S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Hitler”

Book Review – The Women Who Flew for Hitler

Rating – Five Stars

Mulley has penned a dynamite narrative. A page-turner par excellence. It’s superbly written and an easy and engrossing read. She pens an incisive narrative of political Germany post-Treaty-of-Versailles. She couches her narrative in the biographiesof female test pilots Hanna Reitschand Melitta (nee Schiller) von Stauffenberg. Mulley guides us through the inter-war years: the Weimar Republic, the rise of the National Socialist Party (Adolph Hitler, HeinrichHimmler, Herman Goering, et al.), World War II, collapse of the Third Reich, and beyond

We are introduced to Hanna Reitsch, glider champion, test pilot extraordinaire, avid defender of the Fatherland, National Socialism adherent, and friend and confidant of  Nazi leadership including Adolph Hitler.

Melitta (nee Schiller) von Stauffenberg was the daughter of a Jewish father, devoted to and protector of her extended family, a PhD aeronautical engineer, consummate test pilot, ardent defender of the Fatherland, and, sub rosa, an anti-Nazi.

Suffused throughout the narrative are key elements of the womens’ aviation accomplishments, political beliefs, support of the Third Reich, and important associates and friends (especially Reitsch’s). I’ll not review the details to keep this review from becoming a substantial spoiler.

Picture1

Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg

Nonetheless, do you recognize the family name “von Stauffenberg”? Graf Schenk Claus von Stauffenberg is, perhaps, the most important character in this narrative. Claus was the brother of Melitta’s husband Alexander (Alex).

Operation Valkyrie. On 20 July 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg entered Hitler’s bunker, dubbed “The Wolf’s Lair,” deep in the forest of East Prussia. Claus placed his bomb-loaded briefcase under the oak table and next to Adolph Hitler. He left the room to answer a conspirator’s telephone call.  The explosion killed four, but amazingly only wounded Hitler superficially. There’s more to this story in Mulley’s book.

Point: The book has no map, a critical gaffe. I recommend that you use a map of pre-war Germany to follow coherently the numerous locations mentioned—essential to fully appreciate the scope of the narrative.

FIN

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Thoughts About D-Day, 6 June 1944

We thank and honor the men who landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6th 1944.  All are heroes.

I was fifteen years old when we heard a radio announcer blurt that the Allies had landed on the beaches in northern France.  Involved were 130,000 Allied soldiers from USA, Britain, Canada, and the Free French.  There was no mention of casualties.  The news was all positive: we were going to liberate Europe from the Nazi scourge.

Meantime, Joseph Stalin’s Red Army was advancing swiftly through Belorussia with Poland in sight in the USSR’s version of their “liberation of Europe”—under the plague of the hammer and sickle of Communism.

In retrospect, I have concerns about the wisdom of the D-Day landing on the Normandy beaches.  These brave men stormed the beaches into the teeth of the German’s defenses: the Atlantic Wall orchestrated by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (The Desert Fox)—perhaps the most skillful of all Third Reich’s generals.  The approaches to the beaches had a four-tiered defense system.

  • About 300 yards from the high-water mark were Belgian gates with mines attached.
belgian gates

Belgian Gates

  • A line of spiked logs facing seaward.
spiked logs

Spiked Logs

  • Thousands of underwater mines.
underwater mines

Underwater Mines

  • A near continuous line of hedgehogs close to the beaches. 
Pas de Calais, Atlantikwall, Panzersperren

German Engineer with Hedgehog

On shore, were coastal artillery batteries in gun casement, tank traps, thousands of machineguns, mines, booby traps, two divisions of Wehrmacht well armed, and combat veterans from the Eastern Front (USSR).  In nearby reserve were two Panzer divisions.

Gun Enplacement

Coastal Artillery Gun Casement

Anti-tank trap

Anti-Tank Trap

 

Germans-on-Omaha-Beach7

German Machine Gunner on Omaha Beach

Allied causalities at day’s end were over ten-thousand—dead, wounded, and missing!

Our causalities increased alarmingly in the following few days.  Not until late on 9 June did the Allies secure the beaches and begin their tedious and dangerous advance into Normandy.
I wonder if our invasion of Europe should have been in southern France?

To set the perspective for D-Day, let’s review a few key highlights of World War II to date.

  • 01 September 1939. Germany invaded Poland and France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.
  • 17 September 1939. USSR invaded Poland.
  • 10 May 1940. Germany began Blitzkrieg through the low countries and France.
  • 22 June 1940 France surrendered. Germany occupied Paris, the land areas around the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.  A puppet French government, headed by Marshall Henri Phillippe Pétain, was established in Vichy to govern central France and the area adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea—dubbed “Unoccupied France.”  Most of the French colonies in Africa and Asia were under the control of Vichy France.
  • 22 June 1941. Germany invaded the USSR.
  • 08 November 1942, Operation Torch.  American troops landed in Vichy-French North Africa.
  • 10 November. 1942, German troops occupied Vichy France.
  • 13 May 1943. Africa cleared of Axis troops.
  • 10 July 1943.  Allies invaded Sicily.
  • 03 September 1943.  Allies invaded Italy.
  • 04 June 1944.  Allies liberated Rome and are bogged down in the mountains north of the city.

I would speculate: even though Germany had occupied all of France in late 1942, our task might have been somewhat less horrendous if we had invaded France from the Mediterranean coast.  Few German troops were in this area and the terrain was more favorable for a fast armored breakout.

Isn’t speculation wonderful?

Putin, Chamberlain, and Hitler

On 2 March 2014, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian motorized infantry to invade the Ukraine’s CrimeanPeninsula.  Such a military incursion violates international treaties and specifically the Soviet Union’s/Ukraine’s treaty of 1954.  The Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, deeded the Crimea to the Ukraine as a gesture of good will to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s incorporation into Czarist Russia.

Putin’s rationale for his invasion was that he “…reserves the right to use all means…to protect Russian speakers in the country’s (Ukraine’s) south and east if they are in danger.”

On 15 March 1939, on Adolph Hitler’s ordered the Nazi Wehrmact to invade the Sudetenland, a province of Czechoslovakia. His rationale was to protect the German-speaking people of this province from the “accursed” Slavs.  Within a few days, the Nazis had occupied all of Czechoslovakia, in direct violation of international law and the 30 September 1938 Munich Agreement between Germany, Great Britain, France, and Fascists Italy; all without consulting the Czechoslovakian government.

This Munich Agreement was an appeasement treaty by Great Britain and France to avoid another world war over an insignificant country—created in the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.  “Peace for out time,” was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s proclamation.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and the world was engulfed in another world war.

I wonder if history repeats itself.

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