A Momentary Diversion From Music - Some Great Oddities and Ironies That Remain in My Memory Chest...
Item: Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl -
The only person I know of who worked for both Adolf Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Sometimes called "Hitler's Pianist" - he performed countless times for the Nazi leader.
Imagine! - A Harvard graduate, who ate lunches at the Harvard Club, along with a fellow student who becomes, arguably, the most powerful American president of the 20th century. At one time, Hanfstaengl became Hitler's Press Secretary; at another time, a confidante of President Roosevelt, filling in the President by way of his connection with and knowledge of the Nazi mind. Do read about him - engrossing story!
Item: Isoroku Yamamoto -
Known, of course, as the planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing America into World War II.
He, like the above Hanfstaengl, had been a Harvard student, having been sent by the Japanese government, and eventually becoming a naval attache in Washington. After having visited the oil producing industry in the southern states, followed by his visiting the dynamic industrial expansion in the north, he hastened to inform( and warn) the Japanese military upon his return never to go to war with the United States. At the same time, Yamamoto's great sense of vision gave form to the conviction that the Day of the Battleship was over; that the future naval battles would experience their ultimate decisions by way of the airplane. His actions in actually planning war against America must have been somewhat ambivalent - his final actions in preparing for war was his inescapable reality that he was, after all, a "son of the Emperor."
His fears and prophesies would become Reality when he was informed during the actual attack on Pearl Harbor that the two American aircraft carriers he thought would be among the targets were actually out at sea; therefore, his prescient statement on that very day which was "all I fear that we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve" tells me that he might have already seen the consequences of his own vision, which came to light only six months after Pearl Harbor; specifically, Japan's offensive weaponry in the Pacific was permanently destroyed at Midway by, yes, the air power of the United States. The result was that the Japanese could wage only a defensive war from that time on, resulting in its inescapable defeat in 1945. Do look this great military visionary up!
Item: A raging Hitler insures his ultimate defeat -
Early in the Battle of Britain, Churchill himself admitted that the air strikes on England's air fields and radar stations were bringing Britain within weeks of capitulation.
Then, the miracle - During one of Germany's raids on the British isle, one bomber mistakenly dropped a bomb load not far from the Thames river in London. Churchill then ordered British bombers to retaliate by bombing Berlin, which had yet to taste the bitter pill of war directly. Hermann Goering himself had declared in his usual pomposity that "if they ever bomb Berlin, then call me Meyer," referring to his hateful derision of the plight of the Jew in Europe.
Upon hearing of the bombing of Berlin, Hitler flew into a rage and ordered what became the London Blitz, killing some 40,000 or more Londoners over the next several months. His action averted the final destruction of England's battered defensive structure by diverting his air force to destroy a city instead. This was the first of several fatal decisions Hitler promulgated that eventually destroyed him. You can quite probably find material connected to this incident which precipitated The London Blitz.
Item: Juan Pujol -
A young Spanish subject, with veritably no education, but endowed with a fascinating gift for fabrication. To encapsulate:
He became a double agent for Great Britain and Nazi Germany, and totally hoodwinked German intelligence. For example, Pujol was officially recognized for his work at Westminster Abbey during the same period that Nazi Germany bestowed upon him the Order of the Iron Cross.
It was Pujol who facilitated the success of the Allied invasion of Northern France on D-Day, and relatively few are cognizant of this man and his almost incredible exploits. Do read about him.
Item:The Ardennes - When will one learn from history? Especially recent history?
After the Phony War ended with Hitler's invasion of the West in 1940, the Germans formed a fatal trap by way of a massive operation through the Ardennes, supposedly impenetrable due to heavy forests. This trapped the Allies, who were eventually forced at Dunkirk to escape to England and fight another day.
And on Dec. 16, 1944, with Germany facing defeat from both east and west, Hitler once again, in his final major operation, launched a massive attack with tanks and thousands of troops through, yes, the very same impenetrable Ardennes at a point where the Allied lines were at their thinnest. Even though Hitler's final attempt failed a month or so later, he inflicted the heaviest casualties on the Americans suffered throughout the entire conflict, including American casualties at Okinawa(about 12,000 killed). The Ardennes operation took the lives of some 19,000 American troops, so tragically close to the defeat of Nazi Germany just five months away.
What happened to Allied intelligence? Why was military memory so abysmally short-winded?
Do read about this cataclysmic irony.
There are other examples of oddity and irony available, of course; perhaps, another time?
Back to music next time...
Labels: oddity and irony...