I have been listening to The Teaching Company lectures by Vejas G. Liulevicius on WWI and Diplomatic history from 1500 to 2000. Fascinating listening,I have been listening to The Teaching Company lectures by Vejas G. Liulevicius on WWI and Diplomatic history from 1500 to 2000. Fascinating listening, and he recommends Kissinger's "Diplomacy" for additional reading. The book overlaps most significantly with Liulevicius' course on diplomatic history. ...more
This was a very hard book for me to read, as I have family who served in WWII in the Pacific, some of whom were POW's, starved and tortured by the JapThis was a very hard book for me to read, as I have family who served in WWII in the Pacific, some of whom were POW's, starved and tortured by the Japanese. Regardless of the difficulty of reading the book, I recommend it highly. We should not forget.
The dedication explains the entire book:
"The following is dedicated to Dr. Henri Hekking, Den Hague, Netherlands, who loved and respected his Texan friends, risking his life repeatedly to save them, although he had never seen the United States of America.
It is dedicated to those whom the Japanese held captive in Burma during World War II, forcing thousands to face acts of ultimate human indignity -- death by starvation, sicknesses, firing squads, beheadings, bayonetting, beatings, and torture. It is unconscionable to allow future generations to forget what happened on the Burma railroad, just as it is to turn our backs on the holocaust in Europe.
If there is any reason to recall what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki each August 6 and 9, then at the same time let us remember Burma and the Death Railroad, where an estimated 100,000 prisoners died in fourteen months at the hands of the Japanese."...more
This was a very sweet book, and worthwhile reading. It chronicles the life of Mary Churchill Soames, the youngest of Winston and Clementine Churchill'This was a very sweet book, and worthwhile reading. It chronicles the life of Mary Churchill Soames, the youngest of Winston and Clementine Churchill's 5 children. Mary Soames died in 2014 at the age of 91. She was 17 years old when WWII broke out in 1939 and an eyewitness to many of the epic events of WWII.
Her interview made me more interested in her as a person and also her relationship with her very famous father.
The death of the Churchill's 4th child, Marigold, in 1921 at the age of only 2 1/2 years old changed many things about how Clementine ran their home. Before Marigold's death, the children had been largely taken care of by hired French governesses and nurses. Marigold's death was never blamed on the French governess who took care of her, but the fact that Clementine and Winston were not called for sooner when the child developed a very sore throat made medical help harder to make use of.
As a result, Clementine hired her first cousin, Madeline Whyte "Nana" to take charge when Mary was born in 1922. Madeline had trained as a Norland nurse, so was perfectly suited to the job. Plus she was related to the family, and as a result loved and cared for the children and especially Mary as though they were her own. Mary was never sent away to boarding school, and was raised largely at Chartwell, the Churchill estate. Living at home instead of away, she also enjoyed an unusually regular time with her parents. Mary credits Nana's presence in providing the stability and Christian faith that helped her become the faithful and joyful Christian she is today. Mary is the only one of the Churchill children whose life has not come to an end after a major tragedy or great sadness.
Mary served in the women's branch of the British army, the Auxillary Territorial Service (ATS) responsible for the home front defense of Britain. She rose to the role of Junior Commander (Captain). At one point she had over 300 young women working under her in an anti-aircraft batteries. In 1945 Mary served as an aide-de-camp to her father at the Postdam Conference.
All through her writing, Mary is even and cheerful while never glossing over the difficulties of growing up a Churchill.
I have been learning more about Winston Churchill and his family, especially his youngest daughter Mary Soames. This book is delightful, showing pictuI have been learning more about Winston Churchill and his family, especially his youngest daughter Mary Soames. This book is delightful, showing pictures of the family back to Winston's parents and Clementine's parents all the way to the death of Winston. Each picture is accompanied by explanations from Mary Soames.
A most excellent and very lengthy overview of the many different fronts of WWII. Areas that I found I was not as aware of included the Russian front (A most excellent and very lengthy overview of the many different fronts of WWII. Areas that I found I was not as aware of included the Russian front (battles against Moscow and Stalingrad) as well as the battles in Burma. For 6 German soldiers killed in actual battle, 4 of them died fighting the Russians.
I was amazed yet again at the sheer scope of WWII. I did not realize the lack of coordination between the Axis powers. If they had indeed worked together, the outcome might have been very very different.
The author also dispels the myth that the Germans just "didn't know about all the atrocities committed" and were "just following orders". The huge number of soldiers required to shoot all the Polish and Slav people one at a time by a bullet in the head, the sheer number of camp guards and soldiers required to coordinate capture and transport of Jews, the extensive number of nurses and doctors who participated in the starvation or medical death of the mentally ill or physically frail, belies the excuse that "we just didn't know". While the German press was certainly controlled by Hitler, there were enough people who participated in these events to make it impossible not to know.
Captured German generals and high ranking German soldiers were taken to Trent House in England. There they were treated respectfully, provided with perks like cigars and alcohol, and allowed to mingle and speak freely. What they did not realize is that all of their conversations were recorded, transcribed, translated, and read and used by the British government. In these conversations, made freely with their fellow officers, they fully admitted their knowledge of what was really happening and even discussed how and why the war came to happen. The book "Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations 1942-45" on this very topic, is one I plan to look up soon.
[Quote from the "Tapping Hitler's Generals" from the WWII documentary "The Wehrmacht"..... In the episode The Crimes, General Dietrich von Choltitz is quoted as saying in October 1944: "We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously, instead of saying "to hell with you and your stupid nonsense". I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish. I feel utterly ashamed of myself. Perhaps we bear even more guilt than these uneducated animals." (This in apparent reference to Hitler and his supporting Nazi Party members.) ]
The two most staggeringly amazing things that stood out for me were the Enigma machines, and the development of the atomic bomb.
Churchill stated flatly that "It was thanks to Ultra (the codename of the intelligence gleaned from the Enigma deciphering) that we won the war."
When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese resolved to continue fighting. What a blessing it was to have the 2nd bomb, because it was only after the second bomb was dropped that the Japanese government and military acknowledged that they should cease fighting and surrender.
The author makes several interesting statements too about the need for both Germany and Japan to be utterly crushingly defeated. If those countries had not been defeated as they had, it is unlikely we would have the current very pacific Germany we have of today that participates in and is trusted in world affairs. Likewise the defeat of the Japanese empire was necessary to be as complete and harsh as it was, if for no other reason to allow the current world to have an ally in the Japanese instead of a festering nationalistic wound ready to erupt again.
Very well written and fascinating biography. Many things I had never known about John Ford:
He was actually on Midway and filming the attack himself. WVery well written and fascinating biography. Many things I had never known about John Ford:
He was actually on Midway and filming the attack himself. When John Wayne was directing and acting in "The Alamo", John Ford was bored and decided to visit the set. Ford began directing various scenes and inviting himself to do things that no one wanted. Wayne, anxious to not anger Ford, gave Ford a 2nd unit to film with to keep him out of the way while Wayne himself directed the rest of the movie. Ford and Henry Fonda got into a fistfight over how Ford was directing "Mr. Roberts". Fonda had played Mr. Roberts in the Broadway play to great success. Ford was becoming more interested in what Jack Lemmon was doing (who plays Ensign Pulver) and was making many slap-stick scenes to accommodate Lemmon's comic timing. Ford and Fonda finished the movie, but were estranged afterwards. Because Ford could no longer call Fonda to act in his movies, Ford relied more and more on John Wayne as his actor of choice. Because of that, the direction his later films went was in the type of movies Wayne was successful in making, i.e. Westerns. It is interesting to think what different trajectory Ford's latter movies would have made if he had not estranged Fonda. Ford's son, Pat, is quoted as saying that his father was a genius in the film industry but a lousy father. Ford created a small economy for decades for the Navajos living in Monument Valley. Ford probably had an affair with Kathryn Hepburn. He and Spencer Tracey whom she later lived with, were very similar men -- both Irish, both alcoholics, and both in the film industry.
This biography carefully places the genius that Ford had in "seeing" what he wanted to film beforehand with the darker side of Ford's personality. All men are complex, and Ford was no exception. What is interesting to me is the juxtaposition of Ford's cruel side with the fact that he was a father-figure to so many Hollywood actors. Ford was never above pushing an actor or actress into an emotional state against him to get a better scene. For instance, Victor McLagen was a long time friend of Ford's and had appeared in most of Ford's early films. When filming "The Quiet Man", Ford gave McLagen very specific acting directions in the scene when McLagen's character refuses to give his sister her dowry. McLagen did exactly what Ford asked five times. Each time he would do it, Ford would tell him to do exactly the same thing, and they would take the scene again. Ford stopped filming for the day, leaving McLagen seething in anger. The next morning, they filmed the scene again and McLagen was so angry that he sweeps the money off the table so hard it almost hits the opposite wall. Ford smiled, and then told McLagen that was exactly what he was looking for.
This cruel streak is balanced by the thoughtful care he took of those friends who had worked with him for decades. Many of the actors in his silent films were always cast in his newer films, giving them an opportunity to make a living when otherwise many of them would have not had jobs. ...more
This is a very lengthy tome, and I had to return it to the library before I was totally finished with it. Depressing, discouraging, and dark. But withThis is a very lengthy tome, and I had to return it to the library before I was totally finished with it. Depressing, discouraging, and dark. But with moments of light and redemption among certain individuals. How people could survive and continue to deal with others of the human race by whom they have been betrayed and sacrificed is totally amazing....more
I got interested in this book because the author, S. Payne Best, was the person that Dietrich Bonhoeffer relayed his last message to. Best, when he waI got interested in this book because the author, S. Payne Best, was the person that Dietrich Bonhoeffer relayed his last message to. Best, when he was released after the war, delivered that message to Bishop George Bell, Bonhoeffer's friend.
This book also got my interest because of the reluctance of Churchill to support Germans who were trying to overthrow Hitler (like Bonhoeffer). The reason for Churchill's reluctance to do that is described in detail in "The Venlo Incident".
This book documents the most famous and humiliating of the British intelligence failures during the 2nd World War. Two of the British intelligence officers, Captain Sigismund Payne Best and Richard Stevens thought they were meeting with some Germans who opposed Hitler. But instead they were kidnapped from a cafe in Venlo, Holland and then taken to Germany where they remained throughout WWII, kept as VIP prisoners and tortured for information that damaged the war efforts of England. Stevens at his time of capture, even had a plain list of agents on him. Churchill, not wanting to step into another trap, never believed any of the attempts by Germans to solicit help in overthrowing Hitler.
The most interesting parts of the book have to do with the chaos at the end of the war, when the Germans moved around prisoners to keep them out of the hands of the Soviets, and then later to keep them away from the Allies. ...more
Sept 2014 As excellent on the 3rd reading as it was on the first 2. Highly highly recommended.
What struck me at this reading was how Bonhoeffer's familSept 2014 As excellent on the 3rd reading as it was on the first 2. Highly highly recommended.
What struck me at this reading was how Bonhoeffer's family was privy to so much that was happening in the German government so far ahead of when the average German seemed to find out. I am reading "The Storm of War" now, and it is fascinating to see the military issues set in contrast to this much more personal view of history in Germany at the time.
******************************************************* Feb 2011 Review -- I am reading the library copy of this book, and it is due tomorrow. I have not finished it, but am about 1/2 of the way through. I have read many books on Bonhoeffer in the past, and have read a substantial number of books written by Bonhoeffer himself. He has always fascinated me. A Christian, a pastor, a German, living in the time when Hitler came to power. What did those Christians in Germany see, or not see, about what was coming? If they saw, what did they do? Or not do?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as the author has aptly written in the title of his book, was indeed a "prophet". Only two days after Hitler was democratically elected chancellor of Germany (Jan. 30, 1933), Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave a radio address on February 1, 1933 called "The Younger Generation's Altered Concept of Leadership" where he examined and dissected the fundamental problems with leadership by a Fuhrer. Bonhoeffer saw, and he acted to inform Christians as he preached and taught. He also was led to act to remove Hitler from power. His courage in speaking as a prophet and in acting led to his arrest and eventual execution in the waning days of WWII. Hitler himself ordered Bonhoeffer's execution, a mere three weeks before Hitler himself committed suicide.
While not finished with the book, I have already ordered it from amazon. This is one book that will be worthwhile to have and read and study. A fascinating book to read in conjunction with Viktor Frankl's books.
I recommend this book with 10 stars.... or more! I wonder how many more stars I'll add when I get to finish it?! I'll update the review when I do.
Some fascinating things about the Bonhoeffer family: Christel Bonhoeffer, Dietrich's older sister, married Hans von Dohnanyi. Their son Christoph von Dohnanyi was born in 1929 and is a well known German conductor. He was for over 20 years the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Hans von Dohnanyi was a schoolmate and friend of Klaus Bonhoeffer, Dietrich's older brother.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging using piano wire on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi (husband of Christel) was executed by gunshot on April 8th (or 9th), 1945. Klaus Bonhoeffer was executed by gunshot on April 25, 1945. Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law Rudiger Schleicheter (husband of Ursula Bonhoeffer) was executed by gunshot April 25, 1945.
Of the 8 children that Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer had, three of their 4 sons died in war. Walter, the 2nd oldest, was killed in WWI. Karl and Dietrich were executed by the Nazis in WWII. Only their oldest son, Karl Friedrich, outlived them. Of their 4 sons-in-laws, two were executed by the Nazis in WWII. Only the daughters Sabine and Susanne had husbands who died natural deaths. ...more
I have to say that I am really pleased by the excellent research, the blending together of many threads into a coherent and suspenseful story, and how the character of each of the "players" is artfully revealed. The writing is really well done, and I am already looking at the library for more books by Ben Macintyre.
For those of us who grew up on stories from WWII, the true-to-life plot of "Operation Mincemeat" is no stranger. The book "The Man Who Never Was" and then the subsequent movie by the same name were written about Operation Mincemeat in the years immediately following WWII. Ewen Montagu wrote the book, which had fictionalized elements inserted, and appeared in the movie which also had deliberately misleading information added in. The plot had been too recently carried out to be fully revealed so soon after the end of the war. But Ben Macintyre was able to get access to the full file of Operation Mincemeat from none other than Ewen Montagu's son, Jeremy. It seems that against regulations, Ewen Montagu had saved the entire casework from the operation and had it in his personal possession!
So now the real story can be known, even some elements that those involved were sure would never be revealed.
During WWII, Ewen Montagu and Charles Chomondeley (pronounced "Chumly") of MI5 hatched a plan to provide misinformation to the Germans about the invasion of Sicily, code-named Operation Husky. Everyone knew that an Allied attack on southern Europe would probably begin in Sicily. But what if false information could be fed to the Germans to make them think that that attack would come through Greece or Sardinia? If somehow that germ of misinformation could be passed up through the German ranks, it would save the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers in the attack. If Hitler believed Greece or Sardinia was the point of attack, he might move soldiers and tanks to those locations to protect them, and thus leave Sicily less defended.
But how to provide this misinformation, yet make the Germans believe it was real? Montagu and Chomondeley proposed obtaining a corpse, planting letters on the corpse that specifically indicated Greece and Sardinia as the focus of the Allied attack on southern Europe, and then putting the body off the coast of Spain so that the Germans (who had a strong presence in Spain) could get hold of the information. A corpse was determined to be the best "spy" because a real spy might be tortured to provide the actual information. Secret papers provided the basis for revealing the plan of the Allied attack and even a "feign" attack on Sicily as a diversion. Spain was the best location for the body to be found because Spain, although neutral, was a hotbed of German spy activity. It was thought that having the body be found by the Spanish would make it less obvious that the British actually wanted the Germans to have access to the information in the secret papers.
The operation was approved and put into motion. The identity of a one Major William Martin of the Royal Marines was created out of thin air by Montagu and Chomondeley. To make him believable to the Germans, he must have all the personal affects that indicated a real and believable life in the world. He was provided with letters from his father, a bank manager about an overdraft, pictures of his fiancee, letters from his fiancee, and assorted tickets and receipts for various purchases. An unmarried secretary at the MI5 office wrote the love letters from "Pam", Bill Martin's fictional fiancee. A different secretary provided the photograph used for Pam. Clothes were purchased for Bill Martin, and Chomondeley wore them for several weeks to again provide authenticity.
The level of detail for each aspect of the operation is almost lovingly detailed. Somehow you can see that the author enjoyed finding out the many pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together. The operation ended up being a success. The information in the secret papers found its way all the way to Hitler's desk, where it was accepted as valid. The Germans moved troops away from Sicily towards Sardinia and Greece. Operation Husky worked, and thousands of Allied troops lived to tell their stories.
My "laugh out loud" moment in this book had to do in the fascinating details about the captain and crew of "Seraph", the British submarine that placed Major Martin on the coast of Spain. Prior to Operation Mincemeat, "Seraph" Captain Bill Jewell was responsible for transporting American general Mark Clark to Algeria for secret meetings with the French commanders. Clark was Eisenhower's deputy. All night negotiations were going very well, but at one point one of the British Marines guarding Clark suffered a coughing fit. Roger "Jumbo" Courtney was given some chewing gum by General Clark to help him stifle his cough which came dangerously close to giving them away in the dusty cellar while gendarmes patrolled the area. Courtney then whispered to Clark, "Your American gum has so little taste." General Clark whispered back, "Yes, I've already used it."
If you had to sit down and make up a list of qualifications to be a spy, what would you select? Ability to lie convincingly. Ability to think quicklyIf you had to sit down and make up a list of qualifications to be a spy, what would you select? Ability to lie convincingly. Ability to think quickly on your feet. Ability to commit criminal acts and not get caught. Overweening confidence. Well what would you add if you made up a list of qualifications to be a DOUBLE agent? "Agent Zigzag" is a book about the kind of person it actually took to be a double agent... a spy first for Germany against the British, then a British spy back against the Germans.
Before WWII, Eddie Chapman was a petty criminal. Petty, but very smooth and accomplished. Safe breaker, burglar, pick pocket, bank robber, all round flimflam man. In the early 30's he was part of a crime ring known as "The Jelly Gang" that engaged in safe cracking and burglary of expensive merchandise. He learned the art of blowing safes with the high explosive gelignite. He was in and out of prison and jail and thus met many of the "best class criminals" of his time. Eddie lived fast and hard but educated himself and became more cultured in his speech and behavior. He began hanging around the Soho crowd in London and started buying his suits from Savile Row. He became friends with Noel Coward, Ivor Novello, Marlene Dietrich, and Terence Young. Young was a young filmmaker who eventually would direct three James Bond films, "Dr. No", "From Russia with Love", and "Thunderball".
In later years when Terence Young was asked about Eddie Chapman, he admitted that Chapman had never made a secret about how he made a living, but that he also had an honest side to his character. In a quote from the book ' "He is a crook and will always be one, " Young said. "But he probably has more principles and honesty of character than either of us." Chapman would steal the money from your pocket, even as he bought you a drink, but he never deserted a friend, nor hurt a soul. In brutal business, he was a pacifist. '
Chapman was in prison during 1939 on the island of Jersey when it eventually was occupied by German forces. He offered to return to Britain as a spy for the Germans and they accepted his proposal. He was then trained for several months in morse code and explosives by a German handler he knew as Dr. Graumann (whose real name was Rittmeister Stephan von Groening). Chapman was given the task to blow up the De Havilland aircraft factory when he arrived in Britain. The Mosquitoes bombers were a very real danger to Germany and Chapman could prove his loyalty as a spy by destroying the factory. When Chapman was parachuted into England, he promptly went to the British Secret Service and told them everything about what he had been asked to do. Then he volunteered to return and spy on the Germans and was accepted into the British agent program as "Agent Zigzag". He was allowed to succeed at his mission, the De Havilland aircraft factory appeared to have been bombed from the air. But in reality Jasper Maskelyne, a professional conjuror who was employed by the War Office faked the damage. Tarps were draped over buildings and painted to simulate the damage from an explosion. From the air, the Germans "saw" evidence that Chapman had indeed fulfilled his duty. He was a trusted agent for them after that.
The rest of the book has stories as fantastic as that one, that only seem to build into even more incredible scenarios. One hilarious moment that made me laugh out loud was when Chapman's British handler was preparing him for a daring job in Lisbon. After Chapman had taken off for his new job, his British spy handler discovered that Chapman had picked his pocket and taken his gold plated scissors and nail file!
This book is a fantastic read. Very well written and superbly researched. I got this book from the library, but will be purchasing it to add to our library as we begin studying WWII. ...more
I have read "Rescuing Da Vinci" and also seen the DVD "The Rape of Europa", so I am now reading the original book that was the catalyst for the book aI have read "Rescuing Da Vinci" and also seen the DVD "The Rape of Europa", so I am now reading the original book that was the catalyst for the book and DVD. Lynn Nicholas is interviewed in the DVD and I decided to read her book and learn more.
******** after reading the book *********
Having read "Rescuing Da Vinci" and having watched the DVD "The Rape of Europa", I thought I would read the book that started it all. Lynn Nicholas, who is interviewed extensively on the DVD, wrote this book to document the stunning history around the purchase / acquisition / theft of Europe's treasured works of art during WWII by the Nazis.
The book is dense, thick with details, heavy with names of dozens if not hundreds of art dealers and collectors along with museum curators from every nation in Europe. In some places, it is overwhelming in the detail and thoroughness. The path of art acquisition by Nazis in Holland, France, Austria, Italy is followed from the early years of Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the 1930's on into the early 1950's. Knowing what will happen, the book then begins to read like an adventure novel. Will the Monuments Men be organized in time to save SOME of the art objects? You know that they do, but the harrowing stories of rescue of treasures from barns, cow sheds, abandoned railway cars and more, simply emphasizes the hard work carried out by the men who were there.
What struck me in reading this book was that none of the Monuments men involved knew that they would be successful. They merely did the hard work of locating, listing, securing, packing, and preserving the art objects they worked hard to find and preserve. They fought for the art to be returned to original owners, from the countries where it had been stolen from. This flew in the face of many military opinions that thought the art objects obtained should go to "the victor". So while the process of stealing the art seemed like a well-oiled machine, the saving and restoration of these art objects seemed so difficult and full of conflict. It made me think of the section from "The Two Towers", when Frodo and Sam are discussing old tales and songs (chapter "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol").
Sam tells Frodo, " 'The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might way. But that's not the way it is with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually -- their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on -- and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same -- like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sot of tale we've fallen into?' "
The Monuments Men fell into a story that mattered, and they went on even when they had the chance to turn back. What an example for us all, to do the hard work in front of us because it is the right thing to do. ...more