Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts

Monday, June 24, 2024

Greenland opens new capital airport terminal, hopes to boost tourism, increase economic autonomy

I was among the first passengers at the new Nuuk terminal today.
Today a new international airport terminal opened at Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, and I was among its first passengers. (All photos by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.)

A couple of days ago I wrote about Greenland's autonomy from Denmark, observing that tourism and fisheries, at present levels, might not be enough to sustain the economy of an independent Greenland, notwithstanding popular support for the proposition. The new terminal and runways at Nuuk, co-located with the older facility, are a calculated measure to amp up tourism and ween off Greenland of dependence on Danish aid.

The old Nuuk GOH terminal, closed today, is adjacent to the new.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Greenland infrastructure is still marked by U.S. defensive developments during World War II. The Kingdom of Denmark was occupied by the Nazis and turned over the protection of Greenland to the United States. Part of that American legacy is the country's international airport at Kangerlussuaq, a village deep in the fjords north of Nuuk and well inland, eastward, of second-city Sisimiut. 

Constructed as a military air base in 1941, Kangerlussuaq airport was a strategic refueling point. It was therefore equipped with a runway that could handle large aircraft. After the war, and for decades since, Kangerlussuaq's capacity made it the international hub for Air Greenland.

A larger-than-most Air Greenland plane prepares to fly from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen.

Landing at Nuuk is not for the faint of heart.
But Kangerlussuaq makes no sense for civilian use, much less for tourism. Only about 500 people live there, compared with about 17,500 in Nuuk. So intercontinental passengers traveling to or from Nuuk, such as me today, must also make the short hop between Nuuk and Kangerlussuaq. With limited flights in and out of Greenland to begin with, the cost and inconvenience of an added leg is an impediment to the tourism market that Greenland sorely wishes to develop.

As well, the old Nuuk runway was not designed for volume or large aircraft. Because of surrounding mountains and frequent cloud cover, the approach is notoriously challenging for pilots. In fact, when I landed at Nuuk a couple of days ago on a domestic flight, my Air Greenland pilot aborted landing northbound in the dense fog. We circled round and sailed alongside snowy mountain peaks—a bit unnerving—to land in the clearer southbound direction.

New Nuuk's first guests got gift bags.
Today's opening at Nuuk is a soft one, of the terminal only. The bigger, new runways are still under construction, the old runway still in use. Intercontinental passengers such as me still must fly to Kangerlussuaq. That will change when the new Nuuk airport becomes fully operational; plans aim for later this year. In fact, the runway at Kangerlussuaq has become degraded by subsiding permafrost, and the plan is to scuttle that airport for non-military use.

The great hall of the new Nuuk airport is not yet ready for prime time. A plastic sheet covers the escalator, and limited strips of seating equipped with electrical outlets are not yet plugged in to anything. There are not yet any concessions; free coffee and breads were on offer this morning.

For the time being, all roads lead to Kangerlussuaq.
The place looks promising. Warmly enthusiastic representatives this morning awarded the terminal's first 200 passengers "Greenland Airports" "goodie bags" containing travel-size containers and "Greenland airports" luggage tags.

For now, Nuuk airport will retain its IATA code, GOH, which was derived from the Danish name for Nuuk: Godthåb, or "Good Hope."

The Nuuk tarmac at GOH: new runways lie beyond the old, where a plane taxis.

Air Greenland operates a diverse fleet of planes and helicopters to connect the largely roadless country.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Greenland celebrates 'National Day,' ever growing autonomy, but dependence on Danish aid persists

Greenland flags celebrate National Day, Qaqortoq.
Yesterday I was in Qaqortoq, Greenland, for Greenland National Day, June 21. (All photos by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.)

Greenland is a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. But a visitor might miss that: Greenland flags fly in all parts, and Danish ones are few. Signs increasingly employ the Greenlandic language—which Google Translate does not yet have—without a Danish translation. And though the currency remains the Danish krone, electronic transactions render notes seldom seen.

Americans built a radio station at Narsaq Point. The pictured building
is long abandoned, but the station still broadcasts.
From 1814 to World War II, Greenland was under Danish control, but not formally a part of the kingdom. When Denmark was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, the displaced Danish government signed Greenland over to the protection of the United States. Disused U.S. military installations still dot landscapes. With a new constitution for Denmark after the war, in 1953, Greenland formally became part of the kingdom.

A home rule initiative in 1979 afforded Greenland greater autonomy, but left Denmark in control of foreign affairs, banking, and the legal system. With 75% approval in a 2008 referendum, Greenland claimed further autonomy over its legal system and law enforcement. On National Day in 2009, the official language of Greenland was changed from Danish to Greenlandic.


The self-rule law of 2009 allows Greenlanders to declare full independence upon another referendum. And the Danish government has suggested that Greenlanders ought to decide one way or the other. Polls consistently suggest a comfortable majority of Greenlandic support for independence. However, it depends how one asks the question. 

As a county of Denmark, Greenland receives an annual block grant of about US$511 million, which, according to the International Trade Administration, accounts for more than half of Greenland's public budget and 20% of GDP. Greenlandic support for autonomy polls poorly if the question is qualified by a risk to the standard of living. It seems doubtful that the presently leading industries of fisheries and tourism can sustain Greenland's economy without Danish aid.

Qaqortoq "then and now" (image at left from Qaqortoq Museum)

National Day musicians at Hotel Qaqortoq
"Loading," a Nuuk mural by Greenlander Inuk Højgaard,
comments on economic migration from villages to city.

Tourism in the Nuuk fjords, aboard the ferry Sarfaq Ittuk

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Baltimore contractor, WWII infantry vet turns 100

© Used with permission.

Pete, a retired Baltimore, Md., contractor, WWII veteran, and my great uncle, turns 100 today, February 7.

Upon graduation from high school in Baltimore City in 1943, Pete was drafted into the 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army ("the Notorious Ninth"). He served in Europe for four years, remaining for several months after VE Day. He was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart and discharged as a second lieutenant.

Before Pete came home from Europe, he was able to visit family in Italy. About four decades later, he joined me for a trip to visit our cousins there again. In the electronic age, I've served as go-between for trans-Atlantic updates.

© RJ Peltz-Steele
Pete came home from the war to marry my great aunt, Velma, and to build a construction business in Baltimore. They started a family. Throughout their active years, Pete and Velma volunteered vigorously in Baltimore's Italian-American community, raising money for scholarships.

Pete retired to a quiet life of golf, reading, and doting grand-parenting in Baltimore County. We celebrated Sunday.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

West fails democracy, reembraces appeasement

The Eternal Love monument in Mariinsky Park in Kyiv commemorates an Italian POW and Ukrainian forced laborer who fell in love amid World War II, and then were separated by the Iron Curtain for 60 years.  The Guardian and DW have more.  I took this photo on a grand walkabout during my first visit to Kyiv in 2013. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.)

I've been away from blog duty for some weeks because of a busy presentation agenda this month.  But I have a list of items pending, and I look forward to returning to writing and sharing what I've learned. Meanwhile, I am distraught by events in Ukraine.  I have family from Kamianets-Podilskyi.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Law prof joins 'Taps Across America,' honors Texas soldier, attorney, Justice Floyd A. Shumpert

My longtime colleague, mentor, and friend, Professor J. Thomas Sullivan, joined Monday's "Taps Across America" remembrance (Facebook), organized by CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman.

Justice Shumpert
Emphatically, if unnecessarily to my ear, asserting his amateur proficiency, Professor Sullivan played especially to honor his father-in-law, Floyd Allen Shumpert.  In 2008, Professor Sullivan dedicated a law review article to Justice Shumpert, writing:
This article honors my father-in-law, Floyd A. Shumpert of Terrell, Texas, who served as an Associate Justice on the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth Judicial District from his appointment in 1983 until his defeat in the 1984 general election. Judge Shumpert began his career in public service following his return to Kaufman County, Texas, after World War II. During the War, he served in the 8th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the United States Army. He suffered a severe injury requiring amputation of his lower leg when he stepped on a land mine in the Huirtgen Forest in Germany only a few days before commencement of the German counter-offensive known today as the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Upon his return from Europe, he was elected County Clerk and later, after earning his law degree from Baylor University, County Judge. He left the bench for private practice for over fifty years in Kaufman County, interrupted only by his appointment to the court of appeals. He is the most courageous and the kindest man I have ever known.
J. Thomas Sullivan, Danforth, Retroactivity, and Federalism, 61 Okla. L. Rev. 425, 425 n.* (2008) (direct download).  The video is © 2020 J. Thomas Sullivan, used here with permission.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Researcher recounts riveting history of Auschwitz infiltrator

Pilecki before 1939
Witold Pilecki was an officer of the Polish underground in 1940 when he allowed himself to be captured by the Nazis in a civilian roundup and sent to Auschwitz.  The underground sought to document German atrocities in the concentration camps with the aim of spurring the Allies to action.

Assuming a false identity using found papers, Pilecki passed himself off as "Tomasz Serafiński," the commanding officer of the Nowy Wiśnicz region unit of the underground Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, or AK).  He remained in Auschwitz for nearly there years and wrote reports for the underground that were smuggled to London and Washington.

At Easter in 1943, Pilecki and compatriots made a daring escape from Auschwitz.  Hunted by the Gestapo, they made their way through the Polish countryside and ultimately found refuge with the real Tomasz Serafiński, his wife, Ludmiła, their children, and their underground network.  Amid their run, the escapees had become suspected by the underground of being German spies.  As he grew close to his unexpected namesake, Serafiński found himself at odds with the AK, ultimately depending on Ludmiła to protect both men against underground suspicion and Nazi hunters.  Pilecki and Serafiński each had a grim fate yet in store.

Pilecki at Auschwitz
This riveting WWII story is the subject of a working research paper, replete with documentary images, authored by Elizabeth M. Zechenter, Ph.D., J.D.: Was it Really a Blind Fate? Interwoven Lives of Witold Pilecki and Tomasz Serafiński, and the Daring Efforts of Ludmiła Serafińska to Save Them Both.   The paper was featured in this month's (Oct. 2019, no. 20) Quo Vadis, the Philadelphia Chapter newsletter of The Kosciuszko Foundation.  The foundation is a New York-city based non-governmental organization dedicated to cultural and educational exchange between the United States and Poland.

By day an assistant general counsel for GlaxoSmithKline, LLP, Zechenter is an accomplished academic researcher (, ResearchGate), her UCLA Ph.D. in evolutionary archaeology, who has taught international law and human rights law at Georgetown University Law Center.  She also is president of the Jagiellonian Law Society (JLS), "a voluntary legal association comprised of a diverse group of professionals (lawyers, judges, law faculty, and law students) who are interested in, or have roots in Polish and Central/Eastern European (CEE) cultures."  She is related to the Serafińskis. 

I was privileged to learn about Elizabeth's work through membership in JLS ("open to any legal professional who shares [JLS] interests and goals") and my work in the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, American Law and LL.M. program with Jagiellonian University (not associated with JLS) in Kraków, Poland, and Washington, D.C.