An academic trawl of the corporation’s archives has revealed that while the Nazi regime used puppet broadcasters such as William Joyce – nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw – to spin messages of German invincibility, the BBC was choosing to broadcast detailed news of Britain’s military setbacks. The decision was part of a deliberate strategy to win the hearts and minds of the German people, says Dr Vike Martina Plock of the department of English at Exeter University, who discovered memos from the time during research at the BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham Park, Reading.
The strategy was simple.
If the Allies could openly admit defeats, it was believed [by Nazi listeners], they must be extremely confident, convinced of their eventual victory over Nazi Germany.
70 years after the battle of Hill 205, November 25, 1950: Ralph Puckett at 95 years old is to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
Yet I can’t help but notice an important side-story.
In “Witness to War” Puckett clearly is using his current platform to point out (in a gripping combat story) what a terrible leader General MacArthur was.
General MacArthur had seen Truman the 8th of October and told the President the Chinese are not coming into North Korea… he obviously was wrong about that […] I just couldn’t understand why things appeared to be easy to MacArthur.
…historians have reassessed Douglas MacArthur—not just his command style, but particular decisions he made, and particular episodes from his long and controversial career. In modern evaluations, more often than not, “Dugout Doug” comes up short. […]
How did MacArthur blunder so badly? How could he miss more than 300,000 Chinese soldiers? Once the intelligence finally came in loud and clear, he and his staff of sycophants continued to dismiss it, suppress it, or willfully misinterpret its import. In so doing, they recklessly put tens of thousands of American and other United Nations troops in mortal danger. The result was catastrophic: One of the worst defeats, and one of the most ignominious withdrawals, in American military history.
It was, in some senses, a repeat of his debacle at Bataan. Only in this case, MacArthur had been outwitted and outflanked by a guerrilla army with no air force, crude logistics, and primitive communications, an army with no tanks and precious little artillery. As David Halberstam put it, MacArthur had “lost face not just before the entire world, but before his own troops, and perhaps most important of all, before himself.”
All of this happened because MacArthur was almost criminally out of touch with reality.
I can feel the bitterness in tone when Puckett speaks to the camera about the 8th of October tension of 1950 between MacArthur and Truman, in an otherwise completely neutral and factual retelling of a near-death battle.
Here’s how it was reported to the public around the time Puckett was on the ground thinking MacArthur was dangerously clueless.
Truman fired MacArthur in April 1951 for disobeying orders. Truman surely regretted not firing him sooner.
“I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was,” Truman later said. “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect authority…”
The Medal of Honor for valor in the Korean War really gives us a chance to listen to a detailed retelling of American history from a soldier who by all accounts has the highest integrity, who is neutral in tone and ultimately who makes others perform better… and who is clearly pointing out MacArthur was a clueless disaster.
Reminds me of the Trump family repeatedly invoking MacArthur as their hero for being a “not nice guy”. I am pretty sure they mean the same sort of thing that historians might refer to as MacArthur’s extremist evangelical white supremacist beliefs.
As late as 1950 [MacArthur] commented to a visiting American churchman: “Please send ten missionaries for every one you now have in Japan. We must have ten thousand Christian missionaries and a million Bibles to complete the occupation of this land.” […] MacArthur’s conviction that democracy and Christianity were inseparable necessities for the rebirth of Japan was readily accepted by many chaplains.
Another fun history fact is — since we’re talking about MacArthur’s “not nice” evangelical views — that the Aryan Nations white supremacist domestic terrorist group was inspired by Colonel William Potter Gale (a close aide to MacArthur who also was a “Christian Identity” pastor).
Gale spent his time after WWII back in America to spread what the SPLC calls “a militia-type antigovernment movement that promoted racist and anti-Semitic views.”
Just to emphasize the point one more time… “MacArthur was almost criminally out of touch with reality” and his incompetence helped spawn veteran-led violent Christian domestic terrorist groups in America.
And that reminds me of a bunch of obviously clueless American flag officers who just published a completely tone-deaf fear-mongering disinformation letter (or as Steven Metz, professor at the US Army War College, called the letter: “unhinged, delusional and, frankly, stupid”).
Think carefully about all this in comparison to the typical caption of this photo…
Truman was right and probably should have fired MacArthur earlier.
Put these two things together and… color me surprised that the notoriously tyrannical College Station police within the backwards state of Texas were just caught on film being obvious thugs and bullies.
In Texas they simply don’t care.
Was the cyclist riding around where nobody was at risk somehow posing a risk? There’s no risk and the cyclist keeps asking “for what?”
If the police don’t care, they don’t care. Eventually the police said there was a minor traffic violation.
In other words, can you believe Texas police actually were concerned with anyone’s safety? The video shows police treating a cyclist as convenient punching bag and target for their itchy fingers… with no evidence of threat.
Even the wider context doesn’t help change this narrative. The police themselves say they just wanted to prove a point by hurting the cyclist because he didn’t “obey” them.
The Texas police literally crashed (dropped their bike) without justification and then claimed falsely that they were most concerned with stopping crashes.
Police said at 1:04 p.m. the bicyclist was seen running through a red light at University and Nagle Street.
In other words, a cyclist rode in a manner the police disliked and didn’t seem to take their anger seriously. To force him to respect their authority to continue enforcing pointless and racist laws, then they did the dumbest thing possible and perhaps lost all respect.
There are many rational SAFETY-BASED reasons for cyclists to both ride through red lights as well as “jaywalk”.
Logically (ethically) and historically the cyclist already was on more firm ground than the police, and then a pointless violent assault removed the moral standing police obviously thought they deserved.
On the 22nd of February 1943 a brave 21-year-old woman walked to a Nazi guillotine, displaying full conviction she “had done the best I could have done for my people”.
This is where her life ended. But how did it begin?
Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Sophie Scholl. On May 9th, 1921 her protestant liberal German parents had their fourth child, who grew interested in art and music.
Like all “eligible” German children she was forced to endure indoctrination from the “Hitler Youth” program. The Nazi system of hate was designed to stomp children into becoming obedient followers of a fascist regime of ruthless intolerance, and to rebel against their parents.
Sophie, as might be expected of such heavy propaganda, at first participated in regular programmed camaraderie and adventures. She became a squad leader of the Nazi Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), where they were trained to sing songs like this one.
Läutet, daß blutig die Seile sich röten,
Rings lauter Brennen und Martern und Töten
(Ringing, until ropes run red with blood,
Ring louder with burning, torture and murder)
Then her loyalty and intelligence began to take effect. Major doubts arose: Why were her friends denied membership for being Jewish? Why were books mysteriously forbidden from any discussion with her own squad? Why were women being denied any future except “wife, mother, and homemaker”?
Her older brother Hans was arrested in 1936 when he crossed one of these invisible lines of secret police, accused of being in a forbidden youth movement (Deutsche Jungenschaft, Bündische Jugend — basically the Boy Scouts).
It was this arrest of her brother that turned Sophie as a 15 year old girl away from Nazism — she felt loyalty to her family and to human values more than the irrational hate programming.
Six years later in 1942 Sophie joined her brother Hans at Munich university, where he already had been active in a group called The White Rose that opposed German fascism.
Sophie then convinced her then fiancee — a 25-year-old law student and officer in the Nazi air force named Fritz Hartnagel — to also support this group.
On the 23rd January 1943, just a month before The White Rose was uncovered and Sophie would be executed, Hartnagel returned to Germany on the last military evacuation plane out of Stalingrad. Dutiful as a Nazi officer, yet supportive of Sophie in The White Rose, he survived the war and died in 2001 at age 84.
Today she is considered one of the most important Germans of all time.
UT-Austin released a report… that concluded there was ‘no racist intent’ behind the song, even as the song was written in a racist setting.
I totally get where that report is coming from. This is like UT-Austin saying its culinary school had no intent to poison its students when the food was prepared in a poisonous setting.
Being unconcerned about safety doesn’t prove intent to be unsafe, it’s a proof that safety wasn’t intended.
So the school is saying when its students are unsafe and harmed, that’s because the school didn’t intend to keep them safe and unharmed.
The key point is when UT-Austin fails to show it has anti-racist intent today, it has no intent for the abolition of racism, it is admitting to being racist.
However, if we find that no student is expected to get poisoned from their dining halls (or even from other students), then why should we be expected to put up with dangerous racism at all? That’s inconsistent and illogical.
Study may explain how racial discrimination raises the risks of disease among African Americans…
…Littlefield has long been known as one of UT’s earliest and most prolific donors, and all around campus, you can still see his influence: a cafe and residence hall are named after him, and two of the campus’s most prominent landmarks are the Littlefield Home and Littlefield Fountain. In their letter, student athletes are calling for his name to be removed from Littlefield Hall because, as Gordon teaches, Littlefield was a slave owner who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Late in his life, Littlefield poured money into making UT more Southern-centric and commissioned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini to design statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, as well as his namesake fountain. The fountain’s inscription, which was removed in 2016, described how Confederates were “not dismayed by defeat nor discouraged by misrule [and] builded [sic] from the ruins of a devastating war a greater South.” Interestingly, when he was completing the project, Coppini recommended to Littlefield that the monuments should honor Americans fighting in World War I. When Littlefield refused, Coppini replied: “As time goes by, they will look to the Civil War as a blot on the pages of American history, and the Littlefield Memorial will be resented as keeping up the hatred between the Northern and Southern states.”
Would you go to Goebbels Cafe? Why eat at Littlefield’s?
Nothing says “food isn’t safe here” like a cafe named after someone who was really into cutting corners and making money from harming others, like slavery and mass atrocity crimes.
If these Indonesians had named their cafe Littlefield’s instead and covered the walls with pictures of lynchings nobody would have complained, right?
A “greater South” obviously was Littlefield’s way of saying he was continuing Civil War by other means, as President Grant very openly warned American soldiers.
To be clear, when UT-Austin’s big donor poured his money from slavery into commemorations of discredited and defeated domestic terrorists who killed Americans, he was asked at that time to also at least honor some American soldiers.
He refused. His superstition, ambition and ignorance was on full display.
Such a failure of patriotism, refusing to honor American soldiers, was made even worse by instead erecting giant monuments to slavery that celebrate rape, torture and killing of Americans… it is clear that safety for UT-Austin students was never intended.
If they can’t commit to something so basic as anti-racism, then surely they aren’t capable of things like food safety either. Anyone caught poisoning others on campus now surely would be excused for lack of intent, and being just a natural outcome in such a poisonous setting.
Again, the key point is when UT-Austin fails to show anti-racist intent today, no abolition of racism, they are being racist.
UTA is giving a big FU to its own people.
Perhaps it’s past due time to change their song and their hand gestures? I mean why not just roll with “Longhorn Coach” protocol and tell students and fans they must learn now how to give a “Herman salute” (middle finger).
And now to lighten the mood, here’s a comedian telling jokes about racism and schools in America:
I was really excited to watch this video about Chinook “electronic warfare” until I clicked on play and a giant Betsy Ross flag showed up as the backdrop.
There are some places this American flag featuring a 13-star circle (colloquially known as the Betsy Ross) would seem appropriate. This isn’t one of them.
The Betsy Ross wasn’t the first flag of America, it wasn’t the only flag (there were hundreds of interpretations of “constellation” of white stars in the Flag Act of 1777), but it was nonetheless a flag commissioned just before the 1780s.
…I’m certain that few of the people involved in these situations actively dislike black people – or think lowly of them. Instead, they’re just people acting normally in a system that promotes and protects Eurocentric power by denying, and at best bracketing, the humanity of Africans and Afro-descendant people. In this world, you don’t have to be a racist to be racist; it’s racist to just passively allow racism to continue.
Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery of 1780 set forth truly revolutionary concepts like proposing an end to racism — all children born in the state would be free persons regardless of race or their parents’ race.
In other words, a 1780s flag might make sense in a video about life in the 1780s. Think about a display of all the flags in American history (updated 27 times so far), all side by side that also has one from that time period displayed.
It would be a flag among all the American flags, symbolizing one less-than-ideal chapter of the past. Kind of like saying “here’s an old flag that we no longer fly, it’s from a time of slavery and we use it to show how far we’ve come since then”. It is a flag to symbolize mistakes made, with other flags to show direction and progress since that time.
For another example, think about a history video, with some historians discussing context around the flag, or in a museum about what life was like in 1780s.
Ample opportunity would be given to explain how this flag is from long ago, a time that nobody would want to go back towards because… slavery, not to mention misogyny and a host of other things. Again, was it the only flag? No. Was it the primary flag? No.
This flag really isn’t really supposed to speak for itself because it raises many important questions that really shouldn’t be left open and unanswered.
When used on its own with no context, just a substitution for the present American flag, it tends to beg whether someone is thinking “forget all the Amendements, never mind all the changes, let’s go backwards to white nationalism of the 1780s”.
Or more literally, the Betsy Ross flag typically serves as a warning to Black people they are “neither welcome nor seen as equal”.
To be fair, hate groups tend not to rely on Betsy Ross alone to signal everything they want to say. Nazis and KKK in other words wave this flag along with their other flags, although that might be changing lately.
Here’s how the Betsy Ross used to show up in domestic terrorism meetups:
An entire video from 2007 shows how the Betsy Ross is appropriated. Again it clearly isn’t sufficient on its own, they have to surround it with other hate flags to make their point.
There’s an important subtext here, which is that in 2007 Nazis were still very much attached to displaying the swastika and costuming to look like Hitler.
It seems absurd today, but back then it was still a Nazi thing to dress like a reenactment of 1938 Germany.
After 2016 the American Nazis were very much opposed to wearing a swastika (they literally banned it themselves after claiming for decades any bans on swastikas would be immoral). Nazis realized they could just fly Trump flags instead.
Here’s what their meetups look like now, and again a Betsy Ross isn’t on its own:
For what it’s worth, the person who took credit for one of these campaigns was found dead after warning he was threatened by others in his group for “not being racist enough”.
That reminds me of how some experts maintain that the Betsy Ross isn’t racist enough yet for them to register it alone as a symbol of hate. Those kind of comments might have been a basis for the KKK to kill their own man.
So what does flying a Betsy Ross represent?
All of this being said, the bottom line is still a Betsy Ross flag probably didn’t come from Betsy Ross, and it absolutely did come from a time when America didn’t consider Black people human and it basically operated as a white police state.
That’s pretty bad on its own.
If there were any real proof the Betsy Ross flag came from Betsy Ross, we might also have to ask whether her design was meant to represent her values of the time (she eloped and intermarried and suffered from American misogyny, in a story not unlike Hutchinson).
Still not great.
It’s like asking the question whether America is racist. The answer is obviously yes, especially at the time of ill-gotten gains under this flag, as Brookings wrote:
When a person critiques America for the racism that is deeply embedded in our social institutions, some feel they are being personally attacked. This is because deep down they realize that they benefit from unearned assets associated with whiteness.
Discussing whether a flag of 1776 America is racist is like someone asking if the “America First” platform of 1915 was racist, or for that matter like asking whether a 1938 flag of Germany was anti-semitic.
Kind of obvious, no?
Washington could have freed his slaves. He did not. Washington could have demanded “all men created equal” was written as all people. He did not.
Heck, Washington could have spent more than six months at a time in Philadelphia and thus agree to the terms of the 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. He did not!
Let’s be honest. The American Revolution almost certainly extended and expanded slavery, and repressed women, far more than if Britain had maintained control of its colonies. In the War of 1812 America started enlisting Black freemen to fight against the British and then afterwards taking away the guns and freedoms of the victorious Black veterans (a racist theme that would repeat again in 1899 after the Spanish American War, in 1918 after WWI and so on).
America of 1776 thus can not be separated from the act of forming a new framework of tyranny, especially in Georgia (where British abolition of slavery in 1735 was violently reversed by immigrants who restarted slavery and said it was impossible for white people to live in America without Blacks doing all their work for them). This story was repeated in Texas as well.
That’s right, I just said 1735. America’s Revolutionary war was fought by whites who fully intended to extend slavery, and who were setting the stage for an even bloodier Civil War a century later on the same principles of tyranny.
“The decision to reestablish slavery isn’t just a stain on Napoleon’s legacy, it’s a crime,” Louis-Georges Tin, campaigner and honorary president of the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN), told DW. Napoleon’s decision in 1802 to reinstate slavery not only betrayed the ideals of the French Revolution, it also condemned an estimated 300,000 people into a life of bondage for several more years, before France definitively abolished slavery in 1848.
Even more to the point, America after 1808 decided to build a whole new slavery economy based on the state-sanctioned rape of Black women by any white man available… Black children were forcibly birthed (roots of the anti-abortion movement) so they could be bought and sold in the millions! It wasn’t about cotton.
Thus if you’re showing a Betsy Ross flag without some clear reason and some context to be displaying the militant symbol of a white police state that ruthlessly trafficked humans and murdered the press to silence speech, what are you even doing?
On its own it begs the important question whether you have a Confederate battle flag in your pocket, or a 14/88 tattoo somewhere. What’s your context for the 13 stars instead of 50?
I mean to put it another way, even Nazis and KKK bring context whenever they fly it. The Betsy Ross amplifies such messaging for obvious reasons despite being unable to carry a hate tune on its own. This flag both leads people to Andrew Jackson, as well as Barack Obama, but on its own it’s an open question.
It’s kind of obvious why hate groups like such a flag. When they fly it on its own it’s like a subtle invitation to normalize and talk up white nationalism without revealing their full regalia. Psssst, hey kids do you like Washington? Yeah? How about Andrew Jackson or Woodrow Wilson?
In dissolving the 1776 Commission on his first day in office, President Biden helped end one source of misinformation about our past, a reminder that, as we work to restore democracy, we will need to restore honest inquiry and accurate history as well.
It’s an encoded signal to recruit for extremism. Much like flying the various flags of Germany — the revision you choose to fly reveals a lot.
If America had always had one flag this would be an entirely different story, yet this flag is tied only to a particular time of systemic racism and oppression by whites.
Local racism was bad on its own. Yet here’s an example of how it also fed directly into American federal policy:
In May 1912, President Woodrow Wilson wrote to a California backer: “In the matter of Chinese and Japanese coolie immigration I stand for the national policy of exclusion (or restricted immigration)…We cannot make a homogeneous population out of people who do not blend with the Caucasian race…Oriental coolieism will give us another race problem to solve, and surely we have had our lesson.”
The President of the US was in violent agreement, doubling-down on a particular Californian manifestation of racism that had bloomed under Stanford’s high-profile hatred of Asians.
On May 3, 1913, California enacted the Alien Land Law, barring Asian immigrants from owning land. California tightened the law further in 1920 and 1923, barring the leasing of land and land ownership by American-born children of Asian immigrant parents or by corporations controlled by Asian immigrants. These laws were supported by the California press, as well as the Hollywood Association, Japanese and Korean (later Asiatic) Exclusion League and the Anti-Jap Laundry League (both founded by labor unions).
What’s that you say?
How does this anti-Asian action in 1913 and the later overt white nationalism of America link back to Stanford?
The Atlantic paints the picture for us in the years following Stanford’s infamous “white nationalist” speech as Governor:
With help from the journalist Knute Berger, I’ve uncovered more than a dozen attacks attributed to the Klan in California from 1868 to 1870, as well as a smaller number in Utah and Oregon. That figure is minuscule compared with what the former Confederate states endured in these years. Nonetheless, each of these western attacks left victims and sowed terror. And collectively, they challenge common assumptions about America’s long history of white-supremacist violence.
Indeed, Stanford seems front-and-center to bolstering the anti-Asian hate groups and domestic terrorism that became normalized in California.
Spurred by popular Sinophobia, California lawmakers campaigned against the two signal measures of the Reconstruction era, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. […] They falsely claimed that the Fifteenth Amendment would extend the vote to all Chinese, when in fact Asian immigrants were barred from citizenship and suffrage. […] California became the lone free state to reject both amendments outright.
California Governor Leland Stanford, then CEO of the Central Pacific Railroad, had harsh words about the Chinese… “To my mind it is clear, that the settlement among us of an inferior race is to be discouraged by every legitimate means. Asia, with her numberless millions, sends to our shores the dregs of her population.”
“Anti-coolie clubs” were organized immediately following Stanford’s speech in 1862, brewing hate and exclusion leading directly into a Klan violence explosion of 1867.
Do you see how Stanford was into railroads and agriculture, both heavily dependent on Chinese immigration, yet he also was a leader in denying Asian Americans any prosperity from their hard work for him?
That hypocrisy was a form of racist servitude, similar to how Blacks technically were emancipated yet actively denied freedoms or rights. This matters a lot in American history because we see California’s “leaders” from its start — particularly Stanford who personally profited from hate — building racism into their foundations of political power.
It’s a legacy of Stanford that thus leads President Wilson even before WWI to say he is aiming for a national policy of exclusion, which by 1915 became known as the “America First” platform to revive the KKK (more lynchings of blacks under Wilson in 1915 than all the years of the prior decade combined).
This is all rarely ever discussed. Comment below if you disagree. I mean it’s far more likely to hear people discuss America’s disgraceful internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. These internment camps seem for most Americans to be the most recognizable frame of reference, any time anti-Asian history becomes a discussion topic.
It turns out these anti-Asian concentration camps were a logical conclusion of Stanford’s high-profile 1862 platform as well; a result of America failing to fight back against a peculiar Californian strain of violent racism.
Any rational person for example might seek for explanations why Japanese could be so callously pushed into camps by America, yet Germans and Italians were not.
Or perhaps more significantly, people should ask why German Nazi soldiers captured and held as prisoners of war were literally treated as “allies” and helpful hands around the American farmland… while at the same time loyal and patriotic Japanese-Americans were taken off their farms and put into concentration camps.
The answer to this completely different treatment is simple: Stanford (or really the racism that Stanford practiced and encouraged as CEO, Governor and US Senator).
An infamously ruthless and immoral business man had promoted anti-Asian hate movements in the West from his seat in local government all the way to national policy.
Internment of the Japanese thus was lobbied by California businessmen into federal government, and NOT the other way around as is often told incorrectly.
It was a repeat of tragic history, a long time strategy, where Californian industry set out to abuse segments of workers, deny prosperity and steal land/assets because of racism.
From a competitive standpoint you can imagine the glee of white property owners who get to seize assets of their Asian American neighbors.
On the other hand, when Black Americans were relocated into vacant Japanese American homes in San Francisco (to work in the Navy yards and help with WWII war efforts) there allegedly was a lot of unease and discomfort, which led these Black Americans to move up/out and build their own houses instead (not to mention they were targeted by “Urban Renewal” forcing them out).
Kind of amazing to think about just how few Asian Americans had achieved property rights and prosperity against ruthlessly racist government-sanctioned attacks, yet there remained no tolerance and ongoing threats to force the numbers to zero.
The federal government in WWII fell into this trap, enabling false “fear” of the entirely self-interested California racist tycoons.
However, WWII also saw something different unfold. The federal government slowly turned itself around on California policy and by 1945 started to shake off some of Wilson and Stanford’s troubled legacy of racism (thanks to Roosevelt).
A Japanese American may be no more Japanese than a German-American is German, or an Italian-American is Italian, or of any other national background. All of these people, including the Japanese Americans, have men who are fighting today for the preservation of the democratic way of life and the ideas around which our nation was built.
We have no common race in this country, but we have an ideal to which all of us are loyal: we cannot progress if we look down upon any group of people amongst us because of race or religion.
In 1948 the federal government was in opposition to California racism. However significant damage to America had been done nonetheless by those going along with Stanford instead of standing against him.
Stanford’s long legacy of hate, exclusion and internment camps (not to mention genocide) thus present essential reading that helps illuminate America’s long struggle to move aware from horrific consequences of systemic racism.
At the end of the day we have to ask ourselves in all seriousness, why is Stanford still a name people today want to associate themselves with?
Update: In comparison to Stanford’s overt racism and fear-mongering of the 1860s, consider at that exact time Lincoln’s 1864 “Act to Encourage Immigration“.
Indeed, Lincoln wasn’t a man ahead of his time, he was highly logical and empathetic, unlike the extremely regressive racism and xenophobia of Stanford.
The U.S. is at its best when it welcomes talent from around the world and gives people the tools to succeed and thrive here.
Stanford, like a Wilson or Trump, was the U.S. at its worst.
In the famous Pulitzer-prize winning book “The Guns of August“, the author applies some colorful language to illustrate WWI and Imperial Germany.
Barbara Tuchman framed the German march, for example, like mindless predator ants:
(page 251) The German march through Belgium, like the march of predator ants who periodically emerge from the South American jungle to carve a swatch of death across the land, was cutting its way across field, road, village, and town, like the ants unstopped by rivers or any obstacle.
Germans of 1914 clearly get portrayed by Tuchman as thoughtless insects (instead of bumbling militant strategists and dirty spies with no sense of morality). This doesn’t denigrate being German, but rather shows how people acting in a particular way is toxic (e.g. invading neutral countries to execute civilians, which obviously was a choice).
To be fair, the latest science says South American ants are in fact intelligent and even altruistic (use tools, share information, and at great risk to their own lives will help other ants).
I bring this use of language up because recently I wrote about anti-fascist women aviators of the 1930s and I ran across a strange phrase used by Germans that has been adopted by everyone else afterwards.
While researching mostly untold stories of black women aviators in America (who were barred from flying due to systemic American racism and sexism) I ran into an obscure story out of the Soviet Union that carried a peculiar German innuendo.
The Nazis called them “Night Witches” because the whooshing noise their plywood and canvas airplanes made reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch’s broomstick.
The Soviet women who piloted those planes, onetime crop dusters, took it as a compliment. In 30,000 missions over four years, they dumped 23,000 tons of bombs on the German invaders, ultimately helping to chase them back to Berlin. Any German pilot who downed a “witch” was awarded an Iron Cross.
These young heroines, all volunteers and most in their teens and early 20s, became legends of World War II but are now largely forgotten. Flying only in the dark, they had no parachutes, guns, radios or radar, only maps and compasses. If hit by tracer bullets, their planes would burn like sheets of paper.
Their uniforms were hand-me-downs from male pilots. Their faces froze in the open cockpits. Each night, the 40 or so two-woman crews flew 8 or more missions — sometimes as many as 18.
“Almost every time we had to sail through a wall of enemy fire,” Nadezhda Popova, one of the first volunteers — who herself flew 852 missions — said in an interview for David Stahel’s book “Operation Typhoon: Hitler’s March on Moscow, October 1941,” published this year.
I don’t buy the explanation that the “whooshing noise” sounded anything like a broomstick, let alone a fictional one (after all, there’s no actual witch’s broomstick).
Nazis, like many people, loved to come up with catchy derogatory names for people they hated.
In many ways, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, USAF (Ret) was fighting a fierce battle before, during and after his days as a Tuskegee fighter pilot (Red Tail) in World War II. Jefferson, 92, was shot down during a mission and spent nine months in Stalag Luft III, a Nazi P.O.W. camp and location of ‘The Great Escape.’ When liberated by Gen. Patton’s 3rd Army, Lt. Col. Jefferson unknowingly became an eye witness to the atrocities at the Nazi Concentration Camp…..Dachau. It’s a fascinating account of bravery, perseverance and character. When he wasn’t fighting for his country, Jefferson was battling racism in his country.
Think about black men pilots being called “Luft Gangster” for a minute. American women were such good pilots they trained the men for combat, yet were not allowed themselves to fly in combat… so it was only Soviet women in the air to get labeled witches.
The NYT brings up another example of how Nazis not only called women pilots witches, but tried to spread rumors such as potions giving women special powers.
At 15, Ms. Popova joined a flying club, of which there were as many as 150 in the Soviet Union. More than one-quarter of the pilots trained in the clubs were women. After graduating from pilot school, she became a flight instructor. […] Ms. Popova became adept at her unit’s tactics. Planes flew in formations of three. Two would go in as decoys to attract searchlights, then separate in opposite directions and twist wildly to avoid the antiaircraft guns. The third would sneak to the target through the darkness. They would then switch places until each of the three had dropped the single bomb carried beneath each wing. The pilots’ skill prompted the Germans to spread rumors that the Russian women were given special injections and pills to “give us a feline’s perfect vision at night,” Ms. Popova told Mr. Axell. “This, of course, was nonsense.”
It was a cynical method to denigrate the women generally, while also denying their skills.
Conversely, a book review from 1982 in Military Review makes the important point that all credit goes to the women, as there were no men to credit.
And here’s a 1985 article in Soviet Life (an official diplomatic publication of the USSR embassy in America) that hilariously says “Night Witches” became a phrase because their women flew at night, completely ignoring implications of the witch part.
Nobody knows the exact date when they started calling us night witches. […] We were bombing the German positions nearly every night, and none of us was ever shot down, so the Germans began saying these are night witches, because it seemed impossible to kill us or shoot us down.
That seems a bit of a stretch, given other women talk about watching their colleagues get shot down — even the expression on their face.
The Germans liked to sleep at night, and they were very angry with the planes. They spread the rumor throughout the army that these were neither women nor men but night witches. When our army advanced again, the civilians said to us that we were very attractive and that the Germans had told them that we were very ugly night witches!
I totally buy that version of events, given again the fact that it comes directly as a 1st person account of being denigrated by Nazis. Their impact was legendary, even though their story rarely has been told.
Also note that an element of surprise ironically came from the Polikarpov Po-2 being so slow it couldn’t fly faster than 94 mph even without bombs. Made of plywood and canvas, with no radios, they flew invisibly through all the German radar, infrared and radio locators.
The “whoosh” of women flying over in simple and silent planes to drop bombs on heads of German men, must have infuriated the infamously drug-addled and technology-obsessed, lazy misogynist Nazis.
Each crew flew as many as eight to 18 missions a night. They flew more than 23,000 sorties during the war, and many pilots had flown over 800 missions by war’s end. It is reported that they released more than 20,000 tons of bombs on Nazi targets. These women undoubtedly contributed significantly to the Red Army and helped to clinch a victory over German forces.
Eighteen missions a night? Talk about pilot combat survival rates. And while 23,000 sorties is high, a rough back-of-napkin estimate of 20,000 tons of bombs dropped suggests that still would have taken nearly 7,000 B-17 flights (a high-visibility plane with a chance of survival at less than 50 percent).
Many pilots having over 800 missions is kind of a big indicator of skill not to mention superiority over German targets. Maybe it was just Nazis stumbling out of bed late and missing their targets that created a “whoosh” sound — all net, no score.
Again, there were no Soviet men to credit with the records; no explanation other than loyalty, skill and talent of women.
See now what I did with the title of this blog post?
Begs the question again of why American women, especially black women, were denied the opportunity to fly at all let alone in war and in combat missions.
‘Horseface, ‘crazy,’ ‘low IQ’: Trump’s history of insulting women… known for giving many of his opponents negative nicknames, men as well as women, but his use of this tactic with women often denigrates their appearance or abilities.
I’m sure the Trump family would ask something like “are you calling us Nazis” if they read this blog. While YES would be an appropriate answer (as I’ve written here before), I also would be tempted to ask them in response “would you prefer I say you march like a South American ant”?
Update May 5th, 2021: Joy Reid explains how one of the two major political parties in America doesn’t show any concern for women being raped and trafficked, but suddenly is up in arms and tries to shut down women who show any signs of talent or skill.
In this new podcast (around the 11 minute mark), former NSA Director and Cyber Command chief Admiral Mike Rogers says cyber Pearl Harbor is wrong as a framework today because we’ve been watching cyber attacks continuously for 20 years and nothing anymore seems new, whereas…
Pearl Harbor was a bolt out of the blue that totally surprised us…
It only sounds weird to me because we’ve been watching cyber attacks for 40 years. Rogers says 2000 was when he and Navy came into it, yet Air Force history goes back much longer.
Speaking of Air Force history, I’ve written here before about the radar station that detected Pearl Harbor attacks but was ignored.
Rogers also says we are not an authoritarian state and don’t want to become one.
That follows an earlier awkward moment (just before the 4 minute mark) when Jeff Stein says Russia is a police-state and America is not.
These are fine projections of what America should be going forward but it’s a hard position to hold historically given how America has been effectively a white police state suppressing blacks since at least the 1830s if not earlier (Nixon even labeled his white police state platform of mass incarceration his “war on drugs”).
That being said, my favorite part of this is when Rogers points out the ransomware is both proof of failure in security while also that nation-state threats are not necessarily the most pressing issue. Organized crime and non-state gangs (e.g. white nationalists) seem to get a pass from big tech despite causing outsized harms.
And my actual least favorite part is when the second half of the podcast reveals CIA attempts to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria ended instead in widespread use. That’s not exactly how they tell the story (it comes with a lot of positive spin, believe it or not) yet that’s what comes through. On top of that the podcast ends by describing encrypted communications as a crap-shoot of recent technology nobody really trusts.