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HISTORYNET.COM
‘I KNOW
TOO
MUCH’
...1940s STYLE
page 36
WHY CAPTAIN
JOHN CROMWELL
CHOSE TO GO
DOWN WITH
THE SHIP
THIRD REICH IN 10 OBJECTS
HOW A SHORTAGE OF ALLIED
SHIPS THREATENED D-DAY
To keep a vital secret
safe, Cromwell rode
doomed sub USS
Sculpin (right) to
his death.
JUNE 2018
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T H E
PT 658 HERITAGE
PHOTO COPYRIGHTED © DANIEL RHODES, 2014, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER
W E L C O M E
A B O A R D
It was on July 30, 1945 when a 78 foot
wooden boat emerged from the Higgins
Industries production plant, in New Orleans,
Louisiana and was assigned by the U.S.
Navy as the Motor Torpedo Boat PT658.
Every square inch of this wooden boat was
designed to take the war to the enemy, as
did many of her fierce sister boats before her.
PT 658 was Higgins latest MTB design prior
Visitors have the opportunity to:
to the war. Our boat was re-engineered and
modified from earlier Higgins PT designs.
These modifications let PT’s to be known
as the most heavily armed boats pound for
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pound in the US Navy.
PT 658 is the only surviving PT Boat that
has been authentically restored to as-built
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Schedule tours and rides – see phone number below
Enjoy a unique educational/learning experience led by
trained docents.
Explore the crew/officer’s living quarters depicting life
aboard the boat.
Take a first-hand tour of the engine room.
Spend time in the Museum which is dedicated exclusively
to preserving and exhibiting artifacts and memorabilia from
WWII PT Boats and Boaters.
condition by WW II PT Boat Veterans.
Visit us at: savetheptboatinc.com
Save The PT Boat, Inc, • P.O. Box 13422 • Portland, Oregon 97213 • 503-286-3083
36
10
24
JUN E 2018
ENDORSED BY
THE NATIONAL WORLD WAR II MUSEUM, INC.
F E AT U RE S
COVE R STO RY
28 CAPTAIN CROMWELL’S DECISION
A submarine officer went to extraordinary lengths to protect a
vital American secret STEVEN TRENT SMITH
36 FAKE NEWS—1940S STYLE
Foreign meddling, FBI intrigue, political warfare: the 1940
U.S. presidential election had it all PAUL STAROBIN
P O RT F O L I O
46 THIRD REICH IN 10 OBJECTS
Its rise and fall, as told through a collection of artifacts
52 THE INDISPENSABLE LST
A shortage of Landing Ships, Tank nearly imperiled the success
of the Allied D-Day invasion CRAIG L. SYMONDS
W E A P O N S M A N UA L
60 MASTERPIECE
Great Britain’s Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX fighter
62 AT FIRST IT WAS QUIET...
“War’s a funny thing,” one American said after an unexpected
gesture by the enemy near Italy’s Rapido River DUANE SCHULTZ
52
16
D E PA RT M E N T S
USS LST- 662 slides into the
Ohio River from the American
Bridge Company shipyard at
Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
U.S. NAVY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES; CAMPAIGN BUTTON:
HERITAGE AUCTIONS, DALLAS; COVER: CROMWELL
AND USS SCULPIN: U.S. NAVY: CAMPAIGN BUTTON:
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN WALKER
8 MAIL
10 WORLD WAR II TODAY
16 CONVERSATION
Historian and video game technical adviser Marty Morgan
18 FROM THE FOOTLOCKER
22 FIRE FOR EFFECT
24 TIME TRAVEL
Bennwihr, France: a different kind of beauty
68 REVIEWS
Allied D-Day leadership examined; Hitler’s Monsters
74 BATTLE FILMS
Cabaret’s distinctive perspective on the Nazis’ rise
79 CHALLENGE
80 PINUP
JUNE 2018
3
WWII Online
WORLDWARII.COM
Michael A. Reinstein CHAIRMAN & PUBLISHER
David Steinhafel PUBLISHER
Alex Neill EDITOR IN CHIEF
VOL. 33, NO. 1 JUNE 2018
EDITOR
KAREN JENSEN
Rasheeda Smith ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Jerry Morelock, Jon Guttman HISTORIANS
David Zabecki CHIEF MILITARY HISTORIAN
Paul Wiseman NEWS EDITOR
Commander
Samuel D. Dealey
Stephen Kamifuji CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Brian Walker GROUP ART DIRECTOR
Guy Aceto PHOTO EDITOR
ADVISORY BOARD
Ed Drea, David Glantz, Jeffery Grey, Keith Huxen,
John McManus, Williamson Murray, Dennis Showalter
Enjoy this issue’s “Captain
Cromwell’s Decision”? Check out
these other great submarine stories
by writer Steven Trent Smith:
High Price of Valor
Submariner Sam Dealey (above)
achieved the hunter-killer ideal, but
success at sea cost him his life
Pack Mentality
American submariners adapted a
Nazi tactic and used it against the
Japanese with deadly success
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SMITH
STAROBIN
SCHULTZ
ULLRICH
SYMONDS
CO N T R I B U T O R S
Quiet…”) is a psychologist and the
author of Crossing the Rapido: A
Tragedy of World War II (2010); his
story on the 1944 truce between
Allied and German units in Italy
grew out of his research for that
work. Schultz says he wondered
what it was like for the Allies to meet
the enemy face to face. “I learned
that they reacted rather much as we
all do when we meet strangers in a
peaceful situation—we react to them
as fellow human beings.”
STEVEN TRENT SMITH (“Captain
Cromwell’s Decision”) is a five-time
Emmy Award-winning television
photojournalist with a passion for
military history. He is the author of
two books on sub warfare in the
Pacific: The Rescue (2008) and Wolf
Pack (2003). While researching the
latter he interviewed two surviving
USS Sculpin sailors, George Rocek
6
WORLD WAR II
and Billie Cooper. Their stories
about Captain John Philip Cromwell were the impetus for his story.
PAUL STAROBIN (“Fake News, Foreign Meddling, FBI Intrigue, Political Warfare”) is the author of
Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston,
1860 and the Mania for War (2017)
and is at work on a book on the gold
rush in Nome, Alaska, in 1900. Starobin lives in Orleans, Massachusetts, at the watery “elbow” of Cape
Cod. His story focuses on foreign
agents from Germany and Britain
tampering with the 1940 U.S. presidential election. “Everyone seems to
know that the Nazis interfered in
our domestic politics,” he says, “but
the story of British intervention
tends to be underplayed and makes
me wonder about other times in history when our ‘friends,’ viewing us
as bumpkins, may have meddled
with us in this fashion. Vigilance!”
CRAIG L. SYMONDS (“Unloved,
Unlovely, Indispensable”) is the
Ernest J. King Chair of Maritime
History at the U.S. Naval War College
in Newport, Rhode Island, and professor emeritus at the U.S. Naval
Academy. An award-winning author,
he has written or edited 29 books,
including The Battle of Midway (2011)
and World War II at Sea (2018), from
which his story is adapted.
JAMES ULLRICH (“Time Travel”) is a
travel writer and history buff whose
work has appeared in publications
in Europe and America. His interest
in Bennwihr was borne of research
he conducted for his first article for
World War II, 10 years ago. “I was
stunned by the scale of devastation
inflicted on this village during the
battle and have long wanted to tell
its story,” he says. “I felt it highlighted the human damage that war
brings to communities.”
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MAIL
GRASPING AT AIR
Equipped for firefighting missions, men
of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion
trained to combat blazes caused by
Japanese fire balloons. None occurred.
One of my fellow World War II veterans had an interesting experience involving Japanese balloon bombs. My friend Alan was a young
deck officer on an old battleship, the USS New York. Late in the war
the ship had been assigned to shore bombardment and, at the time
the incident occurred, was on a repositioning trip somewhere east of
Japan, accompanied by an escort.
On a cloudless day, the ship’s sharp-eyed lookouts spotted one of
the Japanese balloons at a high altitude. The skipper felt this would
be an appropriate time to give the antiaircraft batteries some practice, but their best efforts were without effect. The escort requested
permission to take its turn at shooting the balloon but also failed.
The off-duty personnel who were below deck came topside to
watch the fun. One sailor, an amateur astronomer, considered the
situation for a few minutes, then approached my friend and said,
“Sir, unless I am mistaken, I think we are trying to shoot down the
8
WORLD WAR II
planet Venus!”—which proved to be the case.
Ellicott McConnell
Easton, Md.
BACK TO BASICS
When I saw your news article about how the
U.S. Army was looking into bringing back the
pinks-and-greens uniform (“WWII Today,”
February 2018), I was awestruck!
My wife and I have been World War II reenactors for the last seven years; I am a “captain”
in the Eighth Air Force and my wife is “Rosie
the Riveter” when she is not dressed in 1940s
civilian-style clothing. We attend air shows,
reenactments, USO shows, and an annual
hangar dance that features a big band playing
in front of a World War II bomber. I’m thrilled
to be a part of the pink-and-green ranks. I
hope the army goes through with this move as,
in a way, it honors the “greatest generation.”
Bruce Slocum
Grapevine, Tex.
A VISIT CHEZ HITLER
I just finished reading the excellent article by
Heidi Fuller-love, “In the Nazis’ Alpine For-
NATIONAL ARCHIVES
REGARDING YOUR STORY on Japanese fire balloons (“An Ill
Wind,” February 2018), there was one interesting fact missing. Late
in the war the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, consisting of
all-black troops, was sent to Oregon and California to fight fires
caused by the balloons, jumping from aircraft as the smokejumpers
do today. No fires were ever started from these devices, as the Japanese had hoped for, but the 555th—known as the “Triple Nickels”—
did fight 46 fires started mainly by lightning.
Stan Cohen
Missoula, Mont.
crossing of the Roer River to the Elbe
R iver, 47 miles southwest from
Berlin. At war’s end we were probably
the closest American division near
the German capital, but I never made
it there until 1991. There, my wife and
I ate ice cream under the den Linden
Strasse near the Reichstag. From February 1945 until the end of the war, I
don’t remember seeing General Simpson, but I had the pleasure of serving in
the 35th in the Third Army with Patton
and the Ninth Army. And in peacetime I
served with the 5th Division in what is
now Fort Campbell, Kentucky; I was a
barman and platoon runner.
James Graff
Lincoln, Ill.
FROM THE
EDITOR
Take a moment to study
the photo on page 35 of
this issue: a beautiful
American family.
Captain John Cromwell
had the time to
contemplate what he
was giving up when he
made the cool-headed
decision to bid farewell
to his wife and children
along with his life—
which is what makes
his sacrifice in service
to his country so
remarkable. I’m pleased
to introduce readers to
him in these pages. May
Captain Cromwell live
long in our memories.
—Karen Jensen
FROM TOP: COURTESY OF ALAN GUNTER; IMAGNO/GETTY IMAGES; RIGHT: COURTESY OF JAMES OWENS
WALLS OF WAR
tress,” in the December 2017 issue. One image
of Hitler’s villa near Obersalzberg caught my
attention. The photograph looked similar to
one I came across in our photo album that my
father had taken during the war. He had written on the back of it, “This is a shot of Hitler’s
mountain home taken from a truck. Note the
wreckage.” My father, Henry Gunter, served
with B Battery of the 115th Field Artillery Brigade. He passed away in 2001, so he cannot
solve the mystery. Do you think the pictures
are of the same building? I have been a subscriber to your magazine for years and look
forward to each new issue. Thanks for keeping
the stories from my father’s generation alive!
Alan Gunter,
Florissant, Mo.
Editor’s note: Thanks for sharing your father’s
photo (top). Below it is a 1939 image of Hitler’s
mountain villa. Readers—what do you think?
RETURN TO GERMANY
I recently read your February 2018 “Fire for
Effect” on General William H. Simpson, commander of the U.S. Ninth Army. As a former
member of C Company, 134th Infantry, 35th
Division, we were part of the Ninth from the
A short note on the Dutch Nazis (“In the Uniform of the Enemy,” February 2018).
When the U.S. 88th Infantry Division
moved into the disputed area between
Italy and Yugoslavia at the end of the
war, its Military Police company was
housed in a three-story building that
had originally been an old folks’ home
run by nuns. During the war a Danish SS
unit occupied the building. When they
left, the men were in such a hurry that
they left behind a fellow SS soldier who
fell from a truck and broke his back.
While your magazine deals primarily
with the World War II years, the war did
not end all at once. Old European pressures and enmities arose to make peace
an iffy thing. A wall between East and
West existed in Italy as well as in Germany. Most journalists and historians have
concentrated on a divided Germany, but old
prewar claims on territory along the ItalianYugoslav border also caused riots. Demonstrations, bomb-throwing, kidnapping, and
several shooting incidents occurred between
American and Yugoslav troops. In addition,
the Yugoslavs set up nighttime ambushes
along Italian roads. Our division headquarters
was located in Gorizia; the town later celebrated its return to Italy several times and
invited former soldiers of the 88th to return. I
wound up on the front page of a local newspaper in 2007 during a parade.
James Owens
Eastham, Mass.
Military Police
Officer James Owens
(left) of the 88th
Infantry Division.
PLEASE SEND
LETTERS TO:
World War II
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Vienna, VA 22182-4038
OR E-MAIL:
worldwar2@historynet.com
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address, and daytime
telephone number.
JUNE 2018
9
W W I I TO DAY R EPO RTED AND WRITTEN B Y PAUL WISEMA N
WARTIME ICON LOST—
AFTER BEING FOUND
ROSIE THE RIVETER HAS DIED.
If the news sounds familiar, it is.
It comes eight years after the death of another woman who was
believed to have inspired the World War II poster of the defiant,
bandanna-wearing defense factory worker.
But an academic’s search revealed two years ago that the strongest claim belonged to Naomi Parker Fraley, who died January 20 at
96 in Longview, Washington.
Graphic artist J. Howard Miller created the 1943 poster to boost
morale at Westinghouse plants. It shows a woman flexing her right
10
WORLD WAR II
arm beneath the slogan “We Can Do It!” but
never bore the name Rosie. In the 1980s the
image reemerged as a pop-culture icon,
appearing on mugs, shopping bags, and
t-shirts as a symbol of home-front fortitude
and feminist power.
But what woman inspired it?
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fraley—
then Naomi Parker—went to work at a
machine shop at the Naval Air Station in
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; HISTORYNET ARCHIVES (FINAL TWO)
Defense factory worker
Naomi Parker operates a
lathe in the photo that may
have inspired the iconic
“We Can Do It!” poster
(top right).
D I S PATC H ES
Anna Mae Hays (left), a frontline nurse in World War II who became America’s
first woman general, died January 7 at age 97 in Washington, DC. She joined the
Army Nurse Corps after Pearl Harbor, working in a military hospital in India, often
helping doctors amputate gangrenous limbs. After serving in Korea and Vietnam,
Hays was promoted to general on June 11, 1970.
LEFT: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; RIGHT: JIM KOEPNICK, VIA THE COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE
Donations are being accepted to put up a monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,
to honor the only army unit of black women to serve overseas in World War II.
The 6888th Central Directory Postal Battalion deployed to Europe and sorted mail
for the troops from February 1945 to January 1946. Donations toward the $70,000
project can be made at www.womenofthe6888th.org/the-6888th-monument.
Alameda, California. A photographer
captured her there one day bending
over a lathe, wearing her trademark
bandanna. The Acme photo agency
distributed the image.
In 1984 another woman—Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who worked at a
Michigan plant—spotted the photo in
a magazine and later saw Miller’s
poster. She argued that she was the
woman in both. For years, media
identified Doyle, who died in 2010, as
Miller’s “Rosie.”
But James J. Kimble, an associate
professor of communication at Seton
Hall University, had doubts and
began to dig. He discovered a vintage
copy of the Acme photo, dated March
24, 1942, in Alameda and captioned:
“Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she
might catch her nose in the turret
lathe she is operating.’’ Kimble published his findings in 2016.
There are two other famous wartime Rosies: A 1942 song, “Rosie the
Riveter,” was inspired by a riveter on
Corsair fighter planes, Rosalind P.
Walter, who became a well-known
philanthropist. And the model for a
1943 Norman Rockwell painting of a
muscle-bound Rosie was the artist’s
neighbor, Mary Doyle, a telephone
operator who died in 2015.
Even Kimble’s research has not
closed the case. There’s no evidence
Miller saw the Acme photo. “The
link,’’ Kimble said, “is only suggestive and circumstantial.’’
Fraley later worked as a waitress
and raised a family. Asked in 2016 to
describe her reaction to being at last
identified as Rosie, she replied: “Victory! Victory! Victory!’’
The revamped That’s All,
Brother on its first flight,
January 31, 2018.
D-DAY LEAD AIRCRAFT
FLIES AGAIN, THANKS TO
A KICKSTARTER BOOST
SOME DETECTIVE WORK and a little luck salvaged the plane that
led Allied aircraft on D-Day, and put it back in the air.
The twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain That’s All, Brother
returned to the skies in January.
The plane led the main formation to Normandy. But it was almost
lost well afterward. In 2007 Matt Scales, working at the Air Force Historical Research Agency in Alabama, was researching Lieutenant Colonel John M. Donalson, who piloted the plane on June 6, 1944. Scales
and historian Ken Tilley found the C-47’s tail number and traced its
postwar journey. They discovered it languishing in Arizona, but
couldn’t raise the money to buy it.
A few years later, Scales tracked it down again; by then the C-47 was
at Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Basler planned
to dismantle and convert the plane into a modern turboprop airplane.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a Dallas group that restores
historical aircraft to flying condition, initiated a Kickstarter campaign and raised money to buy and restore the plane.
On January 31 it took off from Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. But the work has just begun. The CAF hopes to repaint the plane
and restore its interior. The goal: get it back to its original state in time
for a Normandy flyover on the 75th anniversary of D-Day next year.
JUNE 2018
11
AN ITALIAN MACHINE GUN had American soldiers pinned on a
Sicilian beach when an unlikely hero came to their rescue: Chips, a
sentry dog, broke away and charged into the Italians. A gunshot
sounded. One Italian appeared with Chips at his throat; the man
surrendered with three other members of the machine gun crew.
Later the same day, Chips sniffed out more enemy soldiers;
10 surrendered.
For his heroism on July 10, 1943, Chips—who died in 1946—in
January posthumously became the latest animal to be awarded the
Dickin Medal for bravery by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British charity.
California writer Robin Hutton nominated Chips. The author of
the 2015 book Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse, Hutton discov-
WO R D FO R WORD
ered Chips’s story while researching that
book. She also nominated the 2016 Dickin
Medal winner, Reckless, a Korean War horse
and subject of her book.
Created in 1943, the Dickin Medal has gone
to 70 animals, seven of them American: 33
dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses, and one cat.
Chips served in the 3rd Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Regiment of the army’s
3rd Infantry Division. After the war, Chips
returned to his owners in Pleasantville, New
York. Even in civilian life, Chips was ferocious, chasing mailmen and trash collectors.
“The war will be won or
lost on the beaches. We’ll
have only one chance to
stop the enemy and that’s
while he’s in the water
struggling to get ashore.”
—Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to aide
Captain Helmuth Lang, on a beach in
northern France circa March 1944.
12
WORLD WAR II
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: US ARMY QUARTERMASTER MUSEUM, AP PHOTO/KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH, ULLSTEIN BILD VIA GETTY IMAGES
GOOD DOG!
Chips, in an undated photo,
had a soft spot for treats but
was fierce when it came to
Axis threats—earning him
a medal (inset) for bravery.
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CONTROVERSIAL LAW
ATTEMPTS TO REFRAME
POLAND’S DARK PAST
POLAND’S SENATE PASSED A BILL on February 1 making it illegal to accuse Poles of aiding the Nazis or of complicity in the Holocaust. President Andrzej Duda signed it February 6. Breaking the
law could mean three years in prison.
The legislation quickly drew international ire. The U.S. State
Department warned that it jeopardized free speech. A furious Israel
withdrew its ambassador from Poland.
The right-wing government in Warsaw is determined to ensure
that Poland is seen as a World War II victim of Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union. “Just as the Jews, we were victims,’’ said Deputy Prime
Minister Beata Szydlo. The United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum estimates that the Germans killed at least 4.9 million Polish
D I SPAT C HES
Germany’s Red Cross has
decided to stop searching for
World War II’s missing in
2023—78 years after the war’s
end. As the years pass, the
cases become harder to solve.
In 2016 the organization
received 9,000 requests from
people seeking information
about lost family members;
researchers find answers only
about 40 percent of the time.
The move means that the fate
of 1.2 million people will
likely remain a mystery.
14
WORLD WAR II
civilians, 1.9 million of them non-Jewish.
Poland is especially sensitive about being
the location for Nazi death camps, notably
Auschwitz. In 2012 President Barack Obama
had to apologize after referring to “Polish
death camps.”
Many Poles sought to help their Jewish
neighbors. But others helped round up Jews,
stole their property, and joined in massacres.
“The Polish state was not complicit in the
Holocaust, but many Poles were,’’ said Nazi
hunter Efraim Zuroff.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: OMAR MARQUES VIA GETTY IMAGES; UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES; VICTORIA BONN-MEUSER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; WOLFGANG KUNZ/ULLSTEIN BILD VIA GETTY IMAGES
Hungarian Jews (above)
prepare to board a train
to Auschwitz, a Nazi
death camp in Poland.
At left: Auschwitz today.
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VIRTUAL ROAD
TO HISTORY
MARTY MORGAN, 48, is an author, historian, battlefield guide, and technical adviser. After earning a degree in history from the University of Alabama
in 1991 and working as a research historian at the National WWII Museum,
Morgan consulted on the popular television mini-series Band of Brothers and
The Pacific. In late 2015 he began work with video game developer Sledgehammer Games as head technical adviser for a new World War II-themed
entry in its top-selling franchise, Call of Duty. Released last November, Call
of Duty: WWII tells the story of “Red” Daniels, a young Texan attached to the
1st Infantry Division, as he and his unit move throughout northern Europe
to rescue a Jewish squad member taken prisoner by the Germans. Morgan
assisted Sledgehammer’s development team in nailing down the game’s
historical details—but hopes his work will have an impact beyond gaming.
Gaming is a new medium for historians. You’ve consulted on
television and movies; how do video games compare?
I’ve actually been working in video games for over a decade, and there are
parallels. First and foremost, games are an entertainment product, so there’s
more emphasis on story rather than history. That’s why I feel a technical
adviser is very important from the start of development. There’s going to be
a higher level of authenticity, which resonates better with audiences.
You and the team built the game around a single unit—in this
case the Big Red One.
16
WORLD WAR II
We wanted to follow an American
squad from an infantry regiment
serving in north and northwest
Europe from D-Day to the end of the
war. With the popularity of movies
like Band of Brothers, our team recognized that a narrative following a
group of people—from where things
really begin with a bang on D-Day to
a redemptive payoff at the end—
provides the perfect bookends for
storytelling. The developers wanted
things such as street fighting in
Aachen along w ith the intense
combat of the first-wave at D-Day. We
had to blend the experiences of three
different regiments of the 1st Infantry Division to get all of that.
There’s a level where players
control a French Resistance
spy on a mission to obtain
intelligence from a highranking German officer.
We wanted a story that spoke to
the centrally critical experience of
the American fighting man in northern Europe—but we also recognized
DAVID M. GIL/ADELANTE FILM & TV
CO N V E R SAT I O N WI T H MART IN K.A . MORG A N
BY R A SH EEDA S MI T H
that that’s not the only experience of
combat during the war. Civilians also
had agency. The French Resistance
provided us exactly with what we
were looking for because a large
number of French civilians took an
active role in their own liberation,
and weren’t simply passive victims
of Nazi barbarism or inadvertent
casualties of war.
The game took some liberties
for the sake of entertainment.
There were times Sledgehammer’s
cofounder, Glenn Schofield, would say
something like: “I need an experience
and a moment in the game that’s big
and very cinematic and memorable.”
For example, there’s a level where
players engage in a street battle in
Aachen in October 1944. Glenn
wanted an airplane crashing into the
middle of this scene, but during the
war no planes had ever flown over
that city at a visible altitude. Still, he
wanted to include something artistic
and dramatic, so I showed him photographs of aircraft that had made
forced-landings—not in Aachen, but
around that area. I think that that
back and forth between the two of us
worked out very nicely.
SLEDGEHAMMER GAMES
You and the staff also visited
some of the game’s battle sites.
When I came onboard the staff knew
that I lead battlefield tours and they
wanted to go. We ended up going
almost everywhere depicted in the
game. A few days before we arrived in
Lu xembourg, a cold front came
through and dumped snow all over the
area we were touring, so they were
able to experience all of those places
associated with the Battle of the
Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the
Bulge with deep snow on the ground.
We spent a lot of time out in the cold,
freezing and experiencing what it was
like for the soldiers on those battlefields almost 75 years ago. When we
returned to the studio, I could see how
the experience had been eye-opening
for the team. The game’s settings suddenly looked a lot more real.
The weapons sound and look
realistic as well.
I’m very into World War II firearms.
I write a column about them for a
magazine, have published extensively
on the topic, and have been collecting
them for over 30 years. When it came
time to get an audio sample of the
weapons, I helped arrange for the
audio team to come to a private farm
in southern Louisiana and shoot
World War II firearms for three days.
All of the weapons audio in the game
came from that session. Some of the
sound engineers had never shot a gun
before. Many started off their first
time with an M1919 A4 machine gun
or a Thompson submachine gun.
That’s a little intimidating.
Yes [laughs]. But all of them came
away from the experience testifying
as to how much of an epiphany it was,
how much it changed their view and
understanding of World War II infantry combat. This is the feedback that
I hope to hear from people in this
industry, because in technical consulting for video games, television,
and movies, as well as leading battle
site tours, all I really want is for people
to develop the same interest and
enthusiasm that I have about this war.
In the game, players control a
Sherman tank to hit the King
Tiger at its weak points—the
sides. How did that arise?
It was fascinating for me to be in a
conference room in Silicon Valley
with a bunch of engineers, describing
to them the various weak points of the
King and Sherman tanks and trying to
dispel a lot of the Sherman mythology
out there. They had watched the movie
Fury and came away from it thinking
the Sherman was not an effective
weapon. But it wa s completely
effective, especially later versions.
The developers took the information I
gave them and made it a part of the
game so that you have this excellent
little window into the real-world tank
combat in Europe.
“All I really want is for
people to develop the
same interest and
enthusiasm I have.”
What do you hope this work
will accomplish?
When I was of the age of most people
today playing video games, what
really grabbed my attention were the
amazing World War II movies that
came out in the 1970s and 1980s.
There were great movies like A Bridge
Too Far—still my favorite—as well as
The Big Red One, The Longest Day,
and Tora! Tora! Tora! I had no idea
then that that was the start of a long
career in World War II history. I’m
hoping that someone out there today
playing our game will testify 20 years
from now that it all started with
Call of Duty: WWII. +
JUNE 2018
17
Private First Class Pyles’s
map details the route of a
significant four-day journey
—away from the battlefield
and headed for home.
F RO M T H E FO OT LO C K ER
HOMEWARD
BOUND
Curators at
The National
World War II
Museum
solve readers’
artifact
mysteries
18
WORLD WAR II
I recently came across a map that
had belonged to my father, George
Robert Pyles. He was a private first
class in the 100th Infantry Division and
participated in the invasion of France.
I can’t make much sense of the map,
and would appreciate some help.
—Bob Pruitt, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
THIS IS AN UNDATED STRIP MAP for the
143rd Infantry Regiment. A strip map focuses
on a specific route, and an examination of this
one provides a great deal of information on
the route of the 143rd Infantry Regiment—
part of the 36th Infantry Division—as it
departs from Europe. Beginning on the first
day at Göppingen, Germany, the regiment
proceeds to Metz, France. The map notes
there is a bivouac area there as well as a
“POL”—for “Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants”—where vehicles can be fueled and serviced. On day two the convoy heads for Dijon,
France, where a bivouac area and POL are
again provided. Day three ends at Saint Rambert with only a bivouac area. Finally, on day
four the convoy reaches the south coast of
France and Marseille, which is labeled “POE”
or Port of Embarkation.
All of this is relatively straight-forward.
What isn’t clear is how Private Pyles ended up
with the map. He may have been a driver; strip
maps are simple to produce, but only officers,
NCOs, and drivers likely would have been provided them. We do know that the 100th Infantry Division ended the war in the Göppingen
area, and that the 36th Infantry Division,
whose war ended in Austria, moved into the
Göppingen region before December 1945.
The 100th Division began the journey from
Göppingen to Marseille on December 9, 1945,
following the same route the 36th Division
had taken the month before. Lead elements of
the 100th Division departed Marseille on New
Year’s Eve; the last elements of the division
departed in February 1946.
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20
WORLD WAR II
Along with victory in World War II came a
desire of citizen soldiers to be demobilized.
This was accomplished in part by a points
system that factored in time in service and
time overseas. Since departure from Europe
was by unit and not by individual, there was
considerable shifting of personnel to place
men with high points in units to be sent home,
while men with low points stayed on in units
slated for occupation duty.
Based on Private Pyles’s discharge date of
December 30, 1945—the day before any unit
from the 100th Division departed from
France—it seems very likely that Pyles had a
high number of points and was transferred
to the 36th Division to head out early.
In any case, this sort of artifact is rarely
encountered. Soldiers often save items associated with mobilization or combat; items
retained from the return trip home are scarce.
—Tom Czekanski, Senior Curator and Restoration Manager
Have a World War II artifact you can’t identify?
Write to Footlocker@historynet.com with the following:
— Your connection to the object and what you know about it.
— The object’s dimensions, in inches.
— Several high-resolution digital photos taken close up and
from varying angles.
— Pictures should be in color, and at least 300 dpi.
Unfortunately, we can’t respond to every query, nor can
we appraise value.
TOP: GETTY IMAGES; BOTTOM: AP PHOTO
The map terminates
in Marseille,
France, where
departing GIs,
like those at top
right, would board
a transport ship.
The jubilant men
at bottom right
have just reached
New York.
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NOT MAKING
THIS UP
THE LONGER I STUDY WORLD WAR II, the more I realize what I don’t
know. In a war of this size and scope, there is always a new story, each one
seemingly more unlikely than the last. I recently had a chat with a bright
young friend who told me a new one. I like to think of myself as an expert, but
this tale still brought me up short:
You’re part of a group of American POWs being held at Stalag III-C, a camp
at Alt Drewitz, about 50 miles east of Berlin in what today is Poland. It’s midJanuary 1945, and the Soviets have just landed one of their patented late-war
blows, slashing out of their bridgeheads across the Vistula River and driving
hard across the featureless plains of the Warthe district toward the Oder. The
German guards at the camp follow standard operating procedure and prepare
to evacuate, intending to force-march you and your fellow POWs to the west.
But it’s freezing and snow lies deep on the ground. You know all this, and you
also know that an evacuation under current conditions will be a death march.
So you drag your feet, moving as slowly as you can in obeying your increasingly trigger-happy German guards. After all, if the Soviet army overruns the
prison, the Germans get shot and you get freed. The Red Army is your friend!
But the Russians don’t come—not yet. And in the last week of January you
find yourself on the road after all, grouped into trudging columns of 500 men
apiece. The march is no thing of beauty and within hours your friends and
comrades in arms—exhausted, sick, and underfed—are already falling out.
The date is January 31, 1945. The columns are barely out of camp when
Soviet units come on the scene. They pause and spy the long line of marching
22
WORLD WAR II
ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN TOMAC
F I R E FO R EFFEC T BY RO BERT M. CITINO
men in the distance, some in dirty
rags, some in overcoats.
Thinking they have caught yet
another Wehrmacht unit in retreat,
the Soviets target one of the columns
and open up on it. Within minutes,
dozens of your fellow Americans are
dead and dying. In the distance, you
can see leading elements of the
column rush toward the Soviets,
identifying themselves as Americans. Perhaps one or two of them
have memorized a key Russian
phrase: Amerikansky tovarishch—
“American comrade!” But you’re in
the rear, too far away to make a rush
to the Soviets and too close to your
German guards. Instead you and the
others hit the dirt, trapped between
at tack ing Sov iets a nd Germa n
defenders. You take shelter in the
nearby fields, but the prognosis is
grim: you’re unarmed, disoriented,
and a long, long way from home. Bullets from both sides are whizzing
over your head.
It gets worse. In the course of the
day, German tank units arrive and
launch a counterstroke to extricate
their comrades from the mess they’re
in. You? You’re an afterthought.
And so it goes over the next few
days. The Germans force back the
Soviets, the Soviets turn the tables,
and then back again. But this engagement—one small battle in a war filled
with big ones—kills 22 Americans
and wounds more than 50.
Miraculously, you survive. As the
Soviets eventually prevail and renew
their drive to the west, you and a few
dozen of your friends filter away one
by one, trekking off into the vast
spaces of the East, living off the generosity of local peasants or meeting
rear-echelon Soviet forces.
Since then, what happened outside of Alt Drewitz has been all but
forgotten. But in the swirling chaos
of World War II, this bizarre story is
probably not as unusual as we think.
And that’s why I’ll never stop
studying World War II. We’re more
than 70 years on, but who knows
what else is out there? +
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T I M E T R AVEL
STO RY A N D PH OTO S BY JAMES ULLRICH
BRUISED BUT
NOT BROKEN
foot along with the enemy. House-tohouse fighting raged in unfortunate
towns that found themselves amid
the crossfire. On the edge of the
nearby hamlet of Holtzwihr, a young
lieutenant of the U.S. 3rd Infantry
Division named Audie L. Murphy was
awarded the Medal of Honor for his
actions on January 26, 1945, when he
mounted a disabled tank destroyer,
manned its .50 caliber machine gun,
and singlehandedly staved off a
German attack on his position.
Germans and Allies alike recognized Bennwihr’s strategic location at
a crossroads, and its fate was sealed.
German units hunkered down. Allied
tanks, troops, and artillery entered
the narrow town on December 22 and
a battle commenced, obliterating
Bennwihr’s medieval homes and historic church. Civilians huddled in
wine cellars while infantry units
exchanged fire in the streets above.
Barrages of phosphorus shells set the
remains of broken buildings ablaze.
By the time the Allies secured the
VINEYARDS BLANKET THE STEEP HILLS that rise up on both sides of
Route des Vins (Wine Road) in Alsace, France, as the lush Vosges Mountains
loom in the distance. Here, tour busses compete for space with agricultural
vehicles hauling boxes of plump grapes destined for world-renowned wineries. The road connects the region’s ancient villages, most of them crammed
with colorfully painted half-timbered architecture, crooked lanes, and
flocks of day-tripping tourists hemmed in by crumbling medieval walls.
Pulling off the main route, I pass a sign for Bennwihr, a town in the southeast region of Alsace. It’s immediately clear that Bennwihr is not like its
adorable neighbors. Lining its streets are blocky, generic buildings that give
off a look of modern suburbia rather than storybook France. The peaceful
atmosphere is undisturbed by the noise of tourists, and no one is around but
for the occasional farmer with a weather-beaten face. The quiet calm of
Bennwihr is a welcome respite from the jostling
crowds of the more popular surrounding villages,
but there’s also the sense that something devastating happened here.
An intense battle in
A nearby plaque is written in French but the
Bennwihr, France, razed
most of the town and its
accompanying photo gives me a clue: the grid-like
church—with one
street plan and sensible cement façades occupy the
noteworthy exception.
land where an older village once stood. At some
point it was reduced to the smoldering ruins seen
in the photograph. There’s a date I pick out within
the French description: 1944.
In December 1944 German commanders decided
upon an offensive in the Alsace Plain by the rugged
Vosges Mountains of northeastern France, with the
goal of smashing through the lines of the U.S. Seventh Army and the French First Army. The German
attack was aggressive and devastating. The Allied
forces bent, their two-pronged attack failing to push
the German bridgehead west of the Rhine River and
creating the so-called “Colmar Pocket” in the process. With the key city of Strasbourg in danger of
enemy capture, a rattled General of the Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed troops and supplies
southward to bolster the beleaguered lines.
The two sides fought tenaciously in the vineyards
and heavily wooded mountains in frigid temperatures. Artillery and tanks tore at the landscape of the
Alsace Plain, as troops battled frostbite and trench
24
WORLD WAR II
A World War I memorial (left) is one of the
few relics that remain of Bennwihr’s prewar
past. Today the workaday town (below) lacks
the appeal and tourism of nearby villages.
junction, plumes of black smoke rose
from the ruins. Neighboring villages
such as Mittelwihr and Sigolsheim
were similarly pulverized.
The American and French armies
held on despite the withering German
assault. Having failed to cut U.S.
supply lines or capture Strasbourg,
the German offensive ended and the
Battle of the Colmar Pocket concluded
in Allied victory on February 9, 1945,
with some 38,000 German casualties
to the Allies’ 21,000.
Today the tanks and troops are
gone. Hardworking Alsatian vintners
create renowned wines here while
holidaymakers flock to scenic nearby
towns like Eguisheim, Riquewihr,
and Kaysersberg, all tourist magnets.
Bennwihr is the ugly sister scarred by
misfortune, bypassed by the tour
busses delivering visitors to more
attractive members of the family. A
workaday community, it subsists
largely on agriculture.
It is October and the cool autumnal
air carries the smell of burning wood.
The gray skies and light drizzle add a
note of mournfulness to the place.
Strolling along the streets, I pass family-owned wineries that double as
homes. Some houses contain newer
elements integrated with older parts
that survived the battle. A large,
attractive winery built in the traditional Old-World style of the neighboring villages calls my name, and I
drop in to sample a local wine. The
highly regarded Marckrain Grand
Cru, a light yellow vintage, is crisp,
satisfying, and just a bit peppery.
Popping into a tiny grocery store, I
notice there are no racks of overpriced postcards or tacky souvenirs.
In fact, there are no souvenir shops
around at all, unlike the nearby towns
whose economies are sustained by
tourism. It’s refreshingly authentic.
A bit further on, I stop at a small
intersection on a residential street.
JUNE 2018
25
Rebuilt in 1959, the town’s
church has a more practical,
spacious style unlike
traditional older churches.
WHEN
YOU GO
Bennwihr is about a fivehour drive from Paris. The
town’s gorgeous views peak
at summertime, but beware: it
gets crowded, particularly in
the surrounding picturesque
hamlets. Wine harvest season
(late September through
October) is also a popular
time, when tourists and wine
enthusiasts come for the taste
of grapes originally planted
by Romans. The area is easy
to navigate via public transport or by car.
WHERE TO
STAY AND EAT
PARIS
Bennwihr
Bennwihr
FRANCE
Strasbourg
Colmar
A L SAC E
FRANCE
SWITZERLAND
An old well stands in a garden. A plaque
beside it bears a wartime photo of the
same well surrounded by the rubble of
the former neighborhood, its residents
already in the process of clearing the
detritus. A description makes clear the
well was the community’s source of clean
water during the town’s postwar reconstruction. The image shows a scene
common to war-torn communities: shattered homes, their remains being taken
away by tired, shattered people.
Further down the main drag stands the
village church. Like the rest of Bennwihr,
it’s pleasant yet postwar practical. In my
many travels throughout Europe, I am
accustomed to entering churches and
being immediately enveloped by the rich
scent of incense lingering in the damp air.
But Bennwihr’s church is clean and bright
with an antiseptic modernity to it. The
interior has carpet, not the typical flag-
26
WORLD WAR II
stones. And the vibe is more spacious
than spiritual.
Outside stands a weathered stone statue
of two girls holding a wreath–one of the
town’s few features to have survived the
battle. The memorial, called “Fidélité”
(faithfulness), was dedicated to the dead of
the First World War, but the sorrowful figures could well be grieving over the second.
A nearby plaque shows a grainy image of
the church—a mutilated shell of a building
lurking in the background as the silent
stone figures stand near. The girls still
bear gouges from shrapnel.
Heading out of town, I reflect on the
toll inflicted upon villages like Bennwihr.
There were thousands of such places
during the war, innocent bystanders
caught in the crossfire and destroyed. As
Bennwihr recedes behind me, I look forward to visiting the more picturesque
hamlets a few miles away and losing
myself in their medieval ambiance. Those
places feel more permanent. Although
they, too, undoubtedly saw the horrors of
past wars, those conflicts were more distant and less destructive. I remind myself, however, that the resurrection of
Bennwihr as a comfortable, prosperous
community is an example of peoples’
resilience in the face of tragedy.
That is some comfort. +
WHAT ELSE TO
SEE AND DO
Most tourism takes place in
the nearby villages, which
also have many fine options
for dining (Alsatian cuisine is
tasty and hearty; don’t miss
out). Explore the city of
Colmar, which boasts historic homes and beautiful
churches. While there, check
out ancient artifacts and art at
the magnificent Unterlinden
Museum (musee-unterlinden.com/en). World War II
buffs will be particularly interested in the Colmar Pocket
Museum in nearby Turckheim, which displays relics
from the battle (musee.turckheim-alsace.com).
MAP BY BRIAN WALKER
GERMANY
A few cozy bed and breakfasts are located throughout
Bennwihr. Vignoble, on 21
Rue des Romains, offers free
Wi-Fi and a swimming pool.
Hôtes Comme à la Maison
is a quiet B&B with free amenities (hotes.me/en).
Bennwihr’s dining options,
however, are limited; drop into
local favorite Bar Tabac Au
Cerf, on 29 Rue du Gén de
Gaulle, to grab some grub
and pub. For local fare, try the
classy Bestheim (bestheim.
com) on the main drag.
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28
WORLD WAR II
CAPTAIN
CROMWELL’S
DECISION
A submarine officer went to extraordinary
lengths to protect a vital American secret
By Steven Trent Smith
© FRED FREEMAN 1949/THE SUBMARINE FORCE LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
“T
he day was a pretty one, with whitecaps coming over the decks.”
After seven hours of fire and fury
and fear, that was Fireman 1st Class
Joseph N. Baker’s clear memory of
the November 1943 afternoon when
an aggressive, infinitely persistent
Japanese destroyer attacked the submarine
USS Sculpin. All morning the two vessels had
played a deadly game of cat and mouse some
250 miles northeast of Truk Atoll. The enemy
had dropped more than 50 depth charges,
finally forcing the submarine to the surface.
Sailors dashed to the deck guns, Joe Baker
among them. They were able to get off a few
inconsequential three-inch rounds before
the destroyer opened fire. The first volleys
killed the sub’s skipper and two-dozen officers and men topside. Then came the order to
abandon ship.
Ba ker jumped overboard, joining 41
others—half the crew—as they swam away
from Sculpin and toward the destroyer, watching their ship slowly slip beneath the waves.
“The last I saw of her was the radar mast going
under,” said Torpedoman Harry F. Toney.
“She made a beautiful dive.” Some of the men
were still aboard—dead, trapped, or so badly
injured they could not escape. But one man,
42-year-old Captain John Philip Cromwell,
a senior submarine officer, chose to go down
with Sculpin. As he told the only officer to survive: “I know too much.”
CROMW ELL’S DECISION was perhaps
rooted in his upbringing in the patriotic town
of Henry, Illinois. Its 2,000-some residents
lived along the banks of the Illinois River surrounded by farms raising cattle and corn. His
father, Dr. Edward Cromwell, was a prosperous and prominent physician active in local
politics. John—nicknamed “Bud”—and his siblings grew up in a loving, church-going family.
For a boy, life in Henry could be idyllic—
larking in the river in summer, skating on Mud
Lake in winter. The family always looked forward to the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration. It started off with a roaring cannon
salute, followed by a grand parade, athletic
contests, a reading of the Declaration of Inde-
Captain John P.
Cromwell goes
down with the fatally
stricken USS Sculpin
in a drawing by
Fred Freeman,
a lieutenant
commander in the
navy during the war,
and a graphic artist
before and after it.
JUNE 2018
29
The sub base at
Pearl Harbor was
a bustling place
by mid-1943, as
large numbers of
new submarines
steamed in.
pendence and a patriotic oration, and wrapped
up in the evening with fireworks. Bud often
participated in these displays of national
pride, strutting with his classmates down
Edward Street. When he entered high school,
World War I was raging in Europe, which may
have piqued his interest in a military career.
He graduated in 1919 in a class of 22. After a
year of military college prep, and with a congressional appointment to the United States
Naval Academy in hand, he caught a train east
to Annapolis in June 1920.
Midshipman Cromwell discovered he was
fascinated by engineering, which became his
passion. After graduating in 1924 the navy
posted him to one of their newest battleships,
the USS Maryland. When he was detached
from the dreadnought two years later he volunteered for something altogether different:
the submarine service. He qualified at the sub
school in New London, Connecticut, in 1927,
then joined the crew of USS S-24. Over the
next 16 years, as he climbed rapidly through
the ranks, Cromwell hopscotched between
tours at sea and on land. Perhaps his favorites
were a three-year postgraduate course studying the intricacies of diesel engineering and,
in 1936, command of his first—and as it turned
out, only—ship: USS S-20. One of his crew,
Motor Machinist’s Mate Harvey D. Stultz,
thought the world of him. “To me he stood at
the very top as an officer and a gentleman. A
dedicated, stern, just, man who helped you to
the limit when you were in the right, and gave
stern punishment when you erred.”
In May 1941 Lieutenant Commander
Cromwell joined the staff in Pearl Harbor of
the Pacific Fleet’s submarine commander,
Rear Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, as engineer officer. His family—wife Margaret, son
Jack, and daughter Ann—planned to follow in
July. On his way out to Hawaii he made a last
visit to Henry. Despite his peripatetic life Bud
returned as often as he could to his hometown—a place, his son recalled in 2012, “my
father loved dearly.” When his family joined
him in Honolulu, they settled in for what they
thought would be a pleasant tour of duty. Jack
Cromwell said that his father’s new job would
allow him to be home every night; “we would
have led a very normal life.”
That normalcy was shattered just six
months later, on Sunday, December 7, 1941. As
the bombs rained down, Bud Cromwell was
lying in a ward at the naval hospital being
treated for hypertension, but he leapt from
the bed to go to his duty station at Pearl
Harbor. He spent the first half of 1942 helping
put the sub force on a war footing. In midsummer Cromwell was assigned to command the
six-boat Submarine Division 203.
BY MID-1943 new submarines were steaming
into Pearl in ever-increasing numbers. One
way to take advantage of this growing capability, Admiral Lockwood thought, would be to
develop a coordinated attack doctrine loosely
based on German navy “wolf pack” tactics, in
which multiple submarines concentrated on a
single target. That summer the submarine
force began running three-boat simulated
attacks on incoming U.S. convoys, with Cromwell participating as a critical observer in the
first two exercises.
Another of Cromwell’s regular responsibilities was standing watch at the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area. The center
functioned as a clearing house for all incoming Imperial Japanese Navy radio traffic. U.S.
Navy analysts decrypted, translated, and
passed these intercepts, code-named “Ultra,”
to relevant commands for action. The transmissions were often extremely detailed and
included ship names, cargos, and routes with
specific coordinates for daily noon positions
that allowed the analysts to follow the forma-
30
WORLD WAR II
NATIONAL ARCHIVES; OPPOSITE TOP: US NAVY; BOTTOM: NATIONAL ARCHIVES
The number
of men privy
to Ultra’s
secrets was
strictly
limited. John
Cromwell
was one of
the few.
Cromwell (above
in the 1930s) logged
16 years in the sub
service before
joining Sculpin on its
ninth war partrol in
November 1943.
tion of enemy convoys. Lockwood used this
information to pinpoint-place his submarines
for the greatest destructive effect on Japanese commerce. So precious and sensitive a
resource was Ultra that the number of men
privy to its secrets was strictly limited. John
Cromwell was one of the few.
Ultra intelligence played a key role in the
November 20, 1943, invasion of the Gilbert
Islands, dubbed Operation Galvanic, the first
step in the United States’ bold island-hopping
strategy to wrestle control of the Central
Pacific. The American submarine fleet’s contribution was to position nine submarines
along the routes Ultra indicated the Japanese
would use to reinforce their troops on Tarawa.
Among the nine was USS Sculpin.
The Sculpin was one of 10 Sargo-class
submarines built in the late 1930s. Each was
310 feet long, with a top speed of 21 knots and
a range of 11,000 miles. One of the class, USS
Squalus, made national headlines in May 1939
when it sank off the coast of New Hampshire
during a test dive, with the loss of 26 sailors.
Sculpin was first on the scene and stood by
throughout rescue operations that hauled 33
survivors to the surface. The navy raised
Squalus in the summer of 1939, rebuilt it, and
recommissioned it in May 1940 with a new
name—USS Sailfish. Nearly four years later,
fate would have a tragic twist in store for Sailfish and Sculpin.
Sculpin was already a veteran of eight war
patrols when it was assigned to Operation
Galvanic. For the ninth run Commander
Fred Connaway, 32, took over the helm. His
only war patrol had been two months earlier
as a “prospective commanding officer” on
USS Sunfish, patrolling off Taiwan. In fact, a
third of Sculpin’s 84 crew members were new
to it; many of them, having recently joined
the growing submarine force, had never seen
combat. Others aboard had seen plenty.
Diving officer Lieutenant George E. Brown
Jr. had made five runs with USS S-40, and
four on Sculpin. Nine others had been with
the boat since the war began.
Admiral Lockwood decided to send nowCaptain John Cromwell on the mission to
form, if called for, a wolf pack to interdict
enemy ships bound for the Gilberts. Before
the sub departed Pearl, Lockwood cautioned
Cromwell not to share any information about
Ultra with anyone, “in case the submarine
was sunk and prisoners taken.”
JUNE 2018
31
The Sculpin crossed
paths with Japanese
destroyer Yamagumo
(top) near Truk Atoll,
sending men to their
battle stations at the
torpedo room (right),
and (opposite) the
periscope and
control room (all
photographed on
other U.S. subs).
32
WORLD WAR II
Just past 5 p.m. on November 5, 1943, Sculpin slipped its moorings at Sub Base, Pearl
Harbor, and headed southwest. A few days
later it reached its assigned area 200 miles
east of the enemy naval base at Truk, along
the Truk-Tarawa sea lane.
ON THE NIGHT OF NOVEMBER 16, as Sculpin patrolled its sector, a crewman handed a
decoded message from Admiral Lockwood to
Commander Connaway. “ANOTHER HOT
ULTRA,” it began. It told him that a Japanese
freighter escorted by two destroyers and a
light cruiser was headed his direction. It gave
him their speed and course, and the convoy’s
expected noon positions. “SCULPIN INTERCEPT IF POSSIBLE.”
Connaway shared the dispatch with Cromwell. The two officers agreed that a single
merchantman escorted by three warships was
exceptional and concluded that it must be car-
rying unusually valuable cargo, making it all
the more worthy of pursuit. Leaning over a
chart of the eastern Carolines, Connaway
plotted the convoy’s projected route and
where Sculpin might best set its trap. He
ordered the steersman to head west by north.
Just before midnight on November 18 the
radarman called the skipper to the conning
tower to show him four blips on his screen,
tracking at 14 knots. It was the fast convoy
mentioned in the Ultra intercept. Connaway
ordered an “end around”—a maneuver where
the submarine races ahead on the surface, submerges, and waits for the targets to catch up. At
6:30 the next morning, an hour after sunrise,
the boat dived. “Battle stations, submerged,”
the skipper ordered. “Up periscope.” He could
see the convoy just coming over the horizon. A
brief peek, and “down scope.” He repeated the
step several times. At this point the enemy was
a few thousand yards off—a textbook setup.
On his last peek, though, Connaway saw the
convoy suddenly turn toward him. His mind
raced. Was it just a normal zig, or had he been
spotted? “Take her down!” he ordered. As fireman Joe Baker recalled, “Down we go to about
180 feet and stand by to get worked on. [But
the Japanese ships] pass right over the top of
us and keep right on going.”
It appeared that Sculpin hadn’t been
detected. After an hour submerged, Connaway reckoned it was time to do another end
around; he didn’t want to let such a juicy
target get away. “Surface!” he ordered. Quartermaster Billie Minor Cooper and executive
officer Lieutenant Nelson J. Allen climbed to
the bridge and began to sweep the sea with
TOP: KURE MARITIME MUSEUM; ALL OTHERS: NATIONAL ARCHIVES
The
Japanese
destroyer
turned
toward the
sub while
Fiedler
desperately
struggled
to dive
the boat.
their binoculars. Soon the officer spotted
something. “What does this look like to you?”
he asked Cooper. “Looks like a crow’s nest,”
the QM answered. What they spotted was the
mast tops of the Japanese destroyer Yamagumo—a “sleeper” that had dropped back from
the convoy to simply wait and see. They told
the captain he’d “best take her down.” It was
now 7:30. The game was about to begin.
of the depth gauge fell off in front of my face.”
Yamagumo’s battle-tested captain, Lieutenant Commander Ono
Shiro, was a canny tactician. Now that he had an American submarine
within his grasp, he settled in to patiently, methodically destroy it. At
9:30 a.m. he made his third attack.
The damage continued to mount, with the weight of the water aft
tilting the sub to a 30-degree angle. Connaway sent Brown to inspect
the situation. Then the skipper, thinking Yamagumo might have given
up, ordered periscope depth so he could take another look. Brown’s
replacement at the diving station, Ensign Wendell M. Fiedler, a reservist on his first patrol, fumbled and lost control of the boat’s buoyancy;
Sculpin’s nose suddenly shot out of the water. The mistake did not go
unnoticed by the sharp-eyed lookouts on Yamagumo. The destroyer
turned toward the sub while Fiedler desperately struggled to dive the
boat. He managed to get it down to 100 feet when, as Joe Baker recalled,
“We could hear [Yamagumo’s] screws going right over our heads.” Eighteen more depth charges rained down, wreaking still more havoc.
But then Fiedler could not stop Sculpin’s plunge toward the bottom.
The boat reached 700 feet—well in excess of its 250-foot test depth—
DIVING OFFICER GEORGE BROWN barely
succeeded in getting Sculpin down to 130 feet
before the destroyer sped overhead, dropping
a string of 18 depth charges. “It jarred the
hell out of us,” Baker remembered of the
attack. The detonations ruptured an engine
exhaust valve, causing serious flooding in the
aft compartments. An hour later the predator
made a second run, dropping another 18
depth charges. Sculpin was so rocked by the
concussions that, Brown recalled, “the hands
JUNE 2018
33
Novice commander
Fred Connaway
(below) made the
fatal decision to
surface and fight.
34
WORLD WAR II
before George Brown returned to his post,
arresting its descent by blowing air into the
ballast tanks. Connaway and Cromwell discussed waiting until darkness, still six hours
away, before trying to escape from Yamagumo. Captain Ono, though, had other ideas.
At 12:30, sensing the time had come to deliver
the death blow, he pressed home a final attack
on his stricken prey.
Things were looking grim for Sculpin. Temperatures inside the hull had risen to over 115
degrees Fahrenheit, the air was becoming
unbreathable, and the crew was unable to
stanch the sub’s myriad leaks. Here’s where
Connaway’s inexperience showed: he wanted
to surface and battle it out with Yamagumo.
But Cromwell was adamantly opposed. He
believed staying submerged was the boat’s
best option. A heated argument ensued. Quartermaster Billie Cooper recalls hearing the
senior officer say, “Keep her down or I’ll
court-martial your ass when we get back to
Pearl!” Connaway was insistent. “No, we’re
going to battle surface!” Cromwell retired
to the wardroom.
At 1:30 p.m. the submarine surfaced. Ono
Shiro and his crew were so startled by the
sudden appearance of Sculpin they did not
immediately open fire. The sub’s gun crews
were anxious to get topside, but Connaway
had not issued orders to open the hatch. “I
think the skipper had just given up. He
knew we didn’t have a chance,” recalled
Chief Signalman W. E. “Dinty” Moore.
Cooper yelled out, “Give us a fighting
chance,” and popped the hatch himself.
Sailors poured onto the deck to man
the guns. The Americans got off the
first shot. It missed—and so did the
next seven. When Captain Ono gave
the command to fire, Yamagumo let
loose with a five-inch salvo. It was
wide, but the second made a direct,
devastating hit on the conning
tower, instantly killing Connaway
and three senior officers.
In that terrible moment Lieutenant George Brown became Sculpin’s
commander. The first order he gave as a skipper was, “Abandon ship and God have mercy
on your souls.” Then he and Chief Philip J.
Gabrunas began opening the sea vents to scuttle the sub. John Cromwell came into the control room and calmly told Brown that he had
decided to go down with the ship to protect the
Ultra secret. Brown was startled, later recalling, “He was afraid the information he possessed might be injurious to his shipmates if
the Japanese made him reveal it by torture.”
The lieutenant implored him to evacuate, but
Cromwell said he had made up his mind “a long
time ago.” He wasn’t going to let the enemy
even have a shot at him. The last Brown saw of
Cromwell he was sitting on an empty 20mm
shell container, holding a picture of his wife
and children.
JAPANESE SAILORS aboard Yamagumo
pulled 42 Sculpin crewmen out of the water—
and almost immediately threw one badly
wounded American back into the sea and to
his death. Once aboard, the Americans were
herded together at the fantail, their hands tied.
The ship sailed to Truk, where guards took the
prisoners to an old jail and jammed them into
three tiny cells. Brutal interrogations followed—the officers getting the worst of it.
After 10 days of beatings, meager rations,
and little water, the Japanese captors divided
Sculpin’s 41 remaining crew into two groups
and put them aboard a pair of escort carriers,
Un’yō and Chūyō, bound for Yokohama. As the
ships neared Japan just after midnight on
December 4, an American submarine, vectored there by an Ultra intercept, attacked the
Chūyō. Despite mountainous seas, two torpedoes found their mark, explosions wrecking
the enemy ship. Two more attacks finished it
off. “One full day’s work completed,” the skipper cheerfully wrote in his patrol report.
What the captain didn’t know—couldn’t
have known—was that there were 21 Americans aboard Chūyō. Motor Machinist’s Mate
George Rocek was the only survivor. “I was
underwater trying to break the suction and
reach the surface. My whole life flashed before
me. It was an eerie and serene sensation,” he
later recalled. In one of World War II’s many
tragic ironies, Sculpin’s survivors died at the
hands of their sister ship, USS Sailfish.
The prisoners aboard Un’yō were delivered
to Yokohama and sent to Ōfuna, a camp for
high-value prisoners, where their captors
again subjected them to intense questioning.
In early 1945 the 21 remaining Sculpin survivors were transferred to a copper mine in the
mountains north of Tokyo. “The work was
hard, dirty, and dangerous,” Rocek said.
Their ordeal ended on September 4, 1945,
when American troops freed them. Navy
U.S. NAVY
The last
Brown saw
of Cromwell
he was
sitting on
an empty
20mm shell
container,
holding a
picture of
his wife and
children.
COURTESY OF ELIZABETH CROMWELL WOZNICKI (BOTH)
Cromwell with his
wife Margaret and
children Jack and
Ann. In 1946 Jack
accepted his father’s
Medal of Honor
(inset) and went on
to a life in the navy.
intelligence officers debriefed the submariners on Guam, and it was
only then that the world learned about the captain who chose to die
rather than have American secrets wrung out of him at the hands of a
merciless enemy. Had the Japanese succeeded in uncovering the Ultra
secret they would have immediately changed their codes and put the
U.S. Navy code breakers out of business. By helping to preserve Ultra,
Cromwell spared the lives of thousands of Americans.
Admiral Lockwood recommended John Cromwell for the Medal of
Honor. In May 1946 the award was presented to his 17-year-old son,
Jack. The citation began: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at
the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Captain Cromwell,
it said, had “stoically remained aboard the mortally wounded vessel as
she plunged to her death. Preserving the security of his mission, at the
cost of his own life, he had served his country as he had served the Navy,
with deep integrity and an uncompromising devotion to duty.”
JOHN CROMWELL has been honored in many ways: Cromwell Hall
at the Groton submarine base, the frigate USS Cromwell, a plaque outside his dorm room at the U.S. Naval Academy. But perhaps the highest
honor comes from the people of his hometown, Henry, Illinois.
Each September 11, folks gather at the Cromwell Memorial in Hen-
ry’s Central Park to pay tribute on the birthday of their hometown hero. “Destiny touches
many men for heroic deeds, but few possess
the courage to volunteer their own lives that
others may live,” wrote Rear Admiral Frank
D. McMullen, then the commander of the
Pacific sub fleet, to mark the 1974 dedication
of a monument there. “John Philip Cromwell
was endowed with such a quality.”
During World War II, 472 Americans were
awarded the Medal of Honor. Their extraordinary acts of bravery were performed in the
heat of battle; their unhesitating decisions
were split-second reactions to immediate
threats. They had no time to think about
whether they would live or die. Among all
those heroes John Philip Cromwell’s sacrifice
was unique. He had the luck—or the curse—of
deciding his own fate with deliberate forethought. His unhesitating decision was made
knowing that his choice meant death. +
JUNE 2018
35
FAKE NEWS
FOREIGN
MEDDLING
FBI INTRIGUE
POLITICAL
WARFARE
36
WORLD WAR II
WELCOME TO
THE 1940 U.S.
PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION
By Paul Starobin
Delegates cram the busy floor of the 1940
Republican National Convention. Much went
on behind the scenes, too, as German and
British agents attempted to sway the
outcome of the U.S. presidential election—
and influence America’s role in the war.
CLASSIC STOCK/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
JUNE 2018
37
onvention Hall in Philadelphia, a mammoth art deco building
on 34th and Spruce often used for prize boxing bouts, simmered in the glare of television lights as Republican delegates
gathered there in the fourth week of June 1940 to choose their
party’s candidate for president—and a plank on what, if anything, America should do about the war blazing in Europe.
The whiskey flowed freely, as at all such conclaves, but the
war exerted a sobering influence on the proceedings. “Nazi fliers
strike widely in Britain,” the New York Times reported in its June 25
edition, just three days after France’s formal surrender to Germany.
Was it time, delegates asked themselves, to rally the party in favor of
American intervention to put a stop to Hitler?
A full-page advertisement in that day’s Times, addressed to the
convention-goers along with “American mothers, wage earners, farmers and veterans,” insisted the answer was no: “STOP THE MARCH
TO WAR! STOP THE INTERVENTIONISTS AND WARMONGERS!”
The missive was signed by a group calling itself THE NATIONAL
COMMITTEE TO KEEP AMERICA OUT OF FOREIGN WARS.
Unbeknownst to the delegates, the ad was a propaganda plant, written by a German agent with close ties to Republican isolationists in
Congress and paid for, in part, by the Nazi government in Berlin.
But two could play at this game. “Delegate Poll Says 60% Favor Help
for Allies,” the New York Herald Tribune declared in a June 26 headline. The poll was said to represent a sampling of one-third of the delegates, conducted by Market Analysts, Inc., “an independent research
C
38
WORLD WAR II
THE GERMANS WERE the first to strike in
this inky theater of combat. In November
1938, as torched synagogues and ransacked
Jewish shops in Berlin and other cities lay in
ruin from the Nazi rampage known as
Kristallnacht, Dr. Hans Thomsen took up his
post as chargé d’affaires at the German
embassy in Washington, DC. The title masked
his true role as the mastermind of Nazi propaganda efforts in the United States. Tall and
blonde, of Norwegian ancestry, Thomsen, 47,
was accompanied by his wife, Bebe. The
Hans Thomsen and wife Bebe
arrive at a diplomatic reception.
Officially the German chargé
d’affaires, Thomsen was a Nazi
propagandist promoting
isolationist views and candidates,
as with the paid ad, opposite.
HARRIS & EWING/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; OPPOSITE: NEW YORK TIMES, TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 1940
The Germans
were the
first to strike
in this inky
theater of
combat.
organization.” In fact, Market Analysts was
headed by an American secretly assisting a
British intelligence unit operating out of
Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Back and forth it went: a shadow information war waged on American soil, replete with
“fake news” and dirty tricks, the Germans and
the British targeting the United States and its
political institutions in rival bids to sway the
outcome of the 1940 presidential election—
and in so doing, influence America’s policy
and actions on the war across the Atlantic.
couple affected the role of “good Germans,”
with Bebe, at diplomatic receptions, known to
burst theatrically into tears in recounting the
brute deeds of Nazi hoodlums in her beloved
fatherland. He was handsome, she was beautiful, and they made for a luminous social presence on Embassy Row.
Thomsen was a shrewd observer of American politics. With Democrats having taken
a pounding in the 1938 midterm elections
for the House and Senate, and with a weak
economy afflicted by the so-called “Roosevelt
recession,” many analysts thought that
incumbent president Franklin D. Roosevelt
might shrink from a bid for an unprecedented
third consecutive term in office. Even some of
his fellow Democrats weren’t sure what Roosevelt, an interventionist at heart, would do.
But Thomsen divined, correctly, that the president was merely waiting for the right moment
to show his hand.
“The timing and strategy of the nomination
will doubtless be so cleverly synchronized,” he
told the foreign ministry in Berlin in a coded
message in February 1940, “that not only will
the wind be taken out of the sails of the Republicans but Roosevelt will also be able to take
40
WORLD WAR II
IT WAS NOT UNTIL April 1940, seven months after Hitler’s invasion
of Poland, that the British moved in a systematic fashion to stymie
Thomsen’s machinations. Whereas the Nazis targeted Congress as
sympathetic ground for their campaign, the British focused on the
executive branch, under friendly control of the Roosevelt administration. On the second day of the month, William Stephenson, a wealthy
Canadian businessman, entered the United States, supposedly on
behalf of the British Ministry of Supply. In fact, Stephenson was in
America as a representative of British intelligence, to meet in secret
with J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. The appointment had been
discreetly arranged by a mutual friend, former heavyweight prizefighter Gene Tunney.
Notwithstanding America’s official neutrality in the war in Europe,
mandated by Congress, Stephenson proposed a secret collaboration
between the FBI and British intelligence. He was seeking, in effect, the
FBI’s permission to set up a base of British espionage operations aimed
CIA.GOV; OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; UNDERWOOD ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES; HERITAGE AUCTIONS, DALLAS; HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
British intelligence agent William
Stephenson worked in secret with the
FBI to oppose Nazi propaganda efforts.
over the role of Cincinnatus, to whom his country appeals in its hour of
need.” Thomsen was referring to the Roman patrician of legend, a selfsacrificing statesman who heroically vanquished Rome’s dire enemies
only to relinquish power and return to his modest farm, and someone
to whom, Thomsen was no doubt aware, America’s first president and
eternal model for the job, George Washington, was often likened.
To counter Roosevelt and the interventionist cause, Thomsen proposed, in a subsequent dispatch, “a well-camouflaged lightning propaganda campaign,” secretly funded by Berlin. The essence of the strategy
was to give disguised backing to the isolationist movement and its leading voices in Congress. Isolationism, especially resonant in America’s
heartland, was animated by the conviction that nothing but grief would
come from another entanglement in Europe’s seemingly endless strife.
After all, the United States’ entry into Europe’s last war, the isolationists pointed out, had not made the world “safe for democracy,” as promised. It would be best, Thomsen advised Berlin, “if American politicians
themselves provide enlightenment [his italics] regarding our political
aims and the mistakes of Roosevelt’s foreign policy.”
Thomsen’s prized asset for executing this strategy was the hyperenergetic George Sylvester Viereck, 55, a native of Germany and an
ardent admirer of Hitler (a “genius” in Viereck’s estimation). Viereck
had lived in the U.S. since adolescence and was best known, to the
degree he was known at all, as the author of a bizarre, semipornographic “autobiography,” My First Two Thousand Years, that blended
male and female forms in an epic account of the “wandering Jew.”
Placed on Thomsen’s payroll, Viereck churned out speeches and articles for Republican isolationists, who probably should have known, but
apparently did not, that he was a Nazi agent.
Some of these materials bordered on the preposterous, as in an
“interview” with Hitler—concocted out of thin air by the inventive
Viereck—that a credulous Montana congressman, Jacob Thorkelson,
an immigrant from Norway, inserted into the June 22, 1940, Congressional Record. Fears of a Nazi invasion of America are “stupid and fantastic,” Viereck’s Führer proclaimed. The fraud was on U.S. taxpayers,
who paid for the delivery of hundreds of thousands of reprints of the
rank propaganda to their homes by the post office, thanks to the franking privilege allowing members of Congress to dispatch “official” mail
to their constituents at government expense.
George Viereck (top left) was part of the Nazi arsenal aimed at backing Republican
presidential candidates, including isolationist Robert Taft (bottom left). To the
Germans’ frustration, the nominee was interventionist-leaning Wendell Willkie (right).
at undermining active Nazi propaganda
efforts and advancing the interventionist
cause. The turf-minded Hoover cautiously
assented—so long as Roosevelt personally
approved the arrangement and so long as no
other government agency, the State Department included, was informed of it. Roosevelt
gave his hearty endorsement, viewing a sullying of the isolationist movement and its
mostly Republican leaders as in his political
interest and the country’s, too. “There should
be the closest possible marriage,” he said,
“between the FBI and British intelligence.”
London had chosen its man well. Stephenson, 43, was clever and resourceful—a former
World War I ace who, on being shot down and
captured, took home from prison camp a new
type of can opener for which he obtained a
patent, so making his initial fortune. Known
for serving killer martinis in quart glasses to
his wide range of social contacts, including
publishing baron Henry R. Luce and gossip
columnist Walter Winchell, Stephenson was
the inspiration, in part, for the debonair spy
James Bond in novels by his friend, Ian Fleming. “He is a man of few words and has a magnetic personality and the quality of making
anyone ready to follow him to the ends of the
earth,” Fleming said of the “Quiet Canadian,”
as the novelist dubbed Stephenson.
Stephenson operated under the cover
of Passport Control Officer, his quarters
Berlin’s
strategy was
a “lightning
propaganda
campaign”
to back the
isolationist
movement.
JUNE 2018
41
A covert
British agent
aimed to
“bring the
United
States into
the ‘shooting
war’ by
attacking
isolationism.”
42
WORLD WAR II
at Rockefeller Center—cable
address “Intrepid”—provided to
him rent-free by the landlord,
the Rockefellers themselves. His plan for
“political warfare,” as he called it, was of the
same character as Thomsen’s—only, in his
case, the goal was “to bring the United States
into the ‘shooting’ war by attacking isolationism and fostering inter ventionism,” as
recounted in a “secret history” of the operation prepared at his instruction in 1945 (and
published decades later). In London, Prime
Minister Winston Churchill, who took over
for Neville Chamberlain in early May, backed
Stephenson to the hilt.
The Quiet Canadian’s main idea was to
plant stories in sympathetic press outlets to
make the isolationists out to be puppets of
Hitler—even though the truth, as he knew,
was more complicated. Like Thomsen, Stephenson viewed the United States as a soft
target for a propaganda campaign. Americans
were yokels, in his estimation. “A country that
is extremely heterogeneous in character
offers a wide variety of choice in propaganda
methods,” his secret history related. “While it
is possibly true to say that all Americans are
intensely suspicious of propaganda, it is certain that a great many of them are unusually
susceptible to it even in its most patent form.”
According to the secret history, Stephenson’s shop “was able to initiate internal propaganda through its undercover contacts with
selected newspapers, such as the New York
Times, the New York Herald Tribune, the New
York Post, and the Baltimore Sun; with newspaper columnists and radio commentators;
and with various political pressure organizations.” His outfit, for example, both wrote and
“placed, through an intermediary” a series of
front-page articles in the Herald Tribune
about a Nazi agent, Dr. Gerhard Westrick.
Arriving in the U.S. from Japan in the spring
of 1940, Westrick leased a mansion outside of
New York City, and met with American industrialists, especially in the oil business, to
declare the war already “won by Germany”
and to offer “business privileges in Axisdominated Europe” for magnates backing the
isolationist cause. The series resulted in
“numerous editorials on Fifth Columnism in
the United States,” the secret history boasted,
and “even a proposal that the paper should
receive the Pulitzer Prize for its good work.”
An angry mob gathered outside of Westrick’s house and he left the U.S. for Germany
aboard a Japanese liner. A smoldering Thomsen told Berlin that Americans with business
LEFT: BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; RIGHT: UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/UIG VIA GETTY IMAGES; INSET: THE GRANGER COLLECTION, NEW YORK
Famed aviator
Charles Lindbergh,
top spokesman
for the isolationist
America First
Committee, speaks
at a peace rally.
Inset: anti-FDR
memorabilia.
AP PHOTO
ties to Germany had been “compromised
before the public” and “compelled to sever
these relations.”
THE INTRIGUES NOURISHED an atmosphere in America’s political circles that went
beyond healthy suspicion and crept into paranoia as the 1940 campaign got underway. In
mid-May, during preparations for the Republican Convention, the head of the Arrangements Committee, Ralph E. Williams, died
from an apparent heart attack while chairing
a meeting of his panel at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. But was it truly a
heart attack? Williams was the backer of an
isolationist, Ohio’s Robert A. Taft, for president; his sudden death allowed a supporter of
interventionist-leaning Wendell Willkie of
Indiana to take over the committee. There
was no real evidence of foul play—Williams, at
70 years old, was hardly a spring chicken—but
was not assassination part of a spy’s tool kit?
For Hans Thomsen, the convention was an
opportunity to mobilize the sizable antiintervention wing of the GOP, as with his
secret sponsorship of a visit by some 50
Republican isolationist congressmen to Philadelphia—their aim, as he told Berlin, to “work
on the delegates of the Republican Party in
favor of an isolationist foreign policy.”
Stephenson, though, did not lack for assets,
as in Market Analysts pollster and British
intelligence agent Sandy Griffith: “a cheerful
confident American utterly devoted to awakening American Opinion” to the Nazi threat, a
Stephenson aide conveyed many years later.
The British proved cannier than the Germans
in understanding that the new “science” of
opinion polling could be weaponized for use in
an information war. (George Gallup, the pioneer, founded his American Institute of Public
Opinion in 1935.) Griffith, a Long Islander, had
fought for the Belgians and then the French
before joining the U.S. Army in World War I
and later worked as a European correspondent
for the New York Herald Tribune and other
American newspapers. As in Philadelphia, his
polls consistently showed a high degree of support for the interventionist cause—almost
surely more support than actually existed.
Ordinary Americans, and probably even the
journalists who wrote up the findings of such
polls, seemed not to realize how easily poll
takers could massage their surveys.
In Philadelphia, however, the polling failed
to achieve its desired effect on the foreign policy plank. “The Republican Party is firmly opposed to involving this nation in foreign war,” the
platform declared.
But in the climactic battle over the party’s standard bearer, the delegates, on the sixth ballot, picked Willkie over Taft. A disconsolate
Thomsen immediately cabled Berlin: “Willkie’s nomination is unfortunate for us. He is not an isolationist…he belongs to those Republicans who see America’s best defense in supporting England by all
means ‘short of war.’”
IT IS TEMPTING to imagine the adversaries in the same room at, say,
some swank social function in Manhattan or Washington—the British
Passport Control Officer, martini glass in hand, exchanging thoughts
on American politics with the German chargé d’affaires. But there is
no record of Stephenson and Thomsen having met, although Stephenson, through his sources at the FBI or elsewhere, likely had knowledge
of Thomsen’s schemes.
Stephenson’s liaison with Hoover—along with Churchill’s own direct
line to Roosevelt—were advantages Thomsen could not match. And
when Democrats convened in Chicago in mid-July for their convention, a plan hatched by the Nazis to bribe Pennsylvania’s delegates to
oppose Roosevelt’s nomination came to naught, as the state’s delegation stood behind the president, the overwhelming choice of the party.
German “trade
counselor” and Nazi
representative Gerhard
Westrick bones up on
American history in a
New York hotel.
JUNE 2018
43
44
WORLD WAR II
ain raged in Europe’s skies, with Hitler proving to be less than invincible in being made to
put off an armed landing on the British Isles.
In the final days before the election, the chargé
d’affaires could find no prominent takers in
the press for an article he sought to plant on
how a malicious Roosevelt, even before Hitler’s attack on Poland, had plotted to get American boys into a savage European war. The best
he could manage was publication of the piece
in a weekly, the New York Enquirer, owned by
an antiwar activist, William Griffin, later
indicted for sedition. “Influential journalists
of high repute will not lend themselves, even
for money, to publishing such material,”
Thomsen complained to Berlin.
On Election Day, November 5, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt won a resounding victory,
though not quite as decisive as his blowout triumphs in 1932 and 1936. He took 55 percent of
the popular vote, to 45 percent for Willkie,
and 449 electoral votes, to 82 for Willkie, the
winner of a mere 10 states.
THOUGH BUOYED BY Roosevelt’s performance, Stephenson did not let up. America
BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES; INSET AND OPPOSITE: THE GRANGER COLLECTION, NEW YORK
A campaign button
by the opposition
(inset) implies that a
vote for Roosevelt
and his running
mate is a vote for
war. A consummate
politician, FDR
promised during the
campaign “not to
send American boys
into any foreign
wars.” At top, the
president heads
toward Hyde Park
—and victory—on
election day.
Still Thomsen persisted, informing
Berlin that “after lengthy negotiations,” he had persuaded Senator
Gerald Nye of North Dakota to distribute copies of an isolationist speech to
“200,000 especially selected persons.” And
“this undertaking,” Thomsen said in his
cable, “is not altogether easy, and is particularly delicate since Senator Nye, as a political
opponent of the President, is under the careful observation of the secret state police here.”
Another ray of hope was the aviator Charles
A. Lindbergh, America’s most famous isolationist of them all: the voice of the America
First Committee, organized in September
1940, expressly to keep the U.S. out of the war.
Thomsen obliquely told Berlin that he maintained “good relations” with Lindbergh’s
outfit, and on one occasion, Lindbergh delivered a radio speech at the behest of the Make
Europe Pay War Debts Committee, a group
secretly funded, in part, by the Nazis.
But even as he labored to impress his superiors in Hitler’s regime, Thomsen must have
felt beaten. The appetite for the isolationist
message was diminishing as the Battle of Brit-
was not yet in the war, after all. A prime British target was Republican congressman
Hamilton Fish of New York, a leader of the
anti-intervention camp. At a political rally in
Milwaukee, a Stephenson plant presented
Fish with a card that read, “Der Fuehrer
thanks you for your loyalty.” Newspaper photographers, tipped by Stephenson to be on
hand, captured the moment, flashbulbs popping. It was as deft a ruse as any he crafted.
Thomsen slogged on, but after Pearl Harbor
and the United States’ entry, at last, into the
shooting war, he set sail for Germany on the SS
Drottningholm, America behind him for good.
Stephenson remained stationed at Rockefeller Center during the war, working closely
with the Americans to help them build their
own espionage and counterespionage capabilities. The Quiet Canadian became known
as Little Bill, in fraternal partnership with his
larger-framed collaborator in the intelligence
realm, Big Bill, aka “Wild Bill” Donovan,
director of America’s Office of Strategic Services. At war’s end, King George VI knighted
Stephenson for his work, prompting a letter
from J. Edgar Hoover thanking the spymaster
for his “very worthy contribution” to the
Allied cause. Donovan presented Sir William
with the Medal of Merit, at that time America’s highest civilian award. “Bill Stephenson
taught us all we ever knew about foreign intelligence,” Donovan said.
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that in
the end spurred America’s full-bore entry into
the war. Certainly Churchill felt that way. On
the evening of December 7, 1941, he wrote in a
draft of his memoirs, “I went to bed and slept
the sleep of the saved and the thankful.”
Still, the Quiet Canadian was not wrong in
apprehending sprawling America, “extremely
heterogeneous in character,” as innately suspicious of propaganda and yet vulnerable to it.
Such is always the case in a mass democratic
society of free-f lowing information, and
therein lies the real lesson of this episode.
Foreign powers, whether bent on aggression,
as in the case of Nazi Germany, or on sheer
survival, as in the case of reeling Britain in
1940, will not scruple when it comes to
advancing their core interests. The United
States’ prized openness is, for them, an opportunity to exploit. But while the U.S. should be
on guard against attempts to mold its opinions and influence its policies—for these
efforts are real—the country should not succumb to undue alarm. For in the end the U.S.
is not quite as easy to manipulate as meddlesome outsiders may imagine. +
Though
buoyed by
FDR’s win,
Stephenson
did not let
up. America
was not yet
in the war,
after all.
The Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor put a swift
end to the isolationist
cause—as dramatized
on December 8, 1941,
by prointerventionist
cartoonist Ted Geisel,
aka “Dr. Seuss.”
THE NAZI-DIRECTED effort to manipulate
American public opinion clearly failed. As for
the British bid, historian Thomas E. Mahl, in
his 1998 book, Desperate Deception, concluded
that British covert operations to destroy isolationism and bring America into World War II
“profoundly changed America forever, helping
it become the global power we see today,” with
isolationism itself becoming “a scandalous
epithet, to be hurled at one’s enemies.”
Mahl has a point in crediting British spycraft with helping to make isolationism a
seemingly permanent swear word in American politics. But otherwise his claim is overstated. Roosevelt may have been conniving in
his secret alliance with British intelligence,
but in hindsight his sweeping victory at the
ballot box seemed assured whether the British conducted their deception campaign or
not, as the voters were not of a mind to change
presidents in the midst of a global crisis. And
it was not British espionage in America but
JUNE 2018
45
THE THIRD
REICH IN
TEN OBJECTS
Its rise and fall, as told through
a collection of artifacts
ritish historian Roger Moorhouse
is the author of the recent book
The Third Reich in 100 Objects: A
Material History of Nazi Germany
(Greenhill Books, 2018)—and a
man up for a challenge. We asked
him to define the Third Reich in
just 10 objects. The result follows, along
with his explanations.
Moorhouse’s criteria for selection were
two-fold. First, the items had to still exist
today; most of the objects on these pages
can be found in private collections.
Second, each had to have an interesting
story of its own while also illuminating a
broader point about the Third Reich. Says
the author: “I wanted this article, like the
book, to become more than the sum of its
parts; more than just a collection of
objects—I wanted the objects to collectively tell the story of the rise and fall of
the Nazi regime.” —Karen Jensen
46
WORLD WAR II
HITLER’S DAP CARD
This membership card—issued to Adolf Hitler in January 1920 by
the “German Workers’ Party” (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or DAP)—
marks the start to an odious political career. Then unknown, Hitler
had arrived at a DAP meeting the previous autumn and impressed
the party leadership with his passion and eloquence. In the
months that followed, he emerged as the party’s most accomplished speaker and, in February 1920 at Munich’s Hofbräuhaus,
would seek to give the party the direction he thought it lacked.
There, the DAP would be renamed the NSDAP— the “National
Socialist German Workers’ Party”—and the Nazi Party was born.
HERMANN HISTORICA AUCTIONS, MUNICH, GERMANY
B
HERMANN HISTORICA AUCTIONS, MUNICH, GERMANY; PHOTO: ULLSTEIN BILD/GETTY IMAGES
GELI RAUBAL BUST
Geli Raubal was Hitler’s niece—
the daughter of his elder halfsister Angela. She and Hitler
struck up a friendship in 1927
when she was a student in
Munich; soon after, she moved
into his apartment. (The photo
at right shows the pair around
1930.) The precise nature of the
relationship between the two is
unclear and was the subject of
many lurid rumors. Scandal
struck in September 1931 when
Raubal was found dead in
Hitler’s apartment with a bullet
wound to the chest, an apparent
suicide. Grief-stricken, Hitler
ordered this bust of his niece to
be cast. It is often suggested
that Raubal’s death had political
fallout: that Hitler hardened his
heart thereafter, distancing
himself from those around him
and devoting himself wholeheartedly to his political career
—with baleful consequences.
JUNE 2018
47
THE REICH IN TEN OBJECTS
ELASTOLIN HITLER
HEINRICH HOFFMANN’S LEICA
This camera recorded history. A Leica IIIa from 1935, it
belonged to Hitler’s personal photographer (at work,
top), Heinrich Hoffmann. One of the earliest “point-andshoot” cameras, it enabled Hoffmann to take some of
the most iconic propaganda images of Hitler, thereby
cementing the currency of the Nazi regime. Hoffmann’s
images were used for everyday items, such as stamps
and postcards, and for picture books—among them,
Hitler in his Home and The Face of the Führer—which
proved enormously popular. After the war Hoffmann
was sentenced to four years for war profiteering; his
camera, meanwhile, had been looted by Allied soldiers
at war’s end and reappeared in France in the 1980s.
48
WORLD WAR II
LEFT: AUKTION TEAM BREKER, COLOGNE, GERMANY; RIGHT: HERMANN HISTORICA AUCTIONS, MUNICH, GERMANY; PHOTO: ULLSTEIN BILD/GETTY IMAGES
“He who owns the youth gains the future,” Hitler said. Nazi propaganda
was famously effective, but its efforts to recruit young children rarely
receive attention. This toy Hitler figurine is one example of how it was
done. Standing just under three inches tall with a posable right arm, it
is made of Elastolin—a trademarked compound of resin and sawdust—
and hand-painted, complete with Hitler’s blue eyes. It was one of a
series of figures that included Benito Mussolini, Hermann Göring, and
Rudolf Hess, along with vehicles and ordinary soldiers made by O & M
Hausser in Ludwigsburg, under the close eye of the Nazi regime.
Such toys would have thrilled children during the Third Reich, while
effectively serving the purposes of political indoctrination.
MUTTERKREUZ
LEFT: DANIEL ULRICH; RIGHT: SYNEK; PHOTO: DEUTSCHES HISTORISCHES MUSEUM
The “Mutterkreuz” or “Mother’s Cross” was established in
1939 to reward German women who had borne large
numbers of children; four or five children earned a mother
the bronze award, six or seven the silver, and eight or more,
the gold. Each was enameled in blue and white and worn
around the neck on a long ribbon (below). Recipients were
expected to be of Aryan origin, politically reliable, morally
upstanding, and free from hereditary diseases. By
encouraging and rewarding population growth in this way
—what one might call “militarizing motherhood”—the
Mutterkreuz is a forgotten aspect of the Nazi race war.
JUDENSTERN
Introduced in Germany in 1941, the Judenstern or “Jewish
Star” was intended as a way of isolating Jews from German
society and stoking widespread prejudice. The Reich
Security Head Office ordered that the patch be worn by
every Jew over the age of six whenever out in public, fixed
on the left side of the outermost item of clothing. Failure to
comply risked a fine or a spell in a concentration camp. An
intensely petty and humiliating measure, it was part of a long
and ignoble history of anti-Semitism stretching back to the
Middle Ages—marking Jews as an unwelcome “other.”
JUNE 2018
49
THE REICH IN TEN OBJECTS
SCHATTENMANN POSTER
Every combatant nation in World War II had its own way of demanding
its citizens remain tight-lipped on the home front; Britain had “Keep
Mum,” the U.S. had “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” and Nazi Germany had the
Schattenmann, or “Shadow Man.” Schattenmann posters usually portrayed
a harmless conversation, over which a sinister eavesdropping figure
loomed, and were accompanied by the slogan “Pst! Feind hört mit!”—
“The Enemy is Listening.” Though the posters were doubtless effective,
the irony was that it was more usual for the German people to be spied
on by their own security services than anyone else. The Schattenmann
was most likely to be one of their own.
ZYKLON B CANISTER
TOP: HERMANN HISTORICA AUCTIONS, MUNICH, GERMANY; BOTTOM: ROGER MOORHOUSE/AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Zyklon B—a commercially available pellet form of hydrogen
cyanide—was already widely used as a pesticide before it gained
notoriety in the German death camps of World War II. After
experiments in Auschwitz in 1941, the chemical saw large-scale use
in the wholesale murder of Jews and others in the gas chambers at
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek. In total, Zyklon B accounted for
the deaths of over 1.1 million people, mainly at Auschwitz-Birkenau,
which would use more than 24 tons of it between 1942 and 1945.
This canister is one of the thousands used and discarded at
Auschwitz and now kept by the memorial museum there.
50
WORLD WAR II
JULY 1944 WOUND BADGE
HERMANN HISTORICA AUCTIONS, MUNICH, GERMANY (BOTH); PHOTO: HEINRICH HOFFMANN/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES
This badge was awarded to survivors of
Claus von Stauffenberg’s assassination
attempt on Hitler at his “Wolf’s Lair”
headquarters. A variant of the standard
Wound Badge issued to German soldiers,
it bears the date of the attack—July 20,
1944—and a facsimile of Hitler’s signature.
The badge was awarded in black, silver,
or gold, according to the severity of the
recipient’s injuries. This gold badge—one
of only five—was presented to Hitler’s
chief adjutant, Colonel Rudolf Schmundt
(pictured above), who died of his wounds
on October 1, 1944, 12 days after
receiving the award. One of the Reich’s
rarest decorations, it is also testament
to the determination of the German
resistance to rid its nation of a tyrant.
HERMANN GÖRING’S CYANIDE CAPSULE
When Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring committed suicide in his cell in Nuremberg in 1946, he was
escaping the noose. Adamant that he would not be hanged, he had procured this vial of hydrocyanic
acid—possibly with the unwitting assistance of an American guard—which he took the night before
he was to face the hangman. After Göring died, the prison doctor removed the vial from his mouth,
prised the brass container from his fist, and retained both items. Cyanide vials such as these were
mass-produced in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, to be distributed among the Nazi elite and
beyond at the end of the war. It is perhaps ironic that in its death throes the Third Reich provided
cyanide—its poison of choice in the Holocaust—to its own people. Nonetheless, the epidemic of
suicides that resulted was barely noticed amid the carnage.
JUNE 2018
51
UNLOVED,
UNLOVELY,
INDISPENSABLE
One of the biggest threats to D-Day
success came from the Allied side—
with the shortage of a key ship
By Craig L. Symonds
S
52
WORLD WAR II
deposit wheeled or tracked vehicles directly
onto the sand. Operational commanders
found them useful for other types of missions
as well, from transporting personnel and
vehicles to providing floating stowage.
The problem was there were simply not
enough of them. Despite America’s astonishing industrial productivity, circumstances
conspired to create a shortage of these essential vessels at a critical moment in the war.
IN 1942 THE WAR PRODUCTION BOARD,
established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to supervise war mobilization, made
LSTs the highest priority in the American
wartime construction program. Soon after
the Operation Torch landings in North Africa
that November, however, the Battle of the
Atlantic was nearing its climax and the board
elevated the production of destroyer escorts
to the top of the list, dropping LSTs to 12th
place, behind minesweepers.
The decision turned out to be the right one:
the new escorts helped turn the tide in the
Battle of the Atlantic. With the German
US COAST GUARD/NATIONAL ARCHIVES
EVENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER THE ALLIED LANDINGS
in Normandy on June 6, 1944, it is easy to regard the successful invasion of German-occupied France as preordained, its
outcome a matter of the inevitable triumph over Nazism.
It was not. Instead, due to a logistical bottleneck involving
a very particular kind of ship, Operation Overlord was postponed and very nearly halted in its tracks. The culprit was a
little-appreciated and seldom-admired type of naval craft known as
the Landing Ship, Tank, or LST—the shortage of which very nearly
upset the entire operation.
The irreverent sailors who manned these curious ships sarcastically claimed that the acronym actually stood for “Large Slow Target.”
They were not entirely wrong. At over 300 feet in length, LSTs were
indeed large and, with a maximum speed of 10 knots, slow as well.
Moreover, their prominence at amphibious landings made them
prime targets. They were also remarkably hard to navigate. With their
blunt bows (which one LST sailor called “a horrible snow-shovel snout
that cannot cut the water”), shallow draft, and flat bottoms, they
thumped down jarringly on every wave. Even in relatively mild waters
LSTs induced near-universal seasickness not only among the
embarked soldiers, but among the crew. As an LST veteran recalled,
the ships “stank of diesel oil, backed-up toilets, and vomit.”
For all that, LSTs were the vital component in Allied amphibious
landings from the Mediterranean to the Central Pacific. They could
steam up onto a beach, open their bow doors, deploy a short ramp, and
Broad and burdened,
a Landing Ship, Tank,
or LST, approaches
the Normandy coast
on June 6, 1944. A
shortage of these
vessels threatened
to imperil the great
Allied invasion.
JUNE 2018
53
U-boat menace under control (if not entirely
suppressed) by late spring 1943, the Allies
sought to reinvigorate the LST program. The
U.S. government ordered four American shipyards that had been reconfigured to build
destroyers to shift back to the construction of
Liberty ships and LSTs.
Retooling a shipyard, however, is not a
matter of simply throwing a switch. More
than 30,000 parts went into the construction
of one LST, and recreating such a lengthy
supply chain took time. On top of that, the
LST construction program competed with
other accession programs. In particular, there
was fierce competition for steel plates, needed
not only for ship construction, but for tanks,
airplanes, and, indeed, almost all weapons of
20th-century warfare.
Most LSTs were constructed at so-called
“cornfield shipyards” along the Ohio and Illinois Rivers, which collectively produced an
average of 24 new LSTs each month. Impressive as that was, this fell well-short of the need.
In September 1943 the Allies employed 90
LSTs to invade Salerno, south of Naples on the
coast of Italy; both Admiral Chester Nimitz
and General Douglas MacArthur needed at
least that many more in the Pacific; and casting a giant shadow over all theaters was the
pending invasion of northern France—Operation Overlord—officially scheduled for May 1,
1944, and requiring 230 LSTs.
By late 1943 a shortage of LSTs had become
the single greatest impediment to the fulfillment of Allied ambitions. This became starkly
evident during the Italian Campaign.
INITIALLY HITLER HAD NOT PLANNED
to defend southern Italy once the Allies successfully gained a foothold on the peninsula;
due to the Allies’ naval superiority, it was
obvious an amphibious landing could easily
outflank any Axis defensive position there.
However, the Führer changed his mind after
his Mediterranean Theater commander, Field
Marshal Albert Kesselring, mounted a robust
defense of the beaches at Salerno. Soon after,
Kesselring established a strong defensive
position some 50 miles north of Naples that
ran across the width of Italy.
The precise location of this line accommodated the shifting fortunes of war, and its several versions had various names: the Winter
Line, the Hitler Line, and, most often, the
Gustav Line. It consisted of an interlocking
54
WORLD WAR II
A SINGLE LST
COULD CARRY:
350
6
SOLDIERS
PLUS
LCVP “HIGGINS
BOATS” IN DAVIT
CRANES
P L U S , IN I T S
TA NK D E C K :
20
39
30
M4 SHERMAN TANKS
OR
M5 STUART TANKS
OR
TWO-AND-ONEHALF-TON
FULLY-LOADED
“DEUCE AND A HALF”
TRUCKS
P L U S , ON I T S
W E AT HE R DECK :
30-40
JEEPS AND/OR
TOWABLE ARTILLERY
PIECES
OR
1
158-FOOT LANDING
CRAFT TANK (LCT)
network of pillboxes, bunkers, and minefields
anchored on the small Italian town of Cassino,
overlooked by a Benedictine abbey known as
Monte Cassino. When the Allies broke out
from Salerno in September 1943 and collided
with this heavily fortified position, they came
to an abrupt halt. Almost at once the idea of
outflanking the Gustav Line with an amphibious end run became a prominent element of
Allied planning.
The problem was that a landing behind the
Gustav Line would require the use of more
than three-score LSTs already scheduled to
go to England for the invasion of Normandy. If
the operation could be done quickly, the LSTs
might be able to do both—though that would
work only if they could be released from the
Mediterranean soon after the initial landing.
Newly appointed Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who
was scheduled to go to England in a few weeks
to assume command of the cross-Channel
invasion, thought such an end run was worth
consideration. He asked the Combined Chiefs
of Staff for permission to keep 56 British and
12 American LSTs in the Mediterranean until
January 15, 1944. That would enable him to
land one Allied division at Anzio, 70 miles
behind the Gustav Line, which—in conjunction with a breakthrough by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s U.S. Fifth Army near
Cassino—would overthrow Kesselring’s
defenses. The plan had a short life, however,
for it soon became evident that a swift breakthrough at Cassino, where Allied forces beat
their heads fruitlessly against the German
defenses, was unlikely, and the idea was
shelved. (See “At First It Was Quiet,” page 62.)
It was Winston Churchill who revived it.
At the Tehran Conference of November 28
to December 1, 1943, where Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met face to face for the first
time, the British prime minister argued passionately for extending the campaign in the
Mediterranean to Rome and beyond. His
pleas met stern and unyielding opposition
from both the Americans and the Russians,
who saw it as yet another effort by the British
to delay or postpone the Normandy Invasion.
Churchill was undeterred. He found the stalemate at Cassino “scandalous” and continued
to hope that he could somehow engineer a
decisive Allied victory in Italy. He even imagined that a dramatic success there might
make the Normandy landings unnecessary.
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
A spanking new LST slides down the ways
at Pittsburgh’s Neville Island Shipyard, on
the Ohio River. From there, it would travel
downriver to New Orleans to be fitted out.
Churchill remained in the theater after the
Tehran Conference, which strengthened his
ability to influence military operations there.
That he did so was more a product of chance
than intrigue. The conference at Tehran had
so exhausted him that he contracted pneumonia, and on his doctor’s orders remained in
North Africa—first at Tunis, then at Marrakesh—to recover. Nevertheless, this allowed
him to attend, and even to dominate, planning
sessions for the Mediterranean.
The decisive meeting took place in Tunis
on Christmas Day 1943. It was then that
Churchill beguiled his military commanders
with a vision of the inevitable success that
would result from outflanking the Gustav
Line by sea—a move that the prime minister,
whose vocabulary had not been enriched by
American football terms, called not an “end
run” but a “cat’s paw.” The move would greatly
threaten the German supply line, he insisted,
forcing Kesselring to respond in one of two
ways: Either he must weaken his defenses at
Cassino to protect his supply line, which
would allow Allied armies to smash through
the Gustav Line, or he must retreat entirely.
Churchill’s influence became all the stronger in January 1944, when Eisenhower
departed for England to command Overlord,
leaving the theater in the hands of an all-British command team. General Henry Maitland
Wilson (called “Jumbo” in tribute to his girth)
took over as theater commander; General
Harold Alexander remained in command of
the ground forces; and Sir John Cunningham
commanded the naval forces.
Whereas Eisenhower had considered a
breakthrough at Cassino important to landing at Anzio, Churchill’s vision was that the
landing itself would open the road to Rome.
Despite
the United
States’
astonishing
productivity,
there simply
were not
enough
LSTs.
JUNE 2018
55
56
WORLD WAR II
To ensure its success, commanders expanded
the landing force from one division to two.
Of course that also meant keeping even
more LSTs in the Mediterranean—and for a
longer period. Churchill did not see this as a
serious problem. Impatient as he was with
logistical details, he argued that this was a
mere inconvenience. (As U.S. Secretary of
War Henry L. Stimson put it in his diary,
Churchill had “a mind which revolts against
the hard facts of logistics.”) In addition, however, Churchill also noted that because the
crews of the LSTs in the Mediterranean were
veterans of previous landings at Sicily and
Salerno, they did not need the kind of training
and rehearsals that the new LST crews
coming from America required. Because of
that, he insisted that the 68 LSTs needed to
land a f lanking force at Anzio could
remain in the Mediterranean an extra
month—until February 15, 1944—and
still get back to England in time for the
cross-Channel invasion in May.
To make it work, timing was critical.
The Anzio landing was set for January
20, 1944, and the LSTs would have to
depart for England no later than three
weeks after that. That should have
been a sufficient margin of error—and
it likely would have been if Kesselring
had behaved as Churchill predicted.
Churchill was confident that the
battle would be decided “in a week
or ten days,” though some of his
operational commanders were less sure. Alexander wrote him that it would be unconscionable to leave two divisions marooned on the
Italian coast without support from the sea,
and insisted that 14 of the LSTs stay behind
under any circumstances “for maintenance.”
For his part, Cunningham told Churchill that
the operation was “fraught with great risks,” a
concern that Churchill waved off with the
comment, “without risk there is no honor.”
THE BATTLE GOT OFF TO AN AUSPICIOUS
start, with the Allied landings at Anzio
achieving complete surprise. By midmorning,
all of the first day’s objectives had been seized
and the Allies held an enclave 15 miles wide
and 7 miles deep.
In a decision that has been much criticized
since, the Allied ground commander, American Major General John P. Lucas, did not
immediately advance inland, either northward toward Rome or eastward to cut the
roads that led to the German defenses at
Cassino. His orders indicated that his primary
assignment was to establish a strong beachhead—the very existence of which, he had
been assured, would compel the Germans to
fall back. Because of that, Lucas established a
strong perimeter and focused on getting the
harbor at Anzio into a state of repair to receive
more men and supplies. By the end of the first
day, the LSTs and transports had successfully
landed 36,000 men and 3,200 vehicles at
Anzio with few casualties.
Surprised as he was, though, Kesselring did
not consider a retreat. He believed he could
hold the Gustav Line and pin down the Allies
at Anzio. Rather than withdraw forces from
Cassino, Kesselring brought two reserve divisions from Rome and summoned additional
forces from Yugoslavia and France. Within
days he had concentrated elements of eight
divisions around the Allied enclave without
weakening his forces on the Gustav Line.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS, NA 10074; IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS, A 20739; PHOTO BY HEINRICH HOFFMANN/ULLSTEIN BILD VIA GETTY IMAGES;
OPPOSITE: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: U.S. COAST GUARD/NATIONAL ARCHIVES; U.S. NAVY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES; U.S. COAST GUARD/NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Eisenhower and
Churchill eye each
other after a
Christmas Day 1943
meeting in Tunis
(left); Ike would
soon depart the
theater, allowing
Churchill (in Tehran,
right) greater
influence in the
Mediterranean—
although German
Field Marshal Albert
Kesselring (below),
proved disinclined
to live up to the
prime minister’s
predictions.
LSTs were a vital component of
landings in all corners of the world.
Clockwise from top: in England,
loading a string of railroad cars
destined for Normandy; pushing a
jeep ashore at Cape Gloucester; and
offloading a stream of troops at Leyte.
General Clark’s Fifth Army hammered
away at that line, but with little success, and as
a result there was no link up between Clark’s
army and Lucas’s two divisions at Anzio. The
Germans thus held an interior position
between two Allied fronts and were able to
choose where to defend and where to attack.
Kesselring decided to attack Lucas. On the
last day of January, he sent columns of tanks
and infantry against the Allied enclave
(which Hitler called an “abscess”) in an effort
to drive the invaders back into the sea. The
Allied lines bent under these sustained blows,
but they did not break.
In addition to hard fighting ashore, one
reason the Allies held fast was that the LSTs
and other supply ships brought in a continuous f low of fresh troops and supplies.
Throughout February 1944, convoys of LSTs
left Naples every day carrying reinforceJUNE 2018
57
Adapted from WORLD
WAR II AT SEA:
A Global History by
Craig L. Symonds.
Copyright © 2018 by
Craig L. Symonds and
published by Oxford
University Press. All
rights reserved.
58
WORLD WAR II
ments plus trucks loaded with food, gear, and
ammunition. When they arrived at Anzio, the
men disembarked and the loaded trucks drove
ashore. Other trucks filled with A llied
wounded and Axis POWs took their place, and
the LSTs retracted from the beach to head
back to Naples to repeat the process.
The LST crews labored around the clock.
They were either loading, unloading, or
underway virtually all of the time, and while
doing so, were almost always under air attack.
Theodore Wyman, the first lieutenant on
LST-197, recalled that, “We were so damnably
tired that we just didn’t have time to be bothered about being tired.” Soon enough the LSTs
began sending crewmen ashore at Naples who
were afflicted with “combat fatigue” and
“shell shock,” terms then used to describe
posttraumatic stress disorder. After the war
Wyman asserted that of the five operations
his ship participated in from North Africa to
Normandy, “it was the Anzio Campaign that
took the most out of us.” But the supplies got
through, and, because they did, the Allies at
Anzio held on.
Of course holding on had never been the
objective. Churchill was frustrated and distraught that his cat’s paw had failed to open
the road to Rome. An operation that was supposed to end the stalemate and enable Allied
soldiers to charge up the Italian boot had
instead turned into yet another bloody battle
of attrition.
KEYSTONE-FRANCE\GAMMA-RAPHO VIA GETTY IMAGES
Two LSTs loom over
Anzio’s ruined
harbor. The steady
stream of supplies
and reinforcements
the vessels provided
allowed Allied
troops to hold fast
there despite fierce
German resistance.
THE IMPACT OF THIS DISAPPOINTMENT
rippled throughout the European Theater.
When Eisenhower arrived in England to take
up his new assignment as Supreme Allied
Commander, he already knew that the lack of
LSTs would pose a critical problem, even
without the added pressure of sustaining the
Anzio beachhead. British Major General
Frederick E. Morgan, who had led the team
that compiled the original plan for Overlord,
had based all his calculations on a three-division assault, mainly because he had been told
by the Combined Chiefs of Staff there would
be sealift sufficient for only three divisions.
From the start, however, Eisenhower knew
that three divisions would not be enough to
break through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. After all,
he had used seven divisions to invade Sicily.
He therefore directed that the plan be rewritten to accommodate a five-division sea assault
plus two airborne divisions. That meant a dramatic expansion of landing craft—in particular the all-important LSTs. On January 23,
the day after Lucas’s two divisions went
ashore at Anzio, Eisenhower wrote the Combined Chiefs in Washington to insist that in
addition to the 230 LSTs Morgan had called
for, he needed 47 more.
Grudgingly accepting Eisenhower’s math,
the Joint and Combined Chiefs sought some
way to direct LSTs to England from other theaters. Eisenhower suggested that perhaps the
LSTs in the Mediterranean could be replaced
by attack transports so the LSTs there could
be sent to England for Overlord.
The Joint Chiefs had a different suggestion.
They proposed sending 26 new LSTs from the
United States to the Mediterranean, if theater
commander Jumbo Wilson agreed to send 26
of those he now had to England. Quite reasonably, Wilson wondered why it would not be
easier simply to send the 26 new LSTs directly
to England. Only then did the Joint Chiefs
reveal that the new LSTs in question were still
on the building ways and would not be available until the end of May. That would make
their arrival too late for Overlord, though as
far as Wilson was concerned, it made them too
late for the defenders of Anzio as well.
There was no escaping the numbers. Without additional LSTs, Eisenhower would not
have enough to sustain the invasion force at
Normandy. He wrote to army chief George C.
Marshall that while there would be enough
LSTs for the first three tides; after that, “we
TOP: US ARMY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES; INSET: US NAVY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES
will have no repeat no LSTs reaching the
beaches after the morning of D plus 1 until the
morning of D plus 4.” In other words, the
Allied invasion force would be stranded on the
Normandy beaches for three days without the
means to reinforce, resupply, or evacuate—an
unacceptable outcome.
The solution was two-fold. First Allied planners postponed the date for Overlord by a
month, from the first week of May to the first
week of June. That would provide American
shipyards extra time to build as many LSTs as
possible. As Eisenhower wrote to Marshall,
“one extra month of landing craft production,
including LSTs, should help a lot.” Second, they
decided to postpone the planned simultaneous
landing in southern France, called Anvil.
Eisenhower was less pleased by this decision,
as he had counted on the landings in southern
France to distract the Germans from the Overlord landings. “It looks like ANVIL is doomed,”
he wrote in his diary on March 22. “I hate this.”
In the end, the delays gave Eisenhower just
enough LSTs to carry out Overlord, but it was a
near-run thing. Churchill’s enthusiasm for the
Italian “cat’s paw,” and his overly optimistic
assumptions about how the enemy would
behave in reaction to it, postponed and very
nearly derailed the greatest operation of the
war. The Allies did eventually break out of the
Anzio beachhead and advance on Rome. American troops entered the Eternal City on June 4.
Two days later other Allied forces landed
in Normandy. +
LSTs in Devon,
England (top), load
men, vehicles, and
supplies for the
Normandy Invasion.
Shortly after the
assault (above), a
row of American
and British LSTs
dominates the
Normandy shore.
JUNE 2018
59
W E A P O N S MANUAL I LLU S T R ATION B Y JIM LAURIER
MASTERPIECE
Great Britain’s Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX fighter
CELEBRATED FOR ITS ROLE alongside the Hawker Hurricane in defending British skies in
1940, the agile Spitfire soon took on an offensive role, conducting fighter sweeps across the English Channel. But in late 1941 the new German Focke-Wulf Fw 190A threatened Allied operations
over occupied Europe, as it outperformed Spitfire Mark Vs serving in frontline squadrons.
British aircraft designers rushed to introduce new Spitfire variants with two-stage supercharged
Merlin engines, which significantly boosted the fighter’s performance. The Mark IX began operations in June 1942, and its improved speed, climb rate, and high-altitude capabilities made it a
match for the Fw 190A. Designers continued to improve the Mark IX with stronger engines, jettisonable drop tanks, and gyroscopic gunsights. Spitfires accounted for nearly half of Allied fighter
strength on D-Day, and the Mark IX continued to serve until war’s end. —Paraag Shukla
POSITIVE
IDENTIFICATION
By the summer of 1944,
Spitfires, like this
Canadian pair from
No. 443 Squadron,
began carrying external
44-gallon fuel tanks to
extend their range over
occupied Europe.
60
WORLD WAR II
By D-Day, the Allies had
established air superiority
over France, so squadrons
painted highly visible
“invasion stripes” on their
aircraft to make them
easier to identify over
occupied areas.
MAGIC MERLIN
The Mark IX initially used the Merlin 61 engine.
But after 1943, the upgraded Merlin 66 gave the
Spitfire even better performance at lower altitudes,
becoming the most produced version of the fighter.
MARK OF AN ACE
Many pilots of the Canadian
No. 127 Wing adorned their
aircraft with a red maple leaf,
but Wing Commander “Johnnie”
Johnson personalized his symbol
by painting it dark green. By war’s
end, Johnson became the leading
British fighter ace in Europe.
BRITISH SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE MK. IX
Length: 31 ft / Wingspan: 32.5 ft / Top speed: 404 mph /
Range: 434 mi / Armament: two 20mm cannons, four
.303 machine guns / Many consider the Mark IX to
have the perfect balance of speed and maneuverability.
THE COMPETITION
BRASS KNUCKLES
Most Mark IXs had four .303
machine guns and two 20mm
cannons, but late-war models
replaced the .303s with a pair of
heavier .50-caliber machine guns.
GERMAN FOCKE-WULF FW 190A-8
Length: 29.5 ft / Wingspan: 34.5 ft / Top speed: 408
mph / Range: 500 mi / Armament: four 20mm
cannons, two 13mm machine guns / The versatile
Fw 190 served as a fighter and an attack aircraft.
ELLIPTICAL WINGS
The Spitfire’s distinctive wing design
had a very thin cross-section, which
helped minimize drag but also limited
the capacity of its wing fuel tanks.
PHOTO: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM (HU 92139)
GERMAN MESSERSCHMITT BF 109G-6
Length: 29.7 ft / Wingspan: 32.5 ft / Top speed: 398 mph
/ Range: 528 mi / Armament: one 30mm cannon, two
13mm machine guns / The Bf 109 was the backbone of
the Luftwaffe’s fighter arsenal throughout the war.
JUNE 2018
61
AT FIRST
IT WAS QUIET...
Brutal fighting near Italy’s Rapido River
led to tremendous American casualties—
and an unexpected gesture by the enemy
By Duane Schultz
62
WORLD WAR II
ieutenant Harold L. Bond had never
seen a real German soldier before, only
actors playing them in Holly wood
movies and U.S. Army training films.
But the ones he saw on the other side of
the Rapido River near Monte Cassino,
Italy, on January 24, 1944, were alive
and real—and they were heading toward him.
Bond, 23, was a newly commissioned lieutenant fresh out of Officer Candidate School;
a 90-day wonder, as the GIs called them.
He had joined the 36th Infantry Division—
known as the T-Patchers, a Texas National
Guard outfit—the night before they attacked
the Germans in their concrete-and-steel
defenses on the far side of the Rapido in the
shadow of Monte Cassino. His superiors told
him that he was too new to be assigned to
command a unit—he would only get in the
L
way—and so Bond watched and waited.
For the next three days, he saw his fellow
soldiers try to cross the river three times, only
to be beaten back again and again. Most of the
troops never made it across, and among those
that did, few returned. The ones who survived
never forgot it. In 1999, more than a half century later, Private Bill Hartung of the 36th
said that he “felt like I had turned into an old
man overnight. I know I was never the same
person again...The nightmares make it seem
like it all happened yesterday.”
Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark had
planned the crossing of the Rapido as a diversion aimed at tricking the Germans into
thinking it was a major attack so that they
would shift their troops away from Anzio,
where Allied forces were to launch an amphibious assault. The men of the 36th Infantry
In early 1944 men
of the 36th Infantry
Division defend a
position overlooking
the Rapido River.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES
JUNE 2018
63
Division had been in combat for months
enduring heavy casualties, and the place
where Clark had chosen to cross the river was
the most heavily defended section of the
German line.
“Everybody who had any experience knew,
this ain’t the place to cross the river,” one sergeant said. “We had the feeling we were being
sacrificed, a feeling that we couldn’t win.”
He was right.
When the operation was over, almost half of
the 4,000 men of the 36th fighting near the
Rapido were killed, wounded, or captured.
The German side, in contrast, had 64 deaths
and 179 wounded.
IN THE AFTERMATH of the failed crossing,
Lieutenant Bond was given command of what
was left of a mortar battalion, a mere 46 men
out of the 200 who had gone into battle. His
first assignment was to set up a forward
observation post behind a nearby hedge. Sent
out alone, armed only with his .45 pistol, a pair
of binoculars, and a radio, he was to keep
watch on the German side of the river and
report any movement.
At first it was quiet. Suddenly German soldiers appeared, slowly approaching the
river’s edge. “They were coming toward us,”
During a two-hour
truce, the Germans
allowed litter bearers
and soldiers of the
36th (here a few days
earlier) to collect their
dead and wounded.
64
WORLD WAR II
Bond later wrote. He watched as the enemy troops walked around casually, occasionally stooping over to examine something on the ground.
He radioed his battalion commander to report the German presence, but was puzzled when no Americans opened fire on the enemy,
now in plain view. “I was astonished to see how many of them there
were exposing themselves,” Bond said, “and I could not understand
why no one shot at them.”
Then his phone rang, and a frantic battalion commander told him
not to let anyone open fire. The Germans, he said, had offered a twohour truce to allow the Americans to collect their wounded and dead.
It was an unusual turn of events at that stage of the fighting in Italy—
but there were so many American casualties on the German side of the
river that the Germans apparently needed the area cleared. Even in
the freezing weather, the dead bodies would soon start to smell. The
Germans likely also saw propaganda potential in the offer: a German
officer was seen behind the barbed wire filming the operation.
A short time later, Captain David Kaplan, a 30-year-old army doctor
from Iowa, and Private Arnold Fleishman, a 20-year-old interpreter
from Queens, New York, both waving Red Cross flags, rowed across the
river in a leaky rubber boat. But the Germans who had been out roaming over the battlefield had disappeared.
“When we got on the other side,” Captain Kaplan said, “we saw a big
plain littered with the scattered bodies of [our] dead. There wasn’t a
living soul in sight, but we had a feeling we were under observation.”
About 800 yards ahead, they saw a line of barbed wire and decided
to head for that. The men moved carefully, keeping to the edges of shell
craters, hoping the exploding shells had already set off any mines in
the vicinity. When they finally reached the wire, there were still
no enemy soldiers.
“We waved the Red Cross flag in all directions and jingled the wire and suddenly a
German came into view,” Kaplan recalled. He
was a well-dressed officer and spoke in
German to Fleishman, complimenting the
private on how fluently he spoke the language.
Then he asked the question Fleishman had
been dreading: where had he learned such
good German? “In school,” the private
answered, deliberately failing to mention that
he had grown up in Germany and was one of
the lucky Jews that had fled to the United
States before the war. Fleishman thought it
best not to reveal that.
The three men quickly reached an agreement about the terms of a truce. The Americans left for their side of the river and
returned with some 75 army medics and litter
bearers. To avoid any misunderstanding, the
party carried large white towels on which red
crosses had been painted using iodine.
As the litter bearers retrieved their men,
more Germans came out to observe from
behind their barbed wire, but in keeping with
the truce arrangement, neither side was
armed. The Americans learned that the Germans had already taken a number of American wounded to field hospitals for treatment,
but they admitted that there might be some
NATIONAL ARCHIVES, MAP BY BRIAN WALKER
soldiers they had missed. In addition,
the litter bearers had to deal with the dead
GIs whose bodies needed to be brought
near the shoreline for possible retrieval
at a later time.
The Germans offered to help the
Americans in their search. There was no
apparent anger or hostility as the enemies
worked side by side, conversing as best they
could, despite the language barrier. Some of
the men brought out photos of their families.
A few even shook hands.
Corporal Zeb Sunday took out a pack of
Lucky Strike cigarettes and offered one to a
German soldier, who graciously accepted it.
They started a conversation. “He talked
pretty good English,” Sunday recalled. “He
had a brother in Brooklyn named Heinz.
He seemed to be just common people like [us].
He was just doing his job.”
Some of the Germans told the Americans
how much they admired their bravery in
attempting to cross the river against such
overwhelming odds. “Your men fought with
great determination and courage,” one said.
Others said they were surprised that the
American officers had chosen such a strongly
fortified spot on the river for the crossing.
The GIs agreed that they could not have
I TA LY
ROME
GUSTAV
LINE
MONTE
CASSINO
The Germans
offered to
help the
Americans.
There was
no anger or
hostility as
they worked
side by side.
JUNE 2018
65
chosen a worse place to mount an attack.
One German officer, smartly dressed and
carrying a swagger stick, approached Major
Ted Andrews. He said in flawless English,
“You lads certainly don’t conduct river crossings like I was taught at Leavenworth.” The
officer had been a student at the U.S. Army’s
Command and General Staff College before
the war. “He was right,” Andrews noted. “I
would never conduct a river crossing that way.”
AMONG THE BODIES littering the battlefield, the search parties found four wounded
American soldiers still alive. One was an army
medic. As litter bearers lifted him off the
ground and placed him onto a stretcher, he
said, “Look! I have maid service. You can’t
beat this battlefield.”
Another wounded man, a forward observer
who had half his face blown off, had been
drifting in and out of consciousness for three days. He recalled how,
during the battle, some American soldiers had found him but assumed
he was dead. He tried to speak or move an arm or leg, but could not. He
saw the litter bearers looking at him, shaking their heads and walking
away. The Germans had also passed him by. But then, during the truce,
the litter bearers noticed that rigor mortis, a stiffness in the muscles
that occurs after death, had not set in. They brought him back across
the river to safety. It would take multiple reconstructive surgeries to
restore his face to near normalcy.
But the search teams missed another who was barely alive. Sergeant Charlie Rummel had been lying on the ground since the battle
with both his legs shattered: “I could hear my bones cracking every
time I moved. My right leg was so badly mangled I couldn’t get my
boot off, on account of it was pointed to the rear.” Rummel had
dragged himself painfully from one foxhole to the another searching
the bodies of the dead for packets of sulfa to pour on his wounds, and
to scrounge whatever food he could find. “I was constantly cold and
wet. Every hole that I crawled into was filled with water.” German soldiers later discovered Rummel and took him back to their field hospital; both of his legs had to be amputated.
After the wounded
had been retrieved
and the truce ended,
both the Germans and
Americans seemed
reluctant to resume
fighting. Mused one
sergeant: “War’s a
funny thing.”
66
WORLD WAR II
NATIONAL ARCHIVES; OPPOSITE RIGHT: HISTORYNET ARCHIVES
By the end of the truce, the American team
had brought back the four wounded men and
transported 60 dead across the river for identification and burial. But there was not
enough time to take them all. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Price recalled: “A stack of 80
bodies was piled along the bank to be recovered later; these had received direct hits from
mortar shells while standing in their fighting
holes and had no heads, shoulders or arms.
They proved difficult to identify.”
Then it was time to leave and say goodbye
to the enemies they had only just met. “Sergeant, you be good,” said one German captain
to First Sergeant Enoch Perry. “Well, I’m
going to,” Perry replied, “and I hope this thing
can be finished up.” “Me too,” came the reply,
“I’m ready to get out of here.”
“War’s a funny thing,” Sergeant Sammy
Petty said after the truce ended. “You get
these people fighting each other. They’re
going to kill each other. Then they go down
and shake hands, the best of buddies. And five
minutes later, you’ll be trying to kill him or
he’ll be trying to kill you.”
It didn’t go just like that, though.
Lieutenant Harold Bond watched the last
American soldier come back across the river
carrying his white towel with the iodinestained cross painted on it.
“The truce was officially over,” the lieutenant wrote in his memoirs almost 20 years
later, “but no one started firing as night came
on. The whole front remained silent until it
was dark. Everyone there seemed reluctant to
break the short peace, when Germans had
directed Americans to spots where their
comrades lay.... Then, as if both sides had
been told to start things up again, the big
guns started shooting.” +
“The truce
was finally
over,” a
lieutenant
wrote, “but
no one
started firing
as night
came on.”
JUNE 2018
67
Generals Bernard
Montgomery and
Dwight D. Eisenhower,
here in early 1944,
come under fire for
hindering Operation
Overlord’s potential.
R EVI EWS BO O KS
DIVIDED ON
D-DAY
How Conflicts
and Rivalries
Jeopardized the
Allied Victory at
Normandy
By Edward E.
Gordon and
David Ramsay.
429 pp.
Prometheus
Books, 2018. $26.
68
WORLD WAR II
CLASHES OF PERSONALITY between key
military commanders limited the gains from
the Normandy Invasion and needlessly lengthened the war, argue American historian
Edward Gordon and British author David
Ramsay in Divided on D-Day. This is not a new
story, told best in Martin Blumenson’s classic
Battle of the Generals, but the authors have
turned to previously untapped diaries to
slightly expand the narrative.
They extensively describe the background
and character of leaders on both the Allied
and German sides on D-Day. Gordon and
Ramsay are rightly very critical of the performances of generals Bernard Montgomery and
Dwight D. Eisenhower, from the initial Normandy Invasion through Operation MarketGarden; verge on being hagiographic in their
coverage of George S. Patton and Erwin Rommel; and are much too easy on Omar Bradley,
buying into the modest soldier-general
mythology that writers such as Blumenson
and Rick Atkinson have already debunked.
While the authors effectively highlight the
role these big personalities played in hindering optimum execution of Operation Overlord, they ignore other relevant factors,
including logistical and geographic imperatives. As Blumenson revealed, these imperatives put the more mobile American forces in
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victory at the Falaise pocket. . . . A
professional and well-researched
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under-examined phase of World
War II.”—Wall Street Journal
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restrictive hedgerow country while,
perversely, the more infantry-oriented
British ended up with the best terrain
for tanks.
Gordon and Ramsay meticulously
cover the major ground and naval decisions that shaped the war across northwest Europe, but are less successful in
discussing air operations and greatly
oversimplify the Allies’ decision to
pursue attacks on oil or transportation
to support the invasion. They also
overlook the controversial fratricide
resulting from Operation Cobra, the
breakout from the beachhead. Despite
contrary accounts in his memoirs,
Bradley, as Cobra’s comma nder,
deserves blame along with senior Allied
airmen for sending massed aircraft on
an approach to the bomblines that
enhanced their survival but ensured
hundreds of American casualties from
bombs that fell short of their target.
While this book offers little new for
those well-read on World War II, it
should be informative for newcomers
to the field, especially those only
exposed to the triumphalism inevitably associated with the upcoming 75th
anniversary of D-Day in 2019. Given
that Gordon and Ramsay largely focus
on the campaign’s failures and lost
opportunities, though, those readers
should also seek accounts emphasizing
the campaign’s more positive accomplishments. As British prime minister
Winston Churchill said, “There is only
one thing worse than fighting with
allies, and that is fighting without
them.” The Allied coalition was far
from perfect, but it still won the war,
and is considered one of the most effective coalitions in history. And Eisenhower deserves a lot of credit for
harnessing his own “Team of Rivals” to
achieve that victory. Gordon and
Ramsay reveal much about just how
difficult that job was. —Conrad Crane is
chief of historical services at the U.S.
Army Heritage and Education Center at
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and a
former professor of history at West Point.
R EVI EWS B OOKS
WORSE THAN
YOU THOUGHT
HITLER’S
MONSTERS
A Supernatural
History of the
Third Reich
By Eric Kurlander.
424 pp. Yale
University Press,
2017. $35.
HITLER HAS STOOD ACCUSED of many things over
the years: being a tyrant, a warmonger, and a mass murderer. Norman Ohler’s recent book, Blitzed, labeled the
Führer an opioid user and drug addict. Now, according
to historian Eric Kurlander, we can add “dabbler in the
black arts” to the list, and perhaps even “Satanist.”
Hitler’s Monsters is a fascinating book, describing in
fine detail the Nazi Party’s devotion “to occult forces,
mad scientists, fantastical weapons, a superhuman
Nazi master race, a preoccupation with pagan religions,
and magical relics supposed to grant the Nazis unlimited powers.” In other words, if you wish to understand
Hitler’s mind and the twisted ideology of the movement
he started, you probably don’t need to read Mein Kampf
at all. Rather, you should see Captain America: The
First Avenger (2011), where our hero takes on the Red
Skull—or better yet, journey back 30 years and rewatch
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
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HISTORYNET.COM
VALLEY OF DEATH
AT EL GUETTAR PATTON’S OUTGUNNED ARMY
FACED A BRUTAL PANZER ONSLAUGHT
+ HOW A SAVAGE
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It turns out that Hitler and his minions believed in a lot of crazy ideas,
ones that went well beyond crackpot
notions of racial purity that were
better suited to raising chickens than
human beings. They lived in a dark
mental universe of pseudoscience:
notions of blood purity and mystical
grails, astrology, parapsychology,
Neo-Paganism, even World Ice
Theory (or “glacial cosmogony”)—the
belief that ice is the basic substance of
the universe, that “icy moons had
crashed into Earth” in ancient times
and that the cataclysm had destroyed
a human civilization that had already
achieved a high level of development—
all, it must be added, without a shred
of fossil evidence. Many high-ranking
Party members, especially the court
around SS chief Heinrich Himmler,
resurrected the worship of Holle, the
supposed ancient Aryan goddess of
fertility. Some would even come to
call themselves “Luciferians,” worshipping you-know-who and rejecting
what they felt were fatally weak
Judeo-Christian notions of mercy,
love, and justice.
Despite its sensationalist subject
matter, Hitler’s Monsters isn’t an easy
book to read. The author is aiming for
a scholarly audience, and he includes
the obligatory blizzard of footnotes
and a great deal of “this historian said
this, that historian said that” argumentation. Nevertheless, Kurlander is
onto something important. It’s a
cliché that our modern scientific,
technological world can be a heartless
place. Recognizing their own mortality, men and women instinctively seek
some higher belief, something that
goes beyond science and explains the
mystery of our existence. As Hitler’s
Monsters demonstrates chapter and
verse, however, abandoning science
altogether is rarely a good idea, and
investing a political leader like Adolf
Hitler with the status of a shaman or
messiah can be positively deadly.
—Robert M. Citino is the senior historian at the National WWII Museum
and writes this magazine’s “Fire for
Effect” column.
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A Heinkel He 111 B-2 of the
Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion
releases its lethal load during
the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War
HITLER’S
AIRMEN
TERRORIZE
SPAIN
THE 1937
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full swing, with one
bawdy act after another
presided over by the
club’s leering emcee—
the master of ceremonies, portrayed by Joel
Grey—his face covered
with white grease paint and garish rouge.
The revelries culminate in a mud wrestling
match between two women, whom the emcee
sprays with seltzer water while mugging for
the crowd. Almost unnoticed, a Nazi Brownshirt meanders through the audience, soliciting donations for the Party until the maître d’
kicks him out the door. Oblivious to this development, the emcee concludes the act by slapping a dollop of mud across his upper lip, in a
mocking imitation of Hitler, and stretching
out his arm in a Nazi salute.
Cabaret is a decidedly nontraditional musical. In most musicals, characters break into
song as part of the dialogue. However in Cabaret, the songs are not so much a part of the storyline as a commentary upon it. And every
performance—with one chilling exception—
takes place in the Kit Kat Klub.
Thus, the evening after the Brownshirt is
ejected from the Kit Kat Klub, his compatriots
corner the maître d’ outside in an alley and
brutally beat him. The punches and kicks are
intercut with scenes of a slapstick skit on the
cabaret stage, where the emcee pretends to
strike the cheeks of women clad in Bavarian
folk costumes and merrily slaps their fannies.
A subplot involves a love affair between
two friends of Sally: the beautiful Natalia
Landauer (Marisa Berenson) and Fritz
Wendel (Fritz Wepper). Natalia is Jewish. So
is Fritz, but to avoid the gathering anti-Semitism in Germany he has passed himself off as
Protestant. Fritz decides to acknowledge his
real heritage when he realizes that Natalia
will marry only a Jewish man. On stage, the
emcee dances with an actress costumed as a
gorilla, proclaiming his love for her and asking
the audience to see the gorilla as he does. “If
you could see her through my eyes,” he concludes plaintively, turning to the crowd and
dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, “she
wouldn’t look Jewish at all!”
Fixated on becoming a rich and famous
movie star, Sally scarcely notices the shifting
political currents around her. Not so her
friend and sometime lover, Brian Roberts
(Michael York), an English doctoral student.
B AT T LE F I LMS BY MAR K GR I MSLEY
DARKNESS
DESCENDS
FEW WORLD WAR II FILMS portray how the Nazis came to power.
Those that do typically focus on Adolf Hitler. But one important
exception is Cabaret, the acclaimed 1972 musical directed by Broadway legend Bob Fosse, for which Liza Minnelli won the Oscar for
Best Actress for her breakout performance as American expatriate
and chanteuse Sally Bowles. Extraordinarily dark, Cabaret is one of
a handful of movies that show how ordinary people experienced the
Nazi takeover in Germany.
The film begins in 1931 Berlin at the Kit Kat Klub, one of many
cabarets that dot the German capital. The evening festivities are in
74
WORLD WAR II
HISTORYNET ARCHIVES
The 1972 musical
is one of few films
to focus on how
everyday German
citizens reacted to
the Nazis’ early
rise to power.
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Brian sees the loathsome Nazis
everywhere—and grasps the threat
they represent.
He understands the rising danger
more than most Germans do. While
he and Sally are on a drive through
Berlin with a wealthy young aristocrat, Maximilian von Heune (Helmut
Griem), Max’s chauffeur-driven lim-
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HISTORYNET ARCHIVES
“Tomorrow belongs
to me,” a blond Nazi
youth fiercely sings.
ousine passes the bloody corpse of a Communist agitator murdered by Nazi
street thugs. Unruffled, Max assures Brian, “The Nazis are just a gang of
stupid hooligans, but they do serve a purpose. Let them get rid of the Communists. Later we’ll be able to control them.”
“But who exactly is ‘we’?” Brian inquires.
“Germany, of course.”
A few days later, Brian and Max find themselves on the patio of a beer
garden. Suddenly a young tenor voice, clear and sweet, begins to sing a folk
song extolling Germany’s natural beauty. The crowd quiets to listen. The
camera cuts to the youth’s blond Aryan head, then slowly pans downward to
reveal a swastika on his left arm and the boy in full Nazi uniform. “Somewhere a glory awaits unseen,” he continues; “Tomorrow belongs to me.”
The folk song shifts in meter to a driving militaristic tempo. The boy,
joined one at a time by other German youth, then by nearly the entire crowd,
begs the Fatherland to show them a sign “Your children have waited to see /
The morning will come when the world is mine / Tomorrow belongs to me.”
By this time the youth is fierce in appearance, the bellowing customers
filled with both anger and pride. Returning to their limo, Max and Brian look
back at the crowd. “Do you still think that you can control them?” Brian asks.
Then, as if to comment on the action, the film cuts back to the emcee. He
looks up, faces the viewer, smiles that leering smile, and nods. The nod isn’t
meant to answer Brian’s question, but rather to acknowledge what the audience is thinking. Yes, the emcee seems to say, this is just how it came about.
The “real” Germany was never the Germany of Max’s aristocratic imaginings, but rather that of those ordinary volk—the people—lifting their tankards, summoning not morning, but the blackest night. +
Ed
& Ivet
The True Story of a
World War II POW Romance
LITTLE
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Featuring the pre-conference symposium
THE GENERAL RAYMOND E. MASON JR.
DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES ON
WORLD WAR II ENDOWMENT FUND
The Two World Wars: 1914-1945
November 29 – December 1, 2018
Between 1914 and 1945, a generation of men and women spent their lives at war. Many Americans who
experienced war in the trenches of Western Europe in World War I returned to liberate the same
ground again in 1944. The military and political leaders of World War II learned the art of war from 1914 to 1918,
and vowed not to repeat the mistakes of that war, and the flawed peace that ended it.
The 2018 pre-conference symposium will explore the legacies, leadership lessons and tactics
of World War I and the role its ending played in World War II’s beginning.
Conference Highlights Include:
Sir Antony Beevor and his new book on Operation Market-Garden
“Greatest Unheralded Commanders”
“Battles NOT to Fight: Peleliu and the Huertgen Forest” with Richard Frank and Rick Atkinson
“A Conversation with Dr. Nick Mueller” with a leading WWII historian
“Under Appreciated Campaigns of the Second World War”
Booking early has its rewards.
Save up to $200 when you register by June 30, 2018.
For more details, call 1-877-813-3329 x 511 or visit www.ww2conference.com
CHA LLE N GE
KEEP ’EM ROLLING
We altered this 1942 photograph of an M3 medium tank assembly line at
the Detroit Tank Arsenal to create one inaccuracy. What is it?
TOP: GORDON COSTER/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN WALKER
G
OT THE FLA
HINT: IT’S N
Answer to the
February Challenge:
Please send your
answer with your name and
We removed three control
levers from the jeep’s floor;
79 of you got that right. Our
favorite “incorrect” answer
correctly pointed out that the
vehicle is parked under a
French “No Parking” sign!
mailing address to: June 2018
Challenge, World War II, 1919
Gallows Road, Suite 400, Vienna,
VA 22182; or e-mail: challenge@
historynet.com. Three winners,
chosen at random from all
correct entries submitted by
April 15, will receive Call of Duty:
WWII in their preferred system
format: Playstation 4, Xbox One,
or PC. Answers will appear in the
August 2018 issue.
Congratulations to the
winners: Desiree Stackhouse,
James Doble, and Gary Viele
JUNE 2018
79
INCOGNITO
THE EVERETT COLLECTION
Improbably known as “Slugger” to her four Chatham, New
York, brothers for her tomboyish ways, actress Marguerite
Chapman appeared in a series of war films while the Chapman
men served overseas. The films included 1943’s Destroyer and
Assignment in Berlin, and Counter-Attack, released in 1945.
In the latter she played a Soviet partisan and had auditioned
for the part with no makeup and scraggly hair. “You’re just
what I want,” the film’s producer told her. “You look like a boy,
but I know there’s a woman underneath all that.”
80
WORLD WAR II
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