Thursday, 24 May 2018

Pu Yi and the Puppet State Principle of "Wangtao"

Back in 1933, Peter Fleming, the brother of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, travelled via the Trans-Siberian Railway to the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in what is now the North Eastern corner of China. Here, he was lucky enough to interview Pu Yi, the "Last Emperor" of China, who was then serving as the figurehead leader under the title "Chief Executive of the State of Manchukuo. The following year he would become its "Emperor."

Fleming's sympathetic account of the meeting in his travel memoir "One's Company" (1934) perfectly captures Pu Yi's situation and the slyly manipulative nature of the Japanese rulers.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Dambusters Raid – an example of British technological 'try-hardism'

War, among other things, is a great stimulus to technology. WWI saw the invention of the tank, aerial bombardment, and the use of gas as a weapon; while WWII brought a host of innovations that were equally applicable in both wartime and peacetime, like radar, jet-powered flight, and nuclear power.

While any military power is interested in new technologies that can give it the edge, the British in the WWII period felt a particular impetus to try new things. Partly this was because Britain was the old, established power in decline, with a society that retained antiquated elements. Faced by more modern and up-to-date states, like Republican France, the USA, Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany, the British felt somewhat out-of-date, and as consequence felt a need to overcompensate by throwing their weight behind daring innovations.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


Today, May the 9th, is celebrated as Victory Day in Russia, commemorating the victory of the Soviet Union (aka Russia) over Nazi Germany. This is also the cornerstone of the modern day myth that WWII was effectively won by the Russians with some minor help from the other allies. According to this version of things, the Brits and Yanks were merely holding Russia's coat, while the Great Bear went head to head with the Nazi behemoth and won.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Italian Army's Greatest Achievement on British Soil During WWII

Italian PoWs
In World War II the Italians achieved little of merit on the battlefield. Despite having 20 years of Fascist rule to harden their bodies and minds to turn them into ruthless fighting machines, they tended to surrender in droves when not backed up by their formidable German allies. 

However, one major achievement they can claim was pulling off what was by far the largest POW escape in Britain. The site of this daring escapade in Italian military history was Camp 14 at Doonfoot, located on the south side of the town of Ayr in Scotland.

What Was the Ethnic Composition of the Hapsburg Army?

In 1906 a survey found that out of every 1000 men enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army, there were 267 Germans/Austrians, 223 Hungarians, 135 Czechs, 85 Poles, 81 Ukrainians, 67 Croats and Serbs, 64 Romanians, 38 Slovaks, 26 Slovenes, and 14 Italians.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Romanian "Night of the Long Knives" - Ion Antonescu and the Overthrow of the Iron Guard

Adolf Hitler, far from being an "extreme radical," as he is often portrayed, quite frequently sided with Conservative and establishment elements at key points in his career. This goes back to his sidelining of the more radical Strasser faction in the National Socialist Party in 1930, as well as his famous Night of the Long Knives purge in 1934, when he reined in the power of the Brownshirts and other populist elements in his party, in order to win the favour of the German ruling elites. 

Another example of Hitler's inherent conservatism was the position he took during the revolt launched by the Romanian Iron Guard on this day -- January 21st -- in 1941, when the German Fuhrer sided with the relatively "moderate" Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Pearl Harbor: How Japan Saved the World for "Democracy"

The "dastardly attack."

December 7th is the anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Once again we have the opportunity to either look back in anger or, now that the embers of history have grown cold, to rake through them and ask what was the real significance of that fateful day.

It is often said that history is written by the winners. Although every nation committed horrendous atrocities in World War II, Japan is still cast as a pure villain. But, considering that many historians now believe the Japanese were unwitting dupes in one of the most complicated games of propaganda, espionage, and diplomacy ever played out across the world stage, isn't it time to revise the Hollywood version of history and admit the existence of gray areas, especially as the Americans would have been unable to play their full part in the defeat of Fascism without the cooperation of Japan?