Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Berlin, One of the Greatest Cities in the World" - by George A. Borgman

This is my story of my experiences with Berlin, one of the greatest cities in the world.

The story does not begin with my first trip there in the Fall of 1947, but during World War II, when I was a junior high and high school student in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

My hobby was listening to shortwave broadcasts – the BBC from Britain, Radio Moscow, Australia, Tokyo, Rome and Berlin.

I used to hear the British traitor Lord Haw Haw from Berlin. The British put a rope around his neck after the war. There was the American poet, Ezra Pound in Rome. He was committed.
Douglas Chandler
Then there was Paul Revere in Berlin. This Nazi broadcast began with a fife and drum playing Yankee Doodle. Paul Revere (Douglas Chandler) came on and talked about, “that Jew Rosenvelt in the White House.” He was referring to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, of course.

Once in awhile, Berlin Radio would come on the air with broadcasts from some of the Nazi leaders, usually Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels or Hermann Goering.

As the war went on, the Allied Air Forces dropped thousands of tons of bombs on the Nazi capital, day and night. Radio Berlin would suddenly go off the air during a raid.

In January 1945, I tuned into Berlin Radio during an early Saturday morning. They were playing martial music, which usually preceded a speech from one of the Nazi bigwigs. An announcer would come on and excitedly say something in German, which I didn’t understand then, but I did recognize the words “Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.”

During one of these announcements, the announcer stopped abruptly in mid-sentence and did not begin again. Rather, I could here feet running, doors slamming, and then, boom, boom, boom.

It was an air raid. It apparently came upon them so suddenly that broadcast personnel at the Fünfhaus (Broadcast House) in Charlottenburg, quite suddenly evacuated their studios, and the engineers failed to turn off their microphones.

The bombing went on for twenty or thirty minutes. Then there was silence, but I could hear the hum of the transmitter’s carrier wave. Then the music returned, and the announcer introduced Goering, who ranted and raved for two hours.

I called a friend of mine, also a shortwave nut, and he had also heard the bombing of Berlin. Next day, both Sunday newspapers carried a short article on the incident.

I had a column, The War of Wars, in my high school paper the Normandy High School Courier. I wrote about propaganda broadcasts from Berlin, Tokyo and Rome. I wrote a whole column on the bombing of Berlin as heard on their radio.
In 1946, I was in the U. S. Army, and I was sent to Germany, where I was assigned to the 114th Army Ground Forces Band in Heidelberg.

During the Fall of 1947, the band travelled to Berlin, where we furnished music at the Olympic Stadium for the GI Olympics. We spent five days in Berlin.

The destruction I saw there was almost unbelievable. There was hardly a complete building standing on the Kurfürstendamm (the shopping and theatre district). The Ka De We, a department store, was just a shell for example.

I went into East Berlin and went to Hitler’s bunker, next to the bombed-out ruins of his Reich Chancellery. The bunker was flooded, and you could not go down its steps because of the water. There was graffiti – in four languages (English, German, French and Russian) scribbled on the walls at the entrance, which was guarded by a young member of the Red Army.
I saw Berlin a couple more times before I returned to the States in March 1948.

I left the Army, got two degrees in music, taught music for four years, and spent a couple of years in television production.

In September 1958, I reenlisted in the Army for the Counter Intelligence Corps, and in October, 1959 I was assigned to the CIC unit in Berlin.

I could not believe what I then saw. The West Berliners had rebuilt their half of the city.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Year Anniversary of George's Death

Today, was the one year anniversary of jazz journalist George A. Borgman's death. His widow, Janet, remembered George with a special graveside memorial featuring a lone bagpiper, Patrick McDonnell who is a member of The Kevin Barry Pipes and Drums

Band. He played several tunes, at the Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree, in honor of George's military service and life.

When George was stationed in Berlin in the 60s the Borgmans were befriended by several Scottish soldiers and George always loved the bagpipes. Some of the tunes played were the Army Anthem, Danny Boy, Yankee Doodle, and of course, Amazing Grace. The final tune on the piper's march out was a moving hymn.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Neville Dickie at the Sherborn Inn

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 saw the 9th annual appearance of the great British piano player Neville Dickie at the Sherborn Inn, in Massachusetts. George A. Borgman's widow, Janet, and his son Eric attended. It was the first time Dickie returned to Sherborn since last year's performance in August when George saw him for the last time.

George, always looked forward to seeing and hearing Neville Dickie perform at the Sherborn Inn. He had been very excited to see him in August of 2009 and, in some ways, he was also present during this 2010 performance, for he was remembered.

Shortly after arriving the great cornet player Jeff Hughes told Janet and Eric that only the night before he had a dream of George. Neville Dickie remarked to the audience about George, just before playing a request for Janet that, "I was his biggest fan and, I think, he was mine." He then sat down and played an amazing piece, accompanied by drummer Dave Bragdon, for which they received a standing ovation. A patron of the the night's show and a friend of George, Myron, mentioned to Eric that during the rousing piece he thought about his father.

Stan McDonald and Jeff Hughes also played along with Neville and Dave on several tunes and New England's own pianist extraordinaire, Ross Petot, played during the break and in combination with Neville for one number. Stan kindly told Eric at the end of the night that George was missed and remembered. What could be a better legacy then to have so many good and talented people remember you after you've left this world?

Watch Neville Dickie play "Nagasaki" at the 2007 Orange County Classic Jazz Festival below:

Monday, June 7, 2010

George A. Borgman's Son Eric Remembers

I've been thinking about my father a lot lately. I mean, I haven't stopped thinking about him since his death, but lately, I've been remembering him more and more.

My father was 42 when I was born. I was the baby of the family. He had played ball with my brother when he was younger, but he kind of slowed down a little by the time I was growing up. We'd take walks a lot, both in Germany and in Norwood.
In Germany, I remember the excitement of his investigating the rumors of a band of armed men in the woods outside of town. We were walking through the thick pine forest alongside a fenced off area one day, when I noticed a wire going from tree to tree. I pointed it out to him and he immediately noticed that there were camouflaged platforms in the trees. He inspected this encampment from behind the fence and further discovered US Army ration cans left behind in the burnt out camp fire. He gave me the credit for discovering the camp and I would always look upon this incident proudly.

He'd always have great stories to tell about his work for military intelligence and the state of political affairs in the past and present. His career as a military intelligence officer formed his political outlook. He confessed that he was "practically a Communist" when he was in college, but that over the years his opinions and beliefs changed when he saw what was really going on. My father loved America and its history. He was well read on so many subjects. Politics, music, both classical and jazz, history, espionage, biography and economics. He subscribed to so many publications too. The Wilson Quarterly, The Musical Quarterly, Chronicles, The Nature Conservancy Magazine and many political and music publications. His ability to read at break-neck speed was something I always admired! He was very intelligent and could discuss knowledgeably many disparate subjects.

My father always encouraged me in my endeavours. He was one of my biggest fans of my comic routines and films and would always give me words of encouragement when I wasn't happy with the way things were going with my life, which was often. When I was a teenager he often drove me out of state to battle re-enactment events that I participated in when I was a Revolutionary War battle re-enactor. He helped me with my films considerably too. He cheerfully acted in several films of mine and helped me shoot some scenes and drive me to locations. He had a good sense of humor too, though I'd sometimes push his good naturedness with my antics!

My father was always a law and order sort and I take after him on this. In fact, I find that a lot of my beliefs and outlooks on life and society are much like my fathers. He could be very generous with people. When he found a musician that he thought showed promise and was talented he did everything that he could to help them. I'd often hear him on the telephone telling others about this great jazz pianist he came across or someone else and he'd try to get the person's name out there or suggest that a band leader give them a try or a fesitival to book this great band. He wasn't looking for anything in return either. That was just the way he was. He'd get excited by people he met who were like minded on things or were great musicians or just really nice people. He appreciated the kindness of others and the friends he made over the years.

Dad was a good person. He could be gruff or impatient sometimes and could get hurt when criticized or whatever, but he was a very good hearted person. He had strong feelings about politics and society but he tried not to let someone's opposite views effect his friendships.

I miss him so much. I miss his silly sense of humor and our talks about family history and politics. I miss his excitement when we talked about jazz or history. In his last day of life he joked with one of the male nurses who's head was shaved. "Did anyone tell you you look like Kojak?" I hope that I can be that cheerful to make jokes before I die.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The American Legion - Resolution

On January 4, 2010 Westwood Post 320 of The American Legion presented a framed Resolution to George's widow Janet C. Borgman in honor of George.

The Resolution stated thus:

"Whereas, It has pleased Almighty God, The Great Commander, to summon to the immortal legions our beloved comrade, George Borgman, and Whereas, We humbly bow to the will of Divine Providence, while ever cherishing in our hearts the memory of distinguished service to our country and outstanding contributions to American Legion comradship; now, therefore, be it Resolved, That Westwood Post No. 320, The American Legion does mourn the passing of our comrade, George Borgman, that we commend to all the works, and to God the spirit; and be it further Resolved, That in token of our common grief, a copy of this resolution transferring George Borgman to Post Everlasting, The American Legion, be presented to the next of kin."

Dick Paster (pictured above), after a nice meal, gave Janet the framed Resolution.