Thursday, August 30, 2018

March 30, 1944: Ah, The French

Article by Opa in Manhattan, Kansas Paper: Mercury Chronicle


Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theater carries the weight of his internment camp experiences in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury Chronicle each week brings you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

France once was a great nation, and, even though defeated on the battlefield, she still is. The circumstances under which this defeat occurred indicate her greatness. France was no longer a military nation: the French people were no longer willing to set military preparations ahead of cultural advances. That's why they were defeated, not because of corruption, and that's why their defeat itself is a sign of their greatness.

France, now, is on the verge of obtaining a new government. What kind of government to give her seems to give case for a battle not between different groups of the French people, but between Churchill and Roosevelt. Giraud, Roosevelt's protege for a long time had the upper hand in Algiers. Even though a military leader, he showed ability and judgment in setting up and maintaining civic government and civic order. He was comparatively popular among the population, both for his personality and for the fact that he escaped twice from German prison camps.

Relies on English Camp

General De Gaulle relies more on the English camp. His Free-French army was organized and maintained on British soil, with British equipment and British shillings. In case of actual battle, the Free-French are very likely going to obey by British orders. When De Gaulle came to Algiers, after months of preparatory work of reconciliation between the two French leaders, he arrived on a British warship. Soon, with American aid, the friendship between De Gaulle and Giraud had come a step closer to being a reality. 

Most people are familiar with the famous scene which was recorded in news reels: Giraud and De Gaulle shaking hands in front of a benevolent looking Roosevelt. Neither De Gaulle nor Giraud looked very happy in that picture, though.

The French National Committee of Liberation was formed. The division of authority was divided between Giraud and De Gaulle exactly in opposition to their respective abilities and experiences.

DeGaulle, experienced in guerilla warfare and in building an army from scratch, was made head of the civic government. Giraud, who, even though he was primarily a soldier, had proven himself in the field of politics and civic government, had no say in these but was made head of the military phase of the war.

Friction arose and increased. De Gaulle, for various reasons, gained the upper hand and has now de facto control over the entire French National Committee of Liberation. Militarily, his government has not proven itself yet because of lack of opportunity. Politically, it is committing one blunder after the other.

Plea For Recognition

A premature plea for recognition was the first blunder. As far as the original aim of the F.N.C.L. was concerned, it made no claim of being a substitute for a French government, but only served temporarily as a military headquarters until the French people were able to elect their own government in a constitutional way. This, at least, was the essence of De Gaulle's broadcasts to the French people. No military headquarters needs or ever before asked for recognition from other governments.

Smaller blunders in the field of foreign politics followed, including, eg., unsuccessful supposedly secret meetings with Turkish and anti-Fascist Italian circles concerning the danger of post-war Anglo-American control over the Mediterranean. Nothing aroused more suspicion and served the F.N.C.L. to a greater disadvantage. French fear about this possible Anglo-American control may be justified, but the time to act was chosen rather poorly.

Mock Trials

At present, and especially several weeks ago, De Gaulle and his newly-formed jury indulged in a series of mock trials in the Nazi style. Former Vichyites were convicted for treason. They might have been guilty of cooperating with the Vichy regime: 80 percent of the French people, however, have and now are, by force, cooperating with the Vichy government to various extents, and the prospect of facing a trial for this certainly does not aid De Gaulle in getting the French people on his side.

Typical was last week's trial of a former minor official of the Vichy government. He had succeeded in escaping from Vichy France and now found the surprise of his life when he was tried by De Gaulle's purgers and convicted to death. The ridiculous thing about this trial was that most of the jury were former Vichyites. When the death sentence was pronounced, the defender said "Quoiqu'll arrive: Viva la France." (Come what may: long live France.) These words will make somewhat of a martyr of him and will remind the French of the injustices committed in the name of their liberation.

There is still some hope that, due to America's influence, the Giraud group may come back into the picture again. For the sake of the French people as well as for the sake of a speedier victory due to the increased help of the French, the majority of whom are at heart opposed to De Gaulle, this return to the Giraud policy of more truly democratic government should be of greatest concern to all of us.

Ah, the French. 

The first thing I want to address is Opa's sweet idea that the French were defeated because they had quit building an army and focused on their cultural renewal. That's a nice thought, but I'm not so sure it has any merit. History tells me (historians- PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong) that France was actually fairly well militarized, and they were well aware of the militarization and armament of their neighbor, Germany. It seems it would have been naive for them to ignore those signs and not do any work to prepare themselves. I'm fairly certain they were as prepared as they thought they should be, and with their British and Polish allies- they thought they had safety in numbers. Their defeat was a shock to everyone, themselves included. It does not diminish France's greatness, but I don't think we need to make excuses for them. I'm not exactly sure why Opa felt the need to do that.

Opa lays out an argument that the success of France and the best option for the Allied post-war Europe is if Giraud regains control and is able to steer the new government of freed France. Even as I was reading it, I thought- gosh- I know the de Gaulle name pretty well, but vaguely know the Giraud name. That's because Giraud was not successful in the way Opa had hoped. I'm not sure that it was a complete disaster, as de Gaulle seems to have proven himself as a leader in French history. 

The unfortunate situation of the execution of the Vichy officer is sad, but I do feel that by comparison, the same argument could have been used to ask for leniency for Nazi officers. Wartime is a tricky place for justice. 

For those less historically inclined like I used to be- the "Vichyites" were people who cooperated with the Vichy government, which was the French government that cooperated with Nazi rule. For some in France, the Vichy government was the lesser of two evils, save the country by cooperating with the enemy. Otherwise everything they held dear may have been destroyed. For others, cooperation with the Vichy government was nothing but treason. The benefits of the Vichy "compromise" have been debated, and I don't feel qualified to weigh in on it.

I do feel a slightly condescending tone in this whole article. Opa pities the French, saying they are great even if they lost. It's because, bless their hearts, they were making love, not war. Then he goes on to criticize how they governed themselves, how they punished war crimes (perceived or not), and how they worked out their suspicions of post-war issues. He claims Geraud would be best for France, but what he really means is that he would be best for America. I'm sure the French loved that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

March 1944: The Engineer: Efficiency For War

Article by Opa and fellow engineer student, Irwin Hall, in monthly publication from engineering program: The Engineer 


Highlights in Wartime Engineering

By Tom Doeppner and Irwin Hall

Engineers Produce New Blower Unit for Aircraft Radio

Some time ago a little motor of ingenious design, operating on either 400 or 800 cycles at approximately 7000 r.p.m., was built by Westinghouse engineers to blow a blast of eight cubic feet of cooling air per minute through an airborne radio set. Recently aircraft radio makers wanted a motor of the same size to do the same job but to operate on 60 cycles instead of 400 or 800. This feat was accomplished by means of several neat engineering tricks, a major one being the use of a new type Torrington Fan, with many more blades of a more efficient shape than its predecessor.

Heavier Planes Force Redesign of Runway Marker Lights

Runway marker lights placed in rows along the edge of an airfield runway must not crush under the wheels of a fast landing plane - and planes are steadily becoming heavier. Less than a year ago, the impact which contact lights could withstand was increased from 16,000 lbs. to 100,000 lbs. Then even heavier planes appeared, with caterpillar treads like those of tanks instead of rubber-tired wheels, with the result that 100,000 lb. units could be crushed. Phenomenal increases in strength were necessary without any increase in dimensions, which were fixed by the fact that units must be fitted into the thousands of existing concrete emplacements lining the runways of scores of airports in this country and abroad.

Resorting to some old bridge structure manuals, Westinghouse engineers developed a new unit having a steel cap supported on a steel spider, between the fingers of which lights rays stream almost parallel to the ground. The crushing load is carried downward at an angle to the steel ring resting against the concrete of the cell. Now the markers are capable of withstanding loads of 150,000 lbs. with mild-steel spiders and when alloy steel is used the load can be increased to 200,000 lbs. or 100 tons.

Simplified Drawings for British Industries

Some British firms have to a certain extent avoided the need for intensive instruction in reading machine drawings by issuing drawings in pictorial form instead of the orthodox drafts-man's work. One firm attributes to the adoption of pictorial views of components three main advantages: (1) saving of time, (2) elimination of mistakes, and (3) soother flow of work. Since there are several thousand different components handled in the factory, and a very high proportion of recently trained labor is employed, the value of pictorial representation of machine parts has been apparent. The use of such drawings has enabled new employees, unacquainted with engineering terminology and drawings, to identify without trouble the many parts that pass through their hands. 

Drills from Needles

A British engineer who is doing sub-contract work in his private workshop had difficulty in obtaining 0.032-in. diameter twist drills required for drilling the jets of spray guns. He therefore made his own drills by heating and beating out needles which he then twisted, the eye end of each needle serving as a shank.

What Happens at 38,000 Feet

In the decompression chambers equipped for study at high altitudes, the General Electric X-Ray Corporation has take x-ray films of men theoretically flying at 38,000 feet, or more than seven miles up, for the first time in aviation research. The films, taken in the high-altitude test chamber at Northwestern University's Medical School, disclosed marked and significant changes in the heart, lungs, joints, and muscles of volunteer pilots, providing flight surgeons and research men with new clues in their battle of hazardous high-level flying dangers.

Dr. A.C. Ivy, professor of physiology, who is directing this research work at Northwestern, said that the x-ray findings so far had given his staff some very valuable information regarding various difficulties, such as bends, which pilots may encounter at this stratospheric level. He explained the scientists have known for some time that at 38,000 feet, many pilots experience pain caused by the expansion of gases within different parts of the body. This is one of the problems which physicians and researchers are trying to overcome in high-level flying.

Gases in certain body fluids have normal channels for expulsion, but particles of dissolved gases that lodge in fat tissue and the joints expand as the outside pressure decreases, and some describe the pain as more severe than rheumatism. In some cases, the gas in a pilot's stomach at 38,000 feet expands about six times normal.

Dr. Ivy expressed amazement at the size of some bubbles and air pockets which showed up on the x-ray films. One showed a large air pocket near a knee joint of one of the subjects. It was not there before or after he made his flight. What cause the pocket and why did it disappear? Physicians have known about these body changes, stemming from the decrease in pressure, but in most cases they had to make their studies under actual conditions in the high-altitude test chambers. Now that the actual evidence of certain trouble can be recorded on x-ray films, they can make their studies from them in mint detail in their own laboratories and with ample time.

The "test volunteers" are first instructed on how the x-ray pictures will be taken. Then they take the cassettes, each containing a 14 X 17 inch x-ray film, with them when they go inside the chamber. After the door is bolted and the men have put on oxygen masks, they can be seated and wait until the desired altitude is reached.

When the subject is ready for his radiograph, he steps into position infant of the x-ray tube, places the cassette to his chest, knee, or stomach, as directed. Then the operator on the outside operates the x-ray controls and timer switch to get the exposure. The films are developed immediately after the subjects "descend" to ground level.

The Engineer articles are always a fascinating snap-shot of the booming technology and research that happened during this time of great demand for engineering genius. Most of this article is touting the most recent engineering answers to increasing demands that everything be even stronger and more efficient. 

There is a part of me that wonders if I had been trained a bit differently if I would have made a good engineer. I love to make things more efficient. But perhaps that is simply because I was raised by an engineer (who was the son of an engineer). I am the queen of packing a car trunk, everything fits. I am always looking for ways to make less trips, use less gas, make the most logical sense. 

For war time, efficiency can mean the difference of defeat or victory. If all your runway lights get crushed, that's no good. If you can't load your planes or have heavier, sturdier planes- that's no good. I'll ignore the fact (as I've already lamented it) that progress seems to always come rushing in for war rather than peace. The description of the engineering tricks based on bridge building concepts made me think of when I was in a thing called Odyssey of the Mind as a kid. There were different types of tasks that a team of students would try to complete. Some were long-term tasks presented at a competition, some were presented the day of for quick-response. One specific "problem" or task was a building one. My team never chose this one and opted for the more theatrical tasks. However, I saw a team of kids build structures out of mere ounces of balsa wood sticks that carried loads of over 1000 lbs. I was absolutely amazed. It was my first introduction to the magic of engineering even if I didn't recognize it as that. So these lights that can withstand a plane landing on them without breaking because of some small structure build in and around them- it's that same problem. You have to use materials that weigh this much, fit these parameters, and can handle this much pressure. Solve. 

Despite the fact that most problems were how to be more destructive (or I guess to say it positively: how to be less destroyed)- I imagine the engineers were giddy with the challenges they faced every day. New problems to solve, and these problems directly affected the war and how well the Allied forces were prepared. For an engineer, their genius in solving these problems likely saved Allied lives. That's pretty rewarding. 

Lastly, the studies on pilots and what they endure physically was a new thing for me. I suppose if you asked if it was physically challenging I would have said yes, but I didn't realize the extent to which they pushed their bodies to the limits. 

I kinda want to be an engineer now. Is there a job market for efficient packing of the car trunk?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

March 16 & 30, 1944: Bull Sessions

Announcements in Kansas State Collegian for "Bull Sessions"


Y-Forum Renamed 'Bull Sessions'

"Bull Sessions" is the new name for the Student Forums which are held as a part of the YWCA and YMCA program.

Miss Helen Elcock will speak followed by a discussion on the subject "Norway, its people, and their place in the post-war issues."

The meeting will be tonight from 7 to 8 in Calvin Lounge.

Chairmen for this group are Maxine Smith, Tom Doeppner, and Cpl. H Goodnow.

'When Peace Comes' 'Bull Session' Topic

"When Peace Comes" will be the topic discussed when the Student Forum "Bull Session" meets on Thursday. 

Mr. William Baehr, head of the College Library, will lead the discussion which will be held in Calvin Lounge at 7:00.

Maxine Smith, Cpl. H. Goodnow, Jack Lawrence, and Tom Doeppner are in charge of the meeting.

Bull Sessions. About Peace. I'm not sure who came up with the new phrase for these hot-topic forums, but it feels a little intense to call a discussion a "Bull Session." 

I'm reminded of what we do when we have no control. We speculate to death. I'm not saying it's wrong to discuss and wonder and debate. I'm feeling the psychological weight of what it means to be a part of a world-wide disaster and have nothing tangible that you can really do. This is why war bonds and other efforts to get regular folks involved were so popular, it gave people a sense of purpose and meaning when faced with the giant conflict abroad. Opa must have felt especially helpless, with family members in war zones and concentration camps, and absolutely no power to do anything and no way of knowing what was actually happening. 

Maybe this is why Opa was involved in so many activities, he needed to move and act in any way possible to relieve that feeling of helplessness. 

I have that same sensation sometimes. I am either paralyzed by helplessness or I spin circles reading, thinking, discussing.  I might volunteer somewhere or give money to some non-profit in hopes that my action somehow put a dent in the huge conflicts that I have little control over. In the end, sometimes it all feels like Bull. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

March 12, 1944: Festung Europa

Article written by Opa for the Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: The Mercury Chronicle


Success of First Stage of Invasion Depends on Troops

Editor's note: Thomas Doeppner, a student at Kansas State College, was for a short time with the United Press at Amsterdam. He is a German refugee, and his interpretation of developments in the European war theater carries the weight of his internment camp experiences in Nazi Germany, as well as that of previous years of travel on the continent. The Mercury Chronicle each week brings you his interpretation of the war in Europe.

By Thomas W. Doeppner

Good weather is approaching in Europe while both Allies and Nazis are sharpening their knives for the "Big Day." If the Allies keep their original time schedule, it is possible the invasion will start within the next four to eight weeks.

The pre-invasion has definitely started. American bombers, for the first time, are undertaking daylight mass operations over Germany and France, these bombings are successful in two of their three objectives: they cripple German production and make the German fighter plane strength dwindle; the effect on German morale, however, seems to be just the opposite of what was expected. Reports from Sweden indicate a surprisingly high morale among both soldiers and civilian population.

While the A.A.F. is active over inside Europe, the R.A.F. is taking care of the all-important job of destroying as much of the anti-invasion defenses along the French, Belgian, and Dutch coasts as they can. For the first time in the war, these bombers are being undertaken on a mass scale. As soon as these bombing missions are complete, invasion must follow, any delay would decrease the efficiency of the bombings because it would give the Germans time to rebuild destroyed areas.

Underestimating German Resistance

Original plans seem to have been ***** Italy before the beginning of the main invasion. *** plans *** had to be *** the unexpected ** of German resistance. It may seem as though the Allies have adopted a policy of simultaneous attack of northern Europe and northern Italy. Rome may be by-passed, and at a time when the bulk of German troops will be preoccupied in northern Europe, a second landing may be attempted in northern Italy south of Genoa and close to Pisa.

This landing will be necessary in order to provide air bases in Italy from which Germany can be exposed to three or even four front bomb attacks. Before such a landing would be staged, however, the Allies will probably attempt another breakthrough by an all out offensive on the Cassino line.

The mysterious pre-invasion occupation of the American and British troops in Asia Minor seem to be more than just a bluff. Increased activity in this sector has been reported from Palestine. According to Turkish sources, the Allies are planning an invasion of southeastern Europe via the Black Sea toward Bulgaria, Rumania, and what will be left of German-occupied Russia. This might have been one of the demands made by Stalin at Teheran, and would be the first time in this war that Russian and Anglo-American troops would be fighting side by side on the same front.

Promising Picture

Altogether, the pre-invasion picture looks promising: Festung Europa is seriously threatened from the north, east, southeast, and south, with small possibilities of attacks from the west. It will depend not so much on sufficient air power as on sufficient number of troops how the first stage of invasion turns out. German airpower is far inferior to Allied airpower already, and by the time of invasion, it will have shrunk further. Whether the United States and Britain have a sufficient number of well-trained, fully-equipped soldiers at their disposal yet is questionable. U.S. camps are being cleared and convoys are sailing daily across the Atlantic. These convoys which will be sent all during March and April, will probably tip the scales to the side at which invasion may promise a full success.

This article was a bear to transcribe, and I may or may not have made up/guessed on some of the words. I think we get the gist of it though. 

Festung Europa is the German phrase touting their "European Fortress." The Allies borrowed this phrase to mock them and claim ultimate victory in toppling the so-called walls of the German fortress around Europe. 

Right now it is obvious to everyone (including the Axis powers) that something huge is brewing. The Allies have begun bombing the borders leading to Germany's strongholds- and there is a steady stream of troops mobilizing around the world to various potential invasion spots. The Allies are making a slow and steady entrance towards what they hope to be the finishing blow to the Axis powers. 

Ironically, with all this smoke, the Axis powers (particularly the Germans) do not seem to be afraid of the coming fire. I'm not sure if that was really true. I wonder if the morale for some Germans was high because they also had been hoping for the invasion, the sooner the better. They may suffer the consequences, but nothing could be worse than a country at constant war with no regard for the least of their citizens. Or perhaps they were all deluded that because they were a superior race and cause, that they would win. It's hard to really capture the actual emotions of the people.

I think it's a little bit funny that Opa's title is "Success of First Stage of Invasion Depends on Troops. " I'm not exactly sure how the troops could get out of that responsibility. As powerful and imminent as the Allied victory seems, the troops lining up for this big push into Axis territory must have been terrified. For many of them, they had to know that the success was not going to be an easy gain. It was maybe inevitable, but that inevitability included great sacrifice. Opa is asking if they were willing and able. I think it is pretty clear they are, the world will soon know.

There isn't much to talk about in this time of waiting and preparation. It's one of my least favorite things that I see in news- when they report on things that haven't happened. They make whole reports on guesses and speculation, with the understanding that absolutely nothing they say may turn out to be true. This is unfortunately Opa's new role in his article writing: the world sees the preparation, everybody is talking about what the main event will look like.

What will become of Festung Europa? Can you imagine a history in which the invasion fails?