Monday, March 6, 2017

WW2 | Mar 6—Dutch Resistance Ambushes SS Gen. Hanns Rauter

Lt. Gen. Hanns Rauter,
SS Commander in Holland
Mar 6—This day in 1945 the Dutch Resistance (Verzet) ambushed a truck headed for Luftwaffe troops in Appeldoorn.

The truck contained food and SS leader Lt. Gen. Johann Baptist Albin (Hanns) Rauter. 

The Resistance group killed all the SS troops on the truck except Gen. Rauter, who was wounded and pretended to be dead. During the week after the ambush, the German SS executed 263 Dutch people in retaliation for the ambush.

The Dutch Resistance was one of the fiercest of all the underground movements in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Dutch foreign minister in a postwar account of life under Nazi occupation wrote:
“The Dutch never accepted the German contention that… the war was over. [T]heir acts of resistance and sabotage grew more audacious as time passed.”
Acts of resistance and sabotage included
  • Sheltering onderduikers (underdivers), including Allied soldiers and pilots who either parachuted or crash-landed within Dutch territory, Jews in Holland, and men who were ordered to report for transport to Germany to work in the factories.
  • Bringing onderduikers out of the Netherlands.
  • Killing collaborators and German SS and Wehrmacht troops separated from larger contingents.
  • Bombing Nazi sites such a record centers that kept track of people to be deported (and most likely killed by starvation or poison gas). 
  • Stealing food and coupons and ID cards from SS and police centers.
  • Creating counterfeit money that was used to finance Resistance groups.
The Resistance was composed of representatives from all segments of Dutch society, ranging from the most conservative to communists, although most leading communists were targeted and wiped out by the Nazis in the first years after they invaded Holland in May 1940. Because the élite racist SS oversaw Holland (the Wehrmacht troops were not so aggressive about targeting civilians), the Resistance was closely watched and groups were forced to operate independently of one another. Families were key units during the Resistance because they could trust one another.

Gen. Hanns Rauter was head of the SS in Holland and answered directly to Heinrich Himmler, the SS commander. In February 1941, a strike broke out in Amsterdam among Dutch workers to protest the round-up of almost 400 Dutch Jews. Rauter ordered the SS and German troops to open fire on the strikers, killing 11. The Jews, whom the strikers were trying to protect, were deported to Buchenwald and all were dead by the fall.

Under Rauter's guidance, a special block in the Schenevingen prison—nicknamed by the Dutch the Orange Hotel—was built for "political prisoners", i.e., Resistance workers. During the four years of this block, 28,000 people were detained here indefinitely, of whom 738 men and 21 women died here or nearby on the dunes, the Waalsdorpervlakte, where the Cemetery of Heroes is now located.

In his retaliations for assaults on Nazis and collaborators, Rauter equated the death of one Nazi to ten Dutch reprisal executions victims and one killed Dutch collaborator with three Dutch reprisals. During 1944 these numbers sharply increased with the rise of Resistance violence.

In 1945, near the end of the war, Rauter was riding in an SS truck filled with food destined for a Luftwaffe base near Apeldoorn. Young members of the Dutch Resistance ambushed the truck to get the food inside. The "Hunger Winter" of 1944-45 left much of occupied Holland close to famine conditions, and the Resistance group was determined to save lives by seizing the food. They did not know Rauter was in the truck when it was attacked.

After WW2, SS Gen. Rauter was tried for war crimes by the Dutch court in Den Haag. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed the sentence at Nuremberg in 1949, but the sentence was upheld and he was executed that year. That was the year that my grandmother, Olga Boissevain, who lost both of her sons to the war, died.

Clip of trial is here:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

WW2 | July 10–Battle of Britain Begins

RAF pilots scrambling. My uncle Willem was an
RAF pilot. He was shot down over Laval, France
 on June 10, 1944 and is buried there.
This day in 1940, the Germans began bombing Britain, the beginning of the "Battle of Britain" that lasted three and a half months–a significant turning point of World War II, as at the end of the bombing, Germany’s Luftwaffe failed to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force.

As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."

Britain’s decisive victory saved the country from a ground invasion and possible occupation by German forces and showed that air power alone could be used to win a major battle.

On the first day, 120 German bombers and fighters struck a British shipping convoy in the Channel, while 70 more attacked dockyards in South Wales. Britain had only 600 fighters while the Germans had 1,300. But:
  • Britain had an an effective radar system.
  • Spitfires could make tighter turns Germany’s ME109s, enabling it to elude pursuers and come up behind them. 
  • The British Hurricanes could carry 40mm cannon. These planes shot down, with American Browning machine guns, more than 1,500 Luftwaffe planes. 
  • The German single-engine fighters had limited flight radius and their bombers lacked bomb-load capacity to cause permanent damage. 
  • Britain had the advantage of a unified command, while German infighting was weakened by poor timing and intelligence. 
  • The British people were undaunted. When the government asked for all available aluminum to the brought to he Ministry of Aircraft Production to turn into airplanes, the public responded.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

JOE MCCARTHY | June 9–Squelched by Welch

Sen. Joseph McCarthy
This day in 1954, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) confronted Joseph N. Welch, special counsel for the Army. McCarthy claimed that a young associate in Hall & Dorr, Welch's law firm, had been a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party.” Welch was stunned and said, famously:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? 
A few minutes later, the audience burst into applause. It marked the end of McCarthy’s power, which had steadily risen from his February 1950 claim that “hundreds” of “known Communists” were in the Department of State.

McCarthy led the Red Scare, convincing millions of Americans that communists had infiltrated America. Behind closed doors,  the McCarthy hearings smeared a wide swath of civil servants and private citizens, destroying many careers. Prior to 1953, the Republican Party tolerated him because his attacks were directed at Democrats, especially Harry S. Truman. When Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the White House in 1953, however, McCarthy continued his increasingly erratic charges. This became unacceptable to his President and Party. Rather than taking on McCarthy directly, which might have backfired, Ike undermined the senator behind the scenes.

McCarthy was annoyed that the U.S. Army was taking away one of his staff members, who worked with Roy Cohn. So he charged in early 1954 that the U.S. Army was “soft” on communism. As Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, he opened hearings on this subject. Joseph Welch, an outside lawyer from Hale & Dorr in Washington, represented the Army–and the President as well, since Ike had a special affection for the Army. During the hearings, Welch responded to all of McCarthy’s charges. The senator became bellicose, shouting “point of order, point of order”. He said that one highly decorated general was a “disgrace” to his uniform. Welch responded with the comment at the end of the first paragraph above.

One week later, the hearings closed. McCarthy was condemned by the Senate for contempt of his colleagues in December 1954. During the next two-and-a-half years, McCarthy succumbed to alcoholism and in 1957 died, at 48, in office.


Alexander Forest was hired by General Eisenhower to work on the Nuremberg trials and then on the McCarthy Hearings. His skill with both German and Russian as well as English made him valuable in dealing with international issues. His birth name was Goldberg and he took the surname Forest when he came to the United States, probably before the outbreak of war in 1939.

His sister Anya Goldberg (Anna Ormont after she emigrated to Canada) remained in Holland and was sheltered by Bob Boissevain and his family along with her parents. The Boissevains were given a Yad Vashem award after the war; the father of the family died in concentration camp but his guests all survived. The wartime story is told here.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

BLOG VIEWS | 30K–Most-Read Posts

John Tepper Marlin in NYC. Photo
by Alice Tepper Marlin.
June 2016 – This blog, Warriors-Families, has just passed 30,000 page views. I try to post on this blog when the stories are about military or peace issues, but everything overlaps with everything else... 

Page views of my blogs on together are now past the  1.1 million mark.

Thank you for reading!

Here are the most-read posts for the month of May 2016. I am continuing to update the first on the list based on new information. When you see a June 2016 or later update in the subject line, it will be up to date. The Boer War post, #3, mentioning Charles Boissevain, was added only yesterday and will surely rise to #1 in a few days.

WW2 | 8. Hiding Jews in Holland–Bob Boissevain (Up...
Dec 2, 2014, 1 comment
US NAVY | Oct. 13–Navy's 240th Birthday
Oct 12, 2015
BOER WAR | May 31–Peace Treaty Signed
Jun 1, 2016
R.I.P. | Michael Intriligator, Peace and Security ...
Jul 8, 2014
FRANCE | June 10–Remembering Airmen Downed 70 Year...
Jun 13, 2014
VETS 3 | VA Loans–NYC Issues
Jun 11, 2013
VET STORY 2 | Franklin D'Olier, Founded American L...
Sep 17, 2013
WW2 | 12. Holland after the War (Updated Feb. 16, ...
Nov 2, 2014
VET STORY 8 | Edgar Jadwin, Author, "From a Milita...
Mar 5, 2016
ART BIZ | "Hope", Museum of Visionary Art - Yanni ...
Nov 6, 2015

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

BOER WAR | May 31–Peace Treaty Signed

New Edition (2013) of an
old book (1899-1900) by
Charles Boissevain.
This day in 1902, in Pretoria, representatives of Great Britain and the Boer states signed the Treaty of Vereeniging, officially bringing to an end the second Boer War in South Africa.

The Boers, which means farmers in Dutch, are also known as Afrikaners. They descended from the original Dutch settlers of southern Africa who came to South Africa to obtain land to farm on, in a period when imperialism was in the air in Europe and Europeans patriotically traveled to other countries to help plant their national flags.

The Dutch became well established in what we call today Indonesia (which they called India), the Caribbean, and in South Africa. However, Britain occupied the Dutch Cape Colony in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars. The Boers did not like being under British rule and in 1833 began an exodus into African tribal territory, where they founded the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

The two new republics lived peaceably with their British neighbors until 1867, when the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Dutch region attracted the envy of British empire-builders.  Preeminent among them was Cecil Rhodes, who coveted a British empire stretching "from Cape Town to Cairo"–a vision that he helped make a reality.

The first major discovery was on the Orange Free State farm of Boers named de Beer, who gave their name to a diamond-selling company created by Cecil Rhodes; the original de Beers did not profit from the diamonds that were found on their property. The de Beer company still controls one-third of the diamond market. Another diamond discovery occurred in the Transvaal near Pretoria, creating a rival diamond company controlled by the Oppenheimer family until the de Beers company absorbed it.

The first Boer War with Britain began as skirmishes in the 1890s. In 1899 this erupted into a full-scale war. Cecil Rhodes used his influence to ensure that his mines were protected and in return his company did everything it could to assist in the war on the Boers.

Resources came from throughout the British Empire to crush the Boers–Canada's Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier authorized a contingent to go to South Africa despite opposition from Quebec's French Canadians led by Henri Bourassa, who saw an ominous precedent (ironically, the next major military effort from Canada would be on behalf of France). Canada sent more than 7,000 troops.

By mid-June 1900, British forces had captured most major Boer cities and formally annexed their territories. Like the Scots fighting against Edwards I-III, the Boers launched a guerrilla war that frustrated the British occupiers. Beginning in 1901, the British began a strategy of fencing off areas with barbed wire, setting fire to the farms inside, and then systematically searching out and killing the guerrilla units. The families of displaced Boers were herded into concentration camps that famously became a precedent for the Nazi concentration camps, although the high death rate in the South African camps was a byproduct of the climate and isolation rather than being premeditated genocide.

Second letter to "An
American Lady", 1900.
Among the few voices in Europe speaking up for the desperate Boers was Charles Boissevain (my mother's grandfather). He famously wrote in December 1899 an Open Letter to the Duke of Devonshire making the case for the Boers and observing that war was being waged on farming "peasants" for one purpose only–to enable squalid British financial interests. The letter was published in 1900 by Boissevain's newspaper, the Algemeen Handelsblad and is available free as a Google eBook. It was also republished as a properly edited book in 2013 along with a second Open Letter to an American Lady.

By early 1902, the British had crushed Boer resistance, and on May 31 the Peace of Vereeniging was signed, recognizing British military administration over Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and in return authorizing a general amnesty for Boer forces. Cecil Rhodes died the same year, his wished-for empire largely in place.

In 1910, the autonomous Union of South Africa was established by the British, taking in Transvaal, the Orange Free State and Natal as provinces along with the original Cape of Good Hope.

While South Africa has since remained in the British Commonwealth, and the Springboks were formidable entrants in the British sport of Rugby,  Afrikaners took back South Africa at the ballot box–so long as voting was restricted to whites (and, for a time, "Cape coloreds").

Afrikaner control, however, depended on restricting the ability of non-whites to vote, which was at the heart of the policy of apartheid. Late in the 20th century, when universal adult suffrage was instituted and black Africans participated in the vote, Afrikaners again became a minority, and British South Africans an even smaller minority.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

JOBS | Veterans' Unemployment Fell in 2015

Young veterans have an easier time getting a civilian
 job than older ones.
March 22, 2016–The BLS announced this morning that the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans has fallen to 5.8 percent in 2015, a drop of 1.4 percentage points from 2014.

Gulf War-era II veterans are defined as those who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001.

For all veterans, the unemployment rate also fell.

Differences by Gender, Age, State

The unemployment rate for all male veterans in 2015 fell to 4.5 percent, lower than the rate for female veterans of 5.4 percent, which changed little from 2014. This is in Table A of the report.

Younger veterans have an easier time getting a civilian job than older ones. Of 495,000 unemployed veterans in 2015,
  • 57 percent were age 45 and over,
  • 37 percent were age 25-44, and 
  • 5 percent were age 18-24. (See Table 2A.)
In 2015, the unemployment rate of veterans ranged from 1.9 percent of those resident in Iowa to 7.7 percent of those resident in the District of Columbia. The rate was 3.7 percent in New York State and 5.4 percent in New Jersey. (See Table 6A.)

Veterans with Disabilities

One-third of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability in August 2015, compared with 20 percent of all veterans. Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent in August 2015, not statistically different from veterans with no disability. (See Table 7.) More than 1 in 3 employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector in August 2015, more than the 1 in 5 veterans with no disability. (See Table 8.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

BIRTH | Mar. 16–West Point

U.S. Military Academy, West Point
This day in 1802 Congress created the United States Military Academy, which was the first U.S. military academy.  It is located on the Hudson at a town called West Point that was the location of a fort to defend the Hudson Valley against the Redcoats.

In 1780, the West Point fort commander was Gen. Benedict Arnold, who had served the Continental Army well up to then, having captured Fort Ticonderoga.

Gen. Arnold agreed to surrender the fort for £6,000, but his plan was outed. He fled to the Brits and retired in Britain, but his name has ever since been associated with treason.

Ten years after the formation of the Academy, Congress responded to threat of  war with Britain by expanding West Point. From 1817, it was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer, called the “father of West Point”.

West Point became a source of high-quality civil engineers, harking back to the first U.S. general, George Washington, who was a trained surveyor in his private life. It is appropriate that Edgar Jadwin, who graduated first in his class from West Point, would become Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers in 1926-29. A new self-published book has appeared, written by Jadwin's grandson, also named Edgar, about his distinguished military family.

During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the officer corps of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their states.

In 1870, the first African-American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy now has more than 4,000 students and is under the direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army.