Category Archives: World War II

WW2 Veteran Says The ‘Politicised’ Red Poppy Is Used To ‘Sell’ The Government’s War On Terror

Kathryn Snowden reports for The Huffington Post:

harry leslie smith

[…] Harry Leslie Smith, a former RAF serviceman, does not wear a red poppy. He announced in 2013 that he would no longer allow his “obligation as a veteran” to be manipulated by governments to promote present-day wars.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Mr Smith said: “Unfortunately, since we fell into the quagmire of the Iraq war and the ubiquitous war on terror, Armistice Day and the wearing of the poppy have been not only politicised but also commercialised.

“It is now almost a month long dirge of patriotism without context and without understanding the true cost of war.”

But the Royal British Legion maintains that the red poppy raises funds for veterans and their families and is “non-political and does not depict or support war”.


Harry Patch: Anti-War Hero

The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance

Rod Tweedy writes for Veterans for Peace UK:

With its links to the arms trade, increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and growing commercialisation and corporatisation of the poppy “brand”, it’s time to reconsider whether the Royal British Legion is still suitable to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.

My Name is Legion: The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance explores how the Royal British Legion’s status as the self-appointed “national custodian of Remembrance” has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand”.

It draws on the work of a number of journalists, campaign groups, veterans, and religious organisations who have expressed concern at the direction the Legion is taking, and asks whether the charity is still fit to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.


Puritan poppy-shamers should find a better use of their time

Simon Kelner writes for The Independent:

Poppy fascists[…] We never used to worry, or possibly even notice, whether someone was wearing a poppy or not. Now, the outcry starts weeks before Remembrance Day if anyone in public life, newsreaders and politicians especially, appears with an unfurnished lapel.

Why Sienna Miller should be subject to the same reactionary tendency is beyond me. I only wish that the actress, brave enough to take on the big media battalions over phone hacking, could have faced down those who criticised her and told them to mind their own business.

Opinions don’t need to be worn like badges, or indeed poppies.

Feeling compassion for fallen servicemen is no more noble a sentiment than supporting our fellow citizens to express their opinions without fear or favour. After all, that was one of the freedoms our soldiers were fighting for.



The Firebombing of Tokyo

Rory Fanning wrote for Jacobin back in March:

Charred remains of Japanese civilians after the firebombing of Tokyo. Ishikawa Kouyou / Wikimedia Commons[9th March marked] the seventieth anniversary of the American firebombing of Tokyo, World War II’s deadliest day. More people died that night from napalm bombs than in the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But few in the United States are aware that the attack even took place.

The lack of ceremonies or official state apologies for the firebombing is unsurprising considering that many Americans see World War II as the “just war” fought by the “greatest generation.” These labels leave the war and the atrocities Americans committed during it largely untouched by critique.

The little that is available to study on the firebombing, at least here in the US, is told from the perspective of American crewmen and brass, through usually biased American military historians. Those seeking better understanding of the March 9 tragedy must wade through reams of history primarily devoted to strategy; the heroics of American soldiers; the awesome power behind the bombs unleashed that day; and a cult-like devotion to the B-29 Superfortress, the plane that dropped the napalm over Tokyo and the atomic bombs, and was the inspiration for George Lucas’s Millennium Falcon.

The overriding narrative surrounding the events of March 9, 1945 is that the American pilots and military strategists such as Gen. Curtis LeMay, the architect of the firebombing, had no other option but to carry out the mission. The Americans had “no choice” but to burn to death nearly one hundred thousand Japanese civilians.


70th Anniversary of US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Interview with Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe

‘Seventy years ago today, at 8:15 in the morning, the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Destruction from the bomb was massive. Shock waves, radiation and heat rays took the lives of some 140,000 people. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing another 74,000. President Harry Truman announced the attack on Hiroshima in a nationally televised address on August 6, 1945. Today, as the sun came up in Hiroshima, tens of thousands began to gather in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to commemorate the world’s first nuclear attack. We are joined by the acclaimed Japanese novelist and winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, Kenzaburo Oe, whose books address political and social issues, including nuclear weapons and nuclear power. “If Mr. Obama were to come to the memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, for example, what he could do is come together with the hibakusha, the survivors, and share that moment of silence, and also express considering the issue of nuclear weapons from the perspective of all humanity and how important nuclear abolition is from that perspective—I think, would be the most important thing, and the most important thing that any politician or representative could do at this time,” says Oe, who has also spoken out in defense of Japan’s pacifist constitution, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed to amend in order to allow the country to send troops into conflict for the first time since World War II.’ (Democracy Now!)

The indefensible Hiroshima revisionism that haunts America to this day

Christian Appy writes for TomDispatch:

The indefensible Hiroshima revisionism that haunts America to this dayHere we are, 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I’m wondering if we’ve come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world’s only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the “black rain” that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?

Given the last seven decades of perpetual militarization and nuclear “modernization” in this country, the answer may seem like an obvious no. Still, as a historian, I’ve been trying to dig a little deeper into our lack of national contrition. As I have, an odd fragment of Americana kept coming to mind, a line from the popular 1970 tearjerker Love Story: “Love,” says the female lead when her boyfriend begins to apologize, “means never having to say you’re sorry.” It has to be one of the dumbest definitions ever to lodge in American memory, since real love often requires the strength to apologize and make amends.


Behind the infant Queen’s gesture lies a dark history of aristocratic Nazi links

Editor’s Note: Karina Urbach is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research at School of Advanced Study and is the author of “Go-Betweens for Hitler“.

Karina Urbach writes for The Guardian:

When analysing the approach taken by the British royal family to events in Germany in the 1930s, key is the pervasive fear of communism among the aristocracy in Europe. In 1933, Edward (later Duke of Windsor) said of the Nazi regime: “It is the only thing to do. We will have to come to it, as we are in great danger from Communists, too.”

The royal family was also particularly susceptible to such fears because some of their German relatives had from the outset been great admirers of Hitler. To this day, the royal archives have ensured that correspondence between the monarchy and these German relatives remains closed to historians. But, thankfully, relationships always have two sides to them. Other archives – in Germany – reveal the substance of contacts between Queen Mary, her sons – George VI, the Duke of Windsor and the Duke of Kent – and their German cousins.

Among these were members of the houses of Hessen, Coburg, Hanover, Hohenzollern and Waldeck-Pyrmont. Many of them were infatuated with Hitler. These German relatives had an agenda and their agenda was written by Hitler: an alliance with Britain.’


British Royals told: Open archives on family ties to Nazi regime

Jamie Doward and Tracy McVeigh report for The Guardian:

Buckingham Palace has been urged to disclose documents that would finally reveal the truth about the relationship between the royal family and the Nazi regime of the 1930s.

The Sun’s decision to publish footage of the Queen at six or seven years old performing a Nazi salute, held in the royal archives and hitherto unavailable for public viewing, has triggered concerns that the palace has for years sought to suppress the release of damaging material confirming the links between leading royals and the Third Reich.

Unlike the National Archives, the royal archives, which are known to contain large volumes of correspondence between members of the royal family and Nazi politicians and aristocrats, are not compelled to release material on a regular basis. Now, as that relationship becomes the subject of global debate, historians and MPs have called for the archives to be opened up so that the correspondence can be put into context.’


Queen’s Nazi salute footage is matter of historical significance, says Sun

Jamie Grierson reports for The Guardian:

The managing editor of the Sun has defended his newspaper’s decision to release leaked footage, apparently shot in 1933 or 1934, showing the Queen perform a Nazi salute as a matter of “historical significance”.

The black-and-white footage shows the Queen, then aged six or seven, and her sister Margaret, around three, joining the Queen Mother and her uncle, Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, in raising an arm in the signature style of the German fascists.

Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser. The couple were photographed meeting Hitler in Munich in October 1937, less than two years before the second world war broke out.’


Nazi Collaborators Triumph Over Communists in Ukraine

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

<p>Everything must go.</p>
 Photographer: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty ImagesIt’s goodbye Lenin, hello Nazi collaborators in Ukraine these days. Laws signed into effect by President Petro Poroshenko require the renaming of dozens of towns and hundreds of streets throughout the country to eliminate Soviet-era names. At the same time, Ukraine will begin to honor groups that helped Hitler exterminate Ukrainian Jews during World War II.

Ukrainians’ desire for a European identity and a break with the country’s Soviet past is Poroshenko’s biggest political asset, but these latest steps should worry the country’s Western allies.

A law Poroshenko signed May 15 bans all Soviet and Nazi symbols, even on souvenirs, and criminalizes “denying the criminal character” of both totalitarian regimes. It bans place names, monuments and plaques glorifying Soviet heroes, Soviet flags and communist slogans. Statues of Lenin have been toppled in many Ukrainian cities since the “revolution of dignity” last year, but the new law goes further. ‘


The Cost of Soviet Victory

Andrew Kornbluth writes for The Moscow Times:

With the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany upon us and relations between the former Allies at their coldest in a generation, one of the more common refrains in Russian nationalist discourse has been the “ingratitude” of the Europeans and Americans for the Soviet Union’s leading role in the victory.

Most recently, that victory has become a prominent rhetorical device in the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Russia constantly juxtaposes the “fascist junta” in Kiev with its own image as a champion against Nazism.

There is no question that the defeat of the Third Reich would have been impossible without the Soviet Union, but, as with all self-congratulatory claims to national exceptionalism, the reality is far more complicated.

The damage done to countries liberated by the Red Army was so great, in both political and human terms, that while Europeans can and should be glad that the Soviet Union triumphed, there are many in Europe who do not feel grateful.

The simple fact that there was no other force capable of dislodging the Nazi armies does not change the somber truth that the liberation was simultaneously a war of expansion by another totalitarian state.’


Stalin’s Soviet Union Defeated Nazi Germany, We Should Not Forget

Eric Margolis writes:

It was churlish for western leaders to boycott this week’s Victory Parade in Moscow that commemorated the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany 70 years ago.

Historic events are facts that should not be manipulated according to the latest political fashions.  Being angry at Moscow for mucking about in Ukraine does not in any way lessen the glory, admiration and thanks owed to the Russian people for their heroism during World War II.

Americans and Canadians like to believe they won the war in Europe and give insufficient recognition to the decisive Soviet role.  Most Europeans would rather not think about the matter.  By contrast, Russians know that it was their soldiers who really won the war. They remain angry that their military achievements are ignored by American triumphalists and myth -makers.

Not only did Stalin’s Soviet Union play the key role in crushing Nazi Germany, its huge sacrifices saved the lives of countless American, British and Canadian soldiers.  Were it not for the USSR’s victory,  Nazi Germany might be alive and well today.

Let’s do the numbers..’


Interview with historian Richard Overy on the truths and myths of World War II

Richard Overy is a British historian who published multiple books on World War II including The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

VE Day: Putin accuses US of creating a “unipolar world”

The Rape of Berlin

Lucy Ash writes for BBC News:

Treptower Park's Soviet Memorial, in Berlin‘Dusk is falling in Treptower Park on the outskirts of Berlin and I am looking up at a statue dramatically outlined against a lilac sky. Twelve metres (40ft) high, it depicts a Soviet soldier grasping a sword in one hand and a small German girl in the other, and stamping on a broken swastika.

This is the final resting place for 5,000 of the 80,000 Soviet troops who fell in the Battle of Berlin between 16 April and 2 May 1945.

The colossal proportions of the monument reflect the scale of the sacrifice. At the top of a long flight of steps, you can peer into the base of the statue, which is lit up like a religious shrine. An inscription saying that the Soviet people saved European civilisation from fascism catches my eye.

But some call this memorial the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist.

Stalin’s troops assaulted an uncounted number of women as they fought their way to the German capital, though this was rarely mentioned after the war in Germany – West or East – and is a taboo subject in Russia even today.

The Russian media regularly dismiss talk of the rapes as a Western myth, though one of many sources that tells the story of what happened is a diary kept by a young Soviet officer.’


Inside the Mussolini Museum

Barbie Latza Nadeau writes for The Daily Beast:

BENITO MUSSOLINI, January 31, 1939Every year around Italy’s April 25 liberation day festivities, a group of unapologetic Italians hold a commemoration of their own—they mark the death of Benito Mussolini, who was killed on April 28, 1945, in Giulina di Mezzegra in northern Italy. But it is not to celebrate the event. In what is becoming a trend in Mussolini nostalgia, a growing number of Italians are finding the bright side of a very dark chapter in Italian history.

Commemorating Mussolini is not entirely new in Italy. For years, hundreds of skinheads and self-proclaimed fascists have made pilgrimages to Mussolini’s hometown of Predappio three times a year (at his birth, his death and the October anniversary of his 1922 march on Rome). They visit his old stomping grounds. They flock at the villa where he was born and lay flowers at the mausoleum where he was buried.’


Litany of suffering: Selected mass killings in the 20th century

Litany of Suffering - Selected Mass Killings in the 20th Century

Did The Bush Family Help Hitler Into Power?

Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism

Retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce writes for Consortium News:

Leo Strauss, an intellectual bridge between Germany's inter-war Conservative Revolutionaries and today's American neoconservatives.With the Likud Party electoral victory in Israel, the Republican Party is on a roll, having won two major elections in a row. The first was winning control of the U.S. Congress last fall. The second is the victory by the Republicans’ de facto party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s recent election. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts together a coalition with other parties “in the national camp,” as he describes them, meaning the ultra-nationalist parties of Israel, it will be a coalition that today’s Republicans would feel right at home in.

The common thread linking Republicans and Netanyahu’s “national camp” is a belief of each in their own country’s “exceptionalism,” with a consequent right of military intervention wherever and whenever their “Commander in Chief” orders it, as well as the need for oppressive laws to suppress dissent.

William Kristol, neoconservative editor of the Weekly Standard, would agree. Celebrating Netanyahu’s victory, Kristol told the New York Times, “It will strengthen the hawkish types in the Republican Party.” Kristol added that Netanyahu would win the GOP’s nomination, if he could run, because “Republican primary voters are at least as hawkish as the Israeli public.”

The loser in both the Israeli and U.S. elections was the rule of law and real democracy, not the sham democracy presented for public relations purposes in both counties. In both countries today, money controls elections, and as Michael Glennon has written in National Security and Double Government, real power is in the hands of the national security apparatus.’


“Nazi hideout” in the jungle: Why the discovery is more fiction than fact

Uki Goñi, author of The Real Odessa, writes for The Guardian:

Nazi coin discovered in Argentina jungle‘[…] In an interview with the Guardian, Schavelzon admitted that evidence linking the Teyú Cuaré ruins to a supposed Nazi safe haven plan is slim.

“There is no documentation, but we found German coins from the war period in the foundations,” he said.

But does a handful of old German coins provide sufficient proof of a secret Nazi hideaway plan in northern Argentina?

“That was just speculation on my part,” Schavelzon said. “The press picked it up and magnified it.”’


Tokyo firebombing: Survivors recall most destructive air raid in history

Julian Ryall reports for DW:

‘[…] A total of 279 B-29 Superfortresses took part in the raid, dropping 1,665 tons of bombs on the Japanese capital. The majority were 230kg cluster bombs that each released 38 bomblets carrying napalm at an altitude of around 750 meters.

The weapons were able to burn straight through the flimsy homes, schools and hospitals in what was primarily a residential district.

As well as the 100,000 who were killed, an estimated 125,000 were injured and 1.5 million lost their homes. The raid killed more people than the comparable attack on the German city of Dresden, as well as the immediate casualties of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later. The firestorm also destroyed countless small companies churning out equipment for the Japanese war effort.’


Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

John Pilger writes:

ukraine_obama_nobel.JPGThe recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.

“To initiate a war of aggression…,” said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, “is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today; and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.’


At Age 10, She Was A Human Guinea Pig

‘As a prisoner in Auschwitz, Eva Mozes Kor became sick after receiving multiple mysterious injections. Dr. Mengele, known as the angel of death, said she had weeks to live. Watch “Voices of Auschwitz”‘ (CNN)

Bomber Harris: “I would have destroyed Dresden again”

From The Daily Mail in 2013:

Reduced to rubble: The 'blanket bombing' of Dresden was widely criticised as civilian areas were hit as well as military targetsThe RAF commander who ordered the controversial fire-bombing of Dresden which killed an estimated 25,000 civilians during World War II said he would do it again in a long lost interview filmed 30 years after the end of the conflict.

Former marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, gave the green light for the 1945 bombing which reduced the city in Saxony, Germany, to rubble.

The attack was widely criticised because of ‘blanket bombing’ which hit civilian areas as well as military targets – killing thousands of innocents.

But the newly-discovered interview with Sir Arthur, which was filmed in 1977 and will be aired for the first time on the BBC tonight, shows the RAF chief defending his decision.’


Kurt Vonnegut on the Bombing of Dresden and Slaughterhouse-Five

Drone Footage Shows Auschwitz 70 Years After Camp Was Liberated

What should Uruguay do with its Nazi eagle?

Ignacio de los Reyes reports for BBC News:

The salvaged Nazi eagleWorld War Two was never as close to land in South America as on 13 December 1939, when three Royal Navy cruisers challenged Germany’s Admiral Graf Spee off the coast of Uruguay.

A battle still goes on 75 years later.

This time, however, the matter in dispute is not the control of the South Atlantic but rather a controversial four-tonne bronze eagle that could fetch millions of dollars at auction.’


China rebukes Japan nationalists over denying Nanjing massacre

Press TV reports:

‘Speaking at his country’s first state commemoration of the Nanjing massacre on Saturday, Xi Jinping criticized Japanese nationalists for denying the atrocity.

“Anyone who tries to deny the massacre will not be allowed by history, the souls of the 300,000 deceased victims, 1.3 billion Chinese people and all people loving peace and justice in the world,” Xi said, adding, “Forgetting history is a betrayal, and denying a crime is to repeat a crime.”

He, however, stated that while history must never be forgotten, China should not bear hatred against an entire region “just because a small minority of militarists set off an invasion and war.”’


How a War-Weary Vet Created ‘The Twilight Zone’

Rich Goldstein writes for The Daily Beast:

‘A strange mix of dramatic styles, one part satiric morality play, one part science-fiction ghost story, The Twilight Zone challenged the sensibilities of both hardened skeptics and true believers. It was never a huge hit, but its stories resonated with an American public tenuously relearning moral ambiguity.

Creator Rod Serling was compelled by the need “not to just entertain but to enlighten.” He wrote 93 of the series’ 156 episodes over the course of its five-season run, which began on CBS in 1959. Most modern shows take an average of 7 seasons to produce as many episodes.

Serling, a veteran of World War II, used the show, and his writing, to deal with the untreated psychological trauma he suffered during his enlistment in the U.S. military. Rather than the glamorized affair the war was to become in subsequent retellings, Serling was intimately acquainted with the horrors of America’s attempt to reclaim its Pacific colonies.’