World War II, Week by Week


Calling attention to a fine YouTube series, World War II -Week by Week, hosted by Indy Neidell. Every Saturday, they publish a roughly 20-minute show summarizing events that occurred during the corresponding week of WWII (e.g., the events that occurred on September 1, 1939, were covered by the video published on September 1, 2018, etc.)

The war is covered on all fronts in detail. On June 6, they published a 24-hour series about D-Day hour by hour. I haven’t seen the whole marathon yet, but the parts I have seen are excellent.

WWII Balloon Bombs Over Oregon


During WWII between November 1944 and April 1945, the Japanese military launched 9,000 balloon bombs. They carried explosives and incendiary devices. 361 of these balloons have been discovered in 26 states, Canada, and Mexico. From The Oregon Encyclopedia:

The balloon bombs were 70 feet tall with a 33-foot diameter paper canopy connected to the main device by shroud lines. Balloons inflated with hydrogen followed the jet stream at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The high-explosive anti-personnel and incendiary devices were rigged to self-destruct and leave no evidence. The Japanese hoped the bombs would start forest fires and create panic, according to documents found after the war.

The Mitchell Monument marks the spot near Bly, Oregon, where six people were killed by a Japanese balloon bomb during World War II. Designated by the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, this is the only place on the continental United States where Americans were killed by enemy action during World War II.

This week The Learning Curve podcast marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day with guest host Dr. Jay Greene of the Heritage Foundation and Laurence Rees, a former head of BBC TV History Programmes; founder, writer, and producer of the award-winning WW2History.com; and author of The Holocaust: A New History. Mr. Rees sheds light on the historical context of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, including the rise of the cultural and political conditions that led to the Holocaust. Rees discusses how the Nazis promulgated their anti-Semitic ideology and laws, and underscores the criminal realities of the Auschwitz concentration and death camp, as well as the Holocaust’s six million Jewish victims. Rees also talks about the fragility of both human life and political and cultural institutions. Mr. Rees closes the interview with a reading from his book on the Holocaust.


Book Review: Between Silk and Cyanide, by Leo Marks


We have a little time left
The wise doctor said
Unless there’s a miracle
Which is another man’s trade

Selfish as always
I’ve started missing you now
Want to say so
Don’t know how
Want to hug you
Don’t know if I should
Hope you understand
I’d take your place if I could

In 1942, at the age of 22, Leo Marks joined the secret British agency known as Special Operations Executive. He soon became the organization’s Codemaster, responsible for the security of communications with SOE’s resistance and sabotage agents in occupied Europe. He usually briefed these agents — soon-to-be-legendary individuals like Violette Szabo and Forest Yeo-Thomas — before their departures and they all left indelible impressions on him. His memoir is a very emotional book: frequently heartbreaking, sometimes very funny. There is a lot about the technical aspects of cryptography, but these sections can be skipped or skimmed by those who are primarily interested in the powerful human story. Poetry, much of it written by Marks himself, played an important part in SOE’s cryptographic operations and hence plays an important role in this book.

The Last of the Last


Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last of America’s Medal of Honor recipients from WWII, has passed away at the age of 98.

In 2009, my wife was invited to a function in Washington, DC. Our local library had won a prestigious national award and, as treasurer of one of the library’s most popular community programs, she was asked to attend. When she arrived, she found herself seated at a table with an elderly gentleman in his mid-80’s. Raised on a dairy farm in West Virginia, he had lived quite a life. He had worked odd jobs and drove both trucks and a taxi for a living before he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was working on a project through them in Montana on December 7, 1941.

Like most healthy American males, he went to enlist but he was rejected for military service for being too short. By May 1943, with the war dragging on, he was finally accepted into the Reserves of the United States Marine Corps. A little over a year later, this young man would be in combat with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marines on Guam and, in February of 1945, on the island of Iwo Jima.

‘Corregidor Used to Be a Nice Place; It’s Haunted Now’


The Allied command center on Corregidor.

The Japanese Imperial Navy began shelling Corregidor three weeks after their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Philippine island was the strongest fort in the Pacific, nicknamed “the Gibraltar of the East” by the US troops stationed there. Corregidor was a two-square-mile tangle of tunnels, bunkers, and heavy guns preventing the Japanese from securing Manila Bay.

So the enemy kept bombarding. For four months, a valiant group of US Marines, Army, and Navy fighters — joined by Filipino soldiers — held out against the incessant Japanese aerial, naval, and artillery attacks. But they couldn’t hold out forever.

Night Witches: The All-Female Soviet Aerial Bomb Squad


The name alone would strike terror into the heart of even the most battle-hardened German soldier: The Night Witches.

Although these women were not Americans, we decided that since they fought as allies against Nazi soldiers and their story is not commonly known, we would give them an honorable mention in our Forgotten Americans section. Named for the sound of their rudimentary, plywood biplanes as they cruised slowly overhead at low altitude dropping bombs, the Night Witches were the all-volunteer, all-female air raid squad that the Soviets deployed against the Third Reich. The spooky “whoosh” as they circled overhead reminded the German troops of women sweeping. The association with a broom led to them calling these night-time raiders “Nachthexen” – Night Witches.

A term of derision for the Nazis, a badge of honor for the women of the Soviet Union’s all-female bomb squad. The Night Witches were so hated by the powers that be in Berlin that anyone who could down one of their crop dusters was awarded the prestigious Iron Cross award. But who were these brave women who battled against the Nazi Luftwaffe in the freezing cold of the Eastern Front?

Battle of the Bulge: The Epic WW2 Battle That Cemented American Confidence


When we think about American GIs in the European theater of World War II, much of our image comes from the Battle of the Bulge. Named so because of the distinctive “bulge” shape of the front lines, this is where so many American men laid down their lives on fields of frozen mud in France.

What Was the Battle of the Bulge?

The Battle of the Bulge was the result of Hitler’s last dying gasp lashing out against the increasing pressure of the Allied forces in France. Hitler’s goal was to drive a literal and metaphorical wedge between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Voices from the Past


General Patton, Corps and Division Commanders, 4th Armored Division C.P., England, June 1944.

These are the generals of the Third Army. Patton stands in front. My great uncle Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack stands in the back row, second from the right. This photo was taken in June 1944 in England shortly before the landing at Utah Beach in July.

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WWII:Democrat President declares war on Germany and Japan after Japan attack’s US.We beat the German Axis and Japan. We remain in Germany, Italy and Japan to stabilize and protect them, even today, 75 years later. South Korean:Democrat President enters war with South Korean to push out North Korea.Republican President, and war fighter, takes over as […]

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Witold Pilecki: The Polish Spy Who Led a Resistance Against the Nazis


Like many of the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising, nearly no one in the Anglosphere has ever heard of Witold Pilecki, a deeply Catholic member of the Polish resistance. However, his heroism is inspiring far beyond his actions during the largest single act of Polish resistance to the Nazi regime.

When we speak of resistance against the Nazis by occupied nations, we speak almost exclusively of the French and sometimes of the Dutch. Rarely mentioned are the Poles, despite the fact that they had a functioning government in exile coordinating with an underground government on the ground with its own military arm, the Polish Home Army.

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The United States of America can take pride in a number of things, among them arguably the two greatest cultural and scientific achievements of human history: The moon landing and atomic power. It is the latter that we will focus on in the article, the unleashing of the power of the atom, for good and […]

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The Computer Age Turns 75


In February 1946, the first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIA, was introduced to the public. Nothing like ENIAC had been seen before, and the unveiling of the computer, a room-filling machine with lots of flashing lights and switches–made quite an impact.

ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was created primarily to help with the trajectory-calculation problems for artillery shells and bombs, a problem that was requiring increasing numbers of people for manual computations. John Mauchly, a physics professor attending a summer session at the University of Pennsylvania, and J Presper Eckert, a 24-year-old grad student, proposed the machine after observing the work of the women (including Mauchly’s wife Mary) who had been hired to assist the Army with these calculations. The proposal made its way to the Army’s liason with Penn, and that officer, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine, took up the project’s cause. (Goldstine apparently heard about the proposal not via formal university channels but via a mutual friend, which is an interesting point in our present era of remote work.) Electronics had not previously been used for digital computing, and a lot of authorities thought an electromechanical machine would be a better and safer bet.

Radar Wars: a Case Study in Expertise and Influence


In today’s WSJ, David Mamet writes about expertise and influence, pointing out that experts who get important things wrong, sometimes causing great harm to millions of people, often pay no personal price whatsoever. One example he mentions is the pre-WWII secret British debate on air defense technologies and especially the role played by Churchill’s scientific advisor, Professor Frederick Lindemann.

It is an interesting and important story, and is discussed by the scientist/novelist CP Snow in his 1960 book Science and Government…which, he says, was inspired by the following thought:

Harry Truman and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb


Harry Truman

Peter Robinson expressed his opinion on Twitter today that President Truman did not approve the use of the nuclear bomb. “Truman never approved the use of the bomb–or disapproved it,” He wrote. “The military considered it one more weapon, like a new submarine or aircraft. They kept Truman informed. But they did not ask his approval.”

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America is definitely not Europe, but we can find a number of parallels between European history and contemporary America. For example, we’ve previously written about the Italian Years of Lead as a possible template for urban unrest and low-level inter-tribal warfare in the United States. Another example of how things might play out in the […]

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QOTD: Ride onward, hero, into legend


“If I should be killed, I want you to bury me on one of the hills east of the place where my grandparents and brothers and sisters and other relatives are buried.”

“If you have a memorial service, I want the soldiers to go ahead with the American Flag. I want cowboys to follow, all on horseback. I want one of the cowboys to lead one of the wildest of the T over X horses with saddle and bridle on.”