the dough is ready.

Punch down and remove to lightly floured surface. Knead briefly until dough is shiny, about 2 minutes.

Divide the dough and proceed with directions to braid. Allow 1 hour for the second rise and bake as above. 

Adapted from “Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays: Complete Menus, Rituals, and Party-Planning Ideas for Every Holiday of the Year” by Marlene Sorosky in collaboration with Joanne Neuman and Debbie Shahvar (William Morrow and Co., 1997, $27)

At the Guam Museum: Finally, a building that spotlights the Pacific island, and indigenous Chamorro art, history and culture

The Guam Museum opened in November 2016. A long-held goal of a permanent facility for education about indigenous Chamorro culture was more than 90 years in the making. The canopy in the center resembles the top half of a “sling stone,” an oval rock made from coral or basalt that could be used for hunting or as a weapon.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the 11th in a series about my March 2018 trip to Guam, and Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s ability to elude capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at a cooking class in Naha; June 16 about Peace Memorial Park, a former WWII battlefield and now a sprawling complex that commemorates the Battle of Okinawa; June 27 about the sister cities of Naha, Okinawa and Fuzhou, China and their shared bond celebrated at Fukushuen Garden;  July 22 about the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters in Okinawa; and August 15 about WWII-related sites on Guam.

Long before there was a light-filled, purpose-built museum, the dream of a permanent place to honor and explore the history, art and culture of the Chamorro people of Guam had taken hold. 

As early as 1926, local physician and teacher Ramon Sablan was encouraging friends and residents to start putting aside the artifacts they found around the Pacific island related to the indigenous Chamorros, and suggesting that a museum would one day house items such as fishhooks, pottery, latte stones (pillars), tools and much more.

The number of artifacts grew through the decades — some were stored for a time at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii — and were displayed at a wide variety of locations, weathering disasters man-made (World War II) and natural (typhoons).

Finally, in 2005, a task force moved ahead to plan the construction of a facility for a collection that now numbered about 250,000 artifacts, photographs and documents. A foundation also helped propel the building closer to reality, but it still took until 2014 for construction to begin in Hagåtña, Guam’s capital, with funding from a $27 million bond issue.

Island-born architects Andrew T. Laguaña and Enrico Cristobal were chosen in 2006 to proceed with their design. Laguaña, with degrees from Iowa State University and the University of California at Berkeley, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects — the first Chamorro to gain this distinction. Cristobal is also a member of AIA. (The former partners have separate firms now.)

The rear view from the second-floor atrium looks out over wood carvings of a reclining figure (front) and a turtle on a log (center), and a replica of a topknotted moai from Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui). The exterior plaza in the distance has plenty space for public gatherings

The museum, which opened in November 2016 at Skinner Plaza, is across from the Plaza de España, site of the brief (and only) battle between the badly outnumbered Chamorro Insular Force Guard against the Japanese invasion of December 10, 1941, during World War II (see my previous post). 

It’s also kitty-corner from the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, the first Catholic church on Guam, dating to the late 1660s. The current building was erected 1955-59, replacing the church that was destroyed by shelling in WWII.

The facade of the Guam Museum features two upright facing pages of an open book — signifying that this is a place of learning and education — joined by a central 65-foot cutout canopy that shades the upper level atrium. 

This concrete arch is based on a Chamorro “sling stone,” an oval rock of basalt or coral, used in hunting or warfare. (The outline of the Great Seal of Guam also mimics the shape of a sling stone. The seal features a palm tree anchored on a sandy beach, a speedy proa on the ocean and a land mass in the background.)

Depending on the time of day, square- or diamond-shaped shadows are cast onto the floor, as if light were shining through a jungle tree canopy, a tribute to the island’s untamed natural environment. The openness also signals the hospitality of the Chamorro people. 

A closer look at one of the figures dressed as a Chamorro would have been in earlier times.

The words displayed on the right facade page (as you face the building) were uttered by the great chief Hurao, a Chamorro who rallied thousands of his people in the 1670s against Spanish missionaries. 

Hurao was captured and released, but at a meeting to discuss peace in May 1672, the chief was killed, shot in the back by a Spanish soldier.

First in the Chamorro language, then below in English, the words read: “Satisfied with what our islands furnish us, we desire nothing else. We are stronger than we think! We must regain our former freedom.”

Jesuit Diego Luis de San Vitores (1627-1672) was the first missionary to arrive in 1668, and he died four years later, according to Spanish accounts, after baptizing the sick daughter of chief Matå‘pang against his wishes. Outraged, Matå’pang drafted a warrior to kill San Vitores.

A clash of cultures, competing religious influences and encroaching colonial subjugation begat the drawn-out, intermittent Spanish-Chamorro War.

The fighting continued into the 1680s, with the Chamorros eventually vanquished and the Spanish in control until their defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898, when Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were ceded to the United States.

Two similar statues stand in front of the museum, each dressed in a loincloth and his hair pulled into a topknot, a style known far and wide in the Pacific islands, all the way to Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) off the coast of Chile.

I sent an email to the museum, asking if these were specific historical figures, but did not receive an answer. I’ll update this post if I hear back later. 

Delegations attending Festpac 2016, the Festival of Pacific Arts, contributed panels to this quilt. Guam’s entry is on the second row, third from right, a replica of the great seal of the U.S. territory.

When I visited, a temporary exhibit (since closed) called “Treasures of Festpac,” the Festival of Pacific Arts, was mounted. Held every four years, the gathering showcases traditional, literary, visual and performing arts of Pacific islanders, with workshops and seminars discussing such topics as indigenous language and genealogy.

A carved wooden paddle from Easter Island, with a Cult of the Birdman figure and a fish on the blade, sits next to a scale replica (right) of a men’s longhouse from Palau. See my September 10, 2017 post to learn more about the birdman petroglyphs on Easter Island.

For the 14-day May-June 2016 celebration in Guam, the theme was “What we own, what we have, what we share — United Voices of the Pacific.” More than 3,000 delegates representing 24 nations and territories, from American Samoa to Wallis and Futuna (an overseas territory of France, west of Samoa), took part.

(The first festival was held in 1972 in Suva, Fiji. The next one is scheduled for June 11-27, 2020, in Hawaii. “Take hold of the steering paddle” is the theme.)

The exhibit was marvelously colorful and diverse, spanning such creative arts as: a carved wooden paddle with eyes and petroglyph replicas, from Rapa Nui; clay-figure columns sprouting human heads and faces, from New Zealand; wall-size, vegetable-dyed woven bark cloth, from Fiji; large, laced-together bamboo pan pipes, from the Solomon Islands; and lots of photographs of traditionally dressed dance troupes and other artisans at work during the festival.

In the front case, the latte-stone replicas made from wood were part of the “unity project” for the festival. The one on the left is from Tokelau, a group of atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, and a territory of New Zealand. The one on the right is from Norfolk Island, situated between Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand, and a territory of Australia.

A carved “unity project” paid tribute to the host island, in the form of individually decorated lattes, an architectural element some believe is unique to the Mariana Islands. Chamorros used these capstoned pillars (not unlike the shape of mushrooms but with much thicker “stems”) sometimes as tall as seven feet and positioned in parallel rows, to form building supports, upon which a steep, thatch-roofed living space was lashed. 

The latte icon is widely seem around Guam, and nowadays signifies strength and a connection to Chamorro history. 

This seemed to be the only exhibit to explore when I was there. According to the website, “I Hinanao-Ta Nu Manaotao Tåno’-I CHamoru Siha: The Journey of the CHamoru People,” a permanent exhibit, opened in May. (CHamoru is the indigenous spelling, yes with a capital H.)

I watched a YouTube short, in which a camera tours what looks to be a very interesting and informative exhibit, a long time in the making.  

(Gentle aside: Nothing about the contents of the exhibit is on the website. I’m hoping that in the near future, viewers will be able to see some of the artifacts and learn about the history.) 

The museum has a 156-seat theater and the capacity to screen films for public gatherings in the rear expansive outdoor space, also suitable for concerts. Its museum shop stocks books, island-crafted goods (i.e. jewelry, carvings and cards) and the usual T-shirts and tote bags. A very small cafe also highlights locally made products.

The official name is the Senator Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum and Chamorro Educational Facility, though I doubt many call it that on a regular basis. Senator Palomo, a politician, historian, journalist and author, was also a former administrator (1995-2007) of the Guam Museum before it occupied its striking new home.

Quick reference: Senator Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum and Chamorro Educational Facility: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, closed Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Closes 3 p.m. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Free to enter, but $20 suggested donation, adults, for the main exhibition. Guam residents with ID: $15 adults, $10 seniors over 55, $2 students 5 to 17, free under 4. 193 Chalan Santo Papa Juan Pablo Dos, Hagåtña, Guam.

On Guam, in the Mariana Islands: A look at World War II history and ‘where America’s day begins’

At the Asan Bay Overlook, a Memorial Wall contains the names of U.S. servicemen who gave their lives to liberate Guam in 1944, and the names of Guamanians who fought and died during the Japanese occupation in World War II. U.S. National Park Service photo

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos, except where noted. All rights reserved.

This is the 10th in a series about my March 2018 trip to Guam and Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s ability to elude capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at a cooking class in Naha; June 16 about Peace Memorial Park, a former WWII battlefield and now a sprawling complex that commemorates the Battle of Okinawa; June 27 about the sister cities of Naha, Okinawa and Fuzhou, China and their shared bond celebrated at Fukushuen Garden; and July 22 about the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters in Okinawa.

One of the most far-flung outposts of America is nearly 8,000 miles as the crow flies from the East Coast of the United States. It takes almost 24 hours of flight and connection time to get there from the mainland — and that’s without any weather, equipment or miscellaneous delays.

The island of Guam, among the most remote places on Earth, is “where America’s day begins,” 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time sunrise in New York.

Since 1898, when Guam was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War (of “remember the Maine” fame), along with Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the island has been of strategic importance to the U.S.

Never more so than during World War II, when Guam, the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands in the North Pacific, served as a launching point for American B-29 bombing runs over Japan in late 1944 and into 1945. 

Japanese artist Kohei Ezaki depicts “The Capture of Guam” on December 10, 1941. This painting is at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park visitor center.

But that was only after Guam endured nearly 31 months of Japanese occupation, which extracted a heavy toll on the indigenous Chamorros, before Americans retook the island in August 1944.

More recently, Guam was in the news as a target for Kim Jong-un, who threatened last year to launch ballistic missiles at the island amid rising tensions with the U.S. over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Today, this tropical island, 36 miles long and about 6.5 miles wide with 80 miles (125.5 kilometers) of coastline, is home to about 167,000 people. Chamorros and Filipinos make up the two largest ethnic groups. 

Its beautiful beaches, dramatic coastline, abundant water sports, recreational possibilities and plentiful sunshine entice tourists, especially those from Asian countries for whom the destination is only about a three- to four-hour flight.

Of the 1.54 million who visited last year, 684,443 came from South Korea, followed closely by 620,547 from Japan, and in a distant third place, the U.S. with 77,058, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau website. This total figure was an all-time high.

I went to Guam to visit family serving in the Navy, but also with the intent of learning more about the island’s experience during WWII, and seeing a bit of the rugged landscape up close.

The Imperial Japanese Navy Ko-Hyoteki (Target A) Hei Gata (Type C) midget submarine is believed to be the only one of its kind still in existence. It was captured in 1944. It sits outside the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center, part of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam.

The War in the Pacific National Historical Park visitor center gives an excellent overview of the Pacific campaign, and the Japanese invasion and occupation of Guam, through videos, information panels, photographs and maps.

Within hours of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Guam and Wake islands and the Philippines. 

On December 10, a Japanese naval party of about 400 and an Imperial Army unit invaded Guam at more than five locations. They were met with little resistance because there were only 805 residents who were active military or had any defensive training: 153 Marines, 271 U.S. Navy personnel, 134 civilian construction workers and 247 members of the Chamorro Insular Force Guard.  

The Chamorros of the Insular Guard were not only badly outnumbered, they had very little equipment: three machine guns and Springfield bolt-action rifles for the 30-minute fight against the Japanese in the tree-lined Plaza de España. The white memorial (center) commemorates their efforts. Today the plaza is the site of the inauguration of the governor of Guam, and other civic and social activities. The figure in the median in front of the memorial is a likeness of Pope John Paul II, who visited Guam for 18 hours in February 1981.

The Insular Guard tried unsuccessfully to hold off the Japanese in the capital of Agaña (now spelled Hagåtña) at the Plaza de España. All that remained was for U.S. Navy Captain George McMillin, who served as the island’s governor, to surrender.  

Most of the American military and civilian personnel, and American and Spanish clergy were relocated to Japan as POWs in January 1942.

The Imperial Army imposed harsh conditions on the locals as they had in other conquered countries across Asia. They renamed the island Omiya Jima (Great Shrine Island), demanded the Chamorros learn to speak Japanese, changed the local currency to yen and forced the observance of Japanese customs such as bowing.

The Japanese were particularly brutal to Chamorros accused of hiding family members or Americans, a few of whom had escaped to the interior after the invasion (see April 1, 2018 post about Navy man George Tweed). They were tortured, and in some cases executed, or died from their injuries.

Chamorros and Koreans performed forced labor — sometimes at bayonet point — on farms, airfields and in dense jungle, where fortifications were dug into caves as defensive positions, as was the case on other islands such as Okinawa.

As the Allies’ Pacific Island campaign intensified, momentum swung away from the Japanese, now with only 18,500 defenders on Guam.

In early July 1944, without explanation, up to 15,000 Chamorros of all ages were force-marched to seven concentration camp sites in central and southern areas. They had little in the way of provisions or shelter, and these conditions surely accelerated their overall death toll.

However, this move took the islanders out of harm’s way before the two-week, pre-assault bombardment by the U.S. Navy commenced. 

U.S. troops made their way inland at Agat on the southwest coast as the battle to retake Guam intensified. U.S. National Park Service photo

On July 21, 1944, U.S. troops numbering about 55,000 landed on west-coast beaches at Agat (in the south) and Asan (farther north). Over the next 20 days of fighting, troop movement generally progressed north and east. 

On August 10, Guam was secured. American forces sustained about 7,000 casualties (about 1,800 dead, not counting 800 Guamanians). Japanese deaths numbered about 17,500, with about 1,000 taken prisoner.

Over the next six months, a rapid buildup of men (up to 150,000 sailors) and materiel changed Guam into a military powerhouse, with the resources to propel what appeared to be a rapidly approaching invasion of the Japanese home islands.

War in the Pacific National Historical Park 

Panels on the Liberators’ Monument at the Asan Beach Unit pay tribute to the Chamorro Insular Guard and U.S. forces, including the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the 305th Regimental Combat Team of the 77th Army Division who fought to retake Guam in July-August 1944. That’s the Guam territorial flag flying to the right of the Stars and Stripes.

I visited three of the park’s seven units, under U.S. National Park Service administration. At the Asan Beach Unit, where the 3rd Marine Division landed and the Navy bombarded from offshore, Liberators’ Monument commemorates U.S. military and Guam Combat Patrolmen who helped retake the island. The memorial’s installation in 1994 coincided with the 50th anniversary of the battle at Asan Point. 

This is a particular scenic area, with a trail leading to secluded Japanese fortifications. It adjoins the Asan Inland Unit, with dense jungle growth, from where hidden Japanese troops tried to repel the Marines. (I did not hike this trail or venture into this jungle.)

A bit east of the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Highway 6 lies the Piti Guns Unit, near a nondescript church off a residential road. 

One of the three Japanese coastal defense guns at the Piti Guns Unit of the national park. They were not operational during WWII.

A quarter-mile trail winds through a dense mahogany forest — mahogany and teak were introduced on Guam in 1928 to replace native hardwoods — to reveal three Japanese coastal defense guns. This site, which in 1944 was on steep terrain among rice paddies, was selected for its ocean view. 

The Japanese 140mm-equivalent guns, with a range of about 10 miles, were intended to fire at ships and landing craft. Weighing thousands of pounds, the weapons were lugged to Piti by overworked Chamorros. 

But in a life-saving twist, none of the guns was ever fully operational and fired not one salvo during the war.

South Pacific Memorial Park

Japanese citizens paid for the construction of the 50-foot-high praying hands, the Queen of Peace Chapel and the surrounding park to honor their war dead. In the basement of the tower is an ossuary. The park was completed in May 1970.

As I mentioned, thousands of Japanese soldiers died in 1944. Their sacrifice is commemorated at the South Pacific Memorial Park, in the north-central part of the island near the village of Yigo, in a quiet setting meant to promote peace and reconciliation. 

Opened in May 1970, it is privately owned by the South Pacific Memorial Association, comprised mainly of Japanese citizens, who paid construction costs and for the site’s upkeep. No impediments block the way for visitors on foot from the small parking area.

Its centerpiece is a 50-foot-tall, white memorial that resembles two modernistic upswept palms pressed together in prayer. Several commemorative stones are nearby, but much of the explanation is in Japanese, as is the brochure I picked up in the Queen of Peace Chapel.

Mataguac Hill, rising 120 feet in the background, shadows four concrete-reinforced caves — one with a spring — and thick vegetation, where Japanese troops mounted a futile counterattack against U.S. Naval bombardment and a tank-supported assault by a battalion from the 77th Infantry Division. 

With defeat looming, it was here that Lieutenant Hideyoshi Obata, commander of the Imperial Army’s 31st Division, committed suicide at sunrise on August 11, 1944. 

Before his death, he sent a transmission to the Emperor and headquarters in Japan which read: “I shall be the bulwark of the Pacific Ocean.”

America’s military presence today

Two American military bases occupy nearly 30 percent of the island: Andersen Air Force Base in the north, and Naval Base Guam on the southwest coast in Apra Harbor. Together they form Joint Region Marianas, with about 7,000 military personnel and nearly that number of family members in residence. 

The military is second only to tourism as a source of revenue for the local economy.

A Navy helicopter squadron flies from Andersen, which also hosts a rotation of B-52 bombers over from the mainland. The base has two 2-mile long runways, along with fuel storage (the largest in the Air Force) and munitions storage, making it a key “forward-base logistics supply center.”

The air base dates to late 1944, largely constructed after U.S. forces retook the island. It was the takeoff point for conventional bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities late in WWII.  

The naval base was established in 1898. Today, four nuclear-powered fast attack submarines call Guam home, as do two submarine tenders.

During the Vietnam War, B-52s flew to Southeast Asian targets from June 1965 until the end of the war. Guam was also a stopover for military personnel heading to South Vietnam. More than 109,000 refugees were also evacuated through Guam after the war ended.

To visit the naval base, you must have an authorized sponsor and pass a background check. Bring identification such as a passport, and follow instructions at the Visitor Control Center. No photography is allowed. For the air force base, groups are welcome. See the website to obtain a pre-visit form.

Quick reference: War in the Pacific National Historical Park, T. Stell Newman Visitor Center, open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, closed Thanksgiving, December 25 and January 1. Free. The center has a bookshop (and a free scenic tote bag if you buy something) but no restaurant or cafe. Marine Corps Drive (just outside Naval Base Guam), Hagåtña, Guam.

South Pacific Memorial Park, open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free. 678 Milalek Drive. (in Japanese).

Naval Base Guam:

Andersen Air Force Base:

A sweet recipe and a savory one to help make some of that summer squash magically disappear

Rich, moist and not overly sweet, zucchini bread is satisfying any time of day. In the batter, you’ll easily be able to see the zucchini slivers, but the vegetable is less noticeable after the loaf is baked.

By Betty Gordon

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Do you dread that mid-August knock at the front door, where you discover your smiling neighbor standing on your landing … and his/her basket brimming over with summer squash?

You return the smile, chat briefly, politely accept the vegetables, and conjure up the most sincere “thank you” that you can manage.

Or did you get a little carried away at your local grocery or farmers’ market, seduced by the season-low prices on the sunshine-yellow crookneck squash and the greener-than-grass zucchini?

Now what’s to be done with the overflow from your neighbor’s garden or your unbridled shopping? (Truth be told, summer squash is available nearly year-round, but this is prime season for reaping the surplus from home gardens.)

Even with their high water content, crookneck squash and zucchini (or courgette, for our international readers) will keep five to seven days in the refrigerator before becoming mushy and unusable.

The crookneck squash, if its graduated neck has an exaggerated curve leading to its bulbous body, reminds me of a wingless swan or duck. Can’t you picture the light-green stem end as a beak? Or a group of small squash huddled together as a flock?

A quick side dish of crookneck squash, kidney beans and other vegetables is loaded with nutrition.

You can thinly slice or dice the veggies and toss them raw into a fresh salad. Or pop them into the microwave or steamer for a quick side dish that can be dressed up in myriad ways. All methods preserve the nutritional benefits from these veggies rich in vitamins A and C and niacin.

But, with just a bit more time and effort, you can make many much more memorable recipes and get to work on reducing the amount of summer squash that’s taken over your kitchen.

This recipe for zucchini bread is among my all-time favorites. I’ve made it many times over the years and have never been disappointed. Its moist, ultra-dense crumb will have you licking your fingers and eyeing a second piece.

Its dominant spices — cloves and cinnamon — always make me think of fall, and drier, crisper days ahead. 

As the loaf bakes, the batter darkens considerably from a light tan flecked with grated zucchini to a deep hickory, which nearly obscures the veggie slivers. 

And though it’s recommended that you don’t eat batter when it contains raw eggs, you’ll be tempted to try at least a little taste.  

This is not a sandwich bread. But it is versatile enough to be eaten at any time of the day: At breakfast with tea or coffee, as a lunch top-off, a late-day snack (ditto the tea) or dessert. (Did I hear someone say topped with ice cream?)  

The crookneck squash side dish prep is faster than making the zucchini bread. To stretch it as a main course, serve it over pasta or rice.

And when next your neighbor comes knocking, he/she will probably be trying to foist an overload of tomatoes on you. Fortunately, they pair well with summer squash too.


If freezing the zucchini bread, wrap first in plastic and then in aluminum foil.

Zucchini Bread

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour, 45 minutes

Makes: 1 loaf and 6 large muffins

Butter or margarine for greasing the loaf pan

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (use a neutral oil like canola)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups grated unpeeled raw zucchini (about 1 large or 2 medium)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup shelled pecans, chopped (or walnuts) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8 1/4-by-4 1/4-inch pan and line six muffin cups with paper liners. (Use a 9-inch-by-5-inch pan if you aren’t making the muffins.)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until light and thick. Fold grated zucchini into oil mixture.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Stir into zucchini mixture until just blended. (Do these steps by hand; a stand mixer or hand mixer is not necessary.)

Fold in the pecans until just combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan and muffin cup liners until all are about three-quarters full. (You may want to place the loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet in case the batter bubbles over as it bakes.)

Bake on the oven’s middle rack. The muffins will be ready in 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. The loaf should bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Again, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Cool slightly. Run a blunt knife around the inner edge of the loaf pan, and flip it out; be careful, the loaf will be hot! 

Let loaf cool completely on a rack, right-side up. Likewise, remove the muffins from the tin and let cool.

The flavors in the zucchini bread deepen when left to meld overnight. But if you can’t wait, the loaf is delicious as is. 

The loaf will store wonderfully in the freezer for up to two months. When completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic. Then enclose the loaf in aluminum foil. 

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin (Workman Publishing, 1982)


As an entree, serve the squash and vegetable combination over pasta or rice.

Squash and Red Kidney Beans

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4 as a side dish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup onion, diced (I prefer mild Vidalia sweet onions)

1 cup red bell pepper, diced (or use yellow, orange or green)

2 cups yellow squash, sliced 1/4-inch thin, then quartered

1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, washed and drained

1 (10-ounce) can Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chilies (or use mild or hot, depending on your palate)

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional, or more to taste)

3 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

3/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper and sauté until they soften, about 3-5 minutes. 

Add squash and beans and cook about 5 minutes, until squash softens. Stir in Rotel tomatoes and cook 1 minute. Mix in dried red pepper flakes, if using. Stir in basil, if using, and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. 

Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, June 2018

The B-29 Enola Gay, its crew, and the atomic bomb that was detonated 73 years ago today over Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima 2
The building in the center has become known as the “Atomic Bomb Dome.” Before the detonation of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The people inside died instantly and the interior was destroyed by fire. I took this photo in 1986. Since then, some work has been done to preserve the building and its steel skeletal dome. 

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photo; others credited. All rights reserved.

For a discussion of the second atomic bomb, dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, see my post from August 9, 2016; and for a lighter take on Nagasaki’s attractions, see August 15, 2016.

“Results clear-cut. Successful in all aspects.Visible effects greater than Alamogordo. Conditions normal in airplane following delivery. Proceeding to base.” — Coded message sent by Captain William “Deak” Parsons, who armed the atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” in flight, as the B-29 Enola Gay headed to its target: Hiroshima, Japan. The post-bombing message was sent to Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, Deputy Commanding General of the Manhattan Project, who was on Tinian Island, from where the Enola Gay had taken off about six hours earlier.

The four-engine B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb used in warfare on August 6, 1945, was itself almost defenseless.

Superfortresses coming off production lines in four American cities had as standard equipment five remote-controlled gun turrets, quite an innovation at the time, and armor plating. Another technological advancement during World War II was that the B-29 was the first American plane equipped with two pressurized compartments, fore and aft, for its crew. 

Colonel Paul Tibbets was moments from his 2:45 a.m. takeoff on the historic flight to Hiroshima, Japan, when this photograph was taken on Tinian Island. U.S. Air Force photo

But to make the Enola Gay, named for the mother of pilot Paul Tibbets, as light as possible to accommodate the weight of the 9,700-pound, uranium-enriched bomb, it had only two tail guns and no armor.

“It was souped up and stripped down,” Art Hamilt, a guide and former naval aviator, told a small group of visitors in 2009, standing near the B-29 in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly Virginia, near Dulles International Airport. 

Specifically, about 7,200 pounds of armaments were removed, which Colonel Tibbets, commander of the 509th Composite Group, said would lessen the strain on the four-bladed- propeller-driven, 2,200 horsepower Curtiss-Wright engines. 

Today, the polished aluminum, 99-foot-long Enola Gay, with a wingspan of 141.3 feet, is as shiny as the day it came off the Glenn L. Martin Company’s production line in Omaha, Nebraska. It stands 27.8 feet tall, and has a Plexiglas nose and cockpit windows. Its restoration took nearly 20 years. 

The route that the Enola Gay flew from Tinian Island, in the Marianas chain in the Pacific, to Hiroshima, in the southwest part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, was more than 1,500 miles. U.S. Navy Seabees had constructed six runways, each measuring almost two miles in length, making Tinian the largest air base in the world.

On a clear, sunny morning, unsuspecting residents of Hiroshima were going about their usual routines: Children beginning their school day, merchants opening their shops, housewives walking to market, farmers tending their fields, and men and women settling in at their jobs.

Some male students were heading to work at the munitions factory, its presence being among the reasons why Hiroshima was the target. Until this point in the war, the city of about 300,000 had been largely unaffected by conventional bombing.  

(Six other B-29s were included in the Enola Gay mission, with their assignments spanning  weather reconnaissance, photography, observation and scientific readings. Over Nagasaki three days later, Bockscar was the strike plane, with five others handling the supporting duties. The Enola Gay was responsible for weather recon on August 9; Tibbets was not on that flight.)

The mushroom cloud rises above Hiroshima, almost immediately after the blast. U.S. Army photo. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

About 70,000 died instantly in Hiroshima, with many thousands more succumbing in the ensuing days, months and years, victims of radiation poisoning, little known or understood at the time, and other related after-effects. More than 60,000 buildings at ground zero were obliterated, with heavy damage extending over a three-mile radius.

(I visited Hiroshima and Peace Memorial Park in 1986. Since then, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has been updated and greatly expanded. A cenotaph, listing the name of every victim [more than 290,000 now], and other monuments, all near ground zero, commemorate the event and its aftermath. The city is modern and thriving, with the skeleton of one iconic building preserved — it’s become known as the Atomic Bomb Dome — from 1945. Every year, Hiroshima and Nagasaki hold special ceremonies on the anniversaries of their atomic destruction.) 

Development of the B-29 began in early 1940 when the Army Air Force set new parameters for a long-range, high-altitude bomber that would surpass the B-17. The AAF specified that the B-29 prototype should be able to carry a maximum bomb load of 20,000 pounds (9090 kilograms) at a speed of 400 miles per hour (644 kph) over a distance of at least 5,000 miles (8,050 kilometers). (These specs would change in later versions.)

Boeing’s design beat out Lockheed, Consolidated and Douglas, and the company produced two prototypes, the first of which set off from Boeing Field in Seattle on a test flight on September 21, 1942. 

Modifications and improvements continued as four plants turned out a total of 3,970 B-29s before ending production in 1946. Boeing contributed 2,766 from facilities in Renton, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas, where Tibbets flew some of the test flights; Bell built 668 in Marietta, Georgia; and Martin Company’s output was 536 bombers.  

Tibbets, who enlisted in the Army in 1937 and earned his pilot rating in 1938, had flown 43 combat missions over Europe and Africa. Since September 1944, he had known that he would be the pilot on the historic day, and was allowed to select his 11-man crew. 

They were Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot; Major Thomas Ferebee, bombardier; Captain Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, navigator; technical sergeant Wyatt Duzenbury, flight engineer; first lieutenant Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures; technical sergeant George “Bob” Caron, tail gunner; Sergeant Joseph Stiborik, radar operator; Sergeant Robert Shumard, assistant flight engineer; private first class Richard Nelson, VHF radio operator; Captain William “Deak” Parsons, weaponeer and mission commander; and second lieutenant Morris Jeppson, assistant weaponeer, who inserted the final plugs before detonation.

Widespread devastation in Hiroshima after the bombing of August 6, 1945. U.S. Army photo. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

At 8:15 a.m., Ferebee released the bomb over Hiroshima at about 31,000 feet. It fell six miles over 43 seconds, and then Little Boy exploded about 1,950 feet above the city. Beser, the radar man, was also aboard Bockscar, which dropped the plutonium-enriched bomb “Fat Man” over Nagasaki, making him the only individual to fly on both strike planes.

After the war, the Enola Gay took part in an atomic testing program at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, but did not drop any nuclear bombs. It was in storage in Arizona for a few years before being transferred to Smithsonian stewardship in 1949. 

 Enola Gay crew members Tom Ferebee, Theodore Van Kirk, Richard Nelson, George Caron, pilot Paul Tibbets and Jacob Beser signed this photo. Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum

Its next stop was Texas, before being flown in late 1953 to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where it sat outside, rusting, deteriorating and occasionally being vandalized, until August 1960.

At that point, it was disassembled and moved indoors to a facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Restoration began in December 1984, with specialists predicting a seven- to nine-year timeline for completion. The task, requiring nearly 300,000 work hours, far surpassed that estimate, and took nearly two decades, becoming the largest restoration project in the Air and Space Museum’s history.

The Smithsonian’s website has 46 excellent photos that showcase the restored bomber, including interior and exterior shots.

The Enola Gay is one of the star attractions at this Smithsonian branch, which opened in 2003, where more than 160 aircraft and more than 150 space artifacts are displayed in two huge hangars, many suspended from the ceiling.

Among the largest are the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest jet; the space shuttle Discovery, which joined the collect in 2012 after 39 missions, replacing the Enterprise, which never flew; and a supersonic Concorde, the first production SST delivered to Air France, which donated it to the museum after its last flight on June 12, 2003. (Only 20 of the needle-nosed aircraft were built.)

In addition, there are more than 1,500 smaller items, such as a full-scale replicas of the Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner Rover. 

The Udvar-Hazy Center is named for its major donor, the chairman and CEO of an international aviation firm. It draws about 1 million visitors a year, a fifth of the number who tour the better-known Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bockscar, which was piloted by Major Charles Sweeney, is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio.

The Great Artiste was an observation aircraft on both missions. It was lost in a crash in Labrador in 1949. Its replacement resides outdoors, just inside the entrance gate at Whiteman Air Force Base, home of the 509th Bomb Group, in Knob Noster, Missouri.

In many interviews given over the years, Tibbets (1915-2007) said he believed unleashing the atomic bomb was the right decision. Thirty years old at the time, he said he was “a military man following orders.” U.S. President Harry S Truman gave the command to use the atom bombs.

Tibbets thought that employing such a powerful weapon would help end the war, and in the grand scheme of things, reduce the number of dead and wounded. After the war, he said he received countless letters, especially from American servicemen who were readying for an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, conveying the message that the bomb probably saved their lives.

Quick reference: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, closed December 25. Free. Driving directions are on the website, $15 parking before 4 p.m. If you take the Metro, ride the silver line from the L’Enfant Plaza stop to Wiehle-Reston East station. Then transfer to Fairfax Connector Bus no. 983, to the Udvar-Hazy stop. It takes about 90 minutes. These directions are also on the website.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Free.

For fascinating, silent-film footage taken on Tinian Island of Little Boy and Fat Man being readied and loaded by hydraulic lift into the bomb bays of their respective B-29s, and the rising mushroom cloud after the Nagasaki bombing, see the Atomic Heritage website at It runs about 23 minutes. This site also links to Voices of the Manhattan Project, featuring interview videos and transcripts from individuals instrumental to the development and deployment of the atomic bombs.



In Helsinki, Finland: Wide range of architectural styles enhances beauty of northern European capital

Kamppi Chapel of Silence is near a busy shopping area in Helsinki. A space for quiet contemplation, it opened in 2012, the same year the city was designated World Design Capital.

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved. 

For previous Finland-related posts, see May 26, 2017 about a visit to a Sámi reindeer farm in Inari; February 19, 2017 about dinner and a relaxed home visit with a couple in a Helsinki suburb; and November 30, 2016 about the city of Rovaniemi, a year-round wonderland north of the Arctic Circle. 

If the phrase “Scandinavian design” makes you think only of sleek lines and minimalist architecture, then let me introduce you to Helsinki, Finland, one of the loveliest of the northern European capitals.

About 1.15 million people live in the greater metropolitan area of Finland’s most populous city, named World Design Capital 2012. That’s nearly a fifth of the country’s total population. Though Finland achieved independence in 1917, remnants and reminders of its former rulers over the centuries — Sweden and Russia — remain. To this day, nearly every street with a Finnish nameplate also has one in Swedish directly underneath.

Helsinki is well-served with interesting museums, quirky parks, nonstop shopping options and efficient public transportation. You need at least three to four days to touch on the highlights, and longer to get a real sense of the city.

Uspenski Cathedral was originally a Russian Orthodox Church. The Finnish Orthodox community worships in this building now.

On the western end of Katajanokka island near the bustling, harbor-front Market Square, the red-brick Uspenski Cathedral, with its ornate onion domes, wouldn’t look out of place in St. Petersburg or Moscow. Opened as a Russian Orthodox church in 1868, it now serves the Finnish Orthodox community. 

The neoclassical Tuomiokirkko is older than its skyline partner, the Uspenski Cathedral. The Lutheran Cathedral’s steps are a popular meeting place.

The Uspenski vies for skyline bragging rights with the brilliantly white, neoclassical Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral) that anchors Senate Square. It was completed a mere 16 years before the Uspenski. A closer look on foot reveals the cathedral’s imposing staircase, a popular meeting place, especially during the summer. Both churches are open to visitors.

The entrance to the Temppeliaukio Kirkko belies that much of the church is underground.

Among the most visited sites is Temppeliaukio Kirkko, nicknamed the “rock church” because it was hewn from natural granite. Its copper-topped dome is better appreciated from the back side — not the church’s entrance — because more of it can be seen.

Built right into the surrounding rock, the sanctuary is nevertheless flooded with daylight.

Inside, walking down the sloping aisles into the sanctuary, you can better appreciate how architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen approached the challenge of building into solid rock. Its spacious interior, drawing light from windows angled from the dome, boasts a large organ on the left and cushioned seating, and all around the rough finish of the rock. Since its completion in 1969, it has also proved to be a popular venue for concerts. If you’d like to have some time for undisturbed contemplation, try to arrive early before tour groups pour out of the cavalcade of buses.

From the rear, the church gives little indication of the splendid interior. Nestled into the rock, it looks almost as if a UFO has landed.

One of the newest structures, likely to become another icon, is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence, set to the side of busy Narinkkatori square near the entrance to the Kamppi shopping area.

While the exterior wood is spruce, the interior of the Kamppi Chapel of Silence is constructed from alder wood. The pews are made from ash.

Its exterior is constructed of wax-coated horizontal strips of spruce, forming a graduated oval-esque shape. Depending on the time of day, the play of sunlight makes it seem that geometric patterns are embedded in the wood. 

The chapel opened in June 2012. As early as 2010, it had won awards for its architects Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen of K2S Architects.

Inside, ample natural light flows in from a thin skylight. There are no windows in the gently curving walls formed from cut-to-shape narrow alder wood planks. The stark pews are crafted from ash and face a small altar topped with a silver cross and baptismal bowl. 

Visitors are invited to sit quietly, feeling insulated from the outside world, and isolated, too, but in a peaceful way. And yes, minimalist would fit the description here.

A few streets over from both these sights is one of the main thoroughfares, Mannerheimintie. A lengthy walk north will take you past Parliament House, the Finnish National Opera House, the National Museum of Finland, Finlandia (a performance venue) and up to Olympic Stadium, home to the 1952 Summer Games. 

Distance runner Paavo Nurmi is a national hero in Finland. He competed in three Olympic Games, winning nine gold medals and three silver. His statue is near Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, site of the 1952 Summer Games.

A statue of  legendary distance runner Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973) stands on a tree-line street named for him that leads to the stadium entrance. 

On the 2013 spring day I visited the stadium, a colorful and noisy track meet was under way between Finnish and Swedish students. For about 30 minutes, I sat in the stands watching relays (and students in color-coordinated outfits cheering on their friends), before heading to the Sports Museum of Finland (closed as of this writing for renovation, as is the stadium). Here you can watch film clips of outstanding moments in Finnish sports history, such as Olympic champions Nurmi and Lasse Viren in some of their greatest races. 

Other parts of the museum house a collection of memorabilia, including NHL sweaters worn by native son Jari Kurri (who was on five Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Edmonton Oilers), ski-jumper Matti Nykanen’s Olympic and world championship medals and a basketball shoe that once belonged to Hannö Möttöla, who played two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and to date is the only Finnish player to make it to the NBA.

Visitors to the memorial dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius can stand inside the welded silver pipes and hear sound echoing off the metal.

About a 15-minute walk west of the stadium is the outdoor monument and park dedicated to composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Silver pipes of different lengths have been welded together, leaving an open interior space. Aside from the photographic potential, visitors can interact with the Eila Hiltunen-designed elevated memorial, experimenting with the sound echoing from the pipes.  

King’s Gate is the original entrance to Suomenlinna Fortress. It dates to 1753-54 when Sweden ruled what is now Finland. The entrance is about a mile away from the quay where the ferry from Market Square drops passengers.

On a fine-weather day, take the 15-minute ferry from the east side of Market Square (opposite the Presidential Palace) to Suomenlinna sea fortress, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Known originally as Sveaborg, the fortress was constructed in the mid-1700s when Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. By 1809, the fortress had surrendered to the invading Russians, who were responsible for the addition of cannons. For the next 108 years, the fortress housed a Russian garrison, until Finland became a republic in 1917.

The tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd (1710-1772) is the centerpiece of the Great Courtyard at Suomenlinna. Ehrensvärd was a Swedish military officer, later field marshal and count, and the designer of Suomenlinna. The commandant’s house and the main guard house surround the courtyard.

Many visitors bring a picnic and make a day of it, spending hours sitting on the beach or wandering the landscape. (Don’t worry if you didn’t bring food; there are plenty of cafes and restaurants and shops.) But you’ll need a ticket if you wish to go into any of the five museums or the restored 1930s Finnish submarine. Though the fortress itself is open year-round, some of the museums are only open during the summer.


More than 80 wooden buildings of various shapes, sizes and uses have been relocated from around Finland to Seurasaari, an open-air museum.

Another outdoor destination, also on an island but reachable by tram or bus, is Seurasaari, an open-air museum that houses a collection of more than 80 traditional wooden buildings relocated from provinces around the country. Not every building is open every day, but the ones that are will likely have people in period dress, perhaps sewing or doing a craft, who can answer questions. 

Good thing, too. At the Kurssi farmstead, I noted what seemed to be a rack, with wooden spikes sticking out of two parallel bars, suspended near the ceiling. Fortunately, a young woman was able to tell me that in an earlier time, the family that lived in this structure baked a circular bread only twice a year. This rack’s function would have been to store  the bread, keeping it safe from low-lurking critters. 

Again, anyone can access the island, bring a picnic or go swimming, but to enter any of the structures, you will have to buy a ticket. Seurasaari is open only during the summer and for special functions around the holidays. 

With high exterior walls and a sturdy red-brick facade, it’s not hard to imagine that the Katajanokka Hotel once served as a jail.

There’s even a bit of American-style architecture in Helsinki. The mostly red-brick Hotel Katajanokka was formerly the city jail, parts of which date to 1837. It’s original look was based on a Philadelphia model: central open-iron staircases flanked by a series of cells. (Think of any number of black-and-white movies set in prisons and you’ll have the idea.)

As a jail, it had 164 cells; as a hotel, it has 106 spacious, modern rooms. A solitary cell has been preserved in the lower level to give visitors a look at how bleak and uncomfortable a stay here would have been. The jail was at times a place to await trial and a home for political prisoners. After World War II, it housed a number of Finnish politicians convicted of war crimes.

Guest rooms are stylish and have all the modern conveniences, but the iron staircases are a holdover from the hotel’s earlier incarnation. My room was on the first floor.

The facility was closed in 2002, having been deemed outdated as a correctional institution. Protected as a historical monument, it gained new life as part of the Best Western chain, which opened it as a hotel in 2007. It’s now privately owned. 

The hotel is off the beaten track for most tourist spots. Fortunately, the No. 4 tram stops just outside the sturdy walls and will quickly whisk you to the center of town. If you’re taking a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia, or out to Suomenlinna, the hotel is well-situated, being close to the ferry connections. 

The harbor at Market Square, where vendors set up tents and booths on many days, is also within walking distance. You can get a taste of reindeer meatballs and other specialties here, and a large variety of Finnish handicrafts are for sale, from birchwood coasters to hand-knitted sweaters.

Katajanokka Island’s buildings have some of the prettiest flourishes in Helsinki.

The buildings on the eastern end of Katajanokka island also have some interesting art nouveau design features. The style is known as Jugend in Finland, and the mostly residential, multistory structures feature a jumble of turrets, castellated roofs and mysterious carvings.

Many visitors arrive in Helsinki en route to somewhere else — often via a cruise ship. That’s a real shame because this interesting and lively city deserves more than a cursory look.

Quick reference: Hotel Katajanokka: Merikasarminkatu 1a, Helsinki;

Kamppi Chapel of Silence: Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. Free. Simonkatu 7, Helsinki;

Seurasaari Open Air Museum: Seurasaari island, open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, June 1-August 31; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, September 1-15. Prices vary.

Sports Museum of Finland: A large-scale renovation is underway at the Olympic Stadium, and some of the collection has been temporarily dispersed to other museums. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2019.

Suomenlinna sea fortress: Times vary for the museums, also for the cafes and shops. But generally, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. should cover most of what you want to see. Website also has information about catching the ferry.

Uspenski Cathedral: Kanavakatu 1, Helsinki; open 9:30-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, noon-3 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays and during services. (in Finnish and Russian only).

Temppeliaukio Kirkko: Lutherinkatu 3, Helsinki. Hours vary, tours available.

Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral): Unioninkatu 29, Helsinki.

A version of this post appeared in the spring 2014 edition of Scandinavian Press magazine.

On Okinawa’s Oroku peninsula: At the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, site of mass suicide during World War II

In the Commanding Officer’s Room at the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Admiral Minoru Ota wrote his message praising Okinawans’ forbearance when their island was invaded by the Japanese, and later the Allies in World War II. He composed the poem on the left wall that reads: “Born as a man, nothing fulfills me more than to die under the banner of the Emperor.”

By Betty Gordon 

© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.

This is the ninth in a series about my March 2018 trip to Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan, and Guam. See my April 1 discussion of Navy man George Tweed’s ability to elude capture by Japanese soldiers for more than two years on Guam in World War II; April 8 about Okinawan food specialties, and visits to a market and area known for its pottery; April 15 about the sinking of Japan’s Tsushima Maru and the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren during WWII; April 29 about photographing newlyweds after their Shinto ceremony; May 14 about the WWII destruction of Shurijo Castle; May 21 about making soba noodles from scratch at cooking class in Naha; June 16 about Peace Memorial Park, a former WWII battlefield and now a sprawling complex that commemorates the Battle of Okinawa; and June 27 about the sister cities of Naha, Okinawa and Fuzhou, China and their shared bond celebrated at Fukushuen Garden.

A gruesome sight met members of an American Marine unit when they entered a tunnel complex on the three-mile-wide Oroku peninsula, several miles southwest of Naha, the prefectural capital, in June 1945. 

About 175 bodies, casualties of a mass suicide likely caused by exploding grenades, were sprawled in part of a cramped space that had served as the headquarters of the Japanese navy, late in the Battle of Okinawa, the last major Pacific campaign of World War II. 

It took a further two days for the Americans to find the bodies of Admiral Minoru Ota and five of his senior officers, near the center of the complex.

There was nothing hurried or left to chance as the officers chose to end their lives. Each was in a clean, pressed uniform, and reclining on a sloped bedlike platform, with their hands behind their heads, according to “Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb” by George Feifer. 

Feifer writes that at their sides were their sword and a naval dress saber. The fatal stroke for each of the six was a slit across his neck. The Center of Military History, United States Army supports this reporting.

Information in the booklet I got at the site contradicts the manner of suicide. It says a bullet to the head caused the officers’ deaths, and that six died in addition to Ota, 54, a graduate of Japan’s Naval Academy. 

The booklet also says that the officers’ and several thousand of the sailors’ remains were removed from the tunnels shortly after the end of the war. At the visitors’ center, the exhibit says the first attempt to recover the bodies, including Ota’s, occurred in 1953.

Other sources claim conversely that the Marines sealed the tunnels, and in 1950 the remains were removed and laid to rest.

Whatever the real circumstances — and I don’t mean to sound flip — a lot of Japanese military men died here in the waning days of Operation Iceberg, as Americans code-named the 82-day campaign. 

The Allied invasion of Okinawa, which began April 1, 1945, is often referred to as the “Typhoon of Steel,” comprising more than 1,500 naval vessels amassed offshore and around 540,000 military personnel (and many tons of weapons, tanks and equipment) available to bring about the defeat of Imperial forces by June 21-22.

Gouges reveal where pickaxes struck the walls as the 226th Construction Corps dug the tunnels in 1944.

The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters have been open to the public since 1970. The tunnels were excavated by members of the 226th Construction Corps (Yamane unit) using pickaxes and hoes, from August through December 1944.

Gouges deep in the walls are evident to this day. One black-and-white illustration in the tunnels shows the men hauling out dirt and debris in a large rope basket, suspended on a wooden shoulder pole between teams of two.

The overall length of the concrete-reinforced tunnels covered about 450 meters (about 1,485 feet), but only about 300 meters (about 900 feet) are accessible to the public. 

The Oroku peninsula, site of Naha’s present-day international airport, also had other tunnels and caves, occupied by Japanese naval troops numbering about 9,000-10,000.

The battle on Oroku was relatively brief: the 6th Marine Division landed on June 4. By June 13, Ota and many others had committed suicide, and more than half of the Japanese naval troops were dead.  

After descending 105 steps over 20 meters (about 66 feet) from the visitors’ center to the main corridor, the route mimics the shape of a shark’s fin. All the chambers —  operations room, staff room, code room, medical room, generator room, commanding officer’s room, and petty officers’ room — are labeled, but most are empty. The commanding officer’s room has a table and chairs, and it was here that Ota wrote his message praising the Okinawan people (see below). 

Also on the wall is a short poem he crafted. It translates to: “Born as a man, nothing fulfills me more than to die under the banner of the Emperor.”

There was a kitchen, but no running water (Feifer disputes this), which had to be brought in from a nearby village well, the pamphlet says. The tunnels also lacked toilet facilities, the thinking being that the men would be able to go outside during breaks in the fighting to relieve themselves. 

Before the invasion, troops lived in school facilities, other large structures or private homes, and the tunnels acted as air raid shelters.

As the fighting intensified, and the men could not leave the tunnels, conditions deteriorated quickly.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the caves and tunnels beneath two rebuilt sights that I visited on Okinawa are not open to the public: At Shurijo Castle, part of the famed Shuri Line; and what is now Peace Memorial Park, a complex of monuments, open green space and a museum dedicated to the Battle of Okinawa at the far southeastern tip of the island.

After the war, a community was re-established around the naval headquarters. This view is toward Naha, to the north, the largest city in the prefecture. The East China Sea is in the distance.

The site for naval HQ, at 74 meters (about 244 feet) above sea level, was chosen because of its commanding view back toward Naha and over the East China Sea. In ancient times, under the reign of the Ryukyu dynasty, beacon fires were set in the nearby hills to alert Shurijo Castle that trade ships had returned from China and other overseas destinations. 

The text of Admiral Ota’s message to the vice admiral is on the black slab at left. The white plaque at right set into a rock remembers the Japanese forces who died at the headquarters and surrounding tunnels and caves. See the full text below.

Several monuments are adjacent to the visitors’ center building. One is a lone white pillar and another contains a black granite slab, upon which is the text (in Japanese) of a message that Ota sent to a vice admiral on June 6, acknowledging the terrible price Okinawans had paid since Japanese military arrived on the island at the beginning of 1944.

The civilian death toll may have been as high as 150,000.

Titled “This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war,” Ota wrote: “Since the enemy attacks began, our Army and Navy have been fighting defensive battles and have not been able to attend to the people of this prefecture. Consequently, due to our negligence, these innocent people have lost their homes and property to enemy assaults. Every man has been conscribed [he possibly meant conscripted] to defend while women, children and the elderly are forced into hiding in small underground shelters that are not tactically significant and are exposed to shelling, air raids, and [illegible] wind and rain. Moreover, girls have devoted themselves to nursing and cooking as well as volunteering to carry ammunition and join in attacking the enemy.

“… The Okinawan people have been asked to volunteer their labor and conserve all their resources (mostly without complaint). In their heart they wish only to serve as loyal Japanese. … There are no trees, no grass; everything is burnt to the ground. The food supply will be gone by the end of June. This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war.

“And for this reason, I appeal to you to give the Okinawan people special consideration from this day forward.” 

Ota knew how dire the Japanese military situation was overall, so his message seems more a testament meant for posterity rather than an expectation of future rewards for the Okinawans’ endurance.

Across from the black granite, a white tablet recessed into a rock has this inscription, in English and Japanese, and this punctutation:

“Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters

This monument is dedicated to the memory of Vice Admiral Minoru Ota Commanding Officer of the Japanese Navy and his 4,000 men who committed suicide in the underground headquarters on June 13, 1945 after having shared in a hard-fought battle during World War II. A poem carved in the wall of this trench by Admiral Ota as his farewell word is still legible. Commanding officer’s room, center of operations and the staff room remain in this underground headquarters, which are reminiscent of bygone days.”

The visitors’ center houses a small exhibit and the entrance to the former naval headquarters.

The small museum exhibit in the visitors’ center features photos of Ota and other officers, personal effects, letters in Japanese, examples of uniforms and crude handmade weapons, and a reprint of a New York Times front page from June 7, 1945, with this headline, in all caps: “All of Naha Airfield Now Ours; Foe Driven to Last High Ground; Soviet to Occupy Half of Reich.”

The memorials and tunnel complex are today part of a 6.7 hectare park (about 16 acres), with a playground, a green wooded zone and a flat circular area used for festivals and special events.

This family tomb is built in the shape of a turtle’s shell, a traditional Okinawan style. The dome of the shell sits over the center entrance. With their homes destroyed, some civilians took refuge inside the tombs. Soldiers from both sides used the tombs as temporary forts during the fighting.

Near the tunnel exit are a series of concrete family tombs, in the traditional shape of a turtle’s shell, built into the hillside. During the war, frightened civilians sometimes took refuge at these sacred sites. 

Additionally, Allied soldiers mistaking them for caves used the tombs as temporary forts. Likewise, Japanese soldiers set up artillery and machine guns, often pulling the weapons into the tombs if under attack. Both sides desecrated the tombs, again victimizing the Okinawan people.

Once in the tunnels, visitors cannot reverse their path back to the entrance stairs. So make sure you’ve looked at everything in the museum before heading underground.

Quick reference: Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, year-round. Admission: Adults (high school students and older), 440 yen (about $3.95), children (elementary and junior high students), 220 yen (about $1.98). 236 Aza Tomishiro, Tomishiro-city, Okinawa, Japan. (Not all of the information is factually correct.) From the Naha bus terminal, take bus number 33, 46 or 101. It’s only about a 15-minute trip; 270 yen (about $2.43). The bus stops in the middle of Tomishiro-city. The underground HQ is about a 10-minute walk. For an in-depth look at the Battle of Okinawa: