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Subject Index: Second World War Articles from 2015
Updates from: Current • 2017 • 2016 • 2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2012 • 2011 • 2010 • 2009 • 2008 • 2007
Articles from 2015
31 December 2015
The 1st Search Attack Group was an experimental anti-submarine warfare unit that was created in the summer of 1942 at a time when the US military was struggling to cope with the threat of the U-boats.
The 343rd Fighter Group was based in Alaska from the autumn of 1942 and took part in the campaign against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands.
The 480th Antisubmarine Group (USAAF) was based in Morocco and flew anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic approaches to the Mediterranean.
28 December 2015
The Char D1 Infantry Tank was the first French tank to carry a 47mm gun, but it was an unpopular design had had been relegated to service in North Africa by 1940.
The Char D2 was a development of the D1 with more armour and more engine power. It was produced in small numbers, and only because famous because it was used in de Gaulle's armoured unit during the fighting of 1940.
18 December 2015
The 443rd Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) supported the Allied troops fighting in Burma, and then took part in the efforts to fly supplies into China, ending the war operating directly within China.
The 477th Composite Group (USAAF) was an African-American combat unit that never reached combat, and that suffered from repeated morale problems due to segregation and suspicion of the USAAF's intentions for the group.
The 479th Antisubmarine Group operated from England from mid July 1943 to October 1943, attacking German U-boats as they crossed the Bay of Biscay.
4 December 2015
The 3rd Combat Cargo Group was a transport unit that was formed in India in 1944 and that operated over India and China for the rest of the war.
The 4th Combat Cargo Group was a transport unit that fought in the Burma campaign and took part in the last stages of the air-lift of supplies into China over the 'Hump'.
The 342nd Composite Group was a mainly fighter unit that formed part of the garrison of Iceland.
1 December 2015
The Gun Carrier, 3in, Churchill, was produced as an emergency measure in an attempt to provide a more powerful mobile anti-tank weapon than the 2-pounder in use in contemporary British tanks.
The Churchill Octopus was produced in an attempt to clear a safe path across minefields, using turretless Churchill tanks to detonate mines and as the basis of a causeway.
23 November 2015
The Churchill Oke was a prototype flamethrower tank that was produced in 1942 and took part in the disastrous raid on Dieppe.
The Churchill Crocodile was a flamethrower tank based on the Churchill infantry tank, with the flame fuel towed in a separate trailer.
19 November 2015
The Douglas YO-48 was to have been a version of the O-46A observation aircraft powered by a Wright engine, but none were built.
The Douglas O-53 Havoc was to have been a heavy observation aircraft based on the A-20 Havoc, but a large order was cancelled before any had been built.
12 November 2015
The Churchill Mk X was the designation given to Mk VIs that had been upgraded to carry extra armour, and possibly the cast turret of the Mk VII.
The Churchill Mk XI was the designation given to Mk Vs that were upgraded by giving them extra appliqué armour.
11 November 2015
The Douglas O-46 was the main production version of the Douglas family of monoplane observation aircraft, and the first to use a radial engine.
3 November 2015
The Churchill Mk VIII (A22F) was a version of the Heavy Churchill Mk VII that carried a 95mm howitzer in place of the 75mm gun used on the Mk VII.
The Churchill Mk IX was the designation given to Mk IIIs and Mk IVs that had been upgraded, but that kept their original 6-pounder gun.
23 October 2015
The Churchill Mk VI was the designation given to tanks that were armed with the British 75mm tank in the same turret as on the 6-pounder armed Mk IV
The Churchill VII (A22F) was a heavier version of the Churchill tank, with thicker armour, a redesigned turret and carrying the British 75mm gun.
22 October 2015
The Douglas XA-42/ XB-42 Mixmaster was a twin-engined pusher aircraft that was one of the most advanced piston engined aircraft of the Second World War, but that was quickly superseded by jet powered aircraft.
The Douglas XB-43 was the first US jet bomber and was produced by fitting jet engines to the earlier Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster.
20 October 2015
The 440th Troop Carrier Group took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the south of France, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 441st Troop Carrier Group took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 442nd Troop Carrier Group took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
8 October 2015
The Churchill Mk IV NA75 was produced in North Africa by fitting 75mm guns from Sherman tanks into the cast turrets of the Churchill Mk IV.
The Churchill Mk V was the close-support version of the Mk IV, and was armed with a 95mm howitzer.
7 October 2015
The Douglas XB-19 (XVLR-2) was the largest US military aircraft completed before the US entry into the Second World War and provided valuable data for the development of later heavy bombers such as the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
The Douglas XB-31 was the designation given to a series of Douglas designs produced as part of the same design contest that produced the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, none of which were ever built.
21 September 2015
The Churchill Mk III was the first version of the Churchill tank to be armed with a 6-pounder gun, replacing the 2-pounder turret gun of the Mk I and Mk II.
The Churchill IV combined the 6-pounder gun of the Churchill Mk III with a new cast turret.
18 September 2015
The Douglas B-22 Bolo was the designation given to a version of the B-18 that would have been powered by the 1,600hp R-2600-2 Cyclone engine.
The Douglas B-23 Dragon was produced in an attempt to replace the B-18 Bolo, but its performance wasn't as good as its more modern rivals and only 38 were ever built.
16 September 2015
The 437th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden and the Crossing of the Rhine.
The 438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 439th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the Italian campaign and the invasion of the south of France, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine.
8 September 2015
The Churchill I was armed with a 2-pounder anti-tank gun and coaxial Besa machine gun carried in a small cast turret and a 3" howitzer carried in the hull front. The turret was too small to carry the upcoming 6-pounder gun, even though the tank had been designed with that weapon in mind.
The Churchill Mk II was the most numerous of the 2-pounder versions of the Churchill infantry tank. It carried a 2-pounder gun and a machine gun in the turret and a second machine gun in the hull front.
7 September 2015
The Douglas YB-11/ YO-44/ YOA-5 began life as an amphibian navigational leader and rescue aircraft to operate alongside land based bombers, but was completed as an observation aircraft and didn't enter production.
The Douglas B-18 Bolo was a bomber based on the DC-2 airliner and played an important part in the expansion of the USAAC, despite being obsolete by the time the United States entered the Second World War.
27 August 2015
USS Guam (CB-2) was the second and last member of the Alaska class of heavy cruisers to be completed, and supported the Fast Carrier Strike Force during the battle of Okinawa and raids on the Japanese Home Islands, before ending the war with raids into the East China Sea.
USS Hawaii (CB-3) was the third and final member of the Alaska class cruisers to be launched, but it was never completed and was finally sold for scrap in 1959.
26 August 2015
The Infantry Tank Mk IV Churchill (A22) was a heavily armoured infantry tank that overcame serious reliability problems early in its career to become a mainstay of the British armoured forces during the fighting in North-Western Europe in 1944-45.
21 August 2015
The 434th Troop Carrier Group took part in the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden, the battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 435th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the south of France, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 436th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden and the Crossing of the Rhine.
14 August 2015
The Alaska Class cruisers were effectively battle cruisers, designed to deal with a potential threat from heavily armoured Japanese and German cruisers that had evaporated by the time the two members of the class were completed.
USS Alaska (CB-1) was the first member of the Alaska class of large cruisers to enter service, and took part in the final stages of the fighting on Iwo Jima, the invasion of Okinawa, and supported the fast carriers during their raids on the Japanese Home Islands and in the East China Sea.
12 August 2015
The Valentine Bridgelayer was the last version of the tank to see frontline service, and could deploy a medium sized bridge while under fire.
The Valentine DD was the first production version of the floating tanks that saw action on D-Day when applied to the Sherman tank.
11 August 2015
The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka (Cherry Blossom) 'Baka' was a manned suicide rocket that achieved limited success, but was dangerously vulnerable while being carried to its target.
The Yokosuka P1Y Ginga (Milky War) 'Frances' was a promising twin-engined medium bomber let down by reliability problems. These delayed its service entry until 1945, five years after work began on the aircraft.
3 August 2015
The Bishop, or Bishop, Carrier, Valentine, 25pdr gun, was a self-propelled gun produced in response to an urgent request from Middle East Command.
The Valentine Scorpion III was a mine-clearing flail tank based on the Matilda Scorpion I, which had been developed in the Middle East.
31 July 2015
The Experimental Kusho 12-Shi Special Flying-boat H7Y1 was a highly secret attempt to produce a long range flying boat that could reach Hawaii from Japan and return safely with its photographs.
The Yokosuka E14Y Navy Type 0 Submarine-borne Reconnaissance Seaplane 'Glen' was a tiny reconnaissance aircraft that was also the only hostile aircraft to drop bombs on the American mainland during the Second World War.
30 July 2015
The 403rd Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) provided cargo and passenger transport services in the south-west Pacific, as well as supporting the campaigns on New Guinea and the Philippines.
The 419th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) ran transport terminals that helped to organise the activities of other transport units.
The 433rd Troop Carrier Group (USSAF) operated in support of the campaigns on New Guinea and the Philippines and moved parts of the Fifth Air Force to Okinawa.
24 July 2015
USS Tucson (CL-98) was an Atlanta class light cruiser that joined the fleet just in time to take part in the last sortie against the Japanese Home Islands, and then remained in service until 1949.
23 July 2015
The battle of Morotai (15 September - 4 October 1944) was carried out in order to protect the left flank of any American advance from New Guinea to the southern Philippines, and took them into the Molucca Islands.
The battle of Wewak (December 1944-September 1945) was an Australian offensive on New Guinea, aimed at destroying the last major Japanese position in the pre-war area of Australian New Guinea, on the north coast around Wewak.
22 July 2015
The Yokosuka R1Y Seiun (Blue Cloud) was a design for a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that was abandoned due to poor performance figures.
The Yokosuka R2Y Keiun (Beautiful Cloud or Lucky Cloud) was a long-range land-based reconnaissance aircraft powered by two engines mounted within the fuselage and driving a single propeller.
9 July 2015
USS Reno (CL-96) was part of the second batch of Atlanta class light cruisers, and served with the Carrier Task Force from May 1944 until she was badly damaged during the fighting off Leyte.
USS Flint (CL-97) was an Atlanta class light cruiser that joined the fleet in time to take part in the Pacific campaigns of 1945, including the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the raids on the Japanese Home Islands.
8 July 2015
The battle of Noemfoor (2 July-30 August 1944) was a US amphibious landing carried out in order to make up for slow progress on Biak and the resulting shortage of airfields in western New Guinea.
The landings at Sansapor (30-31 July 1944) were the last major American offensive of the long New Guinea campaign, and saw them capture a foothold on the Vogelkop Peninsula, at the western end of New Guinea, where they were able to build a medium bomber base to support operations further west.
7 July 2015
The Yokosuka K4Y1 Type 90 Seaplane Trainer was produced to replace the Yokosho K1Y Type 13 Seaplane Trainer, and was the first Japanese production aircraft to use a welded steel tube fuselage.
The Yokosuka K5Y 'Willow' Type 93 Intermediate Trainer was the most widely produced training aircraft produced in Japan, and remained in production from 1933 to 1945.
2 July 2015
The 349th Troop Carrier Group reached the European theatre too late to take part in any of the major set-piece airborne assault of the Second World War.
The 374th Troop Carrier Group took part in the long campaign in New Guinea, performing an especially valuable role early in the campaign, when Allied resources were very limited.
The 375th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the long campaign in New Guinea, then supported the liberation of the Philippines and the campaign on Okinawa.
30 June 2015
USS San Juan (CL-54) was an Atlanta class light cruiser that fought in the Guadalcanal campaign, the advance up the Solomon Islands, the invasions of the Marshalls, Mariannas, Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as fighting at the battle of the Philippine Sea.
USS Oakland (CL-95) was the first in the second group of Atlanta light cruisers to enter service, and supported carrier raids, fought at the battle of Leyte Gulf, and supported the final attacks on the Japanese Home islands.
29 June 2015
The Valentine X was the designation given to tanks that were built from new with the 6-pounder gun.
The Valentine XI was the last production version of the Valentine tank, and was armed with the new British 75mm tank gun. It was similar to the Mk X, which was the first version to be built from new with the 6-pounder anti-tank gun.
25 June 2015
The battle of Wakde Island (18-21 May 1944) was part of a wider American offensive carried out in order to protect the western flanks of their newly captured position at Hollandia, on the north coast of New Guinea.
The battle of Biak Island (27 May- 29 July 1944) was one of the most costly of MacArthur's leapfrogging attacks on the north coast of New Guinea and saw a well dug-in Japanese garrison hold out for several months longer than originally expected.
18 June 2015
USS Helena (CL-50) was a Brooklyn class light cruiser that was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor and fought off Guadalcanal before being sunk at the battle of Kula Gulf in July 1943.
USS San Diego (CL-53) was an Atlanta class light cruiser that fought off Guadalcanal, during the advance up the Solomon Islands, the invasion of the Gilbert islands and the Marshall Islands, the battle of the Philippines Sea and the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa.
17 June 2015
The Valentine VIII was the designation given to Valentine IIIs that had been upgunned to carry the 6-pounder anti-tank gun.
The Valentine IX was the designation given to Mk Vs that were upgunned to carry a 6-pounder anti-tank gun.
12 June 2015
The battle of Lone Tree Hill or Wakde-Sarmi (17 May-2 September 1944) was a hard-fought contest for control of a strip of the New Guinea coast near the island of Wakde, and saw the Americans eventually win control of a large enough area for them to use as a staging post on the way to further advances.
The battle of the Driniumor River (10 July -25 August 1944) was a rare large scale Japanese counterattack on New Guinea and saw troops sent west from Wewak attack the American lines east of Aitape, achieving some early successes before being repulsed with heavy losses.
5 June 2015
USS Honolulu (CL-48) was a Brooklyn class light cruiser that was damaged at Pearl Harbor before fighting in the Aleutian and Guadalcanal campaigns and the invasions of Saipan, Guam and Leyte.
USS St Louis (CL-49) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that was at Pearl Habor, and fought in the Aleutians, at Gualdalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, Saipan, the battle of the Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, the carrier raids on Japan and the invasion of Okinawa.
4 June 2015
The Valentine VI, Infantry Tank Mk III***, was a version of the Valentine IV that was built in Canada. The Mk IV was powered by a GMC diesel engine and had the original two-man turret, with 2-pounder gun and 7.92mm Besa machine gun.
The Valentine VII, Infantry Tank Mk III***, was an improved version of the Mk VI, and like that tank was produced in Canada.
3 June 2015
The battle of Hollandia (22-27 April 1944) was part of Operation Reckless and saw the Americans leapfrog past a series of Japanese bases to capture a key position on the northern coast of New Guinea, catching the Japanese almost entirely by surprise and winning an unexpectedly easy victory.
The battle of Aitape (22-24 April 1944) was carried out in support of the larger landings at Hollandia, and was designed to provide a shield against any possible intervention by Japanese forces further to the west at Wewak.
2 June 2015
The Yokosuka D3Y Myojo (Venus) was originally intended to be a wooden version of the Aichi D3A2-K bomber trainer, but the design was modified while the aircraft was under development. A suicide attack version was also developed, but the prototype of this version was unfinished at the end of the Second World War.
The Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (Comet) 'Judy' was designed as a dive bomber, but entered service as a reconnaissance aircraft. It eventually served in that role, and as a bomber and suicide attack aircraft.
28 May 2015
USS Atlanta (CL-51) was the name ship of the Atlantic class of light cruisers, and had a short wartime career in the Solomon Islands, before being sunk at the naval battle of Guadalcanal (13-15 November 1942).
USS Juneau (CL-52) was a Atlanta class light cruiser that took part in the Guadalcanal campaign and was sunk by Japanese torpedoes at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
27 May 2015
The Valentine IV was powered by a G.M.C. diesel engine, in place of the A.E.C. model used on the Mk II, but was otherwise similar to the earlier model.
The Valentine V used a new three-man turret, but retained the same engine and main gun of the Valentine IV.
26 May 2015
The occupation of Emirau (20 March 1944) helped to complete the Allied noose around the Japanese base at Rabaul and saw the 4th Marine Division occupy the undefended island in the seas west of New Ireland.
Operation Reckless, the invasion of Hollandia and Aitape of 22-27 April 1944, was one of the most dramatic leapfrogging operations during the New Guinea campaign, and saw American forces bypass the strong Japanese bases at Wewak and Hansa Bay and capture key bases for MacArthur's planned return to the Philippines
19 May 2015
The 315th Troop Carrier Group took part in the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the airborne crossing of the Rhine.
The 316th Troop Carrier Group took part in the fighting in North Africa, the invasions of Sicily and Italy, the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the airborne crossing of the Rhine.
The 317th Troop Carrier Group served in the Pacific theatre, taking part in the long New Guinea campaign and in the re conquest of the Philippines.
18 May 2015
USS Phoenix (CL-46) was a Brooklyn class light cruiser that took part in the fighting in the southern Pacific, during the advance along New Guinea and the invasion of the Philippines, but that is better known as the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, sunk during the 1982 Falklands War.
USS Boise (CL-47) was a Brooklyn class light cruiser that fought at Guadalcanal then took part in the invasion of Sicily and the landings at Salerno on the mainland of Italy before returning to the Pacific to take part in the campaigns on New Guinea, the Philippines and Borneo.
15 May 2015
The Valentine II, Infantry Tank Mk III*, was the first version of the tank to use a diesel engine, but retained the 2-pounder gun of the Valentine I.
The Valentine III introduced a new three-man turret, but retained the same engine and main gun as the Valentine II.
14 May 2015
The battle of Hauwai Island (11-12 March 1944) saw the Americans capture one of the small islands north of Seeadler Harbour in the Admiralty Islands, despite the failure of their first attack.
The battle of Manus (12-25 March 1944) saw the Americans capture the largest of the Admiralty Islands, securing their control of the massive Seeadler Harbour, which then became an important naval base for the rest of the Second World War.
11 May 2015
USS Savannah (CL-42) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that took part in Operation Torch, the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings, where she was badly damaged by a radio-controlled bomb that ended her active career.
USS Nashville (CL-43) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that took part in the Doolittle raid, then fought in the Guadalcanal and New Georgia campaigns and during the campaigns in New Guinea and the Philippines.
8 May 2015
The 89th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) was a home-based training unit that operated from 1942 to 1944.
The 313th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) was a transport unit that took part in the invasion of Sicily, the Salerno landings, the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 314th Troop Carrier Group took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
7 May 2015
The Infantry Tank Mk III, Valentine, was the most numerous British-built tank of the Second World War, with over 8,000 built between 1940 and 1944. It was a rare example of a private venture tank design that was accepted for mass production, and thus didn't have an 'A' number like most British tanks.
The Valentine I, Infantry Tank Mk III, was the only version of the tank to use a petrol engine, and was armed with the standard 2-pounder gun of early war British tanks.
5 May 2015
The invasion of the Admiralty Islands (25 February-25 March 1944) was a major step in the isolation of the powerful Japanese base at Rabaul, and saw forces from the US Cavalry capture the main islands in a series of battles that lasted for one month.
The battle of Los Negros (29 February-8 March 1944) was the first stage in the American invasion of the Admiralty Islands, a campaign that helped completed the isolation of Rabaul and also forced the Japanese to abandon their stronghold at Madang.
30 April 2015
USS Brooklyn (CL-40) was the name ship of the Brooklyn class of light cruisers and served in the Mediterranean and Atlantic theatres during the Second World War, taking part in Operation Torch and the invasions of Sicily, Italy and the south of France. Brooklyn received four battle stars for her World War II service.
USS Philadelphia (CL-41) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that took part in the US occupation of Iceland, Operation Torch, the invasion of Sicily and the landings at Salerno, Anzio and in the south of France.
27 April 2015
The Matilda Murray was a flame-thrower tank produced in Australian that arrived too late to see service in the Second World War.
The Matilda Dozer was a bull-dozer equipped version of the A12 Matilda Infantry tank, produced in Australia for use in jungle warfare.
24 April 2015
The battle of Cape Gloucester (26 December 1943-April 1944) was the main American attack during Operation Dexterity, the invasion of western New Britain, and was carried out in order to secure control of the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits, between New Britain and New Ireland.
Operation Appease, or the battle of Talasea (6-16 March 1944) was the last major US advance on New Britain, and saw the US Marines capture Talasea, on the Willaumez Peninsula, cutting off the main route being used by Japanese troops attempting to flee from the western part of the island.
22 April 2015
The 62nd Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the battle for Tunisia, the invasion of Sicily, the fighting on the mainland of Italy, the invasion of the south of France and supported partisans in the Balkans.
The 63rd Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) was a home based transport unit that was used to move supplies in North America and later as a training group.
The 64th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) was a transport unit that operated in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, the south of France and briefly in Burma during the siege of Imphal.
17 April 2015
USS Chicago (CA-136/ CG-11) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that entered service just in time to take part in the final bombardment of Japan during the Second World War, and that was later converted into a guided-missile cruiser.
16 April 2015
The Matilda with Carrot was produced by fitting an explosive charge on a frame mounted in front of the tank, and was designed to clear obstacles and minefields.
The Matilda Frog was a flamethrower tank produced in Australia, around the A12 Matilda infantry tank Mk II.
15 April 2015
Operation Dexterity (16 December 1943-10 February 1944) was the Allied invasion of western New Britain, carried out in order to secure the straits between New Britain and New Guinea, and to tighten the Allied net around the Japanese base at Rabaul.
The battle of Arawe (15 December 1943- 16 January 1944) was a diversionary attack on New Britain, carried out to distract Japanese attention from the main American target at Cape Gloucester on the north-west corner of the island.
14 April 2015
The 10th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) was a transport unit that was based in the United States throughout its existence.
The 60th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) served in the Mediterranean Theatre and took part in Operation Torch, the battle for Tunisia, the invasion of Sicily the liberation of Greece and the partisan battles in Yugoslavia.
The 61st Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) began operations in the Mediterranean, where it took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, before moving to England to take part in the D-Day invasion, Operation Market-Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
7 April 2015
The Matilda with AMRA Mk Ia was an attempt to create a mine-sweeping vehicle by pushing heavy rollers ahead of a Matilda infantry tank.
The Matilda Scorpion I was a mine-clearing device developed in the Middle East and that saw use in North Africa as well as being modified for use on the Valentine tank.
6 April 2015
The battle of Dumpu (8-13 December 1942) was a rare Japanese counterattack during the fighting in the Finisterre Range on New Guinea, and saw them attempt to push the Australians out of their furthest outposts downstream from Dumpu in the Ramu Valley
The battle of Kankiryo Saddle (20 January-1 February 1944) saw Australian troops finally force the Japanese to abandon a key position in the Finisterre Mountains of New Guinea, after a period of difficult fighting on jungle-clad mountain ridges that had begun in October 1943 with the first clashes on the famous Shaggy Ridge.
31 March 2015
The Matilda CDL (Canal Defence Light) was a version of the Matilda Infantry Tank Mk II that carried a powerful searchlight instead of its main gun and that was designed to win control of the night-time battlefield.
The Baron was a mine-clearing vehicle based on the Matilda II infantry tank, but despite entering production it was superseded by more effective vehicles and was only used in training.
27 March 2015
The Finisterre Range campaign (17 September 1943-24 April 1944) saw Australian troops successfully push the Japanese out of a series of strong defensive positions on incredibly difficult mountainous terrain in the Finisterre Mountains of New Guinea, preventing them from interfering with operations further east on the Huon Peninsula.
The battle of Shaggy Ridge (10 October 1943-23 January 1944) saw Australians troops slowly force the Japanese off a narrow mountain ridge that dominated a key route across the Finisterre Mountains of New Guinea.
26 March 2015
The Kawanishi K-11 Experimental Carrier Fighter was a private venture aircraft produced in an attempt to win a contest being held to replace the Mitsubishi Type 10 Carrier Fighter (1MF1 to 1MF5).
The Kawanishi Baika (Plum Blossom) was a design for a piloted suicide aircraft based loosely on the V1 flying bomb.
The Kawanishi Ki-85 was a very rare example of a Kawanishi aircraft designed for the Japanese Army. It would have been a four-engined heavy bomber based on the Douglas DC-4E and Nakajima G5N1 Shinzan (Mountain Recess), but the project was cancelled early.
25 March 2015
The 423rd Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was a short lived home-based training unit that was disbanded within five months of being activated.
The 424th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was a home-based unit that was never fully organised, despite being officially activated on 1 April 1943.
The 426th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was a home-based unit that was never fully organised, despite being officially activated on 1 July 1943.
The 432nd Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was a home-based unit that served with the AAF School of Applied Tactics.
18 March 2015
The Matilda Mk IV Infantry Tank Mk IIA** (A12) was a slightly improved version of the Matilda Mk III, with a modified engine mounting system and larger fuel tanks.
The Matilda Mk V, Infantry Tank Mk IIA** was very similar to the Matilda IV, but with some minor improvements made to the transmission.
17 March 2015
The battle of Saidor (2 January 1944) saw US troops land between the remaining Japanese bases on the north coast of the Huon Peninsula. As a result the Japanese abandoned all of their bases to the east of the landings.
The battle of the Green Islands (15-20 February 1944) saw a powerful New Zealand force overwhelm the Japanese garrison of the Green Islands between New Britain and Bougainville, part of the wider campaign to isolate the Japanese bases at Rabaul and Kavieng
6 March 2015
The Matilda Mk II, Infantry Tank Mk IIA (A12) saw the Vickers machine gun of the original tank replaced with the Besa machine gun that had been adopted as standard for British tanks.
The Matilda Mk III Infantry Tank Mk IIA* saw the introduction of more powerful Leyland diesel engines in place of the AEC engines used in the original Matilda II.
5 March 2015
The battle of Sattelberg (29 October-25 November 1943) saw Australian troops capture a strongly defended Japanese position in the hills to the north-west of Finschhafen, and helped secure their position on the eastern tip of the Huon Peninsula.
The battle of Wareo (26 November-10 December 1943) saw the Australians capture the last major Japanese stronghold in the vicinity of Finschhafen, at the eastern tip of the Huon Peninsula, firmly securing their beachhead and clearing the way for an advance further north around the coast.
23 February 2015
The Matilda Infantry Tank Mk II (A12) was the most capable British tank of 1940, but was slow to produce, could only carry a 2pdr gun, and was thus soon obsolete.
The Matilda Mk I, Infantry Tank Mk II (A12) was the first production version of the Matilda II, and would have been one of the most effective tanks in service in 1940 if it had been available in significant numbers.
16 February 2015
USS St Paul (CA-73) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that took part in the final carrier raids on Japan during 1945 and carried out three combat tours of Korea, firing the last naval salvo of the war and five combat tours of Vietnam.
USS Pittsburgh (CA-72) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that was completed in time to take part in the attacks on Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Japanese Home Islands and that served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during the Korean War.
13 February 2015
The attack on Nadzab (5 September 1943) was a successful airborne assault carried out in order to support the Australian advance on Lae, at the head of the Huon Gulf .
The battle of Lae (4-16 September 1943) was the final stage in the Salamaua-Lae Campaign, and saw Australian troops with US support capture the last Japanese stronghold in the Huon Gulf area of New Guinea.
30 January 2015
USS Canberra (CA-70) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that was badly damaged by a Japanese torpedo during the battle off Formosa (12-16 October 1944) but that was towed to safety, a remarkable achievement that also helped to convince the Japanese that they had inflicted heavy damage on the American fleet.
USS Quincy (CA-71) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that helped support the D-Day landings and Operation Dragoon before moving to the Pacific for the final battles against Japan.
29 January 2015
The Salamaua-Lae Campaign (30 June-16 September 1943) was the first part of Operation Postern, a wider offensive aimed at eliminating the Japanese presence on the New Guinea side of the Vitiaz Strait.
The battle of Salamaua (30 June-11 September 1943) was the first stage in the Allied campaign in north-eastern New Guinea, and saw Australian troops slowly push forwards across difficult terrain, pulling the Japanese away from their major base at Lae, further up the coast.
22 January 2015
USS Baltimore (CA-68) was the name ship of the Baltimore class of heavy cruisers, and saw service at Makin, in the Marshall Islands, supported the fast carriers during 1944 and 1945 and took part in the battle of Okinawa.
USS Boston (CA-69/ CAG-1) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that escorted the American fast carriers in the Pacific in 1944-45, took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the last raids on the Japanese Home Islands.
20 January 2015
Operation Postern - The Markham Valley/ Huon Peninsula Campaign of 4 September 1943-24 April 1944 saw a largely Australian force clear the Japanese from the Huon Gulf and the Huon Peninsula and ended with the fall of the major Japanese base at Madang, to the north-west of the Huon Peninsula.
The battle of Nassau Bay (30 June 1943) was an early step in the wider Allied offensive in the Huon Gulf area of New Guinea (Operation Postern), and was carried out in order to capture a staging post for later steps in the campaign and to improve the supply situation for the main Australian force attacking Salamaua from inland bases.
14 January 2015
The 67th Reconnaissance Group flew with the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces during the campaign in Europe in 1944-45, taking part in the D-Day campaign, the advance through France, the battle of the Bulge and the final invasion of Germany.
The 68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was originally formed as an Observation Group in the United States in the summer of 1941, before serving in the Mediterranean Theatre as a reconnaissance, ground attack and electronic countermeasures group.
The 69th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) spent most of the Second World War operating as a training unit, but did reach Europe in time to take part in the last few weeks of the war against Germany.
13 January 2015
USS Wichita (CA-45) was the last heavy cruiser to be produced for the US Navy before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the last to be restricted by the interwar naval treaties.
The Atlanta class light cruisers were the lightest and most lightly armed cruisers to see service with the US Navy during the Second World War and were a product of the London Naval Treaty of 1936.
12 January 2015
The New Guinea campaign (January 1942-September 1945) was one of the longest campaigns of the Second World War. It began with the easy Japanese conquest of most of the north coast of the massive island. The Japanese finally ran out of steam during the Papuan Campaign, and were unable to capture Port Moresby on the south coast of Papua New Guinea. The Allies then went onto the offensive. The Japanese were pushed back across to the north coast of Papua, before the Allies began a series of campaigns that eventually gave them control of almost the entire island.
5 January 2015
The 26th Reconnaissance Group was a home-based unit that took part in military exercises and helped train ground forces.
The 65th Reconnaissance Group went through two incarnations during the Second World War, the first as a home based observation unit and the second as a training unit.
The 66th Reconnaissance Group was a home-based unit that served as a reconnaissance and and artillery spotting training unit as well as flying anti-submarine patrols during the first half of 1942.
1 January 2015
The Brooklyn class cruisers were the first 6in cruisers to be built for the US Navy after the London Naval Treaty imposed limits on the number of 8in cruisers that could be built.The Baltimore Class Heavy Cruisers were the only American heavy cruisers not limited by the pre-war Naval Treaties to see service with the US Navy during the Second World War, and were developed from the last of the treaty cruisers, USS Wichita.
Updates from: Current • 2017 • 2016 • 2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2012 • 2011 • 2010 • 2009 • 2008 • 2007
70 years later: How WWII changed America
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous "sailor kissing the nurse" image from Times Square celebration of V-J Day and the end of World War II. (Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time Inc., via Getty Images)
Even as World War II was ending 70 years ago, Americans already knew it had transformed their country. What they didn’t know was just how much or for how long.
In that last wartime summer of 1945, the seeds of a new America had been sown. Not just postwar America — the Baby Boom, the Cold War, the Affluent Society, the sprawling suburbs — but the one in which we live today.
Look closely at the war years, and you can see those seeds.
•Two brothers who had opened a drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., were struck by working families’ desire for cheap meals served fast — faster than their carhops could serve them. Their name was McDonald.
•While building homes for federal war workers, a family-owned Long Island construction company had learned how to lay dozens of concrete foundations in a single day, and preassemble uniform walls and roofs. The firm’s name was Levitt & Sons.
•A young, black Army lieutenant was court-martialed in 1944 after he refused to sit in the back of a military bus at Camp Hood, Texas. The trial prevented him from serving overseas, but he was acquitted. His name was Jackie Robinson.
•In 1944, an Army Air Forces photographer discovered a beautiful young woman working on an aircraft assembly line in Burbank, Calif. One of his photos helped land her a modeling job. Her name was Norma Jean Baker. Later she would change it to Marilyn Monroe.
Baseball legend Jackie Robinson as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
•In 1945, engineers were finishing a sort of “electronic brain” for the Army. Equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes instead of the usual electrical switches, it could do about 5,000 computations per second — 4,996 more than the best electric calculator. They called it an Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. Only the last word stuck.
In the next decade, the Levitts would build Levittown, N.Y., the most famous postwar suburb. McDonald’s, focusing on assembly line hamburgers, would begin its ascent to global fast-food dominance. Robinson would integrate Major League Baseball.
And Monroe would become the first “Playmate of the Month” in a new magazine called Playboy, whose editor got his start in media during the war at a military newspaper. His name was Hugh Hefner.
World War II also marked the beginning of trends that took decades to fully develop, including technological disruption, global economic integration and digital communication.
More broadly, the wartime home front put a premium on something that’s even more crucial today: innovation.
A replica of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines, Ill. (Photo: Jeff Haynes, AFP/Getty Images)
It helped explain America’s production miracle. A nation that in 1938 was making almost no weapons was, by 1943, making more than twice as many as of all its enemies combined.
“Never before had war demanded such technological experimentation and business organization,” historian Allen Nevins later wrote. “The genius of the country of Whitney, Morse, and Edison precisely fitted such a war.”
America not only made more weapons than its enemies, it kept making new and better ones. By the end of the war, it was said that no major battle was won with the same weapons as the battle that preceded it innovation had become a constant.
The Office of Scientific Research and Development, directed by mathematician Vannevar Bush, organized the scientists and engineers who developed many valuable weapons.
Radar, improved depth charges and long-range bombers turned the tide against German submarines the long range Mustang fighter protected Allied bombers over Europe after 1943 the B-29 Superfortress allowed the Air Force to pulverize Japan with virtual impunity by 1945.
&ldquoNever before had war demanded such technological experimentation and business organization. The genius of the country of Whitney, Morse, and Edison precisely fitted such a war.&rdquo
The nation’s science labs were mobilized. Annual federal spending on research and development increased more than 20-fold during the war.
Medical researchers produced a class of pharmaceuticals whose nickname — “wonder drugs” — pretty much summed them up. Streptomycin, the first drug effective against the cause of tuberculosis, was the best known in a series of new antibiotics.
Penicillin, which had been discovered in 1928, was mass produced during the war to treat blood poisoning and battle wounds. A new process to produce dried blood plasma allowed battlefield transfusions.
Other developments included quinine substitutes to fight malaria, and numerous repellants and insecticides (including, unfortunately, DDT) used against pests causing epidemics of typhus and malaria.
Government scientists refined products (television, air conditioning) and developed new ones. The computer introduced at MIT in 1942 weighed 100 tons and had 2,000 electronic tubes, 150 electric motors and 200 miles of wire.
In Palo Alto, Calif., a company started in a garage by electrical engineers William Hewlett and David Packard was making radio, sonar, and radar devices, as well as artillery shell fuses. Packard ran the company while Hewlett served in the Army Signal Corps, unaware that they were founders of what would become Silicon Valley.
Wartime shortages gave rise to products whose greatest days were ahead, including plastics (used to replace scarce metals), frozen foods (which saved trips to the store) and microfilm (for shipping civilian-military “V-mail” overseas).
The war also raised issues that would become even more pressing in years to come.
The war was witness to the greatest single violation of civil rights in U.S. history — the internment of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans (two-thirds of them U.S. citizens) living in Pacific Coast states. Supposedly designed to fight espionage and sabotage, the move in fact was motivated by war hysteria, racism and political expediency.
For years, this outrage was all but forgotten. In 1988, however, President Ronald Reagan signed a law that provided financial redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee. But the Supreme Court’s expansive interpretation of government powers in wartime in the Korematsu case, which upheld the internment, has never been overturned.
The internment was the result of an executive order, a presidential prerogative that has become increasingly controversial. But during the war the executive branch also banned pleasure drives and sliced bread, and seized control of the strike-bound retail giant Montgomery Ward under the legal justification that it was “useful” to the war effort. When Ward’s president refused to leave his office, government agents carried him out in his chair.
Decades before Edward Snowden’s revelations about government spying, military censors on the home front had authority to open and read every piece of mail that entered or left the country to scan every cable and to screen every phone call. A letter from a soldier overseas often arrived with a few words, a sentence or an entire paragraph snipped out, and the envelope resealed with a bit of tape bearing the label “Opened by Censor.”
Problems developed during the war that would bedevil the nation for years. Los Angeles had its first smog attack in 1943. In New York City, there were more and more reports of an old crime with a new name: mugging.
And anyone who thinks red-baiting was a postwar innovation should listen to Thomas Dewey, the 1944 GOP presidential candidate, who called President Franklin D. Roosevelt “indispensable to Earl Browder” the head of the American Communist Party.
A communist, Dewey told an audience, is “anyone who supports (Roosevelt’s) fourth term so our form of government may more easily be changed.”
Income inequality? Although Rosie the Riveter was the patriotic, symbolic personification of the 5 million U.S. women who went to work during the war, their pay on average was 60% of men’s — despite government rules banning such discrimination in war plants.
By war’s end, Americans were used to looking to Washington for solutions. But the war also reinforced an attitude that remains resonant today: skepticism about government.
For instance, after Pearl Harbor the government tried to discourage the practice of planting home “victory gardens,” which were popular in World War I. The nation already had an agricultural surplus, and more production would hurt farm prices.
Undeterred, within a few months Americans had planted victory gardens on Ellis Island and Alcatraz and everywhere in between — about 10 million in all. Within two years, 20 million victory gardens were producing 8 million tons of food.
By then, the victory gardeners’ instincts had been vindicated snarled transportation and farm labor shortages produced spot fruit and vegetable shortages. The amateurs, the secretary of Agriculture admitted, “surprised a lot of people.”
All the war’s changes, apparent and embryonic, contributed to a rich irony: Although Americans away in the military lived on memories of the land they’d left behind, by war’s end that America was already disappearing.
The demands of winning a war would transform the home front into something almost as exotic as the places where the soldiers fought — a land more affluent and more just, more open and more mobile, more polluted and more violent than the one of which they’d dreamed.
The Forgotten 500 tells a tale of one of the most heroic rescue missions that took place during this great war. One of the few rescue missions that often gets left out of history books and movies. It is a tale of sacrifice, of hope and of amazing men.
When hundreds of men were shot out of the skies, they were over Yugoslavia, a country occupied by the Germans. The towns people risked their own lives to hide the men, giving them shelter and food until they could escape. Cargo planes dropped them supplies, miracously not being shot down in the process. Airmen constructed a complete air strip with no supplies, all while not letting the Germans find out. This story was classified for many years after it happened, but now the story is being told a story of heroic men that made a marvellous escape.
- Authors: Gregory A. Freeman (Author)
- Publisher: Dutton Caliber Reprint Edition (September 2, 2008)
- Pages: 336 pages
Iconic Hand Guns of the Second World War
The Second World War produced some of the most iconic handguns in history, some of which are still being manufactured today.
The Colt 45 is one of the most widely-manufactured handguns ever made, and has served continuously with American forces from before the First World War to the current war in Afghanistan. Designed by John Browning in 1911, it was one of the first pistols to use the 45 caliber cartridge. During the First World War it was the standard-issue sidearm for doughboys in France. During the Second World War it was carried by infantry officers, tank crews, airplane pilots, military police, and commandos, and was manufactured during the war by a wide variety of companies under military contract, including the Remington and Ithica firearms companies and the Singer Sewing Machine Company and the Union Switch and Signal Company. The Colt 45 was also manufactured before the war in Norway under license, and when the Nazis invaded, they continued to produce the pistol, with Wehrmacht markings, for use by German officers.
In 1985, the Colt 45 was replaced in the US Army infantry by the Italian-made Beretta 9mm, in an effort to standardize all NATO weapons to use the same ammunition, but US Special Forces continued to carry the 45, preferring its superior close-range stopping power. In all, over 2.5 million Colt 45’s have been manufactured.
The 9mm Luger P08 is probably the most famous handgun in the world. Although it is closely identified with the Nazi regime and the Second World War, however, the Luger was actually designed in the last years of the 19th century, by Georg Luger of the Deutsche Waffen Manitionsfabriken (DWM). The pistol was most revolutionary for its cartridge, a 9mm caliber bullet that was introduced as the “Parabellum” (“for war”) and was soon adopted by virtually every other military sidearm manufacturer as the 9mm Luger. It is the standard pistol cartridge still used in European military sidearms today.
The Luger P08 was first adopted by the Swiss Army in 1900, then by the German Navy in 1904 and the German Army in 1908. It was the standard sidearm for German troops during the First World War. In 1938, after the Nazis took power and began the re-armament of the German Wehrmacht, plans were made to replace the design, but manufacturing shortages insured that the 9mm Luger remained in use throughout the entire war. It was a highly prized souvenir for American troopers.
The Walther PPK is probably most famous as being the handgun used by the fictional British Agent 007, James Bond. Introduced in 1931, the PPK (the German initials mean “Police Detective Pistol”) was produced as a service weapon for civilian German police officers. The PPK uses a “short” version of the 9mm Luger cartridge, called the 9mm Kurz. The short cartridge was too weak for battlefield use, so When the Nazis took over in 1933, they kept the Luger P08 for service in the German armed forces, and used the PPK as a decorative sidearm for high-ranking officers and Nazi Party officials. When Hitler killed himself in the Berlin Bunker at the end of the war, he used a Walther PPK pistol.
In 1938, when the Nazis laid plans to replace the WW1-era 9mm Luger with a newer design, they selected the Walther P38. A larger version of the Walther PPK, the P38 used the same 9mm Parabellum cartridge as the Luger (though a small number were made in 45 caliber), and the gun copied the action mechanism used in the PPK. The pistol went into production in 1939. The Germans hoped to equip all of their forces with P38’s by 1942, but manufacturing problems and Allied bombing crippled the gun’s production. Today, the 9mm P38 is issued to many German police officers.
The most commmonly-carried Japanese sidearm during World War Two was the Nambu Type 14. This was not an officially-issued military weapon: unlike most other armies, the Japanese required their officers to purchase their own sidearm, and most of them chose the Nambu. Based on a 1902 design by Admiral Kijiro Nambu, the Type 14 first went into production in 1926. Although it looks superfically like a German Luger, it is very different in internal construction, and uses an 8mm pistol cartridge instead of the 9mm parabellum. The Nambu was widely considered, even by the Japanese, to be inferior–the weak magazine springs often led to jamming, and the 8mm bullet was too underpowered for effective military service. It was not unusual for Japanese officers to throw away their Nambus in exchange for captured American Colt 45’s.
The Japanese manufactured about 200,000 Type 14 Nambus during the war.
The Type 14’s greatest influence came after the war, when American firearms designer William Ruger obtained two Nambu pistols and modified their design to produce the Ruger Standard .22, which became one of the most popular sporting pistols ever made.
As the war progressed, Japanese industry began to feel the effects of the American submarine blockade that cut off imports of raw materials. The Type 14 Nambu pistol, originally made by the Tokyo Arsenal, was now being manufactured by anyone who had equipment that could be modified to make it, including typewriter companies, tin can manufacturers, and even the Tokyo Electric Company.
In desperation, the Japanese ordered a switch in design, dropping the Type 14 in favor of another Nambu pistol, the 1934 Type 94. The Type 94 used the same 8mm cartridge as the Type 14, but the gun itself was smaller, simpler, and easier to produce. About 72,000 Type 14’s were made during the last years of the war.
The greatest books ever written about the Second World War
From biographies to bird's-eye views, memoirs to timeless reportage, here is a selection of the best non-fiction books ever written about the Second World War.
To call the Second World War merely a war is almost a misnomer it was never just one war, but so many wars in one. Certainly, it was far too big, too vast and varied, to remember as a single event. The sheer volume of books about it are testament to that.
No war in history – rivalled only by the one that ended 20 years earlier – has inspired more literature. WWII has been seemingly endlessly written about, pored over, interpreted and re-interpreted. Which can make knowing what to read on the matter a little daunting. Books need to be chosen like a sniper picks her targets.
Mercifully, we’ve got the scope to help – and have rounded up the best non-fiction books ever written on the conflict.
To read this book is to ride shotgun through the mangled mind of a maniac – a mind so twisted, dark and terrifyingly pathetic that it demands a guide. Fortunately, Ian Kershaw has spent a lot of time there – and he knows the scenic route.
Far from the puffed-up political strongman that history remembers, Kershaw paints a portrait of an idle, tasteless, disillusioned loafer who got lucky. Kershaw’s examination of how a "spoilt child turned into the would-be macho man" is unrivalled, not only in its breadth and depth, but in its richness of character. Here was a man, plagued by paranoia, Parkinson’s Disease and arteriosclerosis who had no firm ideas beyond a gut-deep hatred of Bolsheviks, poor social skills and a quite chronic case of donkey breath. And yet he convinced a nation that a brutal genocidal war was a good idea, and that he had the chops to take on the world.
This is a heavyweight biography from a world-champion historian. It remains undefeated in its category.
"We are all worms," Winston Churchill once told a friend. "But I do believe that I am a glow worm."
And glow he did. We all know the headlines – his rousing speeches play on a perpetual loop at the back of Britain’s national psyche – but Andrew Roberts’ exceptional biography gets further beneath the skin of the old bruiser than anyone – bar, perhaps, the man himself – has before.
The greatest challenge of writing a biography of Churchill is that Churchill has already done it inimitably (My Early Life, The World Crisis, The Second World War). But Roberts never falls into the punji hole of trying to out-Churchill Churchill. He writes with supreme authority, brio and no small amount of panache of Churchill’s exhilarating life, from his birth in 1874, to his death ninety years later. Nor does he pull his punches when it comes to Churchill’s many mistakes, either. Which is why Roberts’ tome earned the reputation of "the best single-volume biography of Churchill yet written".
If This is Man and The Truce
If This Is a Man by Primo Levi (1947)
If you are to read one book about The Holocaust in your lifetime, let it be this. It is the most profound, haunting, and soul-churningly beautiful book I have ever read about the atrocity. I try to avoid bringing myself into these recommendations, but in this case I can’t help it: my copy reduced me to tears. Or, take it from Phillip Roth, who called it ‘one of the century's truly necessary books.’
Primo Levi was a Jewish-Italian chemist and member of Italy’s anti-fascist resistance when he was arrested and herded to Auschwitz in 1944. If This Is a Man relives the horror of his experience.
If you’re looking for a historical investigation into the rise and appeal of Nazism, or an inquiry into the origins and nature of evil, look elsewhere. This is a guidebook to Hell. It’s a story of collective madness, sheer evil, incredible stupidity and cruelty, but also humanity, spirit, grit and luck. Buy two copies - you may need a spare.
It might invoke Inglorious Basterds, but this isn’t fiction. Here, the real-life tale of Jewish refugees from Britain, sent to infiltrate and disrupt the Nazi war effort at every turn, is brought to vivid life by in-depth original research and interviews with the surviving members by author Leah Garrett. Trained in counter-intelligence and advanced combat, these survivors – who lost families and homes to the Third Reich – became a unit known as X Troop, and their untold exploits, now published in full, illuminate a hitherto unknown story from an endlessly documented era.
The Unwomanly Face of War
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (1985)
War is seldom told from a woman’s point of view. And yet, a million women fought for the Red Army during the Second World War. The Unwomanly Face of War tells their stories, in their words. Snipers, pilots, gunners, mothers and wives: Alexievich spoke to hundreds of former Soviet female fighters over a period of years in the 1970s and 1980s.
After decades of the war being remembered by 'men writing about men,' her goal was to give a voice to an ageing generation of women who’d been dismissed as storytellers and veterans, shattering the notion that war need be an ‘unwomanly’ affair.
In the author’s words, ‘“Women’s” war has its own colours, its own smells, its own lighting, and its own range of feelings. Its own words. There are no heroes and incredible feats, there are simply people who are busy doing inhumanly human things.’ It is a challenging read, namely because it is difficult to swallow in one go, but it would be hard to think of any book that feels more important, immersive and original. It was also one part of a body of work that earned its author a Nobel Prize in 2015.
On February 13th, 1945 at 10:03, British bombers unleashed a firestorm over Dresden. Some 25,000 people – mostly civilians – were incinerated or crushed by falling buildings. In some areas of the city, the fires sucked so much oxygen from the air that people suffocated to death.
Dresden, now, has become a byword for the immeasurable cruelty of war. But was it a legitimate military target, or was it a final, punitive act of mass murder in a war already won? McKay’s account of that awful day – and many on either side – is probably the most gripping and devastating of them all. It is certainly the most comprehensive.
He tells the human stories of survivors on the ground as well as the moral conflicts of the British and American attackers in the sky. But McKay is under no illusion: Dresden was an atrocity. Sizzling with heart, anger, and brooding intensity, this tells the story of a once-great city pulverised to ash. No other Dresden book beats it.
It took Geoffrey Wellum 35 years to turn his notebooks into a narrative. And a further quarter-century to get them published. The result is best described as one of the most engaging personal accounts of aerial warfare ever written.
Wellum was 17 when he joined the RAF in 1939, and 18 when he was posted to 92 Squadron. That’s where he first encountered a Spitfire. At first, he was clueless about the ways of combat, ravaged by fear and self-doubt. He found himself flying several sorties a day. He fought the Battle of Britain, and against German bombers during the Blitz. He fought at day and at night, from the skies above Kent to those above France. By 21, he was a battle-hardened flying ace who’d shot down as many enemies as friends he’d lost. In the end, life-or-death stress of mortal combat began to take its toll, as he succumbed to battle fatigue.
It is a beautifully written story of fear and friendship, bravery, bullets and, ultimately, burn out. You can practically smell the oil and gun smoke in the ink.
Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (1998)
Many terrible battles were fought during the Second World War, but none come close to the savage four-month German Soviet battle of Stalingrad. It was all shades of awful. For context, consider that the Allied death toll in Normandy reached an appalling 10,000. At Stalingrad, it was closer to a million.
The staggering scale, the megalomania, the depravity, the crushing absurdity, and the unspeakable carnage that took place across Stalingrad from August 1942 to February 1943 is exquisitely captured in Beevor’s definitive history of the event.
He magnificently combines a novelist’s verve with an academic’s rigor as he recounts, step by step, how the battle unfolded in all its miserable awfulness. In doing that, Beevor has created an unforgettable diorama of one of the most savage battlefields in history, one of wholesale death, indignity and waste.
The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (1959)
We have all heard of D-Day - many of us have Spielberg to thank for that. But few really know D-Day until they’ve read Cornelius Ryan’s (no relation to Private) blistering classic of narrative non-fiction. Written in 1959, it set the standard of how war books should be written.
This is not a dry military history, but a story of people that reads, at times, like a novel. "What I write about is not war but the courage of man," the war correspondent once said.
He interviewed everyone – from privates to generals infantrymen, sailors, airmen, medics, drivers, paratroopers, glider crews and passengers. He puts the reader inside the headquarters of the German Field Marshal Rommel, tasked with repelling the invasion and Dwight Eisenhauer’s war room as he grapples with the quandary of whether to give the go-ahead despite stormy weather. The result is a thrilling tapestry of feeling and fear, bravery and uncertainty, by one of the greatest war correspondents in history.
Eagle Against the Sun by Ronald H Spector (1985)
There are many fine books on the Pacific War – the most visceral, on the whole, are the memoirs (EB Sledge’s With The Old Breed is sensational). But for a bomber’s eye view of that complex conflict, Eagle Against the Sun is a stone-cold classic.
It’s one of those books that no future foray into the subject will be written without paying due tribute to Eagle Against the Sun. It is a far more remarkable achievement that can be described here.
Blending forensic-level research with electrifying detail, Spector vividly recreates the major battles, barely known campaigns, and unfamiliar events of that brutal 44-month struggle. Unlike many books on the subject, he does not cast himself as a cheerleader of American greatness. He also covers aspects of the fight that are largely untouched by other historians of the field, such as women’s role in the conflict, as well as that of the many African American soldiers who took part. And he’s not afraid to address the Japanese motivations for its part in the theatre, nor the manifold failings on the part of American top brass. As well-oiled a dive into the cogs and sprockets of this brutal campaign as you could hope to find.
Second World War Articles from 2015 - History
In a recent broadcast of “Tagesthemen”, the main newscast of Germany’s ARD public television channel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk grotesquely distorted the history of World War II, accusing the Soviet Union of having invaded Germany and Ukraine.
Remarkably, this brazen and thoroughly calculated falsehood, designed to promote the myth of a joint German-Ukrainian struggle against a Soviet-Russian aggressor, went unchallenged by the presenter. It has not been denounced by the broadcaster in retrospect.
The interview, conducted with Yatsenyuk during his visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 7, consisted largely of anti-Russian ranting. Presenter Pinar Atalay’s innocuous and unfocused questions remained unanswered, and only amounted to brief interruptions to Yatsenyuk’s castigation of Putin, Russia and the Soviet Union.
Yatsenyuk said, “Russian aggression in Ukraine is an attack on world order and order in Europe. All of us still clearly remember the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. That has to be avoided. And nobody has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War. And that is exactly what Russia’s President Putin is trying to do.”
Atalay made no comment on this scandalous historical lie, i.e. that the Soviet Union—not Nazi Germany—had invaded Ukraine. The television station responded to a complaint about the programme from the Public Committee for Public Service Media, remarking that the quality of the simultaneous Russian-German translation was too poor for the presenter to question the statement during the ongoing interview. In fact, however, the “Tagesthemen” news item was a recording of the interview, and there was no critical response to Yatsenyuk’s lie from the programme’s director or ARD.
Five days after the interview, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper attacked not Yatsenyuk and ARD, but the Russian foreign ministry, which vehemently rejected the Ukrainian prime minister’s account, citing the proceedings of the Nuremberg Trials.
“As to the Second World War,” wrote Russia correspondent Kerstin Holm in the newspaper, “the thinking of the Russians is set in concrete . But disabused countrymen remember that Russia, in the wake of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, was an aggressor in World War II and was responsible for the Katyn massacre”.
Holm also claims that “Liberation could at best be said to apply to the expulsion of the Nazis, but not to the Sovietisation of reconquered areas”.
After three decades of US-led wars, the outbreak of a third world war, which would be fought with nuclear weapons, is an imminent and concrete danger.
The German government did not distance itself from Yatsenyuk’s remarks or comment on his statements. Foreign office spokesman Martin Schäfer said: “Like anyone here in Germany—politicians, citizens or sports celebrities—the Ukrainian prime minister has the right to tell the German media whatever he deems appropriate. That is part and parcel of our extremely important right to freedom of expression”.
Thus, the results of the Nuremberg Trials and the denial of German guilt in the Second World War are declared to be matters of opinion. In fact, the German Wehrmacht (army) and Waffen-SS waged a war of extermination in Ukraine, whose barbarism still stands out among the countless atrocities and crimes of the Nazi dictatorship and the world war that it wanted and started.
On June 22, 1941, German Wehrmacht troops stormed across the borders of the USSR without any declaration of war, aiming to engulf the enemy in a Blitzkrieg and push them far back into the interior of the country. While the northern and central sectors of the army had orders to capture Leningrad and Moscow, the southern army sector marched on Kiev. It was supported in this by two battalions of Ukrainian nationalists, code-named “Nachtigall” and “Roland”, marching in German uniforms and under German army command.
These Ukrainian battalions were recruited from the rabid anti-Semitic and anti-Communist Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) under the leadership of Stepan Bandera. After the invasion and with the approval of the German occupiers, they took over management of police stations and launched pogroms. In late June 1941, the German occupiers incited the first major pogrom, in the Galician city of Lviv, which was carried out with the active support of the OUN. The public hunting down of Jews claimed at least 4,000 lives.
Many massacres and pogroms followed. The largest single extermination took place shortly after the sacking of Kiev on September 29-30, 1941 in the ravine of Babi Yar. Approximately 33,000 Kiev Jews were killed, including elderly people, women and children who had not been able to flee from the advancing army. The massacre was one of the crimes prosecuted at the Nuremberg Trials. Approximately 850,000 Jews were murdered in the German war of extermination in Ukraine.
Judaism and Bolshevism were synonymous in the propaganda of the Nazis and the OUN. The murder of Jews was seen and propagandised as equivalent to the anti-Soviet struggle. The brutal terror waged against the Jews and the determination to destroy particularly the Jewish people in occupied Ukraine flowed from the German Reich’s resolve to annihilate the Soviet Union and the impact of the world’s first socialist revolution.
The Wehrmacht’s conquest of Ukraine not only entailed a deep incursion into Soviet territory. It also cut off the rest of the USSR from Ukraine’s fertile agricultural land and large coal reserves. While the USSR was weakened by hunger, Nazi Germany exploited Ukraine’s resources, deporting over a million Ukrainians to work in German industry and agriculture as slave labour.
The German occupiers were therefore unwilling to tolerate any notion of an independent Ukraine. When the OUN proclaimed Ukraine’s independence in Lviv on June 30, 1941, Bandera was taken into “protective custody” in then Sachsenhausen concentration camp. This was not the end of collaboration between the German occupiers and Ukrainian fascists, however.
OUN supporters remained active in administration and as an auxiliary police force in the organisation of the Holocaust in Ukraine. Tens of thousands of them served as volunteers in SS divisions, directly aiding the Nazis in combat against the Red Army.
The current Ukrainian leadership, which was backed by Germany in the coup d’état that brought it to power last spring, stands unashamedly in this bloody tradition of Ukrainian nationalists and fascists. They extol Stepan Bandera as a national hero and rely on an alliance with Germany against Russia as the basis of their political power.
Members of Yatsenyuk’s government maintain close relations with fascist elements and place them in key positions.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appointed the fascist, Vadim Trojan, chief of police for the Kiev region in November 2014. Trojan was commander of the extreme right-wing Azov volunteer battalion, some of whose members wear helmets with swastikas and SS runes in the fighting against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Another commander of the Azov battalion, Andrij Bilezki, told the British Telegraph newspaper: “The historical mission of our nation in these crucial times is to lead the white races of the world in the final crusade for their survival”.
The installation of such violently reactionary forces in power in Kiev and the support given to them by the imperialist powers of NATO requires the rewriting and falsification of history. This is the significance of Yatsenyuk’s statements to ARD, and the silence of authorities in Germany on them.
History of Germany after Second World War
The defeat of Germany in the World War II and her occupation by the Soviet Union and the Western Powers gave rise to complications in the field of European and international politics.
Those complications related to the problems of German unity and the future of Berlin.
Image Source: media.salon.com/2011/03/the_long_road_home_by_ben_shephard-1246.jpg
- Problem of German Unity
- Views on German Unification
- The Berlin Problem
- First Berlin Crisis (1948-9)
- Second Berlin Crisis (1958)
- Third Berlin Crisis (1961)
- Fourth Berlin Crisis (1969)
- Berlin Agreement (1971)
1. Problem of German Unity:
It was decided at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 that Germany would be divided into four occupation zones as a temporary measure. The British zone lay in the North-West, the American in the South, the French in South-West and the Soviet zone extended from Oder-Neisse line to the Elbe.
Berlin was also divided into four zones among the Big Four. The Four-Power Allied Control Council was set up to make decisions for Germany as a whole. The Council was to follow a joint policy and the whole of Germany was to be treated as a single economic unit.
In January 1947, British and American zones were unified. In the same year, the French zone was merged into it. The three zones together came to be known as West Germany. The Western Powers introduced a currency reform in the three Western zones in June 1948 which proved extremely successful.
The Soviet Union protested and imposed a blockade on Berlin which became fully effective upon the introduction of the new currency into the Western sector of the city. The contention of the Soviet Union was that her action was intended to safeguard the currency of their own zone and by adopting the above-mentioned measures in their own zones the Western powers had forfeited the right to participate in the administration of Berlin which was a part of the Russian zone.
The Western Powers organised a massive airlift to send supplies to two million residents of West Berlin and kept open communication with West Berlin. The Berlin blockade lasted from June 1948 to September 1949. The Western powers earned the gratitude of the German people.
The representatives of the three Western powers met in Bonn and drafted a Federal Constitution for West Germany which came to be known as the Bonn Constitution. According to the new Constitution, elections were held to the Federal Parliament in August 1949 and Dr. Adenauer was elected as the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of West Germany.
The German Federal Republic became a member of the O.P.E.C. in 1949 and of the Council of Europe in 1951. She became one of the three major partners of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. She also joined the European Economic Community. On 16 May 1952, the United States, Great Britain and France concluded peace agreements with West Germany in Bonn.
Nearly complete independence was restored to West Germany. Protocols signed in Paris on 28 October 1954 by West Germany and 14 other Western nations gave West Germany virtual sovereignty and opened the way for it to enter NATO and the Brussels Treaty Organisation (Western European Union).
West Germany became officially independent on 5 May, 1955 and progressed both politically and economically. She rebuilt her shattered cities as well as industries and became a leading exporter of finished industrial products in the world market.
The Soviet Union set up on 7 October 1949 a Provisional Peoples’ Chamber and declared the German Democratic Republic with Otto Grotewohl as Prime Minister. Thus, there were two Germanies. The G.D.R. (German Democratic Republic) became progressively Stalinized. It concluded treaties of friendship with other nations in Eastern Europe belonging to the Soviet Sphere. She also entered into a treaty with Poland and fixed Poland’s boundary on the Oder-Niesse line.
The German Democratic Republic set up a zone along her 600-mile border with West Germany. Berlin’s telephone system was separated into two sections. The Soviet Union proclaimed Eastern Germany as a sovereign state on 26 March 1954 and declared that Soviet troops would remain temporarily in connection with the security and the Potsdam agreement.
The Foreign Ministers of the Big Four Powers met at Berlin from 25 January to 18 February 1954 and discussed the problem of the unification of Germany. The Western Powers proposed reunification through the process of free elections and freedom for the new and unified state to join one bloc or the other. Molotov, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, proposed that a provisional all-German Government should be formed from the two existing zones to frame a constitution.
The new Government should negotiate a peace treaty but must not join any alliance in the Cold War. The Western powers knew full well that free elections would lead to a United Germany aligned to the West and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Russians also knew that Germany would choose the policies of Federal Republic.
On 5 May 1955, the Western powers terminated their 10-year old occupation of West Germany. The Soviet Union also restored sovereignty to East Germany and got her associated with the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. West Germany joined the O.P.E.C. East Germany became associated with COMECON.
2. Views on German Unification:
The view of the Western Powers was that the German problem should be settled on the basis of the right of self-determination. They wanted free elections to be held in the whole of Germany and the new state was to conclude a peace treaty. East Germany was not to be recognised as that might perpetuate the partition of Germany. West Germany claimed that she was the sole successor of the old German state. She opposed the neutralisation of Germany.
The Soviet view was that the peace treaty should be concluded with both the German states separately. Her contention was that the question of peace treaty was different from the issue of recognition. If the Soviet Union could recognise West Germany, there was no reason why the Western powers could not recognise East Germany. As the whole of Berlin lies in the territorial limits of East Germany, the Western powers had no right to have their presence in Berlin.
As Germany surrendered under pressure from Soviet forces, the Soviet Union alone had the right to keep her forces in Berlin. Objection was raised to the military bases in West Berlin. The Soviet Union wanted Germany’s neutrality as the price of German unification. She was not prepared to accept a rearmed Germany aligned with the West.
The German question came up for discussion when the Big Four Foreign Ministers met at Berlin but nothing came out of it. Another attempt at unification was made in July 1955 at the Summit Conference of Big Four at Geneva but again nothing came out of it. A ministerial level meeting was held at Geneva from 27 October to 16 November 1955.
The West again took its stand upon uniting Germany through free all-German elections if there could concurrently be established a European Security Pact. The Russians proposed a European collective security treaty which was to replace the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the West European Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation. The two German Governments should join the treaty and establish an all-German Council composed of representatives of both. There was a deadlock.
On 8 September 1955, Chancellor Adenauer visited Moscow and pleaded for the release of German prisoners of war and Russian cooperation in achieving the unification of Germany. West Germany declared in December 1955 that she would break off diplomatic relations with those states which recognised the Government of Eastern Germany. This came to be known as the Hallstein Doctrine. It was named after Walter Hallstein of the Bonn Foreign Office.
The object of this doctrine was to boycott the German Democratic Republic in the international arena and prevent its consolidation. Sanctions were directed against those states which set up normal relations with the German Democratic Republic. At first, the Bonn Government used this policy only in the area of diplomatic relations but later on it was extended to trade and cultural relations.
The Bonn Government claimed that it was the successor to the German Reich and its sole successor. It was supported by Britain, the United States and France. The view of the Soviet Union was that there were two Germanics with equal status and she exchanged Ambassadors with both West Germany and East Germany.
When the United States decided to supply nuclear weapons to NATO forces, the Soviet Union warned West Germany not to keep them in her territory. The prospects of nuclear arms at NATO bases led Poland to suggest a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe. The Soviet Union suggested another Summit Conference but Dulles was not ready for it unless the Soviet Union accepted Western terms.
On 10 November 1958, Khrushchev stated that the imperialists wanted to make Germany a chronic problem and were disturbing the peace of German Democratic Republic, Poland and the socialist states. He warned any march towards East Germany would mean disaster for West Germany. If West Germany really wanted unification, she would have talked with East Germany.
Any settlement could be on the basis of liquidation of Fascism, German militarism and demilitarisation. Likewise, the problem of Berlin could be discussed by West and East Germany. Khrushchev handed over notes to the Western Powers requesting them to withdraw from West Berlin within six months.
He offered West Berlin the status of a free city. He cancelled the agreement of the Soviet Union with the United States and Britain of 12 September 1944 (delineating zones of occupation of Germany and providing for joint administration of Berlin) and the agreement of 1 May 1945 between the Big Three and France establishing the control machinery for the occupation of Germany and Berlin. He also declared his intention to hand over to East Germany the functions hitherto performed by the Soviet authorities.
In reply, the West German Government issued a statement to the effect that if the Soviet Union unilaterally renounced the international treaties concluded by the Four Powers regarding Berlin, political tension in Europe would increase, Soviet-German relations would deteriorate and Soviet Russia would be accused of violating international law.
While the Western Powers were determined to defend their rights, they were also ready to negotiate. The Soviet Union proposed a draft treaty which provided that Germany was to accept the frontiers of 1 January 1959, recognise Austrian neutrality and renounce Sudetenland. Other articles prohibited the Nazi party, militarization and propaganda against peace. The Western powers did not accept the draft treaty and suggested a meeting of Foreign Ministers.
The Foreign Ministers of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France met at a Conference in Geneva on 11 May 1959 on the issues of reunification of Germany and the fixture of Berlin. On behalf of the Western Powers, Herter placed before the Conference a plan for the settlement of all the problems. That plan is known as the Western Peace Plan. It provided for the unification of Germany by accomplishing the reunification of Berlin through free elections as the first step towards German Unity.
The Four powers were to guarantee the independence of united Berlin. A commission of 35 representatives (25 from West Germany and 10 from East Germany) was to prepare the electoral laws on the basis of which a legislative assembly for the whole of Germany was to be elected. The United German Government was to enjoy the full right of joining either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. Peace treaty would be concluded with the all-German Government.
On 25 May 1959, Gromyko, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, produced a counter proposal which provided that separate peace treaties were to be concluded with both the German states and the task of German reunification was to be left to them. West Berlin was to remain independent and free from foreign armies until the reunification of Germany. The NATO members were to withdraw their forces from Germany and dismantle their military base. The Soviet Union was also to remove her armies from Germany, Poland and Hungary.
Both Herter and Gromyko rejected each other’s peace proposals. Gromyko then placed before the Conference fresh proposals which provided that within one year the Western Powers should agree to the abolition of the occupation regime in West Berlin, to reduce the number of their armies in Germany and refrain from engaging themselves in any kind of hostile activity or propaganda against East Germany.
The Western Powers rejected that proposal also. On 20 June 1959, the Western Foreign Ministers proposed a Four-Power treaty which would guarantee the West unrestricted access to West Berlin. Gromyko refused to accept the proposal. There was a deadlock and thus the Conference ended.
In September 1959, Khrushchev met President Eisenhower at Camp David and agreed to resume talks on the Berlin question at the proposed Summit Conference in May 1960 in Paris. However, on account of U-2 incident, Khrushchev decided to boycott the Summit.
On 25 April 1960, Khrushchev warned the Western powers that in case they refused to sign a peace treaty with East Germany, their right of access to West Berlin would cease and the Soviet Union would conclude a peace treaty with East Germany unilaterally. He also declared that as the city of Berlin was situated within East Germany, with the signing of the peace treaty with East Germany, the sovereign right of the latter would be established upon the whole of East Germany.
The Western powers protested and argued that they had a right over West Berlin as a result of conquest of Germany and not as a concession from the Soviet Union. Moreover, the Soviet Union could not revoke unilaterally all the treaties concluded earlier with regard to Germany and Berlin. Khrushchev met President Kennedy at Vienna in June 1961 and on 21 June he declared that Camp David formula was dead.
On 11 August 1961, the Soviet Union announced protective measures to check West German subversive acts in East Berlin. On 12 August 1961, the Government of East Germany introduced permit system for East Germans who went to West Berlin. On the morning of 13 August, the Government of East Germany sealed East Berlin borders with West Berlin. In the next few days, cement and concrete walls were erected.
Thus the Berlin Wall came into existence. The United States ordered the calling up of 76,500 reserves and there was great tension. After long negotiations, the Pass Agreement was signed on 17 September 1963 which allowed Berliners of the two sides to meet one another.
In 1970, the coalition Government of West Germany led by Chancellor Willy Brandt inaugurated a new approach towards East Germany known as Ostpolitik. He wanted to start new relations with East Germany and agreed to the idea of two German states in one German nation. The result was that on 12 August 1970 was signed the Non-Aggression Treaty between Moscow and Bonn.
The treaty recognised the Post-War map of Central Europe. It recognised status quo in Eastern Europe. Both West Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to recognise the Post-War frontiers of Poland, Czechoslovakia and the frontier between East and West Germany. They agreed not to challenge those frontiers in the future.
They agreed to support the entry of the two German states into the United Nations. The treaty enabled West Germany to establish diplomatic and cultural relations with the East European countries and went a long way to lessen the East-West tension.
On 8 November, 1972, the representatives of East and West Germany met in Bonn and signed a treaty concerning the relations on a formal basis. The two states agreed to recognise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other and accepted the right of self-determination. Both claimed to be admitted to the United Nations.
The treaty pledged normal, good neighbourly relations, sovereign equality, promotion of European security and cooperation in economic, social and scientific exchanges. Bonn renounced the Hallstein Doctrine without abandoning the notion of a common nationhood, with East Germany as second German state within German territory.
This treaty, also known as the Basic Treaty, made it possible for the two German states to be admitted to the United Nations as members in September 1973. The admission of two Germanics to the United Nations was the result of a series of treaties signed between West Germany and Poland, West Germany and the Soviet Union, East Germany and West Germany and the Soviet Union, France, Britain and the United States in regard to Germany.
The admission of two Germanics as sovereign and equal states marked the end of the Cold War and the new territorial arrangements following the defeat of Germany in 1945. However, the dream of German unity does not appear to be in sight even in the distant future. It seems that two German states have come to stay. Each German Government is interested in perpetuating the Post-War division of Germany.
3. The Berlin Problem:
Geographically, the city of Berlin is situated within the territory of East Germany. It is inside East German territory, 100 miles away from the frontiers of West Germany. The story of the Post-War arrangements on Berlin began in October 1943 when the Foreign Ministers of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union met in Moscow and agreed in principle on joint responsibility for and joint occupation of defeated-Germany. They established the European Advisory Commission and gave it the task of working out the necessary arrangements.
Out of their lengthy deliberations emerged the protocol of 12 September, 1944 which ran as follows. “Germany, within her frontiers as they were on 31 October, 1937, will, for the purpose of occupation, be divided into three zones, one of which will be allotted to each of the three powers and a special Berlin zone which will be under the joint occupation of the three powers.”
On 14 November, 1944, the European Advisory Commission reached an agreement on the establishment of an Allied Control Council which was to function as the Government of Germany for the interim period till an indigenous German Government could be established.
The Yalta Conference of the Big Three in February 1945 confirmed the arrangements reached in London and implemented them by giving France a separate zone of occupation together with a sector of Berlin and by making France a member of the Allied Control Council. The Yalta Accord was followed by the agreement of the European Advisory Commission on 1 May, 1945 regarding control mechanism in Germany.
On 8 May, 1945, the United States’ forces were deep in the territory designated as the Russian zone, while Russians were in possession of the whole of Berlin. The Russians would not permit Allied entry into Berlin unless the Allies withdrew to their respective zones. When the four Commanders issued their proclamations of 5 June, 1945 assuming supreme authority over Germany, they decided to honour the mutual obligations undertaken by their respective Governments.
The Potsdam Agreement of 2 August, 1945, to which France was not a party, continued the antecedent agreements of the four Allied Commanders and assigned to the Allied Control Council specific functions of denazification, democratization, demilitarisation and deconcentration. The Potsdam Agreement made no mention of Four Power regime to be established in Berlin.
4. First Berlin Crisis (1948-49):
The problem of the access of the Western Allies to West Berlin was left to the Allied Commanders. On 29 June, 1945, General Clay, as representative of General Eisenhower, met General Zhukov in Berlin. He agreed, “as a temporary arrangement,” to the allocation of one main highway and one rail line, as well as two air corridors for the purpose of the Western Powers’ access to Berlin.
The agreement was not put to writing. However, the omission was subsequently rectified by the decision of the Allied Control Council on 30 November 1945 which granted the West three air corridors to be used without advance notice. In 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded the land routes and the Allies overcame the difficulty by organising the Berlin airlift for about 10 months till the Soviet Union lifted the blockade.
On 4 May 1949, an agreement was reached by which the Soviet. Union agreed to end the blockade of Berlin and the Western Powers agreed to lift their restrictions on communications with Eastern Germany which they had imposed as reprisal for the blockade.
The Nine-Power Agreement on Germany and European Defence of 3 August, 1954, concluded in Paris between the Western Powers and West Germany, which ended Allied occupation and restored full sovereignty to West Germany, reserved to the Allies “the existing rights and responsibilities relating to Berlin.” In an agreement with East Germany on 20 September, 1955, the Soviet Union recognised the sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and resolved for herself the control of traffic-both personnel and freight—destined for Berlin.
5. Second Berlin Crisis (1958):
In December 1958, the NATO Council decided to equip West Germany with atomic weapons and rockets. That provoked the Soviet Union and precipitated a second Berlin crisis.
The Soviet Union sent the following notes to the Western Powers:
(1) The whole of Berlin formed geographically a part of East Germany and therefore the Western Powers had no legal right over Berlin.
(2) The Western Powers should withdraw from West Berlin within six months.
(3) West Berlin would be declared a demilitarized free city.
(4) The Soviet Union gave six months’ ultimatum to resolve the Berlin problem failing which Western access rights would end and any Western violation would immediately cause appropriate retaliation.
(5) The Soviet Union declared her intention to entrust to East Germany control over communications which meant that Western Powers were to take the permission of East Germany to reach West Berlin.
On 31 December, 1958, the United States along with the other Western Powers rejected the Soviet proposal. They claimed their right in Berlin from the conquest of Germany and not on the basis of Potsdam Agreement. They refused to be bowed down by threats or ultimatums. On 11 May, 1959, the Foreign Ministers Conference of Big Four Powers met in Geneva but could not arrive at any agreement. A new Summit was arranged for 16 May, 1960 but it did not meet on account of the U-2 incident. The Berlin crisis was over but the problem was not solved.
6. Third Berlin Crisis (1961):
When Khrushchev met President Kennedy in June 1961, he fixed a deadline for a separate treaty with Germany by the end of 1961. The United States was willing to negotiate on the question of Germany but was not willing to accept the Soviet view on Berlin.
The result was that both the leaders exchanged threatening notes on the question of Berlin. A serious situation was created in Germany as a result of the influx of refugees from East Germany. Doctors, engineers and skilled workers defected to West Germany on a large scale and caused brain drain in East Germany.
On 13 August, 1961, East Germany sealed her border between East Berlin and West Berlin and a 25-mile-long Berlin wall was erected between two Berlins. There was great tension. A Pass Agreement was concluded in 1963 which allowed people on both sides of Berlin to meet each other.
7. Fourth Berlin Crisis (1969):
There was another Berlin crisis in 1969. The West German Government decided to hold presidential elections on 5 March, 1969 in West Berlin in order to reassert her claim over West Berlin. East Germany opposed and re-imposed restrictions on land routes to prevent the members of the Electoral College from reaching West Berlin.
The West German Government sent the members of the Electoral College and other officials to West Berlin by air. On that occasion, President Nixon of the United States gave the following warning. “Let there be no miscalculation.
No unilateral move, no illegal act, no form of pressure from any source will shake the resolve of Western nations to defend their rightful status as protectors of the people of free Berlin.” The result was that the Soviet Union did not take any action and the situation was saved.
8. Berlin Agreement (1971):
After prolonged negotiations lasting for 18 months, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union concluded an agreement over Berlin on 23 August, 1971. The restrictions on movement between East and West Berlin were removed. The Western powers and West Germany recognised the separate authority of East Germany. The West German Government and the Berlin Administration were urged to have direct dealings with East Germany.
The Four Big Powers accepted that West Berlin did not form an integral part of West Germany which means that West Berlin was not under West Germany but under the three Western Powers. In other words, the authority of West Berlin was separated from that of West Germany.
The Western Powers assumed directly the responsibility for the security of West Berlin. East Berlin was accepted as an integral part of East Germany. The Four Big powers understood not to change the status quo by force unilaterally. The agreement put a temporary end to years of tension. The problem of Berlin is intimately connected with the unification of Germany and can be finally solved only when Germany is reunified.
The Economy During Wartime
During the Second World War, the United States had a centrally planned economy—and the most rapid economic growth in U.S. history. What lessons can we take from the war economy today?J.W. Mason &squarf Fall 2017 A young woman sells war bonds and stamps and distributes War Production Drive literature, circa 1943 (National Archives)
Destructive Creation: American Business and the Winning of World War II
by Mark R. Wilson
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016, 392 pp.
During the Second World War, the United States had a centrally planned economy. Strategic resources were produced in quantities set in Washington, and allocated among end users by the public officials sitting on the War Production Board. Key prices and wages were administered, not left to markets. The large majority of investment was directed, financed, and, in most cases, owned by the federal government. Thousands of private businesses that failed to comply with the planners’ instructions were simply taken over by the government—including some of the country’s largest corporations, like Montgomery Ward. For millions of Americans, the photograph of Ward’s adamantly anti-Roosevelt chairman Sewell Avery being carried from his headquarters by a squad of soldiers crystallized the new relationship between government and capital.
What are we to make of the fact that economic life was “quite completely regimented” (in the approving words of Admiral Harold Bowen) during the war? For novelists of the front lines, it could appear as part of a vast impersonal machine, consuming human lives as means to an inscrutable end. Think of Corporal Fife in The Thin Red Line, watching his transport ship coming under attack by Japanese planes: “A regular business venture, no war at all. It was weird and wacky and somehow insane. . . . It was as though a clerical, mathematical equation had been worked out, as a calculated risk.” For historian Mark Wilson, whose attention is fixed on the home front, there’s no such ambivalence. His new book Destructive Creation is a defense of the management of the war economy by “clerical, mathematical equation,” against those on the right, who attribute wartime production to the genius of private business, and those on the left, who see the wartime state as an engine of profiteering and monopoly. The book is animated by the idea that wartime planning represents a lost model for effective public direction of the economy: “If American policymakers had applied the lessons of World War II mobilization to the toughest challenges of the later twentieth century, people around the world would be better off today.”
The Second World War was certainly an economic success story, in that it coincided with the most rapid economic growth in U.S. history. Much of this growth came not in the recovery from the Depression, but in the post-1940 period, when the country was already more or less at full employment. Between 1938 and 1944, unemployment fell by about 10 million. (This includes people leaving the Works Progress Administration and similar jobs programs.) Over the same period, private employment and military employment each rose by 10 million, implying 10 million new entrants to the labor force—mostly women. At the same time, workers shifted from less productive activities (especially agriculture) to more productive jobs in industry. Industrial productivity—output per hour—also rose rapidly.
Wilson is certainly right that the federal government played a central role in this vast expansion of productive capacity. Even before Pearl Harbor, it was clear to the leaders of the mobilization effort that the peacetime system of allocating industrial inputs by markets was breaking down in the face of a rapid expansion of military production. Materials like steel, copper, aluminum, and rubber were in short supply, exacerbated by hoarding by contractors who wanted to ensure that their own orders were filled. Even more critically, investment in new industrial capacity—after 1940, almost all directed and financed by Washington—could only be decided if future supplies of critical raw materials were known. (There was no point in building a new bomber factory if there wouldn’t be enough aluminum for it to make planes from.) Ad hoc price controls and the crude “priority” system reserving key materials for military use were not enough—an explicit planning process was needed.
Economic planning during the war also led to a broader rationalization of economic life. Much macroeconomic data begins around 1945—it was first collected to aid in wartime planning. The estimates of actual versus potential output that guide so much macroeconomic policy today emerged out of the “feasibility debates” between civilian economists and military planners—a fascinating story barely touched on by Wilson but told in detail in Paul Koistinen’s Arsenal of World War II (2004), which remains the definitive history of wartime economic planning. The same goes for other belligerents. Richard Werner (in Princes of the Yen, 2003) convincingly argues that the planning apparatus that guided Japan’s postwar economic miracle was the product of the war—early twentieth-century Japanese capitalism more closely resembled the freewheeling liberal, market-centered American system than what we have come to think of as the “East Asian model.” Turning back to the United States, it’s clear that much of what the businesses objected to as “red tape” was simply that in order to win government contracts, they had to adopt explicit cost accounting, wage schedules, and other hallmarks of the modern managerial firm.
It’s easy to see the attraction of making the fight against Hitler exhibit A in a broader argument for the public sector. If government planning was essential for developing and mobilizing real resources for the war, why not for its moral equivalents today, such as climate change? Wilson doesn’t explicitly make this argument—his story stops in the 1950s—but it’s safe to say he’d be on board.
There’s plenty of useful material in this book, but its case would be stronger if it were not so narrowly focused on the business-government interface. Wilson offers a comprehensive account of the ways in which public officials interacted with business: as customers, as financiers, as regulators, as rivals for the favors of public opinion. But he has nothing to say about two critical questions that lie, so to speak, on each side of this interface: how the planning apparatus actually functioned, and how American industry was able to generate such big increases in output and productivity. Wartime productivity gains get, literally, one aside (“economies of scale, improving production techniques, or other factors”) tucked into a discussion of how prices were set for military procurement. Similarly, the operations of the planning apparatus—the War Planning Board and its predecessors—gets less than two pages. By contrast, a dozen pages are devoted to how payments were handled on prematurely canceled contracts. Wilson is very interested in how much the government paid for tanks and ships, not so much in how so many of them were produced.
Wilson does not ask, for example, why war production required central planning. It is not an easy question, but one natural place to look for an answer might be the history of industrialization, which in some ways involves similar problems—the more or less rapid redirection of resources from one set of activities to a very different one, in the face of various bottlenecks and coordination problems. As famously argued by the economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron, modern industrialization would have been impossible without a high degree of conscious direction. The simultaneous expansion of many interdependent sectors and industries—along with the public infrastructure they require—is exactly the wrong sort of problem for widely dispersed private decision makers. The large-scale investment in plants and equipment required by both military mobilization and industrialization is often unattractive to private wealth-holders, who put a steep discount on returns far off in an uncertain future. Even the routine coordination of production through the price mechanism can break down in the high-pressure environment of a major redirection of production. In an economy running at full throttle, scarce resources will experience large and disruptive price rises, while private actors will be tempted to hoard key resources and exploit their market power. Giant corporations, starting with the railroads in the nineteenth century, organized themselves internally through central planning, not markets, with salaried managers performing the essential tasks of coordination. It’s no surprise that a government seeking to maximize military production would seek to organize the whole economy the same way.
The fundamental political problem raised by wartime planning is not the extent to which it did or did not affect private profits or competition, but the way it replaced dispersed private authority exercised through markets with centralized (and in principle at least, democratically accountable) authority exercised by the state. If urgent production needs and rapid reallocation of resources require a central plan—if even private businesses recognize this internally—then what claim do private capitalists have to their power and profits? In his opening chapter, on precursors to Second World War planning, Wilson quotes an amusing exchange between U.S. Steel chairman Elbert Gary and Bernard Baruch, head of the First World War–era War Industries Board. Unhappy with what the military was paying for steel, Baruch informed Gary that if prices didn’t come down, the government would simply take the industry over. When an incredulous Gary asked how U.S. Steel could be managed without its top executives, Baruch replied, “Oh, we’ll get a second lieutenant or somebody to run it.” More threatening than taxes, red tape, or even militant unions was the implication of wartime planning that owners were unnecessary to production. During the Second World War, business owners angrily—and correctly—complained that government control of investment, allocation of scarce materials, and prices and wages meant that “the businessman is just a middleman” for the planners in Washington.
This radical content of wartime planning was more clearly recognized by its business and conservative opponents than by the planners themselves, who—a few ardent New Dealers aside—seem to have moved toward more centralized planning as a pragmatic response to the difficulties of ramping up war production. Initially, planners hoped to achieve the vast expansion of industrial capacity required to meet military needs through private investment. They turned to public ownership only when private banks proved uninterested in financing war plants. For business, on the other hand, planning and public ownership was clearly seen as a mortal threat to their prestige and power—a feared and hated rival, or even, Wilson suggests, an enemy on par with the official enemies abroad. Already by 1941, government enterprise was, according to a Chamber of Commerce publication, “the ghost that stalks at every business conference.” J. Howard Pew of Sun Oil declared that if the United States abandoned private ownership and “supinely reli[es] on government control and operation, then Hitlerism wins even though Hitler himself be defeated.” Even the largest recipients of military contracts regarded the wartime state with hostility. GM chairman Alfred Sloan—referring to the danger of government enterprises operating after war—wondered if it is “not as essential to win the peace, in an economic sense, as it is to win the war, in a military sense,” while GE’s Philip Reed vowed to “oppose any project or program that will weaken” free enterprise.
Nonetheless, at the war’s end, about a quarter of the country’s industrial plants, representing the large majority of wartime investment, were owned by the federal government. The disposition of this vast system of public and semi-public enterprises was one of the central questions of postwar conversion while almost all of it eventually passed into private hands, this was by no means a foregone conclusion in 1945. For the remaining New Dealers and their newly empowered allies in labor, these publicly owned factories offered the basis for a permanent expansion of public enterprise, on the model of the Tennessee Valley Authority. (The TVA’s place in the liberal imagination as part of a project of broader social renovation is memorably expressed in Elia Kazan’s 1960 film Wild River.) As the war wound down, Harold Ickes floated the idea that new semi-public corporations should be created to refit the war plants to produce civilian goods and their shares to be distributed to returning veterans.
This was not to be. The success of business owners and their allies in rolling back wartime economic management is the most interesting part of Wilson’s book. By the 1960s the military was more dependent on private contractors not only than during the war, but, arguably, than at any previous point in its history. From the nineteenth century through the 1940s, half of Navy ships were built in government-owned shipyards by government employees. But less than two decades after the end of the Second World War, this capacity was entirely gone and all new warships were built by private contractors. Large public investments in other areas of military production that long predated the war similarly passed into the hands of private owners.
Wilson shows that this enormous rolling back of public production was not inevitable or driven by concerns of efficiency. It was an ideological project pushed by business leaders. Even in the days after Pearl Harbor, as dozens of government-financed and -owned plants were being authorized, conservatives like Senator Robert Taft were determined to ensure that these taxpayer-funded factories would eventually be “returned” to private business—an outcome that would require Congress to be “constantly on guard, and determined to restore a system of privately owned and operated enterprise.” By the end of the war, the conservatives had largely displaced New Deal economists like Eveline Burns and Alvin Hansen, whose National Resources Planning Board had been developing plans for turning the publicly owned war facilities into TVA-style public corporations. Instead, the discussion was dominated by the likes of the Baruch-Hancock report, which took as its starting point that the top priority should be “taking the government out of business.” The 1946 Employment Act, among the crown jewels of postwar Keynesianism, formalized a public commitment to avoid a return to the mass unemployment of the 1930s, but stipulated that full employment was to be achieved only through policies that “foster and promote free private enterprise.”
Perhaps the biggest contribution of Wilson’s book is the case it makes that the dismantling of the wartime planning apparatus was an ideological project aggressively pushed for its own sake. In this sense, the book serves as a kind of prequel to Kim Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands (2010), on business efforts to reverse the New Deal. Today, when the role of private owners in production is simply taken for granted, it’s useful to be reminded that at that decisive moment, private ownership was tenaciously pursued as an end in itself.
What Sets Italian Americans Off From Other Immigrants?
Family and work for starters, according to a new TV documentary.
Little Italy, New York City, 1950s.
—Everett Collection / Mondadori Portfolio
"And so you know the difficulty in becoming an American. It isn’t a sudden process. You get over it. But you don’t ever quite get over it. You carry it with you. That’s the great—and not so great—aspect of being or trying to be an assimilated American.” So says writer Gay Talese about his experience growing up Italian American in 1940s South Jersey. It is an introspective and angst-filled admission, somewhat unusual for Italian Americans, who tend to vacillate between voluble romanticism and hardheaded pragmatism. Yet his words are an important reminder that the process of assimilation is often, to borrow a phrase from Norman Podhoretz, a “brutal bargain.”
A 1942 photo of Italian Americans on MacDougal Street in Lower Manhattan.
—Marjory Collins / Library of Congress
—Gottlieb, William P., photographer. Portrait of Frank Sinatra, Liederkrantz Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Talese’s interview comes from a new documentary entitled The Italian Americans, scheduled to air on PBS beginning in February. It is a stylish, engaging, and thoughtful documentary of nearly 150 years of history, chronicling the migration of a largely southern Italian population to America, beginning in the late 1800s and following its winding path toward the American mainstream. The documentary touches on the greatest hits of Italian-American life, from Fiorello La Guardia to Mario Cuomo, from Rudolph Valentino to Frank Sinatra, from Sacco and Vanzetti to Joe Valachi, and from Bank of America founder A. P. Giannini to Chef Boyardee.
We live in an era that is increasingly nervous about assimilation, finding it too coercive an idea to impose on new immigrants. A multicultural America seeks better analogies than the old “melting pot” and instead speaks of “salad bowls” and “gorgeous mosaics.” But The Italian Americans doesn’t shy away from the idea of assimilation, presenting episode titles like “Becoming Americans,” “Loyal Americans,” and “The American Dream.”
Yet this is no simple-minded tale or romanticized story of plucky immigrant success. It plumbs the complexities of immigrant assimilation and American ethnic identity in relatively sophisticated ways. In addition to the discussion of famous Italian Americans and the thoughts of academic talking heads, the documentary tries to include the perspectives of average Italian Americans. For this is their history, as much as it is the history of the wealthy and the successful.
Assimilation has never meant a “melting pot” where everyone “melted” into a homogenous “American” stew. As political scientist Peter Skerry writes, assimilation “has typically meant that immigrants have adapted and changed in disparate domains, rejecting their immigrant past in some ways (forgetting their parents’ mother tongue and speaking English, or learning to tolerate individuals with sharply different values) and holding on to other aspects of their heritage (ethnic cuisine, specific religious holidays, family traditions from the homeland).” It is a process that spans generations and involves a fair share of ambivalence. The loss of traditions and a psychic sense of displacement mix with the benefits of becoming a middle-class American. There are always two sides to every bargain.
Italian immigrants began arriving in large numbers in the late 1800s as relatively unskilled labor that helped fuel a booming industrial economy. These Italian workers seemed unlikely new Americans. Most of those early arrivals were young men leaving a semifeudal Italian South that held little in the way of opportunity.
Nearly half of Italian immigrants would eventually return to Italy, but today’s Italian-American community is descended from those who decided to remain in America. They brought over their families and created ethnic enclaves in Northern cities and small industrial towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Each immigrant group possesses its own strategies for survival and success. For Italians, theirs rested upon two pillars: work and family. Italian immigrants helped provide the labor for American factories and mines and helped build roads, dams, tunnels, and other infrastructure. Their work provided them a small economic foothold in American society and allowed them to provide for their families, which stood at the core of Italian-American life.
Another paradox is that although Italian Americans tend to respect authority, especially the authority of parents and elders, they also harbor a suspicion of broader authority figures, such as politicians and the Catholic hierarchy. This stems from the distrust of such authority in Italy. In America, the family stood as a bulwark against the larger, sometimes hostile, institutions. Respect for authority within the family suspicion of authority outside of the community.
The downside was that Italians often chose to wait to become naturalized citizens, delaying their full inclusion in America’s political and civic life. One finds many Italians becoming naturalized in the years 1939 to 1941 as war erupted in Europe. The Second World War would find the United States in conflict with Italy, as non-naturalized Italian immigrants would find themselves briefly branded “enemy aliens.”
Yet the war would prove to be the third key foundation of Italian-American assimilation. The stereotypical Hollywood wartime platoon usually included the Italian American from Brooklyn. Over half a million Italian Americans served in the American military during World War Two. Soldiers like Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Basilone, one of thirteen Italian Americans to win the award, became national heroes. Italian Americans now achieved a place in the postwar world, sound track provided by Frank Sinatra.
Even in the 1950s and 1960s, however, Italians encountered prejudice and negative stereotypes. Much of that was related to the Mafia. Often victimized by organized crime, Italian Americans also found their collective reputation tarnished by organized crime, even as they climbed the socioeconomic ladder.
Then there is The Godfather paradox. Written by Mario Puzo, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, the first two Godfather films stand as two of the greatest American films of all time. The movies introduced famous lines into the American lexicon: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes,” as well as the ominous message behind a horse’s head in a bed.
The paradox is that one of the great triumphs of modern Italian-American culture has also reinforced many of the negative stereotypes that have long dogged Italian Americans. The book and the movie also provided a more unfortunate justification for organized crime: The business of Don Corleone and his family seemed to differ very little from the business of American capitalists. This dark lesson may have fit with the decade’s sense of corruption and disillusionment, but it also seemed to legitimize organized crime.
It has also spawned a whole genre of mob-related imitators, including Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and The Sopranos, one of the best television shows of all time. There seems to be no end to mob-themed entertainment, yet there is no denying the greatness of some of the work or its popularity among Italian Americans, as well as the broader public. Mafia-related shows and movies, plus reality entertainment shows like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, present a skewed version of Italian-American life.
The Italian Americans condemns those cultural stereotypes that still permeate media depictions of Italian Americans before returning to Roseto, Pennsylvania, a small working-class town with a large Italian-American population. In the early 1960s, a medical survey found its residents had a lower-than-average incidence of heart disease. Researchers argued that the explanation lay in the social cohesion of a community centered on large Italian families, the local Catholic church, and ethnic associations.
When researchers returned to Roseto years later, however, they found that heart disease rates were no longer exceptionally low, but rather in keeping with other nearby towns. What happened? As the older generation aged, their local institutions weakened. The young generation grew up and moved out of their tight-knit ethnic enclaves, experiencing the benefits of upward mobility.
The Roseto story itself contains a bit of romanticizing. Anyone familiar with large Italian families knows that they can be a source of comfort and stability, but also a source of tension and stress. Nevertheless, the story of Roseto plays into a deep-seated nostalgia for the “old neighborhood.” The conflict between romanticism and pragmatism again raises its head Italians long for the simpler past and old neighborhoods, but they have also been quick to leave those neighborhoods for greener pastures—and larger houses.
The documentary is ambivalent about these changes. It segues from Roseto to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the site of a murder of a young black man by a mob of mostly Italian Americans in the late 1980s. The idea is that the isolation and insularity of the “old neighborhood” is also problematic. Assimilation means not just giving up the language of one’s ancestors, but also learning to live in a pluralistic society.
Finally, we are left with a third-generation Italian American who goes to Sicily in search of his family roots. In recent decades, geneaology has exploded among Americans. In the past, genealogy was mostly the preserve of old-stock Americans seeking to trace their family trees back to the Puritans and Pilgrims. Today, with the popularity of websites like Ancestry.com and easy access to immigrant ship manifests at the Ellis Island website, genealogy has exploded among Americans of a more recent vintage.
Some Italian Americans are researching their ancestors and turning to Italy to regain a kind of authenticity of experience they feel has been lost in the assimilation process. One reason why many of our ancestors did not spend time dwelling on the past was that they understood there was little future for them in Italy. The process of immigration thrust an insular people deeply rooted in family and place into the modern world. Once in America, that conflict between deeply rooted traditions and the possibilities of a new life grew. Their descendants have been dealing with that tension for generations.
As Italian Americans rediscover Italy and their immigrant ancestors, new immigrants from across the globe are continually arriving in America. They are making their own lives and navigating the complicated process of adapting to a new world while not completely surrendering the past.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, history doesn’t repeat itself. These new immigrants face their own unique challenges, different from those of Italian immigrants. It would be a mistake to say The Italian Americans represents a roadmap for assimilation. Instead, it is a useful reminder of the duality of immigrant life, of the strivings and contortions of those who live in the present while simultaneously facing both the past and the future.
Vincent J. Cannato teaches history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and is the author of The History of Ellis Island, which was written with the support of an NEH research fellowship.
Second World War Articles from 2015 - History
Japan&rsquos Holy War reveals how a radical religious ideology drove the Japanese to imperial expansion and global war.
&ldquoVery well written and carefully researched, Japan&rsquos Holy War is a classic work that should be on the reading list of every scholar. A major achievement.&rdquo
–Daniel A. Métraux, Virginia Review of Asian Studies
&ldquoAn absolutely outstanding and necessary work. Skya&rsquos book will become the standard work on the intellectual and ideological history of modern Shintō.&rdquo
–Klaus Antoni, University of Tübingen
&ldquoAn exciting, theoretically informed, comparative study of Japanese nationalism.&rdquo
–Kevin M. Doak, author of A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan: Placing the People
Seventy years ago—on August 15, 1945—Emperor Hirohito announced that Japan would accept conditions for terminating the war as set down by the Allied Nations in the Potsdam Proclamation on July 26. His decision came after the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, followed by the Soviet Union&rsquos entry into the war on August 8, and finally after another atomic bomb was dropped over the city of Nagasaki on August 9.
It came about after three of the six members of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (Saikō Sensō Shidō Kaigi)—Minister of War, Korechika Anami Chief of the Army General Staff, Yoshijirō Umezu and Chief of the Navy General Staff, Soemu Toyoda—had refused to surrender despite these three traumatic and horrific events in rapid succession. Japan&rsquos military leaders had resolved to fight to the death, and to drag the nation onto a path of national annihilation.
One member of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, however, Minister of the Navy Yonai Mitsumasa, confided to Admiral Sōkichi Tagaki that the dropping of the atomic bombs and Soviet entry into the war were &ldquoa gift from the [Shintō] gods&rdquo (tenyū). Yonai was not concerned about the suffering of the Japanese people, but he was worried that if the war had gone on longer, his beloved Shintō monarchy might be destroyed by an internal rebellion, if not by outside Allied Forces.
In his speech announcement, Emperor Hirohito did not use the Japanese word for surrender. Instead, he said to his loyal subjects that &ldquoAfter pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.&rdquo
The emperor went on to claim that &ldquowe declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan&rsquos self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.&rdquo
The emperor was insisting that Japan had done nothing wrong by waging war in Asia and the Pacific. In other words, he was distancing himself and the Japanese nation from any sense of war guilt or responsibility. Quite the contrary, he began to see the Japanese as victims of the war rather than perpetrators.
Still more, the emperor ignored the fact the Japanese had been waging war on China and the rest of the East Asia—causing the death of at least 20 million people—since 1931. He stated, &ldquoBut now the war has lasted for nearly four years.&rdquo In another words, according to Emperor Hirohito, it was only after Pearl Harbor that the Second World War had begun.
Before that, he said, Japan had been &ldquocooperating with the [Japanese] Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.&rdquo He also stated, &ldquoWe cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.&rdquo The problem with this statement is that Japan had no real East Asian allies!
In his classic, The Second World War (1989/2005), military historian John Keegan observed that the Second World War was the &ldquolargest single event in human history, fought across six of the world&rsquos seven continents and all its oceans. It killed 50 million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind or body, and materially devastated much of the heartland of civilization.&rdquo While statistics vary, the latest research on this deadliest military conflict in human history shows that the total number of people dead was much higher—ranging from 60 million to as many as 80 million people.
What caused this war? What inspired the elites of these countries to embark on this war, and mobilized the German, Italian, and Japanese masses. Thousands of articles books have been written about the Second World War in the last seven decades. Nevertheless, there are large holes in the historiography. On European the side, Richard Koenigsberg and the Library of Social Science have done an incredible job bringing about an in-depth understanding of the ideology of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei).
In the case of Nazism, it is easy to name the ideological leaders. The average educated American has heard of Adolf Hitler&rsquos book, even knowing it by the German language title, Mein Kampf. Many scholars have read Alfred Rosenberg&rsquos The Myth of the Twentieth Century. As for Italian Fascism, the average American has heard of Benito Mussolini. Scholars may have read the writings of Italian Fascist theorists such as Giovanni Gentile and Alfredo Rocco.
Incredible as it may seem, however, there has been only one comprehensive history and analysis of the ideology that mobilized the Japanese masses and inspired the Japanese elite to embark on total war in Asia and the Pacific. What was the Japanese ideology that mobilized the Japanese masses to sacrifice their lives? The average American cannot answer this question.
More disturbingly, American scholars—even in the field of Japanese studies—cannot answer this question. Ask ten scholars, and you will get ten different answers. Who were the chief Japanese ideologues? The only person consistently mentioned in textbooks is Kita Ikki.
The purpose of this series of articles is to present a systematic analysis of the origins, development, diffusion, and triumph of the ideology that inspired the Japanese elite to embark on conquest in Asia and the Pacific, and that mobilized the Japanese masses to fight to the death. I also explore the relationship between the ideologies of Nazi Germany and Japan, a topic that has been glaringly neglected in the historiography on the Second World War.