Fifty years after Apollo 11 landed astronauts on the moon, what is the enduring legacy of humanity’s ventures beyond the Earth?  As explained by Harlan Lebo, author of 100 Days: How Four Events in 1969 Shaped America (Amazon USAmazon UK), the answer is much broader and deeper than President Kennedy’s original vision for achievement in space.

Buzz Aldrin salutes the US flag during Apollo 11, on July 20, 1969.

Buzz Aldrin salutes the US flag during Apollo 11, on July 20, 1969.

On a warm summer night in 1961, two months after President John Kennedy declared a mission to the moon as a national goal, presidential advisor Theodore Sorensen sat on the front steps of his home in Washington, staring up at the heavens, and wondered about the wisdom of creating a program to send humans into outer space.

“Was it really possible,” Sorensen remembered thinking, “or was it all crazy?” 

Crazy or not, eight years later the goal was realized with the journey of Apollo 11 in July 1969 – five months before Kennedy’s deadline of reaching the moon “before the decade is out.”

While the specific goal of reaching the moon was achieved, Kennedy’s broader intention – to demonstrate to the world America’s supremacy in technology and national will – was also more than satisfied.  And if the United States not been engaged at the same time in a hopeless, endless war in Vietnam, the benefits to the nation might have been even more pronounced.


Looking back at a deeper legacy

Now, 50 years later, we can look back and ask, did Apollo spawn a lasting legacy?  The most obvious answer is yes – the US reached the moon, and with that achievement firmly established the United States as the pre-eminent leader in science and engineering of the 20thcentury.  

Thanks to Apollo, America still supports a vigorous space program – even without a current schedule of manned missions – that engages both the public and private sectors.  And we can, of course, itemize the direct benefits of our efforts in space with a tally of specific products as diverse as fire prevention fabric, improved solar cells, freeze-dried food, and medical monitoring, among hundreds of others.

But beyond those individual achievements, the enduring advances are less tangible, yet even more profound.  


The jolt of inspiration

The greatest value of Apollo to the American experience emerged from the sudden, abrupt focus of technological inspiration required to create the lunar mission – the largest financial outlay ever made by a peacetime nation.  

While one can point to the growing needs of national defense in the cold war as a catalyst for economic growth, it was the research and development across the spectrum of science required for the Apollo Program, compressed from decades into a few years in the 1960s, that acted at a breakneck speed as a formidable accelerator in advancing the nation.  The jolt supplied by the manned space program produced a trail of benefits – not only for the results achieved in space, but for the technical possibilities that the mission illuminated.  

Transcending individual inventions and products, Apollo stimulated the broad expansion of advances over a wide range of industries and fields – including many enlightened enterprises that are both profitable and progressive, such as organizations involved in precision medical equipment or alternative energy sources. 

For example, the process of creating the Apollo Guidance Computer, with its razor-thin margin of capabilities needed to support the moon missions, became a high-profile inspiration within the computer industry to create new generations of components that were more powerful, smaller, and cheaper.  

The country’s growing needs for digital technology in space programs created a thriving market – and competition – in the creation of semiconductors and related hardware for the computing industry. U.S. government projects – primarily defense and space – were the world’s largest purchasers of semiconductors – accounting for almost 70 percent of all sales – spurring production and shrinking prices. In 1962, the average price of a computer chip was $50; by 1973, the price had fallen to 63 cents. 

Beyond just shrinking the costs of technology, Apollo proved to be a powerful catalyst for the digital realm long after the missions were over – with important links to the growth of Silicon Valley and other tech crucibles. The path was clear for the development of new types of computers that did not yet exist, including computers created for individuals. Soon to come were the first personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s; the internet was not far behind. 


New leaders, new progress

This progress was possible largely because of growth in technological leadership – a new generation that rose in American business, science, and engineering thanks to the flourishing of the space program.

“Many people point to guys working in their garages in the Silicon Valley as the starting point for the technology industries of the 1980s,” said space historian Roger Launius. “But much of the innovation of that era had already come from scientists and engineers trained to work in the space program; after Apollo, these people dispersed and went everywhere – to companies, to universities, to think tanks – taking with them the knowledge they had gained from working on the space program. 

“We saw a blossoming of technology in the 1970s,” said Launius, “that was in no small part the result of the base of knowledge that built up during the space program, and that was pushed by Apollo.”

The Apollo 11 landing on the Moon was the most important peacetime achievement of the 20thcentury.   But even more important is the broad range of change inspired by Apollo that continues to touch the American experience.


Harlan Lebo’s book, 100 Days: How Four Events in 1969 Shaped America, is available here: Amazon USAmazon UK

Archeologists always amaze us with their discoveries. Many of these findings are the result of many years of research. But, some of them were found accidentally by ordinary people who didn’t know that such historical treasures were only a few feet underneath them. In this article, Alex Lemaire tells us about five discoveries made by accident.

The Lascaux paintings in France. They were discovered by teenagers in 1940. Image source: Prof saxx, available  here .

The Lascaux paintings in France. They were discovered by teenagers in 1940. Image source: Prof saxx, available here.

Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter

While doing his homework, Daniel Kristiansen, a 14-year Danish boy, and his father Klaus found the wreckage of a German plane that crashed during WW2 in their family-ownedfarm.

The history teacher gave his students a school assignment about the Second World War. Daniel asked his father if he could help. Klaus wanted to teach his son about the history of the area using a different approach. He wanted his son to interact with the historical information instead of just consuming it passively.

Klaus was told by his grandfather about a German fighter that crashed in the farm in the last years of the war when Denmark was still occupied by the Nazis. He didn’t know its exact location and he didn’t expect to find anything because he thought that the wreckage was removed. However, he wantedto give it a shot.

The kid and his father used a metal detector to scan the field. And after a few moments, the device indicated the presence of some buried metal pieces. They dug for a few feet to find the plane’s engine block and the pilot’s remains. They called the authorities immediately. 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal made sure there were no unexploded bombs and the fighter’s ammunition was safe. The archeologists examined the wreckage. They were able to identify the pilot, the date when the plane crashed and other details about its mission. The airplane’s parts were handed over to the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland Denmark.


Ötzi the Iceman

On September 19, 1991, two German tourists Helmut and Erika were walking in the mountains on the border between Italy and Austria when they found a dead body. It was well preserved; they thought it belonged to someone who recently died. They reported that to the authorities. The police came to the scene and tried to remove the body, which was buried in the glacier. But the first attempt failed due to the bad weather. The body was finally exhumed with some of the man’s belongings. Archeologists estimated that based on the axfound on the site, the dead body was four thousand years old!

Scientists examined thecorpse and the items found with it extensively. They estimate that Otzi was 45 years old when he died, was 5 feet 3 inches tall (160 centimeters), weighed 110 pounds (50 Kg), and lived somewhere between 3400 and 3100 BCE. 

The body was well preserved after all of these years because it was covered by ice moments after the death. Even the blood cells were still intact which makes them the oldest human intact blood cells ever discovered. Otzi’s body, clothes, andtools were reconstructed. They are on display on the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. They offer a unique snapshot of our way of life during that era.


Hoxne Hoard

One of the most famous and precious artifacts displayed in the British Museum is the Hoxne Hoard. It consistsof 14,865 coins, 200 silver tableware,andgold jewelry. It was found on a field, in the village of Hoxne, in the UKin 1992 by Eric Lawes.

Eric’s friend, Peter, is a farmer. When he was working in his farm, he lost his hammer. He called his friend and asked him if he could give him a hand. Eric used his metal detector to look for it. Instead of finding it, he found a hoard inside a wooden box. (They later found the cheap hammer that is on display alongside the gold and silver coins and the precious jewelry in the museum).

The two men reported their discovery to the authorities. A group of archeologists unearthed the treasure and scanned the whole area with metal detectors to make sure nothing was left behind. This trove was large - the expert in the British Museum needed a month to clean and examine these relics.


Pompeii and Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum are two ancient Romancities. They were buried under feet of ash and cinder, which preserved them in very good condition for hundreds of years. They are amazing time machines that helpus visualize many aspects of Roman life 1600 years ago.

In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted sending tons of ash many miles away and burying the two cities entirely and killing thousands of people instantaneously. Organic materials were carbonized. Wooden objects like doors are still in goodshape. Human bodies turned into statues. Even foodwas preserved.

The two cities were forgotten for centuries until they were discovered while digging the foundations of a newbuilding.Herculaneum is smaller than Pompeii but its residents appear to be wealthier. Colored marble was used extensively in its houses. Around 11,000 people lived in Pompeii. This estimation is based on the number of buildings in the city.

These two cities are the largest continually exacted archeological sites in the world. Many parts of the city are still buried after centuries of hard work to unearth them. However, the biggest challenge isn’t to remove the volcanic ash, it is to preserve what has been already excavated. Because the buildings are now exposed to the elements of nature, they will deteriorate faster if measures are not taken.


Lascaux Cave

The Lascaux Cave is situated near the village of Montignac in southwestern France. Its interior walls and ceiling are covered with over 600 prehistoric paintings. The paintings depictmostly animals that lived somewhere around 17,000 years ago. Many of these animals are extinct like rhinos and lions.

Four teenagers made this discovery on September 12, 1940 after looking for their dog who had fallen into a hole. They decided to explore what’s inside. So they widened the hole and threw some rocks to estimate how deep it is. They entered the cave after they made sure it was safe to get inside and they found the jaw-dropping paintings.

The cave was opened to the public on July 14, 1948. There were around 1200 visitors per day. But the heat, humidity and the deterioration of the air quality along with other factors damaged the paintings. To protect the cave, the authorities decided to close it to the public in 1963. The Lascaux Cave was enlisted in the UNESCO's World Heritagelist in 1979. For those who want to enjoy these breath-taking paintings, you can visit Lascaux 2. It is a replica of the original cave and only a few hundred feet away from it.



Have you made any amazing discoveries? Let us know below if so.

Article written by Alex Lemaire of

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The causes of World War Two are varied, but some factors are more important than others. Here, Seth Eislund explains that fascism was the primary factor that led to World War Two. He considers Mussolini’s fascist Italy, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and Horthy’s fascistic Hungary.

Seth has previously written an article on whether the Nazis achieved their domestic aims – here.

Miklos Horthy and Adolf Hitler in 1938.

Miklos Horthy and Adolf Hitler in 1938.

From November 1918 to September 1939, Europe existed in a fragile state of peace known as the interwar period. Political frustration and economic woes plagued European countries, especially Germany and Hungary, both of which endured a crippling defeat at the hands of the Allies. Germany and Hungary lost large swathes of territory to the Allies and faced grave economic depression and inflation. Even Italy, which had been on the winning side at the end of the First World War, endured “an inconclusive but costly victory.”[i]Hoping to return their countries to greatness, many Italians, Germans, and Hungarians eagerly adopted an ideology called “fascism,” which was promulgated by a former syndicalist named Benito Mussolini. Fascism emphasized expansionism, extreme nationalism, anti-Marxism, and anti-liberalism.[ii]Ultimately, due to its nationalist, expansionist, and warlike tendencies, fascism was the primary factor that shattered the fragile peace of the interwar period and incited the Second World War.


Italian Fascism

Benito Mussolini’s fascism promoted a love of warfare, nationalism, and expansionism, values which were implemented in Italian foreign policy and helped instigate World War II. In 1932, Mussolini wrote that fascism “believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace… War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it.”[iii]Mussolini stated that fascism was inherently violent, and that violence unleashed peak human potential. Peace, on the other hand, neutered human potential and was therefore detrimental to humanity as a whole. Thus, in Mussolini’s worldview, war was a moral good that must be constantly waged to further human progress. Mussolini linked this line of reasoning with imperialist rhetoric, saying that “the expansion of a nation… is an essential manifestation of vitality.”[iv]To Mussolini, fascism was centered around a “nation,” or a “people,” which needed to expand their territory through any means necessary. Unsurprisingly, Mussolini’s fascism saw the Italian people as destined to expand throughout the world. These expansionist and nationalist motives explain why he invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and ultimately sided with Hitler in his conquest of Europe. Hence, Italian fascism aimed to foment conflict, and, as such, it exacerbated the tensions that ignited World War II.


German Nazism

Similar to Italian fascism, German Nazism combined a policy of nationalism, expansionism, and racism that aimed to start another war on European soil. Like Mussolini’s fascism, Adolf Hitler’s Nazism was a nationalist and expansionist ideology. Nazism claimed that Germans needed to conquer new territory and supplant the people who lived there. This was because Germans were members of the Aryan race, which was superior to all other races.[v]Days before he invaded Poland, Hitler articulated his desire to obtain more “living space,” or lebensraum, for the German people. He emphasized that war was necessary to obtain land for the survival of the Aryan race, and only by exterminating the Poles “shall [Germans] gain the living space which [they] need.”[vi]Hitler’s words show that the invasion of Poland, and consequently World War II, were inextricably linked to his Nazism. Waging war enabled the Aryan race to take the land it so desperately needed, purge “inferior races,” and achieve hegemony over the world.


Hungarian Fascistic Ideology

While not as fascist as Italy or Germany, Hungary adopted a fascistic ideology that contributed to the outbreak of World War II. Suffering tremendous territorial losses following World War I, Hungary became “barely one-third of its prewar size.”[vii]Consequently, many Hungarians were enraged at the punitive peace imposed upon them by the Allies, vowing to restore Hungary’s territorial and political status. Fascistic ideas gained traction, and under the auspices of Admiral Miklós Horthy and Captain Gyula Gömbös, Hungary became increasingly authoritarian during the interwar period. Gömbös allied Hungary with Italy and Nazi Germany, since he wanted to restore the territory Hungary lost after 1918.[viii]As a result, Hungary participated in the German annexation of Czechoslovakia by annexing regions with Hungarian nationals, which drew international outrage and panic.[ix]Ultimately, by abetting Germany’s dissolution of Czechoslovakia for its own gain, Hungary helped destabilize the already fragile peace in Europe and initiate World War II.


In Conclusion

Fascism was primarily responsible for causing the Second World War, as its emphasis on nationalism, expansionism, and warfare escalated tensions in interwar Europe. Mussolini’s fascism saw war as a moral good and proclaimed that the Italian people needed to expand their territory, which led Italy to invade Ethiopia in 1935. Similarly, Nazism viewed Germans as members of the “master race” which needed “living space” to survive, a belief that led Adolf Hitler to invade Poland in 1939 and start World War II. Lastly, Hungary aligned itself with Italy and Nazi Germany, annexing parts of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Therefore, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and fascistic Hungary plunged the continent into the most devastating war in history.

What do you think was the primary cause for World War Two? Let us know below.

[i]Robert O. Paxton and Julie Hessler, Europe in the Twentieth Century, 5th ed (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth - Cengage Learning, 2012), 180.

[ii]Paxton and Hessler, 179.

[iii]Benito Mussolini, “Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932,” Internet Modern History Sourcebook, edited by Paul Halsall (New York, NY: Fordham University, 2019), accessed May 5, 2019,


[v]Paxton and Hessler, 284.

[vi]Louis P.  Lochner, What About Germany?(New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1942), 1-4.

[vii]Paxton and Hessler, 191.

[viii]Paxton and Hessler, 302.

[ix]Paxton and Hessler, 345.





Lochner, Louis P. What About Germany?New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1942.

Mussolini, Benito. “Benito Mussolini: What is Fascism, 1932.” Internet Modern History Sourcebook, edited by Paul Halsall. New York, NY: Fordham University, 2019. Accessed May 5, 2019.

Paxton, Robert O., and Julie Hessler. Europe in the Twentieth Century. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth - Cengage Learning, 2012.


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 thinks Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker in the UK plays a chilling but important role in teaching and reminding us about the Cold War – and the power of nuclear weapons.

This follows Shannon’s articles on Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie (here) and Topography of Terror (here).

Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker. Source: Espresso Addict available  here .

Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker. Source: Espresso Addict available here.

I’ve been studying history for quite a while now. I am only 22, yes, but if you count school and the years I spent doing exams, plus my nerdy extra-curricular research and reading, I’m fairly well versed in the general history of the world. I studied war specifically for three years and like to think I am continuing to each day with my work and personal reading. There isn’t much about war that scares me anymore, besides perhaps a gas mask which I do not wish my eyes to linger on for long; a fear born out of an episode of TV show Doctor Whoback in 2006. But aside from irrational fears made from fiction and exacerbated like a child’s head does, there aren’t exactly many elements of war left that give leave that sick, anxious feeling in my stomach. Many would call it desensitisation, and I am inclined to agree to an extent. Being exposed to images of the trenches, the Blitz, the Holocaust, time and time again, I guess I would have to agree the actual images start to lose an impact. Never the meaning though, and what it represents. The day I no longer find the thought of these events appalling is the day I want someone to fire me from the sector, because from that moment on I would consider myself useless.


Changing Warfare

However, in defence of the desensitisation argument, I would also argue that these elements of war perhaps do not scare me because I am aware they will never be repeated on a major scale. Never again will a world war be fought on soil, with soldiers dug in shelling each other across an empty space of land that belongs to no man. Never again will two countries bomb civilians in a tit for tat fashion to break morale. War doesn’t work like this anymore. The next major war won’t be fought with boots on the ground, with an occupying force in a country, or with the movements of heavy weaponry. The world faces a far worse fate than that. Total war has been replaced by the potential for total annihilation. Nuclear war is now the only warfare left on the cards, and the only element of conflict that terrifies me to my core. Why? It will be the most catastrophic thing the world has ever seen. Correction; the world won’t see it. Because there won’t be a world left, just by sheer nature of the implement.  

Now this may all seem very dramatic and like I am scare-mongering. And I’ll admit, to an extent I am. Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD theory, is the best thing to come from nuclear weapons and makes me 90% sure the world is safe for a little longer. This concept states that while two opposing countries both hold nuclear weaponry, they will never fire upon the other, for the second they do, they will also be fired upon themselves, therefore destroying themselves. The fear of what it will do to them and their own people prevents them from inflicting it upon others. Kind of scary, kind of neat. I suppose if the world must have nuclear weaponry then let us kept this mind set flowing amongst as many countries as possible. It will keep us safe for now. But there are constant reminders of how close we have already come to utter decimation.


Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker

There is a bunker, mostly in the middle of nowhere, near a town called Nantwich in the UK. This bunker is known as Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker. And yeah, not so secret. But that’s the beauty of it. This bunker was to be one of a network across the UK that would have taken politicians and other groups of vital and important people into them upon the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker is mostly in the state it was left in; room after room of technical equipment, radios, med bays, shelters. It really is the perfect step into the past, specifically back to around 1962 and the event of the Cuban Missile Crisis; the moment the world held its breath and nuclear war was an inch away from actually happening. This event, in comparison to many parts of major warfare, is fairly recent history. My dad was five at the time. That isn’t all too long ago! My grandfather was part of the Royal Observer Corps, and his job was to effectively be waiting and looking out for the nuclear missiles that could come the way of Great Britain. Not that my dad knew it at the time, but the days of October 16thto October 28th1962 must have been some of the most stressful days of my granddad’s life. For him and hundreds of thousands of other people across the world, of course. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis began when Soviet Russia placed armed nuclear missiles onto the island of Cuba, then run by Fidel Castro. America’s answer to this was to blockade Cuba and demand for them to be removed. What followed was probably the most tense 13 days of President Kennedy’s life as he tried to negotiate these missiles off the island.

The range of the missiles covered nearly the entirety of America. And let’s face it, with the way nuclear weaponry works, even areas outside of range weren’t exactly safe! This was the closest that the world has ever been to full out nuclear war. If the US had been fired upon, it would have retaliated, and chances are the UK, due to treaties and agreements, would have followed suit. We would’ve been looking at full world destruction in seventeen minutes. That is the closest the world has come to full destruction. That we know of at least. I won’t go into all the conspiracy theories on the number of times something similar has happened since and we have never been told about it, because we would be here all day. But that’s exactly my point. The reason this topic and this type of warfare still has the ability to scare me so much is because it could still happen. We have some pretty mad and unpredictable leaders out there at the moment. Trump, Kim Jong-un, Putin. They’re erratic and power crazy; I feel like if they were bought the wrong type of eggs for their breakfast in the morning, by 11:30 they would’ve decided to launch a nuclear weapon at the country their chef was from, providing it wasn’t their own of course.


The Realities of Nuclear War

And this is what Hack Green so chillingly brings to life. From this museum you can begin to understand the conditions that people worked in - underground for days on end without seeing daylight. You squint when you walk out at first, after having spent at least four hours in a concrete box with no windows. This museum also provides a fantastic element of fear to the proceedings, without being ‘cheesy’ or ‘crude’. They have ghost walks, and these are rather popular, but sometimes you can’t blame a site for capitalising on its theme. The element of fear it brings to the everyday visitor, however, is far more subtle. In the background there are multiple warning alarms and sirens going off. Occasionally an announcement will sound for everyone to take shelter. The control rooms house radar and machines that ominously bleep. Geiger counters crackle threateningly in the distance. This exceedingly clever atmospherics is something that many museums are now beginning to adopt; adding in those noises that people would’ve heard every day they were there, bringing their world to yours. One room in the bunker is a sort of cinema room, and in here they show the BBC’s Threadsfrom 1984. This is the definition of chilling; a film set during the nuclear apocalypse of Great Britain and details what would happen to the population. I would highly recommend checking it out (Amazon USAmazon UK)

Witnessing the implications of what these people were working on through visuals only adds to the tension of the place. Perhaps one of the key aspects of the bunker is the bomb shelter, a room with the full sirens and noises of lighter bombing. However, every few minutes they simulate the noise of the nuclear bomb falling. This near as damn stops your heart. Obviously, the noise level is replicated to a safe point, (no ear drums are hurt in the duration of the simulation) but that only makes you more aware of the earth-shattering noise that would have been experienced. It really gives you a jolt. You then step back out, and in perfect curation style, you continue your journey around the museum to discover what would have happened post-bomb. This genius way of subtly taking the visitor around a timeline as if you were a member of the workforce in the bunker having to combat the issues faced gives a fantastic immersive experience. The museum is everything a museum should be; giving you a reality check about your own life as you experience, just for a moment, someone else’s. 



I have to admit, I left with a rather sick feeling in my stomach. It was a hot day and the light was blinding as we walked out. I got in the car and looked back at the imposing yet unassuming structure of the bunker and thought ‘one day everything I’ve just seen from history could be a reality’. Einstein once said, in the perfect eloquence he always had; ‘I do not know with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones.’ Hack Green beautifully (perhaps a bad choice of adjective, but you follow my point) presents what will happen before those sticks and stones. It gives a brilliantly immersive reality to those that wish to understand just how much of a knife edge we once sat on, and continue to, in my opinion. Take a deep breath as you enter though; the inspired curation and presentation of this museum serves as a stark reminder of the power we hold against each other. Hack Green in essence masters what science has still failed to achieve; time travel. But perhaps not just the past, maybe the future too.


What do you think of the article? Have you visited any nuclear bunkers? Let us know below.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Freedom Train was a bold concept – a patriotic museum on the tracks aimed at unifying a fractured United States after World War Two. It offered needed moments of genuine patriotic respite in a post-war time of divisive challenges and solutions. Gerry and Janet Souter, authors of a book on the freedom train (Amazon US Amazon UK), explain.

A locomotive built especially for the freedom train.

A locomotive built especially for the freedom train.

Ten years of the Great Depression plus four years of World War II had left Americans battered. Every facet of life seemed challenged; the United States had inherited world leadership by default.Sixyears of wartime production brought the country outof the Great Depression, but with the conflict ended, unions demanded higher wages and were at war with the government. In 1945-46, five million workers went out on strike.Manufacturershad barely crept back intocreatingconsumer products. Soldiers returned from the war zones to the protection of the GI Bill of Rights that promised education, cheap housing and a new start, but not a job. Adding to shifting labor force problems were boatloads of refugees streaming into the country from war-ravaged Europe. Many of these “Displaced Persons” were highly skilled and educated, affecting labor and housing issues at various levels. Black GIs sought recognition in the segregated South and fearful North. 

It was time to re-ignite the republic’s exhausted engine, to re-establish the core that had sustained the nation through those past years of sacrifice. The American people needed the cavalry to arrive in the nick of time, the winning touchdown to score, and the long shot horse to win the race— something to cheer.

No one could have imagined that Adolf Hitler would provide a bold embrace of America’s freedoms, patriotism, civic responsibility and pride in her hard-won liberties.


Selling the Freedom Train Idea

One of the greatest selling jobs ever attempted began in1946. William Coblenz, an assistant director with the Public Information Division of the Department of Justice often spent his lunch hour at the National Archives. There he discovered an exhibit of captured German government and military documents, including an original copy of Hitler’s last will and testament to the German people. Staring at the Fuhrer’s signature on that yellowed document, the frightful power of those final wretched thoughts of a mad man made Coblenz wish more Americans could look on the face of tyranny and appreciate the freedoms they inherit as a birthright. The Archives also displayed America’s legacy of documents from the conception of the independent republic to iconic objects brought back from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific that would touch hearts and drive home our sacrifices for those freedoms. They were all there—and in the Library of Congress and private collections—all sealed behind glass. How could this treasure be brought to whole country?

Virtually every city and town had a railroad station. Understanding the government’s cash-strapped post-war situation, Coblenz proposed a passenger car be turned into a traveling museum featuring the contrast between Nazi Fascism and American Freedoms. It would be coupled to freight trains and dropped off at cities and towns in all the 48 states to be opened for the public’s inspection of copies of the actual documents. He called it the “Liberty Train” with a budget of $20,000 and presented his idea to his boss, Thomas C. Clark, the U.S. Attorney General. Clark loved the idea and understood the sad condition of the country’s coffers. “Might as well be two million,” as far as Congress was concerned. Realizing that opening the concept to private funding might sully the simple patriotic message, he still saw no other option and made a few calls.

The Liberty Train idea caught fire among movie and corporate moguls. Bank and Stock Market presidents signed on along with labor unions and entrepreneurs. In December 1946, they gathered for a meeting in Washington, D.C. Also included at this plan meeting was the Advertising Council, a conglomeration of advertising shops who furnished Allied propaganda and civilian wartime motivation during the war. They’d honed their patriotic idea-selling to a fine edge and joined the board of directors to the brand-new American Heritage Foundation, led by Ad Council president, Thomas Brophy.  The Council created the patriotic infrastructure that drove the selection and presentation of the collected artifacts. Under Brophy’s leadership, all public utterances flowed from, and all private funds were collected by this foundation.

The freedom train in Los Angeles.

The freedom train in Los Angeles.

Creating the Train and Its Irreplaceable Cargo

With expert historians combing the National Archives, Library of Congress and private collections, the train grew from one orphan passenger car to a train of seven passenger cars hauled by their own locomotive. The selection of documents and iconic objects eventually booted out Hitler and the Nazis for a more positive All-American collection in passenger cars converted into rolling steel vaults forming one long aisle for visitors. The Pennsylvania and Santa Fe railroads furnished the coaches to be gutted and lined with custom bronze and Lucite cases containing the actual documents, notcopies. Heading the train was a brand-new ALCO diesel-electric locomotive, and, like the rest of the train, painted white with red and blue stripes and gold eagles.   

The value of the new cargo aboard the “Freedom Train,” its final name, required extreme security. Thomas Clark penned the Secretary of the Navy for the loan of 27 United States Marines in dress blue uniforms. From more than 200 applicants, the result was a detail of combat Marines led by Lt. Colonel Robert L. Scott.  Three deluxe passenger coaches were set aside for their traveling quarters plus three pullman porters. With the marines were housed curator experts, train managers, and a Navy medical officer.


Packaging the Freedom Message

To build a bigger tent for the national audience, the Advertising Council provided a pre-train arrival package to each of 300 cities and towns consisting of collateral material to produce a week of “rededication” to American values. To facilitate these “Rededication Weeks” the Advertising council would unlimber a campaign for each locality on radio, in newspapers, comic books and movies. Collateral printed material, posters, event suggestions and camera-ready boiler plate logos would spread the message. Advance planners were to visit each community’s designated planning group to help create the necessary buzz and enthusiasm.

Extracting further commitment from Freedom Train visitors, a “Good Citizen” booklet was passed out listing the “Rights and Duties of an American” and the “Nine Promises of a Good Citizen.” (vowing to vote, pay taxes, serve on a jury, etc.) At the conclusion of a visit, a “Freedom Pledge” headed a scroll to be signed by the visitor. This Freedom Pledge was also recited in schools, churches, civic meetings and patriotic events during Rededication Weeks. 

Following a nationally broadcast celebrity and champagne send-off from Philadelphia, the Advertising Council’s publicity campaign had already produced an advance notice to the nation that this train would be on its way. The Twin Falls (Idaho) Times News, which was not even on the list of Freedom Train stops—but close enough for a half day auto trip to visit the train at Boise further northwest—was still impressed. Its editorial for August 26, 1947 read:

“it must be admitted that Americans have developed the technique of the publicity build-up to a remarkable degree…The purpose of all this is to make every one of us conscious of the responsibilities as well as the privileges which are ours as Inheritors of the legacy of American freedom. This country's high tradition of democracy has been seriously challenged in the past six years, and is still challenged today. Every failure to live up to that tradition provides a little more ammunition for those who would discount or destroy it. There is a real need for most of us to try more actively and consciously to be good citizens and alert guardians of our heritage.


And on the train went, giving an average head-count of 9,000 Americans a day the opportunity to see:Abraham Lincoln’s reading copy of the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights, Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers, the Emancipation Proclamation, the NATO Charter, the flag flown from the summit of Mount Suribachi by the marines on Iwo Jima during World War II, the German Surrender document, Victory War bonds sold to Americans to help finance the war…130 priceless pieces of our freedom heritage.

Ahead of the train and after it passed, the air waves were filled with patriotic programing. New York promised listeners,  

Two hours of star-studded programs saluting the Freedom Train are scheduled on WNEW tonight from 9 to 11 p.m. 

“The station has cancelled all regular programs in order to present this special feature which will include ‘The Lonesome Train’ by Norman Corwin, ‘Patrick Henry and the Frigate's Keel’ with Clifton Fadiman, Orson Welles performing readings from ‘The American Condition,’ Bing Crosby as narrator and singer in ‘The Man Without a Country,’ and ‘Ballad for Americans’ sung by Paul Robeson and chorus. Arthur Godfrey will take a CBS microphone aboard the Freedom Train at Grand Central Station on Wednesday at 5:45 p m. to give listeners a word picture of the unique train which is carrying historic documents to all parts of the country.” 1


On the Rails through the Nation

While the Freedom Train inspired Americans’ pride in their country, there were still undercurrents of resentment against those who didn’t quite fit the mold  As one Arkansas newspaper editorial noted, regarding the influx of European refugees:

“In these troublesome times…it may sound a bit brutal to those who have not given sufficient thought to the subject.We consider the time ripe to stop thinking with our hearts and start thinking with our heads on the matter of admitting 400,000 displaced foreigners to the United States.” 2


However, as one Baptist minister in Syracuse, New York remarked, “We must get rid of the idea that displaced persons are the scum of the earth. They are industrious, skilled workers, and religious people." 3

In the Deep South, racism was still rampant. The American Heritage Foundation established a rule: “Any city that plans to segregate visitors to the Freedom Train will be bypassed.”Birmingham and Memphis both refused to desegregate their lines of visitors and both, despite pleadings, were bypassed by the Freedom Train.

Whatever the Freedom Train’s reception, the experience of passing down the hushed aisle was, as one newspaper reporter noted, “one has the feeling he is in church.” 4


Journey’s End—Freedom’s Rededication Takes Root

From September, 1947 to January, 1949, the Freedom Train crisscrossed the entire United States to finally end its odyssey in time for Harry S. Truman’s presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. He had sent the train off in Philadelphia and was there at the end. He had won re-election aboard his own train, traveling across the country gathering in grass-roots voters to the trackside cry of “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” Another inspired train shared the rails—the “Friendship Train”—brought tons of donated food to war ravaged Europe and received boxcars of gifts from the Europeans called, the “Merci (Thank you) Train.” 

The Freedom Train was a bold concept, aimed at unifying a fractured United States. Despite the ballyhoo and hoopla pushing its conservative consumerism message, it offered needed moments of genuine patriotic respite in a post-war time of divisive challenges and solutions. 

One of the Freedom Train’s traveling staff members summed up their experiences that spanned the journey. 

“After a while you get up in the morning and start feeling for your Uncle Sam beard. When you see what this country and these documents mean to people—how they stand out there all day to see the things that make the nation great—you get a lump in your throat.”5


The Freedom Train was a rock star and a creature of a jumbled post-war world, striving to bring a measure of unity and order out of chaos to Americans lining the tracks, waiting for the shout, 

“Here she comes!” 


The Souters’ book,Selling American’s on America—Journey into a Troubled Nation is available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon US Amazon UK


1.     Bridgeport (Connecticut) Telegram of September 22, 1947

2.     Camden (Arkansas) News September 13, 1947

3.     Syracuse Herald Journal, January 11, 1948)

4.    Gilbert Bailey, "Why They Throng to the Freedom Train," New York Times Magazine, January 25, 1948.

5.    Ibid., Bailey

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

World War Two created a whole host of heroes in the battle to beat the Fascist Powers in Europe. But many of the heroes remain unknown. Here, Brian Fleming, author of a recently published book on unsung heroes of World War Two (Amazon USAmazon UK), explains some stories of amazing people whose actions saved the lives of people in great danger from the Nazis.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who helped save the lives of many people from the Nazis.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who helped save the lives of many people from the Nazis.


For some reason, I have always been particularly intrigued by the doings of unsung heroes. Perhaps it is as a result of their invariably modest attitudes towards their achievements or maybe the fundamental unfairness that sometimes permeates accounts of events is the cause. My curiosity prompted me to write The Vatican Pimpernel: The Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (Amazon USAmazon UK).[i] A fellow Irishman, who while working as a priest working in the Vatican during World War 2 established what became known as the Rome Escape Line. O’Flaherty and his colleagues rescued many Allied servicemen and others who were on the run from the Nazis and Italian Fascists. My interest in this case was that his story was relatively unknown in Ireland despite the fact that at least 6,500 individuals were saved by the organization. There were reasons for this to be the case, most particularly because his own modesty. Researching The Vatican Pimpernelbrought me in contact with stories of other escape lines and I have realized an ambition to explore some of these in Heroes in the Shadows: Humanitarian Action and Courage in the Second World War (Amazon USAmazon UK).[ii]

On this occasion rather than give an extensive account of one escape line, I have provided a chapter on each of four escape lines which allows for a fairly comprehensive outline of the activities of each one. The first chapter, however, is not about an escape line strictly speaking. In it, I recount the activities of diplomats in various parts of Europe who used their positions to save thousands of individuals. Of these, Raoul Wallenberg is by far the most famous but there were others whose heroic deeds need to be better known 


Aristides de Sousa Mendes

One interesting example is that of the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Under the dictator Salazar, Portugal, like its neighbor Spain, was determined not to become involved in WW2. Sousa Mendes, a lawyer by profession, served in his country’s diplomatic service and took up duty as Consul General in Bordeaux in 1938. The following year, Salazar, anxious not just to remain neutral but to be seen to be so, issued an instruction to his nation’s diplomats that visas were not to be issued to various categories of people. Essentially this covered all refugees who might be seeking access to Portugal. Exemptions could only be granted with sanction from the Foreign Ministry in Lisbon. It is clear that from the very start that Sousa Mendes was uncomfortable with this restrictive approach. He began to make exceptions without prior clearance and put forward, to the authorities, retrospective justification for his actions. The numbers involved were quite small but the situation changed radically in 1940 as French resistance to the Nazi invasion began to collapse. Millions fled south, many to avoid conflict but others, notably the Jews, had far more specific reasons to leave France. Hundreds approached the consulate in Bordeaux seeking assistance.

Sousa Mendes became indisposed in mid-June with what he described subsequently as a breakdown. Clearly he was in a very difficult situation caught between his instructions from Lisbon and his humanitarian instincts. Happily the latter proved decisive and he emerged from his illness with an emphatic decision. ‘From now on I’m giving everyone visas. There will be no more nationalities, races or religions.’[iii]For the next few weeks this is precisely what he did. Obviously Salazar’s government could not tolerate such defiance and he was recalled, an instruction he complied with but not in any great hurry. Estimating the numbers he saved is difficult as visas often covered more than the individual holder but included family members such as children. Some have suggested that between him and his colleague Emile Gissot in Toulouse, 20,000 were saved. Certainly a figure of 10,000 would constitute a conservative estimate. The noted Holocaust scholar, Professor Yehuda Bauer has described the role played by Sousa Mendes as perhaps the largest rescue operation by a single individual during that period. Subsequently the career of Aristides de Sousa Mendes was destroyed on the direct instructions of Salazar. Sadly he lived in relative poverty for the remainder of his life and his actions were airbrushed from history. Eventually the truth began to emerge and a campaign in the US by a group including the diplomat’s son, John Paul, bore fruit in 1986 when 70 members of congress wrote to the then Portuguese Prime Minister asking that the good name of Aristides de Sousa Mendes be restored. Two years later the Portuguese parliament unanimously adopted a motion striking out all charges against Sousa Mendes and marked the decision with a standing ovation. Further recognition has followed in Portugal and in Bordeaux where he made his wonderfully courageous decision.


The Belgian

Escape lines during WW2 tended to specialize in particular target groups. Some focused on ensuring the safe return home of members of the Allied Forces so that they could re-join their regiments, whereas others prioritized the needs of civilians who were seeking to evade capture by the Nazis and Fascists. 

Pat O’Leary was the name used by the leader of a prominent escape line centered in the South of France. In reality, he was a Belgian doctor whose real name was Albert Marie Guérisse.  When his native country was invaded, he made his way to Britain and enlisted in the Armed services. In early1941, he arrived in Marseille and made contact with Ian Garrow, a member of the Seaforth Highlanders who had been unable to reach Dunkirk in time to evacuate. Making his way south, he had begun to establish an escape line with a Scottish-born clergyman called Donald Caskie amongst others. The arrival of O’Leary was a major step forward as he brought new skills to the endeavor, including an ability to speak French fluently and the training he received in undercover work whilst in Britain. Indeed, he became the central figure in the organization and it became known as the ‘Pat Line’. He immediately set about expanding the line in terms of the number of ‘safe houses’ that were available in which to lodge escapees while ways of getting them out of France were organized. 

There were about 50,000 personnel who, like Garrow, failed to make the evacuation at Dunkirk. Many remained at large and others, whilst captured initially, managed to escape. The main objective of the line was to locate and repatriate these so that they could return to active service. In order to do this, the organization had to extend its presence throughout France as far as possible and to set up a route through Spain so that evacuees could be brought to Gibraltar and home from there. Establishing a large organization throughout war-time France was a risky operation. There were Nazi spies both in that part under the control of the German authorities and Vichy France, the so-called un-occupied region. Recruiting helpers was always difficult as the authorities were constantly seeking to penetrate organizations favorable to the Allied cause. Despite this, an extensive escape line stretching from north of Paris to Gibraltar was soon in place. 

Getting escapees over the Pyrenees and through Spain was difficult. Spain, under the control of General Franco, while nominally neutral, was favorably disposed towards the Nazis especially when they had the upper hand in the conflict. As a result, there were plenty of Nazi undercover agents in the country and the authorities turned a blind eye. Donald Darling was appointed by the British authorities to facilitate evacuees heading for Gibraltar and he soon had a fairly efficient operation in place. In this, he was helped by a diplomat stationed in the UK embassy in Berlin and a number of favorably-disposed locals. 

Of course, ensuring the safe passage of escapees through France was even more difficult. Operating over such a distance and involving so many volunteers led inevitably to failures. The line was penetrated by Paul Cole, an Englishman and former soldier. He had a number of early successes in bringing people down to the South of France and eventual freedom. This was a typical tactic by the Nazi authorities to allow an agent acting on their behalf build a positive image. In late November 1941, Cole’s real role became clear and he was confronted but escaped. He betrayed some of the lines leading supporters in the North of France, costing approximately fifty to be arrested, tortured and executed.

Despite this very serious setback, O’Leary and his team re-built the organization and evacuations to Gibraltar continued. In the main, these were by way of the Pyrenees but, for a period, sea evacuations were carried out successfully. They also managed to organize jail breaks including some spectacular ones, so that particular vital personnel could return home to resume their duties. On 2March 1943, O’Leary himself was betrayed by a volunteer named Roger le Neveu. He suffered serious torture in prison but survived. For obvious reasons an organization such as the ‘Pat Line’ kept no detailed records so estimating how many were assisted is not straightforward. It is likely, however, that about 2,000 individuals were helped by O’Leary and his colleagues.


The Franciscan

Assisi has been a focus of pilgrimage and religious practice for Christians over the centuries. As such, for those seeking sanctuary from the effects of the war it was an obvious destination to seek out. Indeed the local bishop had set up a committee to care for refugees at an early stage. Padre Rufino Niccacci was, at the time, Father Guardian of the local Franciscan seminary. In June 1944 the Allies, after protracted battles, eventually reached Rome. A few hours later, Padre Rufino was woken by a colleague close to midnight with a message to call to see the bishop immediately, which he did. As he had no involvement with the committee for the welfare of refugees, he was surprised to be asked to bring a group of them to Cardinal Della Costa in Florence, who would arrange for them to leave Italy via the port of Genoa. His surprise became astonishment when it was explained that this was a group of Jews, including a Rabbi. Rufino had never met a Jew and indeed, it was believed that no one of that faith had ever been in Assisi. The task was successfully completed and Rufino was destined to learn a lot in the next few months as he looked after increasing numbers of Jews arriving in the area to seek sanctuary. As escape via Genoa became unavailable, he hid them in the many religious houses in Assisi, supplemented by many locals who were willing to accommodate some in their private homes. A dangerous game of cat and mouse ensued between him and the local Nazi forces and, despite many near misses, he ensured that all in his care survived the war. Given the nature of these events it is likely that many locals were aware of what was going on but he and his charges were never betrayed. Interestingly, it is probable that the Nazi commander in the area during the final months of the occupation had some inkling of what was afoot and chose to turn a blind eye.

These are just three of the cases detailed in Heroes in the Shadows. There are others recorded there and elsewhere and, indeed, many individual heroic acts that are long forgotten.  War invariably provides ample evidence of humankind’s capacity for appalling brutality. It is important not to forget that many possess the necessary moral courage to resist such examples of man’s inhumanity to man and a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.


Heroes in the Shadows: Humanitarian Action and Courage in the Second World Warby Brian Fleming is available here: Amazon USAmazon UK

[i]Fleming, Brian The Vatican Pimpernel: The Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty(the Collins Press, 2008 & 2014, Skyhorse Publishing, 2012).

[ii] Fleming, Brian Heroes in the Shadows: Humanitarian Action and Courage in the Second World War (Amberley Publishing,2019).

[iii]Paldiel, Mordecai Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust (KTAV Publishing, 2007) p. 74.

Human trafficking is a terrible afflication in the modern-world, as it has been for a very long time. In this article, Andrew Wonwoo Lim coniders the case of human trafficking in Japan. In particular he looks at the role of the Japanese yakuza organization, the history of the yakuza, and what can be done to solve the human trafficking problem in Japan.

In the Muromachi period (室町時代/ 1336-1573),kyougi (侠客) appeared. They were the people who were involved in crime such as gambling, blackmailing or manslaughter. They were short fused and had a sharp tongue but they were often described as Robin Hood-like characters in Kabuki. It is not clear if it was a absolute fantasy of the Kabuki script writers or a truth up to a certain point.    Umeno Yoshibei (梅の由兵衛) is one of the famous kyogi from the Edo period (江戸時代/ 1600-1868).   Source: Juju Kurihara, "History of Yakuza," Iromegane, last modified June 12, 2015, accessed December 9, 2018, .

In the Muromachi period (室町時代/ 1336-1573),kyougi (侠客) appeared. They were the people who were involved in crime such as gambling, blackmailing or manslaughter. They were short fused and had a sharp tongue but they were often described as Robin Hood-like characters in Kabuki. It is not clear if it was a absolute fantasy of the Kabuki script writers or a truth up to a certain point.

Umeno Yoshibei (梅の由兵衛) is one of the famous kyogi from the Edo period (江戸時代/ 1600-1868).

Source: Juju Kurihara, "History of Yakuza," Iromegane, last modified June 12, 2015, accessed December 9, 2018,

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a global problem that continues to be difficult to control. One of the biggest problems is that the economic benefits of human trafficking, especially in the form of sexual exploitation, outweigh the “moral and legal commitment to equality of the sexes and to the protection of women’s rights.”[1]The statistics on how many people are trafficked annually vary drastically, showing how even collecting the data is challenging. Sex slavery is indisputably one of the most lucrative and exploitative industries, with numbers on trafficked humans ranging from 200,000 to 2,000,000 and the profits calculated up to 10.5 billion dollars annually.[2]Although it is most often women including younger girls who get trafficked into the sex trade, there is still a “significant number of males—both adult and children—enslaved for homosexual prostitution.”[3]The sex slave industry operates globally, especially through powerful criminal organizations such as “The Italian Camorra, Chinese Triads, Russian Mafia, and Japanese Yakuza.”[4]

As human trafficking is a global issue, in order to protect people from innocently getting deceived into the trade, it is of utmost importance to understand the different cultures behind human trafficking. The situation must be brought to light, but it cannot happen without learning how human trafficking differs profusely depending on where you are. Even the simplest things, such as the definition of the term, can be interpreted differently amongst varying cultures—for example, from the U.S. to countries in Asia. 

The human trafficking network in Asia can be broadly identified through some common flows: “(1) from the Philippines to Japan, (2) from Thailand to Japan, (3) from Burma (or Myanmar) to Thailand, (4) from Vietnam to Cambodia, and (5) from Nepal to India.”[5]Japan, amongst the countries in Asia, is a popular destination for trafficking. However, this is not surprising, given the history of the yakuza organization that dominates trade involving illegal activities such as the trafficking of humans. 


History of the Yakuza

In order to properly analyze how to address the problem of human trafficking in Japan, the influence of the yakuza organization must be thoroughly investigated. The yakuza, or the gokudō, are “members of transnational organized crime syndicates originating in Japan.”[6]The yakuza are highly involved in all aspects of life in Japan, especially in the economy and politics. Amongst the yakuza, there are around “3,000 separate, tightly-knit gangs, with over 80,000 members”[7]and despite the Anti-gang law (改正暴力団対策法) passed in 1992, the yakuza still continue to thrive in the society.[8]Interestingly, the yakuza are also perceived as a “Robin Hood” that is heroic publicly, and the “feeling persists among the Japanese that organized crime in Japan bears a noble past;”[9]this image dates back almost four centuries. Ever since the yakuza have been around, gangster groups like the yakuza were used by the government to aid suppressing labor unrest. Eventually, figures like Mitsuru Toyama affected the culture of organized crime in Japan, as he was one among many who brought politics and organized crime together.[10]The yakuza got involved in politics by assisting in political campaigns for conservative politicians—both violently and helping finance operations, which were also usually done through criminal activities including prostitution, blackmail, and gambling. Gradually, by the time World War II broke out, members of the yakuza had positions in national office.

Many yakuza members participated in the Second World War, and during the war, the Japanese, along with the Germans, had “pleasure women” for the soldiers where women were forced into brothels.[11]Once again, this further developed the relationship between the yakuza and the Japanese government. The war did not go in Japan’s favor, resulting in both Japan and the yakuza gangs being left in ruins. However, the American Occupational Forces, mistakingly, ended up contributing to the yakuza’s rebirth as they helped the gang members in order to repress the threat from the growth of communism. Yoshio Kodama, a Class A war criminal that the Occupational Forces released, ended up being a big influencer in the yakuza, as he became the “link to the highest levels of Japanese government.”[12]Kodama accumulated a great deal of wealth in these years and founded the “Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which controlled the Japanese Government until the early 1990s.”[13]

In 1963, where the organization’s growth was at its peak, the yakuza grew to 184,109 members in 5,216 separate gangs. Of these different groups, the most notable one is the Yamaguchi-gumi, estimated to control “7,000 shops, 5,000 restaurants, 4,500 money-laundering operations, 2,300 bath houses, 2,500 bars, 600 property companies and 400 transport firms."[14]

Although some of the group’s traditional activities are dwindling, their influence continues to grow, especially as they expand internationally. By participating in “more sophisticated types of crime,” their annual income, taking into account for their “25,000 legitimate ‘front’ organizations, runs to as high as 70 billion dollars.”[15]As the group is involved in more sophisticated financial crimes such as human trafficking or the drugs trade, the power of the yakuza does not look likely to cease anytime soon, especially as the organization, unlike most crime groups, is, “to a certain degree, readily accepted by Japanese society and heavily connected to the highest levels of government—factors which will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate them from the national and international scene.”[16]


Organized Crime 

The yakuza organization is not only expanding overseas—“South America (Brazil in particular), The Philippines, Thailand, Europe, Russia, China, Australia, South Africa, Taiwan, Korea, and the US”—but alliances overseas, such as the Hong Kong and Taiwan Chinese Triads, the Russian mafia, and the American mafia. Once again, the problem is not one country’s but a global issue. 

The yakuza have been clearly involved in organized crime since the 17th century; nowadays they have expanded their operations: 

“(1) controlling the construction business and the entertainment industry; (2) counterfeiting Japanese currency and stamps, United States dollars, watches, and even brand-name food products; (3) the sex slave trade; (4) smuggling immigrant workers, drugs, guns, whale meat, and other items; (5) insurance fraud; (6) corporate extortion; (7) strong-armed settlement of civil disputes between creditors and defaulting debtors and between parties involved in auto accidents; and (8) intimidation of landowners.”[17]


Bringing the focus back to human trafficking in Japan, the yakuza “are smuggling people from Thailand, the Philippines, Brazil, and China to work in Japan.”[18]This is done in many different ways ranging from forging passports from Indonesia or Taiwan or transporting people on boats, to traditional airport smuggles. When people are brought over from outside countries into Japan, they are often exploited for economic benefits. Either the “illegal works are placed in jobs”[19]or they become part of the sex industry. The work they may be part of could be serving in a hotel or restaurant to being a part of the construction industry. Whatever their work is, the “illegal immigrants also live and work in miserable conditions, because they are always under the threat of being reported to the authorities if they do not obey their employers.”[20]Similarly, the conditions in the sex industry is not so great, as expected. The business is not only in Japan, but widespread across Southeast Asia. That being said, the “yakuza syndicates dominate the sex industry in Japan and are heavily involved in prostitution, turkish baths, massage parlors, pornography, sex tours, and the sex slave trade.”[21]The reason why the sex trade is so big in Southeast Asia is because of the destitute prior living conditions that the the victims of trafficking are coming from. For a number of people, getting involved in the sex industry and giving themselves or their daughters up for prostitution is the “only way they can make a ‘better’ life for themselves.”[22]In the early 1970s, there were arranged sex tours for Japanese men to nearby countries such as South Korea, Thailand, and The Philippines. The women in the prostitution houses were most often impoverished migrants, usually from the countryside. Even worse than the sex tours were the illegal sex slave trade, which the yakuza has been a part of since the early 1980s, “where women knowingly volunteer, or are tricked into coming to Japan and working as prostitutes."[23]Either families would sell a member of their family into the trade or an individual would be kidnapped or tricked into the industry. 

The worst part about the sex slave trade is that it is impossible to escape from. Once an individual is duped into coming to the Japan with the promise of a workspace, the victims of trafficking are in constant debt to the yakuzas. Once they arrive in Japan, their forged passports are taken away, so they are forced to work as prostitutes. Starting from trying to pay off the initial flight cost, passport, and visa, the debt is endless as the individuals must borrow money from the organization and the ruthless cycle continues. What started out as debt around $2000, grows to somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000, not accounting for interest; this amount is not attainable by the poor workers. Hence, the yakuza ends up with leverage over the trafficked humans. 

Today, there are “approximately 140,000 Thai and Filipino women working in Japan as prostitutes due to the sex slave trade,”[24]and probably thousands more considering not all people can be accounted for. 

Unfortunately, the Japanese police do not have much control over the situation in Japan. They “can’t plea bargain, wire-tapping is so restrictive that it is almost useless and rarely applied, and now they are not supposed to have direct contact with members of the yakuza, making intelligence collection nearly impossible.”[25]Because there is no witness protection program, there is nearly no incentive to ever turn a higher member in the hierarchy of the yakuza over to the police. In fact, the benefits and costs are so outweighed. If a member keeps quiet, “he gets a cash reward when released from jail, his family is looked after, and he will probably get a promotion.”[26]However, if he cooperates with the investigation, there is no benefit, but only harm as he “doesn’t get a lighter sentence, his organization will know he talked, he loses financially, and when he gets out of jail, he may even lose his life or a finger.” Hence, it is understandable why no member of the organization will give someone up, and matters are not made easier when accounting for the close ties the yakuza has with the government. When a “criminal conspiracy act, which would allow the police to arrest senior yakuza for the crimes of their subordinates more easily” was brought up, it was “opposed by the ruling coalition for years,” as a leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) from 2005 to 2006, Maehara Seiji, was “bankrolled and supported by Shinohara Jun, an advisor to the Yamaguchi-gumi.”[27]In a more hopeful light, because the yakuza are also human, “they are horrified by the acts of their fellow yakuza” on occasion, hoping that they will be stopped. Ironically, some of the yakuza who “still live by their traditional code cannot stand some of the crimes the modern yakuza are involved with”[28], such as child pornography or human trafficking. 


The Future

Considering the history and the wide influence of the yakuza in Japan, addressing the issue of human trafficking must take the position the yakuza stands in in Japan into account. After learning about the culture of Japan and how the public perceives the yakuza, solutions to help resolve the global phenomenon can more effectively be distinguished. Although no solution is easily attainable, especially as it requires a change in culture and the mindset of the general public, a step-by-step resolution can be identified. The reason knowledge about the history of the yakuza and Japan is important is to effectively implement the solution. The solution to assisting the phenomenon of human trafficking is theoretically not too complicated. Because currently, the benefits of trafficking humans are much higher than any cost, the industry is flourishing. Yes, there are many steps that need to be taken before getting to this conclusion:

1.    There needs to be witness protection, so the morals of the yakuza can help shed some light on specific issues. 

2.    The police and government need to be given more power to be able to suppress the activities of the yakuza. 

3.    The Japanese police should also cooperate with foreign law enforcement officials and ditch the “dual criminality” standard, where the police will “disseminate information only if the alleged criminal activity is also a crime in Japan.”[29]

4.    The strong ties between the organization and the government need to be broken off.

a.    When the public is informed upon a notable figure’s relationship with the yakuza, it is frowned upon and results in a retirement, but there is no real consequence. This needs to change, in order to dissuade public figures from working with the yakuza.

5.    There needs to be a change in the public’s idealistic perception of the yakuza as some “Robin Hood” figure.

6.    Finally, to also assist in getting to the roots of the problem, help the countries that the yakuza frequently exploit for finding impoverished women and help their situation and educate them. 


Even taking these measures, the yakuza will be difficult to shut down. One flip-side to trying to make the costs greater than the benefits through these steps, and ultimately prevent the yakuza from exploiting innocent humans, is that by creating harsher punishments, the yakuza may become less visible and go underground. This may cause more difficulty tracking them down, but it will be a start to alleviate the situation now.

Finally, looking at the Victims Protection Act passed in 2000 in the United States, both Japan and anyone addressing the change to aid Japan can learn from what the United States did well and what it could improve on. The Victims Protection Act did “increase the penalty for sex trafficking”, which could result in providing a “disincentive to commit the crime of trafficking.”[30]In the United States, the Act serves as an effort to “criminalize the conduct of traffickers, to penalize sex trafficking as if this were a crime as serious as rape, and to provide the immigrant victims with enhanced benefits like permanent residency status in the United States.”[31]The penalties for trafficking cases in comparison to other activities such as drug dealing, for example ten grams of LSD, contrast dramatically in the United States. Hence, the gravity of human trafficking needs to still be brought to realization for the community. Notwithstanding, the Victims Protection Act proposes the economic solution to human trafficking as it adds weight to the costs of participating in the trade, which can be applied to assist Japan in combating the influence of the yakuza and its involvement in human trafficking.


What do you think about this article? Let us know below.




Accessed December 8, 2018.


Adelstein, Jake. "Global Vice: The Expanding Territory of The Yakuza." Journal of International Affairs66, no. 1 (2012): 155-61.


———. "Japan's Newest Anti-Yakuza Laws Allow Instant Arrests." The Atlantic, July 30, 2012. Accessed December 8, 2018.


———. "The Last Yakuza." World Policy Journal27, no. 2 (2010): 63-71.


Altink, Sietse. Stolen Lives: Trading Women into Sex and Slavery. London: Scarlet, 1995.


Feingold, David A. "Human Trafficking." Foreign Policy, no. 150 (2005): 26-32.


Finckenauer, James O., and Ko-lin Chin. "Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States: Developing a Transnational Crime Research Agenda." Trends in Organized Crime10, no. 2 (December 2006): 1-134. Accessed December 8, 2018.


Gragert, Lt. Bruce A. "Yakuza: The Warlords of Japanese Organized Crime." Annual Survey f International & Comparative Law4, no. 1 (1997): 147-204. Accessed December 8, 2018.


Hill, Peter B. E. The Japanese Mafia: Yakuza, Law, and the State. Reprint ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.


Jones, Amanda. "Human Trafficking, the Japanese Commercial Sex Industry, and the Yakuza: Recommendations for the Japanese Government." Inquiries Journal, Cornell International Affairs Review ser., 3, no. 2 (2010). Accessed October 15, 2018.


Kurihara, Juju. "History of Yakuza." Iromegane. Last modified June 12, 2015. Accessed December 9, 2018.


Lee, June JH. "Human Trafficking in East Asia: Current Trends, Data Collection, and Knowledge Gaps." International Migration43, nos. 1-2 (January 2005): 165-201.


Leuchtag, Alice. "Human Right, Sex Trafficking, and Prostitution." EBSCO Publishing, January/February 2003, 10-15. Accessed December 8, 2018.


Moen, Darrell. "Sex Slaves in Japan Today." Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies44, no. 2 (2012): 35-53.


Moloney, Anastasia. "'I had no idea I'd been sex trafficked' - Japanese mafia sex slave."Thomson Reuters Foundation, August 13, 2014. Accessed October 13, 2018.


One Hundred Sixth Congress of the United States of America, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Doc. No. 106th-H.R.3244, at 86 (Oct. 28, 2000). Accessed December 8, 2018.


Peach, Lucinda Joy. "'Sex Slaves' or 'Sex Workers'? Cross-cultural and Comparative Religious Perspectives on Sexuality, Subjectivity, and Moral Identity in Anti-sex Trafficking Discourse." Culture and Religion (An Interdisciplinary Journal)6 (2005): 107-34.


Shelley, Louise I. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


Tiefenbrun, Susan W. "Sex Sells but Drugs Don't Talk: Trafficking of Women Sex Workers." 23 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 199, 2000-2001, 199-226. Accessed December 8, 2018.


"Yakuza." Wikipedia. Accessed December 8, 2018.

[1]Susan W. Tiefenbrun, "Sex Sells but Drugs Don't Talk: Trafficking of Women Sex Workers," 23 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 199, 2000-2001, 201, accessed December 8, 2018,

[2]Alice Leuchtag, "Human Right, Sex Trafficking, and Prostitution," EBSCO Publishing, January/February 2003, 10, accessed December 8, 2018,

[3]Leuchtag, "Human Right," 10.

[4]Leuchtag, "Human Right," 12.

[5]James O. Finckenauer and Ko-lin Chin, "Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States: Developing a Transnational Crime Research Agenda," Trends in Organized Crime10, no. 2 (December 2006): 27, accessed December 8, 2018,

[6]"Yakuza," Wikipedia, accessed December 8, 2018,

[7]Lt. Bruce A. Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords of Japanese Organized Crime," Annual Survey f International & Comparative Law4, no. 1 (1997): 147, accessed December 8, 2018,

[8]Jake Adelstein, "Japan's Newest Anti-Yakuza Laws Allow Instant Arrests," The Atlantic, July 30, 2012, [Page #], accessed December 8, 2018,; accessed December 8, 2018,

[9]Lt. Bruce A. Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords of Japanese Organized Crime,"Annual Survey f International & Comparative Law4, no. 1 (1997): 149, accessed December 8, 2018,

[10]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 155.

[11]Susan W. Tiefenbrun, "Sex Sells but Drugs Don't Talk: Trafficking of Women Sex Workers," 23 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 199, 2000-2001, 213, accessed December 8, 2018,

[12]Lt. Bruce A. Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords of Japanese Organized Crime,"Annual Survey f International & Comparative Law4, no. 1 (1997): 159, accessed December 8, 2018,

[13]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 159.

[14]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 175.

[15]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 147.

[16]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 148.

[17]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 179.

[18]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 188.

[19]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 189.

[20]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 189.

[21]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 195.

[22]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 195.

[23]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 196.

[24]Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords," 197.

[25]Jake Adelstein, "Global Vice: The Expanding Territory of The Yakuza," Journal of International Affairs66, no. 1 (2012): 155,

[26]Adelstein, "Global Vice," 155-156.

[27]Adelstein, "Global Vice," 156.

[28]Adelstein, "Global Vice," 157.

[29]Lt. Bruce A. Gragert, "Yakuza: The Warlords of Japanese Organized Crime,"Annual Survey f International & Comparative Law4, no. 1 (1997): 202, accessed December 8, 2018,

[30]Susan W. Tiefenbrun, "Sex Sells but Drugs Don't Talk: Trafficking of Women Sex Workers," 23 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 199, 2000-2001, 201, accessed December 8, 2018,

[31]Tiefenbrun, "Sex Sells," 215.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a period of thirteen days of high tension between the US and NATO on one side and the USSR and Cuba on the other. The crisis began when the US found out that the Soviets had moved missiles capable of reaching the mainland United States into Cuba, some 100 miles from the US shore. This led to days of diplomatic activity, military preparations, and high-level, high-risk correspondence between senior leaders in the USSR and USA - and nearly led to nuclear war.

However, the underlying reasons for the crisis were complex: these included that the USSR wanted to threaten and compete more effectively with the USA, the involvement of the USSR and the US in the Korean War and Vietnam War, strategic imbalance between the two sides, and the division of Berlin.

Nicky Quinton explains.

A picture of the US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, which were partly responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A picture of the US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, which were partly responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis.


The political relationship between the United States and the USSR after World War II was filled with tension. Two geographical giants were competing for economic, technical, and military superiority all over the world. Government policies were aimed at improving performance in various fields to tip the balance of power in their favor, even to the detriment of their citizens. The space race, nuclear arms race, and even the Olympic Games were proof that the US and the Soviet Union did not want to give an inch in the battle.

After World War II, the world was largely divided into two camps: those who supported capitalism and those who supported communism. The United States and the Soviet Union were the leaders of these two groups. Unfortunately, this confrontation was not limited to an informational and ideological war. Instead, the two states got involved in wars to support their ideological allies.

This was because neither the USA nor the USSR truly wanted to fight each other directly – the desire to avoid another World War and the risks from nuclear weapons helped prevent that. However, their armies fought indirectly in conflicts, notably the Korean War and Vietnam War. 


Korean War and Vietnam War as examples of indirect war

The split of Korea after World War II into two independent states was driven by the Cold War. A socialist regime was established in the northern state, and a capitalist regime was established in the southern state. The Soviet Union (and China) supported the communist leader Kim Il-sung, and the US supported the anti-communist leader Syngman Rhee. The war began in 1950 and ended up with the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953.

The Vietnam War is another example of a proxy war. Although the official conflict took place between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the real state of affairs was similar to the Korean War. The USSR and China supported communist North Vietnam, and the United States and other anti-communist countries more actively supported South Vietnam. Therefore, indirect conflicts increased the tension between the USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was different to those wars – it was partly about strengthening the Soviet position and giving it a more credible nuclear threat.

It could happen at all because in the years before 1962 the Cuban Revolution led communist leader Fidel Castro to take control of Cuba in 1959. The Soviets were more than happy with an ally some 100 miles from the US coast and used it to their advantage.

The Soviet initiative to place missiles in Cuba was the result of the Soviet’s perceived strategic imbalance, since the United States had nuclear weapon bases in Turkey, close to the Soviet Union (Nathan, 58). In 1961, US President John F. Kennedy agreed to put 15 nuclear-tipped Jupiter missiles near the Turkish border. While the US military was deemed capable of delivering a first strike on the USSR (launching a nuclear attack before the enemy could do the same), the Soviets had few ballistic missiles deemed capable of reaching the continental US from the USSR at the time. Furthermore, these were considered to be both inaccurate and unreliable (Allison and Zelikow, 92). Therefore, the USSR wanted to solve this problem by placing mid-range missiles in Cuba, thus restoring the strategic balance.

One more crucial reason for the Crisis was Berlin. During the Cold War, Germany was effectively split into two: East Germany (GDR) and West Germany (FRG). The border went straight through Berlin. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev believed that by having missiles in Cuba, the Soviet Union could try and strike a deal with the West into relinquishing its control over the western portion of Berlin (Allison and Zelikow, 105).

In short, some of the key reasons for the Cuban Missile Crisis were:

·      The Cuban Revolution that led communists to take charge of Cuba

·      Political competition between the USA and the Soviet Union.

·      Growing tensions throughout the 1950s, partly driven by the Korean War and the (early days) of the Vietnam War

·      To put pressure on the United States to remove its nuclear arms from Turkey

·      Control over Berlin



Crisis was averted in Cuba and the US did in fact secretly later remove the nuclear-tipped missiles from Turkey (Nathan 134). Fortunately the Cold War didn’t turn into a “hot war.”


Works Cited

Allison, Graham T., and Philip Zelikow. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. TPB, 2000.

“Cuban Missile Crisis.”, A&E Television Networks, 8 May 2019,

Nathan, James A. The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited. St. Martin’s Press, 1992. 


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

This article was provided by Nicky Quinton of WriteMyEssayOnline.


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

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The 75th anniversary of D-Day took place a few days ago, on June 6th. In honor of that, today we have a contribution from an author of a recently published book about D-Day - D-Day UK: 100 Locations in Britain (Amazon USAmazon UK). Here Simon Forty explains the background to World War Two’s D-Day and his book.

US troops approaching Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

US troops approaching Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

In June 1944 Allied forces invaded France to liberate Europe and destroy Nazism.

Immortalised in film and book, D-Day is, rightly, seen as a turning point in 20thcentury

history and opened a land campaign that finished less than a year later in the

unconditional surrender of the enemy. 


The speed, means and method of this victory have been discussed and debated

ever since. Most of the discussion has concentrated on the landings and the battles

that followed: the bravery of the soldiers, sailors and airmen; the effectiveness and

personality of the commanders; the efficiency and abilities of the respective tactics,

weapons and armies.


The locations are written indelibly in our memories: Omaha and Juno, Pegasus

Bridge, Arromanches, Pointe du Hoc, Sainte-Mère-Église. Understandably, much of the

military remembrance – the cemeteries and memorials – are on the French side of the

English Channel, as are most of the remnants of war – bunkers, vehicles, scarred buildings.

However, like the tip of an iceberg, the D-Day landings and the battle of Normandy

– about two months’ fighting from 6 June until the end of August – were the result of

years of preparation that took place to a great extent in Britain. It was in Britain that

the plans were developed, the logistics organised and the weapons prepared. It was in

Britain that the soldiers boarded the ships to take them to France, from Britain that

the air forces provided aerial cover and the armada set sail. It was in Britain that large

numbers of young American, Canadian, Polish, and French men and women spent so

much time that they became part of the everyday life of the country. And it wasn’t all

work: the influx of that many young men and women – including more than 100,000

black troops – had a striking affect on Britain’s social scene. After the war, 60,000 war

brides left Britain for a future in North America. British and American culture hadn’t

become one entity, but it had certainly joined at the hip.


Americans start to arrive

The first Americans arrived in Northern Ireland in January 1942 – although

‘Special Observers’ had been there since spring 1941. By May 1944 their ranks had

swelled to around 750,000, a figure that doubled before 1944 was out. Some of these

soldiers spent a short time in Britain before heading to the Mediterranean theatre;

others spent as much as 20 months training for action.


This invasion – often dubbed the ‘friendly invasion’ – affected most people

in Britain in one way or another. The Americans had to be housed and fed; they

had to have places to train and trainers to tell them what to do. They had to have

equipment and places to practise using it. The supplies for the battles to come had

to be stored somewhere. The details of the invasion had to include secure locations

for final preparation, places to board ships and receive final orders. And then there

were the naval facilities, and those needed for the US Air Forces: airfields, runways,

hangars. This was no mere temporary posting. This was the creation of an American

infrastructure in a way that hadn’t been done before. The rulebook had to be created.

Over the next two years the preparations for the invasion of France took form.

It wasn’t a linear progression: political considerations, fighting in Africa and the

Mediterranean, the strength of the opposition – all these things interrupted progress

until late 1943. From then on the countdown had begun and while the actual end date

changed slightly, it wasn’t a question of if, but when.


D-Day UK, published to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, chooses 100

locations in Britain to tell the story of how the invasion of France came about. It covers

the practicalities of the planning process, the main people and the major organisations

involved. It looks at the specialist training the troops needed and the major exercises;

gives an insight into some of the logistical issues, covers the movement of troops from

marshalling camp to embarkation – for delivery to France by landing craft or aircraft;

examines the range of air assets over the battlefield, from fighters through medium

bombers to the heavies; and touches on the naval side of the landings, particularly the

minesweepers and landing craft.


Choosing 100 locations

Choosing 100 locations proved to be a difficult job and I’m sure that many would

disagree with my choices: too much air and not enough naval; too much in Hampshire

and not enough in Essex; too much American and not enough British or Canadian; too

much that can’t be seen today. In the end it’s impossible to please everyone.

Finally, I decided early on not to include museums in the listings: there could

have been 100 of them alone, including the Imperial War Museum, National Army

Museum, RAC Tank Museum, D-Day Museum, Royal Signals Museum, Fleet Air

Arm Museum, the excellent Portsmouth naval museums (the Submarine Museum,

Naval Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower), Bletchley Park, Cobbaton

Combat Collection, museums at airfields (Tangmere, Shoreham, Dunkeswell), up to

and including the Commando display in the Fort William Museum. All these and many

more have material related to D-Day and are worth a visit.



D-Day UK: 100 Locations in Britainby Simon Forty is available here:Amazon USAmazon UK

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Shah of Iran led a coup d’état in Iran in 1953, with the help of the UK and US. This article considers what happened after the coup, in particular how the awarding of a road-building contract to a British company ultimately led to resistance to awarding major contracts to some foreign companies. Guan Kiong Teh explains.

The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza, with his wife and son in 1967.

The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza, with his wife and son in 1967.

I wrote this article on the road building and vehicle industry in the late Pahlavi state to respond to two aspects of Iranian historiography. The first is the lack of scholarship on the technique of science and technology within Iranian modernization. Many scholars mention science and technology within Iranian political discourse. However, I focus upon scientific technique - defined as the legal, political and societal context and consequences of the application of technology. This only started gathering force recently, with for instance, Katayoun Shafiee’s focus on ‘sociotechnical’ processes in Machineries of Oil(2018).

The second is the thin analysis of the social impacts of consumerism during the years between the 1953 coup and the announcement of the Peykan car in 1966 through an integrated system of the private market and public infrastructure. Drawing upon British governmental and personal sources, and documents produced by the Iranian Government, Mowlems, and Chrysler, I examine how road building and the related vehicle industry contributed to Iranian political practice and discourse between the spring of 1954 and the announcement of the Peykan car in 1966, particularly towards the concept of independent foreign policy and an Iranian state for the Iranian people. The Mowlems contract was a blessing and a curse. While it demonstrated to the Iranian government that they had the sophistication to turn perfidious Albion on its heads, its costliness contributed to the pro-business spirit of the 1960s and the mythical White Revolution.


Iranian Vehicle Industry

The vehicle industry represented a fertile opportunity to win over the Iranian people and execute leverage against countries such as Britain, America, and Germany, particularly given the lessons of the Mowlem’s affair from 1954-57. Commercial development projects grew in geopolitical significance during the Cold War. Iran shared a border with the Soviet Union. The increasing burden of aid, military and nuclear expenditure in Iran in the 1950s compelled Mohammad Reza Shah to pursue a more independent foreign policy, most notably through the ‘soft’ weapon of the trade of goods and services within Iran. The logic: to reap the benefits of aid and expenditure without furthering the impression and consequences of Anglo-American political puppetry. Between 1954 and 1959, the PO sought to consolidate its uniquely ‘educated’ and powerful role in government through these formative exercises, refining its technique of portraying British firms as undeserving of their prestigious commercial reputation. The diplomatic successes and economic costs, however, led the government to pursue diplomatic success through economic profit, as evidenced in the birth of Iran’s automotive industry, culminating in the Iran N Peykan.

John Mowlem & Co Ltd. were British construction agents. By the 1950s they were established names in Britain, supervising Thames drainage projects at the turn of the century. In April 1954, Glossop was approached by Ebtehaj, Fazlollah Zahedi and the Shah to negotiate for a road-building contract, with vocal support from Roger Stevens, the British Ambassador to Iran. Mowlem’s first problem was demonstrating hostility towards the Iranian Government’s demands for accountability in technical expertise, exacerbated by the British Embassy’s lack of technical knowledge. A July 27 telegram states the position of the Iranian Government as interpreted by Ambassador Roger Stevens. Mowlems was expected to seek a contract to acquire the road plant material from a preferably non-British firm. The Iranian Government did not, as a matter of practice, enter multiple contracts in its pursuit of development projects. The Embassy advised that this was a clear warning that Mowlems’ would be held to the highest technical scrutiny. Since the previous month, Ebtehaj repeatedly expressed that he was under pressure from American firms to ensure that plant contracts were not exclusively awarded to British firms. Finally on May 10, 1955, Richard Glossop, the Managing Director of John Mowlem & Co. Ltd, exchanged contracts with Abdolhassan Ebtehaj. These were the roads to be constructed.Mowlems committed, as ‘managing agents’, to supervise the construction of 6,000 kilometers of roads in Iran over eight years. This was, according to the British Embassy, ‘the most important contract we have secured in Persia since the resumption of diplomatic relations. For years past foreign contractors have tried and failed to get it.’ Yet Mowlems’ shortcomings in its mastery of technical information served as a wake-up call for the Iranian government. When this contract was terminated in December 1957, barely 300 kilometers of roads had been refurbished in small stretches, with no new roads built. The contract was formally annulled on September 10, 1958. Further road building contracts until the mid 1960s never rivaled the Mowlems’ contract on scale, and were overwhelmingly awarded to Iranian firms or, at most, a minor supervisory role was awarded to Belgian, South African or Danish firms notably Kampsax - never Anglo American again.


How the Agreement Ended

The Plan and Budget Organization enacted political leverage against Britain by purporting that Mowlems failed to deliver the technical excellence necessary to justify maintaining the contract. The experience demonstrated that Iran had the strategic sophistication to manipulate perceived British commercial opportunism. Yet this was executed at the expense of contributing towards a balance of payments crisis between 1958-60 and presenting unfinished roads to the public, instilling further ambivalence about the merits of the incorporation of ‘Western’ development and Iranian nationalism advocated by the Shah. 

While the extraordinary expenditure of the Mowlems’ contract makes it difficult to argue that money was judicially used, the Plan Organization took some steps towards independent foreign policy by challenging Mowlems not on explicitly financial or political but technical grounds. The PO presented limitations upon British commercial advantage as a moral and financial obligation to find the most technologically competitive route to infrastructure development. The contract negotiation period between April 1954 and May 1955 was formative for the PO in coming to terms with manipulating technical expertise of road building. 

Relations were warmest where British and Iranian interests in road building and foreign policy clashed. During the second half of 1956, Mowlems’ dedication towards technical competitiveness improved. In November, a 36 kilometer stretch of road between Qazvin and Takestan was successfully refurbished, of which General Ansari gave a tour to Majlismembers at the end of the year. By December 1956, Ebtehaj grew more praiseful of Mowlems, announcing early in January 1957 to commit to fund a new flagship project: a road from Qazvin to the Turkish border at Jolfa, via Tabriz, and a direct route between Isfahan and Shiraz[1]. The route to the Turkish border provided easy access to a ‘friendly’ missile base, and would also serve Iranian interests in regional links.

However, Mowlems’ astonishing cost-saving by refusing to study soil composition exasperated the Iranian government. By mid-1957, only 240 kilometers of roads had been refurbished with no new roads built. Early batches were cracking and potholed, the result of importing a road plant mixture designed for British weather and soil. The Shah summoned Stevens, decrying it as ‘the worst piece of propaganda I’d ever seen’. Once he said this, Ebtehaj went for the pincer. The Shah had promised Mowlems’ reputation to the Majlis in 1955. If Mowlems’ did not improve or concede incompetence, the Iranian state was headed for a crisis of confidence that could rival what happened 1953. Eventually, Ebtehaj wrote to Mowlems to annul the contract on 23 December 1957. 450 million rials had been wasted over two and a half years.


The Consequences for Iran

This experience primed commercial instinct during the White Revolution. It gave the Iranian Government an obsession with ensuring Iranian - particularly Persian,Pahlavicharacter was evident in national ‘modernization’ and ‘development’, as evidenced in the automotive industry, particularly the Iran National Peykan, announced 1966, and the Pars Khodro Shahin, announced 1967. Cars were a uniquely potent symbol of the West and a unique absorption point for discontent therewith. Unlike Western lecturers or artists, ‘ordinary’ Iranians interacted with the benefits of the car on a practical (as opposed to abstract) level. Unlike refrigerators, hydroelectricity or the sewage system, ‘ordinary’ Iranians interacted with the car for extended periods of time. Unlike radios or TV sets, the value of the car as a tool and means of earning income were more obvious. Further, in an experience common around the world, the car was often the most expensive product and second-most expensive that a family bought, after their house. The passenger car has political capital. Note the situation that Volkswagen found themselves in during 2018, when they faced criticism that they withdrew from the Iranian market due to lobbying by the American ambassador in Germany.

To begin, the Government ostensibly took steps to secure Iranian national input; ostensibly committed to Import Substitution Industrialization as defined in the Third Development Plan (1963-68). A June 1963 news broadcast announced that the Government was planning initiatives to boost car battery production within Iran. The Government favored entrepreneurs to the detriment of the consumer’s pockets by enforcing considerable economic incentive to encourage importers and distributors to seek tenders for nationalized Complete Knock-Down Kits. For instance, 126 ‘saloon cars’ were imported between 27 September and 2 October 1965. These cars were worth 9,500,000 rials to their importer and subject to governmental duties of 92%, at 8,740,000 rials. High tariffs were imposed upon cars that were supposed to be relatively affordable. While the exact make and model of the 126 saloons are unknown, they were all the same model, giving a market price of 75,397 rials and a tariff of 69,360 rials per vehicle, costing the importer 144,757 rials per vehicle in total. As sold to consumers, the vehicle would have cost slightly more than the 150,000 rial Peykan and was a likely competitor. Yet the pressure upon importers was clear: one could be subject to heavy tariffs, or one could try hard to persuade car brands to license cars for CKD production. These were not technologically advanced cars: the Volkswagen Beetle’s air cooled engine was far more appropriate for Iran’s arid climate. Overall, the impetus to produce the national car came from an interest in profit and symbolism of adopting a British and American car; symbol that the Iranian government could actually reign in foreign powers and, to quote British politician Nigel Farage, ‘make a titanic success out of it’. 



The Peykan divided urban and rural more than it united. The Hillman Hunter GT was rebranded the Peykan Javanan, heralding the prominence of youths in the country and the role of youth in Iranian politics. Few in the countryside, however, could afford to maintain cars. In villages, those who drove taxis were respected as ‘chauffeurs’, their ability to drive singled out by hopeful mothers trying to matchmake sons. In 1969, 4 million - 15% of Iran’s population - lived in cities. Yet 80% of the passenger car market was urban. 

The Pahlavi state made genuine efforts to ensure that ‘development’ initiatives from the United States, Britain and their Cold War allies were practical for those outside Tehran and Iran’s major cities. The road building experience was good. However, the Pahlavi state focused on the wrong aspect of the lessons, valuing money over expertise. This was the main takeaway: without subscribing to determinist narratives on the inevitability of the White Revolution leading to a Black instead of Red Revolution, Iran’s determination to make sense of the point of scientific and technical control meant that following a clear path of ‘development’, as suggested by Huntington or Moore, was never going to be likely.


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[1]Tehran to FO, 16 February 1957, FO 371/127117