Thursday, November 2, 2017

October 3, 1943: Nazism Underestimated

Article by Opa in The Mercury Chronicle


Hitler's Pep Talk For Home Team May Indicate Crack Up

By Thomas W. Doeppner

The Allied air offensive on Germany, the capture of Naples, the terrific Russian onslaught, with the fall of Smolensk and the imminent fall of Kiev, as well as many domestic problems inside Germany, make the question of a possible German political crack-up a la Mussolini come up with new vigor. If we can trust Hitler in so far as any great upcoming event is favored with his dementi, Hitler himself gave the German people a hint of such a crack-up, when he said on the occasion of Italy's surrender:

"Any hope of finding traitors here (in Germany) rests on complete ignorance of the character of the National Socialist state: a belief that they can bring about a July 25 in Germany rests on a fundamental illusion as to my personal position as well as about the attitude of my political collaborators and my field marshals, admirals, and generals..."

The fact that Hitler had to take time out from losing the war to give his people such a pep talk indicates that the German people have been thinking about the problem. For Nazi Germany, this means a lot; thinking is almost as dangerous as acting, for there are only few people who can keep their thoughts consistently quiet. 

Hitler is no longer able to keep the bad war news from his people. The German people know that the odds are now against them, after two years of victory and two years of stalemate. 1918 is being dug out from the graves of memory, and with it the disaster which came over Germany after the last German offensive in August of that year.

All these facts, together with the long trains and shiploads of dead and wounded which the Germans cannot help seeing, mean that only a firm belief in the ideology of Nazism could keep the people continuing this losing war. This firm belief cannot possibly be present, for the following reasons. In the first place, the German belief in the Nazis was based on a mystical dogma of invincibility, which now has been disproven. In the second place, the Nazi movement is too young to have had a chance to influence German spirit completely and sufficiently. In the third place, never in history has a German army made a last stand on its own home territory. The entire German military strategy- all through history, has been one of offense, not of defense.

There are real possibilities that the real strong defenses of Germany may never be tested. The Maginot Line, which has been turned around to face the West, the Siegfried Line, the eastern "Guertel," all these are defenses which would lead immediately into Germany. Many authorities deem it very unlikely that the Germans will actually use these, as they fear that Germany proper would be utterly destroyed by the Allies, once these defenses had been penetrated.

The Germans will only be likely to give up before their last lines are attacked, however, if they know they are defeated. The Allies, therefore, will have to put up just as big an army as they would otherwise.

One thing is clear, though: the Nazis will not spare anything, not German territory, not even the German people, in their desperate attempts to save their hides and what is left of their power. If the German people, therefore, will return to their historic strategy of giving up before the battle has been fought, they will have to get rid of the Nazis first. The German Military are the only ones who are strong enough physically and in their influence on the population, to accomplish this pleasant task. For these reasons, it would not at all be surprising, if, maybe before Christmas, the Nazis in Germany have been replaced by a military dictatorship under leadership of a man like Von Brauchitsch or General Jodl (The former has been reported as being poisoned; this has not been reported by any authoritative source, though, and has all appearances of being a rumor.)

Such a military government in Germany, if it actually should come about, might be compared with the present Badoglio regime in Italy, with the only difference that it would put up a stronger battle.

Whew. I had to do a decent amount of research to catch up on this one. I think this might be the first time that Opa doesn't get everything right- or at least his predictions are a bit too optimistic, even for him. 

Opa talks about July 25th, the fall of Fascist Italy, and how it reverberated into Germany. Germany isn't doing all that great in the war, the Soviets have reclaimed territory and are moving closer to their borders. The Allies are gaining footholds and winning more than losing, which is a signal of the tide changing. Germany is aware of this, and Opa is thinking about how it's affecting them. Opa rightly points out that Hitler's mere mention of the Fascist overturn in Italy and how it doesn't affect them at all is a sign that the Nazi government is feeling the strain. 

Now here is where I think Opa misses the boat. He scoffs at Nazism as being too young, too dependent on the illusion of invincibility (which he feels has been proven wrong), to really hold claim over the German people in the face of defeat. He assumes that if the defeat continues, that the German people (with the military as their powerhouse) will capitulate the Nazi government and fight or surrender on their own terms. He remembers that Germany is not one to fight to the death and destruction of every town, but rather gives in before total annihilation. Opa is actually quite generous in this analogy because he gives the German people the benefit of being able to weigh the costs and make a sound decision about when to let go.

He invokes the memory of 1918, the year the first world war was over. Germany was absolutely miserable, and their defeat meant that they would be humiliated before the victors. The victors of that war focused less on creating lasting peace, and more on humbling Germany. This of course, only created a breeding ground for Nazism and the need for Germany to prove themselves strong and better than everyone else. Opa was born into the slowly improving depression that was Germany after the first world war. His entire childhood and young adulthood was shaped by the two wars. 

Opa predicts that the Germans would shed the new coat of Nazism and protect their country against being totally humiliated again. He was, unfortunately, wrong. I think his perspective of the German people was largely shaped by his location. He was a Berliner, living in the city of progressives and thinkers. His parents were educated and acutely aware of the political and social situation. But what they didn't know (at least I guess this to be so) was the dangerous ignorance and fear that lurked in the rural towns and uneducated masses. Even in the face of the terror caused by Nazis, Opa assumed that the Germans would come to their senses.

Sound familiar? I remember after the election last year that I was astounded. How was it possible that this person of terrible moral and fiscal courage could be lauded as a savior of the country? But I was shocked because of where I live. I live surrounded by the educated elite. I live in a suburb, in homes without worry of electric or water being shut off. I don't know about the fear and ignorance that fuels some of the hate I have seen explode this last year. I have been trying to listen better, to learn more, to become less ignorant myself. But one thing I have learned is this: I didn't know America as well as I thought I did. 

Opa had been through some of the same questioning, wondering how Hitler and the rise of anti-semitism (and the rise of hatred towards anything "different") could have become so prominent and popular. But if I am honest, this article tells me he hasn't admitted yet that his home may not be what he thought. As for Nazism- we're still not rid of it. The ideology, even having suffered resounding defeat in the second world war, is still rampant. Even here. I don't pretend to understand it, but I will try not to underestimate it.

I remember Opa's lingering question, even as an older man, was how a civilized country like Germany could fall so far. He could never answer it fully. I feel cynical in saying this, but I think the answer lies in recognizing that we are not as civilized as we think we are.

Monday, October 30, 2017

October, 1943: The Klystron and Rhumbatrons

Article by Opa in the October issue of the Kansas State Engineer


The Klystron

Revolutionizing the field of ultra-high frequency generators

The landing crew of the airport was waiting in suspense. It was night and the heavy fog made visibility practically zero. Only a few minutes and the plane will have to land in spite of the darkness and the fog. The only person on the  airport whose nerves remained calm was the engineer in charge of the blind landing apparatus. 

Finally the sound of the approaching plane was heard. "It is about five hundred yards away." said the engineer after a look at his instruments. Suddenly the lights of the plane could be seen on the runway; it had landed safely and smoothly. "Nice job of landing pilot," said one of the attendants. "Don't compliment me," he replied. "I did not see the ground until I left the plane. All I did was watch my instruments."

The secret behind this mysterious landing lies in the development of a new kind of radio technology, ultra-high frequency.

One of the major problems in employing the advantages of ultra-high frequency has been the generation of ultra-short waves. Early attempts in manufacturing tubes which would generate ultra-high frequencies in usable power have been the magnetron and the doorknob tube. The greatest disadvantage of these tubes has been the fact the the power developed by them was relatively small. The need for a powerful ultra-high frequency tube whose frequency stability is sufficient, has become greater in recent years.

Sigurd Varian, a Pan-American Pilot, became disturbed about the tremendous number of planes being amassed by the dictator countries. He foresaw the terrific destruction enemy bombers could do - especially attacks by night, in fog, or under poor flying conditions. His experience as a pilot taught him that the attacker could locate their target under adverse weather conditions. What bothered him was the defense. His brother Russell, who happened to be a television engineer, and a doctor W.W. Hansen, at the time connected with the Leland Stanford University, aided him in developing a tube which was to bring world wide fame.

The klystron was developed in physics laboratory of Stanford University, and worked the first time it was tried. The name "klystron" is a trademark owned by the Sperry Gyroscope Co. The term is derived from Greek and means "waves breaking on the beach." The reason for this name can be seen from the operation of tube.

Figure 2 gives a schematic representation of two modern klystrons. The cathode, which is larger and planer than ordinary tubes is brought to an emission temperature by the heater. The electrons emitted by the cathode are formed into a narrow circular beam by the grid. Then, they are accelerated toward the metallic structure. Those of the electrons which do not strike the grid pass through the equipotential drift space. The speed of the electrons in their path will be in the other of 20,000 miles per second. From there they proceed toward the grids of the second resonator. Part of the electrons will strike the grids, but the majority will pass on toward the plate or collector. Since a speed of 20,000 miles per second is to be maintained, the plate potential will have to be approximately 3000 volts.

If some alternating voltage exists between the first two grids due to oscillations fed into the first resonator, the electrons which pass into the drift space are velocity-modulated. Electrons of high velocity will pass slower electrons which preceded them in time. The electrons which are now in the grid space will tend to collect in bunches.

For this reason, the first resonator is called the buncher. The distance between the buncher and the second resonator, the catcher, is adjusted such that the electron bunches have become as concentrated as possible. The bunches successively pass through the catcher at a frequency of 3 billion cycles per second, or even more. Through delicate synchronization of bunches and catcher, the bunches are timed to go against an alternating current freely within the catcher. (This synchronization is done by turning a micrometer screw which adjusts the distance between the two grids through which the bunched electrons flow slowly.) The resistance which the electrons are now encountering causes them to lose their energy of motion which will instantly be converted into a high-frequency electrical energy. From there the energy flows to a tiny antenna of just a few centimeters length.

Because of the peculiar rhythmic motion of the resonators, the buncher and catcher are also called rhumbatrons.

One of the major disadvantages of the keystone is that it operates with a very large amount of phase shift. This phase shift, however, is fundamental to the operation of the tube and can therefore not be removed by any ordinary method. It is not objectionable for most purposes, but a number of unusual phenomena result from its presence. The phase shift is caused by a time delay. Electrons take appreciable time with respect to the wave length to travel from the buncher to the catcher. The signal which is suddenly applied to the buncher therefore will be able to affect the catcher only when the electrons controlled by the signal arrive at the catcher.

The klystron was applied first for the purpose which its inventors had in mind, blind landing. Ultra-high frequency beams lend themselves readily to the concentration into a special direction. If the klystron is arranged in the center of a horn-shaped metallic screen, the radio waves leaving the klystron will be reflected by the screen. Naturally they lose intensity after leaving the horn. At any particular distance, the intensity will be greatest on the axis of the radio beam. The blind landing instruments in a plane indicate a path of equal wave intensity. If the pilot is on the axis of the beam, he must drop below the axis to follow a path of greatest intensity. This path is inherently curved and will assume a cigar-like shape, which is very handy for landing purposes.

Varian prophesied the development of what he called "sandwich" landing. In this kind of landing, the plane will proceed on a path long which the signal of two beams are equal.

Naturally the application of the klystron is not limited only to blind landings. The generation of ultra-high frequency radio beams is essential in the modern radio air-craft locating devices, high frequency direction direction finders, and many other phases of aviation. 

An interesting experiment was performed by Dr. Hansen in his laboratory at Stanford University. He put an ordinary 60-watt electric bulb into the path of a radio beam generated by a klystron, and noticed that the bulb would light with extreme brilliance. If a long incandescent bulb is introduced lengthwise, its filament will lighten in spots of regular intervals, while there is darkness between these spots. This gives a picture of a standing wave with better accuracy than any previous attempt yet accomplished. The fact that a bulb can be lighted through the klystron suggests a future use of the klystron of extreme importance and far reaching consequences: here exists a way of transmitting electric power wireless. It may well be that in future years a house can be lighted, a room warned, an iron heated, and a street car run by power picked up from the ....

(continued on page 28)

My apologies for cutting the article off short- we did not grab that last part on page 28. 

This article tells me a few things: 1) I still don't want to be an engineer. 2) I think engineers need some help with their naming game. "Buncher" and "Catcher" surely could have been more creatively named. Although I do enjoy the rhumbatron name-  I know it's a mathematical term but it made me think of those transformer machine things. 3) Opa did a decent job considering he wasn't able to write about the  radar he wanted to. And he did this for fun? 

So here's to all you engineers out there- I will say that I am ever grateful for you and your desire to make things. I have no interest in the process, but I am fascinated by the outcome. Also- after a cursory glance at the internet search- it seems like the klystron has been used for lots of things. However, we do not have the reality of houses powered by these generators. Wireless power is still a future to hope for. Come on you engineers! Get cracking!

Friday, October 27, 2017

September 26, 1943: The Balkans and Russia

Article by Opa for the Mercury Chronicle Newspaper 


Three Good Reasons For Allied Attack on Balkans

Editor's Note: The second of a series of interpretive articles by Mr. Doeppner, a K-State student of engineering, presented to readers of The Mercury Chronicle for the first time last Sunday. Mr. Doeppner is a war refugee and formerly was with the United Press in Amsterdam.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

All signs on the military horizon point toward the Balkans as the next step in Allied strategy. There seem to be three major reasons for such a move. In the first place, the Balkans are the only part of occupied Europe, outside of Italy and the Russian front, in which the Nazis encounter organized resistance of appreciable strength. The second reason goes back to the last war. At that time, Churchill uttered the opinion that the Allies "are wasting their men in pounding away at Germany's massed forces" in the West. He suggested an extension and improvement of the Balkan front in order to encircle Germany more totally and to cut her off from her southwestern allies. Churchill may be trying this strategy now.

Political Reason

The third and major reason for a Balkan campaign is a political rather than a military one. It is no secret that the Russian successes have increased rather than eliminated the difficulties between the Russians and the Allies, especially England. One of the reasons for England's unwillingness to break with Nazi Germany in the early thirties was the fact that many of her statesmen contended that Russia was a more dangerous potential enemy than Germany. Lord Halifax, at that time, favored a policy of entering into a protective union with Germany against Russia, and it was not until Germany and Russia joined up for a fourth division of Poland, that England's position became clear.

One of the major problems between England and Russia has been the economic control of the Balkans. Russia, all through her history, has attempted to gain entrance into the Mediterranean sphere of influence, either through the Dardanelles, or on the land route through Rumania and Serbia.

At the present time, the Russian advance is gaining in momentum very swiftly, and the Reds are getting very close to Hitler's eastern door. Also, there seems to be a trend in Russian military strategy to advance in a general southwestern direction, i.e. toward the Balkans. It is not at all improbable that England, for her own safety, prefers to have an army of appreciable size fighting close to the Russians, if for no other reason than to avoid any misunderstanding as to who is going to be economic master over the Balkans after the war.

Advantage to U.S.

This strategy would be advantageous for the United States., too. Far from being a threat to present attempts at collaboration with Russia, it will be decisive in post-war politics. Since it seems agreed between Stalin and Churchill that the Balkans are a good road to Berlin, the one who reaches the Balkans first, may reach Berlin first: and whoever controls Berlin, controls central Europe.

The political differences between a Russian control of Europe and an Anglo-American one are still very great: and for that reason, the British and American governments act cleverly in doing their best to be the first ones to take down the Swastika over the Reichstag.

My history teacher my senior year of high school was one of the best history teachers I had. He used a phrase to describe the Balkans (I'm sure he borrowed it but I can't remember the source): "the powder keg of Europe." And more and more I can see how and why this is true. Nothing gets things moving between Europe and Russia and other countries on the European continent like something shaking in the Balkans. That was the first thing I thought of when I started reading this analysis of Opa's. 

I wonder again if Opa's thoughts are sort of par for the course and obvious to the casual war-observer, or if they are particularly astute and insightful. I see them as being pretty spot on, but maybe everyone already knew this? The political analysis of the relationship between Russia and England and the US is very accurate. We know, post Cold War (and sheesh- currently) that the friendship with Russia by the West has always been a fragile one. I think it is interesting to note that England was considering an alliance with Germany against Russia when the alliance of Germany and Russia made the question moot. We know as students of history that the race to Berlin was definitely a thing. The unfortunate and long division of Germany after the war was a direct result of this competition and incongruent governing styles. (To say "style" puts it a little too mildly, but I'm too lazy to find a better word right now.) 

It is a bit of a miracle that Russia and the rest of the Allies were able to work together in the war effort at all, considering they were never really on the same side. But without Russia, I can't imagine that the Allies would have had victory, or at least not as soon. Russia is a very strange entity. They sacrifice far more than they ever get, and they are far stronger than they seem, and yet they keep falling into dictatorship after dictatorship that keeps their potential from flourishing. What would a truly free Russia be able to do? I can't imagine. 

So the war analysis of Opa's is at least for me very insightful, because it rings true for me of the time in 1943, but also sheds light on a lot of what happened after. Even to today. Russia and America in particular have always had a rivalry of sorts, and will work together if and only if it helps themselves. 

Russia has always been a political challenge.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

September ??, 1943: And... Scene

Letter from Opa to Grandmother



Hi toots,

This is the last letter I am going to write to you for a while. Reports have come in that the U.S.O. limits membership to those specimens of the female sex who behave themselves above reproach. For this reason, your warning does not scare me a bit.

I certainly took advantage and am taking advantage of this my last week of freedom and liberty. Last Wednesday I had the privilege of watching over the sound sleep of approx. 300 gals. I had some difficulty awakening them after getting through with my talk. Sunday night another bunch of bags will be exposed to my cacophonous disharmonies.

Arsenic and strychnine don't appeal to me as a reasonable facsimile for a veterinarian. The unfortunate consequences of such vile chemicals had been shown to us too extravagantly in that never forgettable theater play of last year. If you remember the recipients of the above solutions, you may gather my unwillingness to indulge in such luxury.

The rotten eggs, stinking tomatoes, drawn bayonets, and sadistic black shirts which I arranged for the ceremonial event of your arrival next Monday, have just passed the dress rehearsal.

This, as you will have noticed by now anyhow, is not a letter, but just an attempt at jumping to undesired convulsions. Please don't pull the trick we pulled the last time you were on the Rocket.


P.S. You can tell this isn't written by Tom all together. He dictated it to me. I did my best to write it as he wanted it. You will notice a few mistakes. I told him I should read the letter in which I was answering, but he would not let me. Perhaps it for the best?

Private Secretary
of T.W.D., Esq.

September 21, 1943 was a Tuesday. Opa wrote in that letter that there were 138 hours until he saw Grandmother again-  which is 5.75 days. In this letter he marked as "Today" he mentioned his activities on a Wednesday in the past, and refers to Sunday as the future. Grandmother arrives on a Monday. SO- "today" is likely Thursday-Saturday. I am going to take a guess that it is a Friday, or maybe Thursday. That way he can write and she may still get it before she leaves. My guess is that the letter was written on September 24th. Let's go with that. 

I don't know why I felt compelled to nail down the date. 

Opa is literally writing down a stream of consciousness trail for no other reason than to mark the occasion of Grandmother's arrival as being CLOSER. He cannot freaking wait. 

You know what I just realized?! We won't get any letters of that time! So all this build up to a reunion that we will not witness! I may have to make up some scene in my mind to satisfy my need for some closure. 


Train station, 3:55pm, The Rocket is on time.

Opa is standing on the platform, anxiously waiting for Grandmother, holding a bouquet of daisies wrapped in a blue ribbon. He has taken care to dress nicely, with tan slacks and a crisp pale blue button down shirt (short sleeve?). It is still warm in Kansas in September, and he is starting to sweat a little bit. He is thinking to himself (the narrator is the hot main guy in the old South Pacific movie- go with it). 

"Will Margie still feel the same way about me?" 

"Has absence made the heart grow fonder, or will she see me and realize that she actually DOES want to marry that loser Archie?" 

"I really love that crazy woman."

"I hope she wore that skirt I like."

Cut to the train, make a scan of the scenery, a flat landscape that Grandmother has managed to enjoy looking at. Then pause on the window pane that has framed Grandmother's pondering face. She is thinking to herself (have Judy Garland narrate her voice). 

"It's been a good summer, but I am so glad to be going back to school."

"I can't wait to feel Tom's hug, words have been nice but it'll be wonderful to hold his hand again."

"I hope my guilt about Archie melts away."

"Is there hope for a couple like me and Tom? Will he be able to stay here in the United States? What will happen to us if he has to leave?"

Train rolls up, too fast at first, so that Opa thinks it might just keep going and leave him behind. It slows to a stop, now too slow as he can't hold his fiance until the train has completely stopped and the steps are arranged for the passengers to disembark. Opa resists the urge to pace.

Finally after a few frumpy fellows get off the train, followed by some women of equal disinterest, there she is. 

Opa: "She wore the skirt! She's tinier than I remember! My face feels hot. I hope she likes my flowers. Should I have done roses?"

Grandmother: "There he is! He's taller than I remember! I forgot how handsome he was. Oh, I love daisies, what a happy flower."

Together: "He/She has a beautiful smile."

Grandmother tries to manage her cool and walks slightly faster than usual into Opa's arms spread open for a giant hug. She can't help but smile her biggest smile and melt into his embrace. 

They turn and walk hand and hand from the station.

Opa says out loud "It's about time you got here, been waiting all summer!"

And... scene.

Monday, October 23, 2017

September 21, 1943: Lonely Digger After a Golden Heart

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


September 21, 1943

Listen here, you midwestern chick,

If I would take time to properly answer and repudiate all of those infamous insinuations in your last letter, I would probably still be writing by the time you get back. in that case, I would not have the strength to give you the beating you deserve. For that reason, and for that reason only, I shall limit myself to some of the more important ones. In the first place, I did not apply for membership in the L.H.&G.D.C.Inc. I am neither a gold digger nor a lonely heart nor do I want to be either one; I am, in the contrary, a member of the opposition, i.e. I am a "Lonely Digger after a Golden Heart." I hope you get the difference. My pedigree dates not only back to Moses, but it goes deeper than that, it goes back to Moses' daddy, whoever that was. I am not member of the demopublican party, since I am a strongly convinced Repucrat. I receive six quarts of the milk of human kindness in the required amount of time, but I shall never become a member of a club which permits its members to drink cokes. As to inspectors......(oh boy!!)...

I am glad there is a member in your office who would be more interested in the representative we send to the library; that this person is interested in no less than the librarian, however, worries me, especially since said creature is married. (and has two brats, one 13, the other one 6) By the way, I did talk to the librarian about it today; chances are poor, though, since they prefer to take underclassmen, whom they can keep for a longer period of time. It will depend mainly on whether they have any choice in the matter.

Two weeks ago, I lost a filling in one of my teeth, and now that tooth starts telling me about it. Don't you happen to know a dentist who (a) don't charge nothin', (b) ain't too bad, and (c) don't hoit? If you do, tell him he's got a customer.

Johnny, that boy from Germany I wrote you about, is just here and gives you his regards. He is trying to have me join his business, i.e. making Kodak finishes and printing for drugstores etc. Think I should? it would be on a 50/50 basis, but would take plenty of my oh, so precious time. I guess I wait and see how much money I shall make otherwise.

Well, 138 more hours!

More love,

I feel like I'm watching the slow, steady Americanization of Opa. He gets sillier by the day. It's endearing, but I know the serious side of him is still in there. I'm grateful he got this escape, to feel the joy of love and flirtation. 

And now I get to comment on something totally random but - who WAS Moses' father?? Opa is riding on the happy cloud of Grandmother's soon arrival back to school, when he will finally get to see her again after some hard conversations over letters, and after watching from a distance whether her ex-fiance will win her back or not. He's ready to have her back home! 

Opa needs a dentist, and his description of the requirements he had for a dentist made me laugh out loud, specifically because of the last line. "don't hoit?" First, the translation: don't hurt. Second - the main reason why it made me laugh out loud is because I suddenly heard my Dad saying hurt that way- and I couldn't give you one specific example of when he said it, but as soon as I read that line by Opa, I had a distinct vision of my dad smirking and saying "it don't hoit!" It's fun and weird to find your own Dad lurking in the words of his father years before he was born.

Opa is still trying to figure out how to make an extra buck, and it's hilarious how many enterprising endeavors he is considering. I hope he gets a steady job (what ever happened to the physics department?) and doesn't have to nickel and dime his way, but he seems willing to do whatever it takes. 

Opa's only counting the hours for his lovely lady to come home. 138 more hours till she returns. He really is a "lonely digger after a golden heart."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

September 19, 1943: Fun Facts

Article by Opa for Mercury Chronicle


Refugee Writer For Mercury Interprets Italian Situation

Editor's Note

The following article is the first of a series to be written for this paper by Thomas W. Doeppner, formerly of the United Press Amsterdam, Holland, office, and now a senior in electrical engineering at Kansas State College. The writer was born in Germany and lived there until 1938, when he escaped from a German concentration camp and went to Holland. In November, 1939, he came to this country, entering McPherson College on a scholarship. In September 1941 he enrolled at Kansas State.

Because of his training and experience in Europe, Mr. Doeppner writes with a knowledge not ordinarily possessed by American writers, and it is believed that his column will prove of real interest and benefit to the readers of this paper.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

Observing the difficulties which the Allied armies had in the battle of Salerno, one starts wondering why Italy has been taken as a first step on the road to Berlin. Dominated by high mountains and in every respect rough terrain, Italy forms an almost perfect defense.

Should Clark and Montgomery succeed in occupying the entire southern and central part of Italy, the northern part, which culminates in the natural barrier of the Alps, will form a series of Mt. Etna nests which are as unpregnable as any modern fortress. The only two possible paths which the Allies could take to cross the Alps fro Italy, are the Simplon Pass to Switzerland and the Brenner Pass. The chances that the Allies would violate the neutrality of Switzerland are ?? (minuscule), therefore the Brenner Pass seems to be the only way left. This pass, an ancient cause for arguments between Italy and Germany, is a rather narrow valley which can be defended as easily from the mountains surrounding it as the Strait of Gibraltar from the Rock.

Since the penetration of the Allies appears to be such a terrific job, it seems probable that the Allies used the invasion of Italy for a different reason. Until then, the Allies had not succeeded in diverting any great number of German troops from other Western fronts. Could it be that the Allies are waiting with their major offensive against the Festung Europa until they have forced the Nazis to ease up on other coastal defense lines in order to strengthen Nazi forces in Italy?

If this should be the case, the entire Italian campaign appears in a different light. It would no longer be of primary importance whether the Allies advance 20 or 200 miles in a week or whether they are forced to consolidate their present position: significant could be the number of Nazi troops which the Allies engage in battle and thereby divert from the potential invasion ?bridgeheads along the Western coast.

Apparently this new strategy has been decided upon only very recently and involved complete changes in the original schedule of invasion. This is apparent from Roosevelt's statement in his message to Congress last Friday, saying that the plans for an invasion of Europe were worked out during the conferences at Quebec. The plans for the invasion of Italy must have been laid before that time. Also, it seems improbable that Italy has been invaded without the existence of a follow-up plan for future actions. If, therefore, future actions have been decided upon again at Quebec, the original plans must have been upset for some reason or other.

The sudden collapse of Italy might have been one reason for this; the Italian armistice, however, did not have any effect on the speed of the Italian invasion since the Germans seem to be putting up a rather effective struggle. The only visible effect Italy's surrender has is the fact that German troops now have to defend Italy, while the Italian Army is out of the picture. These German troops, taken away from some Balkan country, perhaps, may have changed the location of the "vulnerable points" to which Roosevelt referred.
There are seven families of frogs and toads in the United States
Ninety-nine per cent of the body's calcium is in the bony structure.
The Indians once believed the consumption of salt hastened death.
An amphibian landing tractor costs $18,000.

This is a fascinating article, but I think even more fascinating is Opa's introduction by the Editor. The Editor presents Opa in such a way that you assume he worked as a journalist for the United Press in Holland. I really don't know for sure if he did. I think he worked for his father's company in Holland, but this introduction makes it sound much more official. I'll have to double check on that.

Once again we hear the tale of the concentration camp. Did Opa tell it again, or had the editor heard of it from previous sources and included it? We discussed earlier in the blog about the accuracy of this story, and where it came from. Long story short- I don't have hard evidence that Opa was ever in a concentration camp. 

The rest is tried and true information, and then we get into Opa's column.

Opa uses his knowledge of the geography of Italy and Germany to educate his readers, and provide smart commentary on the reason why the Allied forces are moving the way they are. Thanks to Opa, those unfamiliar with the territory now know that it wasn't the most logical choice to get to Germany via Italy. Opa guesses that the strategy was quickly developed to take advantages of some weakness in the Italian front to draw Nazi manpower from some stronger fronts. 

Italy had sort of gone belly up by this point, and now the Nazis had to defend their ground in Italy alone as occupiers rather than allies with shared military resources. Now they can't rely on Italy to hold the line. There is chaos and confusion, and that is perfect for the Allies. If the Allies can gain a foothold in Italy, then Hitler will have to send at least enough protection to hold them back. Like Opa said:
It would no longer be of primary importance whether the Allies advance 20 or 200 miles in a week or whether they are forced to consolidate their present position: significant could be the number of Nazi troops which the Allies engage in battle and thereby divert from the potential invasion ... along the Western coast. 
We as people in the future know that one large invasion on the western front does happen, in June of 1944. I would assume invasions tend to be planned for when the weather is clear, (and to give Hitler enough time to spread his resources thin) so early June makes sense. I would bet money Opa thought/hoped it would happen sooner. 

Back to September of 1943. Opa analyzes the war tactics, and if I were reading his article, I would feel confident and hopeful after his analysis. Especially knowing that a man from Berlin wrote it, with personal knowledge of the area. Opa assumes throughout his analysis that the process and invasion is all well-thought out and careful calculation. That must be nice to have that kind of confidence.

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole thing is the random fun facts at the bottom of the article. My guess is that there was an allotted space for each article, and if one was a little on the short side, these facts acted as great fillers. So now we know about the seven families of frogs and toads in the United States. I tried to fact check that, but it's kinda hard. The information was given in number of species and then I found out over 180 species had died off since 1980. The last fact I thought was about frogs, but then I realized and amphibian landing tractor is a military vehicle/boat for water invasions. I'm sure the paper advertised war bonds.

This article: introduction, essay, and tidbits at the end; is full of fun facts. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

September 19, 1943: Come Marging Home

Letter from Opa to Grandmother


September 19, 1943

Hi, Mickey Mouse, darling,

For once I agree with you; I don't like this new schedule any better than you do, for because of it I did not hear from you this week end. If I don't get a letter to-morrow, though, I shall bathe in dreams of suicide. (No flowers; I'm gonna be boined)

How do you like our new stationery? I think it smells, but I don't tell Teeter about that, because he likes it.

If there is a chair in the neighborhood, better sit on it and hold on to it, for what I'm gonna tell you now is going to lay you down flat. Got that chair? All right, here goes:.... I worked today. And I worked yesterday afternoon. And said work was on a farm; yeah, I snapped corn for 65 cents an hour. Dr. Evans, you probably don't know him, but he is a doctor anyhow, wanted somebody on his farm, and I went. I don't think he was very satisfied with my work, since I went terribly slow, he did not say anything about it though; good sport.

Well, I went to the editor of the Mercury and Chronicle and told him what I wanted. We then argued about  Roosevelt for nearly two hours, he con, I pro. When the argument became really interesting, stopped and said: "If I am going to hire you, you are the first democrat who ever sat in our office." Well, he hired me for exactly what I wanted: a weekly column on news interpretation. The pay is shamefully poor for that kind of work, but it is a good start and I shall ask for more after a month or two. He gave me a pretty fair place on top of the news-feature page, but he probably will move me around. By the way, the editor (or rather manager and owner) is a certain Mr. Seaton, brother to our Dean. A nice chap, intelligent and alert, but very conservative for a newspaper man. I like him, though, and I think I will like to work there. He said he may assign me some beats every once in a while for 2 cents a word. That's almost the minimum pay you get for that in ordinary papers...

My article on "Radar" has not been released. The Chief Signal Officer wrote us that he is awfully sorry not to be able to give us permission to print the article "because of the restricted military information which it contains." How I should be in a position to know any restricted information is more than I can figure out. The article was purely non-technical and nothing but a consume of magazine articles. Well, I guess we can't print it, so I shall have to write another one.

It won't be long now till Margie comes marging home, and I know someone who will be awfully glad!

Enough is enough of the best of the stuff.

I think it's as little funny that Opa makes such a big deal about his farm work- (and the fact that he worked at all)- from all the letters it sounds like he does a lot of work and has experience doing farm work. Not sure why Grandmother needed a chair for that news, but he seems happy to have found work. Looks like his idleness got to him! 

His description of his encounter with the editor of the newspaper is fabulous. Yet I can't help but get a "Mad Men" vibe about it with the boys kickin' it back, talking politics and giving out jobs. I also wonder how much of this story was a theatrical telling of a more boring reality. Who knows. Opa did get a writing gig, which makes me wonder if he thought he might end up following in his father's footsteps in journalism, with all the blockades to his engineering career. You'll be happy to know that we found those Mercury Chronicle articles and will be posting them here! 

Alas Opa's radar article couldn't be published, and while I'm selfishly glad that I don't have to transcribe it now, I know there are some readers who may have been looking forward to it.

Opa just really can't wait for "Margie to come come marging home" and I think it's adorable.