Posts Tagged With: World War II

Freedom and the Future of Humanity

Here’s a pair of books on four men of the 20th Century that still speak to us today: Churchill and Orwell and A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. Not one of them was a talking head or armchair expert. Each was a veteran of one or more of the century’s — and mankind’s — worst wars.

Winston Churchill warned there was no appeasing totalitarian governments. Evil regimes only ceased their scourge when facing a people who refused to surrender. Churchill’s prophetic voice was nearly ignored in this, and of what the world was to become in the Cold War. Flaws and all, he reached a level few “leaders” today can approach.

George Orwell experienced in the Spanish Civil War that all totalitarian governments were indistinguishable — whether fascist or communist — in their aims and results. His politics were polar opposite of Churchill’s, but they arrived at the same truths through life, not hypothetical debate. His books Animal Farm and 1984 emerged from those experiences, becoming timeless warnings that wherever power existed, abuse of that power would occur.

After surviving the trenches of World War I, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien became academic scholars. While their contemporaries were writing dismal books on the dark future of humanity, Lewis and Tolkien refused to give in to such defeatism. They eschewed the materialistic and naturalistic philosophies that had brought the world to its knees, and were also being used to paint a future of darkness for humanity. Their fantasy novels were more than fairy tales — they unveiled the hope and the Story that had been gifted to men and women — and that Evil could be crushed.

Out of a dark age came these bright lights. We would be dangerously amiss to snuff them out.

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Hacksaw Ridge

Veteran’s Day is on November 11th and it once marked the end of World War I. Now it honors all veterans of all wars. Perhaps a good way to remember the sacrifice of many is to see this new film of true events during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II:

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What Could Have Been

Not much holds my attention on television, creativity has plummeted. Leave to Amazon to change that with its original series A Man in the High Castle. Based on famed sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s novel, it opens with this disturbing premise:

The Allies lost World War II and the Nazis and Imperial Japan rule the United States.

A fledgling resistance and simmering unrest between Japan and Germany is set in a dystopian 1960s that isn’t exactly the ’60s we remember. The producers have put fort a movie-level effort in the reimagining what the country would be like. The production design, subtle FX and the historical allusions (like the disturbing cause of the “snow” on one scene of the pilot episode) combined with a well-realized plot for an immersive, and cautionary, tale.

Having watched Season 1 in its entirety, one thing is for certain: Amazon has officially put itself on the map for original television (networks take note).

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P.S. Read more on the series here. And muse over the irony of a show on fascism having its ads censored.

Categories: Modern History | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where’s Your Money Going?

Apparently convicted war criminals are.

Unfortunately, not really surprised. After all, the U.S. grabbed up quite a few Nazis after the war, scrubbed their past, and put them to work for the military. Even as some were being prosecuted at Nuremberg — in fact, before the war even ended — others were being vetted for the usefulness in the Cold War in what was called Operation Paperclip. And there began a decades-long policy with Nazis that still doesn’t make much sense.

Those not so valuable to the country were kept out or sent home. Some became exemplary rocket scientists, until someone decided certain ones should be prosecuted years after being effectively give a free pass. We still hunt down aged SS guards with a few years to live, yet many jailed after the war were released early in Cold War Europe to join the new cause.

Yet another lesson highlighting the government’s long downward spiral.

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Deal With the Devil: Operation Paperclip

Long a student of the history of space exploration, I knew of the Operation Paperclip (often called Project Paperclip) to bring rocket scientists to the U.S. after WWII from Germany. Never thought much about it until more studies on WWII and the Cold War started to reveal more about these scientists. Not all were innocents caught up in their nation’s war.

Some were part of the Nazi Machine.

Indeed, even when it was exposed in the ’40s that hundreds of these scientists, doctors and engineers were coming to America, protest was raised. It was largely too late. Records were scrubbed and classified. The people themselves remained quiet and evasive on the subject of their past until their death. While some Nazis to this day are hunted down in their old age, some were allowed to be free, in the open. Perhaps the most bizarre example of cognitive dissonance ever known, and widely at that. But most don’t know the whole story.

Annie Jacobsen remedies this in her new book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America. She isn’t the first to write on Paperclip, but perhaps the most thorough. She has brought new materials to light as more has become unclassified and through interviews with Paperclip family members and others with first hand knowledge.

I thought I knew a lot about the program, I didn’t. The twisted policy of chasing down prison guards in their 90s while other individuals were in effect acquitted. Some became American heroes. I have read of Von Braun and other rocket scientists who oversaw the V-2 production sites were thousands of prisoner-slaves died, but many know little of this. Jacobsen’s account will force you to look at our space heroes quite differently.

It wasn’t just the builders of rockets, however. Doctors involved in the Reich’s human experiments, experts in chemical and biological warfare and others were also spirited away by Paperclip. Most of these men lead productive lives contributing to our country. Others, though, were part of questionable state-sponsored activities here. In either case, Jacobsen writes this for us to ponder:

The question remains, despite a man’s contribution to a nation or people, how do we interpret fundamental wrong? Is the American government at fault equally for fostering myths about its Paperclip scientists — for encouraging them to whitewash their past…When, for a nation, should the end justify the means?

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