Museums are important in helping us connect with the past and with historical events – but not all museums are equal. Here, Shannon Bent explains why she loves museums and why she was less than pleased while visiting the famous Cold War crossing point, Checkpoint Charlie, in Berlin.

Image of Checkpoint Charlie in 2015, provided by and shown with the permission of Shannon Bent.

Image of Checkpoint Charlie in 2015, provided by and shown with the permission of Shannon Bent.

The importance of museums

I will hold my hands up and admit that I am a museum nerd. It may seem a little niche and uninteresting, but I love museums. From a very early age, my parents took me to historical sites, castles, battlefields and museums. My love must have begun there. Not only was I learning (yes, I am that child that loved to learn), but I was also in a place where it was totally acceptable to enjoy learning what was around you. More than that, you were learning in a totally different way to sitting in a classroom being talked at for hours on end. I was interacting, I was playing with objects, I was touching things were hundreds of years old and I learning how they worked. This bought a huge amount of joy to me as a child, and thankfully it never wore off. Still to this day, I step into a museum and I feel at peace. It feels familiar, it feels safe and it feels homely. If you, like me, just love to be around knowledge and learning, you too will have a place which evokes the same kind of emotions. 

As I became older and began visiting the museums I had loved as a child in my adult years, it started to become clearer to me why these places were so important to me. They continued education and knowledge in such a way that you don’t realise you are learning. Yet days later you are still thinking about and remembering something you read or did in a museum. It then became my mission to try and get myself into these environments on a day-to-day basis and perhaps create this kind of feeling for another that could then fall in love with museums in the way I once had. 

Because of my love for these places, presenting themselves in old buildings, new buildings, caves, tunnels, rooftops and walls, wherever I go I seek out a museum. I am lucky enough to have the people closest to me sharing similar interests (or at least putting up with my interest) and so any holiday, day out or trip away can involve finding a new museum to explore. At the end of last year I travelled to Berlin. I don’t recall a day I didn’t visit a historical site or museum. It was there that I began thinking about this; a museum’s role in remembrance and commemoration, and how some places do it better than others. Yes, I can be critical of museums too!

 

Visiting Berlin

 

The first time I visited Berlin, I was eighteen years old. I was heading to university two months later still with a huge passion and love for history. The trip was with school; a bunch of us from history class and our favourite teachers. It was July and baking hot. On our school-arranged itinerary was the Checkpoint Charlie museum. I was excited and fascinated with this museum, having not had a chance in school to study the Cold War and was fuelled by my own interest and research. 

Checkpoint Charlie was, as you perhaps could guess, a checkpoint in central Berlin that during the Cold War when Germany was cut in two, allowed passing between the two sectors. West Germany, or the FRG, was controlled by the British, Americans and French. East Germany, the GDR, was controlled by the Soviet Union. This line, a crack through the country and indeed through the world, represented two very separate lives for the people that were zoned into these sectors. Checkpoint Charlie was a break in the physical wall that had been put up from August 13, 1961, and became a symbol of separation during the Cold War. After the wall came down in 1989 and the subsequent reunification of Germany, Checkpoint Charlie became a tourist attraction. 

You will see Checkpoint Charlie featured in many Cold War films, novels, and historical articles. It is a focal point, and an incredibly important site in history. I remember being upstairs in the Checkpoint Charlie museum, and from one of the windows you could look down onto the street and see the checkpoint. It remains as it was; the signs indicating the various sectors, the booth which housed the patrolling soldiers, it is all still standing. A snapshot of history preserved as it once was, hopefully forever, to remind people what happens when you build walls. I looked for a while, because to me it was captivating. Then I noticed there were ‘soldiers’ at the checkpoint. I say it like that, ‘soldiers’, because it was clear they were reproduction uniforms with an attempt to be historically accurate and failing pretty badly. Even me, aged eighteen, could see that it wasn’t right. Not only that, but they weren’t saluting correctly for the country that they were supposedly a soldier of. I remember pointing this out to my classmates, and my teacher, who all laughed along with me at how absurd the entire scene was. 

It clearly stuck in my head though, as I remember saying I wasn’t too bothered about seeing Checkpoint Charlie again as I found it over-commercialised and unnecessary. It was probably then, some five years later, that I began to consider what this commercialisation of such an important historical site actually meant for the preservation of the memory.

Image of Checkpoint Charlie in 2015, provided by and shown with the permission of Shannon Bent.

Image of Checkpoint Charlie in 2015, provided by and shown with the permission of Shannon Bent.

Presenting History as it was

I am what I guess you could call a ‘historical purist’ or ‘historical prescriptivist’. Basically, I believe in presenting historical fact in the purest form. Present it how you wish, in as many different forms as you wish; writing, TV, movies, plays, exhibitions, podcasts, the world is your oyster. Just make it accurate. None of this embellishment for dramatic effect. No need to change the facts to make it interesting. Trust me, present it right and the history will speak for itself. Now apply this logic to Checkpoint Charlie. You have the original signs each side of the street, making it clear to everyone standing there just how close capitalism and communism lived for the best part of 29 years. You have the booth where the soldiers would have stood, hour after hour, day after day, in freezing Berlin winters, patrolling a border that they themselves were probably affected by. Throw in a few photos of the wall, the roadblocks, the tanks and place them around they booth with a few well-written info plaques and hey presto, you have yourself a thought provoking, accurate historical site. You don’t need people dressed up, charging for tourists to have photos with them. You don’t need the visual of dressed up soldiers at all. 

Now you may be thinking ‘chill out. It’s just a bit of harmless tourist fun’. And yes, in a way it is. But here’s the way I look at it. Those soldiers they are impersonating were once real people, with real lives. In fact, the likelihood is they are still around today, perhaps even in that city. They had family, friends, lovers and enemies. They lived and breathed that city, that conflict, right off the back of the biggest war the world had ever seen. The wall went up practically overnight and the checkpoint followed. The men that had to work at that checkpoint perhaps lost family the other side of the wall or had to leave their life long friends behind. If you want to think about it in a darker manner, those soldiers being impersonated perhaps had to stop or even shoot people that were attempting to escape through the checkpoint, whether they agreed with the ethics of the wall or not. Some 136 people died between the years of 1961 and 1989 at the Berlin Wall. There are not clear numbers of how many of them were at the checkpoint in question. But chances are those soldiers had to perform violent acts that morally they were not at peace with. Do you think it is morally correct for people to then pretend to be these soldiers? I doubt it would sit well with the actors if they thought about it, and it would certainly baffle those that lived through the iron curtain.

 

Maybe that is more the point I am making. Perhaps I’m getting too hung up on the smaller intricacies of the topic. My overall point is this; people lived through the thing that is now being (badly, may I add) impersonated for money. I feel the concept to be a little weird and overall needless. There are many fantastic ways of presenting facts, of making history come to life that is accurate and respectful. And I am in no way against visual representation. There are some really good TV series and films that are as accurate as possible, for example Darkest HourDunkirk, and the absolute masterpiece that was Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old. Similarly, I have seen re-enactments, and what I believe is called in the business ‘costumed interpreters’ that have fantastic reproduction uniforms and costumes that provide a deeper and more visually impactful experience for the visitor. But it is done more tastefully, and with a far greater respect for the historical significance.

 

Recent History

There is also the question of this with regards to recent history. My parents vividly remember when the Berlin wall fell. I was born eight years later. My mum always says how when she was in school in the 1970s they didn’t teach history on the Second World War because it was too fresh and recent to make it a historical subject. While I don’t agree with that wholly, and do believe that it should be taught no matter how recent, there is a lot to be said for the way in which the topic is presented and what is respectable when there are still people living in that city that lived through a time when Checkpoint Charlie was actually operational. 

I do get angry when I think about all of this in context. When I was in Berlin last November, we were killing time before heading for food, and I said to my boyfriend ‘lets walk past Checkpoint Charlie, just so I can glare at it’. The people that are stood taking photos with the soldiers and instagramming it are entirely missing the point of, well, everything. It isn’t a place of remembrance and commemoration. To them, it’s a ‘how many likes can I get’ challenge, and the significance of the place goes right over so many people’s heads because it isn’t being presented in the right way. To me, it is beyond disrespectful. I guess you can only hope for change in the future. 

As I’m sure you can tell, this is a topic that I am very passionate about. Not just Checkpoint Charlie, but the overall controversial topic of how to present a museum, the commercial aspects of public history, and what is to be done when the topic in hand is sensitive. This series will seek to explore these different aspects of museum and heritage sites, using not only my knowledge but definitely my opinion, from the countless visits I have done to numerous places. Don’t worry, the whole thing won’t be me ranting consistently. I have some positive things to say too! I hope together we can explore and have a general discussion about this. If you love museums too, this is the place to be!

 

I hope you can come along with me on this exploration. Don’t hesitate to comment, feedback, and you could even email me for a chat about all this on s.k.bent@hotmail.co.uk. I would really love people to get involved in this. After all, history and museums are for us all! So don’t be shy! History is cool, and history is now. 

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Battle of Stalingrad from August 1942 to February 1943 was the largest battle of World War Two, and one of the largest in all history. It involved a major battle for the city of Stalingrad (modern-day Volgograd) between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Here, Joshua Potts tells us the role that snipers played in the battle.

Vasily Zaitsev, a key Soviet sniper, in December 1942.

Vasily Zaitsev, a key Soviet sniper, in December 1942.

The Battle of Stalingrad

In 1942, Hitler attempted to cut off Soviet communication and supply routes along the Volga River by launching a two-pronged attack on the oil-rich fields of the Caucasus and the city of Stalingrad. Since the previous Operation Typhoon had failed to take Moscow, the Germans decided to circumvent the Soviet expectation that they would attack the capital again and instead went for Joseph Stalin’s namesake city. Initially, the German Blitzkrieg tactic inflicted huge numbers of casualties in the city and gained Army Group South B an important advantage over the shocked Red Army. However, it wasn’t just the Wehrmacht who had tricks up their sleeves. 

Within several weeks, more and more troops were being committed to the Battle of Stalingrad and intense fighting had broken out in the streets. Both sides used underground sewers to work their way behind enemy lines, trying to eliminate resistance in the city. The 10,000 tonnes of explosive dropped by the Luftwaffe had already damaged the city and reduced its many weapons and farm-machinery factories to rubble, and the ensuing conflict within the city exacerbated the destruction.

 

Snipers

Both the Germans (and their allies) and the Soviets had deployed hundreds of professional snipers into Stalingrad, placing them behind fallen buildings and broken machinery. They picked on unsuspecting soldiers (and often civilians) from rooftops and windows, making sure to hide their optical scopes so that the sun wouldn’t reflect on the glass and give away their hiding places. 

Many of these master snipers had grown up in poor families or had previous training in their families. They were all expert marksmen, able to kill their targets with as few shots as possible. All Soviets strong enough to hold a rifle were ordered by Stalin to fight for their city. Therefore, many women and children were separated from their husbands and fathers as the men left to become snipers. By November 1942, over a million German troops were trying to defeat the Red Army in Stalingrad but the Soviets held out, continuing to reload their rifles and prime their sights, refusing to give in.

 

Vasily Zaitsev

Perhaps the Soviet Union’s best sniper was Vasily Zaitsev, who killed over three hundred Nazis during the Battle of Stalingrad. He was born into a poor family and grew up hunting wolves in the snow with his father and younger brother. Repeatedly, he was taught not to waste bullets and only use one per target, as they were expensive and precious where he lived. Zaitsev joined the Red Army in 1937 and by the time he volunteered to join the frontline, he had already reached the rank of Sergeant Major. He joined the 62ndArmy which was defending Stalingrad as part of a rifle regiment. 

His commanding officer immediately noticed his talent and tried to test his skill with a quick shooting challenge. He pointed out an enemy officer that was located about 2,500 feet away. Vasily took a single shot and killed the target using his standard-issue Mosin-Nagant rifle. 

Vasily Zaitsev’s partner was Nikolay Kulikov and his favourite tactic was a strategy called “sixes”. He would cover an area from three different directions, assigning both a scout and an experienced sniper to each post. Following the correct rules of a sniper – hiding in a variety of places and changing every few shots – he managed to achieve 225 verified kills within 7 days.

 

Vasily Zaitsev and Major Konig

Perhaps the most well-known sniper story in Stalingrad is the sniper duel between Vasily Zaitsev and Major Konig. The Germans were getting increasingly concerned about this undefeatable Soviet sniper who was just impossible to locate. Nazi High Command had ordered Konig, headmaster of “Berlin’s Sniper School”, to hunt down Zaitsev and kill him. The sources and accounts of the duel are probably highly biased or contain false information as they all come from either Zaitsev or the Soviet Army. There is also no documentation on the German side for which sniper by the name of “Konig” was sent to Stalingrad, nor for the existence of a sniper-training school in Berlin. Thus, many speculators believe that the tale was either modified, incorrectly recorded, or even entirely fake. 

It took little time for Zaitsev to hear about Konig’s arrival. A captured German POW had boasted that he would not survive for much longer, as the Nazis had sent in their best marksman. A journalist travelled around with Zaitsev as he searched for Konig, waiting for the perfect moment to get a first-hand account of the killing. At one point, as Zaitsev was waiting for his nemesis to appear, the journalist stood up to point out a moving figure in the distance. Konig instantly fired his gun and Zaitsev’s journalist companion fell back, dead. 

From this point onwards, Vasily Zaitsev continued with his partner, Kulikov. The duo attempted to locate Konig’s hiding place, and Kulikov fired a blank shot in order to catch his attention. He then raised a helmet as bait, trying to entice Konig into shooting at it. Sure enough, a rifle shot rang out, Zaitsev’s companion drew down the helmet as if the fake target had been killed, and Konig’s muzzle flash gave a rough idea of where he was hiding. 

At this point, Major Konig raised his head above a sheet of corrugated iron he was lying behind, wrongly believing that he had shot the Soviet Union’s best sniper and that his mission was complete. In response to his enemy’s location being revealed, Vasily took his shot and killed the foolish and unsuspecting German sniper. 

Konig dies, Zaitsev lives on. 

Vasily Zaitsev taught other snipers and was decorated with numerous prestigious awards, “Hero of the Soviet Union” and “Medal for the Defence of Stalingrad” to name a couple. The sniper duel was depicted in the generally-inaccurate 2001 film, Enemy At The Gates.

 

Female Snipers

It was not just the men who fought as snipers at Stalingrad. Hundreds of female snipers were trained to fight on the Soviet side, being taught how to aim and fire a rifle. One notable example is Tatiana Chernova. A character based upon her profile featured in Enemy At The Gates. Finding her parents dead in Belarus – killed by the Germans – after visiting to warn them of the danger, she furiously joined the Russian resistance. She was trained by the legendary Vasily Zaitsev and trekked through sewers to reach her post at Stalingrad. Although she had 24 confirmed kills, she never actually admitted to killing anyone. Instead, she preferred to use the phrase, “breaking sticks” or “I snapped X twigs”.  She left service when she stepped on a landmine which seriously injured her.

Another notable female sniper is Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who was often called “Lady Death”. She left her work at Kiev University when the Germans launched their invasion. When given an audition and told to target two enemy Romanians, she took out both with ease.

Both male and female snipers played a crucial role in the defence of Stalingrad and inspired others to follow suit. They were the courageous, unrelenting, merciless killers of the Soviet Union that refused to give in until the end. The Battle of Stalingrad came to a close on February 2, 1943, after over five months of desperate conflict, with a Russian victory. The disastrous defeat for Hitler, drained the morale and supplies of his troops. Undoubtedly, the Soviet victory owed in part to the efforts of the brave Red Army snipers.

 

What do you think of the Red Army snipers? Let us know below.

Joshua Potts writes at The Augustus blog here.

The Nazi Holocaust is one of the most dreadful and infamous events in history – and of the most important ways to remember it is through survivor testimonies. Here, Amy Kim discusses the importance of survivor testimony of genocide in the context of the Holocaust and her own experience of meeting a former Korean comfort woman from the time of the Japanese invasion of Korea.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz concentration camp in summer 1944. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA 3., available  here .

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz concentration camp in summer 1944. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA 3., available here.

The dread in my heart when I listened to Holocaust survivor HannsLoewenbach recountbeing identified on the streets of Berlin byan SS officer (and formerclassmate) is a feeling no history textbook can induce. The uniqueness of each survivor’s testimony allows us to present the tragedy of the Nazi Holocaust in the most compelling and lasting way, allowing readers to attempt to conceptualize its historical singularity and unthinkable horrors.Survivor testimonies provide painful but historically essential information no other sources could ever reveal. Though rightly considered “singular,” there is nevertheless an increasingly terrifying danger of a recurrence of genocidal ethnic violence, making it crucial to teach and learn the Holocaust through survivors’ accounts.

 

Loewenbach’s testimony

In his testimony, Loewenbachdescribes the discriminationthat began long before Hitler’s rule:he remembers being beaten upin publicby 10 classmates just for being Jewishwhilethe rest of the student body looked on passively. After Hitler took power and began stripping Jews of rights and then deporting them to concentration camps, Loewenbach made the desperate decision to swim across the icy Baltic waters to Denmark to plead for protection. As soon as he reached these shores, however, a Danish officer confronted him and told him to swim back to Berlin, threatening that he would otherwise be turned over to German officers - a fate that meant certain death. 

Though pedagogically, and therefore politically, indispensable, the powerful effects of survivor testimony by no means exclusively serve students. If Loewenbach had not decided to speak up, historians themselves might never have known this specific detail about life in Nazi Germany and its surrounding polities. Neither could historians have otherwise divined Loewenbach’s incredulity when a German officer asked him, “Aren’t you happy?” when offered a spot in the German Army, or similar surprise when his former classmate-turned SS officer offered to forge a passport for him instead of turning him in.

 

Survivor Testimonies

The accumulation of Holocaust survivor testimony not only fills an objective lacunae in the historical record, but also helps preserve politically necessary examples of this atrocity in order to prevent its recurrence. If revisionist historians value “official” records and secondary sources shorn of emotion over primary sources because they presume that survivor testimonies are “unreliable” and “trauma-based,” they are failing to employ the most vivid and effective method to record the Holocaust, a catastrophe whose memory must be preserved to ensure a brighter future. In addition, especially because survivors often recount feeling fearful of revealing their histories, we must be especially proactive in seeking out and preserving their testimonies. Loewenbach famously said “Evil does not need your hate, just your indifference” after first encountering Elie Wiesel, a fellow Holocaust survivor and acclaimed author of Night. In turn, Wiesel told Loewenbach that they must speak out about the Holocaust for those whose lives were taken and could not speak for themselves. 

I vividly remember therainy day in May of 2017 when I had the privilege of interviewing a former Korean comfort woman, who had beenforced into sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation of Koreaduring the Second World War. Her name was Yi Ok-Seon. Yi had also initially hidden her past, avoidingpersonal shame (and blame)by concealingher victimizationby Japanese military officers. Like Loewenbach, however, she could not endure the possibility that victimslike her might be erased fromhistory, ultimately inspiringher to speak out at countless conferences and commemorations, in addition to me, a high schoolerworking on a humbledocumentary. I still remember the atmosphere in the room weighingdown on me and the angst in her voice as she said, “We are all over the age of 90, and all we want is for the Japanese to listen and apologize.”

In studying historical events, students often empathize with past plights using relatable personal experience, but this is rarely the case for genocide or the Holocaust. For the average student, it is difficult to understand the unique horrors of the Holocaust when our access is primarily through secondary sources - including competing popular media narratives. Only survivor testimonies capture emotions and humanity of the very people who endured those horrors and thereby facilitate an unmediated, empathetic response from students. It is time for us to realize that in considering the pedagogical and political reasons for preserving primary source testimony, we must not overlook the psychological imperativeto hear the voices of the tortured and the dead. The preservation ofsurvivor testimonynot only enriches the learningof history throughoriginal accounts that offer a genuine connection across generations, but also preserve the voices of past martyrs providing, a priceless tool for building a better future.

 

What do you think of the importance of survivor testimonies of genocides? Let us know below.

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Vietnam War remains probably the most important war for America since World War Two. In the battle to contain communism, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers went to Vietnam – and many nurses were closely involved with them. In the concluding article of the ‘Nurses in War’ series, Matt Goolsby tells us about trauma nurse Deanna McGookin.

The previous articles in the series are on US Civil War nurses Clara Barton (here) and Cornelia Hancock (here), World War One nurse Julia Catherine Stimson (here), World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle (here), and the Chief Nurse for the US in the Korean War, Eunice Coleman (here).

A US Army hospital in Vietnam.

A US Army hospital in Vietnam.

The Years before a ‘Police Action’

After the Korean War had ended, an unstable peace existed in Asia. America was reeling from the McCarthy probes that seemed to take place under every nook and cranny, the purpose of which was to expose potential communists.

The United States had helped stop the communist aggression in South Korea. Now there were two independent countries on the Korean Peninsula, and an uneasy truce.

The threat of nuclear war was also very real as the Soviet Union possessed radioactive material and had built, as well as detonated, multi-kiloton platform devices. 

As China and the Soviet Union were expanding their territories, the United States was highly concerned about the potential fall of nations to Marxist doctrines. 

The heightening tensions of a further ‘Red Scare’ increased both locally and globally.

Americans were not ready for another declaration of war, so a looming ‘Police Action’ was on the horizon.

 

French Occupation in Southeast Asia

During World War II the Japanese had met with strong resistance from the Viet Minh when they invaded Southeast Asia. The Viet Minh had been assisted by China, the Soviet Union, and the United States with arms and military training since they had a shared purpose.

Once the war had ended, the Viet Minh set their sights against the French occupying forces. Ho Chi Minh, himself a communist, was the leader of these guerilla armies.

French Indochina, which was largely comprised of modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, had been a French colony since the late 19thcentury. As many countries learn the hard way, nations often don’t want to be under the rule of a foreign occupier.

From 1946 until 1954, the French battled the ever-strengthening forces of the Viet Minh, who had been trained by the People’s Republic of China from 1950. This was called the First Indochina War.

American involvement with Vietnam had started back in 1946 to thwart the ever-expanding communist influence.

The French forces had been bruised and battered by the Viet Minh for almost a decade and finally surrendered at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954, negotiating peace as well as granting sovereignty to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Vietnam was still considered two independent nations by this time as the Geneva Accord signed by the belligerents split the country at the 17thparallel for 300 days with the guarantee of a ‘free’ election being held.

This sounds eerily reminiscent of the Korean peninsula. The oft-quoted words that Winston Churchill said in a 1948 speech to the House of Commons: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”, has been demonstrated repeatedly in East and Southeast Asia. 

 

America’s ‘Police Action’ Begins

On November 5th, 1955, the United States’ conflict, or what is known as the Second Indochina War, began. 

Just two years after the Korean War ended, America was again involved in an armed ideological conflict with communism. Many Americans were highly concerned and tense because of nuclear proliferation and the growing ‘commie’ scare.

The belligerents on the communist side were: North Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union along with their allies. The allies involved on the anti-communist side were: South Vietnam, South Korea, the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and several others.

Since this war was never officially declared by the United States Congress, it remains a military ‘police’ action that has caused much angst and a continued rift to this day.

History will eventually render a judgment as to whether or not this conflict was necessary, but in my opinion, as somebody who has met many people who participated in the war, it has left an indelible scar permanently on America’s national psyche.

As an example of the wounding it caused, many veterans either became mired in drug abuse to escape the pain or took their lives because of the moral conflict it caused.

America as a nation must continue to help and wisely counsel those who fought in this war so that they can experience some level of healing.

 

United States’ involvement escalates

In December of 1960, the Viet Cong or what was officially called the National Liberation Front, was created to be the anti-government disrupter of South Vietnam and to disrupt and render ineffectual American military advisors. Their aim was also to drive out foreign influence with the eventual goal of uniting the North and South under communist rule.

The Republic of South Vietnam at this time was being governed by Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been appointed Prime Minister during the 1954 Geneva treaty. Mr. Diem was a Roman Catholic, anti-communist, nationalist, and social conservative.

The Vietnamese people were mostly followers of Buddha and had a deep suspicion of Diem’s government. Unfortunately, many of their suspicions were proved correct as Diem governed with more of an autocratic bent and whose administration was rife with corruption.

In 1961, after the election of John F. Kennedy, who decided to draw a ‘line in the sand’ against communism, troops began to be authorized for the increasing conflict between the North and the South. 

By 1963, there were 16,000 U.S. troops in Southeast Asia. This was in contrast to the 900 ‘advisers’ that President Eisenhower had sent starting in 1955.

Also in 1963, the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) established Operation Nightingale to recruit nurses for the ever-increasing conflict.

 

The Nursing Field expands

Deanna McGookin was born on February 1st, 1941 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Samuel and Violet McGookin. She was the oldest of three girls, which included Violet and Judith.

The family immigrated to the United States through Detroit, Michigan in June 1950

They settled in Phoenix, Arizona where she went to West Phoenix High School, graduating in 1958.

By 1965, Deanna had become an Assistant Head Nurse in the local Phoenix hospital emergency room. This experience helped her learn how to take care of traumatic injuries and assist with the associated shock.

She joined the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) in 1968 and was given an assignment to Vietnam because of her Emergency Room experience. 

Deanna, like many women during the Vietnam War era, felt an obligation to serve others who may not have had a choice as to whether to go to war or not.

The Vietnam War had more than 5,000 American nurses who served during its entirety. For the first time, 21% of them were men serving as officers in the ANC.

Of these more than 5,000, most had less than 2 years of practice in their profession. The average age of a nurse during the war was 23.6 years. 

The horrors of war must have compounded the already difficult task at hand, especially for those who hadn’t experienced traumatic injuries.

Deanna’s experience was the exception: “. . . I spent my year in Vietnam at the 67th evac in Qui Nhon, which was the headquarters of II Corps. The conditions were pretty much what I expected - but not the bulk, the quantity of the wounded. In Phoenix [Arizona, hospital emergency room], we were used to seeing one or two come in at a time. Now you were talking 50 or 60 at a time, with a wide variety of traumatic wounds. I had seen traumatic amputations of extremities from cotton-picking combines in Arizona. So that was not a horrendous sight for me, as it was for some others. The bulk . . . that there were just so many of them coming in at once . . . that was the issue for me. You had these helicopters land and there could be 60-70 casualties with various stages of injuries. Some of them might not have been as serious as others. It depended on the season. In Tet of '69 we were getting 200-300 patients coming in a day.”

As her tour progressed, Deanna, like so many others had before, began to question the sanity and morality of the Vietnam War: “We all had questions as to what we were doing in Vietnam, why we were there. We didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Day after day, things seemed to be pretty much the same . . . they'd take a hill, lose a hill, take a hill, lose a hill. Being in the age group where motherhood and children were a big factor, I think you do think: "What are we doing to the future generations of this country? What sort of genius would this blond young man have been had he been allowed to go about his life and do his own thing?" Most of the time you were so busy, just literally, physically busy that--although these thoughts stayed with you for awhile--you soon forgot about them, because it always seemed like there was someone else coming in to take the previous patient's place.”

 

In salute to the ‘Nightingales’

American nurses found different ways to deal with their pain and the emotional wear and tear they experienced. Some found solace in sex, drugs, or alcohol. Most of them just suppressed the pain until they could deal with it later. 

One of the more positive ways of dealing with pain was the way Deanna handled it: “It wasn't so depressing all the time, I must admit. We went on medcaps, medical missions to remote villages, places where there was no regular medical care. We did reconstructive surgery on children, gave them false limbs, and taught them how to get around. These kinds of things helped relieve some of the frustrations I was feeling.”

After her tour had ended, Deanna came back to the states and settled back in Phoenix, Arizona. As with all veterans of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) haunted her. 

She describes the affects PTSD had on her: “the young boy down the block had a car that backfired all the time. Every time it backfired, I was on the floor and under the bed."

Deanna would go on to serve in Afghanistan and attain the rank of Colonel in the Army Nurse Corps. There’s no evidence that she ever married, a common thread with the other nurses researched for these articles. 

Colonel Deanna McGookin passed away on September 14th, 2013 at the age of 72, having served her country for many years. 

She represents the best of what America has to offer and her life is a tribute to the sacrifices that so many made to help the men and women who’ve faithfully served our country.

May they never be forgotten.

 

What do you think of the article? Let us know below.

References

Dan Freedman and Jacqueline Rhoads, editors, “Nurses in Vietnam: The Forgotten Veterans.”, Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, Inc., 1987.

“The Vietnam War and its timeline”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War

“Nursing and Medicine in the Vietnam War”, https://ceufast.com/blog/nursing-and-medicine-in-the-vietnam-war

“Find a Grave: Deanna McGookin”, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119126532/deanna-mcgookin#source

“Deanna McGookin on Family Search”, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G5MV-9S4Y?i=5451&cc=1916040

“Women and War”, http://issues.texasobserver.org/pdf/ustxtxb_obs_1987_07_17_issue.pdf

“Winston Churchill 1948 House of Commons speech”, http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/those-who-fail-to-learn-from-history-are-doomed-to-repeat-it-sir-winston-churchill/

Erwin Rommel had been a military man for decades by the time that World War II broke out. Having fought in World War I for Germany, he was a key general for Nazi Germany by the time of World War II. During the war, Rommel was to play a major role in North Africa, and even tried to remove Hitler from power. Samuel Mitcham Jr., the author of a new book on Rommel (Amazon USAmazon UK), explains.

Erwin Rommel in 1942. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-013-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available  here .

Erwin Rommel in 1942. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-013-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available here.

The Desert Fox. The words conjure up an image of a dust-covered, sunburned military genius, making quick and incredibly brilliant decisions against overwhelming forces. He is seen as a Godlike and almost infallible figure, winning victory after astonishing victory over his numerically superior but less astute opponents, yet fighting a war without hate and even with a degree of chivalry. This myth is not entirely accurate, of course, but there is a great deal of truth in it.

 

EARLY LIFE

Erwin Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Wuerttemberg, in the southwestern region of Imperial Germany known as Swabia, on November 15, 1891. His father, Erwin Rommel, Sr., was the headmaster of a secondary school, and young Rommel grew up in a stable, comfortable middle-class German environment. In many ways, he was a typical Swabian: self-reliant, pragmatic, thrifty, with a strong work ethic and a streak of stubbornness. He was a simple, practical young man and would remain so until the day he died.

Despite the lack of military background in his family, he decided to become a soldier. With his father’s help, he gained an appointment as a Fahnenjunker(officer-cadet) in an infantry regiment in the isolated garrison town of Weingarten. Here, lonely and away from home for the first time, he had an affair with a woman who was a fruit seller. He was shocked when she turned up pregnant. In the class-conscious world of the Second Reich, however, she was not considered officer wife material. He decided to marry her anyway; then his father pointed out that he would have to resign his commission if he did so. It was 1913, and many could see what was to become World War I on the horizon. If he left the army now, Professor Rommel pointed out, everyone would think he was a coward. That settled the issue for Lieutenant Rommel. He broke up with his girlfriend, although he provided financial support for his daughter for the rest of his life.

Erwin Rommel learned his lesson. He married Lucie Mollin, the daughter of a West Prussian landowner, and they remained happily married the rest of his life. He apparently didn’t even think about being unfaithful.

 

1STLEUTENANT ROMMEL TO CAPTAIN ROMMEL

Rommel joined the army in 1910 and was commissioned in January 1912. His career was not out of the ordinary until World War I broke out. The battlefield changed him from an ordinary, if overly serious second lieutenant into a first-class warrior. As Desmond Young, who fought in the Indian Army against Rommel in Africa and went on to write the bestselling Rommel: The Desert Fox (Amazon USAmazon UK), would explain, “From the moment that he first came under fire he stood out as the perfect fighting animal: cold, cunning, ruthless, untiring, quick of decision, incredibly brave.” He fought on the Western Front until the fall of 1915, when he was transferred to an elite battalion of mountain shock troops. He served with them in France, Romania, and Italy. In October 1917, during the Battle of Mount Matajur, Rommel (now a 1stlieutenant) took charge of four companies in addition to his own and captured two Italian brigades and several smaller units, totaling 9,000 men and 81 guns. His total strength never exceeded 800 men. A couple of days later, he captured the entire Italian 1stInfantry Division at Longarone: 10,000 men, 18 guns and 200 machine guns. For this feat, he was awarded the Pour le Merite, which was the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor when granted to someone so young. He was promoted to captain shortly after that.

After the Armistice ended World War I in late 1918, Rommel was selected for the Reichsheer, as the peacetime army was called. Here, he was a content family man. He took to marriage enthusiastically. At home, he was good-tempered and an excellent fix-it man. His only flaw was attempting to play the violin—apparently without a great deal of success.

Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Rommel’s political convictions and his ambivalent relationship with the Nazis have been the subject of controversy in recent years. Like many Germans, he supported Hitler at first—at least to a degree. He was pleased with Hitler’s successful economic efforts to end the Depression in Germany, as well as his public works programs (including the building of the autobahnen), his renunciation of the odorous Treaty of Versailles, his rebuilding of the military, and his reoccupation of former German areas taken from the Reich after World War I. Only gradually did this change. Sacred vows were broken, and outlandish statements which Rommel and most Germans dismissed as wild rhetoric turned out to be uttered in deadly seriousness. But all that was in the future.

 

MILITARY CAREER TAKES OFF

Rommel was a lieutenant colonel in 1935, teaching at the War School in Dresden, when he wrote a book based on his lectures and World War I experiences. It became a best seller and Adolf Hitler read it. He determined to meet the author and had Rommel attached to his escort for the Nuremberg Party Rally of 1936. The Fuehrer liked the Swabian and named him commander of the Fuehrer Bodyguard Battalion during the occupations of Czechoslovakia and Memel, and during the invasion of Poland in 1939. He promoted Rommel to major general on August 23, 1939.

In Poland, Rommel saw the blitzkrieg at first hand. Although he had no armored experience, he saw the future lay in the armored branch. After the fall of Warsaw, he asked Hitler for the command of a panzer division, and the dictator gave it to him.

Erwin Rommel had a natural grasp for mobile warfare. As commander of the 7thPanzer Division during the French campaign (1940), he captured 97,468 men and captured or destroyed 458 tanks and armored cars, 277 guns, 64 anti-tank guns, 4,000 to 5,000 trucks, tons of supplies, five French admirals, and about 20 Allied generals. He had approximately 10,000 men and 218 tanks, mostly inferior Czech T-38s.

Rommel was on occupation duty in southwestern France in early 1941 when the Italian 10thArmy in Libya collapsed under British attack. Hitler ordered Rommel to North Africa as commander of the Afrika Korps (15thand 21stPanzer Divisions) to restore the situation. Here he won victory after victory and made himself a renowned military general. In his First Cyrenaican Campaign (1941), Rommel pushed on to the Egyptian frontier and overran all of Libya except Tobruk, smashing the British XIII Corps (the former Western Desert Force) in the process. With less than one full panzer division, he destroyed the British 2ndArmoured Division. Only four of its tanks escaped.

 

RESILIENT AND RESOURCEFUL AGAINST GREAT ODDS

Rommel was forced to lay siege to Tobruk. It lasted 242 days. The British made three attempts to liberate Tobruk: Operations Brevity, Battleaxe and Crusader. Rommel was severely handicapped, because the British sank 85% of its supplies, and he had only 15% of his needed petroleum and ammunition. Fighting an entire British army with only two divisions, Rommel destroyed 814 British tanks and armored cars, while losing only 167 himself. He had only about 80 tanks left when he was forced to retreat in December 1941.

“If Rommel had an outstanding quality, it was resilience,” British Brigadier Desmond Young wrote later. “He was like one of those weighted toy figures, no sooner was he knocked down than he was on his feet again.” In January 1942, when he received a shipment of 50 new panzers, he assumed the offensive again. This was the Second Cyrenaican Campaign. In five days, he destroyed or captured 299 tanks and armored cars, 147 guns, and 935 prisoners. He lost three tanks and 14 men. 

The British dug into the Gazala Line, which they enhanced with a million mines. Rommel outflanked it on May 26 and started a battle that lasted until June 21. He had 333 panzers and 228 mostly useless Italian tanks against 900 British tanks. The British 8thArmy had fewer than 100 “runners” when it retreated into Egypt. Rommel overran Tobruk and took 19,000 prisoners. Hitler was so pleased that he promoted the Desert Fox to field marshal.

After the fall of Tobruk, Rommel invaded Egypt, even though he had only about 55 runners. A heavily reinforced 8thArmy checked him at El Alamein, just 60 miles from the Nile. The British then launched a series of counterattacks against Panzer Army Afrika, aimed primarily at Rommel’s Italian units. Rommel checked them all.

The Desert Fox launched a last-chance offensive at Alam Halfa Ridge on August 30. He had 259 panzers. Montgomery had 713 tanks and absolute command of the air. Rommel lost almost 3,000 men and 49 tanks. Monty lost 1,750 men and 67 tanks. It was the turning point of the Desert War.

The decisive battle in North Africa began on October 23, 1942. When it started, Panzer Army Afrika had 104,000 men (half of them German) against Montgomery’s 195,000. The Germans were outnumbered 4 to 1 in men, 5 to 1 in tanks (excluding Italian tanks), 3 to 1 in anti-tank guns, and 3.6 to 1 in aircraft. Rommel’s forces were dangerously low on fuel, making a battle of maneuver impossible. Rommel had 293 tanks when the battle began. Only a dozen of them survived the battle. The British lost about 500 tanks.

In December 1943, Rommel’s Army Group B assumed command of the 7thArmy, 15thArmy, and Armed Forces Netherlands. They were part of Rundstedt’s OB West (Oberbefehlshaber West), the German Supreme Command in the West. OB West had 58 divisions. Hitler had 151 divisions fighting on the Eastern Front.

 

DEFEAT, CONSPIRACY, AND SUICIDE

Rommel significantly thickened the defenses of Fortress Europe. When the Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, Rommel was able to check but not repulse the Great Invasion. Meanwhile, Rommel learned that Hitler and his cronies were committing mass murders in the East. He turned against the Nazis and joined the conspiracy to overthrow Hitler and his regime. 

Field Marshal Rommel was seriously wounded by an Allied fighter-bomber on July 17. Three days later, the conspirators detonated a bomb under Hitler’s table, severely injuring him. After the coup attempt failed, the Gestapo launched a full-scale investigation. They discovered Rommel’s part in the plot. On October 14, 1944, a pair of Nazi generals offered Rommel a choice: stand trial in front of the People’s Court or commit suicide. Under the doctrine of Sippenhaft—collective family responsibility—the Nazis would then arrest his family, and they would end up in a concentration camp, if they were lucky. However, if the field marshal committed suicide, they said, his family would be spared, and would even be allowed to draw his pension. Rommel declared that he would be dead in 15 minutes. He took a cyanide pill provided by the Nazis and was dead within half an hour. Thus ended the life of the military general.

On this occasion, the Nazis actually kept their word. They did not harm Rommel’s family. Lucie Mollin Rommel died of natural causes in 1971. Their only child, Manfred, died in 2013. Gertrude, Rommel’s illegitimate daughter, passed away in 2000.

Let us know what you think about the article below. 

 

Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. is the author of newly-released Desert Fox: The Storied Military Career of Erwin Rommel (Regnery History; March 12, 2019 - Amazon USAmazon UK), and more than forty other history books. He has appeared on the History Channel and the BBC, been a visiting professor at West Point, and served as an Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.

The Wall Street Journal praised his previous title, Vicksburg: The Bloody Siege that Turned the Tide of the Civil War (Regnery History; June 4, 2018 – Amazon USAmazon UK), as a work that “thoroughly recounts the series of battles leading to the gates of Vicksburg and illuminates some underappreciated aspects of the war.”

He lives with his family in Monroe, Louisiana, where he is now devoted to writing military history books.

Women’s History Month begins on March 1 every year to recognize and celebrate the contribution of women to monumental and ground-breaking moments in history and how women will contribute to events in the future. This year, the theme of Women’s History Month is ‘Visionary Women’, and who fits this theme better than the women who fought and still fight for women’s suffrage? 

The team at Historic Newspapers have put together an interactive timeline which highlights the key dates in the history of women’s suffrage, and uses graphics and images to describe women’s right to vote.

Gaps between when women were given limited and full voting rights by selected countries. Image produced by, and re-printed with the full permission of, Historic Newspapers, available  here .

Gaps between when women were given limited and full voting rights by selected countries. Image produced by, and re-printed with the full permission of, Historic Newspapers, available here.

The Right To Vote

The fight for women’s suffrage, or the right for women to vote in general elections, began in the late 1800s and has continued ever since. After a phenomenal struggle, with campaigns both peaceful and forceful, changes started in New Zealand in 1893 when the British colony made the first steps in granting women the right to vote. Unfortunately, women all over the world are still fighting for the freedom they deserve.

With the Vatican City and the United Arab Emirates still not granting voting rights to their female citizens, the fight for global suffrage for women still exists. In the majority of other countries women do have the right to vote; however due to strong stigmas held in some societies, it is a constant struggle.

 

Full Voting Rights

Something that is not spoken about enough is the disparity in the date women were granted limited enfranchisement and the date that women received full voting rights. Broken down, this means that although some women were given limited rights to vote, it may have taken decades for this to be granted to the full female population and across all aspects of voting.

It may come as a surprise that the United Kingdom took ten years for full voting rights to be given, after initial, limited enfranchisement in 1918. Initially, only upper class and privileged women were given the opportunity to vote in some elections. This is also shown in other developed countries such as South Africa, which took 63 years to grant women full rights after initial enfranchisement, and Australia, which took a staggering 68 years

 

Celebrating Women’s History

Women’s suffrage has made progress over the decades, however oppression in women still exists and there is a long way to go before equal rights will be attributed globally. This Women’s History Month, take the time to read, learn and talk about what needs to be done in the future, whilst remembering the visionary women of the past.

From the 1980s American Ana Montes supplied the Communist Cuban government with very valuable information. During the 1980s she helped Cuba support communist insurgencies in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and she continued to help Fidel Castro’s Cuba even after the end of the Cold War. Scott Rose explains.

You can read past articles in the series about spies who shared American atomic secrets with the Soviet Union (read more here), the 1950s “Red Scare” (read more here), and the American who supplied the Soviets with secrets in the 1980s (read more here).

The mugshot of Ana Montes after her arrest.

The mugshot of Ana Montes after her arrest.

Throughout the Cold War and in the years afterward, the United States has had to combat spies who were either giving or selling information to America’s enemies. The majority of the cases involved individuals who were aiding the Soviet Union, as the Soviets had a powerful and proven espionage network around the world. Most observers probably wouldn’t think of the small Caribbean nation of Cuba as a country capable of carrying out successful spying operations against the U.S. However, the Cuban intelligence services were vastly underestimated, and they were able to acquire top-secret information from an American mole named Ana Montes for nearly two decades. 

 

The Makings of a Spy

Ana Montes was one of four children born to U.S. Army doctor Alberto Montes and his wife, Emilia. The family moved several times during Ana’s early years before settling in Maryland, where Alberto became a well-regarded psychiatrist. While Dr. Montes undoubtedly helped many people, he was at times cruel to his children, losing his temper and beating them with a belt. This abuse had emotional effects on Ana, as she became distant and aloof at a young age. Years later, her sister, who was only a year older, would remark that she never really knew or felt very close to Ana. One of the effects of having an authoritarian father was that she seemed to gravitate toward those who were less powerful, or “underdogs.” The parents would divorce while Ana was in her teens.

In spite of her turbulent home life, Montes was an excellent student. During her high school years, she was viewed by her peers as extremely intelligent and perpetually serious, but this paid off as she graduated near the top of her class, with a 3.9 grade point average. She would move on to the University of Virginia, where her academic success continued. While at Virginia, she got to participate in a study-abroad program in Spain for a year.

It was during her time in Spain that Montes began to harbor anti-U.S. sentiments. She began a relationship with a fellow student in Spain, a young Marxist from Argentina. This was her first real boyfriend, and to a certain extent, she fell under his leftist spell. He often told her of American support for authoritarian governments in Latin America, such as those of Somoza in Nicaragua and Pinochet in Chile. Together they attended anti-American rallies, and in time she came to genuinely buy into her boyfriend’s theories and adopt them as her own. Eventually she returned to Virginia, earning a degree in foreign affairs in 1979.

Montes’ brother and older sister both worked for the FBI, and after graduating, she took a job as a typist at the Department of Justice. At night, she attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, and eventually she obtained her masters’ degree in Advanced Foreign Studies. During her time at Johns Hopkins, one of the main topics of discussion was the civil war in Nicaragua. Montes detested the fact the United States was sending aid to the Contra forces that were fighting against Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government. She performed well at the Department of Justice, and in 1984 she received a high-level security clearance, passing an FBI background check in the process.

While at Johns Hopkins, Cuban intelligence services identified Ana Montes as a potential spy. A former Cuban agent later stated that the Cubans have often looked to find American students with strong political leanings who appear destined for government jobs. Reportedly, one of Montes’ schoolmates at Hopkins was already in contact with the Cubans, and set up a dialogue with Ana. At first, Montes was asked to help the Cubans with small tasks, such as translations. However, the Cubans knew the passion Montes had for the Sandinistas, and when they asked her for American information about Nicaragua, they had pressed the right button. She dove in headfirst, and by the end of 1984, she had become a major Cuban asset.

 

No Turning Back

In early 1985, Montes made a secret trip to Cuba to receive intelligence training, and disguised herself by wearing a wig. The Cubans knew that they had an agent with star potential in Montes, and they went out of their way to make sure she got a favorable impression of Cuba and its government while she was there. They even introduced her to a young Cuban gentleman who showed her around the country’s cities, beaches, and countryside. During her training in Cuba she learned how to decipher coding and make information drops. They taught her how to pass a lie detector test if she came under any suspicion.

Ana’s Cuban handlers urged her to begin applying for government jobs that would give her more access to the most highly sensitive American intelligence. Not long after returning to Washington, she was hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Cubans could not have been much happier. Other than the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) handles more classified data on foreign governments than any other sector of the American government. The DIA analyzes intelligence and informs American leaders, all the way up to the President, of the military capabilities and intentions of foreign governments, and most of the information is acquired from human spies. From the beginning of her time at the DIA, Montes misled her superiors and much of the government by making Cuban espionage threats seem minimal when they were actually very serious. She also downplayed Cuba’s role in the civil wars taking place in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In truth, the Cubans had thousands of military advisors on the ground in both countries.

Montes seemed to be the perfect employee, for both the United States and Cuba. At her DIA job, she displayed a steely efficiency, and was known for being unapproachable by her co-workers. The intelligence community tends to be very tight, but Montes remained a virtual loner while her superiors recognized her obvious intelligence. She could turn on the charm, but only when it was helpful for serving her purposes. At night, she worked at her other job, as a Cuban spy. Using a radio, she received numeric messages from Cuban intelligence, which she then decoded with Cuban decryption software on her personal computer. She sent information back in the same way, but Montes was too smart to bring classified papers home from the DIA. Instead, she was actually able to memorize the content of highly sensitive documents at work before translating it into numeric codes for the Cubans. Sometimes she would pass information to Cuban agents at crowded restaurants in Washington. All the while, the DIA considered Montes to be the ideal employee, and she received several performance-based promotions.

In time, Montes was named chief DIA analyst for El Salvador and Nicaragua, and at that point she started doing serious damage to American operations. In El Salvador, the American-backed government was fighting a civil war against Marxist rebels who were receiving support from Cuba and the Soviet Union. The United States supplied military equipment to the Salvadoran army, and covertly sent a Special Forces unit to help advise and train the government forces. In early 1987, the DIA sent Montes to El Salvador, where she visited the hidden Special Forces base. After she left El Salvador, Montes gave the location of the base to the Cubans. Shortly thereafter, Cuban-led Salvadoran guerrilla fighters attacked the base, and an American Green Beret was killed in the ensuing firefight. Amazingly, Montes eluded suspicion even though she was one of only a handful of people who had even known the base had existed.

Eventually, the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua ended, and American intelligence efforts in those countries were scaled back. Ana Montes was put in charge of political and military intelligence on Cuba, and her Cuban handlers couldn’t believe their luck. A Cuban spy actually being put in charge of analyzing the Pentagon’s intelligence on Cuba seemed almost too good to be true. She promptly gave the Cubans the names of four American spies in Cuba, and all four were arrested. Still, Montes was not considered as a source for the intelligence leaks. Her bosses at the DIA were dazzled by her knowledge of Cuban affairs, chalking it up to her tireless work ethic. They even nicknamed her “The Queen of Cuba,” never knowing just how fitting the moniker was. During the early years of the Bill Clinton Administration, Montes fed misinformation about Cuba all the way to the White House. She led the American government into believing Cuba’s posture toward the U.S. was purely defensive, and that the Castro regime was nothing more than a harmless annoyance.

In 1996, a DIA co-worker became suspicious of Montes, and reported concerns about her. However, these concerns couldn’t be substantiated, as they were based entirely on the co-worker’s “gut feeling.” Montes was questioned, but in short time, the situation blew over. The next year, she even received a Certificate of Distinction for her performance from George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, Ana was approaching mid-life and having thoughts of settling down to have a family. Her role as a spy had made it difficult for her to have relationships, but the Cubans had no intention of letting her retire. They sent her a Cuban lover, but after a few days Montes lost interest in the gentleman.

 

The Price of Spying

The FBI busted a Cuban spy ring called “Wasp” in Miami in 1998, and one of the arresting agents was Montes’ sister Lucy. Both Ana and the Cubans were horrified, and for several months, she heard nothing from her handlers. Worse, she became paranoid about getting caught, suffering through bouts of depression and panic. She started seeing a psychiatrist, although she couldn’t tell her doctor the true reason for her mental and emotional state. By the end of the year, the situation had died down and she was contacted by the Cubans once again. She even managed to receive a fellowship to the National Intelligence Council, and she was moved to CIA headquarters.

The FBI suspected there was an American government employee helping the Cubans, but the Bureau had little information to go on, other than suspecting the spy was using a Toshiba laptop. Eventually the FBI asked the DIA to look into the files of current and former employees. A DIA agent named Scott Carmichael led the investigation, and became convinced Montes was the spy. At first, the FBI rejected Carmichael’s theory, but in time it was decided to put Montes under surveillance, and she was observed making suspicious phone calls from pay phones. While examining her financial records, it was seen that she had bought a Toshiba laptop at a computer store in Virginia. The FBI obtained search authorization, and went inside Ana’s apartment one weekend while she was out of town. They found the laptop, and copied the hard drive. Later, they were able to sort through her purse while she was in a meeting at work. They found codes and a New York phone number that was traced to Cuban operatives.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI decided it was time to act. It was feared that Montes would supply information that the Cubans could in turn relay to the Taliban. She had completed her fellowship and was back at the DIA, and she was called to a meeting at the DIA Inspector General’s office. When she got there, two FBI agents were waiting for her. When they told her they were investigating a potential Cuban spy, her nerves betrayed her. She began sweating profusely, and her neck broke out in red patches. The agents had expected Montes to try to explain away any suspicions they had, but instead she asked for a lawyer. At that point, they placed her under arrest, charging her with conspiracy to commit espionage.

Ana Montes could have been given the death penalty for her actions, but she accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She remained defiant, insisting that her actions came as a result of America’s “unfair treatment” of Cuba, and remarking, “ Some things are worth going to prison for.”

The Cubans tried to free Montes by offering an exchange. Years earlier, an American named Assata Shakur had been convicted of killing a New Jersey State Trooper, but Shakur escaped from prison and somehow made it to Cuba. Fidel Castro’s government gave asylum to Shakur, and she still lives there. However, the Cubans offered to return Shakur to the United States in exchange for Montes, an offer that was rejected by the U.S. State Department. Montes is still serving her sentence at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth, Texas. The prison is the home of some of the most notorious female criminals in the United States, and Montes serves her time in solitary confinement.

 

What do you think of Ana Montes’ actions? Let us know below.

References

Pablo De Llano, “No Sign of Release for the Last Cuban Spy in a U.S. Jail” El Pais, March 8, 2017

Jim Popkin, “Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying for Cuba. Chances Are, You Haven’t Heard of Her” The Washington Post, April 18, 2013

Scott W. Carmichael, True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2007

Brian Latell, “New Revelations about Cuban Spy Ana Montes” The Miami Herald, August 2, 2014

Gentrification is typically seen as the process by which an area becomes wealthier, often resulting in changes to the inhabitants, businesses, recreational facilities, and cultural events. It is happening in places all around the globe, and as an illustration of this, here Anthony Ruggiero looks at the recent history of gentrification of the area of Brooklyn in New York City.

The Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 by Currier and Ives.

The Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 by Currier and Ives.

Time has always had a way of bringing about changes. During the latetwentieth century and into the twenty-first century, Brooklyn has undergone these changes through the process of gentrification. The book, The World InBrooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, edited by Judith N.DeSena and Timothy Shortell (Amazon USAmazon UK), discussed how the changes brought about by gentrification impacted Brooklyn not only culturally, but also aesthetically. Gentrification prompted changes in the population, industry and community, and the redevelopment of parks. At St. Joseph’s College, these changes were recognized and discussed through different brochures that advertised walking tours of these areas. The school itself also experienced developments and modifications made to its buildings.

 

Impacts of Gentrification

Throughout the years, Brooklyn has been recognized for its diverse population. According to DeSena and Shortell, these individuals are not just native-born; a large number of the population is foreign-born. This includes individuals from the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Eastern Asia, South America, Mexico and Central America, as well as South East Asia.[1]For example, people from Caribbean countries are the largest immigrant group, with approximately 302,000 Caribbean people making up the foreign-born population.[2]However, as parts of Brooklyn continued to experience gentrification, and the cost of living and obtaining an education increased, newcomers to the borough became less from majority foreign groups (blacks and Latinos), and more from white and Asian backgrounds, and more wealthier and educated homeowners.[3]As wealthier homeowners continued to move into areas in northern Brooklyn, studies show the displacement of black homeowners who could not afford the increased cost of living that their new neighbors could afford.[4]

Along with the change in population, gentrification also affected industry and the communities close to it. A prime example of this in Brooklyn is seen in Williamsburg. Initially, Williamsburg was a working-class community, made up of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, with a large number of manufacturing firms; DeSena and Shortell described the landscape of the neighborhood as, “gritty and disinvested.”[5]However, as the early 2000s carried on, businesses such as cafés, trendy thrift stores, vegetarian restaurants, lofts, galleries, and clubs opened; this business attracted new, younger, and more artistic individuals and students.[6]Thus, the landscape began to alternate. An example of this would be an image provided by DeSena and Shortell, which displayed the transformation of a rundown, hardware store into a boutique.[7]Another example of the changed community is the summer event of the Williamsburg Walk. Created by the Department of Transportation, the Williamsburg Walk was designed to celebrate the neighborhood’s individualism and artistry. Although many of the newer inhabitants of Williamsburg were in attendance, many longer-standing residents of Williamsburg, such as those form poorer Hispanic and Polish backgrounds, rarely attended the walk, highlighting the divide gentrification has created within the community.[8]

 

The Changes in Different Areas

St. Joseph’s College experienced changes, as well as the surrounding Clinton Hill area. According to a brochure,Clinton Hill in Bloom, the original allure of Clinton Hill was the mansions that belonged to oil tycoon Charles Pratt, as well as the brownstones surrounding the area. However, years later, the site of the mansions is what is now St. Joseph’s College and several apartment complexes. Even so, after interest in the history of the area remerged in the 1980s, it once again saw a resurgence as many people came to open houses and on walking tours to see the history and brownstones.[9]Despite this resurgence in interest the Clinton Hill area had always maintained a stable community. Another brochure, published by St. Joseph’s College, Our Neighborhood…Clinton Hill, discussed that industry made its way to the neighborhood in the form of supermarkets, antique shops, art supply stores, and health food stores.[10]

Further areas that were impacted by gentrification were the parks in Brooklyn. An example of this is Prospect Park. Built to rival Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park was a sight of much crime during the 1970s. After an outcry from the neighborhood to revive the park, Mayor of New York City at the time, Ed Koch, gave money to restoration projects, which were successful. However, according to DeSena and Shortell, the renewal of the park area attracted new businesses that have contributed to the gentrification in the area, as many of the residents could not afford the higher prices of the new businesses.[11]A walking tour of the Fort Greene Park brochure in the St Joseph’s College archive recognized these different restoration projects. The tour called for further funds to be raised for the awareness of the park in order to fund The Atlantic Terminal Renewal Area project to restore the park.[12]These restoration projects spanned different areas around Brooklyn, once again showing the power and reach of gentrification.

 

In Conclusion

The gentrification of Brooklyn has had its positive and negative affects. On the one hand, failing areas such as Williamsburg and Prospect Park were restored with new renewal projects and industry, attracting new people in the process. However, in attracting new people, the original inhabitants of the area have been pushed out. DeSena and Shortell’s bookoffers prime examples of these effects. The brochures provided by St. Joseph’s College also demonstrate that gentrification during this time had its effects in different areas in Brooklyn as well. And though the effects of gentrification are evident today, only time will tell how gentrification evolves in Brooklyn and the wider New York City area.

                  

 

This article has frequent references to the book The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, which is edited by Judith N.DeSena and Timothy Shortell. This book is available here: Amazon USAmazon UK

What do you think about gentrification? Does it impact your area?


[1]DeSena, Judith N., and Timothy Shortell. The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, 

   Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City.2012: 10-16

[2]The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City, pg.11.

[3]Ibid,21.

[4]Ibid,26.

[5]Ibid,91.

[6]Ibid, 91-92.

[7]Ibid, 93.

[8]Ibid, 89-90.

[9]St. Joseph’s College, NY, Clinton Hill in Bloom, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986

[10]St. Joseph’s College, NY, Our Neighborhood…Clinton Hil1

[11]Ibid, 124-128.

[12]St. Joseph’s College, NY, Fort Greene’s Finest The Park Blocks, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986

Bibliography

DeSena, Judith N., and Timothy Shortell. The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012.

St. Joseph’s College, NY, Clinton Hill in Bloom, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986.

St. Joseph’s College, NY,Fort Greene’s Finest The Park Blocks,McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s

The Zimmermann Telegram was the final piece that launched America into World War I. But what was the Zimmermann Telegram? And what were its consequences for World War One and beyond? Shelli Boyd explains.

Arthur Zimmermann, German Foreign Minister, whom the telegram was named after.

Arthur Zimmermann, German Foreign Minister, whom the telegram was named after.

What was the Zimmermann Telegram?

Until 1917, the US had remained officially neutral in World War I. And while some more Anglophile groups were more inclined to back the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia, many Americans wanted the US to remain neutral. The position of neutrality in World War One was the platform that then-president Woodrow Wilson used to win re-election in November 1916, and he was determined to stand by it. However, several events made it difficult for President Wilson to stay neutral. And there was encouragement from the Triple Entente, who wanted the US to join the war against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

The first event that angered many Americans was Germany’s attack of the British liner RMS Lusitania in 1915. The sinking of the Lusitania killed 1,198 civilians, including 129 Americans. Other liners were also attacked by German forces. Still, President Wilson managed to stay neutral as Germany agreed to limit the damage from such attacks, although this did not last. In January 1917 Germany decided to re-launch unrestricted submarine warfare, hoping to restrict food supplies in to Britain and leading to its surrender. The Germans knew this could encourage American participation in the war, and they hoped they could weaken Britain fast enough that any American response would be too late. However the Zimmermann Telegram also played a key role in US participation.

 

What was the Zimmermann Telegram?

The Zimmermann Telegram was a coded message sent by the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German Ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. In the telegram he proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico that could help Germany win the war and Mexico to regain territories previously lost to the USA: the US states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The reason it was sent was to divert American attention and support from Europe. Aware that America could enter the war following the approach of unrestricted German submarine warfare, Germany wanted to keep America and its resources occupied long enough with a war with Mexico so that it could weaken and defeat Britain. Mexico ultimately rejected the proposal due to internal instability and as it was very unlikely that it would defeat the US in a war.

The Zimmermann Telegram, though, was intercepted by British Intelligence. British code-breakers, notably Nigel de Grey, were able to crack the code quickly. However, the British, worried that the information would expose their intelligence network, including interception of American diplomatic communications, at first did not release the contents. After being sent on January 19, 1917, it was not until late February that the British had enough evidence – and a story about how it obtained the information - to share with the American Embassy in London. From there it went to Wilson.

The Zimmermann Telegram.

The Zimmermann Telegram.

When did America enter WWI?

President Wilson did not actually believe the Zimmermann Telegram when first informed of its contents, but the British had enough evidence to convince him. After Wilson, it was released to the American media and, of course, it triggered outrage among the American public. 

The Zimmermann Telegram was effective in convincing President Wilson to join the war, but just as importantly, it was the final piece that triggered the anger and support of American citizens. After all, it was just a few months before that the American public had voted for Wilson, who did not want to join the war. A month after the Zimmermann Telegram was revealed, the US was no longer interested in maintaining its neutrality in the war, and officially joined World War One on April 6, 1917 by declaring war on Germany.

 

The consequences of the Zimmermann Telegram beyond the war

A key consequence of the Zimmermann Telegram was to enrage American citizens and so encourage them to volunteer into joining the war. Alongside this, it made the Selective Service Act of May 1917 more acceptable to the American public. The Act supported the need for more soldiers through the draft, and required men aged 21 to 30 to register for the military. The United States was able to send large numbers of troops in 1918, which greatly helped Britain and France after Russia withdrew from the war (which happened formally in March 1918).

The Zimmermann Telegram also had serious impacts on the internal politics of the US. After entering the war, the Selective Service Act led to nearly 5 million American men joining the army, around 2 million as volunteers and nearly 3 million as part of the draft. Female workers often took over the jobs left by these men. The new-found economic status of women helped support the demand to give voting rights to women.

 

In Conclusion

The Zimmermann Telegram sparked the US into joining the World War I; however it was not the sole reason why they joined. The other factors were that the US was already under pressure from allies to join and due to the unrestricted warfare of Germany - the Zimmermann Telegram was the last straw.

The Zimmermann Telegram played a large role in World War I, in terms of how the American public viewed the war, and the timely inclusion of US forces helped the Allied Powers overcome the German Army.

 

What do you think of the article? Let us know below.

This article was brought to you by Shelli Boyd of CustomEssayMeister writing service.

Editor’s note: That external link is not affiliated in any way with this website. Please see the link here for more information about external links.

The Chief Nurse for the US in the Korean War, Eunice Coleman, played a vital role in bringing a range of innovations in troop treatment, some of which put nurses in great danger. Matt Goolsby continues his series on Nurses in War and tells us about Eunice Coleman.

The previous articles in the series are on US Civil War nurses Clara Barton (here) and Cornelia Hancock (here), World War One nurse Julia Catherine Stimson (here), and World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle (here).

The innovative Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or MASH) in Wonju, Korea. 1951.

The innovative Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or MASH) in Wonju, Korea. 1951.

Prelude to the Cold War

When World War II ended, the allies who had fought the war against the Axis Powers – Germany, Japan, and Italy – ultimately divided into two ideological camps. 

The first were the United States, Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, and other like-minded nations. These would be the powers who believed in freedom through the rule of law as republics.

The second camp was made up of two large nations, both of whom believed that communism was the way to solve man’s problems. These two nations were: The former Soviet Union and China. 

As these two camps began to divide up the spoils of war in Europe and Asia, a coming ideological storm was looming.

 

Ideological warfare becomes the Cold War

Ever strategic in their control of power, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong looked to gain geographic strongholds - one in Eastern Europe and the other in Asia. Their interests were in expanding communism throughout as much of the world as possible through brute force and oppression.

During the post-war occupation, Germany was divided into Western and Eastern zones. The Western zone was administered by the United States and the Eastern by the Soviet Union. This would ultimately be the symbolic demarcation of the Cold War.

In China, Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China resumed their dormant civil war with the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Ultimately Mao Zedong and his revolutionaries would prevail, thus spreading communism through a vast swathe of Asia. 

The empire of Japan, in ruins after World War II, had occupied and controlled Korea during and prior to the war. Korea was now divided between the Soviet Union controlling the North, and the United States controlling the South.

The ones who suffered the most in these ongoing conflicts were those who had been caught in the middle with either no way of escape or very limited ability to flee.

After World War II, survivors of the Holocaust and other nations wanted to have a refuge for the Jewish people who had been so severely abused during the worldwide conflict. The State of Israel was established by the United Nations in 1947 with Israel itself propelled into an Israeli-Arab war in 1948. This led to conflict in the Middle East that has continued to this day.

By the start of the 1950s, international tension was again escalating.

 

Into War again

Korea was now a divided nation with separate republics each stating that theirs was the legitimate claim.

As tensions continued to escalate into 1950 between the North and South, North Korea, with the assistance of China and the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea. It hoped to take control of the peninsula, after the attack on June 25th, 1950.

The United Nations, now a full-fledged worldwide body, adopted UN Security Council Resolution 82 on the same day. This condemned the North Korean aggression. 

Two days later, UN Security Council Resolution 83 was adopted authorizing the use of military force to stop the invasion of a sovereign country. 

Acting on the adoption of these resolutions, President Harry Truman asked Congress for approval of funds to fight on the Korean peninsula and received approval in August of 1950. 

America and much of the world were again at war.

 

The ‘Lucky 13’

The U.S. found itself ill-prepared to go to war in Korea, but had learned a lot from its experiences only 5 years earlier, particularly in terms of trauma care. 

The US Army had drawn down much of its military to such minimum levels that getting nurses to take up the mantle took maximum effort. Most of those brought into active duty status were part of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC).

Deploying with the Army’s 7thInfantry Division were thirteen nurses who worked at the 1stMobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) on September 15th, 1950. The Army had learned that the key to survival for severe injuries was to have a trauma team located close to their position. 

This led to added danger in the conflict, but the rate of fatalities from severe injuries was reduced to 2.5% from 4.5% during World War II.  

Upon deploying to Incheon and then moving to Pusan, the nurses who had journeyed with the infantry came under enemy fire and were forced to take cover. On October 9th, 1950, Chief Nurse Major Eunice Coleman wrote: “The whole sky was lit up by gunfire and burning vehicles. About sun-up we got out of the ditch and started treating the wounded. All that day, until 1500, we worked on the roadside; operating and treating for shock. We lost eight men and quite a number of supplies and vehicles. When all was clear, the convoy started again and arrived at Pusan by midnight.” After this event they began calling themselves the ‘Lucky Thirteen’.

Eunice Strange Coleman was born on March 21st, 1903 in Wilbarger County, Texas to Leonard Alvin and Mary Elizabeth Coleman. She was the 3rdof five children. 

She received her Bachelors of Science degree at the University of Minnesota and had been stationed in Duke, Oklahoma prior to the war.

As with many of the other nurses throughout the history of U.S. war, there’s no record of her ever marrying. She dedicated her life to serving others through the Army Nurse Corps.

 

Saving Lives at the front

When the Korean War started, only a small contingent of nurses were working in the combat theater. 

As the war progressed, it’s estimated that more than 1,500 nurses served on the Korean peninsula, all of them women since men were not allowed to serve as nurses in the Army Corps until 1955. 

Even though the women stationed in Korea were not trained or required to fight in combat, they still had to be ready to in case the fight came to them. 

As Mary C. Quinn, a First Lieutenant who served alongside Chief Nurse Coleman in the 1stM.A.S.H. unit said: “The nurse must be armed to fight just as the soldier, sailor, or marine. The nurse’s weapons are knowledge and skills that can be employed to wage war on disease and injury wherever these calamities have laid low a man, woman, or child."

Chief Nurse Coleman learned this lesson and many others during her tour in Korea. 

Having had her nurses treat 360 wounded when their capacity had been 60 and surviving their ‘Lucky Thirteen’ roadside episode, Major Coleman, a devout Catholic, was asked why she stayed in the Korean conflict. She answered: “Because if we are to impress Christianity on anybody out here, we must also live it.” Even the Chinese and Korean prisoners of war were amazed at how they were treated.

The Korean War led to great innovations for saving lives. 

The first was the use of helicopters to transfer wounded soldiers back to M.A.S.H. units.

The aircraft used in the majority of transfers was the UH 13 Helicopter called the ‘Sioux’. This method was a rapid way to assist traumatized and wounded patients to the mobile units. 

In fact, not only were American and allied UN soldiers transported, but also North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war were convoyed back where they could be cared for.

The nurses would often work twelve-hour shifts, only to continue on once their shift was over due to the numerous casualties coming into their units.

The second advancement in trauma care treatment was the transport of blood and blood banks to where it was needed most. It was in this conflict that the Army started using plastic instead of bottles to transport, store, and administer blood. 

Storage of blood in bottles often led to breakage in transfer or hemolysis, the destruction of red blood cells, because the bottles had to be stored in refrigerators prior to use.

The third major advancement came in vascular surgery. This led to a reduced level of amputations due to trauma from 49.6% in World War II to 20.5% in Korea. This was a significant reduction in long-term injury care.

The fourth and final advancement came in renal dialysis (kidney). Nurses were the ones to first use dialysis to save lives of those who had hemorrhagic fever thus keeping the severely wounded alive long enough for surgery.

Even while saving lives, Chief Nurse Coleman found humor. 

As the nurses were huddling in the roadside ditch in Pusan, Major Coleman called out their names twice for a response. One of her thirteen ‘Army Nightingales’, as they were fondly called, 1stLieutenant Marie Smarz didn’t answer.

Finally, Major Coleman went down the line touching each one to make sure they were safe. Why hadn’t Nurse Smarz answered? “I was afraid the Reds would hear me,” she replied. 

Major Coleman would go on to be awarded the Bronze Star with V bar for Army Nurse Corps valor. She would also go on to serve at the Kansas City General Hospital School of Nursing. 

Eunice Strange Coleman passed away on August 15th, 1983, living to the age of 80,having served her country for many years in the Army Nurse Corps. 

She exemplified the caring and nurturing spirit that the nurses in our military demonstrate to those in greatest need. The following nurses’ prayer is a testament to what these ‘Army Nightingales’ demonstrated during this conflict.

May they never be forgotten.

 

What do you think of the article? Let us know below.

 

 

The Army Nurse Corps Prayer

The Prayer of an Army Nurse.

The Prayer of an Army Nurse.

References

Mary M Roberts, RN, “The Army Nurse Corps, Yesterday and Today”, United States Army Nurse Corps, 1955.

Margaret (Zane) Fleming Collection, Gift of Frances Zane, Women's Memorial Foundation Collection, “The Lucky Thirteen”, Pacific Stars and Stripes, Tom Hamrick, 1951 and other associated articles. (Many thanks to the Women’s Memorial Curator Britta Granrud for her assistance.)