Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."
Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker
. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast
about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends
. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat
and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth
"Normal return route canceled
. Proceed as follows: Strip all company marking, registration numbers and identifiable insignia from exterior surfaces. Proceed westbound
soonest your discretion to avoid hostilities and deliver NC18602
to marine terminal La Guardia Field New York. Good luck
." [more inside]
Richard Edes Harrison
was a trained architect, artist and mapmaker whose maps in the years leading up to and through WWII gave Americans a new perspective on the world.
World War II Led to a Revolution in Cartography. These Amazing Maps Are Its Legacy [more inside]
In 1959, MOSFILM released "Ballad of a Soldier," made during the Khrushchev Thaw
. It chronicles a young soldier, Alyosha, and his six-day trip home from the front during World War II, which "sweeps you, with feeling, into the physical and psychological world of Russians at war.
" And it is on YouTube
. [more inside]
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper
"Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper
credited with 309 kills
—and an advocate for women's rights. On a U.S. tour in 1942, she found a friend in the first lady." [more inside]
Inside Monopoly's secret war against the Third Reich
The story of how Clayton Hutton came to use Monopoly to try and help POW escape during WWII.
What we knew of Angus was this: Angus—the only name we had for him—was a flight surgeon our mother had fallen in love with during World War II, planned to marry after the war, but lost when the Japanese shot him down over the Pacific. Once, long ago, she had mentioned to me that he was part of the reason she decided to be a doctor. That was all we knew. She had confided those things in the 1970s, in the years just after she and my father divorced. I can remember sitting in a big easy chair my dad had left behind in her bedroom, listening to her reminisce about Angus as she sat with her knitting. I remember being embarrassed, and not terribly interested.
I was interested now. Even 30 years before, her affair with Angus had been three decades old. Now, 60 years after he had fallen into the sea, she wanted to follow him. [more inside]
"The phrase was first used by Arthur Mee in his King's England series in the 1930s. A Thankful Village, it was said, was one which lost no men in the Great War because all those who left to serve came home again. For example, in Yorkshire East Riding he says about Catwick, "Thirty men went from Catwick to the Great War and thirty came back, though one left an arm behind." It was also said that such villages have no war memorials - or that if they do, they are a thankful reminder of all who served. Any community which enjoyed this rare distinction must have been Thankful indeed, in an age when family and community life broken by war was the norm.
" -- From the Hellfire Corner research project on Thankful Villages [more inside]
The most well known of New Zealand's World War II home-built tanks was the Bob Semple tank
, designed by New Zealand Minister of Works Bob Semple. There was only one made, but it served its purpose of "showing the people that something was being done to meet the enemy. It rumbled around, took part in parades, and inspired confidence.
" One problem: the tank, built on a Caterpiller tractor and armored with corrugated steel, would momentarily pause while changing gears, unless it was already headed down hill
. During parades and public shows, its driver was instructed to change gear as little as possible, to prevent people from thinking their tank was stalling. The other New Zealand-built tank was the Schofield tank
, built on the chassis of a Chevrolet heavy-duty truck, with the ability to drive quickly on wheels, then operate on treads, the transition only taking 7 to 10 minutes
. Two prototypes were made, but neither the Bob Semple nor the Schofield tank were mass produced, as New Zealand started receiving tanks from abroad by 1943.
Days after Hitler’s suicide a group of American soldiers, French prisoners, and, yes, German soldiers defended an Austrian castle against an SS division—the only time Germans and Allies fought together in World War II. Andrew Roberts on a story so wild that it has to be made into a movie.
One of the stranger methods used in World War II to undermine nazi morale was to get enemy workers and soldiers to pull a sickie
. One way to do this was to simulate tuberculosis, which had its challenges. [more inside]
On 25 February 1941, less than a year into the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, communist union leaders called for a general strike against the increasing persecution of the Jews
. The resulting two day strike in Amsterdam and various other cities in North Holland, the February Strike
was the first and only massive public protest against the persecution of the Jews in occupied Europe. [more inside]
Brutal Baroque: An Ode To Midcentury Modern Churches
: French photographer Fabrice Fouillet
traveled across Europe photographing some of the most important examples of postwar churches, creating a catalogue of the spaces called Corpus Christi
. [more inside]
The Best WWII Movies You [Probably] Haven't Seen: Page 1
, Page 2
Photographs by William Vandivert of London during World War II
, presented by Life Magazine.
One day in early July, federal judge Ronald S.W. Lew walked into Ken White's office and said, "Get your coat.
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War.
Then, they made a documentary
. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD,
the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels.
You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
The Battle of the Java Sea
happened exactly seventy years ago today. Austrialian, British, Dutch and American ships set sail to stop the Japanese invasion fleet steaming towards Java. It didn't end well. [more inside]
Winston Burdett, one of the original Murrow's Boys
, was a reporter for CBS Radio. He covered World War II, the invasion of Norway, the Axis retreat in North Africa (mp3)
, the invasion of Sicily (mp3)
, the invasion of Italy (mp3)
and the capture of Rome (mp3)
. But from 1940 - 1942 Winston Burdett was also a spy for the Soviet Union
. [more inside]
is a Wolf3D
mod about real WWII revolt against the Nazis
in the famous Auschwitz extermination camp." [more inside]
"This is your state! A big country like India is a slave to a small country like Britain. The Indian soldiers should be fighting for their freedom which can only be achieved if England is destroyed. You are only fighting to remain enslaved." A comprehensive account of WWII propaganda campaigns on all sides of the complicated relationship between Axis, Allies, and India. [more inside]
Metafilter's own JF Ptak
has an interesting post
on the Life magazine issue of March 2nd, 1942, readers of which were confronted by some startling maps detailing possible Axis invasion strategies for North America. There was invasion down the St. Lawrence valley
, there was invasion via Trinidad
, via Bermuda
, full frontal west coast
, and down the west coast
as well - note the mapping of the large "fifth columns". As Ptak notes, maps such as these with huge arrows pointed menancingly at the American homeland were very much not the norm of the day. [more inside]
Sometimes, the full meaning of a moment isn't realized until years later. Dick Brookins certainly had no idea what would come of that December day, back in 1944. Brookins and other members of the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry Division Signal Corps were in Wiltz, a small town in Luxembourg, just days before what would turn into the Battle of the Bulge. This U.S. soldier stood in for an absent Saint Nicholas
... it was to change his life and help him find some meaning for the war in Europe. As it turns out, someone was filming that day when an Army jeep carried the American St. Nick through the streets
giving treats to the local children. It brought him back 65 years later.
of Adolf Eichmann
is one of the more daring spy operations
in the post WWII era. The story spans 17 years, beginning with Eichmann's clandestine escape from the Allied forces and the Nuremberg trial, and ending with his hanging in Israel. [more inside]
The Pacific theatre of World War 2 left many traces behind. The shipwrecks
of Chuuk Lagoon
are probably the most famous, but they're hardly the primary reminders of former military action present in the day-to-day lives of many Micronesians. [more inside]
"What if America wasn't America?" That was the question posed by a series of ads broadcast in the wake of the September 11th attacks, ads which depicted a dystopian America bereft of liberty: Library
. Together with more positive ads like Remember Freedom
and I Am an American
, they encouraged frightened viewers to cherish their freedoms and defend against division and prejudice in the face of terrorism (seven years previously
). The campaign was the work of the Ad Council
, a non-profit agency that employs the creative muscle of volunteer advertisers to raise awareness for social issues of national importance. Founded during WWII as the War Advertising Council, the organization has been behind some of the most memorable public service campaigns in American history
, including Rosie the Riveter
, Smokey the Bear
, McGruff the Crime Dog
, and the Crash Test Dummies
. And the Council is still at it today, producing striking, funny, and above all effective
PSAs on everything from student invention
to global warming
to arts education
to community service
Additional resources: A-to-Z index of Ad Council campaigns
- Campaigns organized by category
- Award-winning campaigns
- PSA Central
: A free download directory of TV, radio, and print PSAs (registration req'd)
- An exhaustive history of the Ad Council [46-page PDF]
- YouTube channel
- Vimeo channel
- Twitter feed
arming at breakneck speed, England
lost in a pacifist dream, France
corrupt and torn by dissension, America
remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?" ― Winston Churchill
, 1935. The World War II Database
, and other elements of history
in relational db form to tell the story of the 20th century's 2nd great war.
On March 3rd 1943, the worst civilian disaster
of the Second World War killed 173 people, including 62 children. During an air-raid alert, the noise of a new anti-aircraft battery panicked the crowd trying to get into the shelter at Bethnal Green tube station
. In the dark
, wet conditions, someone tripped and fell at the foot of the stairs, blocking the pathway and knocking others over in a domino effect. More and more people continued to pile in at the top leading to a massive and deadly crush. [more inside]
Peace and War in the 20th Century
is an ambitious, in progress, massive assemblage of posters, photographs, propaganda, ephemera, letters, diaries, paintings, sketches, stories, letters, music and related items, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The collection is international in scope. Some of the nodes lack content, and the navigation is a little confusing, so the jump I list some of my favourite case studies from their site. [more inside]
JARDA: Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives
is a collection of photographs, diaries, letters, camp newsletters, personal histories and a wealth of other material relating to the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The site is divided into four categories: People
, the men, women, and children who were incarcerated. Places
, prewar neighborhoods and wartime camps. Daily Life
, eating, sleeping, working, playing, and going to school. Personal Experiences
, letters, diaries, art and other writing by internees. Among the photographers hired by the War Relocation Authority was famed dust bowl photographer Dorothea Lange. 855 of her photos
are on the site. Even though she was working as a propagandist many of her images captures a starker reality, for instance this picture of a glum little girl
: A WWII juggernaut. It decrypted German Enigma
) and Japanese
messages on an industrial scale in huts
, had an outpost in Mombasa
, and built one of the first modern computers
(it helped that Alan Turing
was on staff). Now a diverse museum
with or without a funding problem
, it generated yet more intrigue in 2000 when an Enigma was stolen
, and hosts a rebuilt, working Colossus
that launched a cipher challenge
. Beating it wasn't easy
! [more inside]
The Armed Forces of World War II, a flash presentation of rank insignia.
The creator implies that it's a work in progress, but what I've clicked through seems pretty complete to me. Bonus Babylon 5 link on the left.
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic
to save Polish Jews from the Nazis
. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19
, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]
Hand drawn Tarot Cards
created by a Boris Kobe, a prisoner at Allach Concentration Camp, a sub-camp of Dachau. Each card depcits an aspect of life
in the camp
- click each image for high-res versions.
'Films from the Homefront'
is a (new) collection of amateur documentaries, newsreels, government films, and home movies documenting life for the ordinary people in Britain during World War II, with background text descriptions/explication. Browse the themes
. The films are QT and wmv format. I found it both poignant and funny, for instance, seeing kids don gasmasks during air raid drills then attempt to continue writing in their lessons. [via Glasgow School of Art Library]
The largest archive of Nazi prison camp records, which has been closed for 50 years, is going public
in May 2007. The International Tracing Service
in Bad Arolsen, Germany consists of 16 miles of files in six nondescript buildings in the German spa town and contains the fullest record of Nazi persecutions in existence. This past April
Germany finally agreed to open access to the archive
, ending a nasty diplomatic dispute
between the United States and Germany.