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.
Winston Churchill famously said, "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills". And although Winston never had contend with an invasion force on the streets of London, he was not entirely successful in keeping the Germans from occupying British soil. [more inside]
"Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of the U.S. history that most Americans have been taught.... [Such history] is consoling; it is comforting. But it only tells a small part of the story." Instead of clips of modern people pondering the past, Oliver Stone's ten-part series relies heavily on archival footage and clips from old Hollywood films, with narration by Stone. Towards the end, he gets into the assassination of JFK, "but that should not detract from a series that sets out to be a counterweight to the patriotic cheerleading and myth-making." [more inside]
PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
World War II in Photos "A retrospective of World War II in large-size photo stories. 900 photos in all, over 20 chapters, telling many of the countless millions of stories from the biggest conflict and biggest story of the 20th century." [via mefi projects] [more inside]
I am not going to try now to open the eyes of the world to the Leningrad Blockade. What I will write about here is less ambitious and somewhat more promising: the literature of the siege. [more inside]
Nearly seventy years ago, 10,000 Japanse Americans were forcibly relocated to Heart Mountain, just outside Cody, Wyoming; they were part of a larger group of more than 120,000 men, women, and children incarcerated in War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps due solely to their ancestry. This past weekend, about 100 survivors of the camp -- led by the delightfully named Bacon Sakatini -- returned to this remote corner of Wyoming to celebrate the grand opening of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center. Of the ten WRA camps, Heart Mountain had the only organized resisters movement, which was started in 1944 by seven men who formed the Fair Play Committee to protest the drafting of Japanse American men while their families remained imprisoned -- leading to the largest draft resistance trial in U.S. history.
Smithsonian Magazine's new blog Past Imperfect has already told some interesting stories in its first weeks, but none more compelling than that of Lt. Commander Minter Dial's Annapolis class ring.
"ALL U-BOATS. ATTENTION ALL U-BOATS. CEASE-FIRE AT ONCE. STOP ALL HOSTILE ACTION AGAINST ALLIED SHIPPING. DÖNITZ." [more inside]
Edith Shain has died. She was 92. She worked at Doctor's Hospital in New York City during World War II, but you probably only knew her as an anonymous nurse. [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]
The 30,000 men of the British Merchant Navy (one-fifth of its pre-war strength) who fell victim to the U-boats between 1939 and 1945, the majority drowned or killed by exposure on the cruel North Atlantic sea*, were quite as certainly front-line warriors as the guardsmen and fighter pilots to whom they ferried the necessities of combat. Neither they nor their American, Dutch, Norwegian, or Greek fellow mariners wore uniform and few have any memorial. They stood nevertheless between the Wehrmacht and the domination of the world. - John Keegan
Normandy: Then and Now Photographs of Normandy in 1944 meticulously juxtaposed with how the area looks today by French historian Patrick Elie.
Deaf People and World War II is an NTID project collecting videos, books, articles, links, etc., about the experiences of deaf Europeans, Asians, and North Americans during the war. [more inside]
"With Germany 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 connects people, events, photographs, and other elements of history in relational db form to tell the story of the 20th century's 2nd great war.
World War II pictures in color. Some favorites: Soldiers at the Coliseum. A WAC discusses sailing with an old hand. A canine "soldier" dons a gas mask during training. African-American MPs on Motorbike Patrol. Other galleries: WWII in Color. | A searchable database of color slides.| Library of Congress collection (also includes Depression-era photographs) | WWII in pictures (mostly Germans; one graphic photo halfway down)
Voices and Music of World War I and Voices of World War II: Experiences From the Front and at Home both feature spoken word, sheet music and songs galore (all audio RealPlayer). The Great War site has plenty of stuff, but the core is the collection of songs, anti-war, patriotic, France-themed, Kaiser-knocking and so forth. The WWII site also has a whole bunch of music, demonstrating the changing mood of the US, from conflicted feelings about the start of the war to conflicted feelings about the atomic bomb. Among the artists are Nat King Cole, Leadbelly, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. But in addition the wonderful songs there are newscasts, speeches, propaganda and other radio broadcasting of all kinds.
Australia now commemorates Battle for Australia Day on the first Wednesday in September. But what is 'the Battle for Australia'? Did such a thing exist? [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 Nazi Christmas Since its most ancient days, the Christmas holiday has been continually reshaped to serve commercial, social, and political ends. These Nazi-era Christmas materials, including an Advent calendar and an essay on how to turn Christian holidays into National Socialist ones, come from the German Propaganda Archive of the Calvin College library. Of course, the Allies also enlisted Christmas in both pop culture and propaganda with cards, V-Mails, and posters.