Published on June 5, 2013 By Big Fat Daddy In Misc


One evening in the middle sixties, (I was in high school at the time) my dad, The Chief, told me we were going to see a special movie about "The War".  The Chief had spent the last two years of WWII on a destroyer in the South Pacific.  DD 486, the USS Lansdowne, was a ship that saw a lot of action and was involved in many key battles at the end of the war.  Whenever  a new movie about the war was released , he would round me up, and we would go to the El Cajon Theater and check it out.  He critiqued them with a running commentary about what was real and what was Hollywood.  But mainly I think he just watched to see if there were any scenes of his ship in the movies.


So when he announced a "special" movie about the war, I expected it to be another sea battle-filled epic like "Away All Boats" or "Run Silent, Run Deep" or "Torpedo Run" or any of a couple dozen others like that.  But the Chief kept silent about it until we were at the theater.  "Miracle of the White Stallions"???  I was more than a little confused.  But once we had our popcorn and cokes and settled in our usual seats, the movie started and all was made clear.


The gist of the story is that toward the end of the war, the German who was the commandant of the Spanish Riding Academy in Vienna reached out to George Patton to save the brood mares and young horse stock of the Academy.  The German was afraid that if the Russians captured the school's breeding stock, which was in Czechoslovakia, they would eat them....a well founded concern.  The German knew that Patton was an old cavalry soldier and felt he would be sympathetic in this situation.  What followed was not easy;  there were political issues and international relations issues and so on...but Patton was the right guy for the job.  He assigned a group of cav soldiers to mount a raid behind German lines to rescue the horses.  And it worked.  Pissed off the Russians, pissed off the diplomats who were trying to hammer out agreements on what the continent of Europe would look like once the hostilities ended, and pissed off the Germans who...well...they were soon not significant.  But it made a hundreds-of-years-old institution in Vienna forever grateful that their beautiful white Lippizaner stallions were rescued.


It was a great movie and at the end of it, the horses went through their paces and it was truly amazing.  If you have never heard of the horses or the Academy, you should Google them.  They are beautiful horses that are trained to do amazing leaps and dressage moves and dances and so forth.  The horses are born dark and don't turn white until they are almost mature...and some never turn white. 


Told you all that so I could tell you this:  Summer of 1979.  BFD and clan are living in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, West Germany.  We managed to eke out a small vacation, a real rarity in our life.  We spent almost a week traveling through southern Bavaria, visiting castles and lakes and all kinds of neat stuff.  We returned to our apartment in Vaihingen full of great pictures and stories and wursts and Italian Ice.  But the vacation wasn't over.  We found that the Spanish Riding School (out of Vienna, Austria...go figure) was appearing in Nurnberg.  I never in my life thought I would ever get to see those horses in person.  It was too good to pass up.  At that time the School's policy  was to do only short, limited- appearance tours...alternating Europe and elsewhere each year.  In '79 the only appearance outside Austria was in Nurnburg.


We drove up in the morning;  it turned out to be a very warm (for Germany) day.  The arena was jammed full;  our seats weren't the greatest but we could see well enough. There was an issue with having the wrong filter on my camera but I wouldn't find out about that until we developed all our vacation pictures (remember developing  film?  No?  Oh well) and all of the stallions had a green tint.  But we got some wonderful pictures and amazing memories of an experience of a lifetime. 


Realized dreams...they are the best.  My own personal miracle.

on Jun 12, 2013

I know that story, and have read some about the Lippizaners.  But I have never seen them (even though I spent 2 years in Germany).  A treat I regret.

on Jun 13, 2013

Yep, it was great.