An Epic day – January 20, 2014

When I was a teenager, my mom started taking note of everything the family did on January 20. It was just some random day, and some random idea to do as a fun thing for the family. Over the years we’ve kept that up as a family; sometimes more or less involved. A couple of years ago I decided to go all out and record as much of my day as possible. So here it is, my January 20, 2014:


Woke up a few times: potty, too much light, tossing, turning, etc.


Alarm went off at 4am. Hit snooze a couple of times, because, hey, it’s a holiday. Got up around 4:28am. Put on think, warm, wool socks and a long sleeve shirt. Went down stairs, one step at a time, like everyone else. Took my thyroid pill with some water. Prayed, read BoM (Alma chapter 43) and an article from January 2014 Ensign.

Then it was dissertating time. Dissertated until 7:18am. I didn’t feel like I got much done on the dissertation, and I didn’t. I started reading a dissertation written in 1984 in German about the same topic. I’ll use that as a good source for both parts of my dissertation (both parts being the history/narrative of the building project and associated concentration camps, and the second part what has happened in that community since the war, see for more info, and APPENDIX A for the text of an upcoming grant application that succinctly outlines my dissertation in less than 1000 words-which this write up of the day will not be.)

Read a few other things here an there, tried to figure out how I’m going to get hours and hours of research and writing done with only two hours a day to do it in. Wrote down a really cool idea I have for an interactive map that shows the flight range of aircraft used in World War II. This would help with explaining the German need to move factories underground because the Allied bombers were reaching farther and farther into German territory (see APPENDIX B for information on Grandpa Shepherd’s involvement in said bombing raids).

If I can pull that off, it would be part of my dissertation, making the argument for it being a digital history dissertation, and thereby hopefully not having to write as much, but will probably write over 200 pages anyhow, and closer to 250 pages, but way less than the average of 300 page history dissertations and nearly a third of the German history dissertations I’ve seen which go over 400+ pages because of extremely long, run on sentences like this one that are really popular in German academic writing and sometimes take up half a page with just one sentence.

I probably won’t do stuff like that in my dissertation, though.

Somewhere around 7am kids started waking up, going into my bedroom (where only Jessica lay sleeping, I was in the living room, not in the basement as usual, because it’s dark and cold down there. When the kids do wake up if I’m in the living room, I usually quickly turn off lights so they don’t know I’m down there and then quietly go into the basement to finish studying in peace and quiet, leaving the silly kids to my wonderful, very capable and caring spouse.)


So i was just getting into the reading and note taking for dissertation work, but I have scheduled myself to stop at 7am and do some exercising. I almost scrapped the normal routine, because, hey, it’s a holiday. But I knew I’d have to write a quick, short write up of the day today, and I wanted to write that I had exercised, so I went to the dungeon, er, basement to do my daily workout routine. Today was cardio-vascular (see APPENDIX C for weekly work out schedule). That took a good 28 minutes and made me realize how old and out of shape I am. I took a shower and got ready for the day.


I’ll cut this one short. Ate breakfast with family and got all the kids ready for our service project. (see dear, I can be brief.) (addendum from the spouse: lots, and lots, and lots of whining and complaining from the leaches, I mean children.)


Planned on leaving for service project by 10:10, 10:15 at the latest. Got in the car to much crying, fighting and complaining at 10:22. Sang “Happy, happy, cheerful, cheerful” to cut through the bickering and noise. Got most of us in a more smiley mood.

Had a great time being crafty at the service project. Saw a co-worker and another work-related-person there. Mostly helped Anthea color on herself and followed her around when she was done coloring. She apparently didn’t get enough food for breakfast and quickly ate the bag of pretzels that January brought. As she wandered around, she spied a container of sandwiches that some thoughtful mother had brought for her child. Anthea made a b-line for the table and grabbed a sandwich from the container, much to the chagrin of myself. The kind mother said it was OK if she had it (a sesame butter and banana on white hamburger bun sandwich), to which Anthea was much contented, and I was much grateful.

Our crafting being done about the noon-o-clock hour, and all of us much hungry, we headed home. Anthea fell asleep on the way, and stayed in that blessed condition for an hour after. The kids were all very awesome, by the way. There was no complaining, much helping and looking after each other, and participating with happy smiles and much craftiness. (see APPENDIX D)


Got home and warmed up some leftovers for myself (it was pasta with pesto sauce and cherry tomatoes, quite tasty). Tac and Asher wanted nothing more than a bowl of cereal. Since Jessica wasn’t home, and I was too lazy to argue, I let them dine on crunchy wheat o’s and crunchy wheat squares with milk, because, hey, it’s a holiday. Who knows what Jonas ate. He must eat something because he keeps growing.

Anthea woke up around 1-ish, so I helped her eat something, can’t remember what (she loved dinner from last night, but wanted none of it today).

Teancum and Asher played and messed up the house while Jonas finished his tuba practicing, oh, I mean French horn. He also did an extra chore of vacuuming the upstairs so he could earn some computer time.

I talked Jessica into taking us all on her shopping trip, since it was rare we got to spend a Monday together. So we got all loaded into the car and were off by 2pm, except for Jonas who wanted to stay home, and January who was at a friends for lunch, bowling, and some fun at her house afterwards.


I put this time in for the benefit of specifying how long it took to get gas at Costco. It only takes 15 minutes to drive there. The remainder of the time in the above timeframe was spent in line for gas. I dropped Jessica off at the entrance to Costco so she could get started on gathering a heaping cartful of food. I was to get gas, go to Home Depot (literally across the street) to get replacement smoke detectors for our out of date units from the basement and kitchen area (yes, Mom, to replace the very one that woke you up for that one night with it’s incessant chirping, alerting us to the fact that, no, not the batteries need to be replaced, but the whole unit).

Anyhow, while in the near eternal line for gas, my bright and intelligent 6 year old questioned why we were going to a different store if Mom wanted to be with me so much. Great question, son. So skip going to HD by myself with three small children, and instead drive around the whole parking lot of Costco to find a spot (had to drive around because there were sooooo many people who’ve never seen snow before so they freak out and want to buy a million months worth of food for the one or two days that there will be snow – remember, Monday was our regular shopping day so we weren’t like all these other crazy people. That or it was a holiday so people were out shopping.) Found Jessica in the store, she was just about done. We only had a couple of good samples- chocolate covered granola bars of some kind… tasty.


I hate shopping, but when I’m with Jessica, even the most mundane and boring things are fun. I dare say, it’s a jolly holiday

With Jessica
Jessica makes my ‘eart so light
When the day is gray
And ordinary
Jessica makes the sun shine bright!

Oh ‘appiness is bloomin’
All around ‘er
The daffoldils are smilin’
At the dove
When Jessica ‘olds my ‘and
I feel so grand
My ‘eart starts beatin’
Like a big brass band
Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Jessica
No wonder that it’s Jessica that I love!

Costco, Home Depot, Walmart… Dang, that’s a lot of shopping. At Walmart, Teancum and Asher started going crazy with the broccoli. Tac hates broccoli, so Asher started chasing him around with it. They went a little overboard, so I had to take them out to the car. As we were waiting, Tac started bouncing around like he had red hot fire ants down his pants. I didn’t want to take both of those crazy kids into the store, and Tac had to go right then, so… quick stand at the side of the car, pee by the back wheel, cover up when people walk by… here’s a wet wipe to clean your hands, cause I can tell you need it, done. Now just wait for Jessica. Dang, now Asher needs to go too. Well, I’ll get you out, but just wait, Mom should be done any second now, so just wait… oh, got your pants down around your ankles already, well, OK just pee behind the car then. Like seriously, 10 minutes later Jessica is finally done. Apparently that lady on the checkout lane won’t be winning any speed contests, but I hear there are a couple of snails in the park that are looking for a date.

And back home again, exactly 2 hours and 40 minutes after we left. I timed it.


Let’s just skip the twenty minutes between 4:40 and 5pm, shall we.

Made some yummy stir-fry for dinner. Thought I was just about as good as Dad with my cooking skills. I really appreciate his making dinner all the time, and some how it rubbed off on me and I love to cook, too. I added something Dad would probably never have done, though (which is odd considering he loved okra and I remember having cow tongue and liver), and that was tofu!

Kids always complain about dinner… don’t want it, don’t like it. Have you tried it? No, don’t want to. Well try it first. Oh, hey, this is pretty good. I do like green eggs and ham, thank you, thank you Sam-I-am. Had to start dinner without Jessica because she didn’t get enough shopping out of her system and she was at Target looking for things to trade money for.

Let’s just say that after dinner is usually pretty crazy, and today was worse. Plus we tried to have Family Home Evening. I sang “Geneology, I am doing it” while Jessica played and sang “Family History, I am doing it.” Only the second verses are the same on that one. I explained that doing our family history includes writing in our journals, or writing down what happened to us today, and how my family started this fun tradition to write down what happened on January 20, just for fun. Our FHE was to write down what we did today. You have read the paltry attempts at historical narrative from everyone else, now your eyes bleed with amazement and your brain bulges with incomprehension as you graze upon the writings of this budding pleonastic historian. I encouraged all to write with this witty turn of prose: If you don’t write about what you did, then you don’t exist for today.

FHE was mostly exasperating. Let’s just say my temper during FHE was inversely proportional to the hyper activity, and leave it at that. Scriptures was two verses, and prayer was two sentences…

Getting kids to bed went well. I seem to be able to handle the insanity of the hour much better than in years past.

I sang “Der Kuckuk und der Esel” (see APPENDIX E) to Anthea and put her to bed. I brushed Asher and Teancum’s teeth and read them a couple of Dr. Seuss books.


I wrote this.



Nazi Tunnels: Underground Factory Dispersal and Forced Labor Camps At Porta Westfalica

Sitting atop the Wittekindsberg hill south of Minden, Germany nestled against the town of Barkhausen, is a massive monument to a massive historical figure of nineteenth-century Germany. Built from 1892-1896 is a large bronze statue of William I within a gazebo made from sandstone taken from the very hill upon which it rests. Dedicated to the memory of Wilhelm dem Grossen, this monument stands for some today as a symbol of German unity. Buried underneath this monument are remnants of a more discordant German past.

Mining during the nineteenth century left large, open mines in Wittekindsberg and Jakobsberg hills, on the opposite banks of the Weser River from each other. These tunnel systems went virtually unused throughout the early twentieth century, but found use again in the final years of World War II, as Nazi leaders made concerted efforts to protect the increasingly targeted aircraft factories by relocating them to physically separate locations, and in some cases into underground facilities. Forced laborers from nearby concentration camps supplied the labor. One such project was located in the unused mines in Porta Westfalica’s hills, with inmates supplied from the Neuengamme Concentration Camp near Hamburg and prisoners of war from Russia and Poland. Stone once used to commemorate and memorialize the unification of fragmented German kingdoms was now discarded in favor of the underground space, just as the lives and humanity of inmates was discarded for the labor they could provide. Such projects were at the heart of Nazi desires to eradicate through work anybody they felt undeserving of life.

This dissertation describes the use of forced labor to convert existing mines and tunnel systems in Wittekindsberg and Jakobsberg into industrial spaces, outlines the plans to use the tunnels as underground dispersal locations, and explores the post-war history of the tunnels ending with present day issues surrounding memory and appropriate ways to deal with the physical remains of the tunnel systems and labor camps.

This work is unique in several ways. First, nearly all scholarly narratives about the nearly 30 underground dispersal projects throughout Germany are written in German, French, Danish or Czech. To date, there are only two publications written in English that are dedicated to the history of an underground dispersal project and associated labor camps. This work will present the first English scholarship of the tunnels and camps at Porta Westfalica.

A second unique aspect is the timeframe to be studied. Most works on underground dispersal projects narrate only the few years surrounding the tunnel and labor camp existence, ending with liberation by Allied forces. This work will extend the conventional timeline by researching the post-war history of the tunnels. The presence of these tunnel projects has had lasting effect on the local community. Not only is the landscape often physically altered, but the collective memory of the local citizens must also bear witness of the atrocities perpetrated against inmates. Local citizens tell stories about who, what and why concentration camps were located in their neighborhoods; this also becomes part of the history of the underground project. While this work does not seek to “dredge up dirty laundry” about individuals involved, it does seek to highlight the perpetual issues of memory and commemoration that German citizens must face since the end of World War II.

Finally, the use of new media will bring this work into the realm of digital humanities by presenting the research materials and the scholarly writing process in the public sphere through the use of an online archive and scholarly website, and by creating 3D representations and geographical maps of the tunnel systems and their geo-spatial relationships with the concentration camps. This work will present a unique aspect of the history of the underground dispersal projects by utilizing new ways of visualizing and presenting data and sources, and implementing research methods from other disciplines such as the computer sciences and geography.


A two-day visit to Porta Westfalica was made in July 2013 as part of a research trip funded by the Dr. Richard M. Hunt Fellowship from the American Council on Germany. While there, I met with Dr. Gerhard Franke, the local heritage curator for Porta Westfalica. He showed me several former labor camp and tunnel locations, and had the local newspaper conduct an interview that resulted in a short article about my visit. In Hannover, I met with Dr. Rainer Fröbe, a German historian who has done extensive research on this topic.

The CEHS Research and Travel Grant will provide for two weeks in Porta Westfalica with three important research goals: visit with survivors, current and past city officials, citizens and historians; visit archives and digitize documents; and photograph the tunnels and former labor camps. Unfortunately for my previous trip, I was unaware of the existence of the Concentration Camp Memorial and Documentation Center of Porta Westfalica, headed by Babette Lissner. This group has connections to many citizens and city officials who were involved with the tunnels and former labor camps since the war, and those who were instrumental in the creation of a memorial to the laborers. They also have documents pertaining to the city’s immediate post-war dealings with the tunnels. At least one trip to Hannover to work with Dr. Rainer Fröbe is also planned. The grant will also fund the digitization of documents pertaining to the immediate post-war decisions made about the tunnels, as well as documents listing camp inmates who died and where they were buried. Access to the city’s newspaper archives will provide an understanding of the social issues the town has faced and how they were dealt with in the public sphere. A final goal will be to photograph the tunnels, former labor camp locations, cemeteries, and obtain GPS coordinates for each location.



I got this book from the co-author and wife of the pilot for Grandpa Shepherd’s B-17. She lives only a few miles away from us and found me through a post I wrote on my blog about Dad’s funeral. Here’s a link to the book and website: There is not a whole lot about Grandpa specifically. His plane was called the Blue Hen Chick. Here are a couple of mission debriefings that the pilot had to write after each mission.


Mission #17   A/C # 44-6016 TNT Jeanie            Fri Jan 5 1945
Target – Communications Center, Waxweiler
Briefing at 0530
Take off began at 0801
Target was close to the ground battle area. Encountered a lot of flak. Two planes landed in Belgium due to battle damage.
Landing began at 1551
Blue Hen out for repairs
Log: First of four missions in a row. Mission lasted 7:15 hours. Shepherd passed out over the target. Oxygen mask froze. McKay is in hospital. Weather bad on take-off.

Mission #26   Blue Hen Chick                    Sun Jan 21, 1945
Target – Highway and rail bridges, Mannheim
Briefing at 0500
Take off began at 0744
Carried 58 tons of 500 lb G.P. bombs and incendiary bombs. Two planes carried leaflets. One crew had to bail out over France. Released bombs through the clouds.
Landing began at 1519
Log: Mission lasted 7:20 hours. Mission almost the same as yesterday. Lost lead and low squadrons. Visibility very poor. Ball Turret oxygen froze. Last two days weather very bad.

Mission #35   Blue Hen Chick                     Tues Feb 27 1945
Target – Communications Center at Leipzig.
Briefing at 0700
Take off began at 0939
Route to the target was uneventful, the trip home was without problems.
Landing began at 1743
Log: Mission lasted 8:20 hours. Had a good mission. Flak was moderate. Pilot, Radio Operator, Ball Turret Gunner, Tail Gunner and myself finished up last mission.



30 Jumping Jacks
15 Pushups
25 Knee Highs
10 Burpees
20 Squats
20 Crunches
20 Pushups
30 Squats
30 Crunches
30 Pushups
20 Burpees
60 Second Wall Sit
35 Pushups
25 Knee Highs

20 Squats
30 Lunges (each leg)
40 Calf Raises
50 Second Wall Sit
100 Jumping Jacks
50 Second Wall sit
40 Sumo Squats
30 Leg Raises
20 Squats

50 Basic Crunch
35 Right Oblique Crunch
35 Left Oblique Crunch
35 Bicycle Crunch
35 Reverse (Hold) Crunch
35 Long Arm Crunch
35 Cross-Over Crunch
35 Half Curl
35 Vertical Leg Crunch
60 Second Plank

30 Minutes Run Around

Friday (TiH = Till it Hurts)
30 Jumping Jacks
20 Pushups
TiH Dips
25 Pushups
TiH Bicep Curls
30 Pushups
TiH Tricep Curls
35 Pushups
TiH Front Raises





I have sung this song, in German, to each of the kids when they are very young. Some have begged and begged for it, refusing to go to sleep until they hear it over and over again, causing me to record it to a CD which can be played on repeat until the silly child is asleep; and then, from one night to the next, they are sick of it and don’t want it anymore. Anyhow, I love to sing it to each of the kids while they are babies.

Der Kuckuck und der Esel,
die hatten einen Streit:
wer wohl am besten sänge,
zur schönen Maienzeit.

Der Kuckuck sprach: “Das kann ich”
und fing gleich an zu schrei’n.
“Ich aber kann es besser”,
fiel gleich der Esel ein.

Das klang so schön und lieblich,
so schön von fern und nah.
Sie sangen alle beide:
Kuckuck, Kuckuck, I-a! I-a!

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